Tuesday, December 20, 2016

5 Cooking tips for quick and no-fuss meals (when the babysitters are away)

December is usually the time when I clear my leave, so I can spend more time with the kids. We didn’t plan any long extended trip this year, just a short getaway to Malacca. The rest of the time, I sent EV and AA for inline skating and Mandarin speech & drama lessons at community centres, where such lessons are priced more economically. 

This is also usually the time when the usual babysitters who look after EV and AA while I’m at work take their break. So for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been solo parenting throughout the day, until DaddySay returns home from work in the early to late evening. 

I must say that I enjoy this hectic experience, of being able to be with the kids the whole day, caring for them, cooking for them, guiding them in their work and play, guiding them in little ways to be independent, and do the housework.

Here, I’d like to share some cooking tips, which I felt have been helpful.

Plan ahead and get the ingredients early
I try to make sure that think ahead and plan what to cook, at least one day before. I’d check that I have the necessary ingredients. If I don’t, I’d bring the kids with me to the nearby wet market, or plan a lunch date with the kids to the nearest mall to dine and visit the supermarket. 

Sometimes, I try to use the same ingredient for two meals. For example, I used a 600g piece of pork loin for two meals. Half of it, I sliced and stir fried with vegetables for dinner, and the other half, I cut into cubes for fried rice the next day. I prepared everything beforehand, and so on the day when I cooked fried rice, it was extremely convenient as I only needed to take the marinated cut meat out of the fridge, and then I could begin cooking.

Two meats  TM

Defrost frozen meat the night before
Planning early also means that if frozen meat is being used, then it can be taken out the night before and set to defrost in room temperature. Then I can get up the next morning before the kids awake, and start the preparations early.

Prepare the ingredients and marinate the meat early
I usually cut and marinate the meat in the morning after the meat has defrosted. Or if I had bought the meat the day before, then I would have prepared the meat the night before. This allows the meat to be better marinated, and, I hope, better tasting once I cook it. :)

I also try to get vegetables that are easy and quick to prepare, such as broccoli, cauliflower, chinese cabbage and so on. I would cut them early too, and leave them aside. So when cooking time arrives, I just need to toss them into the wok. The only ingredient that I usually prepare just before cooking is garlic, which I prefer to dice finely.

Opt for quick cooking methods such as stir frying, steaming, braising and oven roasting
I didn’t try anything adventurous during this period. It is hard to, I guess, when I’m the only one minding the kids. I needed to use quick cooking methods so that I can attend to them immediately if the need arises. 

Get the kids to help
This is definitely a great idea. It inculcates in them a sense of duty, responsibility and empathy for the one who is cooking, but it also helps in their finger dexterity. It’s simply another form of play for them. Who doesn’t like to play with food? 

Preparing  TM

These simple tips have helped me to multitask, and made cooking meals more manageable. They allowed me to spend more quality time with the kids, instead of just putting them in front of a screen. I hope you will find them useful too.

Here are some of the dishes that I prepared, using the above tips.

Braised pork with egg and stir fried vegetables (chinese cabbage and broccoli)

1 Pork w egg  TM

Minced pork with button mushrooms and stir fried vegetables (cauliflower and snow peas)

2 Mince Pork  TM

Honey chicken wings with steamed broccoli

3 Honey chicken wings  TM

Stir fried lean pork with chinese cabbage and carrot

4 Sliced Pork  TM

Fried rice with edamame, diced pork, diced ‘lap cheong’ and egg

5 Fried Rice  TM

Stir fried diced pork with edamame and mushrooms

6 Edamame  TM

Cauliflower and tomato soup

6 Cauliflower soup  TM

Thank you for reading. If you have any cooking tips, do share!

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