The start of a new school year is always a bit of an adjustment in our schedules from the lazy, hazy days of summer. Even people who are not parents are impacted by longer commuting times due to increased traffic on the roads. Having some quick and easy meal ideas in our home menu repertoires can make a world of difference when it comes to the stress level of preparing dinner.
Our society is bombarded with artificial solutions to our hectic lives, such as fast food restaurants and prepackaged meals. This is a sad state of affairs, since quick and nutritious meals are only an idea away. Yes, some planning needs to be involved, but it is not as difficult as you may think.
Slow cookers are the most obvious answer, and many recipes can be found at your local library or on the Internet. I was astounded when I first saw a commercial recently that advertised a prepackaged slow-cooker meal, one that is easily emptied from the bag frozen into your crock pot. Yes, this is still better than deep fried fast food, but it is basic cooking and not only is it costing you a fortune in comparison to making it yourself, you have no control over any preservatives that may be included.
Casseroles are another solution and very popular with kids. Again, this requires some planning, but the most time-efficient method would be to prepare two or three casseroles of the same dish at once. This would allow you to freeze the extra meals for an even quicker solution to your busiest evenings. Other dishes that fall into this category are meat loaves, lasagnas, shepherd's pies, cabbage rolls, etc. For dishes like this that are to be made in abundance and kept frozen, find the day of the week that works best for you, like a Sunday afternoon, for example. There are many other non-casserole recipes that can be prepared ahead of time, like pasta sauces, pizzas and stir fries.
Food is not only an avenue to keep us alive, but an opportunity to celebrate life, nutrition and the joys of flavours. Unfortunately in today's society, many people don't see the appeal in bringing the family meal together, and have classified cooking as a household chore. A more accurate example of a household chore would be vacuuming. How many times have you called up a friend and asked if they want to vacuum with you? Probably never.
Such gatherings are almost always over dinner, lunch or coffee and a treat. Food is life in so many ways: nutrition, building relationships, pleasure from flavours, etc., and the first thing we need to change is our vision when it comes to food and cooking. Look for the negatives in anything and you will find them. Look for the positives and your perception will change. Yes, my opinion is obviously biased, but what would you rather do - have pride in making (and eating) a great meal or clean your carpet?
Dear Chef Dez:
"I like the taste of garlic in different dishes, however when I add it to a stir fry it always adds a bitter flavour. What am I doing wrong?"
John D. Abbotsford
If this is the only time you experience a bitter flavour from the addition of garlic to a recipe, I suspect that it is getting burned. Garlic burns very easily, especially if added to the extreme temperature of oil in wok cooking. To avoid this problem in the future, always add a different vegetable first to the hot oil to temper it a little before adding the garlic.
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