How to Make Mom’s Recipes Faster and Healthier


Favorite family recipes can be delicious, but also time-consuming and sometimes a little unhealthy. Here are some ways to improve these dishes for you.

By Althea Chang-Cook

Florals and chocolate come and go, but must-have kitchen items for home cooks can make a lasting impression.

That’s right, whether you’re buying mom a countertop appliance that will make cooking easier for her, or better yet, one that you can use to cook. for her, at the very least on Mother’s Day.

Because family recipes passed down through generations don’t always show up on pretty little cards — and some aren’t even written down at all — we won’t dwell on ingredient lists.

Instead, we look at the process: how family recipes can be made faster or healthier, and how these methods can be applied to other dishes.

Make fried foods and more in an air fryer

With the aid of air fryer is a healthier way to prepare classic Chinese dishes like salt and pepper chicken wingssays Ruiz Asri, editor of Honest Food Talks, a UK-based site that publishes recipes and cooking tips. “There’s definitely a charm to making classic dishes the way mom used to make them,” Asri says, but this dish requires several cups of oil when prepared the traditional way. “Although I love it, it’s quite unhealthy because it requires jumped up the chicken and its ingredients in the oil several times.

Instead of all frying, Asri fry the wings with just tablespoons of oil versus cups of oil, at around 400°F for 30-45 minutes. The same method can be used to fry Korean yangnyeom chicken and Japanese katsu chicken, he says. In reality, any type of fried chicken can be prepared in the same way.

“I can reduce my oil consumption, produce less oil waste, and the air fryer is just easier to clean up afterwards,” says Asri. And because air fryers have timers, “I also save myself from having to stand in front of the frying pan throughout the cooking process. No more danger from hot oil!

Air fryers aren’t just for foods that have been dipped in flour or cornstarch, or other dishes with the word “fried” in their name. Consumer Reports video producer Luz Plasencia adapted her mother’s recipe for mangu – a traditional Dominican breakfast of mashed plantains topped with fried salami, cheese, eggs and pickled red onions – for her air fryer, which allows her to reduce the amount of fat she has to make the dish.

The two air fryers below are top-rated in Consumer Reports tests and cost less than $100.

Chefman TurboFry Air Fryer

GoWise United States GW22731

Cooking meat and rice in a multicooker

Tanya Harris, who runs the recipe site My Forking Life from Charlotte, North Carolina, adapted her mother’s recipe for Jamaican oxtail stew using a pressure cooker or multicooker to speed up the process.

It would take 2-3 hours to cook the oxtails until tender conventionally in his mother’s dutchie, a pot similar to a dutch oven, says Harris. Using a multicooker like an Instant Pot on its pressure cook mode cuts cooking time by an hour or two.

“I usually take my pressure cooker for protein which usually takes a while to break down,” says Harris.

You can also have your Instant Pot do double duty as a rice cooker. Perry Santanachote, a CR writer, does this by creating a version of the Thai sticky rice she grew up with.

Traditionally, this dish is prepared in a large bamboo cone steam basket which is placed over a pot of boiling water on the stove. Instead, Santanachote wraps his sticky rice in cheesecloth or puts it in a bamboo steamer, then places it in his Instant Pot. She’ll add water to the bottom of the pot, making sure it doesn’t reach high enough to touch the rice, and give it a 15 minute pressure cook and a 10 minute quick release.

Here are two top-rated multicookers in our tests.

Zavor LUX LCD: ZSELL02

Breville Fast Slow Pro 6 qt. BPR700BSS

Save your hands and save time with a food processor

Another CR writer, Mary Farrell, saves time and energy by using her workaholic food processor to make her bolognese sauce, a hearty, vegetarian version of the spaghetti sauce her mother made.

To prepare the vegetables, Farrell processes a fresh mirepoix, the mixture of onions, carrots and celery that is the base of many sauces, soups and other delicious dishes. Next, she chops the crimini mushrooms into pieces the size of ground meat.

Farrell sautées all of these veggies with a mix of ground beef, pork, and veal, but you can just use whatever ground meat or even plant-based meat you like. And after that, she adds milk, white wine, and a can of diced tomatoes, and simmers. About an hour later, voila, a hearty sauce, much quicker than if she had diced and chopped the carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms and tomatoes by hand.

The two food processor models below have the highest ratings for chopping and slicing.

Sous Chef Breville BFP800XL/A

Oster Versa Pro Series BLSTVB-104-000 Food Processor Accessory

Use a blender for a smoother sauce

Using a blender can also be a time and energy saver when preparing sauces, producing a smoother, more emulsified texture, especially when working from scratch. Juan Chavez, a student at Culinary Lab, a cooking school in Orange County, California, uses a high-performance blender to make his version of the enchilada sauce he grew up with.

That’s because traditionally a combination of dried chilies was heated and reconstituted for the sauce, and pieces of the chili skin remained after cooking and needed to be strained, he says. It could his like a simple step, but straining is no quick feat when you have a jar’s worth of sauce and lots of little bits sticking to the bottom of a colander.

When making the enchilada sauce, instead of straining the pieces of chili skin, Chavez blends them and can see through his blender when the consistency of the sauce is uniform and the chili pieces are pulverized, after about a minute.

“It saves me time and a bit of product because I don’t have to force it,” Chavez says. “It also gives me more consistent and better quality.”

Below is a top-rated blender in CR’s tests, followed by a cheaper option that still performs well.

Vitamix 7500

Instant Ace

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Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works alongside consumers to create a fairer, safer and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2022, Consumer Reports, Inc.


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