Tips on Lazy Cooking

Enhanced TV Dinners

I have found a compromise between the depths of my indolence, my miserliness and my belief in the importance of fresh food with the concept of "enhanced tv dinners."

First of all, for the miser, I only buy the very cheap one-dish tv dinners, such as Budget Gourmet, and then only when they're on sale. Into this, I add vegetables, depending on what sounds good, what I have most easily on hand, and how much effort I want to take. I may also add extra sauce from a jar and/or meat or meat substitute. Pictured here is Orange Glazed Chicken (which was on sale for 79 cents) plus shredded carrots (I already had made up) green pepper and onion (I had half of each in my veg bin) and a dollop of plum sauce. And it was, in fact, delicious.

Now, in truth, especially when I get carried away with adding veggies, this probably doesn't save me more than 5 minutes over one of my wonderful Rice Bowls. And, in spite of taking advantage of sales, probably costs twice as much. With the added advantage of preservatives and food coloring. But sometimes, I'm just so completely lazy, that it seems worth it. Especially since the only thing to wash is one fork.

Shredded Vegetables

It was a wonderful adventure in laziness when I started to buy shredded vegetables at the supermarket. I could almost always get shredded carrots, coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrots), and broccoli slaw (shredded broccoli, carrots and a little red cabbage). I could also find some things frozen, such as pepper slices. I found lots of uses for these things.

Over the years, however, things have changed as I've become both more frugal and more extravagant. More frugal in that I realized just how much extra I was paying to have someone else shred vegetables and package them. More extravagant in that I started buying organically grown produce, and that isn't available in shredded form.

So, I took to shredding veggies in my food processor and found that it really doesn't take much time, if I organize it properly. And, with my new home, I've set up a work station that makes it oh, so lazy. There's a kitchen island that I can sit at and peel, chop and shred to my heart's content.

kitchen station when not in use

kitchen station ready to shred

When not in use, the counter is mostly bare, but I leave the food processor (far left) out. When I'm ready to cook, I put out (left to right in the second picture) my cutting board and knives, my on-its-way-to-the-compost-bin bucket, and vegetable bin. This fridge that came with my new house had this bin in it, with a cover, that sits on the upper shelves. I don't know what it's supposed to be for, but I've taken to storing my veggies in it. Then, when I'm ready to cook, I just pull out the bin, put it on the counter, and I don't have to muck around pulling things out.

And whenever I shred something for a particular dish, well, my aim is to shred as much as I can that I will use up before it goes bad. I'm really getting the hang of it, and am having fun trying different things.

Carrots - shred with largest grate wheel. I have yet to make up so much that they go bad, but that's probably not just because they keep well, but because I use them in everything. Yummy, nutritious and they add color.

Cabbage - shred with slicing wheel. Cabbage cooks down to maybe 1/2 it's raw size, so I use a lot of it and keep it, shredded, in a gallon ziplock bag, unlike the Pyrex bowls I keep the others in. The edges will turn brown after about a week, but this doesn't effect the taste.

Daikon Radish - shred with largest grate wheel. Again, it gets darker, but is still good after about a week. I just love Daikon radish, and it's a shame not all grocery stores carry it, and then not consistently. I not only use it shredded in rice bowls but also cut it into sticks, to go along with carrot and celery sticks.

Broccoli - I cut off the flowerettes and use them separately, just the tips. Using the largest grate wheel I shred the next 4 inches of stalk below that. The bottom stalk usually has a very woody outside, so I peel that off and discard it, but shred the core. After just a few days in the fridge, though, this shredded broccoli takes on a pretty foul odor. It seems to be just fine when cooked, but I try to use it up quickly.

Zucchini - largest grate wheel. It's very soft and doesn't keep well. But, if my garden does what I hope, I plan to be putting zucchini in everything. Once, while I was driving, I turned on the car radio to a classical music station. Now, usually those djs are pretty unobtrusive, but that one was going on about the dangers of zucchini season. How you had to be sure to keep your car locked or someone would fill it with zucchini. How you had to be on the lookout for neighbors trying to sneak zucchini onto your doorstep. It was hysterical. And I bought seeds from Pinetree Seeds. Their ad reads: "GREYZINI (F1 Hybrid 47 Days) Color is a light green with greyish mottling and faint stripes, not as appealing to me as the darker types. However, this variety is the earliest and highest yielding zucchini extant, bar none. We're not sure if that is a virtue or not, but if you think it is, this may be the choice for you. Better line up friends, neighbors, strangers, etc. in advance to take the surplus off your hands with this one."

Other veggies: I don't think turn out well in the food processor, in my opinion.


Well, if you're even lazier than I am, you can use powdered garlic. Or you can buy garlic crushed or chopped in jars in the stores. I like mine fresh and consider it worth the trouble. I've tried the garlic peelers but, if you count the time it takes to get them out of the drawer and wash them afterwards, and they don't do such a great job anyway, it's not worth it for just a few cloves. And I've figured out how to peel the things pretty quickly.

Hold clove with the flat side toward you

Peel from curved side to flat side

This takes off part of the flat side peel

Set on cutting board flat side down

Press curved side against board with the knife until it cracks

Squeeze the tip and pull of peel

With luck, the peel will come off in one piece. More likely, two or three pieces, but it's still easy.


Again, you can used powdered. Some stores sell crushed ginger next to the garlic. Some even sell "Stir fry seasoning" which is a mix of crushed ginger and garlic. I generally grate my own. I keep a hand cheese grater in the top drawer, and I don't peel the ginger before shredding. If some peel gets in, fine, but often it stays on the root and I can cut it off later.


I used to make rice in big batches (4 cups uncooked) then put them into baggies of 1 cup (cooked each). Flattened them, froze them flat, and stored them in the freezer door. This was wonderfully lazy in that I could just pull out a bag at a time and let it thaw in the fridge, or if I forgot that, just break off (because the were thin enough) what I wanted and microwave. But making up the batch was a pain

frozen rice in a baggie

baggies of rice and tofu in the freezer door

steamed rice, out of steamer and ready for fridge

But I just bought a rice steamer. I've long thought I'd like to try one but they are about $50 in a discount store. I found one for $10 at a garage sale and my life will never be the same. Now, whenever I'm low on rice, I just put the rice and water into my Pyrex storage bowl, set the timer, and forget it. When it's done, I put the lid on the bowl, let it cool, and it's in the fridge. No dishes to wash, no fiddling with the freezer or baggies. If I'd know how lazy it was, I would have spent the $50 years ago.

Not just that, but there's the aroma. I recently discovered Basmati rice.

Forgive me, but I'm going to wax philosophical again. Again, I see a sign of the collapse of civilization. Every time I go to the grocery store. I can walk down a whole aisle full of sugared breakfast cereal. There are dozens of worthless junk foods to choose from. There are even a staggering array of toothpastes to choose from. But if I can find more than 3 types or brands of whole wheat flour and brown rice, I'm lucky.

A friend of mine (thank you, Trillian!) suggested I try Basmati Rice next time I was in a health food store. It's glorious! I can't believe they don't sell it in grocery stores. Not only is it delicious, but the smell while cooking is so heavenly. And, now that I'm using a rice steamer and making small batches more often, my house is filled with the smell a lot. Heavenly!