I'm a bit behind in my class reviews as I've had a little time to actually complete a handful in the last several weeks, but not enough time to write about them! So I'm going to try to catch up with myself this week.
My husband and I used to really enjoy Sara Moulton's first cooking show that was on years ago. It's a rare cooking show that we'd both sit and watch, at least those that aren't of the competitive variety, but there was something about Sara's style that we both enjoyed. When I saw recently that she had a Craftsy class available, I'm not sure it would've mattered what the topic was as I'd probably have bought it anyway. But the fact that I first noticed it at a time when I was bemoaning the fact that I rarely had time to actually cook anymore, it seemed particularly fortuitous.
And so, for today's post, we're talking about Cook Smarter: Solutions for Weeknight Dinners with Sara Moulton.
As I've been cooking for...well, let's just say "awhile" and not anything else that will emphasize how long I've been around...I can't say that I learned a whole lot of new techniques or information from this class. However, I did pick up a few good ideas about how to organize myself better in my shopping trips so I could more easily cook a meal on the fly during the week. My husband won't eat leftovers at all--even disguised as other meals--and our freezer isn't big enough to stock up on freezer meals. (He also won't eat casseroles, so that knocks out another whole category of the "plan ahead" method.) For years, I've planned out a menu that would then become my shopping list and would leave myself notes all over the kitchen about what needed to get done when. In other words, I was basically doing everything "right" by all the usual methods. However, if something happened that I wasn't able to follow that particular menu, it became a bit of a catch-as-catch-can once the week got rolling. And that happened more weeks than not. Sara has a simpler method that allows for a lot more on-the-spot decision-making that's still fast and easy. She also got me thinking more about what convenience foods I could keep on hand (in what little freezer space I do have) that might make weeknights a little less stressful but still provide a home-cooked meal rather than yet another sandwich, salad, or pizza.
I've only made one of her recipes so far: The Fish with Mustard Tarragon Sauce was very good and that sauce would be equally good on chicken, so that's a definite keeper. This class isn't really about the recipes themselves, however, so much as it is about ways to think about meal planning and certain types of techniques and tools that make things move much faster. I've definitely shifted the way I stock my pantry, freezer, and refrigerator a little bit now, so although we're still not at 100%, I can say that we're eating actual cooked meals a couple more times a week than we had been.
If you're a new cook, I think you'd get a lot out of this class. If you're a cook with experience, you may still want to give it a whirl like I did. And, of course, there's Sara. I'm a fan.
- 7 lessons, 15 to about 30 minutes in length.
- Each lesson has one or more recipes used for teaching the tips or techniques of that lesson, but she spends a lot of time in each talking about variations and jumping-off-points for other uses as well.
- The first lesson lays the foundation with discussions about what to stock, how to plan, and what she refers to as "homestyle Mise en Place"--in other words, how to set yourself up realistically (not chef-style) to speed the cooking process up.
- Lesson 2 focuses on side dishes as well as how to do grains (rice and such) ahead of time; I plan on trying out her freezer technique here as it wouldn't take up much room.
- Lesson 3 addresses several recipes that can be sped up simply in how you prepare the ingredients--another lesson that provides all sorts of options and adaptations.
- Lesson 4 is "Salad for Supper," and I found her information about homemade salad dressings particularly useful.
- Lesson 5 is all about eggs for dinner. There are some really interesting suggestions here. Positive my husband wouldn't go for any of them, but I may keep them in mind for times I'm on my own for a meal.
- Lesson 6 has a vegetarian emphasis and good information about making compound butters--a fast way to throw some special flavor on a very basic meal.
- Lesson 7 is how to cook once for two different meals--again, techniques that could be adapted in a lot of ways.
- The class materials are worth it themselves: 16 pages of recipes!
My final review of Cook Smarter: Solutions for Weeknight Dinners with Sara Moulton is, of course, two thumbs up. I'll be returning to this one often!
(Transparency statement: As a Craftsy affiliate, using the Craftsy links on this post help support my podcast and blog. Thank you very much!)