Does it feel like you are spending too much time in the kitchen? Perhaps you are wasting precious time there? Find out how to boost nutrition and save time on meal preparation.

Do you eat the skin of pumpkin?

Tender roasted pumpkin skin adds a chewy caramelised deliciousness to meals with the nutrition bonus of extra fibre. The skin of Kent pumpkin is wonderful.

Some varieties have skins that remain tough; Qld Blue pumpkin is one of them. For the tough skinned varieties, scrape the cooked flesh away from the skin at the table or before blending into a soup.

The no peeling before cooking approach means you waste less edible pumpkin flesh and you save your own flesh from a wayward knife injury.

Cook your next pumpkin with the skin on and decide for yourself.

Not peeling before cooking certainly saves time in vegetable preparation.

roasted pumpkn skin on

8 time saving nutrition boosters

Here are 8 time saving nutrition boosting tips for you to start doing today.

Food and cooking is not just about delicious nutrition. More than ever before, as a community, we are conscious of the need to reduce food waste, spend our food budget wisely, conserve power and shift to less manufactured foods. Many of these time saving suggestions tick those boxes as well.

I’d love to read your tips. Please share them at my FaceBook page.

1. Scrub. Don’t peel.

Scrub the skins of pumpkin, carrot and potato to remove dirt. Cut into pieces before cooking. Not peeling before cooking saves time in vegetable preparation and adds fibre. Uncut, unpeeled vegetables, such as baby carrots and baby chat potatoes, retain more nutrients than cut vegetables when boiled. The intact skin acts as a barrier to protect and prevent nutrients leaching out into cooking water.

  • Occasionally, steamed carrot skin greys and hides the vibrant orange flesh. When appearance matters, slip the cooked skin off and cook the remaining carrots peeled.
  • An important exception. Peel potatoes that have been sitting in light or are old to check whether they show any green. The presence of green means the potatoes contain solanine, a toxin, and the potato should not be eaten.

2. Steam or microwave vegetables to preserve nutrients.

Partly fill a saucepan with water (say a couple of cm in the bottom). Place cut vegetables directly into pan or onto a steamer and cover pan with a snug lid. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat a little and steam vegetables until cooked. Steam and microwave cooking is fast.

  • If you’ve sat the vegetables in the water, use the cooking liquid as stock because it is packed with the essential mineral potassium and flavour. Cool and freeze it for another day.

3. Pre-cut for another day.

While you have the chopping board out, cut up extra vegetables and salad items into the size and shape needed for another night’s cooking, for use in salads or as a planned snack food. Place chopped vegetables in an airtight container or plastic bag. Squeeze out as much air as you can from the bag.

  • This is no good for potato and sweet potato because their raw flesh browns quickly once cut and exposed to air. Cook spuds straight after cutting. Cold cooked potatoes are a good source of resistant starch which helps improve digestive tract health.

4. Pre-cut raw meats before freezing.

Be careful and sure to do this after you have cut and packed all vegetables (previous tip) to avoid contaminating the vegetables with blood and raw meat (a food poisoning risk). Use clean utensils and cutting boards. Wash hands very well before preparing raw meats and freeze immediately after cutting.

  • Trim fat away and cut meats into recipe size pieces (for example, casserole cubes and stir fry strips) before freezing. Add marinades before freezing if desired. Pre-cutting speeds up meal prep on other days and cuts down on washing up.
  • Freeze cut meats in a single layer rather than in thick blocks. Meats will defrost evenly and faster.

5. Cook more than you need ready for another meal.

It takes less time and effort to cook a recipe for six people than it does to cook the same recipe for two people on three different days. Double or triple up recipes with the plan to freeze down or use on another day. Think you’ll be bored with the same meal?

  • Batch (bulk) cook often to ensure you build up a good variety of meals in the freezer.
  • Batch cook foundation meals that are easily transformed into something different. Start with a basic bolognaise sauce. Pluck a foundation mince sauce from the freezer. Add chilli and black beans to make a Mexican sauce. Add more Mediterranean herbs for a pasta or moussaka sauce. Slip sauce into capsicum and zucchini halves. Top with cheese and bake. Add leftover cooked vegetables and bake into a pie covered with mashed cauliflower and potato. Extend the sauce with canned or cooked lentils and legumes or make it exclusively vegetarian.
  • Slowly pan fry a big batch of onion rings until golden and soft. Refrigerate in an airtight container ready to use as a flavour booster in sandwiches, dips and soups.

6. Avoid onion tears by using pure onion powder.

Raw or semi-cooked onion in rissoles and fast cooking meals is a taste disappointment. Onion powder adds a homely flavour to recipes and marinades without the need to shed tears or pre-cook the onion. A real time saver. One teaspoon equals about ⅓ of a medium onion. Although, you lose volume and bulk when you eliminate whole fresh onion, you add a new level of flavour with the powder.

  • Onion powder is great in dressings and dips where you don’t want onion chunks and in low setting slow cooker meals which tend to leave onion semi-cooked.
  • Try a light sprinkle of onion powder over vegetables before roasting.
  • Pure garlic powder is as versatile as onion powder. Pure garlic and onion powders are salt-free. You may already use chili powder (dried chilli) and paprika (dried capsicum) already but fewer people use onion and garlic powders. I am not sure why there is reluctance to use these powerful flavour enhancers.

7. Use the oven to its maximum potential.

With the oven on, you may as well roast up two trays of vegetables as one. Small oven? No problem. After you’ve cooked the main meal and before you settle down to eat, pop extra trays of vegetables into the oven to bake.

  • Roast vegetables are delicious in salad.
  • Roasted vegetables make a rich delicious soup. Try roasted pumpkin and capsicum soup.
  • Roast vegetables reheat well to be eaten traditionally or as an ingredient in stir-fries and curries, and as pizza topping.
  • Squash roasted pumpkin is great on freshly made sandwiches.

8. Freeze leftover tomato passata, tomato concentrates and paste in ice cube trays.

If you are short on ice cube trays, once frozen, release the cubes and immediately return them to the freezer. Concentrated tomato is both flavoursome and an excellent source of vitamin A and lycopene. The nutrients are preserved with freezing.

  • Frozen cubes make it easy and efficient to add flavour when cooking.
  • Freeze chopped fresh herbs with water into herb-cubes for the same convenient flavour boost.

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