Top Table Tips

An ongoing series of informational entries

Crock Pot Meals

May 13, 2014

If you are anything like I am, there are some days that the thought of cooking a meal for my family is completely overwhelming because those days are especially busy. There is a quick and easy answer, and it's not eating out.

If there are specific days each week that you know will be extra busy, plan Crockpot meals. Crockpot meals are so simple to prep the night before, or even the morning of. Another perk of using a Crockpot is that it won't heat up the house in the summer.

There are many resources for healthy, satisfying, and fun varieties for whatever your meal needs might be. Recipes can be found for appetizers, beverages, side dishes, main dishes, desserts, breads, and more! Here are some of my favorite resources for Crockpot recipes:

Cooking From the Heart

May 27, 2014

I love cooking for my family and friends, but it hasn't always been that way. My mother taught me how to cook at an early age, and mealtime was always one of the most important parts of the day. My grandmother was a fabulous cook, so my father appreciated good cooking as well, and was full of praises for a job well done.

After I was married and had children, my meals didn't receive such hearty praise. Being young and on a limited budget, I leaned toward cooking cheap...mac & cheese, stew, casserole...and my family had a very picky palette, so the praise was few and far between and I lost interest. It just wasn't enjoyable any more.

As life and circumstances went on, I found myself remarried to a man who appreciated good food, and the compliments were aplenty. My kids started to realize that it wasn't necessary to criticize everything, and they actually liked my cooking. It's amazing what a little encouragement will do! I started becoming more creative with my cooking, and trying to learn more techniques, as well as what different herbs and spices would do. It was then that I began to grow as a cook.

For me, cooking is a labor of love. Now I cook from my heart. If there is a food that my family truly doesn't like, like asparagus, we simply don't make it. There are so many other foods to choose from that they do like that it's not worth it to fight the battle to have them eat it. On the other hand, if there is something that they especially like, we tend to make it more.

I enjoy cooking for others too, including the sick and the elderly. There is just something about good food that is comforting and makes someone know you thought of them and you care. Everyone has to eat. It's fuel for our bodies. It's a necessity, so why not enjoy it? My goal when serving a meal to my family is for them to fully experience and enjoy every layer of flavor and texture, and I attain that by cooking with love. When I put my heart into what I'm creating, it's always better. A different 'favorite' every meal whether it's a favorite food, favorite dish, or favorite style of cooking, or an extra dash of cinnamon added to a dessert are just some of the ways to give yourself to not only cooking well, but loving those you cook for. Cooking from the heart is so much more enjoyable that just feeling the responsibility of getting a hot meal on the table. I challenge you to see cooking as a labor of love...cook from the heart!

Ministering Through Food

June 3, 2014

Last week we discussed cooking from the heart and ways that we can give of ourselves in the meals we prepare. A person can minister to others with food. My challenge for you this week is to reach out and make an impact on someone's life. How? I'm glad you asked!

Each week as you cook for your family, there will likely be leftovers. Do you know of someone that could use them? Wrap up a plate and take it to the elderly man down the street, or to the homeless lady that is usually at the city park. Do you enjoy cooking? Pick a day each week to cook something...maybe a double batch...that you would plan on giving to a struggling family or two, and deliver it. Maybe someone you know has been spending a lot of time at the hospital with a loved one or they may have just lost a family member to sickness. Even in their grief, they still need to eat. There is always someone that could use a meal that is cooked from the heart, and your thoughtfulness may be exactly what will help them through.

I challenge you to live outside of yourself. Give and watch the difference it makes. There is nothing more rewarding than being a blessing to someone else!

Recipe Substitutions

September 2, 2014

Have you ever tried to make a recipe and realize at the last moment that you were out of something, or several somethings? I hate to admit that I've done this more than once, but I have also come up with some fantastic dishes by using substitutions.

I just recently made bread and butter pickles. It was just before my monthly grocery shopping trip, so I was out of a few things and decided to give it a try anyway, only to come up with some spectacular pickles! Here were some of my substitutions:

Instead of:                                                       I used:

Apple cider vinegar                                   Red wine vinegar

Mustard seed                                            Ground mustard

Celery seed                                           Chopped celery leaves

White sugar                                                  Brown sugar

As you see, it is still possible to make your favorite recipe by using substitutions when necessary, and you just might make your recipe even better! If you are in need of a good list of ingredients that you can use to substitute, I would suggest the following two websites:

When you make substitutions and your recipe surprises you by how well it comes out, remember to write the changes down so you can make it again, and when someone compliments you, just thank them and carry on as though it was always meant to be that way!

Sending happiness, hopes, and heavenly helpings!

Quick Homecooked Meals for the Busy Family

October 14, 2014

Trying to make a good breakfast or pack a lunch for the day can be easier said than done on a busy morning when you're trying to get your family, or even yourself, ready and out the door. Sure, a bowl of cereal is easy for breakfast, and running to the local fast food drive-thru during lunch might be a no-brainer, but there is an easier way to make sure these meals are covered, using time saving techniques that won't break the bank.

The answer is simple. First, make a list of some of your family's favorites. It may be your famous cinnamon pancakes or sausage, egg, and cheese biscuits for breakfast, and mini pizzas or hot pockets for lunch.

Once you've decided what your family likes, plan to make it, and make a double or triple batch. If you make pancakes on the weekend, make extra. Put the leftovers in a freezer bag in the freezer. When you make biscuits with your dinner, make extra. Then mix up some eggs with some salt and pepper, and a dash of milk, pour into a prepared 9x13 baking pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Then cut into squares and purchase precooked sausage patties and cheese slices. Assemble your sausage, egg, and cheese biscuits, wrap in plastic wrap, and put in the freezer.

Take one day per month to make mini pizzas or homemade hot pockets and top or fill them with your favorite ingredients. Then bake them, let them cool, wrap them, and put them in the freezer.

When you are in need of a quick breakfast or lunch, head to the freezer. A few seconds in the microwave and you have a hot breakfast. When packing lunch, grab a mini pizza or hot pocket (or whatever you choose to make) and add some fruit and a drink, and you have a good lunch that will both satisfy and save you time and money in the long run. A little planning in advance will make your meals much easier and make your family happy!

Sending happiness, hopes, and heavenly helpings!