As a nutritionist I often hear expressions of frustrations at the amount of time and effort it takes to prepare and eat healthy foods. As a mother and the family chef, I understand these issues all too well. Sometimes after a long day the last thing you feel like doing is making dinner and ordering in seems so much easier. The unfortunate thing about eating out, is the unhealthy ingredients that you may not even realize are in your dish, high cost and high calories that aren’t great for your health, your wallet or your waist line.
Eating healthy does not have to be difficult so here are some great tips for cutting down your kitchen time and improving your kitchen skills while also enjoying good quality fresh produce.
- Pre-cut your vegetables.
This makes eating healthy super easy and fast. Throw your chopped vegetable ingredients in a pot of stock for a quick easy soup, into a pan for a quick easy stir-fry or into a bowl then dress for an easy salad. Or of course into your juicer! You can grate fresh raw beets and carrots, dice onions, slice tomatoes, peppers, carrots or celery sticks and store in glass air-tight containers to retain their freshness. You can add a sprinkle of lemon juice.
- Don’t throw away half used produce.
Once you’ve cut tomatoes, onions, pineapples, lemons, etc. store them cut side down in a glass container to avoid oxidation and avoid wrapping in plastic. If not using right away, cube them and freeze them for later use in dishes such as soups, stews, stir-fries or smoothies.
- Make your own salad dressings & store for easy quick drizzling.
You can pre-make many salad dressings and sauces yourself without all the added sugars, flavour enhancers and artificial colours and preservatives. Try making this Honey Sesame Dressing and store in the fridge in an airtight container for easy dispensing.
- Peel garlic with ease.
Now this has driven me mad for years until someone showed me how to simply peel garlic without getting my fingers all over the clove. Hold a knife on its side on top of the garlic clove and hit the flat part of the knife with the heel of your palm to slightly crush the clove so the skin then slips off easily. Try it, it’s life-changing and your fingers won’t smell as much!
- Peel ginger with a spoon.
Scrap your ginger skin with a spoon edge. This reduces ginger waste as sometimes using a knife takes more than just the skin.
- Wash produce before it goes into the fridge.
And then store it in a proper container. This saves time by doing it all at once. Each time you want something quick, that’s one less step. Do not do this to berries as they can go bad faster when pre-rinsed.
- Don’t cry over cut onions.
Slightly cooling your onions by putting them in the freezer for 15 minutes or running them under cold water can reduce the tearing jerking fumes that cause irritations to the eyes while chopping.
- Perfect the art of cutting an avocado.
Cut the avocado through the middle and around the seed and twist the halves apart in opposite directions, then hit the seed with the sharp side of the knife carefully and pull the seed out with the knife, then slice the avocado up in the skin then scoop out with a spoon. Easy chopped avocado!
- Ripen your avocado faster.
I need to do this regularly when there are no ripe avocados around as they are a staple for my kids. I think my little boy would live on avocadoes and berries if I let him. To ripen them at a faster rate, place them in a bowl with bananas, the ethylene gas fast tracks the ripening process for avocadoes.
- Cut stone fruits like a pro.
Stone fruits such as plums and nectarines, can be sliced around the middle into two equal halves, then twist the halves in opposite directions and pull out the seed.
- Roast vegetables (& the pan).
To avoid flipping vegetables half-way through cooking and reduce the cooking time, pre-heat the baking dish while you’re pre-heating the oven. This makes them cook well on the face side down and a touch quicker. Be careful not to burn yourself on the hot dish.
- Boil over no more.
Now I’ve done this one many times with pasta, quinoa and other ingredients. To prevent it from happening, place a wooden spoon across the pot which repels the water from going upwards and outwards.
- Save fresh herbs.
Place chopped herbs in an ice cube tray in water, oil or stock, this then creates an easy way to use and store fresh herbs. This is great for herbs that are in season and on special. Easy to add to dishes and even salad when thawed.
- Blanch vegetables the right way.
Quickly add to cold/iced water to stop the cooking process immediately. This helps retain the nutrients and the vibrant color.
- Invest in a good slicer (or food processor or mandoline).
This helps when I want to make a big pot of vegetable something, slices and dices quickly and efficiently.
- Roll your citrus fruits.
Rolling citrus on a table or counter before juicing in a citrus juicer gets more juice. Freezing juice portions in ice cubes trays makes that lemon water upon rising that bit quicker. Add hot water and wham it’s done!
- Don’t let peppers burn your fingers.
To avoid chilli or peppers’ spice remaining on your fingers, rub oil onto the finger tips then chop. I’ve unfortunately removed my contacts forgetting I have handled chilli at dinner time. Wow that hurts!
- Cut baby tomatoes all at once.
Place tomatoes between two flat surfaces, such as 2 small plates and cut through the middle with a large knife.
- Chill drinks without ice cubes.
Use frozen fruit such as berries, pineapple chunks, grapes, diced mango to chill your drink so it doesn’t dilute it. This will give the drink a nice flavor while also cooling it down.
- Use your cauliflower leaves.
Roast them, steam them and/or throw them in with your dish. These are full of nutrients and are often thrown in the rubbish so enjoy!
- Pre-soak grains.
To reduce cooking time by half or more, soak grains such as oats, quinoa, rice or barley in water (or use what you plan to cook them in) overnight or in the morning for six to eight hours. This not only makes them more digestible but it also reduces the cooking time substantially,
With these easy kitchen hacks, your cooking and healthy eating will be that much quicker and easier. Please share if you have any kitchen tips that you find saves you time that you would love to share with all if us.