Make home cooking easy with a kitchen makeover

Does your kitchen need a makeover?

If you want to be able to eat healthy every day and put out a meal fast, then it may be time for a kitchen makeover. Take this true/false test to see how you’re doing in the kitchen:

  1. T/F. I have enough food right now to make meals for the next two days.

  2. T/F. My knives are sharp enough to cut a tomato and big enough to cut a melon.

  3. T/F. I have a big, clean cutting board that doesn’t slip.

  4. T/F. I have enough room on the counter right now to make dinner without shuffling things.

  5. T/F. My freezer is full of food that my family enjoys.

If you answer false to more than one item above, you may need to consider a kitchen makeover.

Here are five ways most people’s kitchens sabotage their efforts to put out a healthy meal quickly and easily:

  • Food: You have to have the right food on hand so you can cook/eat instead of reheat or go out. If your freezer is full of things that no one would ever eat, then it’s time for a major clean-out. Remember these four items and you can always make something tasty and quick: veggies in the freezer, grains in the pantry, salad and fruit in the refrigerator.
  • Cut: How can you cut anything if you don’t have a good cutting board and knife? You need a few sharp knives and a good non-slip cutting board.
  • Cook: You have to be able to cook faster and lower in fat. Here’s a few pieces of equipment that will make it easier: a nonstick skillet, a multi-functional pot (includes a stockpot, pasta colander, steam basket and glass lid), a versatile saucepan with lid, a microwave and a toaster oven (especially if you have a small family).
  • Work: How are you going to get anything done if you don’t have room to work? Clear off the counters and make sure you have room for the three key areas of your kitchen: preparing, cooking, cleaning. It is even better if these areas can be separate.
  • Fun: Iif you turn cooking into family fun, it will be a win-win. Also, if you have plates, cups and serving pieces that look good and are enjoyable to use, you just might be tempted to cook more often.

Here are some additional time-savers that may help make cooking quick and easy:

  • Use ingredients that have been partially prepared. Sliced mushrooms, frozen chopped vegetables (onions, green peppers), shredded cabbage, grated cheese, sliced turkey breast, boneless and skinless turkey breast, canned beans (chickpeas, kidney, navy, pinto beans), canned tomatoes and low-fat spaghetti sauce are ways to cut down on your food preparation time.
  • Pre-prep ingredients yourself. Set aside time every once in a while to slice, dice and chop your way to a full freezer and refrigerator. Store your preprepped ingredients in clear freezer-type plastic containers or bags for easy identification.
  • Get big on batches. Cooking more than you need for a recipe or meal is another cooking time saver. You can freeze ingredients such as cooked brown rice, cooked beans, sauces that are made without mayonnaise, yogurt or sour cream, nuts, fruits, blanched or cooked vegetables, hard cheeses and dough. Finished products that also freeze well include breads, muffins, casseroles, pizza, pancakes, waffles, stews and soups.

Here’s a “rush cooking” recipe for a speedy meal:

Chicken Mushroom Skillet

2 teaspoons canola oil

1 cup onion, chopped

1 cup sliced mushrooms

2 cups cooked chicken (or turkey) breast, without skin, cubed

2 cups frozen peas and carrots

2 cups uncooked ribbon noodles (preferably whole grain)

2 cups chicken broth (low sodium)

1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1 bay leaf

Black pepper to taste.

Heat vegetable oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the chopped onions and mushrooms for a few minutes; then add the rest of the ingredients.

Bring to a boil. Lower heat and cover the pan. Simmer until the noodles are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Serve hot. Serve with a dark green salad. This recipe freezes well, so don’t be afraid to make extra and freeze the leftovers. Makes 4 servings.

— Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.

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