Monday, June 1, 2009

Why don't we cook at home more?

The New York Times had an article yesterday headlined "The Commander in Chef," which called on Michelle Obama to set an example by cooking a meal at home occasionally, and went on to cite some statistics about how few Americans cook at home. Yes, the reasons are sound: Cooking can be a chore and many people don't have the energy once they come home from work.

But much of the problem is setting priorities and sharing chores. If you enjoy cooking and eat with someone else, ask them to clean up. If someone else does the cooking, offer to clean for them, or help them with the prep. And make dinner a focal point of your day. Plan a few meals per week (don't plan for every day, because things happen - someone may ask you to join them for dinner, for instance, or there may not be enough time to cook between work and night meetings or entertainment, and you can probably squeeze in another trip to the store later in the week if necessary). If you're tired when you get home, do what the French do; pick up a fresh baguette on your way home, smear it with jelly for the kids (maybe you, too) or maybe just a little bit of good butter. and enjoy it while you relax with a glass of cool water (or something stronger, if that's your pleasure). Once you're relaxed, get on with the dinner prep.

And think of dinners that taste great and don't take all that much time to prepare. 
  • For cheaper cuts of meat, start them in the crockpot before you go to work. 
  • When you're ready to start preparing dinner, fix the rice or fresh potatoes first (they usually take the longest, and stay hot the longest, as well). 
  • Pound chicken breasts to about a half inch so they cook fast and evenly. 
  • Roll out hamburger patties between two sheets of wax paper to about 1/4 inch before slapping them on the grill (for the best cheeseburgers around, roll them even thinner, put a slice of cheese, or blue cheese crumbles, top with another thin patty, seal the edges well and grill).
  • Summer squash halves cook in about 8 minutes, try stir-frying greens, or start corn on the cob in the microwave and finish it on the grill (add butter or a mixture of olive oil and seasonings when it's done).
I'll post about do-head prep tomorrow.

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