In case you missed any of them, here are all the menu planning tips I shared in the May Newsletters. This includes
- Evaluating How your Kitchen is Set Up
- How to care for your knives
- The Power of Batch Cooking
- Glass Storage Container Suggestions
- How Sheet Pan Cooking Saves Time (And Dishes) In The Kitchen
- Sheet Pan Recipe Links
- Scheduling time to cook like you mean it
- Homemade BBQ Sauce Recipes
How is your Kitchen Set Up?
When I recently surveyed all of you, a huge response came back that you struggled with menu planning and making time to cook. So I have created this new Thursday series for you of menu planning tips and strategies to help you get meals on the table more easily.
Many of the clients I have worked with express the same frustrations as all of you…
- I don’t know what to cook
- I am so tired at the end of the day
- There are too many different allergies in the house and I have to cook more than one meal for everyone
- It’s easier just to give in and eat crappy food myself
- So I am going to share with you what tweaks and actions made the difference for them.
One of the first things I do when working with a client is to take a look at their kitchen and how it’s set up.
My first question for you, is your kitchen actually set up for you to use it?
Read through this list of questions and see how many of them apply to you:
- Is there any clear counter space, do you actually have the space to work?
- Are your knives sharp, or are you struggling to chop because they are so dull?
- Do you hate your pots and pans?
- Do you have the utensils you need to cook with or are you “making due” with what you have?
- Are the pans you need buried in the cabinets?
- Do you experience a lot of frustration in your kitchen?
If you are experiencing any of the situations I listed above, then there are some immediate improvements we can make to your kitchen to have it flow better, to make your time cooking FEEL easier:
- Pick a morning to really look at the kitchen and where you have things. Would it be easier to have all your favorite tools in a crock on the counter like the picture above? Place it close to where you chop and cook.
- Throw out or donate the pans that you hate and replace them with the ones you have been wanting to get. And place them in a spot that is easy to access.
- CLEAR OFF THE COUNTERS. I have all my equipment like a crockpot, rice cooker, blender, and food processor on shelves in my garage. I bring them into the kitchen when I need them, so I have a big empty space on the counter ready for me when I need to make a meal.
How to care for your knives
Where are your knives? Do you have them in a drawer? The picture above is how I hang mine, with a knife magnet up on the wall. It keeps them easy to get to and in a safe space.
- Wash them by hand with warm soapy water, do not place them in a dishwasher, this will dull your blades very quickly.
- Have them professionally sharpened at least once a year.
- Use the steel to bring back the sharpness of your knife, it’s that round stick thing that came with your set of knives
- Here is a video for how to use a steel.
The Power of Batch Cooking!
I know you struggle with getting meals made at home and “quick and easy” is what wins sometimes. I have been asked so many times what I cook for myself at home. But then when I answer, most people brush it off as too hard for them. They think that since I am a Chef, that it’s is easy for me. Yes, I do have the skills to cook more quickly than the average person, but I have the same struggles as you. I work all day and then wonder “what’s for dinner” in the afternoon. I used to stop at the Food Trucks at least once a week or we frequently relied on takeout from our favorite Thai place.
But eating out every day does NOT support my desire to be healthy and eat a well-balanced diet. I know I feel my best when I am eating my own cooking.
I want to introduce you to the concept of Batch Cooking.
Batch Cooking is the pinnacle of multitasking and organization in the kitchen. This will be a lifesaving process to learn when you are short on time, but eating at home is essential for supporting your health.
TO BEGIN: You can start learning this process by just doubling every recipe you make. Every time you make a meal, double the amount you are making for the main protein and use this for lunch the next day or freeze the extra. Dishes with a gravy or liquid freeze the best.
AND THEN: Practice cooking more than one item at a time, so you get more done faster. When you think about your meal, what can go in the oven, while something else is cooking on the stove, and can you have another dish in the crockpot. This is how I get A LOT of food made at once.
I will talk more about batch cooking in the coming weeks and give you ideas for what recipes to combine when you cook.
These are an essential tool for batch cooking so you always have the ability to pop food in the freezer.
I use pyrex brand, but you can use whatever you find to be reliable. I use a few different sizes. The 7-cup is the biggest and is good for 3 to 4 servings. I find the smaller 2-cup dishes to be perfect for one serving of food. I use these for soups or something I know will make a great lunch for myself later. The 4-cup size is the one I use most often and hold enough for 2 servings.
- Batch cooking saves time to cook more food at once instead of smaller amounts throughout the week. All you have to do is reheat each day. This is saving my sanity during this quarantine, I can work at my desk and not stop to cook every meal. I just take out one of these glass dishes, reheat in the oven and keep working.
- The kitchen is only messy one or two days a week! Because you did everything in one day, you made all the mess on that one day too, once you clean up, the kitchen stays cleaner throughout the week = awesomeness.
- You get to come home and reheat everything on a busy day instead of spending hours cooking and cleaning (or getting take-out).
- Use the freezer for extra servings – now you have a stash of meals for anytime you need it.
Photo by Nom Nom Paleo
Sheet Pan Cooking Saves Time (And Dishes) In The Kitchen
How to Make a Sheet-Pan Dinner
If one of your blocks to cooking every night is the amount of dirty dishes you end up with at the end, what about trying this great trick I learned from Michelle of Nom Nom Paleo.
Sheet pan cooking takes the concept of a one-pot meal and flips it onto a pan. It saves time, makes clean-up easier, and doesn’t require expensive equipment or fancy ingredients. Just start with your protein of choice, then add vegetables, fat and flavorings, and roast at high heat until everything is golden brown.
Michelle just showed how she cooked trout and asparagus in a sheet pan on her grill last night on Instagram! It looked delicious AND easy.
Here are some recipes to inspire you and get the creative juices flowing. When trying out a new cooking technique, I always like to see how other people did it. By following someone else’s recipe, you get an idea of the time it takes and what temp to cook at. Once you do it a few times, you will start to get a feel for the process yourself. Make sure to use some parchment paper if you want to keep your pans cleaner.
Sheet Pan Pork Chop Supper:
Sheet-Pan Chicken Meatballs and Charred Broccoli:
Easy Sheet Pan Dinners from Epicurious:
All of the Sheet Pan Dinners from Nom Nom Paleo’s Website:
And this one looks so good, from Epicurious, just swap out the breadcrumbs for gluten-free ones.
Herb-Crusted Cauliflower Steaks with Beans and Tomatoes:
Here are the Sheet Pan Recipes from Castaway Kitchen:
Sheet Pan Options
A sheet pan’s low sides encourage airflow and browning. It can be a kitchen workhorse if you have heavy-duty, sturdy pans. If you don’t already have one (or several) in your cupboard, here are some considerations before you buy.
Most sheet pans are 18×13 inches with a 1-inch rim. Sometimes called half-sheet pans, they are half the size of those found in commercial kitchens, which are too big for most home ovens. You can choose a pan that’s either aluminum or stainless steel, but whatever you choose, look for a pan with a heavy-duty gauge.
I have at least 2 quarter sheet pans, measuring about 9×13 inches. They are terrific for smaller ovens or for cooking several ingredients that you want to keep separate. I like the smaller pans because I don’t always want to have to wash a giant pan.
My favorite pan is 15×10. Its right in the middle and fits most of what I want to cook. Again, something smaller and actually fits in my sink.
Scheduling time to cook like you mean it
How important is it to you to get in the kitchen and create great meals for yourself? Then I say you treat it like you do other important events in your life….. WRITE IT ON THE CALENDAR. Mark time on your calendar that is a non-negotiable. If you write it down, it is more likely to happen.
I tend to do this for myself on Sundays. Before quarantine, I always made Sundays the day I would designate a big chunk of time to being in the kitchen. That way I wouldn’t feel bad about it, or wish I was doing something else. Now that our schedules have become a little more fluid, and I am at home more, it tends to be Friday mornings that I cook. I still plan this out a few days ahead. I look at my calendar and create a space that makes sense to be in my kitchen, then I declare it and write it down!
If FOOD IS YOUR MEDICINE, then give it the time and love it deserves. There is nothing worse than walking into my kitchen to make a meal and feeling BAD about being in there. I totally do this to myself all the time: wishing I was outside or doing all the other stuff that “needs to get done.” Or if you have a house full of people, then they are demanding your time and attention too.
HONOR your cooking time by setting an intention and giving it the space it deserves in your life.
What organizational tools do you use for your job?
Do you set meetings on a calendar? Alarms on your phone? Do you turn off other distractions while you work? Utilize those skills you have at work to your time in the kitchen.
Try out these techniques:
- Schedule cooking time every week
- Schedule time to menu plan and write a grocery list ahead of time
- Let others know you aren’t available during this time, and DONT pick up your phone to skim social media
- Get the space ready, just like you need a clean desk, get the clutter out of the way so you can cook
- Listen to something fun! Music or podcasts, get the radio going, or put on headphones and create a fun environment while you cook
Homemade BBQ Sauce Recipes
Is barbecue sauce on your Summer Menu? Whether you’re grilling chicken, steaks or ribs, the right sauce can complement any dish. In summer. And if you want to experiment with making your own, here are 4 recipes I found to get you started!
These sauce recipes below are easy to prepare, and it’s the best option if you’re following an Autoimmune, Paleo, Candida or Nightshade-free diet. Plus, your guests will be impressed by your DIY skills!
4 Sensational Homemade Barbecue Sauce Recipes
Cherry BBQ Sauce from Forest and Fauna: If you’re avoiding nightshades this recipe is for you. NO tomatoes or peppers, summer cherries take center stage to create a sweet and tart sauce.
Paleo BBQ Sauce from Against All Grain: This is a more traditional recipe with one exception: no refined sweeteners! While many bottled brands and recipes incorporate sugar or honey, this version is only sweetened with dates.
Zesty Apricot-Thyme BBQ Sauce from Autoimmune Wellness: Apricots and ginger combine to create a sweet-meets-heat sauce, perfect for ribs, burgers and chicken. It’s also free from nightshades and common allergens.
Bourbon BBQ Sauce from Happy Healthy Mama: A combination of bourbon and honey creates a masterful homemade barbecue sauce in under 30 minutes. Just be sure to use good bourbon (one that you would also drink) to impart the best flavor.
My Favorite Grilling Recipes
The summer heat is the perfect excuse to light up the grill instead of cooking inside and warming up the house. Here are my go-to recipes that always make a great meal.
Mustard Lime Chicken: I always make extra and have this delicious marinated chicken on hand for a few days. It is great reheated the next day or eaten cold, chopped up in a salad.
Pork Kebabs with Romesco Sauce: Romesco Sauce is a beautiful red creamy sauce made of roasted bell peppers, almonds and bread…. but we can very easily make this without bread. Her sauce isn’t gluten-free, which is really easy to change, just follow a recipe like this one.
Chicken Souvlaki Skewers: Something about the lemon juice based marinade makes this chicken turn a gorgeous golden brown when it is grilled. Another great recipe to make extra for the week. This chicken tastes incredible cold the next day.