How to Stretch a Chicken to Make Six Meals

How to Stretch a Chicken to Make 6 Meals

When I mentioned that I can stretch a chicken to last us six meals, many of you thought I was kidding.  I can’t believe you thought I was kidding.  I’m always so serious about everything I say around here.  Just kidding.  About being serious.  I’m not kidding about the chicken though.

(eh?)

There are six of us in our family and we all enjoy our food.  That’s my polite way of saying, “Good grief, my boys can put away a lot of groceries in a short amount of time and then come back in an hour asking for more.”  That said, if I roast a nice chicken for dinner and serve it as the main dish, there won’t be much left of said chicken at the end of the meal.  Just enough to pull a few scraps of meat together for a small casserole, then the bones are used to make broth.  So, worst case chicken scenario at my house:  One Chicken, Two and a Half Meals.

But if I cook a chicken to make broth, and then use the meat from the chicken to make several different meals…now that is the best way to get the most out of a chicken!  It’s cost effective, it saves loads of time and it’s easy.

The chickens I buy are from a farm nearby and they are big (between 4-6 pounds) and nice and meaty.  I pay good money for them (around $15), which sounds like a lot…but if I get SIX meals from one bird?  That’s only $2.50 worth of excellent protein per meal (42¢ per serving)…for my family of six!

Okay, so let’s say I cook a chicken all day to make broth and to have cooked chicken meat ready for meals.  This has got to be one of the easiest things to do ever when it comes to cooking nutrient rich and inexpensive meals for your family, by the way.  To stretch the chicken to last our family six meals, here is an example of what I might do over the course of a week or week and a half (freezing the broth and/or chicken after a few days to pull out as needed):

1.  Use one batch of broth and a little bit of chicken to make Chicken Tortilla Soup.  Because I’m using the rich broth, I don’t feel the need to use much chicken (if any) in this soup.

chickentortillasoupsm.JPG

2.  Use the other batch of broth to make Chicken Noodle Soup.  Again, I would use very little chicken to make this as there is so much goodness in the broth.  And if you recall, sometimes I forget the chicken altogether, much like I forget to put the bananas in my banana bread.  You’ve got to love my “duh” moments.

3.  Next, I’d throw some chicken in Homemade Alfredo Sauce with pasta.  I just use about 1 1/2 cups of cooked chicken for this as the sauce and noodles make up the bulk of the meal.  (Add steamed veggies and a salad and you’re good to go!)

4.  For a tasty lunch later in the week I’d make Black Bean Taco Salad.  Because there are black beans and cheese in this salad, it doesn’t require a lot of chicken to complete the meal.  Yum – this salad is so good!!

5.  Not out of chicken yet, I can now make Three Cheese Garlic Chicken Pasta.  Again, the pasta and cheese and milk are so filling, not a lot of chicken is needed.  Plus, the cheese helps add protein to this meal.

garlicchickenpastasm

6.  Last, I’d use whatever chicken is left to make Chicken Veggie Quesadillas.  With all the veggies to fill these quesadillas, the small bits of chicken add just a little bit of protein to complete the meal!

veggiequesadilla1sm.JPG

Now, I feel very strongly that our family needs good, healthy protein at each meal, so I’m not usually parked in the “skimp on meat” camp.  We eat lots of eggs and nuts and beef and other meat.  But getting a lot of goodness out of one chicken is a great way to cut down on time in the kitchen and save money too!

The moral of the chicken stretching story is:  If you don’t use the chicken as the main part of the meal, but just as a supplementary part…you too can stretch a chicken for all it’s worth.

What is your favorite way to stretch a chicken?  As in…what are your favorite meals to eat with leftover, cooked chicken?

Disclaimer:  No chickens were actually stretched during the writing of this post. 

This post was originally published on January 23, 2011.

How to Adapt a Recipe to Make it Healthier

How to Adapt a Recipe to Make it Healthier

I’m often asked how much Sucanat to substitute for white sugar, or if whole wheat flour can be substituted one for one with white flour.  I decided to share a little bit about how I adapt “regular recipes” to make them healthier!  Please know that when I say “healthier”…I’m not talking low fat.  To me, healthier means real, whole food.  Click on the following links so read about how I feed my family and why I love real, whole foods!!  Be sure to also check out this entire series on Simple Steps Toward Healthy Eating.

Fats


  • If a recipe calls for vegetable or canola oil I switch it out one for one with melted coconut oil or melted palm shortening.  It’s a little bit tough to measure out solid coconut oil to an exact needed amount.  I just kind of “eyeball it”.  If a recipe calls for 1/4 cup of vegetable oil, I make my best guess at how much 1/4 cup of coconut oil (or palm shortening) is while I’m scooping it out…then I melt it down in a small saucepan on the stove.  If you are new to cooking/baking…you may prefer to melt it, then pour it into a measuring cup to be sure you  have the correct amount.
  • If a recipe calls for margarine (I gag and then) I switch it out one for one with real butter.  This means that if the recipe calls for 1/2 cup margarine, I use 1/2 cup of butter.
  • Usually butter and coconut oil can be used interchangeably.  For instance, when I make muffins…sometimes I use coconut oil and sometimes I use butter.  It depends on what I have on hand and what sounds good at the moment (coconuty goodness, or rich buttery flavor).  If you are unable to eat dairy, you can substititute coconut oil for butter in most recipes.
  • I almost always use melted palm shortening to fry foods (like french fries, onion rings, homemade corn dogs, etc.).  Palm shortening does NOT create the same freaky effects from frying that vegetable or canola oils create.  This means that foods fried in palm shortening (or coconut oil) are NOT unhealthy!
  • I use olive oil if a recipe calls for just a few teaspoons or Tablespoons of vegetable oil.
  • You can read more about the fats I prefer and why I prefer them here!!

Sugars


  • Sucanat (or Rapadura, which is the same thing…just under a different name) can be substituted one for one with white or brown sugar.  This means that if a recipe calls for one cup of white sugar…you can instead use one cup of Sucanat.  However, I generally cut the Sucanat down just a hair because the flavor is stronger…and because it is more expensive…and because wow…do we really need that much sugar?  :)  Sucanat, by the way, is dehydrated cane sugar juice and the healthiest form of cane sugar I’ve found.  You can read more about it  here.
  • Honey can be substituted for white or brown sugar, but I usually use 1/2 to 2/3 the amount the recipe calls for.  This means that if a recipe calls for one cup of white or brown sugar, I only use 1/2 to 2/3 cup of honey.  Honey has a rich flavor and is sweeter than sugar.  I have not found that substituting honey causes much difference in the consistency of a recipe, even though honey is a liquid and sugar is not.  If anything, I find that honey makes quick breads, muffins and cookies more moist…and that’s never a bad thing if you ask me!
  • Real Grade B Maple Syrup can be substituted for white or brown sugar, but I don’t often bake with it (ooh, except for Coconut Macaroons!).  I use maple syrup for liquid treats like Chocolate Milk and Smoothies and Ice Cream.  If a recipe calls for corn syrup, I use Grade B Maple Syrup instead, substituting it one for one.
  • You can read more about the sweeteners I prefer and why I prefer them here!!

Flours

To make things a little bit easier…I created a free printable “Healthy Recipe Substitutions” download.  Click the following link, print it off and keep it in your kitchen as a handy reference!

Healthy Recipe Substitutions

How do you feel about adapting recipes?  Are you good at making substitutions…or do you prefer to follow a recipe exactly?

This post was originally published March 9, 2011.

How to Finish Your Homemade Vanilla Extract

How To Finish Your Vanilla Extract

I’ve talked about making Homemade Vanilla Extract just a little tiny bit on this site.  You’ve seen:

Just in case you need MORE reasons to make your own Vanilla Extract, here’s a post about All the Nasty Stuff Found in Most Commercial Vanilla Extracts.

But for some reason, I never shared with you how to finish off and bottle your homemade vanilla extract.  Sometimes I forget important details, such as the names of my children and telling you how to finish off your homemade vanilla.  What’s his name – my youngest son – helped me bottle some vanilla last week and we took pictures.  Finally.  (Malachi…his name is Malachi.)

Once your vanilla beans  have been sitting in the vodka (or other alcohol of choice) for 4-6 months, it’s strong and ready to be bottled.  Begin by lining a colander with a coffee filter or thin tea towel.

Place lined colander in a pot to catch the vanilla.  If you don’t, you will have excellent quality homemade vanilla extract running down all over your kitchen table and floors.  Your kitchen will smell great for months, but that will only be a long, sad reminder of the wasted vanilla.  Put the colander in a pot.

Pour contents of your jar into the colander so that the coffee filter can strain all of the tiny vanilla specks out.  The vanilla specks won’t hurt anything, but it’s nice to have speck-less vanilla extract.

Use a funnel to bottle up the strained vanilla.  I have found amber bottles (recommended) Mountain Rose Herbs.

Lay your used vanilla beans on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels to dry.  You can then put them into a container of sugar for 4-6 months which will turn that sugar into Vanilla Sugar!

Finally, FINALLY I have shown you how to finish up your vanilla.  And now, if I can figure out how to call my children by the correct names without running down the list of all four boys before I get to the right one, I’d be all set.

This post was originally published November 28, 2010.

How to Warm Up Food Without a Microwave

Our family stopped using a microwave about six years ago when we began our healthy eating journey.  We still have a microwave, because it is a permanent fixture above my stove and would be a pain to take down.  Guests do use it occasionally, which means that I should probably actually clean it every once in a while.  But in general, I’ve pretty much forgotten that it exists.

Why do we not use a microwave?

I’d like to write an entire post about why you may want to consider avoiding the use of a microwave oven.  But I’m not a girl who uses big words or who can write informative sentences about the dangers of microwaves, imparting knowledge like, “The apparent additional energy exhibited by the luminescent bacteria was merely an extra confirmation.”  Shoot, not only can I not write a sentence like that, I can’t even read one and come away feeling like I have an actual working brain in my head.  Therefore, if you’d like to read all the big words and reasons for avoiding a microwave, I encourage you to check out all of the helpful information in this article.

Otherwise, in Laura’s simple and non-big-word language:  We don’t use a microwave because we think that it makes our food yucky.

The question I receive often then is:  How do you warm up leftovers if you don’t have a microwave?

Easy.  I warm up our food on either the stove-top, in our oven, or in our toaster oven.

Pardon the fairly ugly picture, but really, how cute can leftovers in a saucepan actually be?!  ;)

I usually add just a shot of water to the saucepan with our leftovers to keep the food from sticking.  I have also found that it is a good idea to keep the heat at a medium setting and to stir often.  If I’m rewarming Creamy Mac and Cheese or something else milk based, instead of adding a shot of water, I will add a shot of milk, which keeps the food creamy!

To warm up Pizza, Taco Corn Fritters, Popcorn Chicken, or Burritos and such, I’ll use our oven or toaster oven.  We LOVE our toaster oven!  We pop the food in, put it on “toast” or “bake” depending on what we want, walk away and do something else for a few minutes, then our food is perfect.

toaster oven

While a microwave might take one minute to warm up your food, I’d say the stovetop takes about two minutes.  A toaster oven might take five.  Those few extra minutes really don’t hurt my feelings very much.  It’s not so hard to wait.  My food tastes better rewarmed this way, plus I don’t have to worry about it losing it’s nutritional quality.  Those are a few extra minutes well spent.

What are your thoughts about using a microwave?  How do you warm up leftovers?

This post was originally published February 28, 2012.

10 Oven-Free Summertime Meal Ideas

You know what’s great about summertime?  Pretty much everything, especially the part about it being summer in the summertime.

Summer is my favorite season, mostly because this is when the sun is shining.  I heart sunshine.  I also love heat, because here in Nebraska, I spend about 13 months out of the year shivering.  Once summer hits, the sun shines daily, and my bones warm up – then I am in my happy place.

While sun and heat rock my world, dripping sweat down my nose and into my cooking pot is not a part of my summertime enjoyment.  Well, don’t picture it.  It’s just that I remember watching my grandma cook in her 115° kitchen, wiping away sweat before it salted the veggies she was preparing.  She never learned to close up the house and use the window air conditioner properly, so all of us almost melted and died from the heat in their house every time we visited during the summer.  Her kitchen turned us all into sweaty, sloppy…hold on.  Why are we still talking about this?  We’re here to talk about great food in the summer that does not heat up the house.  Moving right along…

10 Oven Free Meals for Summer

I have so much fun preparing yummy meals for my family in the summer.  Why?  Because there are so many fresh food options available.  Watermelon, peaches, corn on the cob – mmmmm I love the taste of summer.  In the sunshine.  On a hot day.  (Yes, Laura.  We get it.  You like hot weather.  Weren’t you going to tell us some good summer meal ideas?)

Indeed.

Here are 10 great summertime meals that won’t heat up your kitchen:

1.  Hamburger patties with cheese, buttered green beans, and tossed salad

Oven Free Summertime Meal

2.  Grilled Italian chicken (recipe in Let’s Do This! eCourse), tossed salad, steamed broccoli, watermelon

3.  Grilled barbeque chicken, tossed salad, sweet corn, grilled asparagus

4.  Baked potatoes in the crock pot topped with slivered ham, shredded cheese, sour cream, and steamed broccoli – cantaloupe on the side

baked_potato_3

5.  BLT wraps, sliced sweet peppers, carrot sticks and cucumbers with ranch dip, chocolate whipped cream on strawberries

6.  Chicken tacos, spicy avocado dip, pineapple cream dessert

chicken_tacos_2

7.  Pasta salad bar with chicken and lots of veggies, blackberries and fresh peaches

8.  Taco salad, fresh pineapple

9.  Turkey ranch pinwheels, olives, sweet peppers, honey glazed carrots, watermelon

10.  Black bean salsa with corn chips, carrot sticks and cucumbers with ranch dip, nectarines

What are your favorite summertime meals that don’t heat up the house?  Whose with me in the “I love summer” camp?

Make Coffee Ice Cubes for Iced Coffee

Frozen Coffee Cubes
Well, if this idea doesn’t take the idea of “freezer cooking” to a whole new level, I don’t know what does.  I’m guessing many of you have already seen this on Pinterest or on another blog.  Still I felt it was worth mentioning as a reinforcement that the idea is really wonderful.

By the way – remember when I didn’t like coffee?  Then how I started liking coffee just a little bit?  Then how I started liking it just a little bit more?  Yeah.  I totally love coffee now.  Love it. 

It seemed to happen right around the time I turned 40.  Suddenly coffee started tasting really good to me.  I drink it in the morning while I spend time with God.  Oh my goodness, how I love to let the goodness of Jesus and the deliciousness of coffee wash over me as I start the day.  Simply awesome.

So now what’s all this about making coffee ice cubes for iced coffee?  Here’s how I learned this idea: Matt and I have a great male friend who is super athletic, macho, and manly.  Not that guys who are super athletic, macho, and manly can’t be on Pinterest, but when this guy said to me, “Hey Laura,  do you do Pinterest?  I found a great idea for you!” I was so shocked that I laughed out loud and snorted like an idiot.  Oh, c’mon.  You know I’m exaggerating.  I totally concealed my shock, held my composure, and simply giggled and blurted, “Whoa. Dude. Seriously?”

What can I say?  I’m used to this guy greeting our family by putting one of my boys in a choke hold instead of sharing his excitement about a Pinterest idea with me. Nonetheless, the idea he found is brilliant, which is this:  If you like Iced Coffee, freeze leftover coffee in ice cube trays.  That way, when you pour coffee over ice, the ice won’t melt and water down your coffee.  See?  Brilliant.

Freeze Coffee in Ice Cube Trays
I’m not much into eating or drinking sugar these days (my body rebels and I start feeling sick - also something that happened about the time I turned 40).  Therefore, my favorite way to make an iced coffee is to pour cold coffee into a glass filled with coffee ice cubes, add a shot of whole milk, and sit down to enjoy the creamy delightfulness of rich, cold coffee.

If you’re a little more into having a little sweetness with your coffee, I recommend stirring in some Homemade Chocolate Caramel Creamer. And by the way, I know there are wonderful gadgets on the market specific for cold brewing coffee.  I just find that it’s easier to brew a pot of hot coffee in my French press, then chill it (or freeze it into coffee cubes).  Why buy another gadget for my already full kitchen, right?

Do you like coffee?  Do you like iced coffee?  Ever tried freezing coffee in ice cube trays?  Serious deliciousness.

Trying To Get Ahead So I Can Have Rational Conversations With My Guests

My aunt and uncle are visiting for the weekend - something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time!  We’ll be having cousins over for a meal or two while they are here.  And you know me.  For the life of me, I cannot talk and cook at the same time (more info to follow about my poor, pitiful self).

Because of this issue I have, the boys and I spend some time yesterday prepping food to make it possible for me to have coherent conversations with my loved ones.  I think it goes without saying that we will all appreciate this – both the food and the completed sentences.

memorial day food 2

What all did we get done?  Well, none of this was difficult, and in fact, much of it didn’t even involve cooking.  Still, the more kitchen work done ahead of time the better.  Here’s what we did:

  • Prepped tomatoes and lettuce for BLT Wraps.  The day before that, we cooked the bacon for the cream cheese mixture.  Was it torture to make bacon and not eat it.  Yes, just a little bit.
  • Sliced strawberries and whipped cream to top Whole Wheat Waffles for breakfast.
  • Made Creamy Coleslaw
  • Sliced cucumbers and opened a bag of petite carrots (that was exhausting, let me tell you)
  • Ground flour to have on hand for waffles and whatever else I may need it for this weekend.
  • Made Ranch Dip for the veggies.
  • Made Italian Dressing to marinate chicken for the grill.
  • Baked a double batch of Shortbread for snacking.

You may remember the following post I wrote last year.  I thought it was worth sharing again, just to help you understand why prepping food ahead of time is so important for me.  Enjoy!

Having Company? Prepare Food Ahead of Time (and My Hostess Confessions)

Little known fact about Laura:  I can start a load of laundry, brush my teeth, plan dinner, write a grocery list, and instruct four different children on six different chores all at the same time, but for all of my multi-tasking abilities, I cannot talk and cook simultaneously.

I try to fake it.  I’ll stir together cookies while chatting with a friend in the kitchen, and attempt to sound intelligent when answering a question.  This works not at all.  She’ll ask how long we’ve lived in this house, and I’ll look lamely up from my cocoa powder and answer, “blue.”  She’ll try again, asking where I got my lovely serving platter.  I’ll blink a few times in an effort to pull myself into the conversation, and come up with “last week at a soccer game.”  You think I’m kidding.  God bless our house guests. 

Occasionally, I will actually answer questions correctly while cooking (and even ask a few brilliant ones) only to realize later that I forgot to stir important ingredients like oil or eggs into our breakfast muffins.  We already know I struggle with remembering to put bananas in my banana bread - and that’s when I’m all alone in the kitchen holding only a conversation with myself (don’t ask).  It’s rather scary and a wonder friends and loved ones still eat my food and declare it to be good.

Because I love extending hospitality, but I also love not looking and sounding like a dimwit, I work to prepare as much food ahead of time as possible before guests arrive.  It is my number one hospitality survival tactic.  This also helps insure that I will not be working in the kitchen the entire time my company is here.  I love to cook, but when guests are here, I’d much rather play games, watch the kids play, or sit around and visit intelligently.  (Eleven.  We’ve lived in this house for eleven years.  It was a wedding gift.  The platter, not the house.  Try to keep up.)

In addition, prepping food ahead of time means that the worst of the dirty dishes are cleaned up and put away.  I’ve also found that when some of the guests are children who eat as much and as frequently as mine, having snacks and meals prepared is helpful in avoiding melt-downs and grumpiness.  As we all know, a grumpy hostess melting down in the kitchen is ugly.  (Right.  You thought I was talking about the kids.)

One more thing to note:  Beyond preparing food ahead of time, I feel it is important to keep meals simple.  Guests don’t need gourmet, they just need food served with love.  They don’t need fancy, they just need tasty.  A fruit platter is beautiful, nourishing, and delicious.  A lettuce salad tosses together quickly.  Veggies steam in no time.  Put those together with a casserole or another main dish you’ve prepared ahead of time, and you’ve got a perfect, simple meal to serve to guests.

So just in case you find yourself like me, with the inability to cook and talk at the same time, do the best you can to prepare food ahead of time.  If all else fails, remember to keep a smile on your face at all times.  You might respond to your guest with ”in the refrigerator behind the peanut butter” when asked where your bathroom is located, but at least you’ll look cute.

Can you talk and cook at the same time?  (If your answer doesn’t make sense, I’ll assume you’re adding spices to your sauce.)

How to Stretch a Meal When Extra Company Comes

How To Stretch a Meal When Extra Company Comes 2

Matt only knew my paternal grandmother for a few years before she died.  One of his favorite memories of her is the response she gave after being told that extra people were coming to join us for a meal.  “Great!  I’ll just add more water to the soup,” she said with a chuckle.  Seeing as we weren’t having soup that day, he then watched in amazement as she “added water” to stretch the meal she had prepared.

Grandma seemed to make more food appear out of no where, and in record time, too.  The table was soon filled with all varieties of goodness.  The little bowls of this and the small dishes of that didn’t look like they would feed the number of people we were anticipating.  But sure enough, just like the loaves and the fish, Grandma had enough to fill us all with twelve (give or take) baskets left over.

What was Grandma’s secret?  Well, she just always had a good supply of food on hand.  And not just frozen meat that would take hours of time to thaw and prepare.  I’m talking about home-canned fruits and vegetables, homemade bread and cookies – food that she could pull out and feed people in a moment’s notice.

This Sunday, I was blessed with the opportunity to “add water to my soup.”  We already had plans for another family of 6 to join us for lunch after church.  Their 6 plus our 6 would equal 12.  (Thank you, Laura, for stating the obvious.)  I was making a roast, carrots, potatoes, and gravy.  My friend was bringing rolls.  It would be a simple, nothing-fancy, but tasty meal.

Then, at the last minute, a friend of my brother’s family needed a meet-up place here in Nebraska.  The friend would come here, my brother’s family would drive up from Kansas and pick him up, and guess what?  They’d make it in time for church.  Bliss!  I got to worship with my brother and his family of 6 and feed them all afterward!

So let’s see here.  Six plus six is twelve, plus six more - that’s 18.  Then there was my brother’s friend who was meeting us by lunchtime.  Did I mention he was a 6’8″ college athlete?  And last but not least, a friend of Elias’ needed a place to hang out after church while his family headed out of town.  That made a total of 20 people.  Super fun.

Thankfully, I had decided to make two roasts instead of just one - just in case.  I had loaded the roasting pan with potatoes and carrots.  I caught my friend (the one already planning to come over with her family) between class and worship, filled her in on the crazy, and asked her to pick up extra rolls – plus maybe a bucket of ice cream?  She was happy to help stretch our meal.

Once I got home after church and started making gravy, I also started a big pot of green beans and another big pot of corn.  Our simple meal remained simple, yet because there were so many different foods to choose from (roast, potatoes, carrots, gravy, rolls, green beans, corn, ice cream), it looked like a feast.  We had plenty to go around and even a little bit left over.  Phew!

All of that to say, when it comes to hospitality and being able to say, “The more the merrier!” always try to have a few key foods on hand to help stretch your meal.  Here are a few items I’ve thought of that you might have on hand to pull out and serve quickly, or that you can grab at the store if you have time/accessibility:

  • Frozen food that cooks quickly like green beans, peas, or corn
  • Applesauce
  • Canned peaches, pears, or mandarin oranges
  • A jar of pickles
  • A can of olives
  • Quick breads or muffins you might have in your freezer
  • Fresh fruit like strawberries, sliced apples, oranges, or grapes
  • A fruit salad, mixing several different fruits you have on hand
  • Canned or fresh pineapple poured into a nest of cottage cheese
  • Raw veggies like carrots sticks, celery, sweet peppers, or cucumber slices
  • Crackers and sliced cheese
  • Tossed salad
  • Grape or cherry tomatoes
  • Chips and salsa
  • Dessert such as cookies or ice cream

If you’re opening a can or jar, I suggest pouring its contents into a nice serving bowl to make your “spread” look tasty and welcoming for your guests.  Did you grab a bag of prepared salad on the fly?  Pour it into a bowl and throw in some grape tomatoes to make it pretty.

Don’t hesitate to ask your guests to pick something up at the store on their way to your house (especially if they offer or ask what they can bring).  Most of the foods on the list above take little to no prep time, but will stretch your meal and offer your guests a delicious variety.

What would you add to this list?  What have you found works well to stretch a meal to feed extra people?

So, You Don’t Like to Cook?

I don’t understand how it can possibly be true, but from what I hear, some of you don’t get a “high” out of pulling out ingredients and stirring together dishes of deliciousness.  When you see a new recipe - you don’t get giddy?  How can it be?

It seems that instead, some of you very much enjoy mixing chemicals in beakers, changing the oil in a car, running marathons, writing software, organizing closets, crafting adorable items out of old window frames, decorating living rooms, taking pictures, or making quilts.  I’m neither good at any of those, nor do I enjoy them - which is likely because I’m not good at them.  Every time I try to run, I am then unable to walk for several days afterward.  For me, quilting takes three million years of cross-eyed sewing and ripping out mistakes.  And last week – someone handed me a camera with lots of cool lenses and I completely panicked because it wasn’t a simple point-and-shoot.  They all stood there saying cheese, and I was like, what do I do? what do I do?

But put me in my kitchen, and I’m completely at ease.  Ingredients of all kinds give me joy.  (Well, not ingredients like margarine.  But, you know what I mean, right?)  Creating new recipes is one of my favorite hobbies.  Making four dishes at one time is therapeutic for me.

Heavenly Homemaker's Messy Kitchen

Ah yes, we all have different talents, abilities, strengths, weaknesses, and interests.  God did that on purpose.  It’s a good thing.  Seriously, if it were all up to me, all living rooms would be painted white, NASA wouldn’t exist,  and there would be no party games.

While I can call in for back-up when picking paint colors, unfortunately, there’s not much of a way those of you who don’t enjoy cooking can avoid the kitchen.  After all, we all need to eat three times each day.  I’ll even admit that while I love cooking, sometimes even I don’t feel like going to all the trouble to once again feed the forever hungry people in my house.

So to all of you who do not enjoy cooking, or who might be experiencing some kitchen burn-out, I have a few suggestions:

1.  Don’t make it hard.

Is it possible that you don’t like cooking because the recipes you try are complex and challenging?  I believe one of the reasons I love cooking is that I always stick with very simple recipes.  Basic ingredients.  Tasty food.  The end.  I’ll leave recipes which require fourteen complicated steps to gourmet chefs.  As for me, I’ll stick with simple prep, real food, and family friendly meals.

2.  Don’t give up.

I promise that cooking gets easier the more you do it.  Make just a few recipes over and over, then slowly add in a few more as you become comfortable.  Don’t overwhelm yourself, feeling like you have to put loads of work into this.  Make a simple main dish, toss a salad, steam a veggie…and you’re done.

3.  Make the most of your kitchen time.

If you don’t enjoy cooking, do everything possible to save yourself effort.  If you’re making one casserole, make three (eat one, freeze two).  Brown several pounds of hamburger at once, freezing one pound portions so you just have to pull out cooked meat to stir into sauce or make into tacos.  Check out more of my Eat Healthy, Save Time Tips.

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I would say that about 95% of the recipes you’ll find here on my site are very quick to put together.  (Homemade Twinkies are the bomb, but who really has time to bake little cakes, and then pipe filling inside except for the rare special treat?)

Here are some of my favorite, super fast and easy recipes to throw together:

Really, the list could continue – just click through all my recipe links in my Recipe drop-down tool bar at the top of my site.  And don’t forget to make use of the new Heavenly Homemaker’s Recipe Search By Ingredient Box, located at the top of my right-hand side bar.  It can take the thinking out of “what should I make?”

Don’t like to cook?  No problem.  I’ll do everything I can to make this healthy eating journey easier for you!

Let’s get an idea of how many of you love cooking, or dislike cooking.  Share in the comments section!  Those of you who don’t like cooking – what other activities do you enjoy?  :)

Delicious Candy You Can Make Yourself (with healthier ingredients)

As you all know, I don’t mind the occasional healthy food compromise, especially on special occasions.  Christmas qualifies as one of the most special occasions of all, doncha think?  But when I turn over a package and see that the yummy contents therein contain hydrogenated oils or high fructose corn syrup – I just can’t do it.  (I know, I know.  It’s best not to even read the label.  Wait.  What?)

What I love is trying to re-create some our favorite treats so that we can have our Christmas candy and eat it too.  These treats are best shared and in moderation though, because they are full of sugar!  (I know, I know.  It’s best not to even think about how much sugar is in them.  Wait.  What?)

Here are some goodies I make every once in a while for a very special treat:

Homemade Peppermint Patties

These call for none other than mashed potatoes.  Weird, but true.  And they also have tons of powdered sugar in them.  Better than high fructose corn syrup, but wowza.  You’ll be amazed at how much these taste like the “real thing.”

Peppermint Patties 2

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

This is my husband’s favorite.  It’s super fun to make these for him every once in a while.  We think they taste better than the packaged variety.  It’s amazing how good peanut butter tastes when it’s only made with peanuts.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Chocolate Caramel Cups

These are ooey-gooey messy.  But having a drop of caramel resting on one’s chin never hurt anyone.

Chocolate Caramel Cups

Peanut Butter Truffles and Chocolate Caramel Truffles

Making these truffles is easier than you would think.  And the result?  Amazing.

Delicious Homemade Truffles

Peanut Butter Honey Fudge

This is the easiest fudge you’ll ever make.  It contains only three ingredients – peanut butter, honey, and chocolate chips.  So good!

Peanut Butter Honey Fudge

What’s your favorite Christmas candy?  Ever tried making your own?