Cooking 101: Tips in the Kitchen

Over the years I've picked up a few little tricks that really help the cooking process flow well. I'm no magician in the kitchen, so sometimes I need all the help I can get!

Cooking 101: Tips in the Kitchen //

Tips in the kitchen:

  • If possible, start with a clean kitchen. It makes the clean up way less stressful when you're completely done with everything!
  • Read the recipe completely through. Twice. (You have no idea how many times I've messed something up because I failed to actually READ the recipe.)
  • Prep all your ingredients–even the salt and pepper. Chop, dice, measure, rinse, etc.
  • Read the recipe again! Make sure you didn't forget any ingredients.
  • Get out any pots or pans you might need.
  • Don't forget to actually set your timer. (Another learned from experience tip.)
  • Rinsed used measuring things as you go, so nothing dries to them.
  • Invest in some quality tools. Some of my favorites are my garlic press, santoku knife, wood cutting board, measuring cups, and citrus press.
  • Have fun and try new things!
  • Don't be afraid to experiment. My favorite dish to experiment with is pasta sauce. There are so many variations to be discovered.

I was prepping asparagus to make this dish. I used two cloves of garlic though. Because I can.

What are some of your best tips?

Cooking 101: Spinach Pasta

I love the following: spinach, pasta, garlic, and butter. Combined? Even better!

I modified the recipe found on Pinch of Yum's blog. Be sure to go check out her directions!

Cooking 101: Spinach Pasta

Modified Directions

-1 lb gluten free spaghetti
-1/2 stick of butter
-6 cloves garlic, minced
-handfull basil leaves, chopped
-container of spinach, chopped
-salt & pepper to taste
-parmesan cheese for topping

1. Cook spaghetti.
2. Saute garlic for a few minutes until fragrant and lightly brown. Stir in greens–they will start to soften and wilt. This only takes a couple minutes.
3. Mix in spaghetti.
4. Add salt, pepper, and cheese to taste.

Cooking 101: Spinach Pasta

I also cooked venison in the oven with salt, pepper, and olive oil for 25-30min at 350F. I'm super thankful my dad sent a bunch of venison home with Aaron and me after Christmas! Venison, when cooked properly, is actually quite amazing. We have ground venison for soups and taco meat, solid chunks to cut up for stews or to cook like I did, a roast, and then some backstrap–which is seriously delicious. It's a huge blessing to have.

Cooking 101: Spinach Pasta

Cooking 101: Lunch Prep

Life balance is this elusive thing we all chase after. I'm in a season of life where I'm really learning what it means to work hard in many areas. One part of life that I've really grown in the past few months, is food prep. I've found the week goes a lot smoother if I spend one or two nights–usually Sunday and Tuesday–prepping lunches and dinners. It makes the morning a little bit easier when we know there is a lunch ready to go. 

I eat gluten free and love vegetables. My husband is learning to like vegetables and he loves meat and carbs. So really, meals have become a balancing act.

Cooking 101: Lunch Prep //

I started by making some Sweet and Spicy Chicken. I found this in a Real Simple magazine a few years ago. I've made it with chicken breasts and thighs before, both with skin and without. I've been grocery shopping for two weeks at a time recently, so I used chicken breast tenders I had in the freezer.

Cooking 101: Lunch Prep //

It tastes and smells so good! Next up is something I usually make just in the summer. Aldi had a sale on zucchini and yellow squash, so I made it now!

Cooking 101: Lunch Prep //

Sautéed Squash

-Slice veggies
-Sprinkle with seasoning salt and pepper
-Sauté in skillet on medium heat
-Make a second batch after you ate half of the first one

Cooking 101: Lunch Prep //

I also cooked some brown rice pasta from Trader Joe's. We don't have a store near us, so I have a stockpile of rice and quinoa from when we visit home, or when I have someone else buy stuff for me. We need a Trader Joe's. End of story.

I did heat some fresh minced garlic in olive oil till it browned. I drizzled that over the pasta and then shredded some fresh parmesan cheese.

This was just for two days worth of lunch. Sometimes I cook enough for three days, but it really depends on the recipe and how I divide it up for lunches. Next time I make this, I'll probably put less chicken in each container, but add more vegetables.

Happy cooking!

Cookbook Review

Since moving out of my parent's house last summer, I've had this newfound love of cooking. It is a happy place of creativity with immediate gratification of getting to eat what you've made. My job and freelancing aren't like that. Which, I don't mind–I love the process of design and the time it takes to think through things. With cooking there is deliciousness within an hour.

Cookbook Review, Meals Made Simple and One Pan, Two Plates //

These two cookbooks are my go-to recently. I've only had them for a few months, but I seriously love them. I've tried a bunch of recipes from each, and repeated quite a few favorites. 

  • Danielle Walker's "Against All Grain: Meals Made Simple: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Paleo Recipes to Make Anytime" – I've only had this cookbook since Christmas, but I use a recipe from it every week, sometimes three in one week! I love it because she gives make-ahead options, nutritional facts, suggestions on how to use leftovers, and easy icon indicators on if the recipe is slow cooker, one-pot, or 30-minute. The photos are gorgeous in this cookbook. I haven't used this part yet, but Danielle includes an 8-week meal plan. I need to try it. This is literally the most organized cookbook I've ever used. Even if you think you can't cook, you can use this! Danielle has a fantastic blog you should check out.
  • Carla Snyder's "One Pan, Two Plates: More Than 70 Complete Weeknight Meals for Two" – I've been wanting this cookbook for a couple years now. Our friends Jon & Jenny bought it for us for our wedding, and I literally stopped opening presents to read it when we opened it. My sister had given me a cast iron skillet for my birthday a few years ago, and I hadn't really fallen in love with it until I started using this cookbook. Buy a cast iron skillet immediately. They're amazing. I love this cookbook because of the photography, easy to follow recipes, extra helpful tips, and how well the food turns out. I'm also a huge fan of how each recipe has a suggestion for a side dish if you're 'extra hungry' as well as a wine pairing suggestion. Honestly, anything I've made from here has given us a dinner, and leftovers for lunch the next day. Let me know if you have questions about that. On another note, I eat gluten free and I've easily modified these recipes to fit my needs.

How about you–what are some of your favorite cookbooks?