(ARA) - So you've just tied the knot, or will soon wed, and you realize that mealtime (among other things) is about to change. If you have any jitters about cooking for two, rest assured that setting up a kitchen and cooking delicious meals - no matter what your budget or time constraints - are well within reach.
Essential kitchen tools
If you're lucky, you received most of what you need to set up a kitchen as wedding or shower gifts. Here's a rundown of the very basics. You can add to your supplies down the road, once you see what kind of cooking you most enjoy (a wok if you rely on stir fry and a crepe pan if you fancy crepes for Sunday breakfast, for example).
For now, you can tackle just about any recipe if you have:
* A couple of basic pots (one large enough to make pasta and a medium-size one for sauces and steaming veggies)
* A skillet
* A casserole dish
* Measuring cups and spoons
* One large and one small mixing bowl
* Wooden spoons, a good can opener, a slotted spoon, a ladle, rubber spatulas and a metal spatula
* A cutting board and a good chef's knife, a paring knife, a vegetable peeler and a grater
* Baking pans: one 9-by-13-inch, two round cake pans, a pie pan, a couple of cookie sheets, a pizza pan and a loaf pan
* Storage containers and recycling bins
The spice rack
It needn't be a rack, of course, but a solid collection of spices will be necessary for cooking from recipes and can help you transform ordinary fare into very special - even signature - dishes. Stock a handful of basics, then build your selection. Store them away from heat and light (not over your stove).
A good start would be: basil, bay leaves, cayenne, chives, cinnamon, cumin, garlic powder, marjoram, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme, turmeric and, of course, salt and black pepper.
If you have an ongoing gift registry, you might add Simply Organic's Spice Rack with Spices
. It provides 16 basic spices, including Daily Grind Black Peppercorns and Grind to a Salt blend.
For convenience (and reliability), stock plenty of ready-to-use spice blends, too, such as all-purpose seasoning, chili powder, curry powder, Italian seasoning, Mexican seasoning, and pumpkin pie spice.
Deciding what to have for dinner needn't be a hassle. It's helpful to plan your menus for the week ahead, both for shopping ease and peace of mind.
Start by relying on basic recipes. Maybe you have some that have been passed down in your family. Or maybe you're teaching yourself now. You might want to set aside one day a week to try a brand new recipe, such as a new ethnic dish or something you saw on a cooking show or website. If it works, add it to your repertoire.
You can also greatly vary your basic recipes, such as potato, pasta and egg dishes, just by experimenting with seasonings and other toppings. If you know how to cook pasta (and if you don't, just follow the directions on the package and you'll nail it), you can make myriad dishes by choosing a variety of pastas in various shapes. Then mix things up by seasoning your sauces differently: add basil, garlic powder and thyme to your tomato sauce one day and oregano, garlic granules and basil another. For a white sauce, try tarragon, paprika and parsley or marjoram, dill weed and chives. If you're going for convenience, simply choose a blend such as Italian seasoning, and you're good to go.
You can find some good "beginner" recipes on Simply Organic's recipe website
, which, for convenience, creatively use mixes and blends. You can also download the company's free recipe app
for your iPhone, iPad, and/or iPod Touch.
Speaking of mixes and blends, if you haven't noticed, they're not just for dessert anymore. You'll find convenient, healthful mixes and blends for everything from sauces and dips to main dishes, side dishes and, yes, desserts. If you don't have the time and inclination to spend hours in the kitchen mastering recipes, it's mixes and blends to the rescue. Even if you enjoy spending time in the kitchen, mixes are great when you need a dish done faster.
Here are a couple easy-to-assemble recipes that you can use to put a complete, scrumptious dinner on the table.
1 pound lean ground beef
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup ketchup
1 package Simply Organic Sloppy Joe Mix
1/4 cup water
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large mixing bowl, combine beef, bread crumbs, egg and ketchup. In a small bowl, dissolve Sloppy Joe Mix in water. Add liquid mix to beef mixture and knead into a loaf shape. Place on cookie sheet or in oven-safe pan and bake for 45 minutes.
Creamy Mashed Potato Casserole
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces
1 package Simply Organic French Onion Dip Mix
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, cut into pieces
Place potatoes in a large pot. Cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. While potatoes are cooking, combine dip mix, sour cream, cream cheese, and salt. Stir until well mixed, and set aside.
When potatoes are tender, drain off the water. Add the sour cream mixture and butter to the potatoes. Mash potatoes using a hand-held mixer or potato masher. Place in a greased 3-quart casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, uncovered.