Things I Wish I Knew Before Cooking My First Thanksgiving

Last year, we found ourselves scrambling to make Thanksgiving plans amidst a global pandemic. Unable to gather with local family and unable to travel to out of state family, we decided to host our very own Thanksgiving celebration at home for the four of us.

While I am a decent cook, I’m not a chef. I’m far from it. No one at my house is going to go hungry, but I’m not used to cooking large holiday feasts.

Dinner turned out well, and it tasted great, but there are still a few things I would like to share to make your life easier.

1. Plan ahead!

Do as much as you can ahead of time. Plan your meal in advance. Make your shopping list early and buy the ingredients a week in advance- that way, you have plenty of time to make changes or pick up additional ingredients. If there are any dishes you can make a day early, do it. Save yourself some time and last minute planning.

2. Not everything has to be made from scratch.

Not everything tastes good premade but you can get away with using some canned or premade goods. Why not save yourself some time by using frozen yeast rolls or canned yams? If it works for you, and your family is happy, why does it matter?

3. Make sure you have extra cookware on hand

Most of us don’t typically use three or four pots at once to cook dinner, so a lot of us don’t have that many pots. Try to calculate when you will be cooking what so you can ensure you have enough pots before you get started. This way, you can borrow or purchase extras in advance.

4. Research unfamiliar recipes

Never cooked a turkey before? No problem! Just research the recipe that meets your needs! We are a busy family with small, picky children who won’t eat just anything. I searched for a few weeks before I found a turkey recipe I thought everyone in our family would enjoy!

5. And lastly, don’t stress over the small details

Your kids and your family aren’t going to remember whether everything is perfect- they are going to remember how much they enjoyed family dinners with their loved ones. Don’t stress on the small details- remember to relax and have a good time with your family.

Have a great week!!

In the Kitchen with Lumber in my Minivan: Classic Hot Chocolate

My kids love hot chocolate but with coronavirus on the rise again and with two small children, we are staying home. Did you know you can make delicious hot chocolate from things you already have in your cabinet?

All you need is Hershey’s cocoa, salt, sugar, hot water, milk and vanilla extract.

To make the cocoa, simply bring four cups of your choice of milk to a boil. I am dairy free, so I opt for almond milk. Stir in 1/4 cup of Hershey’s cocoa and add a small amount of salt. Then, add 1/2 cup of sugar and stir. Next, add 1/3 cup of hot water and 3/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Bring it all to a boil.

My girls love to add whipped cream and sprinkles to their hot chocolate to fancy it up.

E approves of this hot chocolate.
And little A loves it, too!

Now that the weather is colder, make yourself some hot chocolate.

DIY Fridge Coasters: Adhesive shelf liner

This post was supposed to run on Wednesday but something happened. So I will post it today 😄😄

My fridge needed a good cleaning, and my shelf liners were coming apart. I decided instead of using rubber shelf liner with grippers I’d do something different and use adhesive vinyl shelf liner.

Pioneer Woman- Walmart

Sometimes the grippy shelf liner causes things to get stuck in the fridge and it isn’t the easiest thing to clean. This adhesive liner is easy to wipe clean.

1. Begin by measuring your shelves and drawers.

I cleaned my shelves with alcohol and water and let them dry. Then, I attached the adhesive shelf liner to the shelf.

2. Attach your shelf liner to the shelf.

3. Measure small drawers and shelves by tracing the bottom of the drawer or shelf

So far, I am pleased with the adhesive shelf liner versus the gripper shelf liner. It wipes clean with a wet rag and it is much easier to slide things out of the fridge.

Plus, it’s so darn pretty!

Don’t you agree?

Tune in for some Friday fun tomorrow!!

Simplify Saturday: Meal Planning Made Easier

Simplify Saturday: Meal Planning Made Easier

As a busy mother of two with a full time job and a part-time business on the side, I know a thing or two about how difficult it is to cook. I also know that when you’re not prepared, it’s a lot easier to justify running to the drive through, where you end up spending money and making choices that aren’t the healthiest.

Once during the school year, we went over our monthly bank statement to discover we’d spent $400 that month on eating out. We were shocked…and vowed to do better. We are now doing an experiment in our house- we write on the calendar each time we eat out, and write down each time we cook at home. This is helping us keep track of how much we are spending, but also on how often we are eating at home.

I’d also like to share some other things you can do to ensure that meal times run more smoothly in your home.

1. Keep staple ingredients in your pantry at all times.

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Who else here has started following a recipe, only to find that you were missing one or two ingredients you needed? Isn’t it frustrating? Think about your family’s favorite things to eat at home, and isolate the ingredients that are common in those recipes. Then, make sure you keep a stockpile of those ingredients in your pantry and fridge.

2. Plan ahead as often as possible

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Planning ahead means that you already have a good idea of what you are going to cook for that week. I have tried to plan two weeks of meals at a time, but sometimes life happens and we don’t stick to it entirely. I’ve now started planning for one week at a time, and planning based on what I have in the pantry, fridge and freezer that week. This way, I am taking our weekly activities into account as well. Gymnastics on Tuesdays? Use the crock pot so it isn’t as time consuming and there is little clean up. Church on Wednesday night?How about salads for dinner? You get the idea.

3. Clean as you go

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Do you ever find that there is a giant mess in your kitchen after you cook, and you often do not get to it until hours later? I have had to wake up early before to clean the kitchen from the night before. One way that I handle this are to fill the sink with soapy water and wash/rinse utensils as I’m cooking. I can also soak bowls and pans before popping them into the dishwasher. The second thing I do is to reuse a bowl from meal prepping to put food scraps or trash in. Having a trash bowl saves me trips to the compost bin or trash can. I use a dish that I’ve already used so I’m cutting down on dirty dishes. It doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but it really helps.

4. Pre-prepare as much as possible

close up of salad in plate
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ve reached a point in my life where I’ve realized I need to spend a little more money at the grocery store to get pre-chopped vegetables once in awhile. I initially felt silly about this, but then I realized it truly does save me a lot of time and prep work in the kitchen.

What have you done to simplify your cooking at home? Please comment below and share your tips with me 🙂

 

Have a wonderful weekend.

 

 

 

 

21-day challenge: pantry organization

21-day challenge: pantry organization

We have a really big pantry/coat closet at our house that I absolutely love. It has a ton of storage space, has nice shelves and is just a really useful space. At the moment, though, it’s a really messy space.

What. a. mess.

Thankfully, it’s a mess that isn’t too hard to clean up. I started by going through each shelf and throwing away anything expired, or more than half empty. I also consolidated boxes and containers if I had any items that were open.

Group like items together. It makes it easier to find what you’re looking for.
Use clear jars so you can tell when you need to replenish your dry goods.

I also went through all of my canned goods and straightened them.

Using shelf risers helps maximize your shelf space.

And finally, I used baskets and bins to corral chip bags and snack boxes, clip on shelves to maximize space, and wood crates for under-shelf storage. Eventually, I plan to add casters to the bottom of my crates so I can roll them out easily when I need them.

All of our breakfast items are on one shelf, making them easier to grab and go.
Quick lunch items are also stashed together to make packing lunches easier.

I also straightened up the items on the shelf to make them easier to find and store.

All in all, my pantry is so much neater and better organized. What cabinet or pantry organizing project have you completed recently?