Kitchen Tip: Cook in Bulk

Here’s a little tip to save you both time and money in the kitchen. Whenever possible, cook in bulk. This saves time by doing a portion of the work for future meals at a time when you would be cooking anyway. It also saves you more dishes to wash!
Here’s a great example: Today I’m making Chunky Texas Chili for our snow day. For this meal, I use 2 lbs. of stew beef, but it was cheaper (price per lb.) to buy the “family size” pack of 4 lbs. to save time, I decide to cook all the beef at once. I have two options – make double the amount of chili and freeze half for another day, or save half the cooked beef for another meal. I decided to save half for Italian Beef Stew. So, I’ll sauté the beef with only the spices added that are similar in those two recipes. Then, when it’s cooked, I’ll divide the beef and store half for later this week. You could also freeze it if you want to use it later in the month. When I need it, I’ll pull it out, dump it in the pot, and my meal prep is half finished. Talk about a time saver!
Often foods, especially meats, are sold at a volume discount. That means the more you buy, the more you save. Sometimes people avoid this because they can’t get over the final price. This sticker shock can be avoided with a little careful planning. Want to learn more about how to plan your menus to save money and time? Join our Menu Planning Class next Tuesday, Feb. 17th. It’s FREE and you can sign up HERE.

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Kitchen Tip: Cleaning Burnt-On Pans

IMG_2198Confession: I *occasionally* burn things. It happens.
For me, it usually happens because I have a friend over and I get distracted talking and talking and talking (sorry, I’m a talker.) So, there’s often the added embarrassment of an audience around when I burn things.
This happened early this week. I invited my friend Krista over to brainstorm ideas for our new Family Table ministry. I thought I’d be sweet and bake us some teriyaki chicken, too. Well….let’s just say I got caught up in all the excitement of planning something new and beautiful. Next thing you know, I’m like, “Hey! What’s that smell?”
Ugh. So embarrassing!
The chicken was still shockingly edible, but the pan was toast. And, to make matters worse, it was my brand new Le Creuset brazier from France! I wanted to cry. Instead, I acted like it was no big deal (an audience, remember?) and did the only thing I could think to do. I removed all the chicken and then added the following:
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup vinegar (I used apple cider b/c that’s what I had around)
Then,I put the lid on the pot and shoved it back in the warm oven. It was turned off, but I hoped the pan would steam and it did. You could do the same on your stovetop if your pan isn’t oven safe. Just simmer the vinegar water gently and let set until cool. Then, rinse and wipe.
The results?

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Isn’t that amazing? I could hardly believe it. No scrubbing! I just rinsed and wiped with a sponge. Incredible.
Do you have a fabulous cleaning tip for pots and pans? Please share it with us. Or, share this tip with a friend using our share buttons below.

Honey Berbere Chicken Strips

IMG_2194 I was so excited last week when my friend, Mark Deal, shared a collection of his new spice blends with me. All of them were exotic or unique and I took it as a personal challenge to use them in some new recipes that would show them off properly.
After a little research, I decided to start with the Ethiopian Berbere blend. This elaborate spice blend layers hot peppers with spices westerners commonly use in sweet foods such as cinnamon, ginger, and allspice. The fragrance is amazing and I knew it needed to be in a recipe that could focus on that layered goodness without too much distraction.
In the end, I came up with these simple Honey Berbere Chicken Strips. I served them over a green tossed salad with Vidalia sweet onion vinaigrette. Oh my heavens! It’s like a party in your mouth!
Ingredients
2 lbs chicken tenderloin or chicken breasts sliced in half
1/2 stick butter, sliced
2 Tbsp Berbere seasoning
1/2 cup Honey
* I added a handful of almonds on top for added crunch.

Instructions
1. Melt 2 Tbsp butter in the bottom of an oven safe skillet or Dutch oven.
2. Coat the chicken in the Berbere seasoning and place in the skillet.
3. Sauté until cooked on one side then turn over.
4. Drizzle honey over the top of the chicken evenly and spread remaining butter slices out evenly across the top.
5. Cover and bake at 350 for another 15 minutes. Uncover and bake 5 minutes.

Helpful Hint:
Bake extra chicken and store in a freezer bag, frozen, for quick and easy meals on nights you are feeling rushed. Or, take it to work with you and eat with salad and fruit slices for a healthy meal so you aren’t tempted to grab cheap burgers on the run. Delicious!

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A Spicy Surprise

I don’t want to make you jealous, but…I have the coolest friends. I really do! Tonight I had a friend surprise me with a box of hand blended exotic spices. Now, it takes a lot to impress me as a foodie these days, but this collection is remarkable. Honestly, I’ve never heard of half of them and the other half I’ve known, but never gotten to play with before because they’re hard to find here in America. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world! I can’t wait to tackle these in the kitchen next week.
The best part? YOU can try them, too! Rory Girl Premium Spices is a new label sharing exotic and unique spice blends from around the world. Visit their site today and then meet me here next week to learn a few new and daring recipes.

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Confession: I’m a Mess, Too

country kitchenThe granite counters gleam atop the pristine white cabinets in the charming country chic kitchen while a small feast simmers on the stove. In the background soft white light streams through the open windows, glistening off the charming chandelier that hangs over the breakfast nook. The smell of fresh flowers fills the air to mingle with the delicious aroma of fresh baked bread drifting from the oven.

This is my fantasy.

It’s not reality, it’s Pinterest. My reality is coffee stained cabinets with peeling paint and cheap laminate countertops covered in dirty dishes from last night’s dinner. While I do cook nearly every day, it’s more of a frantic rush to feed a busy family than a luxurious afternoon spent hand shaping artisan loaves of bread. Real life is often less glamorous than we imagined it would be and certainly not as perfect as our online obsessions make us feel it should be on a daily basis. If you feel like you aren’t measuring up to the images you see on Pinterest and lifestyle blogs across the web…you are not alone.

I’m getting ready to teach a class for a group of women at my church and it has become the first tentative steps toward a dream of mine: The Family Table. As much as I want to embrace this beautiful gift, my heart is afraid to hold it too tightly, certain it will explode in my arms in a face melting, heartbreakingly painful scene that leaves my dreams cold and lifeless at my feet. Overly dramatic? Yep. But, it fills my mind with fear and worry to the point of distraction. What if I’m not good enough? What will they say when they realize I’m not really an expert? I’m just a mom and a wife with a messy house and dirty dishes. What makes me think I can teach them anything? What if they hate it and they tell all their friends how stupid I am? Will The Family Table die before it even gets a chance to live? Then I sob into my pillow.

Now, this is terribly unfair and unkind of me. For one thing, I know the women who have signed up for this class so far. They are nice people who wouldn’t go around telling everyone how stupid I am (I hope.) But my own insecurity has turned me into a mess! I confessed this to a friend recently and she asked, “What would make you feel more qualified to teach this class? Is it the degree? Would that do it?”

I shook my head. Nope. My culinary degree will only teach me to be a better professional. It isn’t much help in juggling family affairs. In the end, her point hit home. The only thing that will make me more qualified to teach these classes is to have years of experience teaching these classes. So, I better stop letting fear stand in my way and get started.

In the end, I think we let fear keep us from doing a lot of things. Don’t you? Fear convinces us that we aren’t good enough, that everyone else has it more together than we do, that we’ll never make it. But it isn’t true unless we believe it. Sure my kitchen is messy, but do you know why? It’s because I cook in it! My life is busy, my kids are growing, my sink is full of dishes and my calendar is overflowing. That’s called living. It may not be Pinterest, but it sure is beautiful. And you know what? YOU are, too. Your beautiful mess is worth loving. Let’s all stop comparing ourselves to the imaginary and embrace the reality. Life is hard, parenting is hard, messes are hard, but in the end it is all worth it.

What mess are you struggling to embrace?

Dinner Cheats: Balsamic Chicken

2015/01/img_2150-0.jpgTomorrow I’m teaching a private class on cooking chicken and sauces. I can’t wait to show them how easy it is to turn plain old boring chicken into something delicious. Here’s a simple dinner cheat for chicken that I use all the time!
Start with a few chicken breasts or tenderloins. Whatever you have handy will work. I actually used two chicken breasts I had left over from a “family pack” I bought for dinner the other night. It had 8 pieces in it and I only needed six. So, I threw the other two in a gallon sized ziplock bag.
Then, I added a dash or two of my favorite garlic salt blend, 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/8 cup of balsamic vinegar. (I may have added a little more balsamic. We love that stuff!)
Zip it up and toss it in the fridge if you’re going to cook it in the next 48 hrs. Or, you can label it with a permanent marker and toss it in the freezer. When you’re ready to cook, defrost it and dump it in a baking dish. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Or, if you prefer, slice it up and sautéed it in a frying pan.
This is great sliced on top of a green salad or tossed in pasta, but we’ve also had it with rice and green veggies. I like to keep it handy for those busy days when I want to eat healthy, but I’m too busy to cook. It’s even gluten and dairy free for those of you with allergies.
Happy eating!

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Dinner Cheats: Pesto Chicken

Are you tired of being stressed out over dinner plans? Looking for something crazy easy, fast to prepare, and simply healthy? Of course it MUST be delicious!
Dinner Cheats is designed to save your weeknight sanity. Each week I’ll post a new recipe to help you reach your mealtime goals. This week our recipe is so simple, my 10 year old daughter could do it without any help.
Pesto Chicken
Boneless skinless chicken breasts
Pesto sauce (My favorite brand is Artisan Fresh, available at Sam’s Club.)
Garlic salt

Spread pesto in the bottom of a baking dish. Lay the chicken in the pan and season with garlic salt. Then, spread another layer of pesto on the chicken. Cover and bake at 350 for 45 min. Uncover and bake another 10-15 minutes.

Serving ideas:
Serve with buttered pasta.
Slice over a crisp green salad.
Top with steamed veggies and Parmesan cheese.

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