Pan fried Salmon and Stir Fried veges for lunch today...and on the table in less time than it takes to make a sandwich. I'm posting today, on how I make that happen!
Just to tantalise you further, here's my nice tidy, pre-prepped refrigerator. It's not pretty, but it sure is functional.
There's all kinds of goodies there from home made onion confit and tomato relish, to home made creamed rice, grated and sliced cheese, sliced tomato and cucumber, home baking, steamed rice and more.
So here's what I got up to yesterday...shopping day.
I continued straight on from unpacking the groceries.
As I unpacked, I did a mini clearout of the fridge, washing up transparent containers for things like grated and sliced cheese and tinned veg as I go.
Then I did myself a little list and approximate time plan, after packing away, and decanting things like tinned corn and beetroot into containers. Anything that had to be prepped such as fruit, veg, meat or baking, was left on the bench or on the bottom shelf of the fridge for easy access. I also made sure that I had tidied the fridge and freezer as I went along, to free up space to store all the prepped food.
I try to divide my time into 30 minute blocks, so if I have to abandon things, or get interrupted, I know where I am, so I can pack away and pick up from where I left off if necessary. So I mark things 1/2/3 and so on to indicate each 30 minute block. This also gives me an idea of how long my prep will take, and is a good reminder of how much you can achieve in small blocks of time!
Here is my list:
1. or First Thirty Minutes:
Separate bacon, trim and store, and dice 2 rashers for Sweet Potato Salad
Marinate Topside roast and bag and freeze
Peel and dice sweet potato and roast
Prepare oven and ingredients to roast sweet potato and bacon
Boil eggs for lunch tomorrow and for egg spread
Peel potatoes for mash, cook and mash for dinner and for Indian potato cakes in a day or two
2. or Second Thirty Minutes:
Prepare Mince Mix, bag and freeze
Dice rockmelon and watermelon
Make chocolate mousse
Make salad for dinner
Slice tomato and cucumber
3/4 or Third and subsequent Thirty Minutes:
Make apple and cinnamon GF muffins
And here's what I did:
I turned the oven on to preheat for the sweet potato and bacon and the muffins.
I got on my comfy Birkenstock Gizeh Sandals..pretty and practical, removed my rings and bracelet, and washed my hands thoroughly.
I set out a large glass of water and a cup of tea on the bench to keep me going, and took the home phone off the hook, and put my mobile phone on 'silent'. I set my 13 year old daughter up with her homework, and got her a platter of prepared fruit and vege sticks with some hommus for afternoon tea to minimise interruptions. This is important. I am training my family to understand that I am 'working' when I'm doing this. They wouldn't walk in to my workplace and interrupt me in any other circumstances, so they can't do it when I'm in the kitchen doing prep.
I got out all of my equipment including mandolin slicer, microplane grater, vegetable peeler, knives, spoons, measuring cups, sifter, kitchen scissors, baking dishes, muffin pan, muffin papers, cling wrap and baking paper, medium and large ziplock bags, storage containers, recycled shopping bags for rubbish or compost (find it easier to do this so I'm not cluttering up the kitchen rubbish bin...they then go straight in to the outside bin or on the compost pile). I only use one large mixing bowl for everything, washing it in between uses. This avoids having a horrendous washup to do at the end.
So in the first thirty minutes...
I turned on a hotplate and popped five eggs into it with water to boil them.
I peeled and diced one large sweet potato (kumera).
I opened the budget 1kg of bacon, and trimmed the rind and fat from it, layered the trimmed slices in a Tupperware freezer container, separating them with cling wrap, and diced two rashers to roast with the sweet potato. I kept the rind aside, lining the baking dish for the sweet potato with them for added flavour and topped the sweet potato (once peeled and diced) with the remaining rashers. Don't be alarmed. This adds flavour and not fat. The 'fat' drains away completely. It gives the sweet potato a lovely added depth of flavour. Waste not, want not as Mum and Nanna used to say.
I removed the eggs which were now cooked and drained them, putting them into the fridge.
I threw the diced sweet potato into the baking dish lined with the bacon rind, sprinkled it with a pinch of dried garlic granules (I love dried spices and herbs for their simple ease of use and find I go through them quickly enough for them not to lose their pungency), and a pinch of dried Thyme, topped it with the remaining bacon rind and popped it into the oven.
I peeled the 'dirty' potatoes, and diced them, putting them on to boil for mash.
I opened the 1.2 kg tray of lean mince, and dropped it into a large mixing bowl. I labelled a large ziplock bag, and opened it up ready so I could pop the mince mix straight in. To the mince in my bowl, I added two eggs, about a cup and a half of steamed rice that was already in the fridge, having been precooked yesterday, and 1/2 cup of my tomato relish cooked a couple of weeks ago. I mixed it all thoroughly with clean hands, and bagged it up. I closed the ziplock bag, after expelling the air. Then I squished it all as flat as possible, and used the edge of my hand to separate it into four squares that can be taken out individually. Kind of like 'cutting' it through the plastic bag with my hand. Then it went into the freezer to be used for meatloaf, rissoles, meatballs, or even cooked as a savoury mince.
I labelled and opened another large ziplock bag and popped the Topside roast in, smothering it with honey, soy and sesame oil. That will go in to the slow cooker on Saturday, for dinner Saturday night and sandwiches for a couple of days after. In the freezer it went.
So at this stage, I've only been working for 30 minutes and look what I've already done. It's just a matter of getting in to the swing of it and not being interrupted.
So in the next 30 minutes, I ...
Sliced and diced the rockmelon (a whole one) and watermelon (a quarter).
I checked on the sweet potato and bacon rind and gave it all a toss as the fat had now rendered down, and I wanted the sweet potato well coated, and the rind crisping.I drained the cooked and peeled potato for mash, and mashed it, storing half for potato cakes, and setting the other half aside to reheat for dinner.
I then made the chocolate mousse as a treat for my daughter. It's one I spotted at the supermarket and is gluten, dairy and nut free. It's just an add water and mix with the hand held electric mixer for three minutes thing, and it's surprisingly nice. Not something I'd buy often, but an inexpensive treat for $4 for six serves.
I shredded some wombok and grated some carrot for a salad for dinner.
Into the third 30 minutes now...
I measured the GF flour into my sifter with some baking powder, and sifted it into washed mixing bowl, for the muffins. I added the eggs, oil, the leftovers of a blueberry GF muesli and yoghurt parfait that my daughter didn't eat this morning, some Easiyo home made yoghurt, some stewed apple that I made with Royal Gala apples from the fruit bowl ( I didn't even peel them. The peel is lovely in muffins.), and some sugar. I lined the muffin pan with papers.
I checked the sweet potato and bacon roast again, and removed it from the oven as it was looking good. I took the bacon rind out, and transferred it to a cake tin lined with baking paper, and put it back into the oven to render down further and crisp up. I sat the baking dish with the sweet potato in it, on the sink propped on an angle, to allow the fat to drain completely away from the sweet potato while I finished the muffins. While it occurred to me, I popped another cake tin into the freezer as I want to make home made ice cream tomorrow, which requires a pre chilled tin.
If you look closely at the top of this pic, you'll note the oil that has drained from the bacon, has separated from the sweet potato.
So I've been going for an hour and a half now, and the fridge and freezer are looking well stocked, and the bench significantly clearer. The mash for dinner is ready too.
I plopped the muffin mix into the papers using an ice cream scoop which is just the right amount for our muffin pans. I get 18 large muffins from the mix. Into the oven they went for 25-30 minutes.
I got out my thinner knife and my microplane grater and two containers, and grated a quarter of a one kilo block of cheese with the microplane grater, and sliced another quarter of a kilo (250gms or about 8ozs) with the knife. The rest I returned to the freezer wrapped in foil for replenishing the containers in a few days.
I made a salad for dinner, using a tin of four bean mix opened on the weekend, and mixing with a couple of tablespoons of tinned corn already decanted into a container, and some of the shredded carrot and wombok. I popped it all into a Tupperware container and shook it around with a touch of dressing. Not too much, as I don't want the salad to go soggy. I used one I had made up in a recycled bottle in the fridge that is a favourite here. Equal parts olive oil and balsamic with a good squirt of maple syrup or honey and a teaspoon of seeded mustard.
I've slowed down a bit as it's getting close to dinner time and the natives are restless, so interruptions, despite my instructions, are more frequent...lol! So in to the final stretch...
I drained the fat from the baking dish with the sweet potato in it, and scooped the roasted sweet potato into another flattish Tupperware container. I washed up the baking dish and put it away to make more room on the bench. I removed the now crisp bacon rind from the oven, and leaned it on an angle to allow more of the fat to drain away. Then I snipped the crisp rind (like pork crackling now) with kitchen scissors, in to the sweet potato salad and refrigerated it. This was actually a mistake as it was soggy by this morning when I served it for DD's lunchbox, but for future, when I serve it immediately, this gave a fantastic new dimension to the dish, with the crisp salty bacon rind complementing the roasted sweet potato perfectly :)
I've been washing up by hand and stacking the dishwasher as I go, so there's very little tidying to do at this stage, but I tidy up what there is, and wipe and polish the benchtops with the used teatowel, which goes immediately into the wash. I get out a fresh one to use after dinner.
The muffins were done by then, so I removed them to a storage container. I then quickly prepared a raspberry bread and butter pudding for dessert. This will go into the oven after dinner.
A quick salad is assembled from blanched beans and cherry tomatoes, with a few pine nuts thrown in for good measure.
Then I cooked a premarinated rump steak from a previous prep session for dinner, and reheated the mash, serving the salad on the side. We enjoyed the bread and butter pudding for dessert.
All up, I worked for about 2 1/4 hours, including set up, and clean up, and that includes making dinner!
As you go, you'll get better at your time plan and your prep, so keep at it!
If I can help anyone with time plans or menus or organising, let me know and I'll certainly do my best.