Category Archives: food

How to learn to cook without being overwhelmed

Kitchen utensils for bakery cooking on color background, Top vie

Does learning to cook sound like an exhausting, mentally overwhelming task to take to you?

Here’s a little secret. When I got married, I could. not. cook. I’m not exaggerating. Hamburger Helper was a feat. Dry chicken was my specialty. We were not bringing home much money, but I know some months our dining out spending inched a little too close to 4 digits. A large portion of that was due to my husband traveling for work, but still – it was ridiculous.

So what changed? How do I now enjoy cooking and actually cook meals my family asks for over and over? Well, the reason behind it was that I didn’t exactly have a choice. Our location and budget changed, forcing me to get serious about feeding my family (of 5 then) at home. However, I’ve put together a few things that helped me along the way and will hopefully also help to make your journey from drive thru extraordinaire to dinner bell(e) queen a little easier. If I can successfully learn to cook and actually find some joy in it, I’m certain pretty much anyone else can too.

*this article contains affiliate links*

  1. Start SUPER Simple
    Super duper simple. When I first started cooking, I’d search for things like “3 ingredient _________” or “4 ingredient ___________.” No joke. If it had too many ingredients or steps, I skipped it. Learning a totally new skill is overwhelming enough with 3 kids 3 and under at my feet. I sure didn’t need 15 steps and/or 10 ingredients, 4 of which I had never heard of! You will be surprised how much you can cook with only a few ingredients. You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated dishes for it to taste good.
  2. Make Your Own Seasonings
    Making your own taco or fajita seasoning is a great way to dip your toes into cooking from scratch! The actual cooking process isn’t much different (if at all) from using the pre-packaged seasonings, it’s healthier, and you can tailor it to suit your tastes!
  3. Get a Slow Cooker
    A slow cooker can make many recipes less complicated. There are tons of recipes out there that only require dumping in the ingredients, stirring, and then waiting on that slow cooker to do it’s thing. Soups, pulled pork sandwiches, and bbq chicken, are all quick and very easy with this method. (Check out my Slow Cooker Pinterest board here.)
  4. Get Organized with Meal Planning
    THIS was a huge one for me. The phrase “meal planning” sounds way more intimidating than it actually is. Meal planning just means an organized method to plan out your meals and keep track of what you are planning to eat and cook. Find a calendar arrangement you like, and write it all down, even if it’s just frozen pizza for lunch. Make a plan! I also recommend putting notes on the calendar for anything you have going on that would interfere with being able to spend time in the kitchen. DO NO TRY FANCY NEW RECIPES ON BUSY DAYS. Kids have practice? Not a good day for trying a new recipe with 15 steps. That’s a day for a sandwich, maybe a new hot sandwich. Maybe not.

    I’ve done a few articles about the methods I’ve used for meal planning. I started out putting pen to paper, which I still recommend for meal planning newbies, as mentioned here, and more recently I have switched to using an online planner subscription, Plan to Eat, which I shared about here. For both methods I prefer a full monthly calendar layout, even if I’m only planning a week or two at a time. It works best for my life, but feel free to do a weekly layout if that works better for you.

  5. Do not get too discouraged when that recipe everyone raved about online tastes terrible.
    It doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. Sometimes you follow a recipe exactly, and it just tastes bad. lol I’ve thrown a few in the trash after just a few bites. A couple never even made it to the table. I’m not a picky eater either, so those were rough.
  6. Get disposable dishes.
    This one is probably going to be a bit controversial, but stick with me. I’m not saying use paper plates every meal for 6 months. (Well, if you want to, do your thing, but that’s not what I’m getting at here.) You’re saving money compared to your previous dining out spending habits, so invest in some disposable plates or bowls for nights when you are planning to try a more complicated or time consuming meal. If you finish cooking and you feel proud of the meal you have prepared, you may just decide you would rather eat it on your regular dishes. You also might decide that was a lot of mental work, and it definitely took longer than the 15 minute prep time the recipe claimed and opt for an evening with less dishes.

These are just a few of the things that helped me as I taught myself to cook. Have you taught yourself to cook? If so, I’d love for you to share any other tips you may have in the comments.

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Filed under food, Homemaking

How I Removed Gum from our TV with Peanut Butter

Today I put peanut butter and bathroom cleaner on my plasma tv.

No, I haven’t lost my mind, though I almost did when I saw that my four year old had stretched his bubble gum across the screen of our 42-inch plasma television. Yes, this post is about bubble gum removal. I have no idea what the boy thought he was doing, but his reasoning was, “I was trying to have fun by myself.” How is this the same kid that was out of bed, dressed, and making his bed at 6:45 this morning? I have no idea. Nevertheless, bubble gum is not an easy thing to remove from any surface, much less that of a television screen.

After my attempts to pull off the larger pieces were only somewhat successful, I decided to consult my trusty friend Google.
I found this helpful article on ehow.com.

The article said I would need creamy peanut butter {check}, bathroom cleaner in a spray bottle {check}, and a clean microfiber cloth {check}.

That’s right. With a little creamy peanut butter, a spray bottle of bathroom cleaner, and microfiber cloth, you can remove smeared gum from a plasma tv screen. Some of the worst spots did require smearing the peanut butter in really good with the cloth prior to wipe off, and a few tiny spots had to be scratched off with my fingernail, but overall it was a pretty simple process. Thank goodness for the Internet!

I didn’t get a before picture, but here is a during and after of the process.

 

tv screen

 

television after gum was removed

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Filed under daily adventures, food, funny, raising boys, tips & tricks

Emily’s Broccoli Cheese Soup {a no meat meal my husband actually liked!!}

I try really hard to carefully plan out our meals every two weeks. I browse through my notebook of tried recipes and my boards on Pinterest, print recipes, carefully check ingredient lists with what I have on hand, and make my grocery list. However, the reality of it is, all this usually occurs on on a Friday or Saturday afternoon while my kids are running around playing, fighting, and asking for a snack or help in the bathroom every 45 seconds. It’s a wonder I even make it to the store with a list, much less a list that will actually result in yummy meals. There’s always that one recipe that I totally goof up on. It never fails. I forget to write down an ingredient on my shopping list, I look at a jar of sauce or a spice in my cabinet wrong, or I under estimate how much of something my kids will devour before I get around to actually cooking the meal. Then I never realize it until I’m in the middle of prepping that meal. Happens every time.

Last week it was this recipe for Broccoli Cheddar Soup. The original post claims it to be a great copycat of Panera’s broccoli cheddar soup. I can’t help ya there. I’ve never actually had the broccoli cheddar soup at Panera, so I have no idea how close it is, or even what that recipe tastes like. 🙂 If someone tries it though, let me know how it turns out. My version of that recipe turned out great, so that’s what I’ll be making from now on. It even got a thumbs up from my husband. I am quite certain this is the ONLY non-meat soup recipe that he has ever said that about. He’s pretty darn picky about soup. He basically likes meat and vegetables with a bit of liquid. So here it is…

 

Emily’s Broccoli Cheese Soup
(makes 4 servings)

Ingredients
1/2 stick of butter (I may have used a tbsp more)
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups half and half
3 cups homemade chicken stock
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4  tsp. nutmeg
2 bay leaves
1 large and 1 small carrot, chopped
1 head of broccoli florets (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 cups grated marble cheddar cheese
1 8 oz. bar colby jack cheese, cubed
Salt & Pepper to taste

measuring cup of cheese

 

IMG_5103

 

Directions:
Cook butter, onion, and garlic on medium heat until tender
Slowly add half and half and chicken stock.
In small bowl, mix the corn starch with a little water and stir until smooth.
Add corn starch mixture.
Add nutmeg and bay leaves .
Cook on medium until it has thickened.
Add the carrot and broccoli and simmer until desired tenderness.
Spoon out the bay leaves and discard them.
Add the cheese.
Stir until the cheese is completely melted.
Add salt & pepper, serve, and enjoy!

broccoli and cheese soup

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Filed under food, Food & Drink, recipe

{Recipe} Baked Chicken Strips

This recipe was a hit at our house tonight! It was toddler approved!

http://www.food.com/recipe/crispy-baked-chicken-strips-89503

For the crackers, I used Great Value butter crackers. That’s just what I had on hand.
I also had a lot of crushed crackers left over, so I sprinkled some on top after I had them on the baking sheet, and still dumped some in the trash.

Servings: 2

Units: US

Ingredients:

2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1 egg, beaten
2 cups finely crushedcracker crumbs or 2 cups plain breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt or 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon chili powder

Directions:

1 Cut chicken breasts into thin strips, about one inch wide.
2 Longer sections can be cut in half to have uniform pieces.
3 Mix cracker crumbs and seasonings well.
4 Dip chicken pieces into egg mixture, then dredge in crumb mixture.
5 Place on baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.
6 Bake at 375 degrees F, for 10-12 minutes, until crispy on outside and lightly browned.
7 Dip into favorite sauce, or enjoy just as they are!

Read more: http://www.food.com/recipe/crispy-baked-chicken-strips-89503#ixzz1Z7QUNKLv

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