Love cooking for the family, but find it’s eating up too much of your time? Dietician and nutritionist Juliette Kellow has teamed up with Panasonic to offer up her best family cooking hacks…
Plan meals ahead of time
To avoid worrying about what’s for dinner, plan a week’s worth of nutritious, tasty meals and then write your shopping list. This way you can ensure you have all the ingredients you need, avoiding last-minute panics that can leave you resorting to ordering a takeaway! It means you can also be confident that the whole family, including your little ones, get a varied and balanced diet, that meets all their nutritional needs. Keep an ongoing kitchen inventory, too, so you know what needs topping up – it will save time when it comes to writing you shopping list.
Cook more than you need
You don’t need to spend an entire day batch cooking, but doubling up ingredients when you make dinner means you can pop half into the freezer, so that you have home-made ready meals to hand when you don’t have time – or can’t be bothered – to cook for the family. Lasagne, bolognese sauce, fish pie, cottage pie, soups, stews and casserole are all great choices. Freeze some in individual portions, too – they’re great for turning to when children and teenagers need feeding fast, for example, after an evening football match, swimming lesson or music rehearsal. Get smaller children involved in cooking with you, too – you can do the chopping first and save some mixing for them! If they’ve had a hand in preparing a meal, they’ll be more likely to eat it so it’s a great idea, especially if your children are a bit fussy with food.
Be efficient with your time
Save time, energy and money by looking at how you can make cooking more efficient. For example, keep frequently used cooking utensils near your hob and arrange your food cupboards so that foods you often use are easy to reach. Cook pasta and vegetables in the same pan of boiling water, and save time by using your microwave oven to steam veg, cook jacket potatoes or cook fish. The quicker cooking time will also help to preserve nutrients.
Using the right tools can save you a huge amount of time so that you’re more likely to prepare delicious, fresh meals from scratch, rather than resorting to processed foods that can be high in fat, saturates, sugar and/or salt. Make sure you have sharp knives to hand – not only are blunt knives more likely to cut you, decent knives will help you prepare food more quickly. A set of measuring spoons is also a great investment – they make measuring quicker and are perfect for helping you achieve better portion control with condiments that are high in sugar and salt such as tomato ketchup or fat, such as mayonnaise. For children, measure out sauces into small, bowls to serve alongside their meal – you’ll feel confident that you’re limiting their portions, while they’ll love dipping their food into them.
Invest in a good microwave oven
Let your kitchen appliances do all the hard work for you! A microwave oven will speed up cooking time, which will also mean you’re more inclined to cook from scratch. Look for ones with special functions, too. The Panasonic Slimline Microwave Oven has a built-in oven as well as a convenient Junior Menu function which is a great way to make tasty and fresh kids’ meals and snacks. You can also grill, roast and microwave anything from meat and fish to veggies; you can even cook a whole roast dinner inside it!
Freezing food that’s close to its use-by date is a great way to avoid waste, and so prevents throwing away hard-earned cash! This includes things like garlic cloves, ginger and spinach. You can also make your own herb pastes by mincing herbs, mixing with a little olive oil and freezing in ice-cube trays – perfect for using throughout the week. Finally, always keep a selection of tinned beans in the cupboard. Kidney, butter, borlotti and cannellini are the foundation of loads of tasty dinners – just look out for those canned in water. Even reduced sugar and salt baked beans are a great choice.
Make food fun
We all know that if your little one doesn’t love what’s on their dinner plate, they’re not going to eat it. This doesn’t make for happy family meal times! New research from Panasonic reveals that pizza is the number one choice of both kids and adults when it comes to our evening meal. While 19% of adults chose this, a massive third of children (33%) selected this option ahead of other classics such as sausage and mash and spaghetti bolognese. Pizza doesn’t have to be pre-made or from a takeaway though – it’s easy to make your own healthier options. I make my own dough, roast some vegetables and use my microwave to make a tomato sauce. Rather than pepperoni, salami or bacon, I go for toppings such as tuna, prawns or pieces of chicken and I use a little less mozzarella cheese. Don’t worry if you don’t have time to go down the classic pizza route, making pizzas on flatbread or wholemeal pittas is another great way to get kids involved in cooking. Not only do they offer good portion control, they reduce prep and give kids a chance to have fun decorating their dinner, too!
Save time (and money)
Panasonic has just launched the new NN-CD58JSBPQ 3-in-1 combination microwave oven – and it’s ideal for family size cooking.
Complete with Panasonic Microwave Inverter Technology, power is distributed with better precision so that food cooks faster and more evenly, while retaining its vital nutrients, flavours and healthy vitamins.
With plenty of food features and cooking options, this model features a 1300W quartz grill with three power levels, as well as a 100-220°C fan assisted convection oven, making it a versatile kitchen accessory. The convection oven is also much faster than a standard oven, thereby saving you money.
It may look confusing but the new Panasonic microwave is easy-to-use and has a huge choice of 29 auto-programmes, that can be selected via the dial and touch controlled panel.
It’s also designed with a child lock setting to give you extra piece of mind at home…
Juliette is a registered dietitian and nutritionist who is working with Panasonic to show how with the innovative Small Kitchen Appliance range and right recipes, you can experience fresh eating every day. For more recipe inspiration visit theideaskitchen.co.uk