From My Kitchen

9 Tips to Simplify and Enjoy Cooking (On any type of Diet)

In my post “7 Easy Tips to Get You Cooking” I focused on strategies to get you back in the kitchen. In this post I want to focus on getting food to the table in an easy, and fun way. So, here are some things that I do, to simplify, inspire, and enjoy preparing food for my family and myself. I hope they will help you too!

1. Find a blogger who’s recipes you like. This is key. There are SO many recipes and SO many bloggers who share recipes, you need to find one (or several) that has the same taste profile that you have, and then stick with them. There have been countless times that I have spent a lot of time and money (some ingredients are expensive) to make a recipe and when it was done, even if I was careful to follow all the instructions, I hated the taste of it. When you’re trying a new bloggers recipe, I would suggest making one of their easier recipes, one that doesn’t require expensive ingredients, before endeavoring to make something like an AIP cake (and by AIP I mean -egg free, grain free, dairy free, etc.).  I usually try two of their recipes before writing them off as a resource. Do not be discouraged in this. There are a lot of great bloggers with great recipes, you just have to find those that fit your likes and that fit with your cooking style. You can also go to my Resource page, where I have several bloggers I follow for recipes.

Another resource I used quite a bit before going paleo was Allrecipes, and I still use them sometimes. They have tons of recipes and reviews. The reviews are so helpful in determining if the recipe is worth making and what other people have done to tweak it, if necessary. You only need to read a couple of reviews to get a good feel for it.

2. Stick to a basic recipe and then make changes. You will probably notice that I don’t share my own recipes on this blog. This is because I don’t like wasting ingredients (as stated above) or time, and recipe developers do both of those things. What I do instead is find recipes that I like, and then use those recipe as a base to tweak and change to fit my preference or to fit the foods I have on hand. I like to have an outline of a recipe, along with temperatures, cooking times, and taste profiles and then I can replace, add in, or take away things based on dietary needs.

I would not advise this when it comes to baking (especially grain free), unless the author makes suggestions on possible replacements. The only thing I’ve found that can generally be swapped without a problem is tapioca starch and arrowroot powder. I use these pretty interchangeably, as I have to limit arrowroot powder, and I haven’t had any problem doing this.

3. I only make dinner (generally). Since my kids have been able (old enough to make a sandwich), they’ve taken care of their own breakfast and lunch. I eat a lot of leftovers, or quick type foods for these two meals, and my husband also makes his own breakfast and lunch. There are times I will make them breakfast, if we’re all home or I happen to be cooking something anyway, but as they’ve gotten older I’ve taught them how to cook for themselves. At least, the basics. Obviously, if you have very young children you will have to prepare all their meals. So I would encourage you to keep it simple. Maybe have routine things you make for breakfast and for lunch and stick with that. I would encourage you to not become a short order cook. If they don’t like what you’ve made than they can make something else themselves (like a sandwich). This takes away a lot of stress and teaches them how to take care of themselves, which is our job as parents (to teach them, not just take care of them). There are lots of exceptions and every family is different, but this works for us.

4. Find a good, local, rotisserie chicken. This is a lifesaver (at least a time/stress reducer) when something comes up and you need a quick dinner (or lunch). I can get Simply Truth rotisserie chicken at our local Kroger. It has minimal ingredients and doesn’t bother me, like their regular one does. I can get at least two meals out of it, or multiple small meals for myself. The obvious is just eating the chicken off the bone, and the second meal is always soup/bone broth.

How this works is by the end of the second day, whatever has not been eaten, including the carcass, goes in the freezer. (It may or may not go into the freezer in the very bag that I got it from the store in 😉 ) When you’re ready just throw it in a large pot or your pressure cooker with some filtered water, a splash of vinegar, and a tiny bit of salt. You can also add veggies or veggie peels here, like onions, carrots, celery, parsley,  but you don’t have to. Cook on the stove top at least an hour to several hours. If you haven’t already picked off all the chicken meat, do so after half an hour, returning the bones and carcass back to the pot. Or set your pressure cooker to the longest time available (for the best bone broth), and when you’re ready, strain the liquid. You can leave it like this, a nourishing broth, or proceed with the soup recipe of your choice.

5. Make frozen patties ahead of time. This works well with ground beef for burgers and ground pork or sausage for sausage patties. Having them already shaped, with wax paper in between, makes for a quick an easy breakfast or lunch. It is nice to have when you only are feeding one or two people. We eat burgers at least once a week in our house, because it’s such an easy and yummy meal. We usually do guacamole burgers, sometimes with bacon or grilled onions, and fries for the family and yuca or sweet potato fries for me. You can also do this with meatballs, make ahead and freeze.

6. Use your slow cooker or pressure cooker. It’s so easy to throw something in the slow cooker in the morning with a couple different veggies and you have dinner already made. We do a lot of deconstructed meals. Pick a protein everyone can eat. I usually try to have meat, fat (usually oil I used for cooking, butter, salad dressing, or avocado’s) and at least two types of veggies for dinner, plus the option of fruit or salad. This is also where you can add in things like breads or pastas (for your family – my kids need more carbs,especially with sports) even gluten-free breads and pastas. If I’m making something like tacos, I’ll cook the ground beef with spices that I can have (I’ve been able to add cumin back in) and then separate a portion out for me and add in the other spices (like cayenne or paprika, etc.) for my family. This is a good slow cooker and the pressure cooker that I have (Affiliate links).

7. If you’re not like me, you could do a meal plan. The thought of this seems tedious and overwhelming to me, and I doubt I would stick with it, but I know many people who like to do this and it works well for them.  However, I thought there were some great ideas in this post, How to Be A Meal Planning Mama. Even some that I would use. I like it because she uses pen and paper, and not some extravagant system using clipboards, post its, and different colored markers. That makes it seem doable.

8. Have a “fend for yourself” night.  This is a great way to use leftovers, even for little ones. For older children and husbands, they can decide on whatever they would like and make it (or they may want to eat out). Sometimes these nights are necessary, and I always do them when I can make easy suggestions for what they can fix, and make sure that I also have something planned to eat.

9. Find what works best for you and your family. I’m just giving ideas of what works for us, in this season of our lives. Take what you can use and let go of the rest. Your families dietary needs are going to differ from our families, but I do encourage you to cook for your family as often as you can, and as healthy as you can.  Above all, give yourself grace. There are going to be nights when you order pizza or get Wendy’s (I would not recommend eating pizza if you are on a healing diet – it’s not worth it), just do your best.


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