Essential Kitchen Tools for a Busy Life
Thursday, September 30, 2010
One of the most common themes on the message boards is, "I'm so busy with work/school/kids, and I don't have a lot of money. I don't know how to cook well. How can I make meals at home?"
Many of us still have the image of a home cooked meal from our grandmothers or moms who slaved away in the kitchen all day. They made pasta sauces that slow simmered all day, or a pot roast that slow roasted in the oven.
The modern age has made it difficult for most of us to make the traditional recipes, the traditional way. We replaced home cooked meals with fast food, packaged processed meals, and restaurants. For many of us, this resulted in weight gain and health issues.
Making meals at home can be easy, fast, and delicious. You can even make your grannie's/mom's all day meals without using the stove or oven. You just need a few essential kitchen tools.
Good quality knife
There are fancy slow cookers and rice cookers with timer features and what not, but you don't need them if you're on a budget. A basic rice cooker can be bought for $30. You can probably get one for $10 on craigslist. A basic slow cooker is about the same price. If you're just making food for one or two, get the smallest model you can find. Large models will be more likely to burn food if you put in small quantities.
Here are some of the things you can make with a rice cooker:
Rice of all kinds
Anything you can steam
Things you can make in a crockpot:
Spaghetti sauce (slow cooked just like grannie used to make!)
Pot Roast (just like mom!)
Jerk Chicken (I posted this on my blog a few days ago)
Ratatouille (also posted on my blog a few posts down)
Chili con carne
Slow cooked ribs in BBQ sauce
Anything that uses liquid!
There are all kinds of crockpot cookbooks. It's not just for Sunday church brunch or potlucks. Avoid the ones that use "Cream of xxx soup" as an ingredient, though.
With your knife and cutting board, just chop your ingredients and drop them directly in the pot. Set the crockpot on low, add rice and water to your rice cooker, and turn it on. By the time you come home from work or school, dinner is ready! It really is just that easy.
And cheap. A cup of cooked rice comes out to about $0.20 per cup in my area. A crockpot of veggie stew shouldn't cost more than a dollar per serving, even if you use organic veggies. It only starts getting pricey when you add meats. Cheap cuts of meat like London broil when slow cooked get very juicy and tender. A bag of chicken breasts are always an economical choice.
When using meats in a crockpot, though, make sure to start your crockpot on high and let it full boil until cooked through, before turning on low. Or you can quick saute in a fry pan first. Low setting on a crockpot is usually a slow simmer just below the boiling point, and may not be hot enough to kill food pathogens. Just start it on high when using raw meats, or quick cook first, to be safe.
Don't overfill your crockpot. If you put in too much, it may not get to a safe cooking temperature. Read the instruction booklet, but as a general rule, don't fill more than 2/3 full.