Tools & Techniques (Secrets of a Busy Cook)

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Secrets of a Busy Cook: Cooking For the FreezerSecrets of a Busy Cook: Planned LeftoversSecrets of a Busy Cook: Quick and Easy RecipesSecrets of a Busy Cook: Fast IngredientsSecrets of a Busy Cook: Tools and TechniquesImage Map

Adapted from Secrets of a Busy Cook by Lynn Nelson, used by permission

Level V: Tools & Techniques

Kitchen appliances and cooking techniques have come a long way since our mothers’ days. All these hi-tech gadgets and cooking methods can save you lots time in the kitchen. Here are some tools and techniques that the busy cook shouldn’t be without! Without planning the use of these tools and techniques into your day, they will sit useless on the counter. We are not all wealthy enough to have servants to lighten our load, but by giving these electronic “servants” their instructions for the day, you allow them to serve you while you attend to other matters. Don’t let these household helpers collect dust—make more consistent use of these electronic “servants.”

Microwave – my favorite tool for defrosting all those prepared ingredients and meals from the freezer

Slow Cooker – used weekly and almost always on ballet day when we are gone from 3:30pm until 7:30pm

Grill – good tool for quick meals but also for preparing ingredients for the freezer like grilled chicken or vegetables

Electric Pressure Cooker – these quick cooking appliances are helpful for speeding things up when you don’t have hours for cooking.

Air Fryer – while air fryers don’t necessarily save time, they are a great alternative to turning on the oven or heating up a hot oil fryer, and they give great results.

Bread Machine – I prefer to make large batches of bread by hand, but this can come in handy for those who prefer one loaf at a time and is great for getting pizza dough ready just in time for lunch

Recipe Software – there are many available for purchase or free to download online (just google “recipe software”)

Our Free Weekly Meal Plans Incorporates Tools and Techniques Into Dinner Menus For You

Favorite Techniques

How To Freeze Cilantro

How To Freeze Cilantro We use a lot of cilantro — it adds a special flavor to to everything from guacamole to casseroles and soups, but unfortunately it has a short harvest season. When you grow it yourself it tends to bolt after a short time, and it’s not available year round in most grocery stores. A good way to avoid having to resort to dried cilantro is to freeze fresh cilantro after harvest or purchase. [Read More...]

How to Make Pumpkin Puree

How to Make Pumpkin Puree Although many new cooks are intimidated by cooking with them, pumpkins are just large squash. Preparing them for use in recipes is simply a matter of slicing them, scooping out the seeds, and baking them. Once baked, the meat can be scooped out and puréed for use in pies, mousse, trifles, and more. [Read More...]

Ten Tips to Building a Better Burger

Ten Tips to Building a Better Burger One thing I often hear from guests is that my barbequed burgers actually taste good … rather than just being hard and dry as hockey pucks like so many of those traditional family reunion barbequed hamburgers we’ve all endured from time to time. [Read More...]

Confessions of a Once-A-Month-Cooking Drop-Out

Okay, I admit it. I’m a Once-A-Month-Cooking drop-out. I tried to make a month’s worth of meals for the freezer, but I couldn’t come up with enough time or enough meals. Next I tried to make 2 weeks of meals for the freezer and stopped because I ran out of dishes, freezer bags, and patience. I had good intentions, but I’m just not that organized. Even though I flunked OAMC, my freezer is not empty. I do have a few tricks up my sleeve that I’d like to share. [Read More...]

Organize Your Recipes

Organize Your Recipes Here a few methods I have found to organize recipes: Photo Albums You can place clipped recipes and recipe cards in a any type of photo album (hint: go to the thrift stores and pick up inexpensive albums) although the type of albums that you can add pages to would be best because this will help you organize the album better. You can place tabs on pages to divide the album into categories then simply place your clipped recipes into the appropriate category. This method is a great way to keep all loose recipes together. The plastic protection will help keep your ... [Read More...]

Recipes for Our Favorite Tool: The Crockpot

Crockpot Marinara Sauce

Crockpot Marinara Sauce Slow cooking marinara in the crockpot yields a rich, intense tomato flavor. For quicker cooking, this can be prepared on the stovetop but will result in a less flavorful sauce. [Read More...]

Crockpot Cheesy Potatoes and Sausage

Crockpot Cheesy Potatoes and Sausage Using frozen hash browns as a base for this easy crockpot soup means less prep. Just slice the kielbasa and dice the onion, combine everything in the crockpot, and turn it on for a ready-to-eat evening meal. [Read More...]

Crockpot Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers

Crockpot Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers Crockpot Stuffed Bell Peppers make a classic dish even easier, and you can prepare everything the night before to save time in the morning. The filling freezes well, so if you’d like you can double the filling recipe and stock your freezer. [Read More...]

Easy Crockpot Chicken & Dumplings

Easy Crockpot Chicken & Dumplings Canned soup and refrigerator biscuits make prep easy for crockpot chicken and dumplings. [Read More...]

Roast Beef with Potatoes and Carrots

Roast Beef with Potatoes and Carrots Roast Beef with Carrots and Potatoes is easy comfort food in the crockpot. 10 minutes in the morning and a delicious meal is ready when you are. [Read More...]

Easy Slow Cooker Thai Chicken

Easy Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Prep for this flavorful chicken in peanut sauce is quick—just mix five ingredients, pour over chicken, and cook in the slow cooker. Peanuts and cilantro for garnish add to the flavor. [Read More...]

Carne Guisada for the Slow Cooker

Carne Guisada for the Slow Cooker Carne means meat (but often is used to refer to beef), and guisada means stew. This flavorful Mexican beef stew is perfect for serving over rice or with tortillas. Its wonderful aroma as it simmers in the slow cooker will have you anxiously awaiting dinnertime. [Read More...]

Slow Cooker Beef and Mushrooms

Slow Cooker Beef and Mushrooms Slow cooker recipes are a great way to make a low stress dinner at home. It shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes to put the ingredients for this flavorful dish into the slow cooker in the morning, and when you get home all you need to do is cook the egg noodles and heat up a side or throw a salad together for a full meal. [Read More...]

Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili

Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili Take advantage of your slow cooker to have this chicken chili waiting for you on a busy day when you don’t get home until late. [Read More...]

Slow Cooker Sticky Chicken

Slow Cooker Sticky Chicken Tender and delicious, Slow Cooker Sticky Chicken is easy to prepare and makes a delicious dinner while providing leftovers for use in a later meal. Prepare the chicken for marinating at night, then pop it in the slow cooker in the morning for a low stress dinner. [Read More...]

Spinach Lasagna

Spinach Lasagna This easy spinach lasagna recipe doesn’t require pre-cooking the noodles, making prep a snap. It could be turned into a casserole if you substitute another kind of pasta for the noodles—ziti would work well. [Read More...]

Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Chicken

Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Chicken This slow cooker Asian style chicken recipe rewards a little prep time in the morning with big returns at dinner time. Feel free to adjust the vegetables to based on what you have on hand – colored bell peppers and broccoli would be excellent substitutions for the carrots and green bell pepper. [Read More...]

Crockpot London Broil

Crockpot London Broil This easy crockpot London broil recipe is tender and delicious! It can be started in the morning and ignored all day until you are ready to eat. If you’d like gravy, prepare it with the drippings just before serving, or use the drippings for an au jus for dipping. [Read More...]

Lentil Soup with Kielbasa

Lentil Soup with Kielbasa Lentils are a useful legume for busy cooks because unlike beans, they cook quickly and can be prepared from their dry state without a long soaking time. Lentil Soup with Kielbasa is a flavorful slow cooker recipe that requires very little prep. [Read More...]

Savory Swiss Steak

Easy slow cooker Swiss steak recipe that can be prepped in the morning and is ready to eat when you get home. [Read More...]

Maple Dijon Chicken

Maple Dijon Chicken This is one of my go to recipes for delicious chicken. We’ve been making it for years but recently discovered by way of the Six Sisters website that it’s a great freezer dish as well. [Read More...]

Crockpot Cheesy Ham and Corn Chowder

Crockpot Cheesy Ham and Corn Chowder Combining crockpot recipes with planned leftovers is a great way to maximize both time and money savings. Use leftover ham, and for even faster prep choose frozen diced potatoes instead of peeling and dicing them yourself. If you prefer to avoid processed ingredients, you can substitute Cream of Something soup mix for the cream of celery soup, and double the cheddar cheese to omit the processed cheese. Look for this easy recipe on the Frugal Mom Menu. [Read More...]

Greek Chicken

Greek Chicken This delicious roasted chicken is a great way to have a meal and then make stock and use the stock and leftover chicken in planned leftover dishes. [Read More...]

Reuben Sandwiches

Reuben Sandwiches This Reuben Sandwich Recipe is a great way to use up leftover corned beef, or even to set the crockpot up to cook the corned beef and make the sandwiches in the evening. It’s a crowd-pleaser! [Read More...]

Pesto Ranch Crockpot Chicken

Pesto Ranch Crockpot Chicken This easy crockpot recipe takes just a few minutes to prepare and results in tender and delicious chicken at dinnertime. You’ll want to serve it with rice or mashed potatoes so you can use the wonderful juice as a gravy. [Read More...]

Crockpot Cube Steak and Gravy

Crockpot Cube Steak and Gravy Looking for a super easy supper idea? Look no further than Crockpot Cube Steak and Gravy. With a pound of cube steak, an envelope of onion soup mix, and 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup (or the equivalent of Cream of Something Soup mix), you can put a delicious home cooked meal on the table with almost no effort. We like this dish over mashed potatoes, but if you are really in a hurry, serve it over instant rice with a salad on the side. Slow cooking the steak all day makes the meat incredibly tender and the onion ... [Read More...]

Beef and Guinness Stew

Beef and Guinness Stew This delicious Irish stew made with stout beer is perfect for St. Patrick’s Day. It can be started on the stove top and finished in the slow cooker if you want to have it on a day when you will be out and about in the afternoon. [Read More...]

Easy Mexican-Style Crockpot Chicken

Easy Mexican-Style Crockpot Chicken This easy Mexican-style chicken crockpot meal is creamy and delicious. Just dump everything in the crockpot and stir occasionally, then serve over hot rice for a yummy meal. [Read More...]

Crockpot Albondigas Soup (Mexican Meatball Soup)

Crockpot Albondigas Soup (Mexican Meatball Soup) This easy crockpot soup is one of my favorite comfort foods and is a hit with everyone in the family. You could make your own meatballs if you prefer, but we are fans of Costco’s Italian meatballs and use those instead. When you are pressed for time, you can make it on the stovetop and cut down the cooking time to less than an hour. Using sautéed onions and peppers from the freezer makes this soup virtually prep-free. [Read More...]

Chicken Barley Vegetable Soup with Herbs

Chicken Barley Vegetable Soup with Herbs This simple, hearty, and flavorful soup has a delicious combination of herbs and vegetables that is perfect for a fall or winter meal. For a vegetarian version, omit the chicken and use vegetable stock or water instead of chicken stock. This recipe, like most soup recipes, is flexible and can be adapted to use what you have on hand. If you don’t have barley, try substituting brown rice. The soup is a great way to use leftover diced turkey or chicken. [Read More...]

Crockpot Orange Chicken

Crockpot Orange Chicken “This was a big hit, definitely making again!” Crockpot Orange Chicken is not only tasty but makes a beautiful dish. You’ll need a little extra prep time to get it started but if you cook it on high you could start it about 3 hours before dinnertime and have it ready when everyone gets home from their evening activities. [Read More...]

Turkey Frame Soup

Turkey Frame Soup That turkey carcass leftover from your holiday meal is treasure, not trash! The frame from your turkey (or chicken) makes the most delicious broth you have ever tasted. Simply put the bones (and skin if you have any) into your slow cooker and cover it with water. Let it simmer overnight and in the morning you will have the base for a delicious soup. [Read More...]

Layered One Dish Supper

This one dish meal is perfect for a cold winter night and can be made in a slow cooker if you prefer. Allow at least 3 hours for baking time if cooking in the oven and 7-8 hours if cooking in a slow cooker on high. [Read More...]

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