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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Time Saving Kitchen Tips-Vegetables

I have been lucky to have found a wealth of information over the years here and there on time saving and more importantly cost saving tips to help in the kitchen.  This post will be a living document, so that I can add and update these tips as recall them or find new ones.

All Vegetables:  
If I just throw them in the produce drawer when I get home, without processing them by repackaging and cutting up, it is really easy to forget they are there and pull them out later, only to find they have gone bad and need to be tossed out.  Every time I think about this, it reminds me of the commercial where the lady is just throwing cash in the trash, because that is exactly what you are doing if you buy veggies, only to let them get lost in your produce drawer.  I find that if I cut up the veggies, the day I bring them home, the more likely they will be used.   How easy is it to open up a container and throw extra veggies in as you cook a meal, as opposed to having to pull multiple veggies out and having to wash and cut them up before you even start cooking?  

If you wrap your celery in reynolds wrap and place in your produce drawer, it will last for weeks.  Also, so that I have it cut up and ready to use, I will wash and cut it up and put it in a lock-it container, or another one that keeps air out.  I try to keep at least a cup of celery cut up at all times, to throw in dishes, as I am cooking.  If you celery is starting to look wilted and you don't think you will use it before it goes bad, cut it up, label, and throw it in the freezer, to use at another time.  You can even throw it in the freezer with other veggies to use for broth or soup, just label a bag for soup and toss in bits and pieces of veggies as you need to use them up.

I use this vegetable, probably as much as I use onions, so I buy big bags of baby carrots from the warehouse stores, since they keep for weeks in the veggie drawer.  I leave these in the bag they came in and keep in the produce drawer.  I keep shredded and diced carrots in containers in the produce drawer, to pull out and throw in salads, soups, and sauces.  Shredded carrots are used in all of my salads, stir fries, spaghetti sauce, chilli, and anything else I can toss it into.  Once shredded, most people do not know you have used them and it is a way to get extra veggies in your family, without altering the taste of their meal.  Again, as with celery, if these start to go bad, you can cut up and throw in the freezer.


I love to buy these from the warehouse clubs, because I can get huge ones, which takes less time to peel and cut up.  When I have time, I cut up extra onions by dicing, laying out on a cookie sheet and freezing until firm, before storing in ziploc bags in the freezer.  By freezing on a cookie sheet first, they will freeze in individual pieces, instead of in clumps; which makes it easier to pull out only what you need.  If you put your onions in the freezer for 15 minutes before cutting, then you can say goodbye to watering eyes.  I also slice up onions to freeze, so that I have bags of diced and bags of sliced onions and can easily grab what I need when cooking.  These will last months in the freezer.

We have started using these frequently, so I make sure I have these cut up at all times in a container in my produce drawer of the fridge.  These will last several weeks in the fridge this way.  You can add these at the end to stir fries and other dishes, to keep some crunch in them, or you can add them at the beginning of cooking, as you would your normal onions. You can cut these up and freeze them as well.  I just saw something new, that I think I will try with the next bunch I buy and that is to stick the bottom parts in a pot with potting soil and keep them on a window sill, so I can grow my own.

I store these several ways and all work well.  I keep cut up peppers in a container in my produce drawer, to use during the week when I am cooking.  I use quite a few peppers, so when I get them on sale or have them from our summer harvest, I will chop some and slice some and freeze them in separate bags in the freezer.  After cutting, I lay them out on a cookie sheet, like I mentioned above under onions.  I have also, thrown whole ones in the freezer, if I do not have time to cut them up before freezing.  

We use these weekly, so I buy the big packs of mushrooms from the warehouse clubs.  As soon as I get home, I remove them from the container they come in and store them in a brown bag(lunch bags) in the produce drawer unwashed.  I will wipe off several and chop them up and put in a container in my produce drawer, so they are handy to throw into dishes as I am cooking during the week.

After seeing a piece on how garlic helps your immune system, I try to use garlic in most of my dishes, including broths I make.  I buy these from the warehouse clubs in 2 pound bags.  You need to store these in the dark either in a bag, or I have stored them in a basket with a cloth over them in my pantry.  Stored this way, they will last for several months.  To make them easier to peel, you can place the bulb in the microwave for 10-20 seconds and the skins will come right off when your rub the bulb in your hands.  I use a garlic press, or you can use a grater or knife to cut and chop your cloves.  

This can be stored in your freezer and pulled out when you need raw ginger.  A vegetable peeler or knife can be used to peel only the amount of skin you think you need to remove(no need to peel the entire thing if not needed).  You can the slice off what you need with a knife or grater.  When you remove what you need, just pop it back in the freezer for future use.

 We grow these in our garden and I make sure I have room in my freezer to keep them the rest of the year, since I hate to pay for something I get in such abundance during the summer.  When we pick these, we bring them home and wipe them off(not wash) and leave them in a basket or in our pantry, until we are ready to use them.  If you wash them before you are ready to use or put in the fridge, they will start to go bad.  I use these in everything I use carrots in.  I also make zucchini bread and soup and since they way I use them the most is shredded, I will shred and drain before putting into foodsaver bags and freeze. 

Parsley and Cilantro:

I try to keep this on hand to add to dishes, either during cooking or right before serving.

 If   you wrap it in a damp paper towel and place in a ziplock bag.  This will keep in your produce drawer of your fridge for several weeks. Check your damp paper towel and change it at least once a week.

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