Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How to Run a Kitchen That Says, "Love is Cooking Here."

Weekly Contributor, Kim Brenneman

Recently, on a cold wintry day, the children and I were cooking up a storm in the kitchen. A giant chocolate chip cookie baked in a cast iron skillet. Every child under the age of eight had a turn in putting ingredients into the bowl. A slow-cooked roast was in the oven alongside the skillet cookie. I was sautéing onions and garlic to go into a vegetable dish. Potatoes were boiling. So of course with all this stovetop work I had the fan on.

Matt came in from choring and cheerily said, “I smelled love when I walked to the house!”

Contrast this with yesterday when late in the afternoon I realized it was too late to do my original supper plan. What I threw together wasn’t that great and didn’t get done in time. I got out cheese and some other lame things to hold the hungry bellies for another hour. Then the supper was so ill-received that I bribed them with ice cream for dessert if they would just eat the little bit on the plates.

The difference between the two days fell squarely on my head. I didn’t follow through with my plan. I wasn’t in the kitchen at the appropriate times. I rushed and didn’t try to make the food good but simply wanted to get it over with. All this translated into grumpiness all the way around. I was originally irritated at being interrupted from my other work in order to make food. “How dare it be time for supper!” Then I was annoyed that I hadn’t done the prep work for the original meal plan. “How could I be so dumb?!” Hungry people are grumpy whether they are growing or already grown. We were a grumpy growly family. Being served a least favorite food that isn’t cooked well is a recipe for whining. Love was not flowing and only by the grace of God and a heartfelt supper prayer did we salvage the evening.

Today the supper hour is going to be better. You better believe it! I have a plan and I’m sticking to it. There is an herbed roast in the oven, slow and low. The children have choir this afternoon which will put us home late and my plan is to roast potatoes and sweet potatoes when we get back. There is still a good salad in the fridge but I need to make a new dressing for it. Matt will get home before I do and my goal is to have the kitchen clean and ready for me to sweep in and promptly finish the preparations with help from my older children. Supper will be on time and delicious!

I love my family, I want them to eat yummy nutritious food, I want to be happy when I make them food, and I want them to be happy when they are eating my food.

I have learned tips over the years that make kitchen and meal management easier. Here are some of them:
  • Keep a well-stocked pantry.
  • Make a meal plan. Keep it simple. For example: Italian every Thursday, roast chicken on Saturdays, dessert on weekend nights only.
  • Take time every week to go over your meal plan, look at your pantry, and make a grocery list.
  • Every single day: do meal prep for lunch and supper when you’re cleaning up breakfast. Do it again at lunch. Late in the afternoon go to the kitchen and do the rest of the supper preparations.
  • Know your grocery store and save time by making your list so that it corresponds with the aisles in your grocery store.
  • Use your slow cooker as much as you can. It saves you money because you can buy less expensive cuts of meat. It saves you time because generally it is cooking all of your food at once. It saves you mental angst because you start supper early in the day and don’t have to think about supper until right before the meal.
  • Keep your kitchen organized. Like with like. Knives where you cut food. Tea bags near the tea kettle. Glasses near the water. Rarely used things out of the way.
  • To keep your family healthy start with these tips and think about each meal as a multi-vitamin and mineral for your family.
  • Don’t buy boxed and packaged food. It’s expensive and by learning to make things yourself you will save a lot and be serving your family more nutritious food.
  • Buy extra virgin olive oil and only cold-pressed oils. Buy butter instead of margarine. Never buy shortening.
  • Make your own salad dressing and save big time.
  • Make your own vegetable, chicken, and beef stock. It’s virtually free, you've already bought the bones when you bought the meat in the first place.
  • Eat yogurt or kefir for your health. Make your own to save money.
  • The least expensive vegetables are also very nutritious! Buy potatoes, cabbage, carrots, beets, other root vegetables, zucchini, onions, garlic, green like kale and chard, and broccoli.
  • Eggs are brain food and a cheap protein. Serve them daily in some shape or form—they are very versatile!
  • Soups made from your own bone broth and full of vegetables are inexpensive and extremely nutritious. Throw your leftover meat and vegetables into a pot with broth for an easy and yummy soup or stew.
  • “The whiter the bread the sooner you’re dead.” Make your own fresh ground whole wheat bread or buy bread with the least ingredients and the most grams of fiber. Invest in a grain grinder and Bosch mixer. Organic whole grains are a fraction of the cost of their store bought equivalent.
  • Make brown rice, not white. Invest in a rice cooker for perfect rice every time. It will convert those who think they don’t like rice.
  • Depending on your culinary level or place in life. You may be feeling a bit overwhelmed right now. Stop and take a deep breath. You can do this. Print a calendar page and grab a pencil. Write down your husband’s favorite meals spread throughout the month. Then include the rest of your family’s favorite meals. If you are using packaged foods for those meals then make it a goal to learn to make them new and improved in a healthier way. There are many tutorials and modified recipes on the internet that can show you the way. Soon it will be easy for you and your family will be healthier!
  • If you have open days on your calendar then use them for trying new recipes. I recommend keeping it simple and using the slow cooker. Also save the slow cooker meals for days when you have to be out of the house. Put your meal together before you leave, and come home to the smell of supper cooking!
  • Tomorrow, when we’ll be home all day, I have a Kitchen Day scheduled. The children and I will be cleaning the kitchen, cooking up a storm, and making yummy smells flow out of the stove vent that say, "love is cooking here."


Kim Brenneman

Kim is the joyful wife of Matt and the blessed mother of nine children.

When not busy homeschooling and farmschooling, she enjoys writing, gardening, cooking, reading, sewing, and crafting.

Kim lives on a farm in Iowa where her family grows beef cattle, corn and beans, and operates a micro-dairy selling cheese at farmer’s markets. She loves to write and speak about her passion for home and family. She is the author of Large Family Logistics: The Art and Science of Managing the Large Family. She blogs about the same subject at:

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