If you are looking to expand the tools and gadgets in your kitchen but don't know what to add, take a look at my list of kitchen items I recommend so you know what to ask for when someone says "what do you want for Christmas?" Or just buy it for yourself.
You will hear people singing Instant Pot praises, and for good reason. These gadgets can saute, slow cook, and pressure cook. I love it so much that I snagged a second one for my own kitchen this year because I make many things with it and often wish I could do more than one at a time. They make hard boiled eggs with easy to peel shells, perfect rice, and bone broth fast than your slow cooker or on your stove top. I have found the 6 qt size is perfect for all the recipes I need it for.
One of the best gifts I have ever gotten is a vacuum sealer. I use it daily and on bulk cooking days it is super busy. Everyday I use it to reseal frozen fruit bags, cereal bags, chips or pretzel bags...anything in a bag. Only eat half an avocado? Place the other half in a vacuum sealer bag and remove all the air and seal. This keeps your avocado fresh until you are ready. On bulk cooking days, allow food to cool (and depending on the item, flash freeze) and vacuum seal in individual servings or as one recipe. This will keep off freezer burn.
Enameled Cast Iron Skillet
Another item i use in the kitchen daily - my enameled cast iron skillet. I love that is can go from range to oven making it a versatile item in my kitchen. I make grilled cheese, eggs, pancakes, and grilled chicken on my stove top and make cinnamon rolls, roasted pork tenderloin, and Chicago style pizza in the oven. Cast iron distributes heat evenly, and the enamel coating helps keep food from sticking. This is another item I have two of.
Random? Yes. But I promise you'll use it! Press it into the avocado half and then pop out the perfectly sized avocado cubes. Perfect to top your salads or chili. Prefer your mashed or as guacamole? They make some great avocado mashers as well. I know, you can use a fork, but this will have more surface area so you will get the mashing done much fast.
Ground Meat Chopper
Hear me out on this one. It looks simple enough, but this little gadget makes browning ground meat fast and effortless. Rotate it while the ground meat cooks to break up the clumps. Pick one that is heat-proof so that you can rest it in the pan without worrying about it melting.
Stainless Steel Condiment Cups
These little cups are great for keeping sauces and condiments from oozing over to food you don't want them on. Or maybe that's just something I worry about because my kids hate it. Either way, these cups are great for holding ketchup, BBQ sauce, and salad dressings.
One of the best items you can add to your kitchen is a cookbook. My tip when it comes to cookbooks is to go to your library first. A lot of libraries carry cookbooks. Flip through a few and maybe even check some out to try. Once you find a few you like, go buy your own copies! You'll learn about new tools and appliances you will use often as you try new recipes and this is a great way to build your kitchen.
This recipe came from a meal kit I picked up at Kroger (I think). I changed it just a smidge from the original to suit my taste. This is a great way to get that turkey and stuffing flavor without having to do all the work of roasting a turkey and making a big batch of stuffing.
This recipe has you brown and cook the meatball in a skillet in olive oil. I plan to play with the recipe and find a way to make this a one (or two) sheet meal and get it all done in the oven. So watch for that update in cooking method in the future.
1lb ground turkey
6 Tbsp bread crumbs
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1/4 cup poultry herbs
2 cups diced sweet potatoes
4 cups Brussels sprouts, halved
2 Tbsp water
4 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the herbs leaves form the stems and roughly chop. In a large mixing bowl combine the chopped herbs, bread crumbs, onions, celery, 2 Tbsp of water, and 1 tsp salt. Add the ground turkey and gently mix. Form into 1-inch meatballs - about 20.
Place the Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp of and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through.
While the vegetable are roasting, heat a large skillet with the remaining olive oil. Carefully add the meatballs to the skillet and cook for several minutes on each side until browned and the meatballs are cooked through. You may have to do this in two batches, depending on the size of your skillet.
Divide vegetable and meatballs between four bowls.
2 medium-large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 cup chopped onion
2-3 cloves chopped garlic
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
28-ounce can diced tomatoes
4-oz can chopped green chili
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp oregano
S&P to taste
Place all the ingredients in the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. Top with cheese, avocado, diced green onion, or other chili toppings of your choice.
We always end up with leftovers so plan to have a few lunches for the week as well!
Elderberry syrup is a popular health item these days. You can buy syrup at the store or from local vendors, and I've even seen elderberry gummies (I'm planning on trying this in the future!).
What exactly is an elderberry? It's a medicinal plant commonly use to treat or prevent cold and flu. It's believed to help boost your immune system if taken daily and help shorten illness if taken every few hours while symptoms persist,
One thing to note about elderberries is the fact that if eaten raw, the berries can actually be toxic, which is why we cook the berries. So don't taste test the dried berries while you work.
As for dosage, I've heard different amount from different people. We give the kids no more than a tsp in a single dose and Andrew and I take up to 1 Tbsp. Please remember, I am not diagnosing or prescribing anything for you. I'm just sharing how we make our syrup and how we use it.
Now, bust out your Instant Pot for this recipe!
3 1/2 cups water
2/3 cup dried organic elderberries
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup organic honey (local preferred)
5-6 drops DoTerra OnGuard or Young Living Thieves (optional)
To make in your Instant Pot, place all the ingredients except the honey and essential oil (if using) in your Instant Pot. Place the lid on and make sure the valve is closed. Set to pressure cook for 9 minutes. When it's done, vent the pressure and then strain.
Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature and then stir in the honey and essential oil.
I then store the cooled mixture in mason jars in the fridge. This make enough for 2 16 oz jars.
Roasting your own chicken can be a cost effective way of feeding your family, as well as providing the basic ingredient for making bone broth after.
Truth be told, I never plan on making roasted chicken for dinner. I typically keep my eye out for whole organic chicken to go on sale at Kroger. These are usually the ones that have a sell by date of today or tomorrow. So when I see an entire organic chicken for just at $7, I grab 2 or 3 and spend a day roasting them just to freeze. I remove the meat form the bones and vacuum seal to use for a future meal (tacos, soups, casseroles, etc) and then freeze the bones separately to make bone broth with. This is my go-to roasted chicken recipe.
4-6 lb whole chicken (neck and giblets removed)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp black pepper
3/4 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Rinse your chicken and pat well to dry. Combine the olive oil with all the spices and mix well. Rub half the mixture under the skin of the chicken, then rub the remaining spices on the outside of your chicken.
Place your chicken, breast side up, in an oven safe skillet or roasting pan. Place in the preheated oven and immediately reduce the heat to 375.
Roast for approx 20 minutes per pound.
Remember, don't throw out the bones! Save those for my bone broth recipes.
All the flavor, none of the oil! These are so super easy and a crowd pleaser.
12 chicken wings (drumettes and wingettes separated)
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 Tbsp baking powder
BBQ sauce (optional)
Make sure the wings are dried really well and place them in a bowl. Add the salt, chili powder, garlic powder, and baking powder, and toss to make sure the wings are evenly covered.
Lightly spray your air fryer cooking rack with non-stick spray and place the wings on the rack. Try to leave a little room between each wing to they don't touch. Set the fryer to 400 degrees for 20-22 minutes. When you remove the wings, let them cool a bit before eating.
To add extra flavor, toss them in your favorite BBQ sauce right after removing from the fryer.
Make a head and reheat on the oven at 350 degrees. These also can be frozen for longer storage, reheating at 350 in the oven straight from the freezer.
I am strongly convinced that if you don't like salads, you aren't making them right! A bowl of plain lettuce is not exciting for anyone, but if you add other fresh and wholesome ingredients, you have a meal that will keep you full for hours.
Enter my Berry Basil Chicken Salad. I typically have all the ingredients on hand for this salad so it's easy to pull together in a snap. This recipe also includes a serving of homemade Lemon Basil dressing, because I HATE vinegar. Loath it. It makes me feel ill just to smell it. So for the acidic portion of the dressing I use lemon juice.
You have two easy options when it come to the chicken in this salad: use leftover chicken you have on hand or chop up roasted deli meat chicken (I love boar's head for our deli meat). It's not a quick meal if you have to prepare chicken to go on top. I used Boar's Head roasted chicken in mine.
1 1/2 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1/2 cup of mixed blueberries and sliced strawberries
3 oz of chopped chicken
1 Tbsp chopped pecans
Toss all ingredients together in a bowl with dressing (recipe below).
Lemon Basil Dressing:
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp dried basil
salt & pepper (to taste)
Confession: I make pumpkin muffins year round. The boys love them for breakfasts and snacks and they just freeze so well. I've adapted the recipe from 100 Day of Real Food to work for our family (gluten free!) and I added some chocolate...because everything is better with chocolate.
1 1/2 cups GF flour mix or white whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup mini dark chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with 12 liners.
Whisk together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add in the eggs, honey, and melted butter and mix until just combined. Add in the pumpkin and chocolate chips and fold in until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Once cool, store in an air tight container for 3 days or freeze to keep longer.
You can't go wrong with a fresh loaf of warm banana bread. Try this recipe out for a cleaner version sweetened with honey instead of white sugar. I make this with gluten free flour, but whit whole wheat can be used as well.
2 cups white wheat flour OR 1-to-1 GF baking flour
4-5 very ripe bananas (mashed)
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup grass-fed butter, softened
1 1/2 Tbsp almond milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
chopped pecans (optional for topping)
Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 9x5 loaf pan, set aside.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, & salt. Set aside In a separate bowl, cream together butter & honey. Stir in eggs, milk, vanilla, & mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten.
Pour into prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle top with pecans, if using.
Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.
This recipe is a great budget friendly recipe that is packed with nutrients. Use the recommended Banza pasta to give you a punch of protein without meat. Use up whatever veggies you have left in your fridge. Pictured in my dish is zucchini, red and yellow bell pepper, red onion, carrots, and Brussels sprouts.
4-5 cups cut veggies (I like them cut into matchsticks/julienne)
1/4 cup Olive Oil, divided
1 Tbsp dried Italian herbs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
8 oz Banza Chickpea pasta
4 Tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the cut veggies on a baking sheet and toss with herbs, salt, pepper, and Olive Oil. Bake for 20-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
While veggies roast, bring a pot of water (salt optional) to a boil. Cook according to box directions (7-9 minutes). Drain and rinse. Add a drizzle of olive oil to prevent sticking if necessary.
Toss prepared veggies with cooked pasta. Divide between 4 bowls and top each with 1 Tbsp of Parmesan cheese.