Classic Texas Food — Favorite Things {Day 19}

31 days 2014

I love food. 

One look at my thighs and you know it’s true.

I’ve been picking the last of the okra in my garden this week, so I thought good old Texas food might be a mouth-watering topic. A favorite thing worth writing about.

So here goes.

My Favorite Classic Texas Foods

1. Fried Okra

It’s what inspired me to write this post. I’ve got a bunch in my fridge right now that needs to be fried up. It might not be the healthiest vegetable (at least when it’s fried) but it sure is delicious.

okra

My method: Mix 3 parts cornmeal to 1 part flour in a gallon ziploc bag and add a little salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Meanwhile, wash and slice the okra and soak it in buttermilk for about 10 minutes. Transfer in batches to the cornmeal mixture, seal the bag and give it a good shake until the okra is coated. I fry it in batches in about an inch of hot oil, turning as necessary until the okra is golden. Remove to paper towels to drain and give it a generous dose of salt when it’s still really hot.

Fried okra is delicious. My kids eat it like popcorn.

If you live in the South, grow it in your backyard in the summertime. It thrives in hot weather. Otherwise, buy it in the frozen food aisle.

The other way we like to use okra is in gumbo. My recipe isn’t authentic Cajun so if you’re from Louisiana, don’t get mad at me. I think it’s adapted from Southern Living, and is more tomato based than the Cajun kind. But my family loves it. Serve it over rice with a big piece of cornbread and I’m in hog heaven.

Here’s my recipe:

Print Recipe

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Serves:6

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1-2 stalks celery chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper chopped
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1/2 lb. okra sliced
  • 2 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 2 c. water
  • 1/2 t. hot sauce
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 t. thyme
  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
  • 1/2 lb. smoked sausage, sliced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
Directions
  1. Combine oil and flour in Dutch oven; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until roux is caramel colored (10-15 minutes). Stir in celery, onion, pepper and garlic; cook 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Fry okra in 1 T. hot oil until browned. Add to gumbo, reduce heat to low and stir well. (At this stage, mixture may be cooled, refrigerated or frozen for later use.) Add broth, water and undrained tomatoes, worcestershire, hot sauce, salt, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 1 hour. Cook sausage in skillet to brown; add to gumbo with chicken. Cook 30 more minutes. Serve over hot rice.

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2. Chicken-Fried Steak

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Quite possibly my favorite food ever. For the uninitiated, it’s cube steak (an extremely tenderized cut of sirloin) that’s breaded and–you guessed it–fried like chicken. Most Southerners like it with cream gravy, but I veer off the beaten path here and eat mine with ketchup. My husband has threatened a few times to divorce me over it, but luckily he’s been able to look past it and stick with me anyway.

I’ve never actually made chicken-fried steak at home. Here in Texas, we have so many delicious options that I’ve never had to. In fact, if you are in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, you need to eat at Babe’s Chicken. Their chicken-fried steak, fried chicken, homestyle vegetables and biscuits are all to die for. I’ve never had creamed corn so good anywhere outside my grandmother’s table.

3. Pecan Pie

Pecan pie is as much a part of Thanksgiving in Texas as pumpkin pie ever was. For those of you who aren’t Texans, the pecan is our official state tree and if you have one growing anywhere near you, your yard will be covered with pecans in the fall. Or in the spring, you’ll be digging up pecan seedlings everywhere.

pecans

The squirrels love them and so do we. I’m just going to go ahead and declare the humble pecan: Best. Nut. Ever. We Texans use pecans on and in everything. But my favorite way to eat them is just by themselves. Mmmmm.

I’m a little embarrassed to say that I’ve never baked a pecan pie. My mom says they’re super easy to make, but since she keeps making them, I just keep eating hers.

4. Tex-Mex

Well, duh.

There are as many Tex-Mex restaurants in Texas as there are churches. Maybe more. And that’s saying something ’cause there are churches on every street corner. Some of the best Tex-Mex often lurks in little hole-in-the-wall places. I pretty much like all of it, and if I ever had to move away I’m sure I would have wicked withdrawal symptoms. 

Photo: Dallas Observer

Photo: Dallas Observer

I feel like I shouldn’t have to explain this but for those of you living elsewhere, Taco Bell is NOT in any way, shape, or form Tex-Mex.

Herrera's Dallas (Photo: Dallas Morning news)

Herrera’s Dallas (Photo: Dallas Morning news)

One of my favorite times for homemade authentic Tex-Mex food is during the Christmas season. Lots of the local Hispanic population make homemade tamales and sell them at Christmas time and there’s just nothing quite like homemade tamales. 

5. Barbecue

We Texans love our barbecue. Although I love me some good barbecued pork ribs, the focus in Texas tends to be more on beef. A good barbecue beef brisket is pretty much a staple for any summer cookout. If it’s cooked right it just melts in your mouth. And just like the Tex-Mex joints, sometimes you find the best barbecue at a little shack with a smoker out back. A pretty common sight in Texas.

Meshack's Barbecue Shack in our hometown. We drive by it every day on our way to school.

Meshack’s Barbecue Shack in our hometown. We drive by it every day on our way to school.

I could go on and on about Texas food. But instead I’ll just make this offer: if you come to Texas, look me up. We can go eat together!

Just leave your skinny jeans at home.

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This post is part of the 31 Days Link-up. To see what other bloggers are writing about, click here. To see all my 31 days posts so far, click here.

 

Must-See TV — Favorite Things {Day 18}

31 days 2014

I don’t watch a lot of TV these days. 

It’s not because I’m trying to better the world, one screen at a time.

The main reason I don’t watch much TV is because I’m not exactly sure how to turn it on. Well, ok. I can turn the thing on, but getting to the show I want to watch is so darn hard.

If my 7-year-old isn’t home to set it up for me, it’s usually not worth the hassle.

We don’t have cable anymore. We ditched it about five years ago, installed a digital antenna, and subscribed to Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime. Our living room TV is hooked up to a computer and our bedroom TV is hooked up to a Playstation and for the life of me, I can’t figure out the controls to either one.

I guess that’s why I’ve gotten so much reading done in the last couple of years. I still actually know how to work a book.

Even still, there are a few shows I watch loyally — shows I think you should watch, too! So that’s what this post is about: Good old TV.

simpsonstv

Homer Simpson: “Oh, TV. You give so much and ask so little.” 

Favorite Must-See TV Shows

1. The Middle

I. Can’t. Even.

This show hits so close to home. A middle-class family dealing with everyday life and some quirky kids. Every episode hits a nerve that makes me think the writers of the show have spy cameras installed in our house. So extremely funny. And mostly clean, with just a few mild curses here and there.

SHOWSHEET_Middle-2013-640

2. Big Bang Theory

A comedy about four geeky scientists, their love interests, and their lives. Definitely NOT G-rated but so funny. . . especially if you have a special geek in your life. Sheldon makes the show (and he is so much like our Travis).

Big-Bang-Theory

 

3. Downton Abbey

Yes, it’s basically a soap opera set in early 20th century Great Britain. Yes, I love it. I really think British TV has spoiled me. It’s so much better than almost anything American TV has to offer. The worst part about Downton Abbey is that I keep having to wait until January for it to start up again.

DowntonAbbey1

 

4. Parenthood

This is the final season of what, in my opinion, is the best drama American TV has to offer. Great acting, believable story lines, lovable characters. As much as I go into every episode thinking I won’t cry, I almost always do. One of the best media portrayals of Asperger’s Syndrome that I’ve seen.

parenthood

5. Call the Midwife

Oh, British TV, how you woo me. For this one I have to wait until the Christmas special, and then again until the end of March for the next season to start up. This is such a great show, so actually worth watching — unlike so much of what passes for entertainment these days. It’s based on the memoir book by the same name and is about nurse midwives living in London’s east end during the 1950s. So good.

Call the Midwife

 

6. Miranda

Yes. More British TV.

The worst part about this show? They haven’t even made a season 4 yet, because Miranda Hart is so busy with Call the Midwife and comedy and other stuff.

The best part about this show? I’ve never — I mean NEVER — laughed so hard in my whole life. If you are feeling depressed, blue, down in the dumps, whatever — you need to get thyself to Hulu right now and just watch one episode. I promise your life will be changed.

Miranda Hart’s comedy is like Lucille Ball or Carol Burnett comedy. . . super sized. 

You can watch all three seasons on Hulu and they are all well worth watching. 

Miranda_3

 

7. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

It’s no secret that I’m liberal-leaning in my politics, so Jon Stewart’s show is right up my alley. Plus I sort of have a little crush. We don’t have cable anymore, but once the episodes air you can watch them on the Daily Show’s Comedy Central website. The worst part? The commercials. They are just the absolute worst. The second worst part? The language. It gets bleeped out, but still . . . you know what they’re saying. The best part? The satire. I love satire. If you don’t know what satire is or don’t get it, then um. . . you probably shouldn’t watch this show.

jonstewart

 

8. The Colbert Report

Ditto about the satire. Except Stephen Colbert takes it to a whole new level. Oh, and get it while it’s hot. Because Stephen Colbert is taking over the Late Night Show when David Letterman retires. I’m sure he’ll be great, but it won’t be the same. The Colbert Report is political satire at its very finest. Love me some Colbert.

The-Colbert-Report-banner

 

Those are all my personal “Must-See-TV” favorites. What about you? Got any recommendations for me? Anything really good that I’m missing out on? I’d love to be able to try something new. . . if I can just figure out how to turn the thing on!

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10 Quick and Easy Weeknight Meals — Favorite Things {Day 17}

31 days 2014

This is my third post about some favorite ways to get quick and easy meals on the table during the week. I’ve already shared with you my top timesaving gadgets and tools, as well as how I prepare ahead to make weeknight meals a snap.

Keep in mind, though, that although I say “quick and easy,” everything’s relative. Let’s face it: feeding people day in and day out, meal after meal is HARD WORK. 

It makes me feel like this:

dinner every night

My idea of a vacation is a day when no one says “I’m hungry,” and I don’t have to feed anyone but myself. Yeah, that never happens. Except for those glorious days when my husband takes all the kids camping and I stay home.

Now THAT’S the life.

i love not camping

Wow, I’m digressing.

Okay, enough talk. Let’s get down to the recipes, shall we? Some of these will have the recipe right in the text, and on the others you’ll need to click the link and/or the photo to find the original source.

Top Ten Favorite Quick and Easy Weeknight Meals

quick and easy weeknight meals banner

 

1. Taco Soup

Use your pre-cooked ground beef starter along with your electric can opener to open all the cans, and you’ve got yourself a super quick meal. We serve ours with tortilla chips, shredded cheese, avocado, sour cream and chopped cilantro. If I’m feeling industrious, I might even make cornbread to go with it. Super easy and delicious!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 can Ranch Style beans
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 small can chopped green chilies
  • 1 can whole kernel corn
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) chopped, stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes
  • 1 pkg. taco seasoning mix
  • 1 pkg. ranch dressing mix

Directions

Don’t drain anything! Brown meat and onion together in large soup pot. Drain off fat. Add everything else and heat and simmer for at least 20 minutes. Serve with grated cheese, avocado, sour cream and tortilla chips.

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2. Chicken Caesar Salad 

Grilled_Chicken_Caesar_Salad

Photo: Kraft Recipes

I don’t really have a recipe for this. It’s just romaine lettuce (which I wash and bag ahead of time — or you can use pre-bagged salad to save even more time), tossed with cooked, sliced chicken and a bottled Caesar dressing (we like the Paul Newman brand). Grate a little Parmesan cheese and add some croutons and you’ve got a delicious meal. I also like to add chopped avocado and some pre-cooked bacon crumbles as well. Serve with garlic bread.

3. Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta

Source: Taste of Home

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This is a recipe I got from Taste Of Home years ago. Use your ground beef starter and pre-cooked bacon and you can have it ready about as fast as it takes the pasta to cook. To make it healthier, I use whole-wheat pasta and Amy’s Organic Cream of Tomato Soup (no MSG!). Serve with a green salad or vegetable to round out the meal.

4. Chicken with Mushrooms and Zucchini

Source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe 

ChickenZucchiniPSD

Photo: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

A healthy, delicious one-skillet stir-fry meal. Serve over Minute Rice (cooks in 5 minutes) and you’ve got dinner in no time flat.

5. Zesty Barbecue Chicken

Source: allrecipes.com

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This is my favorite slow cooker meal. I toss in frozen chicken breasts, pour the sauce on top, and cook until it’s done. An hour before it’s time to eat, I throw some potatoes in the oven to bake. Then I shred up the chicken and serve it over the baked potatoes with butter, sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped green onion, and bacon bits. This is a huge family favorite at our house! (Note: my favorite barbecue sauce is Stubb’s . It’s all natural (no high fructose corn syrup) and made right here in Texas.

6. Sweet Mustard Baked Chicken

Source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

mustard-chicken2

Photo: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

I’ve only made this dish once, but my kids gobbled it up like there was no tomorrow. I’ll definitely be adding this to my repertoire because it was easy to make. I served it with some mashed potatoes that I pulled out of my freezer and steamed green beans. Delicious and simple. (Especially if you’ve already prepared your chicken cutlets ahead of time!)

7. Tacos 

Source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

View-PSD

Photo: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

This is easy to make as is and a great way to use your ground beef starter. I keep chopped up jalapeño peppers (from my summer garden) in the freezer, and I just pinch off a little to add to the meat mixture. To make it even easier, use a packet of regular taco seasoning, or even this recipe for homemade taco seasoning. Warm up some taco shells and serve with all the fixin’s.

8. Super Dagwood Sandwich

Source: A family friend

This one’s a big hit around our house and if you have leftovers (never happens here!), it’s delicious warmed up the next day for lunch. If you’ve got your freezer stocked with loaves of French bread, this is a snap to throw together. Serve with salad, fresh fruit, or a veggie tray and chips.

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf French bread
  • 3 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 1/2 lb. thinly sliced cooked ham
  • 1 (6 oz) pkg. sliced Provolone cheese
  • 3 Tbsp. Thousand Island dressing, divided
  • 1/4 lb. thinly sliced turkey
  • 1/4 lb. thinly sliced salami
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted (optional)

Directions

  1. Slice bread horizontally into 3 equal layers using an electric or serrated knife. Spread first layer with 1 1/2 Tbsp. butter, and top with ham, cheese, and half of dressing. Top with second layer of bread. Spread second layer with 1 1/2 Tbsp. butter, and top with turkey, salami, remaining dressing, and third bread layer.
  2. Combine 1/4 cup butter and sesame seeds; brush on top and sides of loaf. Place loaf on baking sheet; bake, uncovered, at 400 for 15-20 minutes.

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9. Korean Beef

Source: Six Sisters’ Stuff

korean beef and rice

Photo: Six Sisters’ Stuff

Again, here’s a fast and easy way to use that ground beef starter you’ve got prepared in your freezer! This is tasty and a big hit with the kids. Serve with a green salad or steamed broccoli to round out the meal.

10. Lemon Chicken Soup

Source: Giada de Laurentiis

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Photo: Food Network

A yummy, satisfying recipe for chicken noodle soup that doesn’t take all day. This is a perfect recipe for using up your pre-cooked, shredded chicken. The lemon and the Parmesan give it a nice twist. My family loves this soup and it is so easy to make. You can serve with crusty bread, crackers, or a grilled cheese sandwich — but it’s perfectly filling all by itself.

I hope you enjoy these recipes! These are some of our family’s favorites.

And just as a side note: you may have noticed that two of the recipes have a Plan to Eat link attached. Plan to Eat is a menu planner/recipe book/grocery list website that makes meal planning SO EASY. It’s subscription based, but at $39/year it is completely worth it. It saves me so much time and hassle.

You can try it out FREE for a month to see how it works. I like free.

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

For the last two years, I’ve stored all my recipes online through the Plan to Eat website. I can pull up recipes and drag and drop them to dates on my calendar for easy meal planning. The website automatically generates a shopping list, which can also keep track of items you have on hand as well as staples you buy frequently. I now do all my grocery shopping with the Plan to Eat virtual shopping list on my phone. So easy peasy!

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This post is part of the 31 Days Link-up. To see what other bloggers are writing about, click here. To see all my 31 days posts so far, click here.

*There are affiliate links included in this post. If you click on a link and make a purchase, a small percentage of the sale helps to support this site. You will never be charged more for any item than you would without the referral link, and I only link to items that I personally recommend.

 

 

 

 

How to Prepare Ahead for Quick and Easy Weeknight Meals — Favorite Things {Day 16}

31 days 2014

This week we’re talking about my favorite ways to get healthy meals on the table and quick!

Yesterday I shared my top ten favorite timesaving kitchen tools and gadgets.  Today’s post is a crucial step for providing quick and easy weeknight meals. These are my favorite ways of preparing ahead so that quick meals are a possibility.

With four school-age kids in our home, the schedule can be grueling — especially on weeknights with all the extra-curricular activities, lessons, meetings, etc. The temptation is to choose fast food or pizza delivery, but because nutrition is important to me (not to mention my bank account!), it’s crucial that I have an arsenal of ready-to-go ingredients on hand.

quick & easy banner

Favorite Ways to Prepare Ahead for Quick and Easy Weeknight Meals

1. Buy chicken breasts on sale and prepare cutlets. 

I purchase boneless, skinless chicken breasts when they are $1.99/lb. or less. I usually buy at least 10 pounds at this price, depending on how much I already have in my freezer. Then I try to do as much prep work as possible. Most “chicken breast” recipes start with trimming the breast and pounding it flat. I try to do this as soon as I bring the chicken home. I take one breast (they are HUGE nowadays) and butterfly it (cut the thickness in half). I trim the fat and I pound them thinner if necessary. Then I place 4-6 of these cutlets in a gallon size Ziploc freezer bag, squeeze out the air, and store in the freezer. These cutlets are ready to go for just about any recipe that calls for uncooked chicken breasts.

2. Pre-cooked Chicken

This is an absolute MUST-HAVE if you want to be able to throw together meals in a jiffy.  I store my pre-cooked chicken in labeled quart-size Ziploc freezer bags. Whenever I need cooked chicken to put in a casserole, soup, or salad, it is so convenient to have this staple on hand. I have three methods for keeping my freezer stocked with pre-cooked chicken and I use them all interchangeably.

  • Buy rotisserie chickens and save the meat. This is the priciest option but also the easiest. Almost all grocery stores sell pre-cooked rotisserie chickens. You can easily pick up two or three, serve one for dinner and pick all the meat off the others. This meat is great for casseroles. (Oh, and don’t throw away the carcass after you’ve picked off the meat! Use it to make homemade chicken stock. It’s so cheap and so good for you.))
  • Cook chicken ahead and shred it.  I use this method to cook and shred boneless, skinless breasts. I usually cook as much as I can fit in my big skillet. After shredding, I freeze it. Whenever I need cooked chicken for a soup or casserole, I just defrost it in the microwave and it’s ready to go.
  • Cook chicken ahead and slice it. Again, I use the chicken breasts I bought on sale. Sometimes I go ahead and butterfly them for this method, other times not. Depends on how lazy I feel. I salt and pepper the chicken on both sides and sprinkle with a little garlic powder. Then I pan-fry them in a little olive oil until they are cooked through. (My dog always comes running during this step!) Once the chicken cools, I slice it against the grain into thin strips and then freeze it in bags. This is the best cooked chicken to use in salads! My kids love chicken this way as well, so it’s a nice alternative to packing sandwiches in their lunches.

2. Pre-cooked ground beef

I treat ground beef the same way I treat chicken. (Sorry Chick-Fil-A cows!) I buy a big value pack or two of lean ground beef when it’s on sale. If I’m feeling really industrious, I’ll make some into meatballs or patties. Usually, though, I just break off one-pound chunks and freeze them in the Ziploc bags. I use gallon size bags for raw ground meat and I squish the meat out to fill up the whole bag. Then, leaving just a tiny hole open in the top, I roll up the bag to squeeze out all the excess air. Then I seal the bags and stack them flat in my freezer. These are ready for making meatloaf, meatballs, hamburgers, etc.

After I’ve done that, I usually cook up some “ground beef starter” using about 3-4 pounds of meat. I don’t really have a recipe — I just chop up an onion and a couple of garlic cloves and cook them with the meat in a big pan. Once it’s cooked, I drain off the fat, then freeze the cooked meat in quart size Ziplocs . This is the most amazing timesaver! Having the meat already cooked means I can make tacos in 10 minutes, or spaghetti in the time it takes to boil the pasta.

3. Bread on hand

I always buy extra loaves of sandwich bread, French bread and hamburger buns and keep these in the freezer.  Some people don’t like bread after it’s been frozen, but my family doesn’t seem to care. It works especially well if you’re going to toast it or make grilled sandwiches. Just make sure you take it out of the freezer at least an hour ahead of time so it has time to thaw properly. Bread won’t defrost well in the microwave. With bread on hand you can make all kinds of sandwiches in a snap.

4. Double Up

Finally, whenever you are spending time in the kitchen cooking, always make more than you need (if it’s something that can be frozen). I do this with soups, casseroles, pasta, biscuits and muffins, even mashed potatoes. This will not work well with rice-based dishes, deep-fried foods, or anything that contains cream cheese, but it works beautifully with almost everything else. I love knowing that when I don’t feel like cooking, all I have to do is thaw out a meal and reheat.

Tomorrow I’ll be sharing some of my favorite recipes and meal ideas for getting dinner on the table as fast as possible!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go feed my brood! The natives are indeed restless!

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This post is part of the 31 Days Link-up. To see what other bloggers are writing about, click here. To see all my 31 days posts so far, click here.

*There are Amazon affiliate links included in this post. If you click on a link and make a purchase from Amazon, a small percentage of the sale helps to support this site. You will never be charged more for any item, and I only link to items that I personally recommend.

Top Ten Timesaving Kitchen Tools and Gadgets — Favorite Things {Day 15}

31 days 2014

Yesterday I talked to my Mom about this 31 Day series, and I told her I was afraid I might run out of favorites before the month is over.

Quick and easy weeknight meals was her suggestion and I was thrilled because this is something I know a lot about.

To fill you in on my favorite tips and recipes, however, will take more than one blog post.

We’ll start today with my top ten favorite timesaving kitchen tools and gadgets that help make quick meals possible.

kitchen gadgets banner

Top Ten Timesaving Kitchen Tools and Gadgets

1. My Deep-Freezer

If you have a large family or a very busy schedule, and you have the room for it, you can really benefit from a deep freezer. Yes, it’s a big ticket item, but I cannot tell you how much time, money, and headache this beauty saves me.

  • For one thing, I can go much longer between shopping trips because I have a freezer full of food.
  • In addition to that, I have the luxury of buying all my meat when it’s on sale and stocking it in the freezer for use whenever I need it.

A deep freezer is like a second pantry, but with perishable foods. Mine is a Kenmore (like this one) and it’s a chest style freezer, but many people opt for an upright these days to save space. We keep ours in the garage alongside our old refrigerator (which stores drinks and extra gallons of milk).

2. My Crock Pot 

Actually, I have two. And I use them both. If you want to be able to come home to a a home-cooked meal and a house that smells divine and , the Crock Pot  is your friend. There are so many brands and so many delicious recipes out there nowadays, that it just makes sense to have a slow cooker in your kitchen.

 

 

3. Ziploc freezer bags

I use these constantly for freezing pre-cooked items (I’ll share more about these tomorrow) to use for quick and easy meals. I like the Ziploc brand. They are heavy duty and easy to label.

 

4. Sharp knives

I’m not a knife snob by any means, but if you plan to do any cooking at all, you need a big sharp knife. It will save you so much time. I personally like my Santoku knives for chopping and slicing just about anything, but a large (sharp!) chef’s knife will work just as well.

 

 

5. My KitchenAid Food Processor

I don’t use this every day, but it comes in so handy whenever I’m doing any kind of batch cooking. I use it to chop ingredients, to make the best salsa, and for grating cheese. It’s also great for mixing up pie crust.


6. An Electric Griddle

I’m not sure how I lived without mine. This probably isn’t a necessary gadget if you have a small family, but for my family of six, it means I can make enough grilled cheese sandwiches or pancakes to feed my whole clan at the same time. We can fry up a whole pound of bacon at once and then save the uneaten cooked slices in the fridge for later. A huge timesaver!

7. Garlic Press

I use mine all the time. I mean ALL THE TIME. Makes it so easy to use fresh garlic.



8. An electric Can Opener 

Yes, I’m really that lazy. I tried using a manual one for a while, in an effort to clear up counter space. But I didn’t like it as much. An electric can opener is cheap and saves time. So I have one and use it frequently.

9. An organized pantry/cupboard and spice rack

This isn’t really a tool or gadget. But it is probably one of the best timesavers there is. If you can’t easily find your ingredients, you’re wasting valuable time. It doesn’t really matter if your organization system is Pinterest-worthy or not. It just needs to work for you. There are a million ideas on the internet for how to accomplish kitchen organization, so I’m not gonna reinvent the wheel here. Google it, find a system that works for you, and get your ingredients organized. The few hours you spend will save you tons of time in the long run.

pantry

10. A dishwashing husband

If you find one of these, HANG ON FOR DEAR LIFE!!!  He is worth his weight in gold! I got lucky in this regard, as I do most of the cooking and he does most of the cleaning up. We also make our kids help. Whatever you have to do, utilize the people in your family as best as you can. Get them involved in a way that saves you time!

Tomorrow I’ll fill you in on how I prepare ahead of time so that I can get meals on the table–quick!

What kind of kitchen tools or gadgets do you find you can’t live without? I’d love to know!

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This post is part of the 31 Days Link-up. To see what other bloggers are writing about, click here. To see all my 31 days posts so far, click here.

*There are Amazon affiliate links included in this post. If you click on a link and make a purchase from Amazon, a small percentage of the sale helps to support this site. You will never be charged more for any item, and I only link to items that I personally recommend.

The Games We Play — Favorite Things {Day 14}

31 days 2014

Our family loves to play games.

Of course, my boys’ idea of playing games involves holding an Xbox controller with both hands. But we force them to play board games with us. We’re mean like that. Luckily, my daughter doesn’t have to be forced. She loves a good board game.

Here’s a list of our current family favorites.

 

1. Bananagrams

Best. Game. Ever. Well, at least if you are a word nerd. We’re all word nerds in our family. In this game you get letter tiles (like in Scrabble) and you have to use all your tiles to form words that connect, crossword style. It’s a race to see who can use up all his tiles first. Not for the faint of heart or for the spelling-challenged. Best part about this game is that it’s tiny, takes up almost no space and it travels well (in its own adorable little banana-shaped pouch!).

2. Ticket To Ride

We just got this game last Christmas, and it’s loads of fun. It has very high ratings on Amazon. A strategy game where the goal is to build the longest railroad.

3. Splendor

This game is new to us but we can’t stop playing it. The object of the game is to be the first to rack up 15 points, but it takes a while to get there. Players earn points by purchasing gem stone with cards and tokens. My 10 year old daughter beats us at this almost every time we play. Aaaaargh!

4. Beat the Parents

A fun, light-hearted game that pits the kids against the parents. We also have the Disney version of this!


5. Encore

Ok, I lied. This is not really a family favorite. This is my personal favorite game. I’ve loved this game since college, but no one will play it with me because I always win. It’s true. I know a song for everything. Still. . . it would be nice if someone would play with me!

 

5. Taboo

This game’s been around for a long time, but we just recently introduced the kids to it. They loved it. Again, a great game for word nerds (which we are). We did have to take the batteries out of the buzzer though.  The kids got a little too buzzer-happy for Momma’s liking.


6. Rummikub

This game is like rummy card games, but it’s played with tiles instead. Our kids haven’t really gotten into it yet, but this is one we like to play with my in-laws.

7. Sequence

Another board game that’s modeled after card games. This one is played with partners and requires a lot of strategy. We love it.

8. Joker

Ok, we don’t actually own this game (but I wish we did!). We first played it at a church family retreat several years ago and it is so much fun! It’s best played with six people, three per team. We like to play guys vs. girls. This game can go on for hours. It’s great for having a few friends over on a Friday night. When we get a hankering to play, we have to invite our friends who actually have a game board since we don’t own one and they are expensive. Most boards are handcrafted, so if you are handy with woodworking, this might be something you could fashion yourself, then add the cards and marbles. I really wish somebody would make me one! 

$_35-2

 

Any of these games would make fun, unique Christmas gifts for the people you love!

Are there any fun games I’m missing? I’d love to get some ideas for new games we could add to our repertoire!

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