Kitchen Tips

Meal Prep Tips I Want to Remember

I pray that your Thanksgiving was a blessing! We had a wonderful time together as a family. The food everyone prepared was delicious. The fellowship was sweet. The memories made were priceless. Oh, and dessert was amazing!

It was a huge blessing to have help with the meal. My girls are both great cooks, and they made incredible contributions to our meal! That took off a lot of prep on my part as the hostess.

I did a couple of new things for this meal that I want to mark and remember for future gatherings centered on food. I hope they’ll be tips you can utilize as well!

Look at that full gravy boat!!
  • Gravy ~ Gravy is often difficult! I find it getting lumpy or being too thick! If you ever struggle with making gravy, you’re going to love this first tip! Is it just the south, or is it everywhere that gravy is really important? Without gravy, turkey can be a bit bland and sometimes dry. Mashed potatoes need gravy like peanut butter needs jelly! Even biscuits are better dipped in a little puddle of gravy! Maybe I didn’t need to convince you how important gravy is, but now that we have that settled, let me share my little hack I learned.
Gravy base

It’s all about making a gravy base ahead of time. I saw a video on Instagram by a chef from King Arthur Flour that suggested this method to make your holiday meal come together so much easier. Usually the gravy is made at the very last minute of the meal prep, and it can be stressful! Using their method, I made the gravy base on Tuesday! All I needed to do on Thanksgiving Day was add the turkey drippings to the base and whisk it together to produce a quart of gravy . Here’s how I made it.

Gravy Base

  • 4 Tbl butter
  • 1/2 Cup flour
  • 2 cups Chicken Stock

Melt the butter in a medium-sized sauce pan. Whisk in the 1/2 cup flour slowly and incorporate it into the butter. It will be very thick. Slowly add the chicken stock and whisk constantly until all stock is added and the base is smooth. Turn to low and cook 25 minutes. Do not season. Stir occasionally.
Store in fridge. I froze mine, then thawed it out the morning I needed it.
To make the gravy – Add the base to pan drippings. Whisk to keep it smooth. Skim off fat. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

When I added the base, I was worried that it was going to clump, maybe because I froze it, but it did not! It was so easy! I will definitely do this from now on!! You could also use this method for roast by using beef stock!

  • Half-sized desserts – The other hack I tried was with making smaller desserts. Maybe you’re rolling your eyes, asking why you’d want to make less dessert! Read on…

    I love to make what everyone enjoys, but I also don’t want to have an abundance left over. One son-in-law loves the Pumpkin Crunch Cake and the other loves Pumpkin Pie, but we were also having Pumpkin Cheesecake and Kentucky Derby Pie!


Pumpkin Crunch Cake is basically a pumpkin pie filling on the bottom, with a cake mixture on top. But since the cake makes a 9 x 13 pan – and the pie would fill a 10 inch pie plate, I knew it would be more than we would eat. The solution? Divide the pumpkin filling and make two small desserts. Here’s how I did it.

I made up the base (pumpkin filling) for the cake and used half of it for a small pie. This is a 7-8 inch pan…

I poured the other half of the pumpkin mixture into a square pan for the cake, then I used half of a cake mix for the top of the Crunch Cake.

Both of those pumpkin desserts were gone by the time the weekend was over! That worked out beautifully!

It can be scary to change a recipe and try something that you think will work. I made one other change and that was to reduce the amount of sugar in the Crunch cake. It calls for 1 1/2 cups, but I noticed that a pumpkin pie recipe only requires 3/4 cup, so I decided to go with the lesser amount and it wasn’t even detectable! It was perfectly sweet! I’m sure the sweetened whipped cream might have also helped!

Whenever I find little hacks that helped, I try to write them at the front of a frequently used cookbook or in a binder that I use all the time in the kitchen. When I make any alterations to a recipe, I write it on the recipe card or in the book I’m using.

Did you implement any hacks while preparing Thanksgiving dinner?
I would also love to know if anyone struggles with making gravy?

  • If you need small desserts, you could also make these!
  • If you need a pie crust recipe that’s delicious, you can find mine here. You can also go to my Instagram profile and find a video demonstrating pie crust making!
Home making · Kitchen Tips · Meal planning · Spiritual Refreshment

Mid-Week Kitchen happenings

Kitchen is a busy place – not just when you’re cooking. It takes daily work to keep things organized, efficient and well-planned. This is an important part of the work in the kitchen.

I was away last week and then have been quite busy since returning home. That means things were lacking in the kitchen. I have been working to get things straightened up, freshened up and planned for the week ahead.

I love to gather inspiration for meal planning. I find lots of good ideas in the Relish magazine that comes in the Sunday newspaper.

How cute is that board full of fall treats? I’m definitely going to make a version of that this month!

These sliders look so good, too! They’d be perfect on game day, if you have some football fans! They would also be good for a weekend supper.

If you’re in a menu rut, pull out an old cookbook and flip through it for some fresh inspiration. You might even find an old recipe you haven’t made in a while that you need to recreate! Go to the library and check out a new cookbook or a food magazine like Taste of Home. You’re sure to get some good inspiration there! I know the Internet is full of great ideas, but sometimes I find it easier and more fun to use a printed form.

I am freshening up some kitchen decor. I’m removing all the red items in my kitchen and the last things to go were my red rooster canisters. I found clear glass jars at Home Goods and they were exactly what I was looking for! The opening is large enough for a cup measure to fit inside – a must, in my opinion!

I also took some time to clean out the drawers in my island and while I was at it, I changed out the drawer liner. It’s amazing what a little addition like that can do!

I love being in the kitchen, and keeping it inviting is important. It keeps me motivated and happy about being in there!

Let’s use all this to make a spiritual application. It can be so easy to be busy doing all the things that followers of Christ do – attending church, serving others, teaching a class, and attending a Bible study that we forget to maintain our own walk with God. Things get “messy” and overlooked. We must intentionally take time to just be with God. Spend longer time in prayer just enjoying communing with Christ, hearing from Him as you sit quietly and allow Him to speak to you. Sing. Confess. Worship. Fellowship with the God who loves you and rejoices over you because you are His child. You’ll find that you are energized for the spiritual works before you.

So, what is the mid-week activity of your spiritual life looking like? Are you too busy? Stop and focus on the Lord so then you can move forward in your tasks with purpose and joy!

In your kitchen, are you planning and also staying motivated for meal times? Are there areas you need to freshen up? It’s worth it to spend a little time taking care of those needs. You’ll probably find you’re more productive! But if you can only focus on one area, start with your spiritual needs and then ask the Lord to guide the work of your hands.

Kitchen Tips · organization

A Kitchen Pantry Check-In

My pantry is an essential part of my kitchen. Kind of like my own little “store,” it’s where all of the staples are safely tucked away. I’m in that closet space many times every single day!

We’ve lived in our current home for 7.5 years and this is my first time to have a decent size pantry. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to maintain it and keep it in order, so in an effort to organize it, I got baskets, bins and jars and got things in shape four years ago. I thought I’d do a little check-in today to give you a report on how it’s going.

First off, I still LOVE my chalkboard vinyl that I got at Hobby Lobby. It allows my kitchen reflect the season. I did the spring pick-up truck last week when I added the spring vignettes to my downstairs. If you have a white closet pantry door, you should try adding this vinyl chalkboard. You could use it for an ongoing menu board, shopping list or for drawing or writing things like Bible verses, sayings or quotes!

This side of my pantry gets used a lot! From the Olive oil, cooking spray, and canned goods, it holds the things I use the most. I love that my oils and vanilla are in baskets that slide out. It makes it super easy to pull it out and grab what I need. I have a couple of my favorite cookbooks behind the brown sugar cannister on the left side and my aprons are on hooks to the far left. That works great!

The lazy Susans are perfect for my canned goods. It’s easy to turn and see what’s available. On the top shelf are the pots and pans I don’t use that often, as well as some of my home canned fruits and vegetables. I have some of those things “hidden” by the framed recipe for bread, written in the handwriting of my dear friend, Hope, who is now in heaven. It’s a sweet reminder of her giving heart.

I don’t love the way these shelves look, but boxes of crackers, pastas and jars of condiments are all a little taller than my containers. These came from the Dollar Tree and have been okay, but I think I’ll be looking for deeper baskets in the near future.

Above that shelf are two baskets with “extras.” They contain tea for sweet tea, Chex mix, crackers, Syran wrap and the like. I think this is the kind of material I’ll get for to replace the white Dollar Tree containers.

I LOVE keeping my pantry stocked so it’s easy to pull a meal together. I try to use what I have on hand, then restock as I empty my shelves. Canned tomatoes, pasta sauce, pastas, dry beans, and baking ingredients like chocolate chips, sugars, coconut and nuts are all sitting and waiting to be stirred into my favorite recipes. My girls tease me and say if there’s ever a food shortage, they’re coming to my house! Live and learn, right?

After my little survey, I’m going to be looking for new baskets, but other than that, my system is working well. I say that because as Whitney, one of the most organized people I know, says that if your organization makes it difficult to use your things, then it’s not well organized!

How about you? Do you need to take inventory of your pantry space? Do you need bins, jars or baskets to keep like things together? Is your space working well and making it easy to work in the kitchen? Even if your pantry is a cupboard or one shelf in a closet, it’s important to keep it organized so you know what you have, you don’t over-purchase and you’re more effective because of your organization. Also, it will make you smile every time you open it up! Well, maybe you’ll be smiling at the chocolate chips you see, but you will be smiling!

Refresh your pantry!

Kitchen Tips · Uncategorized

Easy Does It ~ In the Kitchen

Last month I began this series of Easy Does It. These are just tips and helpful ideas that have simplified my life and I think they’ll do the same for you!

This edition are all things regarding the kitchen. Who couldn’t use a little simplification there?!

  1. Paper products can roll out easier with this tip – The first tip is regarding the rolls of plastic wrap, waxed paper and foil that you probably use on a daily basis. Did you know there’s a built-in way to keep that roll from falling out of the box when you’re trying to pull off a piece? There is! I learned this little tip just a few years ago. I wondered if I’m the only one who hadn’t known about this!

At the end of each box, you’ll see the lock tabs. Simply push them in. They will go into the cardboard roll and hold it in place. No more foil rolling across the kitchen floor!

2. Skinning Tomatoes is a snap – If you have tomatoes to can or freeze as spaghetti sauce of salsa, there’s a super easy way to skin them and to do a huge batch at one time! Simply put them on a baking sheet after they’ve been washed and dried. Then place them under a broiler for about 4-5 minutes or until the skins begin to wrinkle. Remove from the oven and the skin will pull off when you pinch it between your fingers. Let them cool slightly so you can touch them. This was such a help to me recently when I canned salsa!

3. Preserving Bananas for baking is a cinch – We love all things banana at our house! Baked oatmeal with bananas, Banana Bread or this Banana Cake are delicious examples! But these recipes all even better with over-ripe bananas. They’re so sweet! Because I can’t always keep them on hand, I go to the produce section of our grocery store and head to the reduced produce section. They have the “ugly bananas” wrapped together or in a bag for sale at a reduced price. I take them home, peel them and place two bananas into small Ziplock bags and toss them into the freezer. When I’m ready to make one of my banana recipes, I thaw it in the microwave and I’m ready to bake!

4. Freezing Popped Popcorn is genius – My favorite nighttime snack is popcorn. We recently found Smart Food Popcorn at the grocery store and fell in love with its White Cheddar flavor. It’s absolutely additive in my opinion! (If you haven’t had it, you must try it!) One day while walking through Sam’s Club we found a giant bag for nearly the same price we were paying for half that size at the grocery store!

But even with our love for it, it would go stale once the bag was opened. Then I discovered you can freeze it! The popcorn never actually freezes, it just keeps out the moisture so it stays fresh. We can go get a bag out of the freezer and pour it into our bowl and eat it immediately! It’s as fresh as when we opened the bag!

I hope these simple tips will help things to roll a little easier in your kitchen! (Pun intended!) Tell me: Did you know about the lock tab on the foil and plastic wrap boxes?
What’s your best tip for simplifying life in the kitchen?

Have a wonderful weekend and be refreshed by being under the preaching of God’s Word!

Kitchen Tips

6 Tips for Keeping a Clean Kitchen While Cooking

cleankitchen.jpg

I knew a woman who hated to cook, and one day after spending time with her in her kitchen, it was made clear to me one reason she disliked this duty – her kitchen turned into a war zone while she was working.  Then after the meal was over, she had to go back into the destruction and spend lots of time cleaning, organizing and putting things away.   Continue reading “6 Tips for Keeping a Clean Kitchen While Cooking”