Both Asians and North Americans love “life hacks”, these silver bullets to make things run smoother. In China, for instance, it translates into manufacturing thousands of products that supposedly help you solve life’s little issues. Chopsticks with a fan to cool off your noodles, slippers that clean the floor, bowls with spoon holders, toothpaste dispenser to stick on the wall, umbrella/tie, etc. Most of these cheap gadgets are fun but rarely practical, although some become best sellers like the famous selfie stick.
In North America, life hacks are usually solutions to maximize your productivity and save money. There are complete websites dedicated to offering simple and effective tips to be a better, healthier and richer person. The articles are backed up with somewhat anecdotal scientific evidence and range from smart practical advice—“put pancake mix in an old ketchup bottle for a no-mess experience”—to painfully obvious recommendations—“lose weight by exercising more and eating less”.
As your typical old-world European, I have nothing against these novelty methods but I remain doubtful most of the time. One-function gizmos tend to reinvent the wheel: for instance, I don’t need a banana slicer when I can 1) peel the banana 2) use a knife. As for general life tips, they are often too generic and commonsensical but not that easy to implement. Yes, I am aware of the fact that it’s better to get a full eight-hour night’s sleep. Yes, I agree, eating out when you are on a budget is probably a bad idea. Yes, to build up your saving account, you need to spend less or work a better paying job. Duh.
But damn… I wish I had believed in the power of the slow cooker earlier.
I had been told it was awesome but for some reason, I thought it would be yet another kitchen appliance I have no use for. I was so wrong.
Since trying it for the first time a few weeks ago, I completely fell in love with this way of cooking. I go through culinary phases so maybe it’s just one of them, but I love both the food I’m able to cook and how much time and energy I save in the process. I don’t have three or four pots and pans on the stove anymore and I don’t have to worry about timing it right. I make enough food for two portions, so I’m only cooking my dinner every couple of days (don’t worry, still feeding Mark his usual…). It feels great to know that yummy food in a glass container in the fridge is ready to be warmed up in the microwave when I’ll be hungry!
I’m experimenting with spices, different kinds of rice, beans, vegetables. I buy small quantities of everything I need from Bulk Barn and it’s cheap—$2, $3 for rice and spices. I wash, chop, cut and prep my vegetables and I enjoy that step. It’s strangely relaxing to mix colours and cutting techniques. Then I dump my food in the slow cook, add spices and let the magic happens.
I’m fine-tuning my cooking skills as well. For example, to avoid mushy rice, I pour it over the veggie mix instead of cooking it at the bottom. I also find I don’t need to leave the slow cooker on all day, two to three hours is enough for my recipes.
Here the last one I came up with:
Curried rice with lentils
- ½ cup onion
- ½ cup bell pepper
- ½ cup carrots
- 2 cups cauliflower
- 1 small tomato
- ½ cup bamboo shoots
- 1 cup lentils
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp chili flakes