Advice for the Newbiewed Cook

My sister the newlywed lives a few minutes away from me now. She’s new to the area and calls me when she’s shopping for groceries.

“Is this a good deal?”

“Do you like this brand?”

“Can I substitute in this recipe?”

I love it. I love being the one she calls when it comes to cooking. When it comes to cooking. Just wanted to emphasize that because I emphasized it to her.

“Marital advice is not my forte,” I told her before she got married. “Call Mom.”

She nodded and pretended I’d told her something she didn’t already know. She’s kind that way.

Her estimation of my cooking/grocery advice must be pretty high because, so far, I continue to receive her calls. This pleases me very much. It has also helped me realize that I have some pretty fantastic advice to give! So, now I’m going to give it to you. No need to thank me for my generosity. Really.

Woman Cooking in a Kitchen.
Woman Cooking in a Kitchen. (Photo credit: The U.S. National Archives)

Advice for the Newbiewed Cook

Make a Weekly Menu.
The weekly menu is the hub of all kitchen activity for me. I’ve tried monthly, and I tired of it quickly—tired of the meals, tired of the planning. I can handle one week. I think most people can. If you can handle more, great! Most newlyweds have enough to handle, so why not start with one week?

Keep your Special Meals Special.
The majority of your evening meals should be something you can make in a reasonable amount of time. Pounding out meat and rubbing fresh herbs into it is special. Keep it special or you might get overwhelmed.

In my first year of marriage, I made so many new recipes. That got old fast, and not just for me. Realm looked up from his plate one evening after we’d finished some crazy dish and asked, “Can’t we just have fried chicken?”

Oh, and don’t turn your nose up at those staple meals you make so well. Your life is one big change right now; give yourself permission to make the staples. You have years to impress him with your culinary skilz.

Crank up the Crockpot!
I make at least one meal a week with my Crockpot. Once you’re planning menus, throwing ingredients into the Crockpot is a breeze. I’m not one for “brown it first and add it to the Crockpot.” If it can’t go in all at once, I might make that one of my special meals for the week. I don’t have a timer on my Crockpot, so it’s only turned on low when I’m cooking overnight.  My Crockpot generally goes on high in the mornings so it’s ready by 5:00 p.m. We eat later, but it can be on warm. (You can always make it cook slower, but you’re generally stuck once you figure out you need it to cook faster.)

Cut the Process in Half with a Food Processor
I can’t cut. I’ve discussed that more than once on my blog. Chopping on a chopping board isn’t my thing, either. I tried one of those manual choppers when they were thought to be so wonderful–you know, for cutting up onions and stuff. Meh.

I have two pieces of equipment I use in my kitchen every day: my Ninja* and my Salad Shooter*. The food section parts of both of these appliances are all dishwasher safe. I’ve gone through half a dozen food processors. That means I’ve rendered at least half a dozen food processors useless. I’m tough on them. The Ninja is the only one that’s lasted. I bought my Salad Shooter at a garage sale for $12. Or was it $7? Anyway, slicing is a joy.

Be Prepared to Paper-Plate-It.
Yes, I’ve turned ‘paper plate’ into a verb. I’ve repeated this one the most to my sister. It’s really my best advice. It’s true that paper products cost money, but scrambling to catch up with the dishes costs time and causes stress. Provide yourself with a fallback plan. I also keep plastic cups, forks, and bowls on hand, which makes life so much easier when the kitchen takes on the decor of a mass science project involving volcanic eruptions and tornado devastation. Yep, that happens sometimes. Just to clarify, this is a fallback plan. Regular dishes really should be the norm.

So, there you have my 5 amazing tips after 17 years of wedded cooking. What are some things you do to make your meal-making run smoothly?

*These links depict the models I use. I receive no money or other remuneration of any sort from Amazon or the manufacturers of these products.

The Tried and the True

Sriracha hot sauce
Sriracha hot sauce (Photo credit: kattebelletje)

There are two things I have a knack for. One is cooking, as long as there’s no serious pastry work involved. (Pastry and I stare at each other and circle distrustfully.) I enjoy trying out new recipes with ingredients I can incorporate in other recipes. I want to use up what I buy, not use it once and have it taking up space in my fridge until it curls up and dies, rots, and stinks. For example, there is an almost full bottle of Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce in my fridge leftover from an Asian dish I tried during our China unit study. It’s a niggling reminder every time I open the fridge. (The spiciness is not getting the thumbs-up from my kids. Someone please give me some mild-tasting ways to make it palatable, else I have a feeling I’m going to become all thrifty and try to add it to a homemade shampoo or facial toner. Save me!)

dolmas
dolmas (Photo credit: tofutti break)

I follow some kindred spirit food blogs—those are blogs that promote recipes with comforting staple ingredients—like Maggiesonebuttkitchen. Yes, the word “butt” is in the title of a food blog, and it happens to be a good food blog. Many of Maggie’s recipes require simple, everyday ingredients, like her Peach Snack Cake. She also showed me how to roast garlic, and her Dolma is on my “gotta try this” list. Okay, so grape leaves in brine aren’t hanging out in my pantry, but Maggie persuades me not to listen to myself about leftover ingredients. Mmm.

Last month I was introduced to at350degrees. Warning! This one’s pretty much all about sweets. Just going to the blog homepage will make you drool. At least, it makes me drool. Carissa finds recipes, tries them, and provides links for the recipe. My next guilt trip will be the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Fudge. And then I will be dead of sweets overdose and become an example to food bloggerdom of what not to tempt your readers to try. But until then, let’s be optimistic and pretend I can get away with eating things that pair cookie dough and fudge together, shall we?

I also have a knack for writing. Surprised? Yeah, I’m full of surprises. My forte is character-driven fiction, and I have a ton to learn. I receive a lot of encouragement in my craft from the thoughts, questions, and discoveries of other WordPress writer-bloggers. Here are the ones on my instant email list, the ones who often speak to my writer’s soul: (They are in chronological order, the first being the one I’ve followed the longest.)

Twisting Threads: There’s a rhythm to Twithre’s thoughts. I can relate to her frustrations. She talks about floundering at times. She’s not afraid to admit defeat. In fact, she gains ground as she think-writes her way through situations. Her post Home Sweet Park is a glimpse into her interesting childhood experiences.

Ayesha Schroeder—One of my favorites is: Lofty Goals and the Like, where she reminds her readers, “Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from setting your goals.”

JMMcDowell: She recently wrote Am I Good At This—Or Not, and it was a candid look that reassured me of what every writer faces.

Thursday’s Child: Her writing style has an intensity I admire. Many of her posts express how she relishes life and love, like Feelings of Nostalgia. She wrote a post in December entitled, Developing Characters. It has some great suggestions for writers with a philosophical turn.

Joseph M Kurtenbach likes to entertain with his posts, and he is super imaginative. I think we share a dread of posting something we’ll regret, but I’m not certain about that one. Maybe that’s just me. 😳 One of his adventures that makes me laugh is My Run In with a Ninja Ant.

This month I’ve added wogginswriting. His “De Baiting Game” is hilarious and so true.

What are some tried-and-true blogs that have inspired you?

Pinterest Addicts Need Not Apply…Themselves

It’s International Creativity Month. Oodles of noodles, what do I want to create? Wouldn’t it be funny if this one came with the condition that you can’t use Pinterest? Seriously, if I got a quarter every time somebody mentioned something from Pinterest…Wait, Ben Silbermann is doing that already.

Pinterest case in point: Right before Christmas, I had a friend who left burnt bread in my fridge. He said it was a new recipe he’d tried from Pinterest. It was called “Good Bread,” and the recipe consisted of slathering butter on both halves of the bread and broiling it in the oven to blackened perfection. My husband said, “Hey, maybe we can find a recipe on there that tells us how to put meat and cheese on the bread!” Novel thought, that.

English: , a science fair experiment. Utilizes...Actually, I’m kind of out of creative ideas at the moment. This is science project month—to help those prepare who are going to Regional. I decorated for our science banquet by making kits for simple experiments to do at the table. (I didn’t even look at Pinterest. Really.) No, there was nothing chemically toxic to mix and nothing that required flame. We were all able to experiment and eat simultaneously. It made for great conversation pieces at the very least.

So I’m all done inventing. Okay, I’m never done inventing, but I’m finished inventing this post. Have a creative day, friends!