Usually, I'm a no-nonsense cook. I get in the kitchen and just do what I need to do. While it's great to have fun and experiment, when you have hungry folks waiting, it's nice to have a collection of quick, filling meals that you can turn out within an hour or less. Of course, it also helps that I'm quite comfortable in my kitchen...I know where everything is in relation to each other. That is the KEY component to speed and efficiency in any kitchen...arrangement.
When is the last time you actually went in your kitchen and checked where everything is? Looked to see where your most commonly used utensils are at? Fact is, few do that...then when it's time to cook, they end up having to search countless drawers/cabinets to find what they need. So...right now...go in your kitchen, and look around. See where everything is. Seriously, go do it...I'll wait for you. GO!!
Welcome back!! Now, it's time for a little experiment. Using memory ONLY, can you tell me where your spatula is? How about your dutch oven? And your sharp knife? Now the challenge question...HOW CLOSE ARE THOSE THINGS TO EACH OTHER within your kitchen?? Do you need to walk more than 8 steps in opposite directions to get to them all?
If you answered yes to that last question, then it's time to rearrange your kitchen. After all, if half your kitchen time is spent hunting for what you need, that takes the fun out of it. I'm not talking about stuff you use on occassion, I'm talking about the items and utensils you use ALOT. Spatulas, large spoons, knives, pots, pans...those should always be within a few feet MAX of your stove.
Let's use my kitchen as an example. I keep my commonly used pots in the bottom drawer of my stove, my pans in the lower cabinet right beside that. My cast iron sits INSIDE the stove when not used. All right at my fingertips. As for utensils, my knife block is next to the stove, my cooking spoons, spatulas and measuring cups/spoons are in the drawer right under that (above the pans). As for what else I have within reach when standing in front of my stove...all my spices (holder on the wall), cooking oils and sprays (cabinet above), and potholders/hotpads (hanging on the cabinet handles. Basically, short of the food itself, I never have to leave the front of my stove to make a meal.
I know that not everyone's kitchen is set up like mine, but I'm sure you get the point. Arrangement is key when making a quick meal. It keeps you from wearing yourself out running here and there. So, your first challenge of the day...go move some things around, and put the items that get used most within reach of your stove. Trust me, it really won't take long, and you'll thank me for it later.
Now, on to recipes. I've already given you my recipe for Chicken PotPie, which even with bumbling, can usually be made within an hour. Today, I'll give you a few more of our all-time favorites.
2 lbs ground chuck
1 lg onion, chopped
1 lg green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 14.5 oz can tomato sauce
1 1/2 c water
1 tbsp crushed oregano
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp sugar
1 lb spaghetti noodles (or your favorite pasta)
Grab 2 large pots (a 3-4 quart and a 6 quart, if you have both). In the biggest one, start heating the water for your pasta.
In the other pot, brown the ground chuck until done...drain. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic, and cook until softened. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, and all seasonings, bring to a light boil, then reduce to a high simmer (soft boil).
By now, your pasta water should be boiling, so add your pasta. Cook for 10 minutes, or until just done (still a wee bit firm). At this point, check your sauce, and adjust the seasonings according to taste. By the time the pasta finishes cooking, the sauce will be ready. Serve with a salad (which you can make while the other is cooking) and bread, if you wish. Total time, from start to finish...45-50 minutes.
HERBED PORK CHOPS OR CHICKEN W/RICE
4 1/2 inch thick center cut boneless chops, or 4 boneless chicken breasts
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp basil
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp thyme
1 c white rice, uncooked
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
2 c water
Preheat oven to 350. Grease a large baking dish with 2 inch sides with oil or cooking spray.
In a small bowl, combine ALL seasonings (if you only have garlic salt/onion salt, omit the added salt). Rub the pork chops/chicken breasts with the seasonings, thoroughly coating them. Allow to stand while preparing the rest.
In another small bowl, combine the soup and water, until thoroughly mixed. Pour the uncooked rice into the baking dish, then pour the soup mixture over it, mixing until completely incorporated. Lay the pork chops/chicken breasts on top of the rice mixture, and bake for 30-45 minutes, or until meat is completely done and rice is tender. Serve with your favorite veggie (made while the dinner is in the oven. Total time from start to finish...45-60 minutes.
TUNA MAC CASSEROLE
8 oz macaroni noodles
1 can water packed tuna, drained
1 can peas and carrots, drained
1 c shredded cheese, divided in half
1/2 c milk
Cook noodles until just tender. Drain thoroughly. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease a medium baking pan with 2 inch sides using oil or cooking spray.
Put cooked noodles into a large bowl, and add the tuna, peas/carrots, 1/2 the cheese, and milk, and mix thoroughly. Pour mixture into baking pan, and top with remaining cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until heated through and cheese is bubbly. Serve with salad. Total time start to finish...30-40 minutes.
These are just a few of the many quick meals that can be whipped up in almost no time. It really is easy when you aren't having to hunt for what you need, too. Until next time...ENJOY!!