5 Items Every Home Cook Needs in the Kitchen

There’s an endless list of kitchen gadgets, from garlic presses and citrus squeezers to fancy vegetable slicers. While all of these tools can make your life in the kitchen easier, you may be wondering, which are the most important items you need as a home cook?

Quality Set of Knives

You’ll definitely need, at a minimum, a chef’s knife, a serrated knife, and a paring knife. Your chef’s knife is a knife to invest in: you can use to cut, slice, and dice fresh produce, meats, and seafood. Shop for a knife forged from a single piece of metal that runs all the way through the handle. Make sure you test out the knife’s size, weight, and balance in your hand before buying.

You’ll need a serrated knife for cutting through softer, more delicate ingredients like bread and tomatoes, while a paring knife is wieldy for delicate tasks like peeling fruits and vegetables.

Cast Iron Skillet

Cast Iron Skillet

Image via Flickr by Key West Wedding Photography

A cast iron skillet is a timeless kitchen tool. You can use it for frying chicken, sauteing veggies, searing beef, broiling fish, and even baking a pecan pie or peach cobbler in the oven. Furthermore, you can cook over the flames of the grill or a campfire. Its heavy, durable design heats evenly and retains heat. Furthermore, it adds subtle flavor to your dishes and infuses them with iron, an essential mineral.

Slow Cooker

slow cooking

Image via Flickr by EBKauai

A slow cooker, also known as a crock pot, helps you turn out a tender, flavor-infused dish. Chop and layer the ingredients, adjust the settings, and leave it alone to heat up and cook until everyone is home, and it’s time to eat. You can make cheese grits or corned beef hash for breakfast, macaroni and cheese or chicken and dumplings for lunch, and barbecue ribs or Jambalaya shrimp for dinner.

Ductless AC System

Using your stove and oven can quickly heat up the house. While this may be cozy in the winter, summertime cooking will be a nightmare. Invest in a ductless air conditioning system for the kitchen, so you can cook in comfort year-round. It’s easier to install than a conventional AC system and, even if you have central AC, the extra heat from the kitchen can be better managed with a local ductless AC system.

Handheld Immersion Blender

Sauces, marinades, dressings, and dips can be the secret to a gourmet meal. A handheld immersion blender can make the process of blending condiments like gravy, mayonnaise, or strawberry jam so much easier because you can mix your ingredients in a separate container. You can also use this blender to make fruit smoothies and vegetable soups, or even cake batter and frosting.

If you’re a home cook, having the right equipment and tools is important for safety and comfort. A quality set of knives aids in the preparation of the main ingredients, while an immersion blender instantly makes it easier to mix sauces, soups, and smoothies. The versatility of a cast iron skillet and a slow cooker opens creative possibilities to flavorful hearty dishes and even desserts.


Exciting New Ways To Cook Breakfast

Nutritionists will agree that breakfast is arguably the most important meal of the day.  It provides your body with the energy it requires to have a productive morning, initiates the digestive process after a long night’s sleep, and kick-starts your metabolism.

Eggs are a breakfast staple found across the dining tables of North America, providing people of all ages with the necessary protein, choline, iron, phosphorus as well as vitamins B and D they need to function at their best. The one drawback – it is easy to exhaust traditional recipes. There are, however, ways to creatively incorporate eggs into your meals, even when you’re using them every morning. Cook your eggs in an avocado for example – or in a muffin tin with slices of prosciutto, fresh basil and mozzarella cheese!

If you want to learn about Ontario Eggs and fun new ways to cook with them, check out this Egg Stuffed Tater recipe for an exciting wake-up call.  It’s got all your necessary proteins, carbohydrates, and goes great with a fruit salad at breakfast or green salad at brunch. To begin, preheat your oven to 450°F (230°C). While your waiting for it to reach the desired temperature, cook bacon in large, non-stick skillet until it gets crisp.  Then, remove the bacon itself, coarsely chopping, but leave approximately a tablespoon of fat to sizzle on the skillet.

Egg Recipe

At this point, cut your potatoes in half lengthwise, scooping out the flesh, leaving thick walls. Then, coarsely chop the flesh and arrange the potato shells cut side up on a baking sheet, brushing the inside with olive oil. Bake until they’re lightly browned, this will take about 10-12 minutes.

In the same skillet (using the bacon grease), cook the chopped potato flesh, adding salt and pepper to taste. When the mixture has browned, place it in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, beat four eggs with pepper then heat two tablespoons of butter in a medium size skillet.  Cook the eggs, stirring until set but still soft.

Add the scramble to the bowl of browned potatoes and toss in the chopped bacon. Mix in ¼ cup of shredded cheese and two chopped green onion stems (if using).  Fill the potato shells with the egg and potato mixture, sprinkling with remaining cheese to finish; bake until cheese melts and serve warm. You can even cook the bacon and potatoes the night before to make assembling quicker in the morning.

Give yourself the opportunity to change things up from time to time; rather than preparing the same plate of over-easy eggs and bacon that you always do, consider that there are many different egg-based recipes available online for you to experiment with, like the one above found on If breakfasts are becoming a bore, brainstorm how you can give them a face-lift. Incorporate your favourite flavours and ingredients, or read up on what others are doing to make mornings in their kitchen a little less ordinary.


5 Things to Buy for that Christmas Dinner at Your House

Holiday season is upon us! And for many that will mean hosting a dinner at your place. Aside from the usual frantic cleaning and Googling for a great recipe, what are some things that will help you appear to be the perfect host? Here are 5 items to stock up on that will make sure you are able to graciously handle any event at your holiday party.

  1. Paper towels and tissue boxes.

Stock up on a number of tissue boxes and place them in strategic positions throughout your hosting area. And make sure you have a couple rolls of paper towels in your kitchen and bathroom. Spills and food mishaps happen all the time. And you will want to handle them quickly and smoothly. A good host does not allow her guest to feel embarrassed. Make sure to laugh off any fumbles and reassure your guest that the carpet or couch will not stain. So having stain remover on hand is not a bad idea either. And keep a throw on hand in case you need to cover a couch.

  1. First aid kits.

Burns and cuts–these things happen as you prepare a meal. Add in a splash of Happy Hour and the ways in which people can get hurt double in surprising and often unforeseen ways. And if you are hosting an event where guests bring their kids, it is almost a given that someone will be in tears at some point. What is a good host to do to prepare for slightly tipsy guests who have somehow hurt themselves at your party? Have a first aid kit on the ready. Tending to whatever cut or scrape promptly can prevent infection and a possible worsening of the injury. Stock your first aid kit with all the essentials, such as Band-Aids, gauze, surgical tape, etc.

  1. To-go bags or containers.

If you want your party to be remembered the day after with delight, all you need to do is send your guests home with some leftovers. They get the added meal prep help, and you get to look gracious and oh so prepared! To do this, you will need to stock up on some to-go bags or containers, so as not to deplete your personal collection of Tupperware. Disposable containers are easy on guests, as they do not need to wonder whether they should return the container.

  1. Non-alcoholic drinks.

There is always that one guest who has decided not to drink at your party. Are you prepared? If at all possible, try to find out beforehand what his or her non-alcoholic beverage of choice is. If you are not able to find out, go to the store and purchase a bottle of plain soda and a bottle of fancy juice. If you know children will be attending as well, then increase that amount as well as the variety you stock. Also make sure to have your coffee and tea set up operational, too.

  1. After-dinner snacks.

No matter how abundant your holiday spread and regardless of how much your guests have eaten, there is always room for a treat.
And this applies even if you served a dessert at the table. If everyone has moved to the living room, consider having a bowl of chocolates on the side table. Or offer some dark chocolate with your after-dinner coffee. Other ideas for after-dinner snacks include fresh fruit and salted nuts. Individually wrapped mints and ginger cookies are also a great choice.

It is the little touches of concern and thoughtfulness that make the evening sing and will leave a lasting impression. If you find that your guests are lingering around the living room, you know you have done a good job of creating an experience they will not forget. All it takes is stocking up on these party essentials.



Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Yesterday my recipe on Baked Cheese Crisps was a big hit in the Pinterest world so I decided to give you the Spinach and Artichoke Dip to match! Afterall, what’s better than dipping cheese into more cheese? Right…

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

The perfect appetizer, snack or if you are like me your own meal!

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 1/2 cups marinated artichoke hearts
  • 6 oz cream cheese, room temperrature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp fresh garlic


Chop your fresh spinach into small pieces and boil in 1 cup of water until tender. Drain and discard liquid. In a microwaveable safe bowl heat your cream cheese for 1 minute or until hot and soft. Mix in remaining ingredients.

For best results place your completed mixture in an oven safe ramekin for 15 minutes at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly. Top with grated parmesan and serve with Baked Cheese Crisps. Enjoy

Moms Recipes

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Ok so first off I cheated last night because Reagan and I had a bunch of errands to run and we got home later than I anticipated.

This is such an easy dish to make and even though Reagan doesn’t like to eat much of the bell pepper she inhales the meat! My cheat was I didn’t have ground beef or turkey in the house so I hit up our local Raley’s meat counter and purchased their pre-made meatloaf. I am not a big fan of rice in my meatloaf so this recipe does not include rice.

Hollowed Out Bell Peppers

  • 4-6 bell peppers ( I use orange and yellow the most because they are the sweetest and I’m not a huge fan of bell peppers)
  • 1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1 tsp seasoning salt or garlic salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese ~ choose your flavor!

Preheat the oven to 350. Rinse your bell peppers under water and prepare to hollow them out. Cut the top off the bell pepper and scoop out any seeds and cut out the membranes. Chop up the edible parts of the top of the bells to mix into your ground beef mixture. Once the bells are cleaned out set them onto a baking sheet covered with tin foil or place in a 13 x 9 baking dish. (Trust me ~ use tin foil or you will spend forever scraping your dish clean.)

In a large bowl mix together your chopped onion, chopped bell pepper from the cut up tops, garlic, pepper, seasoning salt and worcestershire sauce. If you prefer you can brown the onions ahead of time to soften them up. Add in the ground beef and mix together thoroughly. Take the completed mixture and divide into your bell peppers. Put your completed bells into the oven and bake for about 45-55 minutes or until the internal temperature is at least 160 degrees.

Top with your choice of cheese and serve. Keep in mind that the juices from the meat will have settled into the bottom of the bell pepper so be careful when you place them on your plate or cut into them as you will have a lot of draining. To prevent, pour out the juice before you place on your dinner plate.

Again, if you want to be lazy like me … and no judgements here because at times we all need a little help, check your local meat counter to see if they carry the pre-made meatloaf. Raley’s, Bel Air and Knobb Hill typically always carry it. Safeway or Genuardi’s are seasonal and only carry it during the fall/winter months. As always you can add more vegetables and rice to your mixture if you prefer. If you do add rice (you’ll need about 1/2 cup uncooked white or brown rice) I would suggest cooking it ahead of time so that it’s already precooked before it hits the oven inside your bells. This will ensure no hard rice when you go to eat it!

Cooked Bell Peppers topped with Cheese.



Moms Recipes

Baked Caesar Chicken

Baked Caesar

This is one of the best chicken dishes ever and it is such a step up from ranch dressing for those that want a little bit more of a bite to their chicken! I’ve been making this recipe now for about six years and every time I do plates are cleaned and there are never leftovers!

It’s a huge hit with Rey and Brian and if I’m ever asked to bring a plate to dinner I’m always asked to bring my chicken!

It’s incredibly easy, takes very little prep work and dinner is ready in thirty minutes!

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup caesar dressing (yep ~ you can use fat free!)
  • 1/2 cup – 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs ( I use Progresso Italian & Herb)

** For best results marinate the chicken in the caesar dressing overnight so it really absorbs the flavor


Preheat oven to 350. Grease the bottom of a 13 x 9 baking dish (or Pam some tin foil and cover your baking dish ~ This is the no mess method and I LOVE it!) Use a glass bowl to pour the caesar dressing in and coat each piece of chicken stabbing it with a fork so the dressing absorbs into the breast. Place the Panko bread crumbs and seasoned bread crumbs onto a plate and mix together. You can opt not to use the Panko bread crumbs but it gives more texture to the chicken. Take each chicken breast from the bowl and coat in the bread crumbs. Transfer to your baking dish and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the meat thermometer reaches 170 degrees internally.

Serve with your favorite vegetable side dish! We love grilled asparagus with feta cheese!

That’s it ~ enjoy!


Bang Bang Shrimp

Football is only two weeks away! I am so excited I can hardly stand it! Fantasy football is around the corner and it’s time to reclaim the title.

But first, it’s time to break out the football appetizers.

Bang Bang Shrimp

Bang Bang Shrimp

  • 1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined


  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 4-5 teaspoons Sriracha sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar

Egg Mixture

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup milk


  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil

For Frying

  • 8 to 12 cups vegetable oil

Combine all ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl; cover and set aside. You can control the spice factor by adjusting your sriracha amount.

Combine beaten egg with milk in shallow bowl; set aside.

Combine flour, panko, salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and basil in another shallow bowl; set aside.

To bread the shrimp first coat each side of the shrimp with the breading mixture. Dip breaded shrimp into the egg and milk mixture, and then back into the breading. Arrange the coated shrimp on a plate and pop them into the fridge for at least 20 minutes. This step will help the breading to stick on the shrimp when they are frying.

I don’t have a deep fryer so I use a sauce pan and heat my oil to 350 degrees with the help of a candy thermometer. In a sauce pan you only want to fill with oil about half way to prevent burns from splattering.  Using a deep fryer heat oil to 350 degrees. Use amount of oil required by your fryer.

When oil is hot, fry shrimp 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on rack or paper towels.

When all shrimp has been fried, drop the shrimp into a large bowl. Spoon about 1/4 cup of sauce over shrimp and stir gently to coat.


Open Face Chicken Caprese Sandwich

Here is a recipe I stole from Pinterest~ Gotta love Pinterest!!

The best part is it takes all of 15 minutes to make and is AMAZING!


  • 2 small chicken breasts (or 1 large breast)
  • salt & pepper
  • 4 slices hearty bread (french or country)
  • butter
  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 4-5 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • 2oz fontina or mozzarella cheese, cut into slices


1. Season chicken with salt & pepper on both sides, then saute in a non-stick sprayed skillet over medium-heat until chicken is no longer pink in the center, about 3-4 minutes a side. Remove to a plate, and set aside.

  • I infused a little bit of balsamic vinegar into my chicken to give it a bit more of a bite! It’s delicious!

2. Position oven rack in the second slot under the broiler, about 6-7 inches away from the heat. Lightly butter one side of each bread slice, then place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil until golden brown around the edges.

  • Bread like a French Roll or Baguette will work splendidly but choose whatever you like!

3. Place cooked chicken on top of toasted bread slices, then top with tomatoes, basil, and cheese. Place back under the broiler until cheese is melted. Crack black pepper over the top, then serve.

Serves 2