Two Simple Ways to Get Ahead in the Kitchen

It may be apparent after you read this post that somebody got a little bit wheat grinder happy this week, thoroughly enjoying a small portion of the 300 pounds of hard white wheat that had been delivered. (You can read all my posts involving grain and grinding grain here, in case you’re interested in reading about my grainy obsession.)

I couldn’t help myself. After being sick myself and taking care of a family of sickies for the past four weeks (that influenza stuff is a BEAR), to have energy again and healthy children with appetites is truly delightful. I’ve been spending extra time in the kitchen, trying to make up for lost time it would seem. I loved every minute of it.

Okay, maybe not the dirty dishes part.

Dirty dishes aside (and really – I shouldn’t complain about the blessing of having so many people to dirty up dishes at my house), I loved being able to bake and cook a little extra this week in order to have healthy convenience foods in my freezer. Two things occurred to me as I was participating in this mad flour grinding, recipe mixing up, dough kneading, cooking ahead extravaganza this week, and I would like to share them with you.

Here are two of the simplest ways I’ve found to get ahead in the kitchen:

1. Cook or bake just one extra thing each day, if at all possible.  This might mean that you brown up several pounds of hamburger to have on hand for an easy casserole, tacos, sloppy joes, etc. Or it might be that you whip up some snacks to have on hand for the kids. Or maybe you could cook up some brown rice to have for simple meal prep the next day. It doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. But if you happen to be home and have a few extra moments during the day, utilize it for cooking up a little something extra to make for convenience on those days you barely have time to cook at all because you’re running around crazy-like. 

2.  If you’re mixing up one batch, you might as well mix up two (or three) batches.  You’re already making a mess. You’re already getting out the needed ingredients. Why not double or triple up the recipe and make plenty of extra of whatever it is you’re making, then put the leftovers in the freezer for a busy day. I love doing this with Whole Wheat Waffles, Easy Lasagnas, Muffins…whatever freezes well and reheats easily.

Here are just a few pictures of the food items I made this week in my efforts to get ahead. Let me clarify something though:  Not every week is this productive for me in the kitchen. I happened to be home most of the week without many outside engagements, allowing me to really focus on teaching my kids and working in the kitchen. Now I  have several quick foods in the freezer to easily warm up on those days where we’re running to ball games and practices, or dentist appointments or any other event that makes it difficult to spend time cooking.


Chocolate Chip Cookies and Easy Lasagnas

Honey Whole Wheat Bread (x2)

Whole Wheat Waffles (x2)

Homemade Whole Wheat Rolls (recipe found in Heavenly Homemaker’s Guide to Holiday Hospitality)

Whole Wheat Tortillas (x4)

Meat and Cheese Burritos

Sloppy Cornbread Muffins

Banana Muffins (x2)

Whole Wheat Vanilla Wafers (x2)

What did my kids do while I was doing this extra cooking? Most of the time, they were sitting in the kitchen with me, doing their school work. They also spent a fair amount of time playing with a huge box, shooting things, and eating the food I was making. 

What did my dust and clutter do while I was doing all this extra cooking? Let’s not talk about it.

Comments

  1. susan says

    how do u keep your tortillas soft & bendable? i’ve tried making home made tortillas (white b/c we can’t do whole wheat due to DH’s ibs) but they’re always a bit crispy and hard to roll. Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Kelly Reply:

    I’ve had that problem too. Until I realized I was using a recipe with too little water! IMy recipe called for 4 cups flour and 1 cup water. Then I saw a video online and she used 4 cups flour and 2 1/4 cups water!!! So, I tried that and VOILA!!!!! Soft, edible, bendable, rollable tortillas!!

    [Reply]

    Lydija Dahl Reply:

    I also will stack them while cooling and put a damp cloth on top and
    while they cool, the stay soft and bendy and then you can transfer
    them to a bag or container for later use or roll them and freeze
    them.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    If I’m planning to roll them for any reason (tacos, burritos…), I do it right away when they’re fresh. Otherwise, they get stiff in the fridge…which makes them fine for quesadillas later.

    [Reply]

    bakingmama Reply:

    I keep mine in a very large casserole dish with a lid while they are being made. I flip them around frequently (putting the top ones on the bottom of the stack) and return the lid. The steam keeps the tortillas soft. After cooled, I transfer to a plastic bag and they stay soft. In the fridge they get harder, but they can sit on the counter for a couple of days and be fine (still soft). If I want to use them later, I freeze them then transfer them to the same casserole dish, put the lid on and warm at a very low temp. in the oven. They are good as new!

    [Reply]

  2. Mel says

    So fun to see all of the great work that can come out of a kitchen. Do you have a good way of keeping track of what is in your freezers? We have two small freezers and I either forget what I have or find that someone else in the house used something and I didn’t realize it was gone!=)

    [Reply]

    Danielle B Reply:

    I read on another blog to take everything out of your freezer, get a sheet of paper and pen. And mark down everything that is in the freezer w/quantities. Then as you use that item you cross it off the list. I actually did this… but I’m not that efficient, and after a month, I threw the paper out. Maybe other people are more organized than I am. This method would also work w/the fridge and pantry.

    [Reply]

    KimH Reply:

    I have magnetic dry erase boards on my frig that we write on when something runs out. I keep trying to get one for my freezer too. I have the same problem with others taking stuff out but not letting me know. I have tried to keep track of what is in mine too with a program that is made for these sort of home issues but it was just too much. It would be nice & easy to to write down on a dry erase board what you’re putting in there.. or taking out. Either way.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I usually try to keep like food altogether…as in…all the hamburger is together, all the chicken is together…all the pre-made food is together and labeled. That helps a lot, so I can just see at a quick glance what I have and what I’m getting low on.

    [Reply]

    Danielle B Reply:

    Well that was an easy answer! I think I kind of do that, and didn’t realize it. Who needs lists when you could just put stuff together.

    [Reply]

  3. Kelly says

    what a great post! completely agree. I always cover what I call “cook once, eat twice or more” at my meal planning workshops. I certainly didn’t coin that phrase, but it conveys the same message – since you have all the stuff out, why not double-it-up? all your recipes looks absolutely amazing! i have been looking for a nice light dinner roll and yours look scrumptious! and those sloppy cornbread muffins – WOW! gotta try ’em! thanks for sharing! blessings, kel

    [Reply]

  4. NancyAP says

    Laura,

    Can you please tell me the brand of your waffle iron? I notice it’s not a Belgian, with those deep pockets. My parents had one similar to yours growing up and I haven’t been able to find anything except the Belgian waffle makers. I would really prefer a thinner waffle, with smaller pockets.

    Thanks,

    Nancy

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    It’s a Dazey Short Order Chef, we received it 16 years ago for a wedding gift. Not sure they make them anymore! I love it though!

    [Reply]

    jin Reply:

    Hi!
    I found the same dazey short order chef waffle maker/baker/sandwich/girdle. I tried making waffles on them but so far no success. its dry, overdone and ripped?! :(
    can you please post a HOW TO on using it?

    [Reply]

    Annette Reply:

    Hi there…
    My mom just purchased me one of those Dazey short order chef waffle irons at a 2nd hand store, it had no manual and I’m confused as to work it, I would appreciate any advice you could give me on it, thanks :o)

    [Reply]

    Lana Reply:

    I have 2 identical waffle makers that make thin waffles. One is a GE and the other is Black and Decker. I saw the same waffle maker on Amazon recentl but I don’t remember under which brand it was listed. It is large and square.

    [Reply]

  5. Hannah says

    I read the article below (5-day Freeze) a while back and loved it! It suggests that each day, instead of trying to make entire meals to freeze, that you do something like brown and freeze a bunch of hamburger, make and freeze cookies, etc. So that your freezer is full of handy ingredients, snacks, etc.

    http://www.wisebread.com/the-five-day-freeze-batch-cooking-for-the-rest-of-us

    Love the vanilla wafers, by the way! Perfect toddler treat because they’re small and easy to eat.

    [Reply]

  6. Shannon says

    How do you get your waffles so crispy? Is it the iron? I’ve tried a variety of recipes and when I pull them they’re crispy but they get flimsy right away.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Must be the waffle iron. Either that, or the fact that I sometimes leave the waffles in the maker too long because I’m distracted with something else. :)

    [Reply]

    bakingmama Reply:

    Using soft white wheat flour instead of hard white made a huge difference in how crisp my waffles were. Soft white wheat is what is used to made whole wheat pastry flour you get in the store. Also, the batter must be rather thick. Add enough flour to give it the consistency of yogurt. If the batter is too thin, they will turn soggy more quickly.

    [Reply]

  7. Samantha says

    I made the vanilla waffers for the first time today and everyone over here is in love with them! =] I used waxed paper so my kitchen was a little smokey but they taste super yummy!

    [Reply]

    Danielle B Reply:

    I did that once too! lol Only after the fact did I think about it.

    [Reply]

    Samantha Reply:

    Me too! I just grabbed the paper out of the drawer and didn’t think
    twice until there was smoke rolling out of my oven! Good thing it wasn’t
    too cold outside because my front door and all my windows in the kitchen
    and living room were opened! =]

    [Reply]

  8. Abby says

    Love the idea of cooking ahead, I try and do this as often as I can. I am in the process of trying to revamp my family’s diet. I have tried many of your recipes and love them. Do you have any advice, though, on how to get the kids on board with healthier eating? My boys are 5, 8, and 9 and are very much opposed to alot of healthy food chooses and snacks.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I’m going to put this question on my list of topics to either blog about or speak to in a podcast. The answer would be too long in a comment!!

    [Reply]

    Cindy Reply:

    My boys are 9 and 13. I started switching to a healthier diet over time and am still in the process. What I am finding works slowly is I make the “Healthy” version for me and the old version for husband and boys. Sometimes I “run out” of the old version and the kids get a little of each on their plate so they are tasting the healthy version. (The example I am thinking of is whole grain versus white pasta.) Eventually I switch them to more and more of the healthy version. Soemtimes I make the healthy item look like a treat–just for mom. The youngest always gets curious and asks if he can have a taste of mine. Then discovers he likes it! :)

    [Reply]

  9. Robin Ingram says

    I am totally new to this and I am usually an idiot in the kitchen when it comes to this stuff and making bread but I REALLY want to do it and be successful and not feel stressed and completely inadequate. Where do I start? Do you have any suggestions? I read though this post, and I LOVE it, but I end up with so many questions that I get overwhelmed and wouldn’t be able to do it. Are you freezing your extra food?

    [Reply]

    Diane Reply:

    I started out feeling inadequate, and stressed at frist too, but I found I learn really well by watching videos and see it being done. I also found practice makes perfect. The more you do, and the better it turns out each time will grow your confidence. Hope this helps to encourage you.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I think it best to just start out baking some basic and easy recipes…like the banana muffins. Those don’t require anything more than just stirring up some ingredients and baking. Homemade yeast bread is a little more labor intensive and it takes some getting used to. You’ll DEFINITELY be able to make that successfully in time, but it’s probably not the best STARTING point.

    What recipes are you most confident in making? Start out with those recipes and freeze extras if you can for later use.

    And yes, I freeze the extra food we aren’t ready to eat right away. That way I have great food in the freezer on a night I don’t have time to cook!

    [Reply]

  10. Angela says

    thanks for continuing to be an inspiration. Also I have to say those are the cleanest dirtiest dishes I’ve ever seen!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    {giggle} That’s true, huh? Matt had rinsed the dishes as I had been cooking and baking, so they really weren’t so hard to wash (or throw in the dishwasher). I should have taken a picture of the pile while they still had dough and batter all over them!

    [Reply]

  11. says

    Did you soak any of these recipes before hand? Just curious. I’m starting to think that I should soak things, but then I end up not baking because I haven’t thought ahead to soak. I like you’re balanced approach to it all, and am just curious what you end up doing on a regular basis?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I soaked the tortillas and the waffles, but not the other items. I’ve definitely come around to NOT being stressed over whether or not I get things soaked or not. I feel like it is probably best if I DO soak my grains all of the time, and yet, I’ve just decided not to worry about it if I can’t. We’re still eating the best whole grains available, so if I can soak, I do…and if not, I don’t.

    [Reply]

  12. Amy Clark says

    Laura, do you freeze your honey whole wheat bread? If so, is it the same consistency when it thaws? I’ve tried to freeze homemade bread and I don’t care for the results – I’ve had to make a lot of toast before! :) I don’t think I’ve tried to freeze your recipe before, though I’ve baked it many times. My family devours it immediately! :)

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, I have frozen it before, although usually we eat it all before it would have a chance to go bad, so I don’t often need to use the freezer for my bread.

    I think my honey whole wheat bread tastes best BEFORE it’s been frozen, but it is still okay after it’s been in the freezer. It seems a little more dry after being frozen.

    [Reply]

  13. Washington Mom says

    Laura!
    I’m not sure why I love looking at your menus so much, but I also LOVE seeing all the great things that come out of your kitchen. Thanks so your encouragement, I bought a HUGE bag of wheat berries and have been making our own flour. Here’s my question….do your sort through your wheat before you grind it?? I noticed what huge amounts of flour you grind and I was thinking…that would take me forever to sort though!! I bought the big bag from Azura, but I do find little pebbles and rocks. Do you have a quick way to look for those when you are making flour?? Thanks so much for your Godly example of how to care for our families!! ~Diana

    [Reply]

  14. says

    so this is not related to the baking stuff you mentioned (although, it was all most helpful), I was wondering about the math book in the picture at the very end of this post. It was using cuisinaire rods and I wanted to know which one it was. We use those with our 2 kindergartners, but the book I have just isn’t up to my liking. Thanks for any info you can share on what resource you use and if you like it : )

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    We use Miquon Math for our younger kids and LOVE it!!!

    [Reply]

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