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cooking through the workweek
weekday meal planning tips
by Yee-Fan Sun | 1 2
continued from page 1

3 Makeover your leftovers. If, on the other hand, the thought of eating the same meal three nights in a bores you to the point of tempting you towards pricey takeout instead, try another tack. Many of your standard eats can be easily transformed into a completely different meal with just a wee bit of imagination and effort. Leftover cooked chicken and veggies can be tossed into some stock to make a tasty chicken soup; add some pasta, barley or rice and you have a light but satisfying meal in no time. That big batch of tomato sauce you’ve been eating with pasta for two nights in a row? Try pureeing it with some sautéed green pepper and a good seasoning of chili powder and cumin, and you have a tasty Mexican-flavored sauce; roll up some canned refried beans in tortillas, top with your sauce and plenty of grated cheese, pop everything in the oven and voila, instant enchiladas.

4 Use your freezer. Remember what I said about freezing extras for later use? To ensure they’re ready when you want ‘em, just pull them out of the freezer and transfer to your fridge the night before. The next day, the food should be thawed and ready for reheating – in the microwave, on the stove, or in the oven, depending upon how long you’re willing to wait and what kind of food it is, of course.

In addition to freezing extra portions of ready-cooked meals, I also like to make big batches of chicken and veggie stock to keep on store in my freezer. Stock can be turned into more filling soups; I also use mine for making big one-dish-meal bowls of Chinese noodle soup. To thaw it out, I just run the container in some warm water, until the block of stock will slide out from its container, then heat it up on the stove. Besides stock, basic tomato sauce is another good make-ahead-and-freeze item to keep on hand. Once it’s thawed, just add some sautéed veggies, sausage, shrimp, or whatever, and toss with pasta.

Meanwhile, frozen ingredients make cooking up dinner on a whim a whole lot easier too. Keep a big bag of frozen petite peas (much tastier than the regular-sized variety) and you can throw together a tasty veggie side in a blink; they’re also handy for making fried rice. I’m also a big fan of frozen edamame (soy beans in pod); again, they make for a very no-fuss and yummy side dish, and also work as a healthy snack.

5 Stock the pantry. Besides your freezer, you’ll want to do some stocking up in the pantry as well. For me, canned tomatoes (good for sauces, soups and more) and canned beans (great for quickie chili, burritos/enchiladas, soups and salads) are an absolutely must, as are dried pasta and rice. Depending upon what foods you like to cook, you may have different pantry essentials; the idea is to keep an array of useful non-perishables available at all times, so you can whip up your recipe standbys without having to make a supermarket run. Keep an eye out for sales on these frequently-used goods whenever you go grocery shopping, and you’ll save yourself money too.

6 Get your hands on a crockpot. Working out of a home office myself, I have to admit, my crockpot doesn’t get a whole lot of use. But many of my friends with normal. leave-the-house-all-day jobs absolutely swear by these handy appliances. Chuck in the ingredients before you head out to work in the morning, turn on your crockpot and let it do its slow-cooking magic to create tender roasts and other fall-off-the-bone meats, yummy stews, and more. By the time you return home after a long hard day at the office, you’ll be rewarded with a hot meal ready-to-go.


check out these related articles:
how to cook more | myth of the bad cook | me in my kitchen at 6pm

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