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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Cooking, & Recipes #74

Updated on March 4, 2019
Carb Diva profile image

Exploring food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

It's Almost Here!

I don't really have an introduction to today's article. We are just eighteen days until Spring and for my friends in the Midwest, Montana, and even as near as eastern Washington, it can't come soon enough. God, there just isn't room for any more snow!

Let's just hope that the saying "March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb holds true" because Punxsutawney Phil can no longer be trusted.

Let's discuss happier things, like food.

Time Management in the Kitchen

I have a question about planning. Now, I don't worry about it but when I first began cooking I was so worried about everything finishing at the same time. For example, if a steak is done and the potatoes are still hard, you've got problems. I don't fret about such things now but I used to. My sister gave me a cookbook (which I still have) that told me which pans to use and the order to do things in. I guess it is the fine art of menu planning. Have you got any tips for people who may be venturing out on their own and worried about planning so everything comes together in a timely manner?

Source

Mary, like you, this is something that I don't give much thought to anymore. Pacing the timing of the elements of my meals is a muscle-twitch reflex rather than an intellectual process. But that was not always the case. So, to answer your question I gave some serious consideration to what I would tell a novice cook.

  1. New (to you) recipes will always take longer the first time you try them. If cooking for company, stick with something you've done before and are comfortable with.
  2. Be kind to yourself. You don't have to make everything from scratch. Give yourself permission to use bottled salad dressing, a loaf of bread from the bakery, or to pour that homemade spaghetti sauce onto store-bought pasta.
  3. Count backward. Plan when you want your meal to be ready to serve, then think about the cooking/baking time for each dish, the time that will be needed to get the food(s) oven-ready, and so on.
  4. Learn how to "mise en place" and do it every time. If you are one of my regular readers, you are probably familiar with that term. If you're new, here's a French phrase you can use to impress your friends and relatives. "Mise en place" (meez ahn PLAWZ) is getting all of your ingredients lined up, measuring them out, and doing all of the slicing and dicing ahead of time.
  5. Get a good timer that you can rely on. Don't try to just keep all of the numbers in your head. Trust me, a pot will boil over or something will burn and your carefully laid plans will be dashed to pieces. I have a digital timer that is inexpensive, idiot-proof to set, and will manage the timing of up to 3 dishes at once. If you have a smart-phone, there is probably an app that will do the same thing.
  6. One-pot meals are a lifesaver. They are called "one pot" for a reason; everything cooks in the same pot (or on the same rimmed baking sheet). Less worry about all of the elements being done at the same time, less mess in your kitchen, and a finished dish with multiple layers of flavor and texture. You will WOW your family. Google "One-Pan Wonders: From Pantry to Plate in 30 Minutes or Less." That's an article I wrote last year with 17 meal suggestions. Some are beef or chicken, some are vegetarian. There should be something for everyone. If you don't like those suggestions, simply do a search on one-pot meals. You can do this!

Here's an Example of How to Plan a Dinner

Your guests will be arriving at 7 pm for a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs. You plan to also serve steamed green beans, a loaf of crusty Italian bread, and gelato for dessert. Sounds pretty easy, right?

Activity
How Long it Takes
When to Start
Set the table
5 minutes
5:20
Make the spaghetti sauce
10 minutes to prepare, and 1 hour to simmer
5:25
Slice the bread and place in bread basket
5 minutes
6:35
Wash and slice the green beans; steam till crisp-tender
15 minutes
6:30
Cook the spaghetti
12 minutes
6:40
Drain spaghetti, toss with sauce
3 minutes
6:55

This soup is adapted from a recipe I received from my dear friend Marge, a Minnesota native.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup uncooked wild rice
  • 1/4 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 1 medium onion (1 cup), diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1/4 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 cups hot chicken broth
  • 1 cup diced chicken
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. thyme
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 2 tablespoons sherry

Instructions

  1. Combine water, wild rice, and brown rice in a saucepan. Simmer for 45 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Saute onion, celery, and mushrooms in butter in a large saute pan about 3 minutes or just until vegetables soften.
  3. Stir in flour, cooking and stirring until flour is mixed in, but do not let it begin to brown. Slowly add hot chicken broth, stirring until all veg-flour mixture is well blended.
  4. Stir in drained cooked rice and chicken. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme. Heat thoroughly. Stir in half and half. Add sherry and heat gently but do not boil.

Did you know that there is a Table of Contents for this series? I have created an article that provides a detailed listing of each question I've received. It's broken down by category, and within each category, the questions are listed alphabetically. Each question is actually a hotlink back to the original post.

Here's a link to that Table of Contents.

If you like this series, you'll love this! Consider it my gift to you.

I hope that we can continue share in this food journey together. If you have questions about foods, cooking techniques, or nutrition you can ask them here. If you are in search of an old recipe or need ideas on how to improve an existing one I can help you. If you want to learn more, let's do it together. Present your questions, your ideas, your comments below. Or, you can write to me personally at this email address: lindalum52@gmail.com.

And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.

© 2019 Linda Lum

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    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      2 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Good morning Lawrence (it is morning as I read and write this). If you are cooking a roast I think you can be forgiven for not having a precise time for dinner on the table. They can be a bit finicky and no two are alike. As long as you are not stressed about it and everyone enjoys a good meal at the end, not to worry.

      I hope you have a wonderful day. Autumn weather has begun, right?

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      2 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Linda

      All I can say is "If only things were so easy!"

      Sunday is my day for cooking in our house, and no matter what I try it seems we're always destined to eat around 7 pm!

      Having said that, it's probably because I get distracted so easily, and I enjoy cooking a roast of some kind.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 months ago from Washington State, USA

      You can use a Red Delicious to make applesauce. They stay firm (which is a good thing); I just don't buy them (personal preference).

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      3 months ago from Central Florida

      Sorry, I thought I may have forgotten to specify. They're Red Delicious.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Red Delicious or Golden? Reds are really just an eating apple (and I've never been a fan because I find the peel to be bitter-tasting). But Goldens can be turned into applesauce. Peel, core, and dice. Place in a small saucepan with about 1/4 cup water (or apple juice). Bring to a simmer and cover. The apples should be falling apart tender in about 15 minutes. Add sugar (brown please) to taste, cinnamon, a teaspoon or 2 of lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Mash with a potato masher if you like chunky or toss in the food processor if you like smooth.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      3 months ago from Central Florida

      Linda, I have a question. I have three delicious apples that are beyond their raw-eating prime (to my taste), but are nowhere near candidates for the compost bin. What can I do with them?

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Thank you, Shauna. I could probably write an entire book on this topic (and 100 others probably have done just that). I thought starting with something easy that is quantifiable would help. (Roasting a chicken has too many variables).

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      3 months ago from Central Florida

      Linda, I'm sure you've helped many nervous cooks by outlining the timetable for serving a spaghetti dinner on time. Brilliant!

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish, it sounds as though your MIL set the bar a tad bit low. On the plus side, this elevates even your simplest dishes to amazing status.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      3 months ago from USA

      Give myself permission, definitely! I used to make homemade spaghetti sauce then my husband said he didn’t care if I just used Ragu or Prego. At first it made me mad because I had poured so much time and effort into the from-scratch recipes and they were amazing. I used to really do it up for him even in grad school when I had no time, but he said he’d be just as happy with bacon sandwiches. The horror! His mom was all about simple and easy.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Thank you Pamela. I'll be purchasing a sack of wild rice today so that soup can show up in our rotation. I love soups; they provide comfort on these cold days, but I'm anxious for "salad weather."

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Rinita, I do have a plan and will reveal it soon. Stay tuned!

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Mary, thanks for your support and kind words. Your description of the hazelnuts made me chuckle. I wish (however) that I could "enjoy" the chore of chopping a sackful of hazelnuts. We have over 2 dozen trees on our property but never get even one nut. The squirrels and jays snatch every one. I will find an answer for you.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      3 months ago from Sunny Florida

      I sure hope your weather Springs Forth very quickly. LOL

      The scheduling of dinner is not something I think much about anymore after so many years of cooking, but I think your answer to that topic was very informative for newer cooks.The soup sounds very good also.

      Have a great week Linda.

    • Senoritaa profile image

      Rinita Sen 

      3 months ago

      That soup is yum. I wonder what you will start next, the alphabets are almost over!

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      3 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Linda,

      Your answer will be so helpful to many who get so stressed in a kitchen. I used to be one of those people and I know the fear that everything might not be ready at the same time.

      I do have a question for a future Q & A. A friend brought me some shelled hazelnuts. I was trying to chop them and those round nuts kept rolling about creating havoc. I resorted to trying pound them with my mallet but they still went shooting out every which way. Have you got a fool proof method for chopping them for this old fool?

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      3 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, this was not one of my best efforts, but you work with what you've got, right? I could never manage a chicken farm, so I think we're both in the right place.

      Have a great Monday my friend, and now it's time for me to hop over to read the Mailbag.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      We both started our latest articles with March. Great minds think alike, and all that. As for time management in the kitchen? I guess we just have to accept that you live in a different world than I do. :) I can find my way to the microwave and that's about it. :)

      Happy Monday dear friend!

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