As I pushed my shopping cart through the aisles of Publix last week, I found myself trying to bury – I blush to say – a box of cake mix. There it was, a silent testimony to the occasional shortcuts I take in my kitchen. I felt a twinge of shame. But not that much.
Even though I bake from scratch quite frequently, keeping a box of cake mix in the pantry is status quo.
Anyway, the purchase got me thinking of a few other shortcuts I use daily to make breakfast, lunch and dinners a bit easier. You need not surrender to cheese in a spray can or Hamburger Helper to do so.
Like everyone else in the world, I’m a sucker for crisp bacon. Rather than cooking a few strips at a time, I bake a full pound in the oven all once. It eliminates some of the greasy mess and couldn’t be easier.
For best results, I arrange the slices in a single layer on a piece of parchment or foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes – or until the bacon is crisp and cooked through.
Although it’s not completely necessary, I like to turn each strip over halfway through baking to ensure that it’s evenly cooked. Then I transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Once it cools, I refrigerate it, then heat a few strips at a time in a skillet for breakfast or as needed for crumbling onto salads or layered in sandwiches.
Weekday mornings run more smoothly in our home with ready servings of stemmed strawberries and sliced melon. I wash my fruits and veggies as soon as I get home from the grocery store. It takes 15 minutes or less and I can pick freely from my stash for the rest of the week. It’s important not to forget to dry the produce completely and include a paper towel in the storage container to extend its life by a few days. I do the same thing with romaine lettuce.
Another handy helper is to speed up the process of softening butter. Not everyone has time to wait for the butter to soften at room temperature, which can take an hour. Instead, use a cheese grater to grate the butter or put it in a Ziploc bag and use a rolling pin to create soft butter that can be spread.
Even though spending time in the kitchen is one of my favorite pastimes, little shortcuts like these allow me more time to pursue the pleasurable tasks at hand. If you have any ideas you’d like to share, email me at email@example.com.
Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel.
BBQ Baby Back Ribs in a Pressure Cooker
2 pounds baby back ribs
1 cup of your favorite jam (I used a pineapple habanero.)
1/2 cup chile sauce
1 tablespoon dried chopped onion
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Place the metal rack in your cooker and add 1/2 cup of water. If your cooker is large enough, you can bend the ribs around in a circle. Otherwise cut into sections and stand them upright in the cooker.
Lock the lid in place. Bring to 15 psi (high pressure in an electric cooker) and cook for 12 minutes. Remove from heat and use the quick-release method to depressurize. When pressure drops, carefully open lid and use long tongs to remove ribs.
To make the sauce, combine the jam, chile sauce, onion and Worcestershire sauce. Cover ribs with the mixture, basting well as you broil or grill the ribs to complete.
Source: Adapted from www.food.com