Find Your Place In The Kitchen

BY: Brian Rayburn
last updated 01/14/2014
Find Your Place In The Kitchen

Regardless of what you call them, resolutions or goals, researchers agree that planning is key. Weight loss goals, resolutions to save money, or plans to learn a new skill; can all have cooking at home in common.

Find Your Place In The Kitchen

Regardless of what you call them, resolutions or goals, researchers agree that planning is key.  Weight loss goals, resolutions to save money, or plans to learn a new skill; can all have cooking at home in common.  I often talk with people about why they don't cook more often and one of the main reasons is time, or rather the lack of it.

The French term, 'mise en place' (French pronunciation: mi za 'plas) meaning 'set in place' or 'put in place' is one of the first things taught in culinary school.  It refers to the practice of arranging necessary items and ingredients for the dish.  'Mise en place' is a useful practice for everyone from the home gourmet to the busy parent running in six directions at once.  There are several ways to use this methodology to your benefit.   

  1.   'Mise en place' in daily cooking
  2.   Planning the week
  3.   Prepping

It is always helpful to locate and measure ingredients before starting.  It takes much less time to pre-plan than to try and remember what you need next while things are happening in the kitchen - where they usually happen pretty fast.  Ramekins, small bowls, really any little dish will work.  Give your recipe or iPad a read and gather everything necessary.  You are much less likely to add salt twice or forget an ingredient if you pre-prep and have ingredients close at hand.

I like to also think of mise en place as 'get your stuff together' or 'get your ducks in a row.'  For anyone who works or with a family this can revolutionize your meals.  It may seem to be too obvious but it is truly a helpful habit to get into - planning out the week.  Write out a weekly menu and then get strategic.  Marinate twice as many chicken breasts as usual for 10-15 minutes in a thick balsamic vinegar such as tangerine, mango, or a high-quality unflavored balsamic, bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes depending on the thickness.  You have dinner for Night #1.  Then, shred the leftover/remaining chicken and make a chicken salad.  It also goes well as a slider, wrap, or sandwich for lunch or dinner on Day #2.  This is just one example but most meals can be repurposed.  Now you are eating healthier by cooking at home and saving money by making your meals and food budget stretch further. 

One last way to have your 'soldiers all in a row' is to set aside a small amount of time to prep things for the week.  On December 31st, did you plan to eat more salad and greens beginning January 1?  On January 3rd, did you find that you just didn't have the time to make salads so they got skipped?  Like everyone else, when I am already hungry I don't want to start prepping  a snack.  As a result I grab something convenient which usually turns out to be one of the foods I was trying to avoid.  By taking a little time and using a few storage containers, you can munchy-proof your fridge and make the week a heck of a lot easier. 

Prep your ingredients ahead of time and store them away in the fridge.  Make several bowls of salad or one big container, either way you are doing yourself (and your family) a big favor.  If you have a container of prepped carrots or celery, sugar snap peas, or another snack, everyone is more likely to grab those and nosh since they are ready to go.  Instead of Ranch dip it only takes a couple of minutes to make enough hummus for the week.  If needed, pre-cook meats and store, make soups ahead of time and freeze or chill.  You can make several meals at once during prep time which will benefit you greatly throughout the week.

So when you take that 30 minutes or hour in the kitchen to prep, go ahead and thank yourself, give yourself a pat on the back.  Then when you're done, put those meals and snacks in a prominent place in the fridge.  You can prep or cook many meals in advance so that you or the kids or spouse always have excellent food and snacks.  Get the family involved, delegate tasks to everyone and time will fly.  All because you got your 'mise en place.'

One final tip to save time and dishes.  Put plastic wrap over a plate, season your meat/protein and when you transfer to the pan or grill, remove the plastic wrap and now you have a clean plate, one less plate to clean and one less to get out for dinner.

Stay spicy!

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