Let me help you make your kitchen run like a Ferrari with some solid tips. We are all looking for less waste, more efficiency and less time wasting, right?
I was a good cook but I was not an efficient cook
I have been a makeup artist since about 1982. I moved to Toronto at 19, Montreal at 20 and Paris before I turned 21. I spent the next decade back and forth between Canada and various European cities, working in fashion. I also spent that time eating and befriending people so that they would take me home and let me cook with their moms/aunts/grandmothers. My dream was to be a culinary travel writer if such a thing existed.
I began my food blog, The Yum Yum Factor in 2010. Using my blog as a portfolio, I then parlayed it into recipe development gigs. Sponsored writing and a few tv appearances for Instant Pot and Mushrooms Canada were next. I then graduated to my own restaurant pop-ups and a stint as a chef at The Kingston Social.
There were years of teaching Instant Pot cooking classes and private party catering at The Depanneur and beyond. My Sous Weed class, demonstrating the use of sous vide to turn cannabis flower into infused fats for cooking, even made TO Life’s top ten cooking classes in 2019.
Around 2017 I knew it was time to put up or shut up
Thinking of enrolling at George Brown, an old friend told me I could come to work in his kitchen at Sublime Catering and gain real-life experience while being paid. Genius and very generous of him. My year or two turned into 6. Except for an extended break during the first year and a half of the pandemic, I am still there.
I have gone from someone who could barely chop 10 lbs of onions without cutting myself to producing hundreds of cod cakes before lunch without breaking a sweat. It was all about learning more about technique, using my time more wisely, and more efficient prep and budgeting. I had no idea it would change the way I cook at home for myself and my family. I think it’s time to start a series where I share some knowledge. All the little things will help you to save money, time and reduce your waste. Grocery costs are skyrocketing for all of us. We all need to be much more mindful of using, reusing and stretching out our food budgets.
So, that’s my story of how I went from a decades-long career in Makeup Artistry for fashion and then celebrities to a mid-life crisis career in food.
So, first up:
Mise en Place
If you watch cooking shows, the phrase won’t be foreign to you. It just means “put in place”. Basically, it means making sure all of your ingredients are gathered and organized before you start cooking. Easy enough. Where most home cooks start to fall apart, is organizing a meal with more than one dish. Here are some tips to make it easier to streamline the time you spend in the kitchen.
Read through all your recipes at least twice. There should be no last-minute surprises halfway through making something.
Make a prep list if you are going to cook multiple things in one sitting. Cross off stuff as you go. I keep a magnetized pen holder on my fridge with sharpies, pens and wax pencils. You might also find a magnetic dry erase board handy for shopping lists
Clear off your kitchen counter before you start
so you have an open, uncluttered space to work. Also, do your best to clean as you go. My kitchen is tiny with one sink, so I have a dish bin that I can throw dirty spatulas, bowls etc into as I go. That way, I deal with washing up the dishes I used after I am done. This leaves my sink and valuable counter space free until I’m finished.
Find all of the common ingredients that are needed for each dish. If you are making three dishes that all require onions, gather and chop enough onions for all three recipes at the same time. Treat the three dishes as one dish, especially when it comes to weekly or big-batch prepping.
Invest in some small bowls that you can use for things like garlic, zest, spices etc. The dollar store is your friend. Spend a bit of money on fewer good quality utensils. Does the average home cook really need four spatulas, three whisks and six wooden spoons? Streamline, guided by what you like to cook and eat and avoid impulse buys of gadgets that only do one thing. I use bowls like these from Amazon for all of my small ingredients.
Mise en place is not just about the ingredients.
Make sure you have all the tools and cooking vessels ready. Mid-cook is NOT the time to go digging through a drawer for a seldom-used masher or Microplane.
Sometimes you have to slow down a bit to speed up. Cooking should be enjoyable so if you find yourself getting overwhelmed, slow down. Take a minute. Maybe have a glass of wine or make yourself a coffee, and play some music. Going too fast leads to burns and cuts. Trust me.
Prep your often-used ingredients all at once and keep them in the fridge in storage containers. A yogurt tub full of chopped onions, another with washed and dried greens, stored with a piece of paper towel, keep a few hard-boiled eggs on hand for grating onto a salad for some quick protein.
We love beets so I usually pressure cook a bunch of them on the weekend to use throughout the week. They can be cubed for a salad, sliced and pan-fried in some olive oil or butter, or pureed with a bit of Greek yogurt for a dip. Try to figure out what your “beet” is. It might be roasting a couple of sweet potatoes or air-frying a head of cauliflower to use throughout the week.
Prep your favourite ingredients once so you save time on weeknights when you want to whip something up for dinner. If you know you can grab some arugula, a handful of roasted veggies, some cheese and leftover roast chicken, you will be more likely to eat at home.