The Best Kitchen Tool for Low Energy Cooks

Want to eat a healthy diet, but have low energy or are just busy? This is the tool for you.

Cooking is serious work, and it requires serious tools. Sharp knifes, large pots, heavy-duty pans – if you don’t have the right tools, cooking can be a practice in frustration. What I love about cooking is that with only a couple of good, but basic tools you can make a wealth of dishes.

But what I also appreciate about kitchen tools, is that there are some that substantially make your life easier. A slow cooker, food processor, or high powered blender, for example.

As many of you know, we are in the middle of treating for a chronic illness, which has been difficult to do with three young kids in the house. My husband and I have been keeping notes on our kitchen prep trying to streamline it where we could, keeping a list of simple, but healthy dinners we can throw together at the end of a long day, and buying things like pre-prepped vegetables.

But there was one kitchen tool that we didn’t have yet, that after thoroughly researching (and hearing the rave reviews of my extended family) I felt would be a tremendous help. The Instant Pot . This is a new kind of pressure cooker that is both safe, and extremely easy to use. The best part is I can make “24 hour broth” in 2 hours using it, or make a dinner with frozen meat on nights when I’ve forgot to defrost it.

My Instagram account is full of pictures from fellow mothers who are using theirs constantly as a way to bring nourishing food to the table in less time and less work. Nourishing soups, stews, broths, roasts, teriyaki chicken, and more seemed to populate my Instagram feed after being cooked in it.

My husband and I were trying to count our pennies to see if we could buy one this year, when my sweet sister and brother-in-law surprised us by buying one for us for my birthday! I was so surprised and so excited! After opening up the present, they served us a rich chicken soup that they had cooked in their own Instant Pot , and I couldn’t believe how fast they had cooked it! With only 30 minutes “at pressure” cooking, they had gotten a whole chicken to turn into a wonderful chicken soup that was as rich as my broths when cooked 18 to 24 hours.

You can bet your last dollar that I’m excited about this gift. I’m thankful because I know it will make my cooking so much easier and faster, and that is a true gift for us during this season.

This is the version we own: Instant Pot 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker.

(My one caution is that if you are really sensitive to even naturally produced glutamates, please be aware that pressure cooking increases them in certain dishes. )

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The Art of Simple Skillet Dinners

Need dinner on the table fast? Make healthy and delicious meals using just a skillet! Read more about this method by reading this article at The Nourishing Gourmet.

Lack of time or energy for cooking can be the death knell for healthy eating. We’ve had a year like no other, and developing strategies for quick, healthy meals has been essential. (Read about my new series: The Low Energy Guide to Healthy Cooking)

Enter skillet dinners. Oh, how I love thee, skillet dinners.

7 Reasons I Love Skillet Meals

  • They are fast
  • They are frugal
  • They use up leftovers
  • They are easy to make
  • You don’t need a specific recipe to conquer them
  • They are healthy and vegetable-centered
  • You can use whatever you like to flavor them

This one-skillet dinner has been a true help. They are wildly adaptable to what you have in the fridge, and you can flavor them however you like. Ginger and garlic, dried herbs, fresh herbs, turmeric, curry powder, garam masala, green onions, regular onions, red onions, and more!

In my last post, I shared how we have been using pre-washed and cut vegetables on a consistent basis and how much time and how many dinners they have saved. Skillet dinners are one of the most common ways we use prepped vegetables.

Need dinner on the table fast? Make healthy and delicious meals using just a skillet! Read more about this method by reading this article at The Nourishing Gourmet.

Method:

Dinner can be as simple as this: Heating some oil in a large pan, and sautéing together a package or two of prepared vegetables with a pound of ground meat (any kind you like), or adding leftover shredded meat after the vegetables are cooked. Serve with roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes, or throw some leftover rice or quinoa into the pan as well, and dinner is served.

While the below options are meat-centric, I see no reason why you couldn’t use cooked beans or lentils instead. In fact, a lentil centered skillet dinner sounds fabulous.

What is essential to this dish is a very large skillet. I favor our largest cast iron pan. And when I say large, I mean large. I use a 12 inch cast iron pan which is adequate for our five member family, but I’d even like a bigger one eventually.

Some combinations we’ve liked:

  • Shredded cabbage with beef (add garlic and salt and pepper to flavor) served with rice or quinoa.
  • Vegetable Pork Skillet Dinner: Onions, Mushrooms, garlic, dried herbs, with pork and bacon.
  • Cauliflower Fried “Rice” with Chicken: Cauliflower “rice” with celery, green onions, ginger, garlic, grated carrots, and chicken.
  • Gingery Broccoli and Mushroom Stir Fry: Ground meat of choice, broccoli, mushrooms, ginger, and garlic.
  • Leftover Fried Rice: Onions, broccoli, and cauliflower mix, leftover shredded roast, leftover rice
  • Every day Skillet Dinner: Onions, Zucchini, mushrooms, meat of choice or eggs
  • Extra Greens Skillet: Onions, greens, meat of choice, seasoning of choice

Really, there are no limits to skillet dinners. One of my recent favorite combinations was one in which I used bits and pieces of leftover bags of vegetables which made a delicious and coherent dinner. Skillet dinners can be a great way to use leftovers and the odds and ends you have in your refrigerator!

Do you make similar dishes? I’d love to hear your favorite combination!

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6 Reasons I Love Owning a Toaster Oven

You've gotta love all of that cool things you can do with a toaster oven. Speaking of cool, they don't heat up your kitchen like the regular oven does! -- The Nourishing Gourmet

In my last post, I shared how I was able to find a toaster oven that was free of nonstick, large, and had great reviews on Amazon (I also love it!). So today, I wanted to share why I bothered to buy one, and why I love owning one. I use mine almost every day, and I appreciate it even more every day. This is the model that I own: Waring Pro Digital Convection Oven (Amazon partner link).

Toaster Ovens Don’t Heat Up Your Kitchen

It is seriously hot right now in Oregon, with heat warnings for the residents over the weekend. These are the times when you don’t want to be heating up your large oven if you can help it. While smaller and not suitable for all kitchen tasks, since I choose a larger sized toaster oven, I can fit a surprising amount of food in it. It doesn’t seem to add much heat to the house when I cook with my toaster oven. For that reason, some of my readers have told me that they solely use their toaster oven in the summer months.

It Gets to Temperature Quickly

In the amount of time it takes to heat the regular oven, I can heat and cook some items. For example, I wanted to reheat some chicken strips for my kids (they take 12 minutes when frozen). It would have taken 10 minutes to heat my regular oven. Instead, I practically had my chicken strips cooked before my regular oven would have even heated up. And this busy mom needs all the time-saving strategies I can get!

I Reheat Food in It

Are microwaves really that bad for you? Maybe not. But we have always had very small kitchens, and we have chosen a toaster oven instead of a microwave. We first made that decision years ago partly because of my concern surrounding the safety of microwaves (ones I no longer feel are necessarily true). However, we have remained with our choice of a toaster oven instead of a microwave because food just tastes better when reheated in a toaster oven. Microwaves tend to not heat evenly, make some foods rubbery as they cool, and lack a certain depth of flavor that more traditional methods of cooking/reheating produce. Microwaves are faster, but toaster ovens are pretty fast too, and I find them more versatile.

Toaster Ovens are Energy Efficient

According to a report put out by Energy Star, we could save energy (and save on our electricity bill) if we used our toaster oven instead of our regular oven when cooking smaller dishes. Regular sized ovens are not energy efficient if you are simply cooking a meatloaf or a single batch of muffins. You could save up to 50% of energy when baking by simply using your toaster oven! It’s one easy way to keep energy bills low, and to not be wasteful of our resources at the same time.

I Replace my Toaster with my Toaster Oven

Now be forewarned, ironically toaster ovens are famous for making poor toast. The model I got, however, makes great toast but does take maybe an extra 60 seconds in comparison to our toaster. However, that is a small price to pay for freeing up more counter space. If I am going to own a toaster oven, my goal is to not have a toaster, and this toaster oven made that possible. (Plus, I can fit four slices of bread in it at a time, which is great).

It Gives Me a Second Oven

I don’t have a fancy kitchen with two ovens, as much as I’d love that. But having a larger sized toaster oven gives me a second oven, and I find that useful. While sometimes I may choose to use it instead of the large oven, on big cooking days, I can have two ovens going at different temperatures. This is great for hospitality, holidays, or when you are preparing a lot of food for the week ahead.

Things I’ve Made in My Toaster Oven.

Finally, just to show the versatility of toaster ovens, here is a short list of foods I’ve baked or cooked in my toaster oven.

  • Scones
  • Gluten free biscuits
  • AIP biscuits
  • Shepherd’s Pie
  • Roasted Sweet Potato Rounds
  • Toast
  • Bacon and Sausage
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Muffins
  • Roasted Sweet Potatoes
  • And a whole lot more!

As you can see, there is a lot you can do with a toaster oven. Just think of it as a mini oven.

Do you own a toaster oven? What do you love about them?

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