The Fridge and Pantry
If your pantry and fridge are well stocked, there’s nothing you can’t conquer in the kitchen. On my website and my Facebook fan page, I always urge folks to prep a few things ahead of time to save minutes—even hours—during the week, when your life is in full swing.
Always reserve some time after grocery shopping to clean and prep your produce. After a trip to the grocery store or farmers’ market, I arrange some dish towels on the kitchen counters, put a large salad spinner (perfect because you can soak things and also drain them by pulling out the inner plastic bowl with holes) or bowl in the sink, squeeze some lemon juice (a natural cleanser) into the bowl, and add water.
I wash everything from the cucumbers to the ginger—even going so far as to scrub what I can down with a vegetable scrubber and peel all my onions (but I do leave them whole so they don’t stink up my vegetable drawer). I leave everything out to dry and then arrange it carefully in the fridge, often lining the bottom drawer with either paper towels or dish cloths. It’s a perfect setup for the kids to grab veggies and fruit quickly on their own and for me to quickly prep any meal.
Some discourage you to wash fruits like strawberries ahead of time, because they’ll spoil sooner. I find that if I don’t wash and trim them, they’ll go bad in the fridge because no one wants to take time during the week to do it. More delicate fruits, like raspberries, should be eaten quickly if washed and stored.
If you’re feeling really ambitious, pull out your food processor and grind up small batches of ginger and garlic. You can grind them separately or together and use it during the week in your cooking. I also like to place the ground-up mixture in ice cube trays (without oil or water) and pop a few out into a bowl to thaw in the morning, giving them a good long time to defrost before dinner-time. If I want to use the slow cooker that day, I can just pop in the frozen cube (such a small amount won’t affect the cooking time).
For onions, I typically slice one and mince another to have on hand to dress quick Indian salads or to sprinkle on dals. I do the same with fresh chiles, which I either finely dice or put through a food processor and keep on hand to use during the week. Remember, these fresh ingredients will keep for just a little less than two weeks, so they need to be used up fast.
Butter/ghee, vegan spreads: You can go the traditional route with my recipes and use butter, or you can go the vegan route and use Earth Balance or Spectrum butter substitutes. These substitutes are made from soy, coconut, or olive oils and can be found in tubs or sticks in most mainstream grocers. In our house, we don’t use traditional butter at all; I lean toward a vegan diet, and no one misses it.