By Chef Domenica Catelli
I am no longer surprised by some of the responses I get when I ask people throughout the country why they aren’t cooking more. Studies show that we are watching more cooking-related shows on TV and yet are at an all-time low for the number of minutes, (yes, minutes, not hours), spent in our kitchens.
You are right on track if you think the #1 response is: “I don’t have enough time.” We all feel that end-of-the-day crunch where work and/or kids have worn us down and we don’t want to make another decision so we pick up take-out food. I want to remind us all that there are things we can throw together in 15-20 minutes that will be delicious, easy, and leave us feeling so much better physically and emotionally if we take the time. If you have time to catch 1-4 hours of your favorite TV shows in the evening, or be updated on the latest Facebook postings of hundreds of your not-so-closest friends, you have 15-20 minutes to make something for yourself and your family.
#2 “I don’t know what to make”
I’m a spontaneous person, so planning a meal a week ahead of time isn’t in my wheelhouse. However, I know that if I don’t go grocery shopping on Sunday or Monday to purchase some basic ingredients I am going to fall into the take-out rut as well — and I cook for a living! You have to get to the store and keep a few easy things at your fingertips. For example, keep some boneless, skinless chicken breasts pounded thin in your freezer. You can pull these out and have them thawed out in less than 10 minutes. Keep a few lemons on hand and some sort of fresh herb. These three ingredients can lead to 10 different chicken dinners, including:
- A lemony stir fry
- Chicken noodle soup with lemon and dill
- A grilled chicken salad with chopped veggies and black beans
- Chicken tacos
- Pasta with basil and chicken
If you are a red-meat eater, the next time you make a roast, make extra and freeze. Have it cut into stew-size chunks, then toss with a can of white beans, chopped up carrot, canned tomatoes, and sautéed garlic for a last minute stew.
#3 “Everyone in my family is so picky (they only like chicken nuggets and pizza)”
We created these picky eaters. If you are forty plus you most likely didn’t grow up in a family where mom was a short order cook bending to the whim of everyone in the family. We have let our 2-18-year-old determine our dinner choices. If your child will eat chicken nuggets they will be able to make the leap to grilled chicken. Be strong, excited about what you are serving, and understand that you are not a bad parent for saying no to the drive thru.
#4 “I don’t like my kitchen; I don’t have enough space”
AKA: “I don’t like my kitchen equipment so I avoid cooking.”
I hear these responses as often as I hear about not having enough time. Some quick and inexpensive solutions are:
- Get yourself an extra large cutting board that will cover your entire sink area. When you are prepping your food this instantly gives you an extra 1-2 feet of counter space which is often all you need to feel like you have a little elbow room to get the job done.
- Get yourself 1-2 sharp knives. The great news is there are new, colorful knives available at grocery stores, Wal-Mart, Target, etc. that are around ! They are bright and sharp and make the chore of chopping into something almost fun!
- Check out the kitchen section in discount stores like TJ Maxx and Ross. There are bargains to be found and high-quality cookware at ½ the price most of the time.
- Keep your eye out in the department stores sales on kitchenware. Forgo that new pair of shoes or top that you will forget about by next season and invest in something that you can use daily for years! You won’t regret it.
Until next time, stay fresh and delicious!