Tofu is one of my staples. But often when I am trying to cook quickly I don’t have time to properly press and marinate the tofu and it can ends up being really tasteless.
I’m rarely organised enough to prepare ahead of time or patient enough to wait an hour while my tofu marinates. When you skip this step the tofu doesn’t have time to soak up the flavour of the marinade and so it can easily become tasteless.
One minute in the microwave is enough to make perfectly poached eggs, with oozy gooey yolks #yolkporn.
That could pretty much be this entire blog post.
I have been messing about with quick cooking meals for nearly a year now and this is a revelation. A friend who works in a cafe told me that when they were rushed they used a shortcut to poach eggs. Some internet research tells me this is not a secret, there was a post about this on the kitchn back in 2010 and on bonappetit.com, but it’s new to me.
This week I was going to be sharing another seven minute recipe: Grilled Halloumi and mandarin salad. However I’d used my digital SLR camera rather than my trusty iPhone to take the photos, because I was trying to get a more ‘foodie’ look and the photos were terrible. I need a lot more practice using my camera. Instead I am going to share my trick for making sautéed onions in just 3 minutes.
Sautéing onions makes them taste sweet due to the natural sugar in onions. The butter add richness and really makes these onions taste just like I spent 20 minutes sautéing them. I did a blind trial for a friend last week and she could not tell the difference between the microwave onions and the traditional stove top sautéed onions.
Large onions don’t really work in this recipe. Look for onions about the size of a lemon or smaller. If you are cooking for two you can add a second onion and microwave for an additional minute or so.
Microwave sautéed onions
1 small onion
1 teaspoon butter
Chop the top and bottom of the onion (do not peel)
Sit the onion on it’s chopped flat bottom in a microwave safe dish and place a teaspoon of butter over the top
Cover and microwave for 3 minutes
Once done, use a knife and fork to cut off the brown skin and chop the tender onion into slices.
I added my onions to a sausage sandwich with the lot. Onions are the perfect compliment to vegetarian sausages. You can see a video of me preparing this sandwich and just how quick it is to make these onions.
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Daylight savings ended on Sunday and oh how I miss it. I don’t mind getting up in the dark, but I miss having light in the evenings. Today I had to spend ages fiddling around with the lights in the kitchen to take the photographs, because food under fluorescent light looks sad and unappetising. When I trialled this recipe it took just over 5 minutes, but today it took me nearly 8 because I spent so much time trying to position food under the LED lights not the fluros.
With daylight savings ending this weekend and rain today, it definitely felt like the seasons were changing. A beetroot salad feels like a perfect autumn meal, root vegetables are a winter thing while salads are a summer thing.
I love beetroot and a beautiful roast beetroot salad is one of my favourite things to order at my local Mediterranean cafe. But I’ve never found the time to make something similar at home. I wanted a way to work the classic beetroot/feta combo into my life in a quick way. Canned beetroot to the rescue.
Grilling the canned beetroot isn’t quite as tasty as roast beetroot, but it does add a caramelized taste which works well with the creamy feta. As with all canned vegetables, it is essential to rise the beetroot well before grilling to get rid of the yucky juice they come in. Canned beetroot also tends to be overly sweet, so don’t skimp on the salt, which is needed to balance the sweet.
Once again I used my sandwich press griller, George Foreman to the rescue. This could be done on the stovetop, but the ancient oven in my apartment would take 7 minutes just to get the grill plate hot.
I was talking with a friend recently about this blog and she wasn’t sure that there were healthy meals that would be faster to make than her go to lazy meal: grilled cheese. Grilled cheese sounds so easy while something like a Mediterranean zucchini ribbon salad sounds complicated and like it would take a while to make.
I decided to time making my favourite grilled cheese, egg in a hole grilled cheese. It took over ten minutes for me to pull together this sandwich. So I hope this goes some way to proving my point that if you have time to make grilled cheese you have time to make a healthy meal.
So much of what we think about food and cooking is determined by culture. Culturally grilled cheese is a quick meal for lazy days and so it feels like it will be easy and quick to cook. In fact, making this sandwich took longer and included more steps than many of the recipes I have posted before. For example my Cucumber salad with tahini dressing only 5 steps and can easily made in 7 minutes. *end rant*
This recipe is not really in keeping with the spirit of this blog, it takes ten minutes to cook and it contains no vegetables. However I used to make this all the time and it took me a while to perfect the timings for each step. None of the recipes I found online had the perfect timing to produce a runny yolk, with a properly cooked egg white and nicely melted cheese, so I thought this would be worth sharing with you.
I use rye bread because it’s a little more substantial and the taste goes so well with melted cheesy goodness.
I hope all those who celebrate had a happy Christmas and those who are vegetarian or vegan did not get too frustrated by relatives asking if they were sure they didn’t want any of the Christmas ham.
The new year is rapidly approaching and it’s always a good time to take stock of progress from the year before and what can be improved for the coming year. I achieved my 2015 goal of becoming a better cook and bringing more fresh food into my eating and moving towards a plant based diet. The recipes on this blog have been part of my journey working to fit healthy eating into a busy lifestyle. I have found sharing them to be helpful for me and hopefully have been useful to those of you reading.
However I have missed making my weight loss goal for 2015 by a significant margin. I have lost weight and the changes in my diet have left me with more energy and feeling healthier. But I’m still significantly heavier than I should be and my weight loss has slowed right down.
My sweet tooth is the culprit here. I love chocolate, I love cake and it’s not that rare for me to end up eating two slices of cake a day, or a brownie for afternoon tea and a bar of chocolate on the train home. Completely avoiding sugar works for a little while, until I get frustrated and end up eating an entire packet of Cadbury’s dairy milk.
Summer fruits are out in full force here in Australia, which has inspired me to set a healthy dessert challenge. Every week in January I am going to be sharing my progress finding healthy desserts that can be made in 7 minutes.
Not so much with the healthy, but here are some dessert ideas that can be made in under 7 minutes:
I was going to make a video of this recipe, but the time I got home from work it was late and the sun was setting. Without natural light in the kitchen, I had to turn on the fluorescent lights, which make the food look awful. So no video today.
This is a fun dish to make and to eat. Plus it’s super tasty. Sometimes, like tonight, I make it as a main meal. But it’s also great as an entree, tasty, pretty looking and you eat it with your hands. I have a few end of year get togethers planned and this is one of the dishes that I know I can pull together quickly and give myself more time with my guest and less in the kitchen.
I had been wanting to see if I can make a 7 minute gnocchi recipe for ages. I love gnocchi and it’s normally quick to make. I have made Amuse Your Bouche’s toasted gnocchi salad a few times and it only takes 15 minutes to pull together.
The I discovered mini gnocchi at my local supermarket. When trying to cook quickly, small is good. I was sure that I could use these to make a gnocchi dish in 7 minutes. Today I am sharing the trial and error process that goes into making a 7 minute recipe.
My experiments confirmed that toasted gnocchi salad in 7 minutes was not to be. My stove top is electric and really slow to heat up, which did not help. But even when I excluded the time spent waiting for the pan to warm up it still took longer than 7 minutes. Melting butter and then toasting gnocchi takes at least 7 to 10 minutes. There is no rushing that toasty goodness.
My next step was to trial making gnocchi in the microwave, the go to appliance for quick cooking. I started off based on some of the recipes I had seen on the internet microwaving the mini gnocchi for 2 or 3 minutes. This was way too long for mini gnocchi. I made a lot of batches of gluggy unappealing gnocchi.
Four batches later I think I have finally determined the best procedure for microwaving mini gnocchi.
Put 1/2 a cup of water in the microwave and heat until boiling. This takes 45 seconds in my microwave.
Add a cup of dried mini gnocchi to the water and microwave for 40 seconds
Remove and add straight to pasta sauce. If you leave them sitting for any length of time they will become cold and gluey.
Unfortunately I used up all the mini gnocchi in testing, so I did not end up cooking a sauce to go with them. Dinner tonight was trial batches of gnocchi with feta cheese and rocket.
I will go shopping again and buy more mini gnocchi to cook up and share in a full recipe. I am thinking maybe with a cheese sauce like in Broccoli with cheese sauce recipe I shared recently.
Today don’t have a new recipe to share, instead I am going to share some of the mistakes I was making in setting up my kitchen that were slowing me down when I was cooking. I have identified 7 kitchen set up mistakes and some of the solutions I have used to speed my cooking.
I used to eat unhealthy all the time. One of the reasons was that cooking just seemed too time consuming and too complex for me. So instead I relied on take-away or microwave dinners. When I started my journey to eat healthy I initially found recipes that were quick to make, but it was still taking me a long time to prepare a meal.
It was not until I started timing myself when cooking that I discovered that part of the problem was that I was spending way too much time dashing about my kitchen finding things I needed. Part of this was the way my kitchen was set up.
Actually my kitchen was set up the same way my Mum’s kitchen was. Except she had a massive open plan farm kitchen and by virtue of city rents I have a tiny one, where copying my Mum’s kitchen set up makes no sense. I know I’m not the only one. I have a good friend who is excellent at living a zero-waste lifestyle, but she still had her third kitchen draw reserved for plastic wrap and tinfoil which she barely used, because that’s where her Mum had kept those things in their kitchen growing up.
Here are seven mistakes I have made in setting up my kitchen that slowed me down when cooking:
Cupboards filled with things you hardly ever use – having to reach between the cherry pitter and the novelty cocktail straws to find a vegetable peeler wastes valuable time, plus saves the frustration of not being able to find things and the danger of being stabbed by corn cob skewers. I did a massive cull of the things I never use, and moved many of the things I rarely use elsewhere. I don’t want to get rid of the set of crockery for 12 and my 20L saucepan, but I rarely need them so now they’re all stashed along with my cherry pitter in the cupboard under the sink. And I keep my veggie peeler in the cutlery draw with my teaspoons.
Putting the kettle/toaster/blender/other device in premium bench space – as I’ve mentioned before my new kitchen has extremely limited bench space and when I first moved in I put the kettle and the toaster on the bench directly above the draws. This was a logical place, but it meant that one of the few food preparation surfaces I had was largely taken up with appliances. Plus it meant I was constantly running back and forward across the kitchen from where I was preparing things to the cutlery draw. Now I have moved the kettle on top of the microwave and I’m keeping the toaster on a tray in a cupboard. If I need a spoon to stir things or a can opener I don’t even have to move to grab them.
Being unable to find matching tupperware lids – microwave cooking is all about being able to do things quickly, but it’s no good if you have to spend three minutes searching through all a million pieces of tupperware to find the matching lid. I used to have all my lids in a separate container, but I found that it still took too long to find what I needed. Now I’ve done a major cull on my tupperware and only kept the half dozen or so pieces which I use all the time.
Having the knife block too far from where you chop things – like number 2, this is all about the time wasted wandering back and forth across the kitchen. A good knife block is a must have for me, but in my old kitchen set up it was across the other side of the kitchen from where I did most of my chopping. Moving it meant the right knife was always within reach, which not only saved time in fetching the right knife, but made me more likely to use the right knife so I was quicker chopping things too.
Keeping broken things – for years I used a can opener that was just a little bit broken, the handle was cracked and if you didn’t hold it the right way it would pinch my hand. I wasted so much time using this broken can opener when I could have bought a new one for less than $5. Kitchen appliances are so cheap these days, it’s worth looking to replace anything broken that’s slowing you down.
Not being able to find things in the pantry – I like to bulk buy, so sometimes I’ll have half a dozen cans of tomatoes in my pantry, but that can make it hard to find a can of lentils when I need one. I could spend ages looking for something, or worse assume I didn’t have an ingredient I needed because it was hiding behind three packets of pasta. I am currently trialling a new system to combat this, I have divided my pantry into four sections, one for proteins, dried and canned beans etc.; one for carbohydrates, rice, pasta, quinoa etc; one for vegetables, onions, potatoes, canned veggies and a final one for spices, curry pastes etc. I’m not sure it’s foolproof, but it’s certainly a lot quicker to find things now.
Making washing up difficult – this is not so much about cooking quickly, but about making sure it’s easy to clean up for next time. I hate washing up, and if the sink if full of dishes, it can just seem like one more reasons to leave it for later. I’m much quicker in the kitchen if I make sure there is space on one side the sink for dirty dishes and for the dish drainer with the clean dishes on the other side.
Do you recognise these kitchen set up mistakes? Do you have any of your own that slowed you down?
Here in Australia the weather is getting warmer and the days are getting longer. Which means there are more and more opportunities for picnics. My new house in Melbourne is right next to a park and there are always people sitting outside enjoying the sunshine or playing cricket. My walk to the train I walk past the Brunswick Mallet Sports Club, and this morning there were a group of women playing a game of crocket. I really want to join this club, based on the group I saw this morning I would be 25 to 30 years younger than the youngest member, but it looks like so much fun.
I’m off to a picnic barbecue this afternoon and I wanted a salad that was quick to make and tasty to share with vegan, veggie and omnivore friends alike. Kale tabouli ticks all the boxes, it’s a great side to go with veggie sausages and it’s filling enough that you don’t need a tonne of other things.
Put 1/2 cup bulgur in a heatproof bowl, add 3/4 cup boiling water and cover with a plate
Remove the stems from the kale, chop and add to bowl
Dice the tomato, sprinkle with salt and leave on chopping board to drain
Add the juice from half the lemon to the kale
Zest the lemon to create 1 teaspoon of lemon zest and add to kale
Scoop the tomatoes up in your hands, leaving as much of the juice and seeds behind as possible, and add to the kale
Add the bulgur and toss everything together
This recipe only uses about half a bunch of kale. Kale will keep in the fridge for almost a week so pop it in a bag and save it for another meal. If you are looking for inspiration for how to use that kale, check out the other seven minute recipes where I used kale: