May 5, 2008

Cooking dinner ahead is the key...

... to more time in your day. It may not work for everyone, but I find it works for me, being one who works full time and tries to make it to the gym after work, while still getting home in time to have dinner on the table at a decent hour (let me tell you, it's really hard work! It doesn't leave me with much time to cook anything interesting).

I'm talking about cooking food for dinner a day or so ahead. I don't necessarily mean cooking the entire meal in advance (you can do that too if you really have time), but sometimes cooking a side dish ahead of time is a big help. (This works well for meals like meat and 3 veg etc). I like vegies and meat better on the first day they're cooked as they never seem to taste quite as good the next day heated up in the microwave (maybe because microwaves tend to cook everything just a little bit more), so cooking a side dish a day or so before it's going to be eaten is one less thing that I have to think about for the next dinner.

Last night for example, I cooked risotto to go with tonight's dinner (in my rice cooker! So easy!). All I had to do when I got home today was cook up the chicken and the vegies. Vegies and meat don't take much time to cook, so all I had to do was heat up the risotto while the vegies were steaming and chicken was cooking. Easy! Dinner is ready in about 15 min as opposed to half an hour or more.

If there's left-overs, you can either use them up another night, or freeze them in portion sizes for future use. I did this with the couscous I made last week, but I didn't think about freezing it in dinner sized portions, so it might be a bit difficult to defrost only the part that we need to use... maybe I'll try and put it in one of my home-made soups. I don't know if it would go, but I'm willing to try it!

I'm trying to get organised enough to do this more often, but I usually only find that I can do it on the weekend.

I'll leave you with my risotto recipe. I don't know how long it took to cook, as once it was in the rice cooker, I went to do other things and didn't really think about it again until it was finished. It doesn't have as much sauce as risotto usually does, but I enjoyed it all the same:

Rice cooker Mushroom Risotto
Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish, or 4 to 6 as a main

1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 onion
1 clove crushed garlic
250g mushrooms
1 and a 1/4 cups brown rice
4 and a half cups cold chicken stock

  1. Put oil and butter/margarine in a frying pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Finely dice the onion and add to frying pan with crushed garlic.
  3. Cook, stirring for 2 to 3 min.
  4. Chop mushrooms and add to fry pan.
  5. Cook for a further 3 min or so (it doesn't need to be totally cooked as it will finish cooking in the rice cooker), then remove from heat.
  6. Put rice in rice cooker, add mushroom mixture and mix together.
  7. Add chicken stock and stir, making sure that the rice is even spread on the bottom of the pot. (I used cold chicken stock as my rice cooker book says that you need to use cold water when cooking rice, but I don't know if this would make a difference to the end result in the case of risotto).
  8. Set to the "cook" setting and cook until the switch switches to "warm"
  9. Stir again to get the mushrooms etc spread evenly.
  10. Serve (or save for later!).
If you're making this as a main, I would suggest adding peas and corn or some other vegies in step 6, and then cooking some diced chicken to add in just before serving. Also, just a note that if you're using white rice instead, you would need to reduce the amount of chicken stock (to about 3 cups), as brown rice uses more water to cook (and takes longer).

I hope it works for you as well as it worked for me. It's my own recipe, so I made it to my taste I would recommend experimenting and adding other things you like.

I would show you a photo of it, but it was rather brown and not that interesting-looking, and half of it is gone now.... maybe if I remember to take a photo next time I will post it.

If only I could be so organised all the time....

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