As a mom of three, I’m always trying to find shortcuts in the kitchen and try to put a healthy meal on the table. So when sister Zakkiya invited me to write and share my secrets, I put together my most important tips, to cook tasty meals in a short time. I hope you benefit Insha- Allah!
I love cooking, but the thought of spending hours in the kitchen does not appeal to me. I would rather spend that time with my kids, and browse Pinterest ;-). Most of my dishes are prepared in under an hour. So keep an eye out for my upcoming posts to prepare quick and easy meals.
So how do I cook in under an hour? Here are my 15 tips!
1. Ask Hubby and Kids For Ideas
For most busy moms, the biggest problem is not HOW to cook, but WHAT to cook. I ask my hubby and kids to give me ideas on what to cook for the week or to tell me what they would like for dinner that day. You will be surprised what kids come up with. If all else fails – even ask a friend.
2. Take Out Meat To Defrost
Once you know what you’re cooking, take out the meat to defrost the night before, if you cook in the morning. Take out the meat early in the morning, if you prefer to cook later in the day. This reduces cooking time as your meat is ready to prepare.
3. Set a Specific Time To Cook
Set a specific time to cook each day and stick to it! For me, that’s 10 am, when my two older kids are gone to school. That way, dinner is ready when they get back from school, and I can spend my time with them rather than being in the kitchen. During the Summer holidays, I prefer to cook at 5 pm and have a hot dinner on the table by 6 pm. The key is to be consistent.
4. Decide What To Cook Ahead of Time
I decide each evening what I am making the next day. Tell yourself that you can’t sleep until you have a meal planned for tomorrow. I have a good, no, a great week, when I plan my menus for the week on a Sunday. That way, I also grocery shop in advance, so I’m not running around during the week to pick up ingredients.
5. Organize Your kitchen
I layout my kitchen for convenience. This is especially important to be quick. Put your most used tools (e.g knives, spoons, peeler, chopping boards) in a drawer or counter top, close to the stove. Have your spices right beside the stove, or in a cupboard close by.
6. Use gadgets
I use gadgets to make my cooking easy and move faster. My favorite gadget is a V-slicer, which I use to slice my onions. There are many other gadgets you can find to help with the chopping, slicing, and grating. Just stick to quality gadgets, as it makes a world of difference.
7. Read The Full Recipe
I advise that you always read a recipe all the way to the end, before attempting to cook your meal. It helps keep you 3 steps ahead of the cooking process and another time saver!
8. Cut Corners When Possible
I cut corners whenever I can. How? By using cans of tomatoes, instead of grating fresh ones. Using soup mixes, box spices like Shan Masala, pre-made jars of ginger and garlic. If you prefer using fresh ingredients like me, another way would be to freeze your fresh ingredients to have it on hand. For example, freeze whole ginger and garlic cloves and just grate it in your food as needed.
9. Buy Prepped Veggies In Bulk
Some stores, like warehouses, sell vegetables that are already pre-washed and pre-chopped, which is a big time saver! You can also find pre-bagged veggies that you can steam in the microwave, and there you have a quick healthy side dish.
10. Learn To Multitask When Cooking
Multitask in the kitchen when you are waiting. For e.g. if you’re making pasta, the first thing you normally do, is boil the water. So while you are waiting for the water to boil, you can whip up a pasta sauce to go with it.
11. Cook On High Heat
I fry my onions on high heat – contrary to what my mom taught me. Then I add the meat and continue frying it with the onions, until a golden color. Next, I add the spices and continue to fry. Once the spices are integrated into the meat, I reduce the heat and let it simmer on low. Try and find the right temperature for your food. Too low temperatures, slow the cooking process, too high temperatures, may burn the food – it takes a little logic to get this right.
12. Cook Some Things in Bulk and Freeze
When cooking, try to make extra of what you are already making, and freeze the rest. Some great suggestions are hamburger patties, chicken fingers, kabob, or any pre-cooked meat, these are great for freezing and a time saver for busy days.
13. Choose Your Menu Wisely
Select easy dishes for the week when you have more on your plate, and everyone’s different schedules are adding pressure. Leave the more difficult dishes or anything gourmet, for weekends when hubby is home to help with the kids and the clean-up.
14. Make One Pot Meals
Try and keep the meals you make in one pot! Save time on the clean-up, especially in the busy school week, by preparing foods that can have all the ingredients cooked together. Balance your meals with a carb, protein, and vegetable to be hearty.
15. Clean As You Cook
I clean up as I cook, to avoid a big mess at the end. Try and wash the dishes as you are waiting for something to braise or cook well. Having dishes sit around the sink and countertops, just seem more tiring and a lengthier clean-up.
I hope these steps will keep your cooking to one hour or less. If you have any suggestions, please share it as I would love more ideas! Don’t forget, subscribers receive my free Recipe Booklet in The Mom Vault. With love and salaams from me to you.
Author Umm Zayaan – Home is where the heart is. Having traveled across the world to establish a new life in Canada, food has been an important connection of memories of my past, and dreams for my future. There is no replacement for the glowing smiles of my family after indulging in a special meal cooked from the heart. Cooking is an expression of my love, the key ingredient in my food. Living in the west, and raising 3 children under the age of six, time is a precious and ever evaporating commodity. Keeping this in mind, I also focus on creating tasty meal options that can be cooked efficiently. I am pleased to invite you into my kitchen, where I share with you unique dishes with an emphasis on health and flavor.