Kitchen Organization

It seems everyone has their own way of organizing the kitchen, the pantry, and don’t get me started on the variety of ways in which we as people load the dishwasher. When my husband Daniel first moved in with me I was already well established in my first apartment where I had managed to organize the tiny kitchen so that it worked well for me and my style of cooking.

Daniel however, was used to a professional kitchen with everything within hands reach to do exactly what needed to be done. As it was, the way my kitchen was set up was illogical in his eyes. Over the first year of us living together, we made some minor changes to its organization, but it was never quiet perfect for Daniel and he would constantly explain how certain items would have been better placed in such and such location.

When setting up our new apartment, I took special care in organizing the layout of our kitchen based on the constant complaints and exclamations Daniel had made at the last apartment. The following is how I did it.

Pots/Pans:kitchen-487973_640

Place all pots and pans in the drawer attached to the stove, if you do not have one of these you have two more options.

  • Place pots and pans on a rack that hangs over head.
  • In a Cupboard that is next to or closest to the stove, particularly one that sits on the ground, as they tend to be larger than the overhead cupboards.

Also, place all metal baking sheets, steamers, rotisseries, and serving platters in a cupboard closest to the stove.

Cups:

Drink-ware should all be in a top cupboard nearest the fridge.

Note: do not put in cupboard above the fridge as this is very hard to reach. This cupboard should be used for rarely used items and or alcohol/ other products you would like to keep out of the reach of children.

Plates/Bowls:

Keep plates and bowls together in a cupboard that’s easy to view while standing in front of. Keep large mixing bowls here as well if you can. Keeping your mixing bowls here makes it easier to locate when you are thinking to yourself I need a bowl.

Tableware:

Keep all tableware in a drawer either nearest the edge of the kitchen for easy grabbing on the way out/ when you forget to grab one or place in a drawer beneath the location of your plates/bowls.

Hand Tools:

Spatulas, tongs, whisks, basting brush and bulb etc. etc. The items you use frequently should be in a cylindrical container on the counter near the stove, all others that do not get used often or that do not sit properly in the cylinder should be placed in their own drawer nearest the stove.

spice-rack-1650037_640

Seasonings/ Cooking Oils:

Place in a cupboard/ on a shelf that is close to eye level near the stove (we had extra cupboard space in our apartment so one cupboard holds spices at eye level and another holds the cooking oils, extra rice, and cooking wine in a bottom cupboard since the shelves were taller.)

Tub-a-ware:

Do your best to keep Tub-a-ware mess exclusively on one shelf of your cabinets though ideally somewhere that is easy to see and grab from. We have two shelves of tub-a-ware one of which is a mess and contains the plastic cheap to-go containers. On the second shelf it is much better organized, this is where we keep our nicer glassware tub-a-ware.

Baking Dishes:

Put these in an easily accessible location especially if you use your oven a lot, you want to be able to easily locate the proper dish.

Kitchen Gadgets:

There are many different types of gadgets from toasters and can openers to mixers and electric grills; anyone who’s lived on their own long enough has collected at least a few of these gadgets. For the gadgets, you use every day its best to find an out of the way location on your counter-top, preferably near a wall outlet. We keep four such gadgets on our counters including the electric can opener, toaster, coffee maker, and the base of our blender.

As for our Microwave, we thought it better to save counter space for food prep by placing it on a small wooden table, which also acts as a holder for our recipe books. We have an eat-in kitchen so the table sits easily in the corner of our dining area.

Other suggestions for where to put the Microwave include:

  • In the pantry
  • Above the fridge
  • On your counter top if you have the space

So what about all those gadgets you don’t use on a daily basis?

Well in my case, they are placed out of the way in a bottom cupboard, as you don’t use them very often there is less concern to be had about visualization of these items, and placing them one behind another is not a big deal. Just be aware of the order in which you place them. If you use your crock pot more often than your electric griddle, don’t place the griddle in front of the crock pot.

Pitchers/Vases:pitcher-1259521_640

I keep all my unused vases under the sink and as for my unused pitchers; I keep them above the fridge. The cupboard above my fridge is a little taller than some so I like to place tall/awkward items that don’t get used very often in this location as it is out of the way.

Note: My Oven mitts hang off a plastic door hook usually reserved for hanging jackets on the backs of doors. I took an extra one that I had and hooked it over one of the cupboards near the stove. It is the perfect place for quick retrieval of oven mitts when I need them and it holds five perfectly.

Junk Drawer:

There is a junk drawer in just about every house, and more often than not, it is located in the kitchen. Though you don’t necessarily have to fill every drawer I understand the need to do so. In order to prevent the creation of a junk drawer in my kitchen I put assorted lids and straws in one drawer. I then put extra rags for cleaning and using in the process of a quick microwave steam in another drawer. My other drawers holds large utensils like tongs that don’t get used very often. The fourth and final drawer holds the silverware.

Please share some of your kitchen organization tips in the comments:

Advertisements

Deep Cleaning Your Kitchen

There are four main steps to keeping your kitchen clean.

1) doing the dishes

2) wiping down the counters

3) taking out the trash

4) sweeping/mopping the floors.

However, there are a number of other areas that you should really think about giving a scrub down to:

fridge drawers and shelveskitchen-2165756_640

behind the sink

electric can opener

cabinet doors

stove fan

microwave

pantry

cabinet drawers

top of fridge

oven

pot and pan drawer under stove

silver ware organizer

All of the areas I just listed are places that most people forget about or ignore. Many people like to do their yearly cleaning in the spring, me I like to get it done at least once a season in order to make sure my home is as clean and de-cluttered as I can make it.

Many people are busy and I understand this, but if you could just take a few hours one day every three months to do the following steps you would find your kitchen to be cleaner and a more inviting place to eat.

I hope that many of you already clean up messes as they occur, but I also know that some messes go unnoticed or kids and other family members may not be so great at cleaning up after themselves instead leaving disarrays behind them like some sort of spinning tornado everywhere they go. It is for these build ups of uncleanliness that this article is for. Now let us deep clean that kitchen.

clean-571679_1280

Step 1: Easy enough wash the dishes, any dish that is dirty in the house, score every child’s room, bathroom, living room, and play area to make sure that not a single dish is missed. Also, don’t forget to empty the fridge of all those un-eaten leftovers that have long since gone bad sitting in the back of the fridge.

After washing dishes thoroughly in the sink, place them in the dishwasher for proper sanitization. After all, you don’t know how long that cup was growing mold, or how long that pork chop was sitting in that glass bowl.

Step 2: At this point you likely want to take the trash out, as cleaning up the rest of the kitchen won’t be easy with it smelling like the entire last month’s decaying leftovers. While you are at it wipe down the inside of your trash can with soap and water to help prevent bacteria growth from smelling up your home.

dishes-1348213_640Step 3: After all of the dishes have been washed and put away wipe down the counter using your preferred cleaner, I really like method all purpose  grapefruit scented cleaner and their mint glass surface cleaner. Wipe down the counter tops and don’t forget to scrub behind the sink nozzle you will be surprised by the number of food particles and even mold that can form in that area simply because no one thinks to clean it. Also be sure to pick up all counter top appliances and clean beneath them as well.

Step 4: While your hands are on all those appliances give them a wipe down as well. This is also, where we get to the electric can opener. The cleaning of this area may require some special tools in order to make sure you can get into all of the little nooks and crannies of the gears. I recommend using the small part of a bottle cleaner as well as a strong cleaning formula in order to make sure the bacteria is killed. Note it is important to be careful not to stick yourself with the blade while you are cleaning, as it is very sharp.

Step 5: We often don’t think to clean out the inside of our cabinet drawers, but often our drawers get left open allowing dirt, food particles, and dust to make their way in over time. Give your utensils a good rinse or give them a quick sanitizing  through the dishwasher, wipe down the inside of the drawers with a food safe cleaner I like method all purpose for this one. All while your cleaning out these drawers make sure you wipe down all parts of your silverware organizer too after all these things can often become a place for dirt and food particles to gather especially since you often are holding plates of food as you open them and all kinds of crumbs can fall in there.

Step 6: Wipe down the front of all cabinet doors (especially if your cabinets are white, all that cooking can cause grime to build up creating discoloration).

Step 7: Wipe down the top part of your fridge, you will find the most dust collects up here.

Step 8: Wipe down the part of the stove fan that juts out from the wall, when you are cooking with things like oil and steam this area can easily build up with grime as a result of evaporation, dust also likes to accumulate here making for a nasty spot gathering right over the location where you’re doing your cooking. Gross!

Step 9: I’m sure this is an area you are constantly attempting to keep clean, but I feel its worth mentioning anyway, clean your stove tops, remove the burners and soak the drip pans scrubbing with steel wool for those more persistent burn spots. A good way to prevent having to constantly clean these is to wrap them with aluminum foil, doing this allows you to remove the foil when it gets too dirty and just add a new clean one. For those who do a lot of cooking on the stove-top this can be a major time saver.

gloves-415390_1280Step 10: I used to use an oven cleaner to clean my oven, but the fumes from that can be very toxic so I have since switched to using baking soda and vinegar.

Step 11: Don’t forget if you have a drawer beneath the oven that holds your pots and pans, this area often gets ignored. This is very unfortunate as food is very often dropped into this drawer while you are cooking and preparing meals, be sure and remove all the pots and pans and clean this drawer out with all purpose method cleaner.

Step 12: The microwave, this is a spot everyone hates to clean, but so often it requires cleaning, remember the inner glass circle can often be removed and sent through the dishwasher. For easy cleaning, put a bowl of vinegar in the microwave for two minutes, then wipe down with a sponge.

Step 13: Clean the fridge inside and out. Use bleach cleaner on the shelves and drawers. Pull all food products out before commencing the cleaning, throw out all expired items at this time after all no point in putting spoiled food back into the clean fridge. Be sure to remove the drawers and shelves individually in order to get to the back most parts of the fridge as often times when spills occur we don’t think of the possible mess they are making down the back part of the fridge. Also, give the top of the inner fridge a good wipe down as well. Be sure to do the same with your freezer after all it gets messy too.

Step 14: Clean out your pantry, throw out expired and empty food boxes. Wipe down the shelves, and sweep the bottom part of the floor. Dust off all the cans that have been sitting for a while and donate anything you know will not be eaten, but is still considered good. Place the older cans in the front and newer cans in the back.

Step 15: Finally, the last step sweep and mop your floors.

 

If you have any kitchen cleaning tips you would like to share or feel I may have missed something please leave a comment below.

Instacart

I recently mentioned in my 15 month baby post that I had begun a new job working for Instacart. Instacart is a grocery delivery site that shops and delivers groceries directly to your door. It offers an excellent opportunity to pick up extra cash if you are working with them, but also saves you a lot of time and energy if you use the delivery system.

You can use either the online website or the app. Its as simple as going to the website inputting your zip code and setting up your account. You can then select your preferred store and select the items you want. The list will be sent to a shopper who will pick up everything from the store and place it on a shelf, in a fridge, or in a freezer until a delivery driver can pick it up and deliver it to your door. Your first delivery is free, and if you use my promo code BGREGORY45152 you can get a $5 coupon off your first order.

If you are interested in working for Instacart you can use the same code as a means of helping with your hiring process. Payment is in the form of minimum wage, but you also receive “TIPS.”In the end you can average anywhere from $12-$25 per hour. The best part for me is that they take out the taxes so their is no guess work at the end of the year. I’ve only been working it a few weeks, but I average about $50-60 per day when I work. I only work about 1-3 days a week.

Expiration Vs. Use By Dates

Have you ever noticed how some food items will have expiration dates, whereas others simply have use by dates? Did you ever stop to consider that their is a reason beyond simple dialectic choice that determines which phrasing is used?

As it turns out, their is a purpose in the phrasing. Items with a use by date are marked as such, because the product has the possibility of staying good beyond this date, however it is recommended that it be used by a specific date in order to assure optimum freshness and usability.

milk-518067_1280An expiration date, as should be made obvious by its precarious position on milk, eggs, and cheese is the date by which foods are expected to go bad. As most people know just because the day of expiration has arrived does not necessarily mean that the milk is bad on that day, in fact sometimes the milk does not sour for a few days following the date of expiration. This is where the smell test comes into place. Of course if there is ever any doubt about a products safety in terms of consumability based on smell, taste, or consistency of texture its probably best to just throw it out and buy a fresh version.

My favorite tip on how to use up the last of the milk before it goes bad:

Pick up a few packages of Martha White Muffin Mix and make a bunch of breakfast muffins for the week or weekend. Add 1/2 cup milk to mix stir and pour into 6 muffin tins, place in oven at designated temperature and time according to packaging and your done. You got to use up the last of the milk before it went bad, and you have a tasty breakfast or snack for the week.

20150415_234952

How to Find the Perfect Recipe Book?

There are literally thousands perhaps even millions of different recipe books available in the world, so how do you pick the one or three that will be right for you?
pizza-296036_1280The easiest place to begin when choosing the perfect recipe book is by deciding on the particular cuisine, cooking style, or diet you and your family often cook within and/or want to switch to. Perhaps you are trying to incorporate a vegetable-based diet, or maybe you desire to go gluten free. Perhaps you are much simpler than that and just want a few different recipe books to help bring a more varied culture spin to your week-to-week or month-to-month meal planning. Whatever your culinary interest, be sure to choose one that will prove useful for years down the line. Do not buy a cookbook of nothing, but baking recipes if your family is not the type to eat multiple baked goods on at least a monthly to bi-monthly basis.
Ok so let us say your family is trying to do meatless Mondays, and you want to invest in a cookbook related to vegetarianism to give you some ideas for meal planning. The next step to finding the perfect cookbook is by finding a location that sells a variety of different books, though Amazon may have a large variation of cookbooks, but I find used bookstores to be much more appealing for this type of search. The reason I suggest taking your search to a used bookstore is that you are likely to find a greater variety of recipe books including ones that never quiet made it to Amazon. This variety will help assure to find the book that is going to be most helpful to you. Of course if you either A) Don’t have a used book store nearby or B) Just prefer the scrolling search of the internet no problem the rest of the suggestions I’m going to give will help you out just as much.
So you are at the store standing in front of the large mass of recipe books dedicated solely to vegetarian cuisine or book-23476_1280whatever theme you decided to follow or explore during this recipe book quest.
3 Things to Avoid:
1. Books that require the use of a certain kitchen tool i.e microwave cooking, crock-pot, one skillet meals ect. (If you are looking for quick meal suggestions, I recommend the search of these be done on the internet vs a cookbook every time.) For suggestions on recipe sites see my article 4 Recipe Inspiration Sites.
2. Books that are clearly from circa 1990 or later these books are filled with what we know today to be not so healthy ingredients i.e large portions of butter, and lard.
3. Be wary of books with one ingredient as the center point. Example Cooking With Cheese, you want any cookbook you get to include recipes filled with a variety of different ingredients cookbooks having a focus on one ingredient don’t end up being very useful in terms of long term use for a home kitchen.
3 Things to Look At:
recipe-312959_12801. When picking out the perfect cookbook, choose a book that has a variety of recipes, turn to the table of contents page check the number of chapters or sections make sure the book is offering a variety. One of my favorite recipe books entitled The Best Recipe Italian Classic by the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine has 14 chapters ranging from Antipasti to Fish and Shellfish. They also cover Fruit Desserts, Biscotti, Crostate, and Cakes. If you want a recipe book that is going to last you awhile I highly recommend one with multiple chapters.
2. Look to make sure the recipes are laid out in an easy to read fashion, are the ingredients lists obvious and separate from the directions? Do the recipes indicate the number of servings the recipe is designed to make? Is the font clear, readable, and large enough for you to read? Are the recipes spaced out well enough that you will not get lost while trying to read the steps in a hurry as you cook?
3. Finally, read through a few of the recipes turn to random pages throughout the different chapters of the book to determine if the recipes actually sound appetizing, I’ve made the mistake in the past of buying recipe books only to read through them and find that I did not like half of the recipes I found within. Be sure to purchase a book that’s recipes make you think tasty, yummy, or I can’t wait to get this book home so I can cook that.

Happy Recipe Book Hunting!!!

What’s in Season for Spring: 5 Must Try Recipe’s

A new season is just a couple of days away the northern hemisphere will officially swing into Spring this Friday March 20th and just as with any new season new vegetables and fruits go on sale. So which fruits and vegetables are in season during the next three months of Spring? Click here to find out.

Spring is definitely one of the most beautiful times of the year as the flowers come out to bloom, the weather is nice and cool, neither too cold or too hot (depending on exactly where you live that is). My favorite part of Spring is the blooming of the wild flowers along the highways and scattered across peoples yards. I love being able to finally open up my windows wide to let in a cool breeze, air out the house, and catch some natural light that has been long missed in the crazy cloudy gray months of winter. Yes Spring is definitely a refreshing renewal of all things…well…Fresh. Here are just Five of my favorite Spring time recipes complete with Spring time fruits and vegetables.

appetite-2038_1280

#1 Asparagus- I shared this recipe not that many weeks back and I must say as far as Spring Time goes this is one of my favorites!

Check out my amazing side dish/snack of baked Sea Salt Asparagus Here.

#2 Lettuce, Lettuce, Lettuce (I will be doing a full article just on this topic later in the season, but I must say I can’t get enough lettuces, and green leafies. Salads, are my go to in these Spring Time months. In fact, just last night I served myself a big bowl of salad made with Butter Lettuce (believe it or not there’s no actual butter involved) and a side of baked fish. Super delicious. My favorite way to make a salad?

One of my many salad experiments!

One of my many salad experiments!

Favorite lettuce (I like just about any and every leaf that I can happily eat raw), but my most favorite would have to be a combination of butter lettuce and the boxed SPRING Mix that you can get at most big box stores.

Chopped Red, Yellow, or Orange Bell of course!!!

English Cucumber Chopped

Handful of Cheese (Feta is my favorite though these days I’m using shredded American cheese)

Croutons

If all I’m eating is a salad for a meal then I also like to add some type of protein

Either 1/3rd can of Kidney or Black beans, Grilled Chicken, Sliced Portobello mushrooms, or 2 Deviled Eggs

Then my favorite dressing I really like Kraft’s Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette as well as their Red Pepper Vinaigrette

Broccoli Steak, I cook mine on a cast iron stove top grill!!

Broccoli Steak, I cook mine on a cast iron stove top grill!!

#3 Broccoli Steak

Growing up I was a “weird” kid and loved Broccoli in fact it was my favorite vegetable I could eat it all day long raw, steamed, or covered in cheese it didn’t much matter to me. I still love broccoli today, and during my four year stint as a vegetarian I learned of unique ways to turn my favorite vegetable into an awesome main course! Broccoli Steak is just like it sounds it’s a full steak of broccoli, super simple to make it’s nearly impossible to mess it up.

Step 1: Take a large full head of Fresh Broccoli, Cut in half lengthwise down the stem, you should on average be able to make about four Steaks from one head of broccoli.

Step 2: Place on hot grill, you may choose to baste the broccoli steaks with Panzo sauce (Next time your having sushi at a sushi restaurant just ask for a couple of little to go containers of this awesome sauce.). You can also just baste with butter salt and pepper or, you don’t really have to add seasoning at all if your like me and just love broccoli. The slight charring the steaks will receive from the grill will provide the broccoli with all the flavor it really needs.

Step 3: Once the grill marks are noticeable on both sides of the broccoli steaks it really shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes total to cook the steaks (and even that might be too long depending on what kind of heat you are using so keep an eye on them). Once fully cooked, plate and serve.

#4 Mango

This is how my Husband cuts my mango. He's got Knife Skills!!!

This is how my Husband cuts my mango. He’s got Knife Skills!!!

Personally I prefer to just chop these little devils up and eat them raw, there isn’t much I would do to change a Mango

however for some awesome Mango recipe’s try clicking here. Some of the most common uses for mango are in Mango salsa, but there are also some more creative ideas like Mango Blueberry Muffins with Coconut Streusel

Also you might think of adding them to a smoothie, or if you have enough turning them into Sherbert, YUM!!!

#5 Fennel Chicken

I love to do baked chicken in the oven and I enjoy getting creative with the seasonings, one of the yummiest recipes I’ve tried involved using Fennel, garlic, salt, and pepper. It was very delicious!!!

This is what Fennel looks like.

This is what Fennel looks like.

Have a Happy Spring!!! Please share what awesome recipes you enjoy during these three months of the year in the comments below.

How to Create a Gourmet Kitchen on a Budget?

When I say Gourmet Kitchen I don’t necessarily mean it the way they do on TLC. For me a gourmet kitchen isn’t about the big kitchen island or the ten burner stove. It also does not include white cabinets (in fact even if I meant it the way they do on TLC it wouldn’t involve white cabinets). Am I the only one who’s noticed the way in which white cabinets tend to get ridiculously dirty, especially if you do a lot of cooking in the kitchen? Anyway that will have to be a different article all together. Let me give you my definition of a gourmet kitchen. A gourmet kitchen is one that is easy to cook in and has all of your necessary tools on hand. This should be possible in even an apartment sized kitchen.

kitchen-563548_1280

So where do you begin? How do you create a gourmet kitchen on a little budget and with limited space.

First, you need to organize your kitchen and get an understanding of what utensils you have what they can be used for and what items you don’t have that could help you in broadening your cooking abilities. For ways of organizing your kitchen please see my article Kitchen Organization: From Junk Drawer to Microwave Placement. As far as understanding what items you are in need of consider a cooking style or trick you have always wanted to try, but have been unable to as a result of not having the right tools.

A few questions to ask yourself:

Do I have sharp non-serrated knives for cutting meats, vegetables, and cheeses?

Do I have pie dishes to cook my own pies at home?

Do I have baking pans for both square and round cakes?

Do I have at least a twelve cup baking pan for cupcakes and muffins?

Do I have at least 1 large pot in which to make large portions of soup or chili?

My family eats a lot of rice do I have a rice cooker?

Do I have a crock pot? Can Opener, strainer, food processor?

These are all examples of things that I’ve had to ask myself in terms of being able to make certain dishes, sometimes I had the necessary items, other times I did not. In fact there are still items I could really use around my kitchen. What’s on my kitchen wish list you might ask?

My Wish List

A strainer for making soup (I’m talking one with holes that are really small).

A large pot and I mean one that can hold a few gallons worth of material for larger soup portions.

Rice cooker

Crock Pot

Emulsifier

Food Thermometer

These are items that would really open up my ability to cook a wide variety of interesting items. As it is though I would consider my kitchen to be pretty Gourmet in that there are a lot of amazing things I am able to cook as a result of it. From my dehydrator to my wok there’s a lot of items I wouldn’t give up for the world. To see my kitchen must haves please click here.

So what your hearing is that you need some pretty cool gadgets in order to have a gourmet kitchen and your probably thinking this is beginning to sound expensive. However, it doesn’t have to be, some of these items can be picked up for cheap at garage sales, and thrift stores such as Goodwill and Army Surplus. Many of these items also go on sale for cheep at different big box stores like Walmart, Costco, and Target. Even H.E.B for those that live in Texas has amazing deals on kitchen items. Also if you have kitchen savvy friends see if they are planning to get rid of anything in exchange for something better. My husband and I got a lot of our stuff because friends and family either didn’t use it anymore or because they had updated to a newer model even though their current one still works.

kitchen-242083_1280

As far as that island goes, if your really searching for extra counter space in your home than think about purchasing a moveable island from your local department store, many of them also come with bar stools to provide extra seating for when guests come over. They fold away easily and work well as space savers.

Wishing you a happy How to Tuesday!!!

Perfect Asparagus Recipe

This recipe is perfect as a side dish or snack, I love cooking up a batch of these to put as a side for spaghetti, burgers, and chicken. Super delicious I can’t get enough of this easy fabulous recipe.

Ingredients:

Asparagus

Sea Salt

Olive Oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

Cut the fibrous ends off of the Asparagus typically they are slightly white at the end

Place on a baking sheet lay flat

Drizzle Olive Oil over the top of the Asparagus

Pick up the tray and move slight side to side allowing gravity to move the oil to so it covers as much of the asparagus as possible.

Sprinkle a thin layer of sea salt over the asparagus.

20150207_134325

Place in the oven.

Depending on how much asparagus you use I should take anywhere between 5-15 minutes to cook to a slight crisp.

How to tell if it’s done:

The ends will be crispy and a dark forest green in color.

You should also be able to hear the popping of the oil.

The main part of the stem will be slightly shriveled.

10 Ingredients Every Kitchen Should Keep In-Stock

They say the best way to saving money on groceries is to pre-plan your menu every week, however I don’t always know what I want to eat right now, much less in five days from now. I also tend to get overly focused and forget for long hours at a time that I’m supposed to be eating. This often brings about the need to whip up something tasty and delicious in my kitchen, many times without a recipe and without an idea of what sort recipe I could create with the randomness that I choose to purchase at the store most recently. It is for this reason that I always make sure to have certain ingredients on hand, because I know if I have them it doesn’t matter what crazy things I purchased at the store I will be able to make something that tastes amazing.  Here are my 10 ingredients for every do it yourself recipe and examples on how to use them.

Ingredient #1: Mushrooms portobello-235018_1280

I prefer the baby portobellos myself, these are a great ingredient to have when it comes to making soup, sandwiches, stir fry, taco filling and or for the topping on a salad. They pack in an extra protein punch wherever you need it most and they cook up quickly. My favorite mushroom recipe involves sauteing them in soy sauce with some dried oregano, garlic powder, and dried parsley. I then place them between to pieces of french bread with a little spring mix, salad dressing, cucumber slices, and a slice of mozzarella cheese of course I toast the bread and the cheese before applying the vegetables. Its super delicious.

Ingredient #2: Chicken

This ingredient isn’t usually very helpful when you are needing to make a meal quickly, however when the hour to begin cooking dinner comes around and you have absolutely no idea what to make it is always handy to be able to pull out some type of chicken. After all its a very versatile meat that can be used in over a thousand different ways.

Ingredient #3: Spaghetti Sauce

I always keep between 2 and three large cans of spaghetti sauce on hand at all times. There is of course the obvious way in which Spaghetti Sauce is used, in the quick cooking of spaghetti. For me Spaghetti sauce is also great to have around if you are wanting to make a tomato soup base, when I make spicy soup I generally always want it to have a tomato broth.

sweet-potato-534874_1280Ingredient #4: Potatoes (and sweet potatoes)

The spud is an ingenious ingredient to have, versatile it can be cut to make fries or hash-browns, used as soup and pie filling. Of course theirs the whole Baked Potato recipe as well just about anything will taste good when placed atop a steaming hot freshly baked potato.

Ingredient #5: Canned Beans

I really enjoy Kidney, and Black Beans they are easily topped on salads or mixed into Spaghetti for an extra protein kick. Getting them canned means the step of having to soak and then wait for them to cook is skipped. I also enjoy using the black beans on my tacos and taco salads.

As you May have noticed the majority of my ingredients have so far been Protein related, I assume this is left over from my four year stint as a vegetarian (minus the chicken of course that’s a new thing). For the next five ingredients I’m going to place more focus on the simple ingredients that get used on a regular bases in my house during the cooking process.

Ingredient #6: Onions

Whether its soup, stir fry, or something completely new every other recipe made in my kitchen it seems uses onions. This is a great tool for adding either sweet or spicy to your food of course it all depends on what kind of onion you use and how you choose to cook this ingenious ingredient.

Ingredient #7: Bell Pepperspaprika-319381_1280

In case you hadn’t figured it out already through the reading of my previous blog posts we go through a lot of colored peppers in my house. Above all others I will admit that these sweet yummy peppers are definitely my favorite vegetable. I enjoy putting them on salads, sandwiches, in stir fry, and on tacos. If I can find a way to include bell pepper I’m going to do it. Of course they also make a yummy snack, I will often cut one up just to eat it raw and with no dressing.

Ingredient #8: Ramen/ Shi-NumYun

This is more for my husband than myself, but on occasion this does come in handy especially for late night snacking or late evening dinners when no one really wants to cook. Daniel also enjoys mixing in an egg or shredded chicken. Of course anyone who  went to college or is in college knows that these “tasty” noodles can be used in a wide variety of ways.

Ingredient #9: Canned Green Beans

On the rare occasion that I should run out of tasty vegetables and my next shopping trip is a day or two out, I try and keep around a few different types of canned vegetables. Of course my favorite is Green Beans, because they not only work as a great side dish to any protein, but they are also very useful to have with a number of different recipes. For instance they are great additions to soup, and they can be turned into a very tasty casserole.

rice-498688_1280Ingredient #10 Rice

With a Korean Husband its hard not to have rice available in the house, as it tends to be his go to starch and side dish for many of our meals. Rice can be used in soup, stir fry, in casseroles, curry, and in a variety of other forms as well.

What ingredients do you keep on hand at all times share in the comments below.

10 Recipes Everyone Should Know

Even non cooks get stuck having to please someone or a group of someones with a dish every now and again. It’s important to know these ten recipes especially if you don’t want to get stuck serving store bought goods or worse takeout.

#1 Spaghetti and Meatballsspaghetti-507764_1280

Previously mentioned in my Valentines Day Blog this recipe is perfect not just for a romantic evening, but also for large crowds.

Ingredients:

Favorite Spaghetti Noodles

Favorite Tomato Sauce

1 lb ground meat

1 garlic clove

pepper

salt

garlic powder

dried basil

dried oregano

dried parsley

Cumin

powdered ginger

spaghetti-47076_1280Meatball Recipe Directions:

Mince 1 clove of garlic (chop into small pieces)

Place ground meat into a bowl

Add 2 Tblsp dried basil, oregano,  and parsley

Add 1 Tblsp Cumin, black pepper, salt and Garlic Powder

Add 1 Tsp powdered ginger (note this is added more for the health benefit than the flavor, ginger is known to help with arthritis so I try and add a teaspoon or so to every dish I can).

Mix ingredients together well by hand (so make sure your hands have been washed with warm water and soap before doing this).

Once mixed make about 6 to 8 balls by grabbing a portion of the meat and rolling it between your hands, and cupping with your palms.

Sit in a glass baking pan and place in an oven Preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

Allow to cook for about 30-45 minutes until inside is just barely pink or if preferred cooked all the way through. (I find they taste better when cooked to the point of a small lightly pink center).

Plate the spaghetti noodles with sauce add desired number of meatballs on top.

#2 Chicken Noodle Soup (from scratch not the can)

There are a hundred ways to make Chicken Noodle Soup. I have about three different ones myself, it really depends on what state the chicken you will be using is in. Is it a whole raw chicken, do you have extra baked cooked chicken in the fridge, perhaps you only have leftover chicken bones (excellent for broth). Here are a few links to get help get you started. Remember there is really no wrong way to make chicken noodle soup.

If using a whole chicken think about doing something like this:

http://www.health.com/health/recipe/0,,50400000124165,00.html

Do you have a bag of bones sitting in your freezer waiting to be turned into stock, try this recipe on for size:

http://www.chow.com/recipes/30332-easy-chicken-noodle-soup-from-a-leftover-roasted-chicken

Do you have some leftover cooked chicken breast this is a good recipe too:

http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/roasted-chicken-noodle-soup

Of course you don’t have to follow these recipes exactly feel free to use your imagination and make the recipe your own. I will include a post in the future with my own ways of doing these recipes.

#3 Awesome Side Salad

A salad is the easiest side dish a person can make, and it goes well with just about any meal.

My favorite way to make a salad

Ingredients:

Spring mix and/or butter lettuce

Chopped Red, Yellow, or Orange Bell pepper

English cucumber chopped in rounds and then halved

Salad Dressing (My favorite is Krafts Sun Dried Tomatoe, I also like their Roasted Red Pepper)

One of my many salad experiments!

One of my many salad experiments!

Directions:

Chop the vegetables

Rinse and tear up the butter lettuce (if using)

Mix the ingredients together and serve

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3

#4 Breakfast Sandwich

It’s as simple as frying an egg, toasting bread, and slapping on a slice of cheese. A quick and easy breakfast anytime, this recipe is more an individual lifesaver than a quick fix to a I don’t know what to cook, or I don’t know what to bring problem.

#5 A Baked Good from Scratch

This looks yummy!!!

This looks yummy!!!

As I was making this list, it occurred to me that this is something I don’t even know how to do, though I really should. I’m great at taking cake mix boxes and muffin mix and turning them into delicious baked goods, and I’ve made Christmas cookies from scratch by following a recipe once before. However, I do not actually know any recipes for baking off the top of my head. I would loose the desert round of any food competition as a result of this for sure.  One recipe  I would really like to learn to make from scratch is homemade banana bread.  Here’s a recipe that will teach us both how.

http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/banana_bread/

#6 Pot Pie

I learned how to make this beautiful recipe as a vegetarian. Since returning to the world of the Omnivores however, I have perfected the recipe and added yummy chicken to the mix.  Be aware the recipe makes two pies.

Ingredients:

2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast

1 large potato chopped

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped celery

1 can Cream of Celery soup

1 can Cream of Mushroom soup

Pepper

Garlic Powder

2 boxes of the Pillsbury raw pie crust (a top and bottom is needed for each pie)

2 Glass pie dishes

Directions:

Preheat the Oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit

Chop the vegetables

Chop the cooked chicken

Place in large mixing bowl

Add both cans of soup

1 Tbsp of pepper

1 Tbsp of Garlic Powder

(*Note do not add salt as their is enough salt in the chicken and the soup mixture)

Stir the ingredients together until vegetables and chicken are well coated with the soup and seasonings.

Place a pie crust around the bottom part of the glass pie dish make sure the bottom and sides are all even do the same with the second pie dish.

Pour half of the bowls contents into each pie dish making sure its evenly dispersed and not forming a pile in the center.

Place the second pie crust over the top making sure all sides are covered press the edges of the two crusts together remove any excess pie crust from around the edges to prevent them from being too thick. Do the same with the second pie.

Cut three lines in the top of the pie (about an inch in length).

Wrap the sides of the pie with foil  to prevent burning.

Place both pies in the oven for between 30 and 45 minutes. The tops should be golden in color.

20150120_183637#7 A Juicy Burger

There are many burger recipes out there, but the key to getting a juicy one is mainly proper timing, you don’t want your burger to cook for too long or too short.

This article provides a great measurement for time no matter what the ingredients.

http://www.addictedtogrilling.com/grilling-times/how-long-do-you-grill-hamburgers

#8 A Dip Recipe

If your a regular here at my blog than you are already aware of my super easy 2 Ingredient 4 Step Salsa Recipe.

turkey-152050_1280#9 Baked Chicken

I’m lucky enough to have a rotisserie, however baked chicken can also be cooked in a baking dish, just know that its going to take longer this way.

Step 1: Fill the center cone with flavors of your choosing, I recently used pineapple circles from the can.

Step 2: Place the whole chicken over the rotisserie prongs (if your using a baking pan skip this step).

Step 3: Mix whatever seasonings you want to baste the chicken with in a bowl, use a basting brush to lather the chicken with. Most recently I used pineapple juice and pepper with a dash of salt.

Step4: Set in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 2 to 2 in a half hours. The skin will become nice and crispy.

#10 Deviled Eggs

The center of your eggs should look like this when cut in half

The center of your eggs should look like this when cut in half.

A great appetizer or side dish at any party even if you don’t like them yourself its always a good recipe to know when your asked to bring something to a gathering of people.

Step 1: Boil eggs I recommend doing the whole dozen if your going to a party (this will give you a maximum of 24 servings).

Step 2: Allow eggs to cool, so peeling off the shell becomes easier.

Step3: Peel the eggs and slice in half long ways.

Step 4: Remove the yolk placing the yolk is a mixing bowl

Step 5: Add mustard, salt, pepper, and if you desire relish (also include any broken white eggs that will no longer work as little bowls. ) Mash and stir the ingredients together till they form a thick yellow  paste texture.

Step 6:  put one spoon full of the yolk mixture into each egg white bowl. If desired you can sprinkle the tops with paprika.

Step 7: Place on a platter and either refrigerate or serve.