The school year is upon us. First off, how is that even possible… wasn’t it just May? The first day of school brings a whole new set of stresses. We all know what weeknights are like when the kids are in school. The weekend flew by, you just had the busiest Monday of your life and it’s dinnertime before you can even say “help”. Maybe you went to the grocery store on Sunday but you have no idea what to throw together with the mis-matched random groceries you bought. Where did your time go?
The answer is that this happens to pretty much EVERYONE. Your time goes to more important things – family activities, school functions, sports or even catching up on a little rest and relaxation (this one is more important than you think!). Whoever claims to have every meal planned Monday-Friday is either exaggerating, or just has their life together better than most of us. When a hungry family gets thrown in the mix, every little life-hack you can find helps. Mastering weeknight dinners does take a little planning, but the key is making the most out of your time beforehand.
Food prep is a popular topic these days. There’s a big trend of people prepping an entire week of meals in advance, often storing them in separate tupperware containers. This can be a great method for people with certain goals, but can be intimidating or just not relevant for others. I want to talk about some simple steps you can take before cooking to speed up meals and make your life a little easier!
I came up with these tips after cooking one our new Texas Favorites Recipes, BBQ Beef Quinoa Casserole. Even though this recipe has simple ingredients and steps (I love casserole recipes that don’t require any layering… you just pour everything in a pan) it took longer than expected to get in the oven. I realized that dinner could have been on the table a lot sooner if I had done a few things the night before!
1.) COOK YOUR BEEF
This recipe calls for 1.5 pounds of pan-seared top sirloin cut into bite size pieces. Although pan-searing is a super quick cooking method, I was trying to get this and 15 other things done at the same time. Multitasking in the kitchen can cause you to overcook things, and this can be a big problem when it comes to meats.
Trimming, seasoning and cooking steaks the night before is a great solution, especially since casseroles get thrown in the oven to bake! Just throw your prepared beef in a re-sealable bag or container to preserve freshness in the fridge. It’s even a great idea to grill extra steaks to have on-hand in the freezer.
2.) COOK QUINOA, RICE OR OTHER GRAINS
For this recipe I used quick quinoa that cooked in 10 minutes, but this step could easily be done the night before. If you eat it often enough, double or triple up on your quinoa and stash some in the freezer for last-minute meals. This applies to rice and other grains, too!
3.) MEASURE SPICES AND SEASONINGS
You seriously wouldn’t think this takes as long as it does. Every time I cook I vow to always do this beforehand. After trying it with this recipe, there’s no going back for me! It was glorious just being able to pour everything in with no thought at
4.) PREP VEGETABLES
This step has always been a rough one for me. Some people love pulling out their fancy knife skills and getting their chop on. I just don’t like how long it takes to wash, peel and slice veggies and other produce. Doing this on Sunday or the night before can easily shave 10-30 minutes off your cooking.
5.) DRAIN & RINSE CANNED FOODS
It’s always a good idea to rinse canned veggies after draining. Sometimes recipes don’t call for an entire can of something, so you’ll probably be storing it in a container after cooking any way. So do this beforehand and get it out of the way!