One of my favorite pastimes is cooking with my children. Do you have kids? If you do, I want to heavily recommend that you teach them the joys of the kitchen while they’re still young and look up at you like a superhero that has all the answers. Teaching your children how to cook is more than a rite of passage; it’s just plain fun. To me, the kitchen is like a magical land that can create a special type of community and intimacy with the simple act of making a meal.
There are some little things you should look out for when you start to integrate your children into the cooking world: the basic do’s and don’ts.
DO assign simple tasks. When starting out, show them how to wash veggies, how to stir sauces to not let the sides burn, how to scramble eggs, etc.
DON’T let your child use a knife and cutting board without supervision and being taught proper technique.
DO give them a bit more responsibility as they show they understand. Show them basic vegetable cutting, but once you pass that knife from your hand to theirs, watch them like a hawk. (younger ones can use pumpkin carving knives safely, so save yours!)
DON’T let your child remove anything from the oven. But explain how it’s done as you do it; this way, when it’s time, they’ll be ready.
DO explain how when you’re using a pot or pan that you need to turn the handle to the side so it’s not sticking out so no one can run into it or accidentally knock it over.
DON’T allow them to handle meat until they’ve had a couple seasoned years under your training, but explain the safety issues and demonstrate thorough hand washing after you touch it.
ALWAYS let them sneak tastes of their labor in the kitchen. One of my favorite things about cooking is that I get to taste along the way, and I can guarantee that it’ll be a favorite among your children as well.
Well folks, there you have it! Show your children what a kitchen is and how to use it. My daughter is a college graduate now and she tells me all the time how surprised she is that hardly anyone her age knows how to cook. Regardless, your children are going to love learning this new skill! For them, it’s like finally getting to know the secret behind a magic trick. Have FUN!!
By: Leanne Ely
It seems like the more you do to feed your family properly, the harder it is to keep the grocery budget in check.
Using the crock cooker is a great way to stretch a dollar for several reasons.
• You can use tougher, less expensive cuts of meat
• Traditional crock cooker meals like chili and soup tend to go a long way
• The convenience of this appliance saves you from spending money on take out
• Crock cookers use less electricity than stoves
Today, I’m going to share some tips with you to help you save even more money with this beloved kitchen appliance.
Make your own stock. If you know me at all, you know I’m pretty big on making stock. With a slow cooker, you shouldn’t ever have to buy canned or boxed broth again. Simply save up bones (I keep one zipper bag for chicken bones and one for beef), trimmings and juices from your roasts and freeze them until you have enough to fill your crock pot about half full. When you have enough, put them in the crock pot, fill the crock 3/4 full with water and let it cook on LOW for 8 hours or so. Then, you can use this homemade broth in your crock cooker recipes and for other uses.
Cook more than you need. Buy a very large, inexpensive chuck roast. Even if it’s much more than your family needs—as long as it will fit in your crock pot, bring it home with you. Put it in the crock pot, fill the crock cooker half way with water (which I would do only for cheap cuts of meat), and let it cook on LOW for 8 hours. Portion the meat and use it throughout the week in lunches and dinners. You can even freeze some of the meat to take out later in the month.
Buy from the Clean 15 list. Even if you make an effort to buy organic whenever possible, you can save a little bit of money on your grocery bill. Use crock cooker recipes that call for ingredients from the Clean 15 instead of the Dirty Dozen list so you can buy the less expensive, conventionally grown option over organic. (You can learn more about the Clean 15 at ewg.org by the way.) Many Clean 15 items are great for slow cooking, including onions, sweet potatoes and cabbage.
If you’re coming up short on crock cooker meal inspiration, are you in luck!
We have a great promo going on right now on our Crock Cooker Classic and Paleo Menus. Find out more here!
By: Leanne Ely
Who doesn’t want to save a bit of time in the kitchen or a bit of money on the grocery bill?
The following ten kitchen tricks will make your life a little bit easier. And they’re so simple, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t thought of them yourself!
Save the tears. Cut onions without crying by lighting a candle beside you as you’re chopping. You might also find that holding a toothpick between your front teeth helps to stop those onion tears.
Split up the bunch. You can get twice as much life out of your bananas by separating the bananas from the bunch when you get them home!
Prevent cheese hardening. If you want to prevent your block cheese from getting hard around the edges, rub some butter on the cut edge and wrap the block in paper towel before wrapping in plastic or storing in a reusable container.
Extend lettuce life. Store a piece of paper towel in your lettuce container. It will absorb the moisture that causes lettuce to wilt.
Slice a potato in no time. Use that apple slicer in your drawer for making short work of turning a potato into wedges!
Peel with a spoon. Ginger is very nubbly and difficult to peel. Use a spoon to gently remove the peeling from fresh ginger.
Sample your meat. When you’re making a sauce, you can taste for seasoning as you go, but not so much with meatloaf or meatballs. If you’re trying a new recipe with your ground meat, fry a little bit on top of the stove so you can see if it suits your taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary!
Keep your rinds. Don’t throw away your parmesan rinds. Save them in a bag in the freezer and add them to soups and stews for a great cheesy flavor. Simply add the rind 20-30 minutes before your dish is finished.
Enlist the help of your shells. When you get a bit of egg shell in with your egg yolks and whites, instead of chasing it around the bowl with a spoon, use another piece of egg shell to help scoop it out. The bit of run-away shell will be attracted to the shell you’re scooping with.
Pre-freeze your meat. Make it easy on yourself when you’re slicing chicken, pork or beef for your stir-fry. Simply freeze the meat for a half hour or so before you cut it. Your knife go through the meat more easily when it’s slightly frozen.
For a bonus tip, if your bananas have gone overripe on you, peel them, pop them in a freezer bag and freeze them. Use your frozen bananas to thicken and sweeten up your smoothies!
By: Leanne Ely
During the summer, meals tend to be a lot more relaxed than they are during the school year. That just tends to be the nature of the beast.
With autumn comes routine, as those school days tend to add a lot of activities to the family calendar. Not only do you have to do all of the planning, grocery shopping, chopping, peeling, roasting, boiling, eating, and cleaning related to the evening meal, but you also have to make sure that everyone gets to where they need to go. Not to mention homework.
You’re pulled in hundred directions at once on any given day—wouldn’t it be nice to have a little house elf to take care of dinner?
Now, don’t get all excited. I haven’t found any colonies of house elves. But I do have a secret weapon that helps make meals magically appear on the table. And guess what? You have one, too. It’s called the freezer.
Freezer meals can save you a ton of time in the kitchen on those chaotic school nights. Really. You will not believe how much easier your life can be. All you need is a plan.
Plan around what’s on sale
When you happen upon a fabulous deal on meat, buy a bunch of it. Chicken, pork, beef—whatever’s on sale, buy as much of it as your budget allows. Prep the meat into a variety of meals to pop into the freezer (meatballs, chicken strips, marinated drumsticks, or pork tenderloin). How easy will that be when the time comes to thaw something out for dinner? Exponentially easier than dealing with a frozen stiff chunk of ground chuck, I’ll tell you that much!
Each week, do a meal plan. I find Sundays a good day for this—before the hectic week gets going—, but pick a day that works for you! Identify which nights are going to be too busy to worry about cooking. Make a note on the calendar to pull out one of your freezer meals that morning to thaw. Then, when supper time comes, just cook it! Easy peasy.
Take this one step further by joining our Freezer Meal Club!
Our Freezer Meal Club contains delicious, nutritious menus that allow you to put meals in the freezer to haul out when you need a hand.
They include shopping lists, instructions for assembly, and complete recipes with easy-to-find ingredients and easy-to-follow directions.
You simply bring the Shopping list with you to the grocery store, pick up the ingredients you need to prepare all of the meals, and then take around 2-3 hours (and a glass or bottle of wine) to prepare everything all at once. (Find out more about our Freezer Meal Club here!)
You don’t want anyone to get sick, so there are some safety considerations when freezing/thawing/cooking meals like this. I’ve shared these before, but they’re worth sharing again.
• Always wash your hands before and after handling raw food.
• Thaw your food in the fridge and never at room temperature. To quickly defrost your meal, put it in a water tight bag and place the bag in a bowl of cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Changing the water ensures that your meal stays cold, prohibiting any bacterial growth.
• Don’t use the microwave to thaw food. This may be a fast method of defrosting food, but microwave oven power levels vary between different makes and mod-els. This can lead to foods not actually being thawed within safe temperature zones.
• Always use the bottom shelf of your fridge to thaw raw meat, poultry, and fish/seafood. This will prevent juices from dripping down onto other foods. If you can put the item on a plate, even better.
• Always keep raw meat, poultry, and fish away from other foods.
• Use separate cutting boards for raw meat, fish, and poultry.
• Store cooked foods in your fridge below 40 degrees F.
• Foods that are stored in the fridge are safe for up to four days if stored below the recommended temperature. Foods containing seafood can be stored in the fridge up to two days.
• Foods stored in the freezer are best used within two to four months but can be stored longer. Please keep in mind that food quality will suffer greatly the longer the item is kept in the freezer.
• All foods should be heated to an internal temp of 165F.
• Allow cooked foods to cool completely before putting them in the freezer.
• Don’t put glass containers directly from the freezer into the oven.
Don’t forget to look into our freezer menus. You won’t regret it!
By: Leanne Ely
As I was sitting here one evening with a cold, delicious glass of my beloved Prosecco and a bowl of juicy organic strawberries, it occurred to me…
Saving Dinner needs to do a guide to food and wine pairings!
Because, let me tell you, when you are a lover of wine and food, knowing which foods to pair with which wines will take your wine escapades to a whole new level. The right wine will enhance the flavor of the food, and the right, delicious food will elevate the wine. By the way, it does go a bit farther than red wine with red meat, white wine with everything else. Just in case you were wondering 😉
So, the following photos that our lovely team has put together should help you ensure you always have the right wine for the occasion.
Prosecco or any other sweet sparkling wine will pair perfectly with a delicious pizza or a perfectly composed caprese salad. When you’re serving seafood, salad, or sweet strawberries, you’ll want a glass of bubbly.
Cabernet Sauvignon and chocolate go together like… well… red wine and chocolate. Do you know what else goes well with Cabernet Sauvignon? Walnuts, red meat, and berries. Yum!
Chardonnay is the perfect wine to pair with that rich, creamy, buttery meal. If you’ve having a meal of pasta (especially carbonara) or poached eggs, asparagus, and bread, Chardonnay is the wine you’ll want to pour.
As we all learned from Hannibal Lector, Chianti goes well with liver and fava beans (eew!), but it also pairs perfectly with Italian food. Or any dish focused on tomatoes.
Malbec is one of my favorite reds. I like pairing mine with fruit, chocolate, or red meat.
I like to pair my Merlot with salmon and a nice arugula salad. But it’s also perfect with red meat and pork. Oh, and if you’re a fan of bruschetta, that would be delicious with Merlot, too.
A sweet glass of Moscato is heavenly with Asian food or a nice ripe slice of pineapple. It’s also ideal to enjoy with a cheese plate with honey.
I love a cold glass of Pinot Grigio with almost anything, but it’s absolutely perfect with seafood.
And the red pinot, Pinot Noir, is fantastic with red meat. It’s also fabulous with a nice thin crust pizza topped with goat cheese and spinach.
Perfect with Chinese food, pork, salads, cheese… just about anything, really. It’s hard to go wrong with a nice crisp Reisling.
When you’re serving prosciutto and melon, you’ll want to serve that with a good Rose wine. Rose also goes well with pasta or chicken.
Shrimp and salad? Perfect pairing with Sauvignon Blanc. This white wine is also delicious when you’re having a chicken or a Mexican meal with cilantro and lime.
Another great pairing with salmon or red meat is Shiraz. A nice easy-to-drink red.
Zinfandel is a lovely wine to drink with dessert!
Now, all this talk about wine has got me thirsty! Excuse me while I pour a glass 😉