Cutting the corners...

In one of my previous posts I mentioned my belief that there is nothing wrong with cutting the corners when preparing for your celebrations, dinners, parties etc. As soon as it doesn't compromise the taste or health of your guests, why not? You might as well spend the freed time for your beauty routine or preparing entertainment for the guests.

People insisting on preparing everything from scratch are like religious fanatics denying electricity etc. As everything else, the kitchen and food preparation should catch up with the progress.

Besides, unless someone harvests vegetables and fruits from his own allotment, many little helpers (sauces, frozen mixes etc) are indeed healthier, because many productions are set up next to the source while many fruits, veggies, meats etc supplied to supermarkets shelves undergo specific chemical treatments to survive the transportation and look "sellable" for longer.

Based on my experience, I would broadly divide my helping tricks into the following categories:

  • Frozen mixes and precut veggies.
Waitrose Frozen Onions

With some shopping around, I bet, you can find many frozen mixes that would satisfy your taste and save your precious time. And low temperatures are the healthiest and safest food preservers. I swear by chopped onions, garlic, shallots and ginger. The time saved and the taste is still there. Chopped onions and The Cooks Essential range from Waitrose are superb. I also like pregrilled veggies mixes, they taste great. I just mix those with some meat and my family loves it. When it comes to frozen herbs, frankly, there is some compromise on taste, but, at least, they are not going yellow or rotten in your fridge and stay fresh longer :)  I once watched a TV show where they showed how "fresh" meat packs are pumped with some preserving gases, since then I shop for meats in the frozen section too. My recent purchases with Iceland were hit and miss, but I think everyone can find something to their taste.

  • Cake mixes (but not frostings!)

In my previous post, I've already elaborated on my preferences for some cake mixes.  But when it comes to cake mixes and, especially, frostings, you will need to check the label, some of them got too many ingredients I don't find healthy. As a rule, I use them only for simplest things where time spent doesn't really make a big difference.

  • Finding ways and recipes to prepare food in advance 

I usually prepare loads of dishes for my diners etc, partially this is due to my cultural traditions and, also, to give some choice to my rather diverse guests. Preparing all these on the day of the party is almost impossible. Also, my twins do not give me much time during weekdays too, and weekends, when I have my husband to help me around, are the best for preparing food in advance. So, my favorite recipes are the ones which can be prepared in advance either entirely or at least partially. I will be sharing some along the way. But today's post is mostly about "little tricks", so, I guess, I will share some of those.

One of my favorite ones is marinating meats in zip bags using various spices and condiments for 1-3 days in the fridge, it's mess free, quick and the taste of the meat after it absorbs all the herbs and spices goodness is just amazing! I can pop it in the oven with veggies and cheese or stir fry later.  When it comes to marinade the sky is the limit, and you can use any meat really -chicken, pork etc. As an example:

Simple Chicken Marinade Recipe:

  • Put 2 tsp of frozen chopped garlic and 1 Tbsp of frozen chopped onions into a big zip bag. Add juice of one lemon, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, 100 ml olive oil, 1-2 of bay leaves, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg, 1/4 tsp of ground black pepper, 2 tsp of salt.
  • Add your meats to the bag, zip it and shake vigorously until every bit is covered. Put in the fridge for, at least, 8 hours and prepare within 3 days.

Many recipes call for citrus zest or citrus candied peel. I like those in panettones, buttercreams etc, but only if it was prepared my grandma's way :) How many times your family eats oranges and all the peel goes into a garbage pin. Or, maybe, when your recipe calls for one, you realize that you don't have any. Also, grating orange peel is messy, so making it every time you need only half a teaspoon is a pain. That's where my grandma's little trick comes handy. And the taste it gives to dishes is just amazing - it's not that sharp and bitter as from fresh oranges, but very tender and aromatic!

My grandma's orange peel recipe

Well, calling it a recipe might be too much. It's so simple! You will need:

  • a small glass or ceramic container with a lid
  • oranges
  • sugar
  • strong alcohol (brandy or vodka)

Just grate the peel of oranges you have in hand.  And, then, for every tea spoon of the orange zest put one tea spoon of sugar above the peel in a jar. When your peel is finished or the jar is full, pour the alcohol over the sugar until everything is totally covered with liquid and cover the container with a lid. Put in the fridge and use when needed. It can be stored for months this way without going bad or loosing the taste! It might change the color, but it doesn't affect the quality. I just love to add it to the buttercreams and frostings of my cakes, delicious!

Do you have any households tips for food preparation?