I was the happy recipient of a “scholarship” to our local cooking school (thanks, Dad and Mom) a couple of years back and it has made an amazing impact on my time in the kitchen.
I started with the baking course and followed it up with the cooking course. And though the classes are really not related in many more ways than being in the kitchen and using ingredients (baking is a science, whereas cooking is improvisation on processes), there is one common thing that makes being in the kitchen (whether cooking or baking): preparation.
The French call it mis en place (roughly translated “everything in place”).
It is includes these concepts:
1. Reading the entire recipe before taking one ingredient out of the pantry or refrigerator.
2. Collecting all ingredients, measuring precisely (for baking), and placing them all in one place. This oftentimes, requires lots of small bowls to be used, but it streamlines the process once you start actually preparing the recipe.
3. Gathering all necessary equipment and prepping it, as necessary. This includes preheating oven, getting pans greased, creating a water bath, putting bowls and beaters in freezer, etc.
Once you have all your ingredients together (we called it mis-ing), you have the benefits of a quicker hands-on cooking time and never forgetting an ingredient. In the throes of mommy brain, you still can make peanut butter cookies and remember to include the flour, make blueberry muffins and include the blueberries (yes, I have missed both of those things before!). It also helps when you are cooking with a partner or a group of people. You know what they say about too many cooks in the kitchen. Here is the solution to that problem!
I have found this especially helpful when I want to cook with my toddler. Toddler attention spans being what they are, I find I can lay out all the ingredients during nap time or before she wakes up in the morning, so we can have a streamlined and less stressful time in the kitchen together.