Cooking on weeknights isn’t always convenient. After a long day at work, it’s not always easy (or fun) to have to rush home, quickly prep your ingredients, cook the meal, and actually enjoy it in a reasonable amount of time. The so-called “joy of cooking” feels a little far-fetched when there are just so. many. steps.
You’re not the only one who falls into this trap—even professional chefs deal with this feeling. On the premiere episode of Well+Good’s new show, Cook With Us, celebrity chef Dale Talde revealed that after a long day of cooking at his restaurant Goosefeather at the Tarrytown House Estate, he relies on shortcuts like pre-cut vegetables, frozen vegetables, and other tricks to get delicious food on the table fast.
“As much integrity as I have in my cooking at home, any minute you can save to get food on a plate to either you or your family, it’s like so valuable,” Talde says.
His go-to hack that blew the mind of Cook With Us judge Jessie Van Amburg: raiding your favorite supermarket salad bar (oh hey, Whole Foods!) for pre-cut vegetables and other ready-to-go ingredients when time is of the essence. “It’s using really nice salad bars as your mise en place,” he says. “They did all the work for you.”
For example, if you hate cutting onions, or don’t feel like buying a whole thing of bean sprouts? Hit up the salad bar and fill up a carton with the portions that you need. Instead of spending the 15 extra minutes slicing and dicing, take advantage of the pre-cut vegetables your local grocery store might have readily available—your weeknights definitely will thank you. (The only downside to this technique is that it’s a bit pricier, but if you have it in your budget, it’s a good way to save time.)
This shortcut was crucial for Talde, who was challenged in the episode to create a healthy, vegetarian fried rice in just 30 minutes. Using a cauli-broccoli rice blend, Talde goes on to make a scrumptious meal that’s packed with veggies—most of which can be found at just about any salad bar. He used radishes, bean sprouts, Shiitake mushrooms, shredded Brussels sprouts, and Chinese broccoli, but really, he says any vegetables that you like (and/or can find at your local salad bar) could work for his fried rice recipe.
There you have it, folks. If a three-time Top Chef contender and restaurateur can hit up the Whole Foods salad bar for chopped onion and diced peppers, so can you. For the final result and more cooking hacks, watch the full episode here.
Want to really revamp your weeknight cooking routine? Try this healthy dinner a dietitian can make in six minutes or less. Or, check out our definitive ranking of meal kits so you can pick the plan best for you.
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