Organized Cooking | Giftie Etcetera: Organized Cooking

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Organized Cooking

A friend of mine has a blog where she shares delicious, healthy recipes. You can visit her blog at decadentlyFIT. Today, as a special treat for my Loyal Readers, she will be sharing a wonderful recipe for chili.

I cooked chili this morning, too. I promise you that mine was not as good as hers. I'm a good cook. She is a gifted cook. So when I considered what advice I could bring to her readers, I thought about what I do best. And that, my friends, is organizing.

I am very organized when I cook. Being organized means I don't miss ingredients, I have less clean up after cooking, and I can enjoy the task (and, yes, pretend I'm a Food Network star...shush, you know you pretend you're talking to the camera, too) without worries.

Here are my top ten tips for organized cooking.

1. Plan the menu in advance in a planner or on a menu board.

Because I plan my menu in advance, I know what I am cooking and when. For my visitors, if you don't use a planner, consider making one at least for your kitchen, with menus, ingredients/staples lists, shopping lists, lists of meals that your family loves, and weekly or monthly menu plans.

2. During nightly planner review (where prep for the next day happens), decide when to defrost and start cooking.

Write down the details in a planner or on your dry erase board.

For chili, I needed to defrost the ground meat in the fridge overnight and start cooking at 8 a.m., since I had out-of-the-house appointments all afternoon. So the meat went into the fridge last night and my planner reminded me to start cooking first thing in the morning.

3. Put out all ingredients and spices on the counter ahead of time.

For the chili today, I actually put out the dry items (tomato sauce, hot sauce, mustard seed, etc.) the night before, when I checked my planner, on the counter. Doing this in advance means I don't forget to use an essential ingredient.

4. Start the water boiling first.

If my meal requires boiling water (and, obviously, since Loki eats "spaghetti" but HATES "chili," I must boil water and call the meal spaghetti, 'cause he is five and that is keeping parenting real), start the water boiling first. So what if it boils for 45 minutes before you actually use it? You'll never have to wait for water to heat up again.

5. Next, start whatever takes the longest.

Today, except for noodles, chili is a one pot meal for me. I caramelized the onions and peppers (can one caramelize peppers???), then browned the meat in the same pot, and finally, added the tomato products. I had to chop the vegetables in order to start. However, if I was cooking something where veggies weren't cooked first, I would have started cooking, and then chopped the veggies while the first bit was cooking.

6. Use the timer.

Seriously. Use it. Set it and let it remind you each time you need to do something new (like stir the food or start the pasta).

7. Use the vegetable cutting board as a spoon rest.

It will keep your counter cleaner.

8. Store cooking tools within reach.

For me, this means spatulas, spoons, and potholders are close to the stove.

9. Clean while cooking.

I keep vinegar, dish soap, and water, mixed in a spray bottle, to clean counters while cooking. Also, while waiting for meat to brown, I might chop veggies or wipe down the sink or the island in the kitchen. I might unload or load the dishwasher. I can't really leave the area anyway, and lots of stuff can get down in those few found minutes.

10. When running low on an ingredient, add it to the grocery list immediately.

This single act has changed my life. I never run out of anything, unless something unusual happens (like that random rotten onion last week).

I hope some of these tips help to make cooking less stressful for you.

For those visiting Giftie Etcetera for the first time from decadentlyFIT, welcome.

You can subscribe to my organizing tips by signing up for an almost-daily email in the right gutter. You won't receive spam. You'll just get a quick reminder when I publish a new post.



Diana said...

My chili is never the same, which is bad if it's really good and everyone likes it.
I just need to clean as I cook. I don't and the kitchen is a great mess when I am done.

Giftie Etcetera said...

My husband is appalled that the pictures show our dirty stove. Ha ha! Two reasons: 1) I was actually cooking an actual chili when these pictures were taken and that is a messy process and 2) I like to keep things real for my Loyal Readers. In real life, stoves get dirty.

Erin said...

Love the boiling water tip ( I know you mentioned in a previous post) and LOVE LOVE LOVE the spoon rest idea! Duh why haven't I thought of this before! Again I love your blog!!!! And tell hubby that dirty stoves equal yummy meals! ;)

Anonymous said...

I love the spoo rest idea too!