The K.I.S.S. Method for Saving Time in the Kitchen

>> Thursday, January 14, 2010

The kitchen is usually my domain, and I have a hard time giving up control. But my non-vegetarian husband and I have had an agreement since the early days of our marriage that if he wants to eat meat for dinner, he gets to cook it himself. And that is why one night after I had remarked in passing that we needed a side dish to go with dinner, I sat down to a meal of sausage, eggs, and cucumbers.

My first thought: "Cucumbers are not a side dish..."

My next thought: "Cucumbers as a side dish!"

Ah, the beautiful simplicity of it. No chopping and steaming and seasoning broccoli. No peeling and cutting and mashing potatotes. No husking and boiling and scraping corn. Just a simple plate of cucumbers. Which weren't even peeled.

So the credit for the Keep It Simple, Stupid Method for saving time in the kitchen goes completely to my husband.

The idea is basically that you do things in the kitchen to keep your meals simple and therefore save time.

I know...duh, right? But when you're cooking from scratch and you enjoy cooking like I do, it's easy to let meal preparation take over your life. You thumb through cooking magazines and scroll through cooking blogs and your weekly menus get more and more complicated and then dinnertime rolls around and you've only got 30 minutes to prepare a meal that takes an hour or more.

And that's when it's time to take a breather and remind yourself:

Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Here's how:
  • Simple Sides. As I mentioned above, fresh vegetables make a perfectly good side dish - especially with a heavier meal - and require almost no preparation. Fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower...Mmmm.
  • Simple Potatoes. There are a billion and one ways to cook a potato, but I'd wager the simplest is to bake it. If you've got your oven on for any reason, toss a few potatoes in, bake for an hour, and serve them as a side dish later in the week. No peeling, cutting, or mashing required.
  • Simple Bread. Bread by any other shape is still just bread. If you've got a perfectly good loaf of bread sitting around, don't waste time making rolls, breadsticks, biscuits, or flatbread (unless you're ultimate goal is to impress your kids). It might be shaped differently, it might even be a little boring, but it's not going to taste much different.
  • Simple Stews. The simplest of all meals is the one where you throw a bunch of ingredients into a pot, simmer, and serve. It's extra nice if you can get your crockpot involved. As in this recipe for chili:
Vegetarian Chili

COST: $1.17 per serving *

2 cups black beans (or 1 can)
2 cups kidney beans (or 1 can)
2 cups butter beans (or 1 can)
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup frozen corn
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. parsley
1 Tbsp. oregano
1 Tbsp. basil
  • Drain and rinse beans if using canned.
  • Combine beans, tomatoes, corn, green pepper, and onion in a crockpot.
  • Season with chili powder, parsley, oregano, and basil.
  • Cook on high for two hours.
*Note that all costs are estimates based on prices in my area. Your costs may vary.

How do you keep it simple in the kitchen?


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Leigh January 14, 2010 at 11:41 AM  

We keep beans around all the time. Usually several 1.5 cup bags in the freezer and one defrosted in the fridge. That means always something to eat. Staples: black, pinto, kidney, garbanzo. Black bean soup, enchiladas, fajitas, burritos, hummus, chile, beans and rice/quinoa/couscous, are always possible on quick notice.

Lisa Sharp January 14, 2010 at 3:10 PM  

I always have fresh fruit in frig and veggies in the freezer. Roasted asparagus is a favorite in this house.

Lisa Sharp January 14, 2010 at 4:37 PM  

I forgot to tell you, you have an award on my blog.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper January 14, 2010 at 9:33 PM  

@Leigh - Yes, we do that too. It makes Mexican meals so easy!

@Lisa - Thanks for the award!

Jenn the Greenmom January 15, 2010 at 12:00 AM  

Ohhh, you're making me miss summer so much...I'm still a slightly ineffective gardener, but cucumbers and tomatoes I can do. So all summer our basic side dishes are sliced cucumbers on one place and sliced tomatoes on another. No clever tricks can substitute for Just Plain Fresh Food...

'Becca January 25, 2010 at 4:25 PM  

One of my favorite strategies is to buy kale, use some of it fresh, and then freeze the rest right away. It's easy to freeze, easy to use straight from the freezer--lots of ideas here--and very nutritious!

Your article also reminds me of a general strategy that pays off: Get cooking and housekeeping tips from guys. They often have no-frills ideas that are extremely practical. For example, spinach-ghetti.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper January 25, 2010 at 10:29 PM  

@Becca - Love the tip about getting housekeeping tips from guys!

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