Fancy some professional kitchen tips? Years ago (many, many years it seems), I did an associate’s degree in hospitality management. It was intensely fun, working in a hotel and restaurant school with fully functioning restaurant in Trinidad and Tobago. The most useful things I learned there were all kitchen related, and have saved me hours of work and stress at home. Here are some top tips:
- DELEGATE. Think like a manager! If the whole family pulls together, meal time comes together more quickly. Even little kids can fill cups with water, cut cucumbers and tomatoes with a non-pointy knife, tear lettuce and grate cheese. Setting the table, washing up and stirring a hot pot are useful jobs for older kids. During this time, you can find out how your kids’ days went. I like to pick one child, now that they are older, and catch up with them while teaching them valuable life skills, like, “Don’t just chuck the cheese back in the fridge, wrap it up so it doesn’t harden and become horrible!” and “Are you going to just leave that ketchup smeared on the counter? Let me introduce you to this damp cloth.” Play a CD with everyone’s favourite songs, and sing into the spatula. But do pay attention to safety! Kids should SIT when cutting and grating, and hot pots can be dangerous so make sure they can’t be pulled down.
- PLAN AHEAD. Yes, planning meals days ahead really does help. Have all of the ingredients for your favourite quick meals written down on a master list, and buy everything in one go. This saves having to pop in to the grocery on your way home in the evening… or worse yet, getting home and realising you have a jar of pasta sauce, baked beans, lamb chops, tuna and cheese on hand but NOTHING TO GO WITH ANY OF THEM! So then you have to go out and buy spaghetti, or potatoes, or just give up and have pizza again. When you’re doing the shopping list, scan your pantry with a critical eye and plan the next five dinners. I love to order groceries online, because I can double-check what I have in the house and avoid buying what I already have. Plus, they deliver! Spending the time to plan ahead saves hours of time and annoyance later in the week.
- USE LEFTOVERS WISELY. Boiling potatoes? do a few extra to add to the morning fry up or to mash and make fishcakes. Bake a whole chicken, and plan on using chicken again that week. And on the weekend, boil up the leftovers and make a delicious chicken soup! Most restaurants and canteens think ahead and plan on using leftovers. This saves money and can be quite inspiring. Anything goes well in a fajita or stir fry!
- USE YOUR TOOLS. So many of us have a slow cooker, or bread machine, or another kitchen tool which can be started up in he morning before work. Why not get up a little earlier in the morning, and come home to the smell of fresh baked bread or chilli?
- KEEP LEARNING: Learn some quick and easy recipes by heart. Pasta dishes, stir fries, fritatas and loaded salads with chicken or tuna are speedy and nutritious. Other meals can be prepared in the morning and then quickly put together in the evening. Baked potatoes can be tossed into the oven and left for an hour while you sort the laundry and help with homework, then add beans and cheese and voilà! There are so many excellent recipe resources on the internet, you can find inspiration for any taste.
Have you got any tried-and-true tips for weeknight suppers? Share them with us!