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”)

Shopping list software – I love this because once I have prices at my local stores programmed into it I can drag and drop my list from a selection of items and it will not only print it by category (saving me time running back to an aisle where I forgot something) but it gives me a total price for the trip right on the list (Windows only; although not free, SplashShopper is a nice App for Mac users)

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Recipes Using Tools and 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...]

Oven Too Small? Making Everything Fit

The neatest thing in my house is my oven. It’s a strange statement to make, but I am happy to explain myself. Our house was built in 1958; my husband and I are the third owners. Things have changed, painting has happened, floors have been redone, but two original things remain: the porcelain coated steel kitchen cabinets and my oven. (Oh yeah, and the powder blue bathtub in the upstairs bathroom – that’s from the 50s too.) Back to my oven. Although skeptical when I first toured the house, I am now begging my husband ... [Read More...]

How to Choose Cookware

Selecting the right cookware for your kitchen is not an easy task. Cookware comes in a wide range of materials from stainless steel to cast iron and everything in between. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages and some forms of cookware work better for some than for others. What to look for when choosing cookwareHeat conductivity – cookware with good heat conduction equates to reduced hotspots, less burning and therefore more evenly cooked foods. Durability – if ... [Read More...]

Shopping List Software

Shopping List Software Download Shopping List Software For software support, please visit Home Plan Software as I cannot provide support for Shopping List software.A grocery list will be included with each menu in both PDF and Shopping List software format (see link above to download Shopping List software). Prices for each item are listed, although they may differ based on what is in season, your locality, and ... [Read More...]

Does Your Crockpot Work?

It seems like a silly question and you probably already answered ‘yes’. But unless your crock pot physically falls apart (like one of mine just did), how do you know it’s working properly? Most of us can figure out when we need a new coffeemaker or our toaster has run amuck, but what about your crock pot; how do you know if you’re crock pot is too old? If there are 1970s style flowers painted all over the heating element that may be a clue (I have one of those too – mine’s dark green with purple flowers). But I’m ... [Read More...]

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