by donR March 2nd 2016
Preparing the meal during a Family Cook-In is fun. However it is just one of several activities planned for the gathering. Prep and cooking needs to unfold in a short amount of time to allow for lots of game activities and meaningful conversations.
There are ways to assemble a nutritious meal without resorting to highly processed foods like Uncle Ben's Instant Rice or Jello Instant pie filling. Here are 25 ways to cut prep and cooking time:
- Start the cooking session by posting a list of tasks and let families choose areas of responsibility. This will shorten the set-up and clean-up time plus promote a sense togetherness within the group of families.
Counter-top gadgets can be useful. Two items are almost a necessity for some purposes:
- A food processor makes quick work when making hummus, salsa, pesto and salad dressings.
- The hand-held immersion blender can puree fruit, emulsify soup and make smoothies much faster than using a fork, spoon or wire whip.
Some foods can be cooked ahead of time and kept hot in a slow-cooker or roaster. This works for:
- Slow-Cooked Pork
- Roasted meats
- One-skillet meals.
The first person to arrive for the event sets the stage for cooking:
- Turn on the ovens to be ready for baking, roasting or as a warming oven.
- Get water boiling on the stove for pasta, steaming or soup.
- Set up prep stations with clean utensils and containers
- Lay out recipes to alleviate confusion
Prepping ingredients is a great activity but sometimes it is a better option to buy it in the bag. As an example, pre-cooked food from a restaurant supplier is often safer by reducing potential for food-born illnesses. It is usually flavorful, budget-friendly and a welcome time-saver.
Note: follow directions about thawing it safely.
- Chicken strips
- Pulled pork
- Taco filling
- pizza crusts
- Casseroles (like lasagna @ $0.60 per serving.)
- Pre-cooked hamburgers
Prepared cold-cuts are washed and packaged in sanitary processing plants. You will find bargain price at restaurant suppliers
- Shredded cheese
- Sliced deli meats
- Cut carrot & celery strips.
- Chopped salad mix
- Shredded cabbage
- Washed fresh fruit.
Buying from local farmers and growing your own produce sends an important message. If time allows, buy local, wash it thoroughly, pat dry and then slice & dice.
Otherwise the following packaged ingredients not only save time, they are processed when flavor is at its peak:
- Spaghetti, enchilada and pizza sauce
- Frozen vegetables. (easy to steam cook them)
- Freeze-dried mashed potatoes
And as a final thought, cookies, biscuits, sweet rolls, baked apples, roasted veggies, and French bread pizza can be easily made from scratch and cooked in a counter-top toaster oven. If you have other ideas, post them on our forum pages.
Coming next in the Family Cook-In Series part 5 we'll link you with games your family will enjoy. It's all about "Food, Fun and Conversation That Matters."
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