6 Ways to Shift Your Cooking Routine When You're Home All Day
Take advantage of extra stove time without getting burnt out.
By Leah Brickley for Food Network Kitchen
Being home all day doesn’t mean there's extra time for cooking-- you may even have less. Adopting a strategy (especially with meal prep) could be your key to culinary success. Or perhaps you're overwhelmed by the possibilities or bored by an old routine that doesn’t make sense anymore. Whatever your challenges here are a few ways to freshen up or adapt your cooking regiment.
1. Plan your meal prep.
Channel your inner type A.
Being home more doesn’t always mean more time to prep. Set aside one big prep day (or a few precious hours) and knock out your list. Have specific recipes in mind or make batches of essential and versatile ingredients that can be combined easily to make a meal — think salads, grain bowls, tacos, quesadilla, pasta and stir fries.
Game plan: Roast some chicken thighs, make a batch of shredded chicken in your pressure cooker or bread and freeze homemade chicken fingers. Prep veggies, hard-boil eggs, cook batches of whole grains and beans, shake up some vinaigrette, cook and cool pasta, pick herbs and make a pasta sauce.
Dish out individually portioned lunches for the week and don’t forget about breakfast: make a quiche, chia pudding or a big batch of steel cut oats and reheat in the morning — dress it up with yogurts, berries and nuts.
If you can prep dinner each day then read over the recipe and set aside time in the morning or afternoon to prep as much as possible, so cooking goes smoothly.
2. Conjure up condiments.
A dish can go from "okay" to "wow!" with a drizzle or dollop of a special condiment — they're totally worth the time and effort. Chimichurri has your back with most meats (it's also great in scrambled eggs), spicy tomato jam can be schmeared on a sandwich or added topped on fish, homemade salsa elevates tacos and cucumber raita goes well with grilled chicken. Or meet your new BF, chili crisp — a spicy, crunchy, toasty condiment that is addictive. For more inspiration check out these 50 condiment recipes.
3. Bake small batches.
Don't bake for a crowd.
Baking soothes, but if you're bombarding others (or yourself) with baked goods then think smaller. Try making a chocolate or carrot cake for just two (or one). Roll tablespoons of cookie dough into balls, chill for an hour and then bag and freeze — freshly baked cookies will always be a possibility. Cut quick breads into thick slices, wrap and freeze or bag and freeze muffins. You can also skip the oven and microwave a cake instead — Ree's chocolate caramel mug cake is perfect for one (or to share).
4. Take on a cooking project.
Roll up your sleeves.
A cooking challenge can be a nice departure from faithful and predictable recipes. Go big and try making your own buttery croissants or smoke a brisket. Get nerdy and ferment yogurt or can a batch of homemade jam or pickles. Make your own cheese: both ricotta and fresh mozzarella are easier than you think. Learn pasta making skills with pappardelle or cavatelli and serve with traditional Sunday sauce.
5. Make sweet and savory treats.
Sometimes a food's function is to make us happy. Whether your indulgence is cake or chips try making instead of buying — you'll appreciate them even more. For sweet tooth hounds: there's ice cream sandwiches, cupcakes that taste like candy bars, crunchy peanut brittle, cakey doughnuts and Ina's pink lemonade. Salty dogs can savor: soft pretzels, homemade snack mix, kid-friendly cheese crackers, baked pita chips and Guy's French onion dip.
6. Get competitive.
Who wants bragging rights? Turn dinner into a show and compete in your family's own cooking competition. Take a cue from Chopped and fill a basket with 4 ingredients — here are some recipes as inspiration. Or go old school and pick a Iron Chef America secret ingredient and vote who makes the best dish. It’s a great way to depart from the well-worn cooking path in your kitchen.