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Kitchen tips save meal prep time

Kitchen tips save meal prep time


Preparing meals is a little like making magic. Toss together some ingredients together and voila ... they change into muffins or delicious soup!

Most of us wish that it didn’t take so long to clean, peel, chop and mix fresh vegetables for a salad. Or measure, mix, beat, blend and cook a casserole.

Here are a few short cuts that can be utilized to make your job a little easier.

• Give parchment paper a try. It makes clean-up a little easier. Parchment paper can be placed on baking sheets, inside cake pans, and on other baking containers to act as a barrier between the dish and the food being baked or cooked. The food won’t stick or burn on a baking dish or pan. It is oven-safe, but parchment paper should not be used with a broil setting.

• Don’t just keep dental floss in your medicine cabinet. Keep some in the kitchen. Unflavored dental floss is often better than a knife to cleanly cut many soft foods, including soft cheese, rolled dough, layered cake and cheesecake.

• Use foods that cook for the same time and at the same temperature: This allows you to cook them together, conserving energy and making the most efficient use of your time. Oven temperatures are not critical for some foods (e.g., casseroles, baked potatoes and roasts) and can be adjusted upwards or downwards by as much as 25 degrees F.

• Know which fruits ripen after they’re picked. Not sure what fruit will continue to ripen when you bring it home? Apricots, bananas, cantaloupe, kiwi, nectarines, peaches, pears, plantains and plums continue to ripen after they’re picked.

Fruits that you should pick or buy ripe and ready-to-eat include apples, cherries, grapefruit, grapes, oranges, pineapple, strawberries, tangerines and watermelon.

• Magic potatoes! If a soup or stew is too salty, add cut raw potatoes. Discard the potatoes after they have cooked because they will have absorbed the salt.

• Recipe calls for buttermilk? Don’t run to the store. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice to a one cup measuring cup. Fill the remainder with milk and let stand for 5 minutes.

• Take it easy. Buy vegetables that are easy to prepare. Pick up pre-washed bags of salad greens and add baby carrots or grape tomatoes for a salad in minutes. Stock up on frozen vegetables for quick and easy cooking in the microwave.

One-Pan Spaghetti

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef (15% fat)
  • 1 medium onion, washed and chopped
  • 3-1/2 cups water
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) broken spaghetti
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese

Brown meat and onions in a large skillet over medium-high until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F on food thermometer. Drain fat.

Stir in water, tomato sauce and spices. Bring to a boil. Add spaghetti, cover pan, and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking.

When spaghetti is tender, top with grated cheese. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.

Makes 10 (1 cup) servings.

Notes: Try ground turkey or small cooked shrimp for the meat. Try whole-wheat pasta to increase fiber. Use cheddar cheese in place of parmesan. Pour fat from cooked meat into a metal container. Let it cool, then dispose of it in a garbage can.

Nutrition information per serving: 240 calories, 7 g fat, 370 mg sodium, 30 g carbohydrate, 13 g protein

Recipe from: Oregon State Extension

Cami Wells is an Extension Educator for Nebraska Extension in Hall County. Contact her at 308-385-5088 or at Visit the Hall County website at

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