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Super-Fast Friday: Open the Box

11 Mar

Super simple super fast tip today, gang. So simple that most of you have probably thought of it. But it took me awhile to catch on (I’m quick like that), so I’m saying it anyway.

See that up there? That open dishwasher?

Cook with yours that way.

I know. The kitchen is small. You’ll trip over it. The kids stick their heads in. I hear you. My response is: Adjust, and your life will become simpler.

Cooking with your dishwasher door open makes clean-up after dinner about a quarter of the hassle it is when you cook with it shut. Finish with a whisk? Throw it in there. It doesn’t even touch the counter. Out of the hand, into the silverware basket.

Done with the cutting board? Don’t toss it in the sink. Put it right in the magical cleaning box.

Ditto for bowls and plates and measuring cups and spatulas, and everything else you’re using (almost–don’t you dare put your knives or pots in the dishwasher! I’ll know!). Fill your sink with hot soapy water, and plop the non-dishwasher stuff in there. When you’ve finished cooking and eating, it’s simple to add serving plates to the dishwasher and turn it on, and give the stuff in the soapy sink a quick swipe and dry.

Do me a favor and just give this a try. Cook with the dishwasher open. And then come tell me how much time it saved. 🙂

Happy weekend!

Don’t forget you can win an autographed copy of Modern Spice! Go here and leave a comment to enter. And my little blog is still in the running over at Babble’s list of 100 best food mom blogs! You can vote for it here–and thank you!!

Super Fast Friday: Toss A Chicken In A Pot

4 Mar

Happy Friday!

A very warm welcome to everybody who’s clicked over from the Babble Food Mom Blog list, and a big hug and chocolate chip cookie to everybody who’s voted for Playing With My Dinner so far over there! Y’all have made my day!

Today’s Super Fast Friday tip involves a little thinking ahead, but if you’re already menu planning or you have a list of six or seven standby dishes you know your family loves, it’s simple. And it uses a slow cooker. You guys know how much I love that!

We all have recipes that call for shredded or cut-up chicken. Day Before Chicken Enchiladas, Chicken Corn Chowder, or even simple chicken barbecue sandwiches are some of the ones my family turns too all the time that require cooked chicken to start.

Every so often, I take a whole chicken, put some lemon, garlic, and onion inside the cavity, salt and pepper the outside, and toss it into my slow cooker. Then, I forget about it.

Eight to 10 hours later, I have a perfectly poached chicken. It lets off wonderful juices while it’s cooking in there, and the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender and juicy and delicious.

Some people eat that bird just like that, and you rock on if you’re one of them. But it’s a great method of ensuring you have cooked chicken around for those other recipes we all love. Carefully lift the bird out of the pot. drain it well, let it cool a bit, and then shred it up–the whole thing–with two forks. Parcel the meat out into freezer bags, label them, and put them in your ice box.

Next time you want a chicken-based casserole or soup, voila. You’ve got the perfect cooked poultry already waiting to be doused in sauce or stirred into a dish.

This is a great money saver too–buy two chickens when they’re on sale, roast one this way or this way, and plop the other in the Crockpot for shredding and freezing.

That’s today’s Super Fast Friday tip. Have a great weekend!!

Don’t forget–win a signed copy of Monica Bhide’s fantabulous cookbook, “Modern Spice!” Click on over and comment to enter yourself to win!

Super-Fast Friday: In Defense of (some) Processed Foods

25 Feb

I’ve been mulling this over in my mind for awhile: with all we’re hearing about the evils of processed foods, how do I write something that explains that some of them are OK, and even a lifesaver for busy families?

Today, I opened up my blog reader and discovered that I don’t have to. Words to Eat By (one of my favorite foodie blogs) did it for me. Debbie says it better than I could and includes a ton of great information.

Go on over and visit her here. Show her a little love and leave a comment (g’head and tell her where you came from –*wink*). And then feel good about embracing some of the things in the inner aisles of the grocery store. No guilt, if you listen to what she says.

Happy Friday!

 

(I’m doing another giveaway next week–come on back and see!)

 

 

Super-Fast Friday: The Warehouse Club

11 Feb

Most of us joined a warehouse club (Cosco, Sam’s, BJ’s, etc.) to save money. Buy more, save more. Makes sense. But the warehouse club can also save us a ton of time.

I usually visit a number of stores every week to get all the groceries and paper/cleaning goods and basics my family needs. There’s the grocery store for fresh foods, Target or Wal-Mart for pantry goods, frozen foods, and supplies, and usually a stop at Trader Joe’s (This Fig Walked Into a Bar…mmmmm) and the drugstore thrown in there.

A few months ago, I kept a running list of the things I was buying every week–the stuff we use the most. The staples of our family. They’re different for each of us, depending on your family’s favorites and habits, but we all have those items we buy over and over, because life gets ugly if they’re not in the house. Once my lists were made, I realized how much time I could save by buying some of those things in bulk.

Buying in bulk only makes sense if you’re actually going to use up those big containers. I shy away from fresh veggies or fruit only because I know us, and we’re not going to eat through three pounds of asparagus in a few days (I do buy oranges and apples, because they last longer, but the fragile stuff generally ends up trashed). So it’s important to be realistic and know what you’ll use and what you won’t. And we all have limited storage space, so it’s also helpful to only really stock up on the stuff you’ll use. None of us has the space for extra boxes to just sit.

Since I started making the most of my warehouse club membership, I’m only visiting the Target/Wal Mart/drugstore type places once a month or so, and not every week as I had been. That’s a huge time saver. Huge.

This is my list–yours will be different, but it gives you an idea of the kinds of things that might make sense for you to buy when you’re stocking up. I go about once a month. And I usually buy:

  • Paper goods: paper towels, toilet paper, napkins, Ziploc bags (every few months).
  • Cleaning supplies: Windex, mop refills, dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent, Clorox wipes.
  • Frozen foods: Chicken breasts, salmon filets, hot dogs (they freeze really well).
  • Refrigerated foods: yogurt, milk, butter, half & half, cheese slices.
  • Canned goods: diced tomatoes, tomato paste, beans, canned fruit
  • Lunchbox food: peanut butter (SO much cheaper!), chips, raisins, dried fruits, juice boxes,
  • Office supplies: printer paper, printer ink, envelopes.
  • Personal items: toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, vitamins
  • Pantry: pasta, crackers, nuts/trail mix, chocolate chips, rice

So tell me: How do you make the most of your club membership to save both time and money?

 

Super-Fast Friday: Twins in the Kitchen

4 Feb

No, not children!! Twin pieces of equipment!

I know. Sounds expensive. But I’m not talking about twin ovens (tho I dream of that, yes I do) or entire mixers.

Today’s tip is this: There are certain things that it makes sense to buy two of, because you’ll save so much time and effort over time.

Take today. Today, I am baking a cake for our Cub Scout pack’s Blue & Gold Banquet. The cake is going to be a Pinewood Derby track with a few cars racing down the ramp. To do this, I need, among other things, two sheet cakes.

Thankfully, I have two bowls for my KitchenAid mixer, so I dump the ingredients into both, mix one, mix the other, and have two bowls of batter ready in five minutes. I also have two sheet pans. Pour, pour, bake them at the same time, and voila. Two sheet cakes in about 45 minutes (instead of the two hours it would take me to make one, wash everything, and make another), because I have twins in my baking cabinets.

Other things I recommend stocking up on are food processor bowls (2), 9 x 13″ casserole dishes (2 or 3, and then make two pans of ziti or two lasagnas or two whatevers and freeze one for another week), silicone spatulas or spoonulas (I have four and frequently use all of them in a day. I don’t recommend the ones with wood handles, tho, as they can’t go in the dishwasher), metal spatulas (2), beating blades for your KitchenAid or sets of beaters for your hand mixer (2), bread pans (3), cookie sheets (4), Pyrex measuring cups (I have two 2-cup measures and one one-cupper), sets of metal measuring cups (2), sets of measuring spoons (3), large Pyrex mixing bowls (2), cutting boards (I have one big wood one and three smaller plastic boards) and chef’s knives (2).

Sounds like a lot, but it’s really not much at all. And you won’t believe the time savings.

Did I forget anything? Tell me in the comments–what else do you need extras of?

Super-Fast Friday: The Snack Basket

28 Jan

Happy Friday!

Today’s Super-Fast Friday is simple but has saved me a ton of time over the years. I work at home, which means lots of daily interruptions. He’s hitting me! I can’t find my socks! I’m bored! I want a snack!!

There’s not much to do about a lot of those, but the snack thing is pretty easy. You need two smallish containers, one for the fridge and one for a lower shelf in a cabinet. I use a napkin-sized woven basket for the first, and a hard plastic bin for the second. These are your snack baskets.

The refrigerator snack basket generally has a few pieces of fruit that don’t require peeling (apples, pears, plums), string cheese, yogurt in a kid-friendly form (we like Go-Gurts, which are surprisingly low in sugar), and small containers of hummus with baggies of baby-cut carrots. The cabinet snack basket has whole-grain crackers, individual snack-sized boxes of raisins, granola bars, cereal bars, peanut butter crackers, and little bags of low-sugar cereal in snack size portions.

My kids have known since about age two that the snack baskets are fair game. If you’re hungry, you may have anything in there. Kids tend to self-regulate with food at a young age, so overeating or binging has never been a problem. The snack basket saves me a ton of time, and gives them a little self-reliance at a young age. They make their own choice, serve themselves, and fill their own tummies. I just refill the baskets at night and we’re set for the next day.

Help yourself to a snack basket, teach your kids all about it, and help everybody out a few times a day. It’s a real time-saver. 🙂

 

Super-Fast Friday! The Breakfast Edition

21 Jan

Happy Friday, gang!

Today, we introduce Super-Fast Friday and I hope you’ll like it. Every Friday, I’ll share a tip or trick or idea to speed up your meal-making time. Kind of like real food in less time, giving you more time to spend with your family. As we go, I’d love to hear your tips as well! Leave them in the comments here or over on our Facebook page.

So. Here’s today’s Super-Fast Friday tip:

We do big breakfasts on the weekends. DH and I enjoy steel-cut oats from the slow cooker and the kids like pancakes or waffles.

Have you read the ingredients on a box of frozen pancakes lately? Can you pronounce all of that?

Yeah.

Double up your batter ingredients when you have everything out anyway. Let the extra cakes or waffles cool completely to room temperature, and then pop them into a freezer zip-top bag and into your freezer. During the week, nuke the frozen pancakes for about 30 seconds or pop waffles into the toaster on a low to medium setting (it helps here to take your waffles out of the iron a few seconds early–they’ll finish toasting the day you want to eat them and crunch up really nicely), butter and enjoy.

Supermom has nothing on you!

Have you entered to win our giveaway yet?

There’s a new button over there on the right (you’ll have to click through if you’re on email subscription, Kindle, or a blog reader–sorry!)? That’s for Playing With My Dinner’s brand-spanking new Facebook page, where our readers are already chatting, sharing ideas, and getting the inside scoop on the blog.

To celebrate its launch, I’m giving away a copy of Aviva Goldfarb’s newest cookbook, “SOS! The Six O’ Clock Scramble To The Rescue.” It’s all about making healthy, Earth-friendly meals your kids will love, and you’re going to love it.

One lucky reader will find a copy in his or her mailbox, and all you have to do to enter is “like” the blog over on Facebook before February 5. I’ll use a random number generator to pick our winner.

So c’mon over! Visit the page, hit that “like” button, and join in the conversation on the wall. See you there!!

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