Cutting corners in the kitchen doesn’t have to mean unhealthy or unimaginative meals – in fact I’d say cutting corners is an essential skill for any family cook.
If you’ve got toddlers hanging off your legs in those fractious moments before a meal then cutting corners is frankly vital for stress prevention.
Here are some great examples of nifty shortcuts to delicious and nutritious meals:
Build your own pizza
Arm yourself with ready-made pizza bases or margherita pizzas if they’re on offer – and then top with added nutritious extras like roasted peppers, shredded chicken from the leftover Sunday roast, streaky bacon, veg, herbs – whatever you’ve got knocking about. Add a little drizzle of olive oil so it doesn’t dry out in the oven.
It doesn’t have to be a pizza base you use; crumpets, English muffins, pitta bread and sliced bread all have pizza potential. Just spread with tomato paste, scatter with your favourite toppings and flash under a hot grill for a minute or two.
Wraps are less stodgy than bread and seem a bit more exotic than a boring old sandwich.
Let kids decide what they have in theirs by placing a few bowls of fillings in the middle of the table for them to choose from. Hummus, grated carrot, olives, grated apple, grated cheese, lettuce, chopped cucumber, peppers, sun-dried tomatoes – see if you can tempt them with new flavours mixed with stuff you know they already like.
Have a go at making quesadillas by placing a wrap spread with tomato paste in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Scatter one half with a mixture of grated cheese, ham and sweetcorn, fold over and cook for a minute or two each side and bang, you’ve got a kiddie friendly lunch.
Pulses in your stews
Meat can be expensive, so try using less by ramping up stews and casseroles with tins of pulses which are brilliant sources of protein and fibre.
If your little ones love baked beans then that’s half the battle won with getting them to try other pulses. When they start poking at the beans you’ve put in your stew, just tell them they’re baked beans… it worked on my boys!
Next time you’re making mash, don’t peel the potatoes, just give them a good wash – not only is it less of a faff but there are lots of nutrients and fibre in the skins. If anyone asks, you’ve made rustic mash!
Inside-out jacket spuds are a twist on the classic baked potato.
Bake your potato in the oven until the skin is crisp and the flesh soft. Cut in half, scoop out the potato into a bowl and mix with a little butter, some grated cheese, some chopped peppers and some cooked chicken/bacon/ham, then spoon it back into the potato skin shells and flash under the grill for 30 seconds or so, until golden. Serve with salad for a delicious lunch.
Home-made ice cream
Pots of fresh ready-made custard make delicious ice cream.
Mash up some of your favourite soft fruits – berries, peaches, mango – whatever’s in season and available, stir through the custard and then pop in your ice cream maker.
You can buy ice cream makers very cheaply these days – under £30. If you don’t have one, simply pour the mixture into lolly moulds and freeze instead.
It’s also a very easy recipe for children to help out with as a kitchen activity.
Do you cut corners in the kitchen? Share your tips below, or send us your thoughts and comments at [email protected] with ‘Kitchen corners’ in the subject line.