Month: December 2014

7 Tips to Quicker Cooking and Cleanup

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Although I love to cook, I hate to clean up. I prefer getting a great meal on the table in as little time as possible and with as little cleanup because let’s be honest people…two hours cooking in the kitchen plus two hours cleaning in the kitchen…ain’t nobody got time for dat!

 My family will still attest to the fact that on most days it takes me entirely too long to cook and clean up dinner. I am always on the lookout for more ideas and tips to make it quicker but it all comes down to implementing these tips. Don’t get in a frenzy and forget to do them because I promise you, if you do them, cooking can be a joy and you won’t be pulling your hair out trying to juggle 10 balls at once and dreading the after dinner marathon cleanup.

1. Plan ahead

My number one, and I mean number one, tip is to PLAN AHEAD! This means making a monthly or at least weekly meal plan. There is nothing worse than looking at the clock, it’s 6pm and you have no idea what you’re making for dinner. It’s so easy at that point to head out the door or jump on the phone to order pizza. Instead, save your waistline and your wallet by simply setting apart a few minutes each week to plan out your meals. Then make sure you add all the things you’ll need to your shopping list and you’ll be prepared with all the ingredients. Because we all hate to start cooking dinner only to realize you have to interrupt it to run to the store for more onions.

When it’s time to start dinner, you should put aside all other tasks. For me, this means my daughter’s diaper is changed, she has a sippy cup of water and has already eaten a snack so I’m sure (or can at least realistically hope) she’ll be in a happy mood and able to entertain herself while I cook. Let’s avoid as many interruptions or distractions as possible.

Also, decide what part of your meal you need to start first, second, and so on. If the dessert you’re making takes longer to cook, start it first. Or if your side can be started and then set aside, do that first. Whatever is going to be the best use of your time, make sure you plan it out accordingly.

 

Clean kitchen_s2. Start with a Clean Kitchen

This will be easier if you keep up on it throughout the day. But seriously, nothing is worse than trying to cook in a filthy kitchen. All the dishes you need are dirty, sitting in the sink and there isn’t even any counter space to work. If you make sure dishes are clean (or at least loaded in the dishwasher) and the counters are clear, you’ll save loads of time. It doesn’t have to be immaculate, besides that would be counterproductive since you’re going to be making a mess anyway, just clean enough to work in.

3. Pull out all ingredients beforehand

Just like Rachael Ray, pull out all your ingredients and tools you’ll need BEFORE you start cooking. This saves time by reducing the number of trips you have to make to your pantry or fridge. Just set it all out and watch how quick you whip up that meal!

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4. Keep a garbage bowl nearby

Also like Rachael Ray, reduce your trips to the garbage by chucking that stuff in a bowl. Granted, it is one more dish to wash but it really will save you more time than it will take to wash that bowl.

5. Fill the sink with soapy water

Ugh! How I hate to wash dishes with dried on goop. I don’t have a dishwasher so I have learned that dishes are rinsed out IMMEDIATELY at our house. If I let a bowl with pancake batter sit for very long, it takes me four times as long to wash it. It’s so easy to stick it in a sink with hot, soapy water and then when it’s time to wash it, there’s no scrubbing involved. Even if you have a dishwasher, it’s still more effective to load dishes that have already been rinsed off or soaking. They come a lot cleaner and eliminate the need to re-wash them.

6. Clean as you go

This is hard for me. I’m always so worried if I’ve got several pots or pans going at once that I’ll inevitably forget the tostadas baking in the oven and burn them, yet again, because I’m focusing on cleaning up. However, it is possible to clean as you go and try not to be a slob while you cook.

19591737_s7. Reuse dishes when possible

It makes zero sense to dirty five different knives when really you only need one. Use common sense and make sure you wash it with hot, soapy water (hence our sink that is full of it) if you’re going to switch from cutting up raw meat to vegetables.

Obviously most of these tips are front-loaded and need to be done before you start. It’s kind of like painting a room. Although you really just want to slap some paint on the wall, it’s more important and will make the process go so much smoother as well as the finished product so much better, if you prep the room first. Remove or at least cover all the furniture, take off the outlet and light switch covers, tape around the edges, lay down plastic, make sure you have all your supplies ready and that distractions have been cut to a minimum before you begin.

If you dread dinnertime, or any meal time for that matter, because it’s time you’d rather spend doing something else, try these tips and see if your anxiety diminishes. Hey, you may even find you ENJOY cooking dinner.

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7 Tips to Being a Great Gift-Giver

 

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I’m not gonna lie, I’ve received some weird gifts in my life and wondered, “What were they thinking?” Avoid being that person who gifts the weirdest things that really have no meaning and instead be the other type of person that always gives the most thoughtful gifts.

1. Put some thought into it

This means you need to start ahead of time. Don’t be that person that runs to the nearest Wal-Mart on Christmas Eve, praying there’s something left to give everyone on your list. Start waaaayyyyy ahead of time and force yourself to pay attention. People, even the ones who appear to have everything, are constantly leaving unconscious hints about what they would love to receive as a gift. They may not come out and say, “For Christmas I would like _________” but they are saying it, just in a different way. Listen for cues like, “I wish _________” or “wouldn’t it be nice _________” or “someday _________”. These are great hints for people who are hard to buy for.

box2. Think outside the box

With the cues given above, the person may not be talking about an actual item that you might be able to purchase them as a gift. For example, my mom has pretty much everything. I mean, within reasonable limits, if she wants something she normally just gets it for herself. So it’s sometimes difficult to buy for her. However, when I listen to her and pay attention, she is always talking about making things that she doesn’t have time for, or fixing things that she can’t do herself. I have found that some of the best Christmas gifts I have given her have been acts of service by fixing something or refinishing something she already has. It can be tricky and you may not be able to make it a surprise (which is ALWAYS more fun if you can swing it). However, it’s a great way, and often less expensive way, to give to someone you really care about.

3. Don’t give something just because it’s what you would like to receive

You know that person who always gives you, and everybody else, jewelry? Or makeup? Or workout gear? Or home décor? Or horse-themed stuff? Who’s to say everybody likes the same things you like? It’s an easy way out because it takes a lot less thought. You know you like it, so she’ll like it too right? Unless you’re sure you two are that much alike, dig a little deeper.

4. Price doesn’t always equal value

You don’t have to spend a ton of money to give great gifts. Remember the old adage, “It’s the thought that counts”? It really is. In the end, nobody cares how much you spent on a gift if it is meaningful to that person.

 5. You can’t go wrong with  attaching memories to gifts

photo albumThe best gift, to date I think, that I’ve ever given my dad was putting our home movies on DVD for him. He had all of his photos and memorabilia burn up in a fire a few years ago and it was devastating to him. I figured out how to convert our VHS home movies to DVD on my own computer and he was touched to receive those as his Christmas gift. He still talks about it today. Anytime you can gift memories, people love that! Just make it meaningful and personal and you can’t go wrong. This is especially great for people who seem to have everything.

6. Sometimes less is more

Sometimes you want to go a little overboard but nobody likes to feel bad because they received something huge from the person they gave a keychain to. Remember that size and cost don’t necessarily matter. Meaning is what matters. Do I sound like a broken record here?

7. Last thing, make it appropriate and intentional

Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale and later decide who you might be able to give it to. No joke, my sister received an underwater scuba diving bag one year. She lives in Utah, has never been nor had she ever planned on going scuba diving. WHAT?! Who knows where that came from, probably the sale cart at some random department store. The point is, unless you’re planning on giving her a  ticket to a Caribbean cruise to go along with that bag, don’t do it.

Obviously, as I’ve repeated myself several times, it really is the thought that counts. Not just that you thought about that person and gave them something, but the fact that you put a lot of thought into what you gave that person. Gifts are a great way to show your love and strengthen your relationships. Don’t let a bad gift put a damper on a perfectly great Christmas. It’s not too late to return some things if you think you need to 🙂

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