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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Dump the Cook(ing)

For most of my adult life, my philosophy regarding cooking has been: If it takes more than ten minutes to prepare, it takes too long.  Where the attitude came from, I'm not sure, but I could probably blame it on a young family. Like the day I made shepherd's pie and took the time to put it neatly in layers then stick it in the oven for a few minutes to brown the top. I carefully served it up for my boys only to have them stir everything together until it looked like three bowls of gray slop. That was the first time they'd ever done that. Needless to say, I never went through all that trouble again. Just cooked everything, mixed it all together then put it in smaller bowls for them. It seemed the messier the meal looked, the better they liked it.  Go figure.

As time marched on, I graduated to casserole dishes with their nice heavy glass covers. They were still kind of messy, what with the water evaporating and clinging to the inside of the cover until you removed it and the moisture condensed. I don't recall making an actual casserole but whatever I did make in those dishes (had, and still have two of them) it usually came out decent but it was still too easy to end up with it slightly burned.

Along came the slow cookers. I love a slow cooker. Plug it into an outlet on the kitchen counter, put it on simmer and leave it for a few hours. What I don't like about it is trying to clean the earthenware pot that goes inside. Those things are heavy. Add to that the fact I'm short and the kitchen counter is thirty-six inches high. Makes it hard to remove the pot from the cooker but I did find a solution. There are cook-in bags you can stick into that pot but the best part is when I store the left-overs. I let everything cool a bit, then twist the top of the bag, fold it over and put the whole thing into a large storage bowl and into the fridge. No fuss, no muss.

All this has gone one step further and I'd say it's my all-time favorite.  The pros have taken dumping to include side dishes, soup for one, and desserts. You can even collect ingredients, place them in a coffee mug with instructions and give them as gifts. I like the idea of making desserts in a coffee mug. The single serving eliminates the temptation of wanting more without doing the work, as opposed to just cutting another slice of cake, for example.

Cooking shortcuts have come a long way. Chefs have gone so far as to endorse sets of pans that do just about everything and have minimal clean-up. (I've got a couple and they're everything they claim.) There's hope for us yet, whether we lack the knack for food prep or just don't have the patience for it. This "part-time" cook may not get dumped after all, but she's going to be doing a lot more dumping in the future.