These Cooking Tips Will Save Your Sunday Night
Sunday is the ultimate “you” time. It’s the very last bit of weekend, so you should be squeezing every last drop of R&R out of those remaining hours before you head back to the grind. That said, you still gotta eat. So we’ve rounded up our best tips for making the most out of Sunday dinners, and even brought in Chef Frank Proto, an instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education (and an Italian-American, so he knows that great cooking can turn a Sunday family dinner into the highlight of your week) to weigh in on the advice. Follow it, and you’ll be well on your way to turning Sunday dinners into a tradition of your own.
FOCUS ON LEFTOVERS
Now, we’re not recommending you spend the last four hours of your weekend cooking meals for the entire week -- but making a few smart meal planning choices for your Sunday night dinner will minimize the chance of you ordering Thai food by Wednesday night. For example, making a few extra chicken breasts or even a large batch of chicken or turkey meatballs will give you a protein option that’s easy to reinvent throughout the week. Heck, you can top a salad with them or pack a meatball sandwich for lunch. Making a simple batch of rice can be reissued in a bake or casserole later in the week, or preparing a large amount of a veggie side dish or salad (don’t dress it, unless you’re into soggy greens) means you only have to change up the protein. Come Thursday, future you is going to want to give you a pat on the back.
EXPERIMENT WITH MARINADES
Here’s the thing with marinades: they are normally easy to set up, sure, but on a Tuesday night after working all day, you’re never going to remember to get it together -- and it’ll mess up your meal plan for the whole week. That’s why they always work best on weekends, be it on a Sunday morning so everything is good and ready by dinner time, or Sunday night if you’re looking to whip up something come dinner on Monday. These options were originally designed for the grill, but the flavors can be replicated for cooking indoors throughout the winter, too. Just keep an eye on suggested marinade timing since acidic ones like those with lemon juice can literally start to cook white meat if it’s set for too long. In fact, Chef Frank Proto suggests only marinating larger cuts of tough meat, like a two-pound strip steak for carne asada, to get the most bang for your buck.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TIME
If you work a typical office schedule, Sunday is normally the day you end up with the most free time. Your social obligations are over by brunch, and you still have a good six hours before heading to bed, making this the perfect block to schedule some low and slow cooking. Be it a slow-cooker meal, or a long braise in the Dutch oven, or just taking the time to cook down larger cuts of meat, these recipes were basically designed with Sunday in mind. And while they may take long, once they’re in the oven or slow cooker, it’s completely hands off, giving you enough free time to actually chill on your weekend.
AVOID TOO MANY DISHES
By 9pm on a Sunday night, you should be winding down, not doing dishes. Enter the sheet pan recipe. With these recipes, the protein and vegetables all cook on a single pan, and it’s essentially hands off once everything goes in the oven. To pull these off effectively, Proto says to make sure you’re keeping an eye on timing. A vegetable like asparagus is going to roast faster than red potatoes, which will probably be done around the same time as a bone-in, skin-on chicken thigh. So, read your recipe over and keep an eye on the clock in between those episodes.
MAKE IT A PARTY
Here’s the secret to feeling like you’ve extended your weekend: Throw a low-key dinner party on Sunday night. Having a small gathering around dinnertime will ward off the Sunday scaries without feeling like your whole day has been eaten up by socializing. Keep dinner simple and inexpensive, and make sure your guests chip in a bit on cleanup so everyone still gets to bed at a normal hour before work tomorrow. Proto also suggests doing something that’s easy but seems fancy as hell, like a paella. It’s essentially a one-pot meal, but will definitely leave an impression.
GET THE WEEK STARTED ON A HEALTHY NOTE
It’s the weekend, so we agree that it’s best for your sanity to set the smoothies and salads aside for at least 24 hours. But, come Sunday night, it may be time to get back into the swing of things. Studies have shown that just one day of binge eating can have serious effects on your insulin levels, so make meals with plenty of veggies and lean protein. It’s a great move to make sure you’re fueled up for that Monday-morning workout, or just ready for a good night’s rest.
BUT THAT DOESN'T (NECESSARILY) MEAN FORGET DESSERT
Didn’t use your cheat day on Saturday? Well, break out the baked goods. Home cooks typically fall into two categories: those who love to bake and those who like the idea of baking, but honestly suck at it. The only way to improve is to practice, and the best time to do that is on Sunday nights. Proto suggests even trying the same recipe a few weekends in a row, that way you can perfect your own spin on it. So, turn on some music, give yourself plenty of time, and if it gets messed up, it’s not the whole meal. But, if it comes out well, it’s a Sunday night treat that makes dinner feel like something special, which is how Sunday dinners should be.
TRY YOUR HAND AT SOMETHING NEW
Anyone who has wanted to face plant into a bowl of homemade mac & cheese after a hard day knows that food can be therapy. Turns out, that’s true for the act of cooking too, according to several psychologists who prescribe “culinary therapy” for people with depression and anxiety. So when you need some self care and have a few hours to dedicate to a project, Sunday is the time to do it. It’s the ideal time to get creative, and play around with an ingredient, herb, or even full recipe you’ve never tried before. Wondering what the big deal is with turmeric? Always wanted to try empanadas or your own tortillas for tacos? How about your grandmother’s famous tomato sauce that simmers for 5 hours? The worst that can happen is you don’t like it -- and that’s what PB&J is for.