Sunday, July 31, 2016

Teachers Who Cook: Go To Recipes


Hi y'all! 

Our last post in the #teacherswhocook series is alllllll about our go-to recipes. I'm so excited for this one! Although you'll see plenty of recipe ideas on my menu planning blog Burnt Orange Butter and Pinterest boards, there are a few recipes that I go to again and again. I mention several of these in my first post about meal planning, but listed below are quite a few I adore.

Main:
Teriyaki Skillet Meatballs (totally used premade meatballs)

Slow Cooker:
Slow Cooker Garlic Chicken (B slathers the roasted garlic on bread)
Chili (sub ground turkey, omit chipotle)
Carnitas (B's favorite meal EVER - make sure to broil at the end for crispy carnitas!)
Sticky Chicken Wings
Crockpot Lasagna (sometimes I sub jarred sauce #noshame)

Sides:
Green Apple Juice (I'll make a week's worth on Sunday)
Greek Feta Dip (will shamelessly eat for Meatless Monday)
Scalloped Potatoes (my family requests this for EVERY holiday - omit cornstarch!)
Drop Biscuits (MUST make with the roast)

Recipes I Freeze Half:
Slow Cooker Refried Beans (my MOST made recipe)
Best Ground Beef Tacos (I sub ground turkey)
Ham and Cheddar Waffles (perfect with soup)


I'd love to know some of your favorite, go-to recipes! And, thanks again for following along with our #teacherswhocook series. Be sure to tag your cooking adventures with #teacherswhocook on Instagram! I LOVE seeing all the cooking and recipe ideas! 


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Teachers Who Cook: Gadgets, Appliances, and Cookbooks!


Hi, lovely summering teachers!

Today the precious Martina and I are gushing about our cooking necessities. (If you missed it, last time we totally nerded out talking about meal planning. Check out that post HERE!)

Brace yourself: I'm not fancy. 

In. The. Least.

Martina talks about some of the best things you need in the kitchen, so I'm going to talk today about a few things I couldn't live without as a cooking enthusiast on a teaching schedule. In other words, the things I need in my kitchen to cook and eat on a busy schedule. 

Look away, food snobs! It's about to get real.



Programmable Slow Cooker
No one should be shocked that right away I have to bring up a slow cooker. Easilyyyyy my favorite appliance in the all time of EVER. In college, in my teeny tiny hole of a closet, squished amongst my cookbooks and monogrammed cake stand, I had three crockpots lined up, ready to go. If anyone ever robbed the apartment, they would've had a good laugh when they got to my room, that's for sure. 

Then, my first year of teaching, I usually had all three crockpots going every Sunday to make food for the week. Because 1) I lived literally in the middle of nowhere with little access to quick food (other than the ever-appetizing gas station cuisine) and 2) holy-buckets-no-one-warned-me-how-aged-I'd-feel-after-a-day-of-teaching.

When B was living in a city a few hours away, he'd visit on weekends and - yep, you guessed it - we'd usually have the three slow cookers going for our meals for the week. #sundayfunday

So yes, I'm quite smitten with the slow cooker. Although I must say, now I've pared down to just one of these babies because I live in a shoe box. But I will admit, it's my favorite model yet since it's perfect for teachers. I can program how long I want it to cook - which is quite handy since so many slow cooker recipes only cook for 6-8 hours and hello, if only teachers' days were that short

I will argue that no teacher should be without a programmable slow cooker. At least once a week (Slow Cooker Sunday, FTW), I program my crockpot to cook for, say, 7 hours on low, and after that the crockpot automatically switches to a warm setting. BRILLIANT. Seriously y'all, invest in one. You'll feel like both a kitchen rockstar and teacher of the year ("Fresh dinner ready the minute I get home? Whaaaaaat?"). 

Just wait until next week when I throw alllll my favorite slow cooker recipe at you. You'll be all, "We GET IT. You like CROCK POTS, Memaw." But seriously, check out my menu planning blog (particularly under Slow Cooker Sundays) for ideas in the meantime. And, I'd LOVE to know your favorite slow cooker meals!



Divided Lunch Containers
When I'm really feeling organized, I like to pack a few lunches ahead of time on Sundays. Divided containers keep everything separate and not soggy, so everything really does stay fresh throughout the week. AKA HUGE time saver. (And I'm reallyyyyy not into the whole packing a lunch in the morning thing. Or the night before, for that matter.) And, I can truly entertain my picky eating habits like a five year old. So, if you're okay with eating sandwiches, dips, produce, etc (cold stuff), I can't recommend this method enough.


Glass Containers
And, for the times I want leftovers for lunch, THESE. Oh baby, these containers. Two years ago, I upgraded all my plastic containers to glass, and I'll never go back. So easy to clean, and I can use them in the freezer, fridge, microwave, and oven. They store both leftovers and cut up produce alike beautifully. Like, a working person's DREAM. 

Oftentimes, since I'm only cooking for two people, when a recipe calls for a 9x13 dish, I'll split the recipe between two of these larger containers. One will get baked in the oven then, and the other one will get popped in the freezer. A few weeks later - typically Fridays are when I use any freezer meals, because by that point in the week #ijustcant - I'll let the frozen dish thaw in the fridge before school, and will pop it in the oven for dinner that night. I'm telling you, these dishes are MAGIC. This, this, and this recipe work great for this method.

I do have to also mention, that I also love mason jars for smoothies, salads, and parfaits. #glassrules #teacherlunchlife (Side note: search "Mason Jar Salads" on Pinterest. Mind BLOWN.)



Aaaaaand a few appliances I embarrassingly can't live without.
Like I said, food snobs - avert your eyes. I have a teeeeeeny kitchen and I have to prioritize what gets stored in there, and what gets stored everywhere else. (Tortilla warmer and food processor in the living room? Totes normal.) 

Shamelessly, I will admit my grilled cheese maker, my quesadilla maker, and my hardboiled egg maker all happily reside in my kitchen. Because sometimes I have to push off whatever I planned to make tonight to next week because #ijustcant, and only a quesadilla will do (but yes, the idea of even buttering a pan to make said quesadilla even sounds exhausting). Because I eat an abnormal amount of grilled cheese for breakfast (so judge me). And because I will never make hardboiled eggs during Sunday meal prep any other way than this foolproof, darling machine. 

Plus, if anything else, the amount of quesadilla ideas out there are quite impressive. Remember how I said having a theme to your evenings makes meal planning easier? I think I might have to consider a Quesadilla Night.


I know, I know. The post is supposed to be about cookbooks. 

And while I have quite the collection, and am quite the fan of both Cook's Illustrated and Pioneer Woman alike, I must say I'm very fond of cooking blogs. Admittedly, I follow more cooking blogs than teaching blogs on Instagram.

What can I say? I like to see food in my feed.

When I first thought I wanted to try cooking, I'd wake up each morning and browse cooking blogs. In fact, I still drink my coffee while doing just that. The thing is, most cooking blogs provide step-by-step pictures, so I felt it very educational (and confidence-building) to do that even before I ever ventured into a kitchen (because this was during the time I lived in a dorm). 

So, if you're a true beginner, I hope you find a blog below that teaches you enough to make you feel like you can cook (for me, that was Pioneer Woman and Mel's Kitchen Cafe). For my kitchen enthusiasts out there, I hope you either find a new cooking blog/site to enjoy, or let me know if we already share a favorite blog!

Mel's Kitchen Cafe (my go-to site)
Yummly (addicting, sorry)
All Recipes (psssst this is also my FAVORITE magazine)
A Year of Slow Cooking (slow cooker Sunday win)
Real Mom Kitchen (great for quick, easy recipes)
Damn Delicious (guys, THIS fish)
Two Peas in their Pod (meatless Monday jackpot)
Cooking Classy (her salmon and salads OMG)
Six Sister's Stuff (quick, easy recipes)
New Leaf Wellness (for freezer cooking)
Once a Month Meals (for freezer cooking)
The Kitchn (great recipes, cooking school, and tutorials!)
The Brewer and the Baker (her margaritas and mexican food, y'all!)

Also, if you're not a search-for-a-blog kind of person, I highly recommend you to sign up for the Yummly, AllRecipes, The Kitchn, and Food.com email list. Their daily emails always have some sort of jewel. Most blogs also have an email subscription sign up as well!

I hope peeking through these links has you excited to COOK. The precious Martina has made another adorable freebie for you to do so. Seriously, she's the BEST.



Keep tagging your cooking and meal planning pictures on Instagram with #teacherswhocook! I've loved loved LOVED seeing them all this week! Visit Martina's blog for more!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Teachers Who Cook: Menu, Meal, and Grocery Planning!


Hellooooo, fellow chefs!

Yes, you. You are a chef. You just don't know it yet. 

"But Haleyyyyy, I can't cook! I burn toast! I'm doomed!"

Riddle me this: 1) Can you read? and 2) Are you patient?

You are a teacher, so therefore the answer to both should be a resounding YES.

If you answered yes (which you did), then you have the qualifications of being a great cook.

Also, I like to point out the following.

Source: A Couple Cooks' Instagram (Psssst! An awesome cooking blog for you vegetarians!)


Now that we got that out of the way, it's story time. Wayyyy back during my last semester of student teaching, I ate out up to twice a day, everyday of the week. Because, you know, "I had noooooo time!" (*eye roll* Ohhh, to be in college again.)

Two things happened as a result of this habit: I gained a LOT of weight and I was even broker than I should've been as a college student. 

I'd always had an interest in cooking, but that summer I decided was the perfect time to really practice cooking, because things could not go on as they were. And I've been practicing ever since!

So, since we're currently smack dab in those blissful months of summer, what better time than for you to start practicing? Read on, fellow chefs! In today's blogpost of our three-part #teacherswhocook series, we're talking about the planning



This is the part that's most exciting for us teachers. The planning. One more aspect of our lives to potentially plan out and stick in our precious planner. Oooh the chills.

On a serious note though, if you're not willing to meal plan, you're setting yourself up to hate cooking. I'll be honest, I cook 6-7 nights a week, but I would despise cooking if I had to come up with a dinner plan every day after I got out of teaching. Like, I would burn out reallyyyy fast and probably be on Chickfila's VIP list. 

Luckily, meal planning is very personal. It works differently for everybody. Some of us have after school gigs, some of us have kids, some of us are only cooking for one, some of us are dedicated gym-goers, some of us only have spare time on for meal prep on the weekends. If you'd really like to spend this last chunk of our summer really wanting to eat at home more this coming school year, you have a few questions to ask yourself to find out what kind of a meal plan would realistically and most efficiently work for you.

Pssssst! Even though our "Go-To Recipes" post isn't for another two weeks, I'm sprinkling in pictures from my Instagram of things I've made after teaching and linking the original recipe. Maybe you'll find a few recipes or new blogs you like!



1) How often do you want to meal plan?
This is probably one of the most crucial questions. I know people that meal plan once a week, some that meal plan twice a week, and some that do it for the whole month. You have to find what works for your schedule.

When I first started doing this, I meal planned righttttt before I went to the grocery store once a week. Like, woohoo that I was actually menu planning, but the problem was I was continuously doing the same recipes each week because I couldn't think on the spot about what to make for the following week. 

Slow Cooker Chicken and Gravy over mashed potatoes

Now I menu plan for the month. Before you freak out on me, hear me out.

It can take me anywhere from one to two hours to plan out a month's worth of menu plans. And, I guarantee that sometimeeee during a whole month, I'll find myself with an awkward pocket of time that I could easily dedicate to menu planning the following month.

For example, in June, I found myself sitting in my parent's kitchen with nothing to do before lunch so I decided to do the menu planning for July. And, in May, I was at a coffee shop and finished my task early, so I tackled June's menu plan. I encourage you to try this method. In such a crazy-busy profession, knowing this important part of my life is taken care of is such a stress relief!


And that way, before I grocery shop each week, I can look over and create the list, while making sure if any night needs to be tweaked. AKA, "I need to switch Tuesday and Thursday's recipes around because I have _______ on Tuesday," or, "Let me change Monday's recipe because pork chops are on sale/ in my freezer/ what I'm craving right now." You get the gist. Planning for the month acts as a starting point for me, so it's flexible enough that I can keep it as it is (no same recipes over and over! yay!) or tweak as needed when the time comes.


2) How do you want to document your meal plan?

Think about where you want to write down your recipes for the week. Is it on a cute chalkboard in your kitchen? Is it in your precious planner? Is it on an app on your phone? Decide where would work best for you to keep track.

I created a separate blog for this. Last summer, I realized that I was making the same things over and over, but was unable to think about what I liked in the past that I'd like to make instead. On Burnt Orange Butter, I'm able to make a post with the week's menu plan AND link directly the recipe I'll need - thus making it easy to make a grocery list, make future menu plans, pass over cooking responsibilities to other household members, and pull up that night's recipe both easily and quickly. Plus, my family and friends have asked me to share with them for some new recipes.


If you ever need recipe ideas, I'd be honored if you peeked at my menu plan blog!


3) How do you want to choose recipes for your meal plan?
Obviously you can use cookbooks, Pinterest, cooking blogs, Yummly, AllRecipes, magazines, etc to find new recipes (more on our favorites in the other two posts!), but I mean do you want to have a theme to your evenings? I've found it makes it much easier to menu plan if I have a general guideline for what I want to eat each evening.


For example, right now my "map" is as follows:
Saturday: Fish or New Recipe
Sunday: Slow Cooker
Monday: Fish or Meatless
Tuesday: Mexican
Wednesday: Breakfast for Dinner or Brett Cooks (he picks a recipe)
Thursday: Italian, Indian, or Asian
Friday: Slow Cooker, Budget Meal, or Freezer Meal


Having a starting point for each night makes it so much easier for me! Think about what you'd like to work in each week. This menu guide changes every so often based on the season (yeah, soup is evey Monday in the winter #noshame) and my kitchen goals, but we'll talk about that more later.


4) How often do you want to go to the grocery store?
This definitely differs for everyone. I really enjoy going to the grocery store, but that's because I go once a week, and earlyyyyy Saturday morning so that the store is blissfully empty and quiet. Armed with a Doctor Pepper and maybe a kolache, it's now my happy place ritual. Trust me, if I had to go more than once a week and when it seems the whole universe is shopping, I would, again, be the ChickFilA VIP. 


But again, whatever works for you. My mom goes several times a week and almost seems to thrive when the place is busy. I had a coworker that loved to go almost daily after her daughter's practice. 

Anyway, your menu plan will obviously reflect how often you'd ideally like to go to the store. I bet you'll find that the longer you've menu plan (because be forewarned, there is such a learning curve to getting to a point where you love doing it), the less you mayyy need to go to the store for groceries.



5) How often do you want to eat out?
This will be taken in consideration when menu planning as well. One of my current cooking goals (again, more on that later), is to cook 6-7 nights a week. Before you roll your eyes and say, "Well, it's just because she doesn't have kids!" know that it's a goal of mine to cook that often. Usually I hit it, while other nights, the grilled cheese maker comes out.


I just like to cook that often because it really calms me after a day of teaching where, as we all know, the majority of my day is out of my control. Cooking really grounds me after that and, after working with little ones all day, it's nice to do something adultish. Also, I'm currently working Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps, so minimizing eating out is important to me! Plus, it makes packing lunches much easier.



But I do have friends that eat out every Friday because that's when the kitchen is closed, dinner is at their weekly Thursday happy hour, or pizza is delivered once a week because that's what works for their household. 


Whatever your eating out quotient is, stick it in the meal plan!


6) How are you going to plan for breakfasts and lunches?

Again, this totally depends on the week. Sometimes I make a big breakfast on Sunday, and use the leftovers for breakfast all week. I also know that nine times out of ten, a weekend lunch is eaten with my parents.

Oven Omelette (AKA How to use up leftover veggies)

Sometimes I take leftovers for lunch, and sometimes prepack a week of lunches on Sunday.




Just make sure you account for these meals when menu planning! Nothing's worse than the Thursday night realization that Friday's lunch looks grim and bare.



7) How are you going to prep?
Do you want to prep a few hours on the weekend for the week, or for a short amount of time each night? 

I like to spend a few hours on Sunday prepping for the week, which is why I always do an easy slow cooker meal that day. Once dinner is in the slow cooker, I may spend some time cutting produce, making a side or two for upcoming dinners (maybe cooking some rice?), prepping something for breakfast/lunch, and just getting any prep out of the way so that the rest of the week is easier. I find that I'm less likely to cook later in the week when I'm more tired, so doing some prep on Sunday makes cooking those nights much more feasible.

I worked with a teacher whose husband grilled every Sunday, and they used that meat all week as the base for other meals. Totally genius.


Additionally, this is where you figure out any shortcuts in recipes. For example, whenever a pizza recipe provides a homemade crust, I totally bust out the store bought crust. If a recipe calls for cooked chicken, I'm very likely to grab one of those handy rotisserie ones. Or, if I'm making homemade carnitas, I'll swing by a Mexican Restaurant and grab some sauces. #noshame Little things like that turn an intricate recipe into a weeknight one.


8) Right now, what are your top two cooking goals?
This is one of the top influences for when I'm meal planning. Cooking is totally a thing you can do - if you take it one step at a time. By choosing two specific kitchen goals and thinking of some recipe ideas that give me practice, I become more confident in cooking.



For example, right now I'm wanting to gain confidence in cooking fish, dinner salads with homemade dressing, and more ethnic foods, so you'll see several of those recipes currently on my menu planning blog to give myself more practice. That's also why "Fish" is listed twice under my menu plan map right now. 

Determine your current cooking goals, and have your menu plan reflect that! Do you want to become more confident in sauteeing vegetables? Using a cast iron? Making pasta sauce? Cutting up different fruit? Find recipes then for your menu plan to help you practice.


I hope you found something to help you get excited about menu planning and cooking! Can't wait to return next week with our favorite kitchen gadgets and cookbooks. Until then, Martina made THE most precious meal planners and grocery lists for you guys! 


Seriously, SWOON! #allthehearteyes

Also, check out Martina's blog for her thoughts and wisdom on meal planning. And, if you cook or meal plan this week, tag us on Instagram with #teacherswhocook. I've loved going through there and looking at all the deliciousness!