Every home cook knows that cooking is a process. First, there’s the meal planning (finding recipes) which could take up to an hour. Then there’s grocery shopping which could take another hour. Ingredients preparation and cooking would take another ½ hour to an hour and finally, the most dreaded part, the dishes – soaking and scrubbing, drying and putting away.Of course the reason many of us go through this grueling process is because we know it’s worth it to have a home cooked meal! But wouldn’t it be nice if we could cut down on the time? When you have only one pot to clean you could save a lot of time. Soups are common one-pot meals but casseroles, pasta bakes, stir fry’s and stews also frequently use just one cooking vessel. There’s a certain science to mastering the one pot meal. 1. THE SLOW COOKER IS YOUR FRIEND: The slow cooker is a great tool for making one pot meals such as stews, pulled pork, and chili. This allows beans or meat to cook while the spices simmer in slowly without much effort and time spent on your part attending to the meal. 2. TIMING IS EVERYTHING: Different ingredients take different amounts of time to cook and no one likes overcooked mush! Pick ingredients that are hard to overcook, like beans, greens and hearty meats. And you could add certain ingredients later on in the cooking process so as not to overcook it. 3. BALANCE IT OUT: The most important thing is that you realize that a one pot meal is after all – a MEAL! So balance it out: try picking one protein, one carb and loading it up with vegetables. Lentils offer a god balance of both carbohydrates and protein and make a great thick base for soups and stews. Here are three recipes that pass this test: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/thai-one-pot http://parade.condenast.com/169831/donnaelick/one-skillet-chicken-pot-pie-in-just-30-minutes/ http://lexiscleankitchen.com/2014/03/02/easy-one-pan-eggplant-chicken-dinner/ 4. SPICE IT UP: Just because you are making things easy does not mean you need to sacrifice flavor. Stews and soups could use some jazzing up and the best way to do it is by adding warm spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper. 5. MAKE IT HEALHTY: Many of the recipes you will find on the Internet for one-pot meals could use a healthy makeover. Swap out white rice for brown. Double the veggies if they’re looking a little low. Opt for natural and organic sauces and stocks over processed ones. Do you have a favorite one pot meal? Share it with us on twitter and facebook.