For someone who makes a living off of telling people to slow down and take their time, I feel like I have very little spare time. I am subject to the same pressures as anyone else – the pressure to perform, to hustle, to get this done, that done – you know the drill. Being idle is a true luxury, and I could use some interest off of my investments.
For better or worse, this struggle for more spare time begets creativity. And some of that creativity is mighty satisfying. Over the years in the kitchen, I have devised some useful strategies to maximize output with minimum input. I squish as much “doing” as possible into the allotted time and energy for preparing food for us to eat.
And by energy, I don’t mean just mine, but also the oven’s. As a way to minimize energy consumption (and bills), I have strategies as to how to use my oven to their fullest potential. When it’s on, it’s on.
For instance: when I bake bread, I bake four loaves at a time. It takes the same amount of time to preheat the oven to the requisite scorching 475 degrees F, and about the same time to bake four loaves as it does one. Therefore, four.
And actually, there’s more: when it’s bread day, I’m also wrapping sweet potatoes and/or beets in foil, and wedging them into the spare space in the oven beside the sheet pans of free-form, homemade bread. Bread day becomes bread-plus-root-vegetables day.
The cooked veg become the starting point of another meal. Perhaps sliced cold and dipped in mayonnaise, chunked into a salad, or evolved into a soup.
Which leads me to my next kitchen hack (are you taking notes?!): caramelizing a whole whack of onion slices, separating them out into more reasonably-sized portions, freezing them, and pulling each out when I need golden, soft, delicious onions in my life. It takes about the same amount of time to cook down half an onion as it does three – plus it stinks up the apartment the same amount. Specialization of labour can actually work, mostly when applied to cooking onions.
Now for the fun part: combining these singular ingredients into something tasty. Cooked sweet potato and caramelized onions are basically code words for soup, so soup is what I usually make. As this is going to be a blended soup, I also add any vegetables that have been withering forgotten in the fridge. This time it was limp carrots, which I simmered until tender, then everything got blended until smooth and creamy and voilà! – a soup made in the time it took to boil carrots, because time is precious and slipping through my fingers like a wet beet when I’m trying to peel it.
Of course this isn’t to detract from the pleasure of taking one’s time to prepare a meal. I do that too, but unfortunately it can’t be an everyday occurrence. Hence these little tricks to make the most of my time and energy, because there is also joy and leisure to be found outside of the kitchen walls.
Sweet potato carrot soup
1 roasted sweet potato
1/2 cup caramelized onions
One large handful chopped carrots
Small knob of fresh ginger
Boil the carrots in water until tender. Throw everything in the blender and blitz until smooth. Adjust consistency by adding more water. A splash of lemon juice or white wine vinegar would be good too. Another nice addition could be a can of coconut milk to make it extra creamy and rich. Add salt and pepper to taste. Oh, and nutritional yeast for a hit of vitamin B12.
I had some leftover roasted cauliflower, which I used as a topping for crunch, but mostly to help clean out the fridge.