20 Dinner Tasks To Knock out Early in the Day

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I work from home, and one way I’ve found to make weeknight dinners part of the routine is to take five minutes here and there throughout the day to do a little prep. That might mean picking up an onion on my way back from a meeting or measuring out the soy sauce and sugar for gyudon in between calls. By the time I’m ready to really make dinner, dinner seems half made.

I know not everyone has the luxury of typing three feet from her fridge, but I thought I’d share the list of the little tasks I often do to divvy up the dinner cooking between my tired evening self and my peppier morning version. Many can be done while the coffee drips or on Sunday evenings, or even in the 10-minute layover between the office and the yoga studio. I’ve always loved food shopping (#15) during my lunch break, especially when I’ve worked near markets with speciality ingredients.

  • Remove kale leaves from the stem
  • Wash and dry greens (here’s how to store them if you do this more than a few hours in advance)
  • Measure out ingredients
  • Make sauces (like green sauce or peanut sauce)
  • Pick herbs off their stems
  • Marinate meat
  • Air dry your chicken
  • Take ingredients like butter, meat, or leftovers out of the fridge to temper
  • Soak grains (or beans)
  • Wash all the dishes
  • Make pizza dough (it takes less than 5 minutes to stir together a batch of no-knead, and you can adjust the amount of yeast for how long you’ll be letting the dough rise as per this post on Smitten Kitchen; once you have dough, homemade pizza is basically like making grilled cheese)
  • Parboil potatoes (pre-cooked potatoes roast up quicker)
  • Whisk together a salad dressing
  • Put sliced shallots in a bowl with vinegar (it’s the start of many a good veggie dish)
  • Plunk ingredients in the slow-cooker (try onions, tomatoes, a sweet potato, olive oil, and chicken thighs)
  • Go shopping
  • Toast nuts (since they’re good on top of salads and quinoa bowls and wherever you need some protein)
  • Roast vegetables (since they’re just as good room temp as hot)
  • Grind bread crumbs and toast them
  • Caramelize onions
  • Chop vegetables (except onions and garlic) and store in a bowl beneath a damp paper towel

What tasks do you take on in advance to streamline weeknight cooking?

Posted in: Recipes
  • Mama Wolf

    Cara,
    Have been reading the blog for about 4 years or so. Found you when I happened acoss a copy if your fun book. Reminded me of another cookbook from my younger years.
    Having retired, my love for new adventures in cooking flourished reading your book. Over the last few years I have read and re-read posts and I am keeping my 3rd copy of your book (other people just loved them so they got passed along). Each new turn in your blog has been wonderful. Keep expanding your blog, it always expands my love for cooking. Also congratulations to you and your husband on the baby. Glad to see you back after a well deserved rest!

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