Quick Measurements to Make Meal Prep Easier


It is difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle without some measure (pardon the pun) of cooking.  There are plenty of prepared foods in all shapes and sizes, but most of the time, you do not know what you are really eating.  With that in mind, I have gathered a few baking, cooking, and pantry organization suggestions to make that healthy pursuit a tad easier.




Baking

Try a few of these next time you decide to bake:
  • Store all baking supplies that you need only occasionally in a tool box to grab and use during this activity - pastry brush, cookie cutters, candy thermometer, icing spatulas, etc.
  • Hate all that flour and other dry ingredients poofing in your face (and all over your counter and floor) when adding it to your mixer?  Me too.  When using the mixer, drape a damp towel over the front of the mixer.  Draw towel snugly with one hand and turn the mixer on low.  Slowly increase speed to where you need it.  Wash towel instead of your face and the floor and the counter!
  • Love parchment paper, but hate the curling. To keep parchment paper in place without curling up, spray cooking spray or dab some oil in the corners of the sheet pan before placing parchment paper on pan.  Press paper down where sprayed.
  • Get interrupted a lot when cooking and baking? When measuring numerous dry ingredients for a recipe, place measured items on a plate or foil to not loose track of what you have already measured.
  • If there is no expiration date on you baking powder, place two teaspoons in 1 cup of hot water.  If it fizzes you are fine. However, if the reaction is at all delayed, make the trip to get some new.
  • Place rubber bands at the end of rolling pins to elevate rolling pin keeping it from rolling your dough or crust too thinly.
  • Try this pattern for making cookies on your cookie sheet so that they do not run into each other: 
x  x  x 
x  x
x  x  x

Cake Design

Admittedly, I hardly ever bake cakes, but here are some tips to make them look pretty that I promise to use on my next cake baking attempts.  No special equipment needed.
  • Use the back of a spoon to make swirls on top and on the sides of the cake.
  • Use the tines of a dinner fork to make wave designs.
  • Blow dry the cake after icing it for a bit to make cake icing glossy and lustrous.  (I hardly make the effort to blow dry my hair.  Hats off to those who are dedicated to do this.)

Pantry Organization

An organized pantry can make your meal preparation go faster.  Look these tips over:
  • "First In First Out" - meaning place newer pantry items in the back and use up older items first.  This helps eliminate waste by using food items before they expire.
  • Make your grocery shopping more efficient and your pantry stocked by keeping pencil and paper handy or a chalkboard in the kitchen for the family to list items that need restocking or if they used the last of something. 
  • Every six months, check the expiration dates on your pantry items.  You can even do this when waiting on the phone for someone to pick up and assist.  I do a lot of that - waiting on the phone.
  • Reuse crates with slats for storage of potatoes and onions as it allows air to circulate.
  • Store loose items from bagged foods in glass jars or containers with lids to create a better seal and maintain freshness. 


Cooking

If you are going to put in the effort to cook, these ideas may help:
  • Made a great sauce and even have a little left over?  Save and freeze it in ice cube trays. The cubes can be reheated in a saute pan when you need a quick sauce,
  • Want a nice crisp crust?  Give it room and don't overcrowd the pan!  No browning will occur if the items are too close in the pan and your food will steam instead.
  • Keep it simple when using the freshest of food like at the farmers' market.  The taste of fresh picked vegetables is so superior, you need very little added flavors.   
  • When chopping herbs and garlic, toss a little salt onto the cutting board; it will keep the herbs from flying around.
  • Whenever you make pasta or grains, place a measuring cup in the colander.  It will remind you to remove some of the pasta-cooking water (about 1/2 cup) just before draining. When you add the water to a sauce of your choice for the pasta, add a little of the cooking liquid. This helps sauce to create a smooth texture and from getting too thick.  No calories, too!
  • Use large tongs for grabbing a roast or turning meat on the grill and in a pan as it will not puncture the meat dispelling all the juices.
  • The perfect fried egg?  Don't break the yolk by applying cooking spray to spatula before turning it.
  • When making stuffed peppers, use muffin tins, a tube pan or round ramekins to keep them upright and from spilling over and losing all that great filling.
  • My personal favorite - turn your favorite music on, pour yourself a great drink to sip and start creating. Experiment with various ingredients and find the flavors that you and your family enjoy.

Have a great tip to add?  The Health-Minded would love to hear.  Please list them in the comments.

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/imagineerz/5006298976/">imagineerz</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">cc</a>

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