I have a lazy streak that is bone deep. I have all the energy in the world (when I am not sick) for things I enjoy, but the things I hate to do- well, when I am able I want them done as quickly and easily as possible.
I love cooking and baking, but it is the creative process I enjoy, not the drudgery so I like to streamline and simplify when possible.
Over the years I have gathered and made up things to make my life easier that I thought I would share because it was brought to my attention that something that I do routinely and thought *everybody* knew was new to everyone at a gathering but my girls and I.
In no particular order, here are some hints and tips I wish I had known all along.
For everyone who says they can't make a gravy- if it is because you have no patience to stand there and stir, stir, stir to make sure it all gets incorporated and not burn (yep, that's my problem, same reason I can't make pudding on the stove top- I always try to rush it) the microwave is your new best friend. Here is the basic white sauce (medium) I got from a cookbook long ago and how I change it up depending on what I am making.
In an 8 cup Pyrex glass measuring cup for each cup gravy melt 1 Tbsp butter (you can use pan drippings or oil or whatever- and you can use less than called for). You can use fat-free stock or boullion to make it fat free.
Add 1 Tbsp flour and whisk the daylights out of it.
Microwave on high for exactly 45 seconds, no more, no less. This is whether you are making 1 cup of gravy or 6. (6 is the most you can make in the 8 cup Pyrex.
Whisk the crap out of it again and add any seasonings you might like and then add 1 cup liquid- milk, stock, 1 cup water one boullion cube, whatever you like and microwave 2 minutes. Whisk again. Keep nuking and whisking 2 minutes at a time til it is boiling and at your desired consistency. You cannot mess this up, it is perfect every time. You can make a basic gravy with butter and stock or milk for cream gravy then add pan drippings at the end if you desire. This is way better than any mix, and you know exactly what is going into it.
If you are super lazy save your fingers on most things and instead of nuking for 20 or 30 or 45 seconds do 22 or 33 or 44 or whatever (unless it is something you have to be super-precise with). I know, I know, but I really have days like that- especially when the 40-itis kicks in and the numbers are hard to read.
When making deviled eggs, especially to take them to a potluck or something, layer the tray or plate with some sliced lettuce or cabbage (the lazy gal's way is a bag of cole slaw mix) then the eggs won't slide all over and will stay in place as attractively as you arranged them.
Ken took some to a potluck at work and don'tcha know someone came up to him and said that's the best cole-slaw I ever ate. This is funny because it was just the cabbage and carrot shreds from the bag, no dressing. Guess he eats out a lot.
The easiest way to fill the eggs is to put the yolk mixture into a Ziploc and cut off the tip of one corner- if you want to make it a little fancier, cut an inverted v or a w.
You can use a Ziploc for most anything you need to pipe things if you don't have a pastry bag handy.
If you use head lettuce, whap it cut side down hard on the counter and the core slides right out.
I keep my spices in an over the door shoe bag in my (tiny) pantry with clear pockets- all the peppers in one all the garlics in another and so on. Easy to see and now I know I have umpteen pumpkin pie spice and poultry seasonings and don't buy a new one every time I think of a fall dessert or chicken dish.
I also keep my medicines in the same type of shoe bag over my closet door - headache stuff, bandages, cold stuff, etc- easy to find what you need when you need it.
You can put your pork roast in the crock pot while it is still frozen at night and then it is perfect for eating as is or shredding for pulled pork sandwiches whenever you need it the next day. The easiest way I make it that gets the most compliments is with a rosemary garlic blend, salt & pepper and then about a half-cup of apple juice or cider.
This is also wonderful if you have to take something to a family that is going through hard times or a funeral dish.
You can caramelize a ton of onions in the crock pot when they are on sale with a little butter or oil (I like a combination for the best flavor) then freeze in portion sizes on a cookie sheet for an hour then store in a Ziploc. Very nice to just pull out a blob or two for a recipe and not spend that time stirring while you are busy with other things.
We got so sick of take out and convenience foods when I was really, really sick that we hunted for ways to still have that homemade goodness. This is especially good if you don't care for leftovers or the consistency of pre-frozen casseroles and such.
I love browning up a ton of ground meat then having it handy when I don't have a lot of time or energy to cook it is very easy to throw together a casserole or sloppy joe's or tacos or whatever.
We'll make up 10 or more pounds at a time into meatballs or meatloaves so they are handy as well.
I also like to keep cooked or grilled chicken and other things handy for stir-frys, casseroles or to add to salads. Oh and I try to keep the salad shrimp for the mini-diva to use for her dishes.
When going to the trouble to make up waffles and pancakes we make gigantic batches and freeze for later use- french toast you can put right back in the bread bag if you freeze them individually first. Double wrap to prevent freezer burn.
Make ice-cubes out of your leftover coffee- these are great in frappes and iced drinks.
We like to freeze melon cubes and grapes before eating- very refreshing. Especially when you find that last frozen bag of watermelon cubes in January.
We like most of our cookies fresh from the oven, so we make double batches (thanks, mom, for my Kitchen-Aid mixer!!! I love you and I love being the favorite) then only bake a sheet at a time and put the rest in the fridge or freezer for the next craving.
You do not have to cook lasagna noodles before assembling. Regular old lasagna noodles- just make sure to have them completely covered in sauce (and YUCK the noodles they sell specifically for not having to pre-cook are very, very weird and give your lasagna an icky mushy texture).
You can water down your sauce but we prefer just to use extra as it gives it a much richer, more intense flavor. Bake 375 for 1 hour 15 minutes covered in foil, remove foil and let brown for that last 15 minutes.
Spray foil or whatever covering you are using lightly with oil to prevent sticking when you are covering a casserole or whatever if it might touch. Do NOT do what Dawn did and spray whatever you are covering- in her case the deviled eggs- she sprayed them not the plastic wrap after having a rough night- luckily they were still delish.
There are more, but I'll save them for another post - but I'll leave you with a tip EVERYONE should follow:
If someone offers to help out- LET THEM!!! Trust me on this one. If you are always the one stuck doing everything, recruit them- hey would you mind bringing *whatever* or would you mind slicing those cukes while I finish up this pie crust. Really. People like to feel useful, but if you say no, I can handle it often enough they will come to expect so much from you that you will collapse under the weight of all that pressure.
So what do you do to make your life easier?