Preparing evening meals at home needn’t be a time consuming chore or like an episode from a reality TV cooking show. It does require us to be organised and it is ideally supported by others in our household. Shopping, chopping vegetables and help with cleaning is of great support to any chef! Here are my tips for making cooking a fun part of the day.
1. Planning ahead
Whether you are cooking for one, six or more planning ahead is required. I generally suggest a weekly plan for a household that takes into consideration work, school and other commitments. This way you will know who will be home for meals. Once you know how many evening meals are required for the week then you can consider the menu and who is going to cook and assist. Next – write out your shopping list.
2. Household member involvement
Sharing the responsibility for evening meals works well in many households. This may mean there is more than one cook. I encourage everyone to learn to cook a few different meals. It increases your appreciation for food and also what is involved in the process of cooking from scratch. Even if there is one main cook, their workload can be assisted by help with shopping, preparing ingredients and cleaning in the kitchen. Sharing space in the kitchen and working together is great fun and a good time to catch up on everyone’s news for the day.
3. Basic recipes
If you are new to cooking – keep it simple. Select a few favourite meals and learn how to cook these well. In a family or share house situation different preferences can be accounted for. The level of spice in mixed dishes such as curries and stir-fries can be kept to a minimal and those that enjoy extra spice can add it at the table. The Internet is a great source of inspiration for cooking. I often select a few recipes for a particular meal and then modify the ingredients to suit our preferences and what I have in the pantry. My favourite meals for taste, simplicity and speed are stir-fries, curries and pastas.
4. The main ingredient
The focal point of your evening meal (and lunch) would ideally be vegetables. Fresh in-season vegetables keep well in the refrigerator. They can be steamed and served as a side dish or added to curries, casseroles, stir-fries and pasta sauces. In the warmer months a mixed salad is an easy to prepare side.
5. Cooking for one
Taking the time to prepare a meal for yourself is one of the most rewarding activities you can do. You can select your favourite ingredients and create a meal that you will enjoy. I suggest cooking extra portions of curry and pasta sauce so you can refrigerate or freeze them for another occasion. Other meals that freeze well are lasagne, cannelloni, vegetable or meat based burgers and quiches. This is a good use of your time and your resources.
Preparing your own meals does take time, but when compared to the time taken to order a takeout meal or a meal at a restaurant the time difference is minimal. The benefit of home cooking is that you get to select the ingredients and the meal. Cooking can be a time to share with others or, when you are alone, a time to nourish yourself.