Mealtime Mama: Tips from Local Cooks!

cookingtipslocalmoms.jpgBy Rhonda Franz

A group of moms from Northwest Arkansas offer up tips they use during the cooking process. From making flavorful stew to cooking potatoes to planning ahead, these ideas can help you make the most of your time in the kitchen.

* Use weekly meal plans/menus. This saves time and money and can help you stick to your list at the grocery store. Save these and anytime you don’t want to plan a whole new week, pull out one to use.

* Cook extra and freeze. Double a dish you’re already cooking and put the extra batch in the freezer. Even if you do this just once a week, you can stock your freezer with meals for busy evenings.

* Cook extra and freeze, part II. When cooking chicken: cook extra, debone, and freeze in 2 cup portions for use in recipes. For ground beef and turkey, cook 5 lbs. at a time and freeze in 2 cup portions. This makes putting recipes together simple and quick.

* Keep a pantry stocked with pastas, rice, broth, canned tomatoes, and sauces. Having these essential ingredients can help you prepare meals with what you have on hand.

– The tips above are from Leigh Anne, a Rogers homeschooling mama to four children ranging in age from 1 ½ to 22, and a grandma to one. She credits for helping her with some of her tips.

* Make individual portions of foods (meatballs, waffles, cookies, etc) and place on cookie sheet in a single layer. Freeze until solid, then place in a container to keep frozen. The foods will come apart easily.

* Bake homemade pizzas just until almost ready to brown, then cool and freeze. Take them out as needed and cook as you would a frozen pizza from the store.

* Put together the dry ingredients in pancake and biscuit mix in large batches and store in an airtight container. Scoop out as needed when you’re ready to make a batch.

* Have a meal exchange with a group of friends. Each person (or family) makes several batches of the same recipe and trades meals with others in the group.

* Cook squash and potatoes easily by cutting in half, and placing face down in a jelly roll pan. Put approximately ¼ inch of water in the pan and cook at 250 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit until very soft. Scoop out the insides.

– Heidi lives in Lowell. She is an educator, piano teacher, and mom of three children.

* Keep a sheet of your family’s favorite meals. Include the cookbook title and page number where each recipe is listed and refer to this when you are stumped for what to cook.

– Lori is a busy Springdale mom of three boys.

* Use frozen bread dough (such as Rhodes) for pizza crust. Allow the dough to completely thaw, roll out for pizza pans, and add your ingredients.

* Use a stand mixer instead of pastry cutter when a recipe requires cutting cold butter into dry ingredients for things like biscuits, scones, and croissants.  Just add the wet ingredient (milk, buttermilk) until a ball of dough forms and sides of the bowl are clean.

Author’s note: A food processor can also be used for this. Use the blade attachment and pulse the processor to cut in the cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs.

-Kyra lives in Berryville and works in the medical profession. She has three grown children and five grandchildren.

* For a richer flavor in beef stew or soup: place 1 teaspoon instant coffee in the broth.

* To make sure you are keeping fresh spices on hand: write on the bottom of the container when spices were purchased.

* Use canned diced potatoes when making potato soup, and then instant mashed potatoes to thicken the soup as needed.

– Pam is a Bentonville mom to two children and a community volunteer

* Go out for dinner.

– Angela is a Rogers corporate businesswoman turned work-at-home mom. She was pretty quick with this tip. Sometimes, you just have to let someone else do the cooking.

Motherlode contributor Rhonda Franz lives near Lowell with her husband and two young sons. The cooking tip she uses most often—in a house of three hungry boys—is to triple her recipes. That way she has one for a meal, one to use as the leftover since there won’t be any from the first batch, and one to hide in the back of the refrigerator so she’ll have something to eat later on.