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Lazy Cooking Tips for When You Just Don't Care

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First appeared on Food Riot, by Susie Rodarme

As much as I love to cook, I don't feel like it sometimes. And, there are things I just can't even fathom doing for a quick meal. Pull the mixer out to make whipped cream because of a Wednesday hankerin' for waffles? Please. Some of us have TV to get back to watching. I've had to find as many cheat-y, lazy cooking methods possible to get me through those nights when I have run out of f*cks to give.

Make that whipped cream in a Mason jar. A pinch of sugar and a dash of cream in the bottom of a Mason jar, shaken and not stirred (I had to), makes a serviceable whipped cream topping for times when the prospect of cleaning yet another huge bowl makes you want to give up on life. Two tips: Don't fill the jar more than a quarter full or so, or you won't get a decent whip; also, if you way over-shake the jar, you might end up with sugary butter. Which you could still put on waffles.

Quick-cooking dried pasta through the magic of pre-soaking. When I read about this technique over at the Serious Eats Food Lab, I knew that cooking pasta was going to change forever. The gist: you soak your pasta in cold water before you cook it, and then you only have to cook it for a short period of time. You don't even have to boil it. You can warm up your sauce and finish cooking the pasta right in the sauce. No waiting for the pot to boil, no having to wash said extra pot. You certainly can boil it; treat it like fresh pasta and don't boil longer than a minute or two. My favorite: pre-soaking lasagna noodles. (Also? You can make six minute risotto with this same technique. SIX. MINUTES.)

One-pot meal? Pfft, too hard. Here's the thing about cooking on the stove: you have to stir things. No thanks. Making a one-sheet-tray meal instead means it can all go in the oven with little maintenance during cooking. One of my favorite lazy meals involves putting potatoes, slabs of bell pepper (basically cut in half or thirds and de-seeded), thick slices of onion, and sausage all on the same sheet pan, tossed with olive oil and seasoned. I roast them at about 400F and check when the peppers and onions start getting fragrant. If the meat and veg get done before the potatoes, I remove them and pop the rest back in.

Microwave par-cooking potatoes. Nuking 'taters isn't exactly a new concept, I admit. But instead of just microwaving potatoes and eating them (which is fine but a little ho-hum), I'll microwave potatoes to half-done and then cook them again-smashed and fried in olive oil, diced up and put into a sauce or a curry, or folded into a skillet hash. Or, ok, sometimes I do just top with butter and hot sauce and call it good.

Using the grocery store's antipasto bar for pasta dishes and salads. You know what's easy? Dumping olives, artichoke hearts, and roasted peppers out of jars and into a bowl. You know what's even easier? Dumping all of those out of one tub. It can also be more cost-effective, as long as you don't go too crazy. This is a great planning-to-be-lazy-in-advance dish, because you know that lazy day is coming.

Those are my favorite lazy cooking tips. What are yours?