Cooking

6 Must-Haves to Deck Out Your Kitchen!

Have you ever wondered how those celebrity chefs always look overjoyed to be running around the kitchen cooking??

Look closer and you’ll notice they have all the proper tools, things are organized and measured out, and you probably haven’t ever seen them do the dishes!

You might have to enlist a friend, spouse or kids to take care of that last one, but this week we’re helping you deck out your kitchen to make sure you have what you need to enjoy cooking and food prep!

Start Simple: Get the Basics

1. Sharp Knives

Make sure you have sharp knives to work with! If you don’t have a good knife sharpener at home, go and get one. There’s nothing worse than trying to cut a tomato with a dull knife – you might as well use a hammer. Preparation time can be cut in half with the right knives!

2. Silicone Cookware

Do you have silicone cookware in your home? If not, it’s a must! Silicone utensils have become fairly commonplace, but now it comes in the form of muffin, loaf, and cake pans – even parchment! The non-stick capability is unbelievable AND it’s dishwasher safe!

Silicone bakeware can go straight from the freezer to the oven, and utensils won’t scrape your cooking surfaces!

*Not sure if it’s 100% silicone? Give it a pinch test. When you pinch the silicone material, if it changes color, stay away. If it looks the same, you are good to go

3. Quality Pots and Pans

Have you ever tried to cook with a wobbly pot on a cooktop? Not only is it annoying, but you’ll get uneven cooking. Still working with scratched up teflon pots and pans you’ve had for 10 years? It might be time for an upgrade!

There are some that swear by cast-iron skillets (*be careful of scratching a cooktop) and there is a “Cadillac” of pans, the carbon steel option is what most restaurants reach for – like cast iron for heat retention, but a fraction of the weight.

Have you ever used a “Chef’s Pan” AKA “Saucier Pan”? With their higher edges they can not only work for standard frying, and sautéing, but also take the place of a soup kettle for smaller batches and are excellent for “one-pan” type dishes.

4. Baking Sheet

Did you know a cookie sheet is defined as a sheet without sides, or just a small lip, and a baking sheet has a rimmed edge? The rimmed edge can be helpful to contain juices and oils for general cooking.

Look for a pan with a 10-18 gauge rating (the lower the gauge, the thicker/more durable the pan) to avoid warping and thus more uniform baking. A good quality sheet with uncoated aluminum can provide a, surprisingly, non-stick environment! You can use baking sheets to make full meals with one sheet a million different ways – just check out this Roast Chicken and Veggies Recipe!

5. Box Grater

With a high quality 4-sided box grater you can make food prep a breeze! The largest setting is perfect for the most common, cheeses of course but also vegetables like zucchini, apples, carrots, onions, cabbage, and more! Even tomatoes if you are using for sauce!

There is the side for smaller shreds. The prickly side for grating things like hard cheese and zesting citrus. The slicing side can take the place of a mandolin in a pinch.

TIP: Freeze cheese for a short time to making shredding easier.

TIP 2: Save your knuckles by purchasing Food Grade Cut Resistant Gloves!

6. Measuring Cups

Did you ever wonder why you need one of those glass type measuring cups for liquid? Why can’t you just use a regular measuring cup?

Standard measuring cups are meant for solids where you can just scrape along the top to get a precise measurement. Liquid measuring cups indicated 1C = 8 oz but it means one cup = 8 FLUID ounces.

Dry ingredients differ in weight, i.e 1C of flour = 4.5 ounces, not 8oz. If your recipe calls for ounces of dry ingredients, make sure to weigh it!

TIP: Yogurt should be measured in a liquids cup.

Stir Fry: Quick and Easy Healthy Cooking!

Stir Fry is a Chinese technique of cooking in a small amount of oil, over high heat, in a bowl-shaped pan (wok) while being stirred. Stir fry can be a great component of healthy eating since it usually contains lots of veggies and lean protein. The stir fry technique allows veggies to retain their color, crunch, and most importantly nutrients!

Step 1: Choose Your Protein, Seasonings and Veggies

This is the foundation of all stir fry, and a fantastic base for healthy eating! Below you’ll see we’ve got beef, chicken, and even veggie stir fry with chickpeas and snow peas for a protein boost!

Step 2: Prep Your Ingredients

Any given recipe uses about a pound of protein, 1 tablespoon of aromatics, and 4 cups of vegetables. Stir fry comes together quickly, so you need all of your ingredients chopped and ready to go before you begin cooking.
TIP: Consider buying pre-chopped onions, matchstick carrots, etc if you are strapped for time!

Step 3: Make Your Sauce

Sauce…maybe the biggest factor between eating and dining! A basic stir fry sauce would include garlic, soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar/honey, stock/water, and cornstarch. Get creative! Just make your own whenever possible because pre-packaged sauce often comes with unsavory ingredients.
TIP: Cook up a huge batch of brown rice when you have extra time and freeze it in storage bags. If you whip together a last minute stir-fry, pull out of the freezer, cut open the bag and microwave covered for about 5 minutes.

Step 4: Time to Stir Fry

Cook your protein for a few minutes alone until browned and set aside (does not have to be cooked through). Add oil, aromatics, then veggies until cooked, but crunchy. Recombine, add sauce and simmer a few minutes. Voila!
TIP: Aromatics are ingredients like garlic, green onions, shallots, ginger that are heated in some sort of fat/oil to release the flavor, cook these by themselves in the oil for 30 seconds to a minute, being careful not to burn them before adding the veggies.

Step 5: Serve and Enjoy!

Add a little culinary flare to your dish with garnishes such as cilantro, green onions, or sesame seeds for flavor and presentation. Enjoy a speedy, flavor packed meal!

Why a Wok??

The shape of the pan and constantly stirring helps make sure things aren’t over-cooked so veggies can retain their crunch and the aromatics don’t burn! When it’s time to add the sauce, push the contents to the side of the pan so they stop cooking on the most intense heat, and pour your sauce in the middle until thickens/boils before mixing it all together!

Recipes for Starters!

4 Lean, Healthy Meals in 5 Minutes!

Need some quick and easy weekday meals? Weekend prep doesn’t have to be some arduous marathon requiring hours of time and every pot and pan in your kitchen! This week we’ve got 4 quick and easy recipes that you can crank out in a flash and feel happy about your meals without agonizing labor!

This week start by buying 4 pounds of Ground Turkey. Brown 3 pounds, cool and separate into 1 pound containers to freeze. With your fourth make these Veggie Loaded Meatballs!

Delicious meatballs packed with broccoli, carrots, baby spinach, green onions, and garlic! Just swap out the beef for to keep things simpler this week!

First? Go Shopping!

Here’s your grocery list for all 4 recipes!

• 4 Pounds Ground Turkey
• Rice (cook ahead if possible!)
• 1 Bag Favorite Frozen Veggies
• Zoodles (Zucchini Noodles, found at most grocery stores in the produce section)
• 1 pound Carrots
• 2 pounds Broccoli
• 2 heads garlic
• 1 small ginger root
• 1 small bag of Baby Spinach
• 1 bunch Green Onion
• 2 Avocados
• Flax Meal (only need 2 TBSP)
• 1 can Tomatoes
• 1 can Black Beans
• 1 pack Taco Seasoning
• 1 pack Ranch Seasoning
• Soy Sauce
• Chili Paste
• Plain Greek Yogurt

Optional Extras:

• 1 can low sodium Cream of Chicken Soup
• Feta Cheese
• Fresh Parsley or Basil
• Hot Sauce

(Creamy?) Turkey and Veggies

Ground Turkey + 1 Bag Frozen Vegetables + Dry Ranch Seasoning
(or substitute YOUR favorite seasoning combo)

Thaw one of your pounds of turkey, toss in a pan with a bag of your favorite frozen vegetables, and your seasoning!

Need a more “comforting” taste? Add up to a can of a low sodium cream of chicken soup and maybe serve over rice or quinoa!

Zoodles + Meatballs

Save time by buying a container of zoodles (zucchini noodles) since they are now quite common in most produce departments. Rewarm your meatballs in the oven or toaster oven while sautéing zoodles with olive and seasonings.

Get an added veggie boost by tossing in a handful or two of spinach. Serve as is or get creative with some tossed feta cheese or fresh parsley and/or basil!

Speedy Stir Fry

Ground Turkey + Onion + Broccoli + Carrots + Chili Paste

Combine some garlic, soy sauce, and ginger with ground turkey and set aside.
Stir Fry onions, broccoli, and carrots in vegetable oil.
Remove from the pan to a bowl.
Reheat turkey and sauce, recombine with veggies, and add chili paste.

Speed up this recipe even more by buying a bag of pre cut broccoli from your produce department or a “stir fry raw mix”. Rice could be pulled from the freezer and microwaved.

Full recipe here!

Rapido Burrito Bowl

Ground Turkey + Tomatoes + Black Beans + Avocado

Heat turkey and add taco seasoning. In a bowl combine rice, taco turkey, tomatoes, black beans, diced avocado and a sauce made of plain Greek yogurt and hot sauce.

Full recipe here!

Save Time, Money and Headache with Batch Cooking!

Who has time to create delicious, fresh, home-cooked meals day after day from scratch? Do yourself a favor and set aside one day a week for batch cooking and make your life easier!

Cook and Store

Try cooking up a few pounds of chicken at once for instance. Cut into cubes and flash freeze (spread out on a parchment lined cookie sheet); place in the freezer just until the outside is frozen enough not to stick to other pieces. Once flash frozen, store in an airtight container or bag that way you can grab a handful to throw in the skillet with some veggies and spice and voila!

Label and date your finished product safety!

Freeze in Recipe-Sized Portions

Freeze in single serve, family, or recipe size portions, because let’s be honest: the easier you make your process, the better the chance you’ll stick with cooking and eating healthy. Try creating shake ready bags of frozen fruit for example. ½ banana, ½ cup of strawberries, and frozen spinach can be tossed in your blender with almond milk and some vanilla protein powder for a quick post workout shake!

Plan Ingredients Ahead

If you plan your meals throughout the week ahead, look for similar ingredients. Instead of chopping tomatoes, onions, and peppers for 1 recipe, you can chop several of each and have for a couple different recipes. Store in a sealed bag in the fridge, so you can grab and cook quickly!

Keep Your Staples on Hand

When you use up a “staple” in your pantry, be sure to put on your shopping list immediately and replace the next time you go to the store. Meals go smoothest when the basics are on hand. Think chicken broth, onions, garlic, canned beans or tomatoes – these types of things keep pretty long and can make or break your decision to cook instead of ordering out!

Cook in Bulk? Shop in Bulk!

Plan what you are going to prepare and shop at your nearest warehouse store (Costco, Sam’s, etc). During the summer, shop bulk produce from your farmer’s markets and CSA’s! Think bulk tomatoes, fruit, beans, corn, etc to have local produce all year long. Apples or potatoes for instance when stored correctly can last a really long time!

Print Physical Recipes

Keep a printed/pinterested/photocopy of recipes that are favorites, quick, or go-to’s! When you are in a rut, pull out a few and use for the coming week. Many people save recipes on websites or think they will go back through social media and find things etc, and then they just never get around to it. When you find something you or the family enjoy, get a physical copy of it and store them somewhere in the kitchen for quick reference!