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Old 08-07-2007, 03:48 PM   #1
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How much time do you spend on dinner?

This may have been brought up before but since I am fairly new I didn't see it.

As I read "What's for dinner" I am amazed at the delicious meals prepared by others. I am home for the summer (teacher) and spend more time on dinner than during the school year and love doing it. When working I find that I don't have the urge to cook but do. I try to do whatever I can during the weekend. I know I am home before most working folks so my question is...How much time do you spend preparing some of the yummy dinners that I read about?

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Old 08-07-2007, 04:43 PM   #2
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I've wondered about this, too. I seem to spend about 30 minutes actually in the kitchen cooking for a meal. I've noticed that there is much mention of preparing different parts of a dish or a meal ahead of time, where possible, and I'm trying to do this more. I usually make bread sticks, or small individual loaves, for the evening meal. Since I use breadmakers for the dough, it really doesn't require much time or effort on my part until the last 10-15 minutes of baking in the oven. I also make a lot of roasts with veggies in the slow cooker which seems to take about 20 minutes to get it all going in the morning. Pasta with salad and breadsticks only seems to take about 20 minutes and we have that regularly. But my kids all help with the evening meal so that saves me a great deal of time.

Still, I don't make home made pasta sauce or salad dressing or things like that. I'm learning to do those things and I expect it will involve more time per meal. I'm sure I'll get a little faster once I get the hang of making more "scratch" things but I'm wondering how much time it takes to make an average, mostly from scratch meal for a "good" cook.
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Old 08-07-2007, 04:43 PM   #3
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It depends on whether I'm starting from scratch, or have something leftover to begin with. In the summer I usually don't take more than 30 to 45 minutes, including cooking time. Sometimes less. I once said I wouldn't spend more time cooking that it took to eat the meal, but I've had to back off a few times. Dh is a speed-eater. He sometimes is almost finished cleaning up before I finish my meal.
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Old 08-07-2007, 04:50 PM   #4
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I'm a teacher as well and look forward to summers so I can spend hours in the kitchen. But it is just not possible to say how long b/c each meal is different.

A quick pasta w/ pomodoro: the most complicated part is walking out to the garden to get the tomatoes. It's a 30 minute meal. Spanikopita? I'm so slow w/ phyllo that it takes me hours (including making the filling).

Lately I'm way into grilling. I try to do entire meals all on the grill. I never notice the time b/c I'm outside and it's gorgeous and it's summer!

But for a dinner party (even if it's only two people coming over) I can spend the whole day in the kitchen.
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Old 08-07-2007, 05:00 PM   #5
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Iam retired so have all day but some times it takes water longer to boil than dinner! Love all day chili or veg. soup, stirring ever so often. Really depends on whats for dinner !
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Old 08-07-2007, 05:14 PM   #6
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I have a full-time job and I usually spend 45 minutes to an hour making dinner. I've learned to do things like start pasta water boiling while I make salad, put the salad in the fridge, make the sauce, get the pasta going, and toast some bread while the pasta cooks. I can keep an eye on several things going at once and start the item first that will take the longest. It works pretty well most of the time.
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Old 08-07-2007, 05:20 PM   #7
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As others have said, it depends on what I'm preparing. Lately I've been conducting a crock-pot experiment to see how many of my dinner meals in the month I can prepare using it. Been a decent exercise so far and I'm quite pleased, especially since it's been so hot.

I've always been a "prep" person in the kitchen. I usually read my recipe through either the night before or early in the morning so I can set my battle plan. I also set out any canned or nonperishables with the recipe. If onions/celery/peppers, etc. have to be chopped, I'll do that and store them in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap, in the fridge. If mise en place was a religion, I would be the most religious person on the planet.

Tonight's dinner won't take long at all. Just have to bread some fish fillets, pan-fry them and make a salad of baby spinach. Whisk a little vinaigrette to dress the salad. If we are in the mood, I'll slice some homemade baguette to go with.

I love to cook and have always made a full evening meal for my family, even when I worked a 40-hour week outside of our home. Somehow everything got done.
"As a girl I had zero interest in the stove." - Julia Child
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Old 08-07-2007, 05:38 PM   #8
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Since I watch a 1 year old, a 2 year old and a 3 year old three times a week, I've taught myself to listen so I don't have to run here and there so the kids yelling, crying or screaming doesn't bother me..I know where they are and what they are doing by the sounds issuing through the house I therefore, work on the evening meal at intervals during the day, some before they get here for breakfast, some as I fix their lunch and during the time they, Lord willing, take a rest and finish up when my girls come to pick them up..I also will do some things the night before depending on many times they kept me busy. For our sunday family dinners I start saturday morning and work up to dinner time on sunday minus time on sunday for dh and my breakfast date...Sometimes it's like a riot here and other it smooth as glass. anyway it comes I love every minute. I'd rather be tending the kids and cooking then anything in the world..
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Old 08-07-2007, 06:12 PM   #9
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On my days off, I try and cook with my daughter so maybe 30-45 minutes of actual prep and active cooking. On the days that I work, it's how ever long it takes to go through the drive through at Mickey D's or Jack-in-the-Box at 11pm.
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Old 08-07-2007, 06:43 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Katie E
If mise en place was a religion, I would be the most religious person on the planet.
You and me both, Katie! It saves a lot of time when you're organized. Usually, I get the meal going, sometimes with Kim's help, then after he takes a bath, he finishes up while I have mine.

Cooking time depends on the menu. We like to cook together, and some nights, when we're in the mood, we cook 2-3 hours. Other nights, it might be a 30 minute meal. Kim's also good about helping with projects, like salsa or pickles.
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Old 08-07-2007, 06:44 PM   #11
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I'm actually a stay-at-home mom. During the school year, sometimes I'll take several hours during the day to make some dishes. I'll putz along and do some chopping in the morning, then if I have to cook off something, I might do that later. If dd is helping me (during the summer), I don't usually do this.

So, I might take 2 hours to prep and cook or I might take only 30 minutes. I cook about 97% from scratch (I'll use things like organic tinned broths, tinned beans... anything that is minimally processed without preservatives, frozen veggies, etc.) so my meals often involve quite a bit of chopping.

If I worked full-time, there's no way I could cook like this, so kudos to you for cooking for your family!!
Life is too short to eat processed, artificially-colored, chemically-preserved, genetically-modified food. Or maybe that IS why life's too short.
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Old 08-07-2007, 09:29 PM   #12
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since I adore being anywhere near the kitchen, it takes me hours often times. but there's no where I'd rather be so it's my pleasure time.
I like to do things that take forever to cook.
ie...... cakes, cookies, pies, bread, stews, chilis, braised meats.......
often times the hubster is out the door at 5 AM and after getting him off, I come into the kitchen and get out the cookbooks, start reading, get inspired, and start right then literally. I know it's odd but it calming and theraputic for me somehow.
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Old 08-07-2007, 11:39 PM   #13
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I am a retired Chef/restaurant owner and being used to cooking 8-10 hours a day I still bake all of my bread and do a lot of involved prep and cookin
I love it would not have it any other way, most from scratch
Cook with passion or don't cook at all
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Old 08-07-2007, 11:59 PM   #14
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A great timesaver is too cook ahead on your days off, or just to get good at utilizing leftovers. If you're like the average american eater, you're probably familiar with the ever-popular starch-veg-protein meal format. An easy thing to do is get your starches cooked ahead of time- mashed potatos can be kept wrapped in plastic wrap in individual sized portion, as can rice or pasta. All of these will keep for days. The potatos and pasta will keep a little longer than rice, I think.

After that, all you need to do is prepare your protein and your veg- and heat your starch accordingly.
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Old 08-08-2007, 02:49 AM   #15
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Working five and a half days (min 50 hrs) a week, I cook Sat afternoon and Sun morning, mostly from scratch. I batch freeze and warm at the office. I spend between 6 and 8 hrs in the kitchen every weekend.

We have a kitchen at the office, but the cook had a stroke and I just installed my first ever microwave on Monday. I eat whenever I feel like it and dinner is usually around 4 pm.
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Old 08-14-2007, 08:56 AM   #16
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For me it varies seasonally. My kitchen is not air conditioned, so I tend to cook quick meals in the summer. In the winter I make a lot of stews, soups, chili, etc. I'm not a baker. It is just something I don't have the talent for, and any inclinations in that direction went south when my husband was diagnosed with diabetes (hardly seems worth the effort). We are retired, so in the winter I use that time, and it heats up my kitchen and bathroom. In the summer ... well, I guess you could say we live seasonally.
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