The One Tool that Makes Cooking Fast

sharp knife and cutting board

 

We’re going back to basics today.

If you have any hope of actually getting a meal ready in 15 minutes, you need to have a sharp knife.  If you’re fighting with a dull knife, the prep work will take too much time.  And you’ll probably hate every minute of it.

But listen close – I’m not sure that many food bloggers would say what I’m about to say …

You do not have to have the best knife or the best cutting board.

You only need to have a sharp knife and a decent cutting board or two.

The items you see in the photo above are what I use every day.

For years I used dull knives, mostly because I didn’t have a lot of expendable income.  But when I finally invested in one, I couldn’t believe the difference it made in my prep time.

And when I say invested, I’m only talking about $50.  I bought that knife (which looks oddly small in the photo, even though it’s full size) at Target.  I also bought a $15 knife sharpener to go with it.  So it’s not a cheap purchase, but we’re not talking hundreds of dollars.

The cutting boards are fine, but nothing special.  The large one is bamboo, bought from Walmart about 10 years ago.  The small one I think is from Pampered Chef.  It’s probably older than the bamboo one.

If you’re in need of a sharp knife, get yourself out to the store and buy one.  Don’t forget the sharpener.  And don’t think you have to spend a lot.  If you have the money and want to get higher quality, fine!  Enjoy!  But you can find decent knives for a reasonable price.

 15 Minute Meals for Back to School

This post is part of our new series on 15 Minute Meals.  You can find the other posts in the series linked here.

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3 Things That Worked in the Kitchen This Week – September 8

3 Things that work in the kitchen

 

1.  My 11 year old made Nachos for us!

On Labor Day we took on a big landscaping project.  The weather wasn’t too great and by the time we finished, we looked like we’d been in the Tough Mudder gardening version!  That will happen when it pours the rain while you’re trying to plant 3 trees and 9 bushes.

I knew that I’d be too involved to fix something for lunch so I asked Mia to take charge.  She made a batch of Nachos from start to finish with a little help from her friend who was over to play.  I was so proud of the girls.  She even cleaned up too!

2.  I made another slow cooker freezer meal video (and I’m really excited about something coming your way tomorrow!)

 

I still really hate watching myself on video. And I promise that I do smile in real life! I’ve got to work on that more :)

If you love slow cooker freezer meals, then be sure to tune in to the blog tomorrow. I’ve got a brand new resource for you that I think you’re going to love!

3.  Turned tacos into haystacks.

This isn’t earth shattering, but sometimes it’s nice to hear how meals can be altered.  I put the Smokey Chipotle Chicken Tacos in the slow cooker the other day and then realized that I didn’t have any tortillas.  No problem.  We served them over rice instead.  It was a nice change.

What’s working in your kitchen this week?

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Pre-Cook and Freeze Meats to Make Dinner Quick – 15 Minute Meal Series

Pre-cook and freeze meat

 

One of the things that can slow down dinner prep is dealing with the meat portion.

A beef roast or whole chicken that is frozen is going to take a long while and some hands on work to get it to the table.  Frozen pork chops, chicken breasts or beef steaks won’t take quite as long to thaw and cook, but they still aren’t quick.

My solution to this is to keep my freezer stocked with meats that are already cooked.

Here’s a list of what I like to keep on hand, along with a few links that explain the process of prepping them:

Cooked Chicken

whole chicken in the slow cooker

Whole Chicken in the Slow Cooker

3 Costco Rotisserie Chickens yield 5-6 meals. 13 possible recipes

 

Using Rotisserie Chickens

bbq chicken for fajitas freezer1

 

Freezing grilled chicken

turkey breast in slow cooker

 

Turkey Breast in the Slow Cooker – it’s not chicken, but it works the same way for recipes and soup.

Ground Beef

I usually just brown ground beef and/or sausage on top of the stove.  Rinse it under hot water to remove extra grease and then freeze in a zip top bag.  A quick minute in the microwave is all it takes to thaw.

If you’d like to cook a lot of ground beef easily, try cooking it in the slow cooker.

hamburger in the crock pot

 

Meatballs

meatballs for freezer done

 

Having meatballs cooked and frozen can really speed up dinner.  They are so versatile and can be used for a lot more than rounding out a plate of spaghetti.

Ham and Smoked Sausage

smoked sausage

Both ham and smoked sausage are already cooked.  These meats are wonderful for quick dinners, because you basically just need to heat them.

I don’t do it as often, but cooked beef roast can also be shredded and frozen.  Use it in casseroles or Mexican dishes.

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No Recipe Required + Simple Side Dish(es) = Easy Dinner!

Sometimes you just want to cook without having to put a lot of thought into it.  Or any thought into it.

A while back I wrote a series on No Recipe Required ideas.  Simple things to do with chicken, fish, beef or ground beef.  I may add to this series in the future and cover smoked sausage, ham, pork chops, etc.  But for now, this seems like a good time to show off these posts again.  Sometimes the good stuff gets buried on the blog.

no-recipe-required chicken

 No Recipe Required – Chicken

no-recipe-required-beef

 No Recipe Required – Beef

no-recipe-required-fish

 No Recipe Required – Fish

no-recipe-required-ground-beef

 No Recipe Required – Ground Beef

And because side dishes can get monotonous sometimes, here are 32 simple ideas to pair with the easy meals above.

32 Simple Side Dish Ideas

 32 Simple Side Dish Ideas

What are your favorite no recipe required meals?

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Slow Cooker Freezer Meals in 1 Hour – May Plans

I put together another video for you (embedded at the bottom of this post), showing how I assemble 5-6 slow cooker freezer meals in just one hour.  This time, I grabbed my oldest daughter, Meredith to help me.

Meredith is getting married in less than a month, so I thought it might be good to show her how to stock the freezer quickly with slow cooker meals.

The thing about Meredith is that she is very picky.  She doesn’t like beef or comfort type foods.  She doesn’t like ketchup.  In fact, after the video she told me she tried not to make a face when I added the ketchup to the round steak recipe.  But you can see that she did make a face of dislike!  So funny!

Even after doing quite a few of these videos, I’m still not very comfortable with it.  I’m certainly no professional video maker!  But I hope they are a help to you in getting your own freezer stocked.

The plans, grocery list, recipes and instructions for the May Slow Cooker Freezer Meals are all included for members of the Weekly Meal Plans.  They are scheduled for the week of May 21, but members get access to the whole month at once, so they are downloadable now.

eat at home weekly meal plan slow cooker button

Here are the recipes included for this video.  The plans also have side dishes included.  I didn’t make the Blueberry Crisp in the video, but it’s also freezable and the instructions are included in the plans.

And here’s the video:

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5 Ways to Eat Kale – or what to do with the rest of the bag of kale in the fridge

5 Ways to Eat Kale

 

Weird news:  4 out of 6 of the people in my house have decided that they really like kale.

That’s not something I would have seen coming.  But my youngest two kids actually ask for me to buy kale.  Odd, but true.

Since I’ve been buying it more often, sometimes I end up with part of a bag leftover.  What to do with extra kale?

Here are a few ideas:   [Read more...]

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Basic Chicken Skillet – The Foundation for Lots of Meal Possibilities

Basic Chicken Skillet. Start here to create many meals.

 

You know how you can create a lot of outfits if you start with a few basic pieces and add in accessories?

You can do the same thing with food.

If you start with a skillet of chicken, onions, garlic and green pepper you can create all kinds of fantastic meals.

Accessorize with tomatoes, basil, oregano and parmesan and have Italian chicken over pasta.

Embellish with Greek seasoning and serve it in a pita.

Accent with white wine, cream cheese, chicken broth and serve it over steamed spinach.

The possibilities are endless!  I’ve got several recipes ready to share that start with this skillet.  This is going to be a series of sorts, but I’m not going to tie it to one day of the week or give it a specific ending date.

I love the idea of starting with a few simple ingredients and creating meals from there.  And I’d love to hear your ideas too!  This is the kind of thing that you can start with the basics and add what you find in your kitchen.  No recipe needed.

Here’s what you’ll need for the Basic Chicken Skillet:   [Read more...]

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Using a Pressure Cooker

pressurecooker

Several months ago I bought a pressure cooker (here’s the link to the Cuisnart Pressure Cooker I bought).  I purchased it because I was curious.  People had left comments on the blog and Facebook mentioning that they were using one or asking questions.  So in the name of blog research, I hit the “buy now” button on Amazon.

I’m still learning to make full use of it, but I’ve discovered a few things that I really do like it for.   [Read more...]

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How to Choose a Slow Cooker

how to choose a slow cookerOne of the questions I get asked most often is, “What is the best kind of slow cooker to buy?”

I don’t know that there is one best model of slow cooker.  You certainly don’t need the latest and greatest to make delicious meals for your family.  But there are a few things to consider before buying.   [Read more...]

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George Foreman Grill Cooking

I don’t use my George Foreman grill very often, but it is handy for certain things.  I especially like using it for fish (more on that below).

The biggest advantage of this small appliance is that it cooks fast!

Tips for Cooking on a George Foreman Grill

First, watch the cooking times closely.  The speedy cooking can lead to dry meat if you aren’t careful.  I use the info that came with the grill to guide how long to cook foods.  I also set the timer on my stove so that I don’t get busy and overcook the food.

The other big tip I have is to add sauces at the end of the cooking time.  Brushing meat with barbecue sauce before cooking causes the sauce to burn.  Not the taste I want.  Instead, I cook the meat and then add the sauce after taking it from the grill.

What to Cook on a George Foreman Grill   [Read more...]

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