Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Save time in the kitchen

Most Indian women give a lot of importance to the kitchen. But many a times spending time in the kitchen can turn into drudgery. For example, Kavya feels confused most of the time about the menu for her family. Her father-in-law is diabetic and her mother-in-law has severe gastric problems. Her children need energy rich food and also like more junk food over healthy balanced meals. Her husband enjoys eating spicy food most of the times. Kavya is a working woman and is always trying to juggle a smart menu to save her some time Is this sounding familiar to you? If it is, then here are some smart tips to strike a balance between likes and dislikes of different members of the family on and save some precious time in the kitchen.

Plan your week: Take some time in the weekend to talk with others in the family and prepare an approximate menu for the whole week like Monday - dal-chawal(lentil soup and rice), Friday - pizza etc. Shop the basic ingredients for the whole weeks cooking and buy the greens twice a week while returning from work or delegate this to someone else.

Keep good stocks: Do try to keep a good stock of different kinds of rice, flour, lentils, noodles, pickles, poppadums (Spicy wafer) and sauces. This will allow you to be flexible if you have to prepare something on the last minute or if some unexpected guests arrives during dinner time.

Delegate kitchen work: Instead of trying to do everything on your own delegate different tasks to other members of the family like swap the role of a cook with your husband or mother-in-law. Take help in cutting vegetables and vice-versa. Ask and help your children to prepare simple items like salad, raita (salad with yogurt), pan cake, tea or omelettes. This kind of involvement will also increase their interest in eating specially those who are picky eaters. They can also help in serving.

Make two out of one: Try to cook at least two portions of meals at a time. Use one and freeze the other for later use. While preparing mixed vegetables, keep some sliced vegetables in refrigerator to make vegetable soup or vegetable noodles or vegetable fried rice on the next day. Boiled potatoes and eggs can be used to make egg curry on one day and egg sandwich for breakfast next day.

Store and stack properly: Coriander leaves can be cut and frozen into ice cube boxes in freezer and can be used for long time afterwards. Khichdi (lentil and rice mix) or soups prepared especially for babies can also be used twice or more if frozen properly in air tight containers. All the spices for seasoning can be kept in one rack to save time in searching. Separate racks or labeled containers for different lentils, oils, spices, batter and biscuits can save a huge time in searching.

Combination and compromises: Instead of cooking special dishes for each of the family member encourage them to agree upon a single menu which every body likes. Dedicate one day to each member of the family when his or her favorite dish will be cooked. Grand parents and parents can tell different stories about some traditional family foods (how they are grown and processed etc.) to the children to encourage them to know about their own roots and find interest in eating traditional Indian dishes.

Calendar, scissors and cookbook: Keep a calendar preferably in the kitchen or in the dining space to write the shopping days, menus or other important things. Keep a scissors in a specific drawer of the kitchen to cut the packed food items and also the herbs like coriander, mint or basil to add flavor to your cooking. Always keep a notebook or a file to collect the recipes liked by all the members of the families and also to note all those successful experimental recipes which you have created on your own.

Modern kitchen gadgets: Mixer-grinders-juicers, roti-makers, electric kettles, electric rice cookers, hand mixers, microwave oven and sandwich makers are some of the popular kitchen gadgets which are easy to use and maintain. They can prove very useful especially if you don't have any maid's help around. A little planning and firmness can save you lots of time and energy in the kitchen. It will also encourage all the members of the family to be more involved in the process of cooking and enjoy family meals.

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