Photo Credit: Courtesy of Rachael Ray
It's been more than a decade since we first met Rachael Ray on her groundbreaking show 30 Minute Meals. Now Rachael has teamed up with the new Cooking Channel for Week in a Day. The show's precisely what it sounds like: Rachael shares five days' worth of delicious meals that can be prepared all in one day and then just heated up for a quick, home-cooked dinner. Rachael took a bit of time from her hectic filming schedule to tell us all about the new show and to share her top tips for creating quick and delicious meals in no time flat.
Can you tell us a little bit about the new show?
Well, the whole idea of the show is that you cook for one day and you get five nights of meals that are already fully cooked. You just go home and heat them up in one way or another. You do one day’s worth of grocery shopping, and then you go home and you cook on your day off. So, for a busy mom, the neighbor or Dad can help watch the kids for a day, and Mom gets some mom time—you have a glass of wine or a cup of tea and put on your favorite music—and you spend one day laboring so that all five nights are already done. Whether you’re a mom or not, it’s great for everybody who has a busy schedule or who works. Who doesn’t love the idea of coming home and having homemade, home-cooked food?
Because I’ve been writing so much of this [show], I’ve been doing a lot of this for just me and my husband. Let me tell you, it is so fantastic! If I shoot all day, I come home at 7:00. You know we were eating dinner at 9:00 or 10:00 at night. Now, I’m cooking on Sunday and I came home after all of my tapings and all I have to do is pull the pots from my fridge, put the stove on and that’s it. That’s all I have to do, and I can’t tell you what a load off it is.
Cooking five meals in one swoop must be a lot of prep work. Do you have any tools or gadgets that you love or that can help save time or money?
I’m not a huge believer of gadgets in general. I’ve always written my recipes so that the only tool you may need is a food processer. That being said, a few things have come out over the last couple of years that I just find indispensable. Bench scrapers, for example. I don’t bake, but I have a drawer full of bench scrapers because I use them to move food. When I’m done chopping, it helps me to very quickly get the food from the cutting board and into the pot. Also, the Microplane products: I have every size, shape and variety of Microplane. I absolutely love these handheld graters. I use them for everything—grating carrots into a sauce, grating onions into meatballs, grating garlic instead of chopping it. I absolutely swear by them. They are a huge time-saver. I just absolutely love them.
What ingredients do you always have in your pantry that are budget friendly but really add a lot of flavor to dishes?
I think that a person should build their pantry based on the food they like to cook. I like to cook Mediterranean, so I have lots of canned fish, like anchovies. I always have rosemary, thyme, basil and flat-leaf parsley. But I think that you should stock your pantry based on the type of food you most like preparing. I do think everyone should have stock in a box at all times—everybody. Stock in a box is the quickest and easiest way to add tons of flavor. Whether you’re making a pasta sauce or a pan gravy for fish or chicken or beef or pork, it’s absolutely essential to have on hand.
Do you have any tips for how to get dinner on the table quicker and easier?
When you come home from the grocery store, process everything you possibly can so that food is prepped and ready to go all week long. You should always being doing as much ahead as you can. In general, when I do my big grocery shop, I bring everything home, and then I fill the sink with water, and trim and peel and process everything I possibly can. Clean all the herbs; peel the carrots and all the root vegetables. You can even peel the potatoes, cover them with water and keep them in the fridge.
I also think whenever you see an item on sale in the produce department that your family enjoys, buy double of that. Bring it home, salt some water, put in the vegetable of choice, count to 30, take it out, cold-shock it, put it in a big plastic food storage bag and throw it in the freezer. You make your own homemade frozen veggies. They are even better than what you get in the store. You can tailor the cut or size when you are putting them away, and, especially if you’re shopping at farm stands, you’re never going to get that flavor of summertime corn unless you’re bringing it home and scraping it off the cob yourself.