Quick cooking tip

This afternoon we took the kids out to play laser tag, a first for me– it was great fun!  We got home hungry around 6 PM and I was eager to get a meal on the table quickly.  Hubby requested something with beef, so I decided to make Ethiopian Sloppy Joes.  It’s not necessarily a quick recipe, but I fed the kids bananas, gave them jobs peeling and cutting, and put my cooking effort on turbo.

The slowest part of this recipe is letting the potatoes simmer.  As the potatoes got cubed, I stuck them into a bowl in the microwave, a couple potatoes at a time, for 2-3 minutes.  That way the potatoes were already starting to cook when they hit the skillet, which shaved at least 10 minutes off the simmering time.

I use the microwave fairly often to speed cooking, most often to partially cook firm veggies like potatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots that I intend to cook further on the stovetop or in the oven.  The microwave also works well to thaw frozen stir-fry veggies.  Ice crystals really cool the wok when you’re doing stir-fry.  Cooking will proceed much more efficiently if you micro-thaw the veggies, drain extra liquid, and then add veggies to the wok.

I will also sometimes microwave milk to preheat it when making a milk-based chowder.  Once you’ve added milk to a soup, you’re going to need to watch the soup like a hawk to prevent burning, so I like to add the milk as late in the cooking time as possible.  And unlike stoves, microwaves turn off after a specified time, which means my milk gets warmed but not scorched if my attention wanders.  I love my microwave!

How about you? What do you do to get meals on the table quicker?


  1. For me, it is knowing what I am going to make. I do not have too much trouble making dinner at 6 pm, what I cannot do is make a decision.
    If I have to think about it, I start staring at what I have in the fridge, try to think of something we like, find all the right ingredients or substitutions and then dinner is much much later and I am much more tired and cranky.
    The other thing that helps (usually) is helpers.

  2. The microwave is also my friend! I am not beyond doing the entire cooking process in it. 🙂

  3. just an fyi for heating milk~~if you rinse the pan with water before adding the milk, the milk won’t scorch–the water creates a barrier between the milk and the pan.

    Also a fan of the microwave, and the double pan method for heating water–half the water in the pasta pot, half in the teakettle means much faster boiling. While the water boils I can prep the marinade for stir fry, or the veggies for an Italian pasta dish. While the pasta cooks, the cold dish (salad or fruit) gets made, and everything can be on the table in less than 20 minutes!

  4. I always try to have a meal in the freezer. Usually a frozen casserole that I doubled when we when ate the first batch. All I have to do is defrost it in the microwave and reheat! Whenever I make a “dinner options” list for the week, I’m always sure that it includes 1 or 2 quick fix dinners for those late or rushed evenings.

  5. Shelly Roberts says:

    Multi-task!, which you already doing a beautiful job of. 🙂 I teach this to my kids as well. Let’s say one is helping with a quick pasta meal for lunch. I remind them while they have that pot on the stove that they are watching/waiting to boil …. USE that blessed time to quick put the dishes away that were drying after breakfast. 🙂 It’s amazing how many “quick jobs” in the kitchen can be accomplished while we wait 1-10 min on other things.

    By the way, I used your “speed up process” for baked potatoes the other night, because I was short on time. Throwing them in the micro for a few min prior to the oven worked fabulous!

  6. Good ideas! I have used the microwave to finish cooking baked potatoes when the rest of dinner was done but they were still in the oven. Results aren’t great – but I can’t remember to put those potatoes in early enough!

    I also heat milk in the microwave when I’m making a white sauce that has to thicken. Takes so much less time!

  7. My quick thing is to have meat pre-cooked and in the freezer. If I cook the bulk hamburger, or crock pot a bunch of chicken thighs then I can use some for that evenings meal and the rest can go in individual recipe sizes in the freezer to be used later. Not having to cook meat makes a meal go together very quick.

    I also used your micro/oven trick on potatoes the other night and was very happy with the results. Thanks for sharing these tips.

  8. Paelle – my way: My quick meal is diced onions, peppers, minced garlic (I buy the big jar in our produce section), little chili powder and a pinch of saffron browned in a large skillet adding small can of chicken broth and 1 cup of water and then about 1 1/2 cups rice (or however much you want), let boil and cook until rice is soft. While this is cooking, brown a chicken breast and cut into small pieces adding to the first mixture after rice is soft. Total cooking time is however long it takes for rice to soften—YEAH, usually about 20 minutes or so. Along with the chicken you can add shrimp, but have a child allergic to it so we don’t.
    I always feel fantastic when I have cooked this meal because everyone in the house loves it but sadly no leftovers.