Life is a constant whirlwind of activity and no matter how much I try the “simple life” doesn’t seem to be that easy. The first thing to fall by the wayside is healthy, home cooked meals.
I would love to spend all day in the kitchen making hearty, healthy home cooked meals from vegetables, herbs and eggs fresh from the barn and garden. But I have a job and two kids and two websites and and and.
The best way I’ve found to keep my kids from eating happy meals or cereal every night is to stock my kitchen with easy meals and the tools that make those meals possible. You don’t need to do things the way your grandma did just because your grandma did them that way.
Please, I beg you, let yourself make your life easier. Cut corners where you can. Two of these things are on the pricey side but the other two are affordable. It’s also worth looking at the time you can save in the kitchen.
Your time is valuable. These are all things that I use consistently in my kitchen and they save me from the siren call of the 95 fast food places I drive by on my way home every day.
I suck at meal planning for the family, but I’m pretty good at batching out my own food for lunch or dinner. My hidden talent is the ability to eat the same thing for 6 days in a row. It’s pretty awesome 😉
These are my top picks for kitchen tools that will make your life easier:
I never understood how much of a difference a good knife can make. It’s like magic they just slice through whatever your cutting like butter.
You don’t need a full set of fancy knives either, one good quality chef’s knife is really all you need. Once you cut a tomato with a good knife you’ll wonder why you waited so long.
Your hands will thank you! Just be very careful while you adjust to a knife that actually cuts. I sliced off part of a finger nail one day, luckily it wasn’t my finger tip.
I just told you to get a good knife, and you should. But if you’re going to be doing a lot of cutting you need a food processor. There are two ways to use a food processor, the spinny blade in the bowl and my personal favorite the scary looking grater/slicer disk that sits on top.
The spinning blade is great for destroying Oreo’s for no bake desserts like this Shirley Temple No Bake Cheesecake and it’s pretty good at chopping ingredients for dressing.
They key there is chopping. You gotta watch out, it’s pretty easy to go from uniform chop to paste.
The thing I rely on my food processor most is shredding cabbage and slicing up onions. The double sided disk blade that sits on top in the food processor is my best friend.
It takes a little work to cut the cabbage up to fin down the shoot (use your good knife!) but it’s nothing compared to slicing it all up by hand. It took almost no time at all to slice up the cabbage for my Unstuffed Cabbage Casserole.
One side looks like a cheese grater and the other has a long single blade, they’ll probably be labeled shred and slice. They can demolish a cabbage in a few minutes. Same with a pile of onions.
All I do is peel and either half or quarter the onions so they fit in the chute and BAM tiny onion pieces without crying my eyes out. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m weak or because I wear contacts but onion fumes destroy me.
One of my favorite cheap meals is to cook up a pound of sausage, then saute a cabbage and a few onions until its caramelized. Toss the sausage and a handful of caraway seeds in. So good!
Cast Iron Skillet
I have a stock pile of cast iron but the two pans that never leave the stove top are my 10 inch skillet and my small griddle. If you’re looking to dip your toes into the world of cast iron those are two good and cheap places to start.
There is a bit of a learning curve with cast iron but it becomes second nature pretty quick. Cook It in Cast Iron by Cook’s Country is a great book to keep on hand, it’s not only filled with tons of recipes you’ll actually want to make, it also has everything you need to know about taking care of your cast iron.
The 10 inch skillet is my go to for one pot meals like my recipe for Maple Chicken with Sweet Potatoes. You mix everything up and toss it in the oven. Same with this recipe for Baked Oatmeal with Rhubarb and Blueberries.
The small griddle is the perfect size for a small plate of nachos or cooking fish sticks for my kids. It’s also my go to pan for scrambled eggs, we eat a lot of eggs 😉
The biggest tip I can give you for cooking with cast iron is to heat the pan up before you add the food. If you throw raw eggs in a cold pan and try to cook them you’re going to have a bad time.
Second tip, cook bacon. The bacon fat helps build up that nonstick, protective seasoning that keeps your pans from rusting. Also, you have bacon.
If you don’t live under a rock you know what an Instant Pot is, if you do live under a rock it’s a counter top, electric pressure cooker. There are a bunch of other brands that work the same way.
My Christmas/Valentine’s Day gift last year from my boyfriend was an 8 qt Instant Pot Duo. I wanted it mostly for the hype and to write recipes for you nice folks.
I’ve done a few, including my favorite soup ever Instant Pot Chicken Sausage Soup that I make all the time and my Easy Instant Pot Chicken Dinner made with a back of chicken breasts and 3 cans. There are a million recipes out there for the IP.
The thing about an electronic pressure cooker is that it’s not actually instant. You need to wait for it to heat up, get to pressure, cook and then release the steam/pressure. But it’s completely hands off! So it’s a huge time saver in my book.
Despite living on Pinterest and having a board filled with hundreds of recipes I use my IP for three things. Shredded chicken breasts, hard boiled eggs and soup. A close contender is beans/lentils but I don’t make those as much as the others.
I need a lot of protein or I get cranky. Part of it is a medication I’m on, it makes me feel hungry all the freaking time. Unfortunately that’s not good for me or my wardrobe. Protein makes me feel full much more than carbs.
Every week I either buy a pack of chicken breasts or a pack of chicken leg quarters. Toss them in the instant pot, about an hour later I have a weeks worth of chicken for salad or soup.
Same with eggs, having them in the fridge ready to go for snacks. Instant pot eggs are so easy to peel! My 2 year old can do it, and that’s great because as a 2 year old she has to do everything herself.
What kitchen tools do you rely on to make your life easier?
Check out my Recipes page for some ideas on how to use these tools or start here: