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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Teachers Who Cook PArt III: Go-To Recipes


Hi cooking friends!

We are back with our final post and it's probably the one many of you have been waiting for: "Go-To" recipes!


I will be honest and say that I didn't exactly know how I would go about this post, because 1/2 of my recipes each week are things I just make all the time and the other 1/2 are new or kind of harder recipes that I use my cookbooks for. So... I am just going to give you a good mix of recipes and/or links/cookbooks for recipes.

A couple of disclaimers:

  • Haley is the crockpot queen. I am NOT. I love meal planning and cooking but I HATE meal prepping. I know how easy it could make my life (and I HIGHLY recommend going to Haley's post to see more ideas like this) but I have some other ways I save my time and energy during the week (more on that later). If you want more crockpot stuff, PLEASE go to Haley's blog (that's where I have been getting ideas lately. She's amazing.) She's your girl in crockpot meals. 
  • I am not a "chef." ha! I say this because of the meals you are about to see. I grew up in a family of 6 (and my husband was my boyfriend in middle school, so he's been around forever-so basically a family of 7). 
    • We did not go out to eat a lot at all. 
    • First of all, we were considered a "party" and have to pay the 20% gratuity automatically.
    • Second, have you ever had to try and get 7 people to agree on a restaurant? 
    • Third, my mom and dad are both great cooks. My mom pretty much cooked dinner 4-5 nights a week when we were kids. My dad cooked 1-2 nights and made us breakfast on the weekends, both while working full time. 
    • Nothing crazy, but mom made practical, mostly healthy, and efficient dinners for us because they worked full-time and had 4 (basically 5) kids. Dad makes Italian dinners (mostly on the weekends) and then traditional breakfasts. He also makes AMAZING green chile. 
    • That's where I learned to cook. We aren't fancy or anything, but cooking dinners is just something we do. That's how I think of cooking and that's why my meals are kind of standard (with some exceptions). 

10 (+1) Meals I Make 2-3 (sometimes 4) Times a Month 

I know some people might want new recipes, but for those of you who just like an arsenal of ideas, these are the foods I make almost once a week! If it's just something I make on the go, I put the recipe. For the rest I just linked to a super simple week day recipe. 
  1. Tacos/Quesadillas/Fajitas and Chips and Salsa
  2. Spaghetti and Salad
  3. Cheeseburgers and Chips
  4. Salmon/Rice/Asparagus
  5. Homemade chicken Strips
  6. SUPER simple parmesan pasta and Italian sausage
  7. Homemade Pizza 
  8. Steak and Potatoes 
  9. Enchiladas 
  10. Chicken Stir-Fry
  11. Breakfast for Dinner 
Tacos/Quesadillas/Fajitas: My husband would eat tacos every.single.day if I would make them. I think we agree on this philosophy because I think they are so easy and fast to make.



Ingredients: 

  • Chicken
  • Tortillas and or taco shells
  • Taco Seasoning (I just buy the spicy kind in the packets, from the grocery store).

Toppings Options:

  • Shredded Cheese
  • Chopped Tomatoes
  • Chopped Iceberg Lettuce
  • Sour Cream
  • Salsa 
  • Avocado
  • Peppers and onions (for fajitas- I just put oil in a pan and cook them on medium while making the chicken) 
-Start out by cutting your choice of meat into cubes.
-Next, season your choice of meat with your seasoning.
-Put a splash of vegetable oil into a pan on medium heat and cook your meat to your desired done-ness. Yeah that's it. So EASY and I feel like 99% of the general public likes Tacos

Use extra salsa for some tortilla chips.


Homemade Pizza  Click on the link for an easy homemade pizza dough recipe. Just add your favorite ingredients and bake!





Spaghetti and Salad: I LOVE Spaghetti and I think it is so easy to make. My family has always used Italian sausage in our spaghetti sauce so that's always what I use.

Ingredients: 

  • Olive Oil
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage
  • 1 Tablespoon of Italian seasoning ( I use A LOT but some people use less)
  • One 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • One small can of tomato paste (I use the whole can because that's what the Pioneer Woman does). 
  • Your choice of pasta (we use fettuccine)
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Your choice of dressing. 
  1. Finely chop the onion and garlic.
  2. Pour a Tablespoon of Olive Oil into a large pan on medium heat. 
  3. Cook the onions and garlic until they are soft and translucent. 
  4. Add the Italian sausage and break it up into bite-sized pieces. 
  5. Once the Italian sausage is cooked (I wait until mine is brown) add the tomato paste, the Crushed tomatoes, and the Italian seasoning. 
  6. Stir everything together and turn the burner to low while you do the rest.
  7. Make your pasta according to the directions
  8. Chop up some lettuce 
  9. Serve pasta sauce on pasta and salad on the side with your choice of dressing and maybe some croutons ( I LOVE croutons). 

Cheeseburgers and Chips Click on the link for a "Better than a Big Mac" Recipe



Salmon/Rice/Asparagus: This is another one I make all the time because it's easy and healthy


Ingredients: 
  • Salmon Filet for each person ( I do about 5-7 ounces for each of us)
  • Lemon (one small lemon works for 2 people)
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Asparagus
  • Olive Oil
  • Brown Rice (I buy the boil in a bag kind because it's so easy)
  • Aluminum Foil
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  2. Bring a small pot of water to a boil 
  3. Cut the lemon into slices
  4. Place each salmon filet in its own packet on a baking sheet
  5. Salt and pepper the salmon
  6. Put a tiny slice or two of butter on each filet
  7. Cover the filet with 2-3 lemon slices. 
  8. Wrap each filet in the foil ( I leave a little air pocket)
  9. Bake  for 15-18 minutes
  10. Put the rice in the water according to directions
  11. While salmon is cooking, cut the ends of the asparagus, place on a baking sheet, toss in olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook in the oven next to the salmon until salmon is done. 
  12. Yummy.

Homemade Chicken Strips: Here's a link to quick and healthy ones very similar to the ones I make:



SUPER simple parmesan pasta and Italian sausage:
This is such an easy "recipe" because I always have pasta, parmesan, butter, and Italian sausage, which is basically all this is. 

  • Ingredients: 
    • 1/2 pound of Italian Sausage (for 2 people) 
    • Penne Pasta (I use about a 1/2 a box)
    • Parmesan Cheese 
    • Butter
  1. Boil a pot of water for the pasta
  2. Heat a medium-large pan to medium high heat
  3. Form the Italian sausage into patties and cooke 3-5 minutes per side (that's it!)
  4. Cook the pasta according to directions
  5. Drain pasta, add 1 tablespoon of butter, and as much parmesan cheese as you want. 
  6. Serve pasta with sausage patties. (That's it!)
Steak and Potatoes: We are NOT vegetarians. I can probably count on one hand how many meals I have eaten without meat. We eat steak and potatoes a couple times a month. You would be surprised how low calorie a steak and potatoes meal can be. 

  • Ingredients:
    • Your choice of steak (I buy filets from the store. They are more expensive, but I hate having to chew on a piece of steak for 47 minutes because it's so tough, so I'm willing to pay for a tender cut of steak). 
    • Potato for each person
    • Salt
    • Pepper 
    • Butter
I think everyone has their way of cooking steaks. We eat ours medium rare, so your cooking will change on how you like them. I don't grill and my husband isn't usually home by the time I start cooking so I just use my cast iron skillet. Here is how I cook my steak. And here is how I make my Potatoes

Chicken Stir-Fry: This recipe is such a teacher week-night meal hack. I also always make WAY too much, but it's great for lunches. 


Ingredients:
  • 10-12 ounces of chicken (for 2 people). I buy 2 chicken breasts for this. 
  • Bag of frozen vegetables (SUPER HACK- I just buy the "Asian Medley with Sauce" Kind because then the sauce is already in there). Otherwise just buy your favorite frozen vegetable mix.
  • Teriyaki sauce (you won't need this if you bought the vegetables with the sauce) or you can get whatever kind of stir-fry sauce you like.
  • Brown Rice (I buy the boil in a bag kind because it's so easy)
  1. Bring a small pot of water to boil for the rice
  2. Heat a medium pan over medium high heat
  3. Put a teaspoon of oil in the pan
  4. Cut the chicken into stir-fry pieces
  5. Cook the chicken until done.
  6. While the chicken is cooking, make the rice.
  7. When chicken is done, remove from pan, set aside on a plate, and then add your vegetables to the same pan. Cook the vegetables through and then add your chicken back into the pan. 
  8. If your vegetables don't have the sauce, add about 1/4-1/2 cup of sauce, stir it all together until warm and boom! done! 
You can also click here (or one the picture above to be taken to another super simple recipe). 

Chicken Enchiladas: The link takes you to a SUPER easy recipe I have used. Because I'm from Colorado, I just add green chiles we get from the farms here, but you could add any other items that you think would be good too!



Breakfast for Dinner: This isn't really recipe (which is why it's the +1 recipe), but making breakfast for dinner is super fast and easy. Our favorite is french toast and sausage links. But waffles, pancakes, and even eggs are super easy dinners. 

School Year Tricks

I kind of feel like a fraud for this (ha!) and I don't think Haley even knows this about me.... 

Anyway, this last school year, was really hard for me for a variety of reasons. 

First of all, we moved across the state weeks before school started (without really planning on it). I changed grade levels, I went from a small charter school to the largest elementary school in my new district, and I wasn't able to go in and out of the school as I pleased because we got locked out. I also went from a 4-day school to a 5-day school. I was spending every minute at school that I could, because I knew I couldn't come back later. 

Long story short, I was more exhausted and burnt-out than I ever had been. I joined Angela Watson's 40 Hour Work Week and just kind of realized that I needed to allot my time better. 

So.... I started doing some of those food delivery services. And I kind of sort of love it. I LOVE cooking, but last year grocery shopping felt like a new form of torture.

The first one we did was Hello Fresh.  


They delivered our meals every Saturday, and I had 4 pre-portioned meals to make every week. This was what I needed for so many reasons. 

First, we never had leftovers. As someone who learned to cook from an Italian family, I tend to cook for approximately 14 people even though it's just my husband and me haha!

I still got to cook! Which is what I really love.

I don't have to grocery shop. During the summer I really do LOVE to grocery shop, but during the school year #icanteven. 

It's definitely something to try if you want everything portioned and cut for you and so you can just start cooking. You can get $40 off your first box, just by clicking here.  You can even order a box and then cancel right away if you don't like commitment. 

We just started having our meals delivered again, and I picked a new one company this time, because honestly HelloFresh was getting a little too exotic and we didn't a have a lot of choices. We are now doing Home Chef, and I love it because we get about 10 options to choose from every week. You can get $30 off your first order by clicking here.  It's the same concepts as HelloFresh :). 


Lastly, Kelly Anne from Appleslices has an AMAZING Freebie in her TPT store designed for teachers who cook. Click on the image below to get a free week of meal plans grocery lists, and recipes. 


Make sure to go to Miss L's Busy Bees post too! She so freakin adorable! 

Thanks for hanging around with us friends!

I hope you got some new ideas for the school year. 

If you haven't yet, be sure to check out our freebie meal and grocery planners by clicking the images below.

You can also check out our previous posts by clicking on the images at the very bottom of this post!






MUAH!

Martina




Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Back to School in Middle School


Hi friends,

I have had multiple ideas of posts I have wanted to share with you all about preparing for teaching in middle school, so I decided to combine them all in to one HUGE post :).

This post really came to be because, in my true nature, I am not a middle school teacher ha! My degree is in Elementary Education.

SUPER long story short, I was looking to leave my most recent school and had been eyeing my new school almost the whole school year. They FINALLY had an opening in February for Kindergarten! I applied (despite being completely terrified of the reality of teaching kindergarten).

Again… SUPER long story short, in the process of the application and the interviews, one other position opened during this time (7th and 8th grade language arts) and they instead asked me to take this position for a variety of reasons. I am getting my Masters in K-12 Reading, so that's how I am kind of qualified ha!

In all honesty, I am way more excited than I can convey (while still allowing people to think I am somewhat sane) about teaching middle school language arts. It was never my dream, my plan, or even really a thought… but sometimes we need stuff thrown at us to realize what we want. Two years ago I was "NEVER leaving my school or fifth grade," but a cross-state move, three schools, and three grade-levels later I'm putting my foot in my mouth.

So how does an elementary teacher prepare to teach middle school ELA for the first time? I am not an expert, but I am hoping to bring some of my elementary heart and flare to the middle school world.

Syllabus  

So my cute little elementary teaching heart and brain have never had to make a syllabus before. Ha! I went on the hunt for one. I found some absolutely beautiful ones on Pinterest created by London Perspective on TPT. They are amazing, but she used inDesign which I am 100% unfamiliar with.

I also had been learning to make infographics in a couple of my grad school classes so I created these for me (and now they are available for you all!) They are completely editable in PowerPoint. Make sure you download the fonts (in product description) or you will open the PowerPoint and it will be a #hotmessexpress. 


Notebook Organization and Tabs
So going into a middle school language arts setting isn't completely foreign to me. Last year I had to leave my job, apply for a new job, find a house, and move all our stuff across the state in a matter of weeks. I applied for a job that was advertised as 6th grade self-contained. Long story short, (I have a lot of these) after I was hired I was told I was only teaching ELA. 

We only had two classes of 6th, but I quickly had to learn a whole new type of organization that I wasn't used to. At the end of 1st semester I was SO over their notebooks. I knew I was partially to blame. I went to the store, bought 50 notebooks, and then glued in labels after counting the exact number of pages I wanted them to have. 


I learned some really important things even after I got my 6th graders SUPER organized. 

Make a notebook for EVERY class you have. I initially only made one notebook for myself, but that didn't work because I would do the lesson with 6A and then 6B would just copy my examples and we weren't learning together.

Also, sometimes I would get ahead and/or behind in a class and… just don't even get me started. Next year I have 5 ELA classes, but 4 of these classes will have two notebooks each. This means I will have 10 notebooks, but trust me when I say to have a notebook for every class.

Know EXACTLY how many pages you want for each section. I CANNOT promise you that ALL of your students will use the number of allotted pages you have designated (because some of them are in a continual hormonal brain fog) but this helped about 95% of my students (and me!) stay on track.

I am such a freak about our notebooks, but I can say it was SO worth it to have all this determined ahead of time. I made all of my 6th graders' notebooks, but this year, I think I am going to offer lunch or Starbucks to some super trustworthy 7th and 8th graders to help me. I have seen what happens when I let all the students do it and #icanteven #sorrynotsorry.

This is how they are organized in for next year. 

NOTEBOOK 1: 7th/8th Grade Reading/ELA Notebook
They know that this notebook is only for writing in. We NEVER glue anything into this notebook. Trust me, when I say you need to make this very clear to your "big kids," and some still just won't get it.
  • 2 pages (front and back) for the table of contents. This gives us 4 whole pages to write our contents. 
  • 36 pages (front and back) for bell ringers. This gives us one page (front and back) for each week of bell ringers (more on bell ringers in a second). 
  • Reading Response is the rest of the pages in the notebook. This is where they write all their responses to our reading units.
NOTEBOOK 2: 7th/8th Grade Interactive Notebook
I found it was SUPER important to have a separate interactive notebook. Students then knew that we ONLY glued stuff into our Interactive notebook. Before this rule, students were glueing all over the place, on top of writing, and/or we would run out of room in some notebooks:
  • 2 pages (front and back) for table of contents again
  • 35 pages (front and back) for interactive reading lessons
  • 16 pages (Front and back) for interactive vocabulary lessons
  • 16 pages (front and back) for interactive writing lessons
  • 35 pages (front and back) for interactive grammar lessons
Notebook 3: 6th Grade Books and Movies 
I will be teaching at a charter school this year and one of the 6th grade electives is "Books and Movies." I'm basically FREAKING OUT (in a good way) about this.

I think 6th gave might be my favorite now and I love books that have been turned into movies. I plan to do Holes, The Hunger Games, and Harry Potter (obviously). I plan to use my reading units, so this is the breakdown for their notebooks.
  • 2 pages (front and back) for the table of contents. This gives us 4 whole pages to write our contents. 
  • 18 pages (front and back) for bell ringers. This gives us one page (front and back) for each week of bell ringers. I only have each 6th grade class for a semester. 
  • 10 pages (front and back) for vocabulary. We will do some vocabulary during our units. 
  • 15 pages (front and back) for Reading. We will use this for mini-lesson and maybe some interactive notebook lessons. 
  • Reading Response is the rest of the pages in the notebook. This is where they write all their responses to our reading units.
I based all this on my pacing guide and how many pages I thought I would need for each section.

You can get the these tabs in my TPT store. There are a variety options, and also an editable PowerPoint to make your own. They are just black and white, but I print them on Astrobrights Cardstock for durability and color! :).


Pacing Guide 
As I mentioned in the Notebook section, I based our pages on my pacing guide. Now, I actually was given the previous teachers pacing guide. I honestly am not one for reinventing the wheel, but I have found that if I don't do the pacing guide myself then I am just winging it all year and when I supplement with TPT resources and units I just don't accomplish what I need to. 



You can download these 7th and 8th grade pacing guides for FREE in my TPT store (just click on the images) so you can see all of the resources I use and when I use them throughout the year. 

In general though, I use all of Lovin' Lit's Interactive Notebooks (and I mean ALL- I think I have every single one), my seventh and 8th grade reading units (Freak the Mighty is posted- all others will be posted this year).

These are the units I have planned and/or I am required to teach. They should all make an appearance this year and hopefully into a bundle by the end of the year.


Currently only Freak the Mighty (my all time favorite book in the whole world- I even wrote a blog post about it here) is in my store for 7th and 8th grade. 


This is also a break down of what my week looks like. I knew that I couldn't teach reading lessons, writing lessons, and grammar lessons every day all day so I had to split it up more. This is what I have planned for my weeks so far: 


Bell Ringers
Okay, so Bell Ringers are one of those things I had always heard about when I taught elementary, but never really needed at that time. We did morning work, we formed consistent routines, and they were ALL MINE all day long. One of the biggest adjustments for me (going form elementary to middle) has been the switching of classes…. and let me tell you, I had a heck of a year with this. 

To keep it brief, when I was hired for my 6th grade position, not only was I told I would be only teaching ELA, but I was also told there was an issue with my teaching partner situation. By December, I was on my 7th (YES 7TH) teaching partner. I was the only consistency my kids had, but I was struggling when they were coming into my room after whoever was their math and science teacher that day.

I had always loved Harry Wong's First Days of School, but again, my classroom management had been "manageable" until this last year. He talks about kids needing to have something to do right when they get into class. My instinct was always morning work, but hello middle school (no time!). So, I made my  ELA Bell Ringers, and swear I'm not product pushing, they changed my life. 

My kids got to work right, away, they were different each day of the week, but the same every week (in format), I gave them a stamp, graded every Friday, and I had kids coming straight into class (without wrestling, touching, being all around insane- that's a win in middle school), and they were learning! I also had like zero copies at this school so I needed a way to do Bell Ringers that required no printing or copying!

Here is the general layout each week:

This was the layout for fifth and 6th grade each week. 


I learned quickly that I had to be diligent about grading or they wouldn't do it. Eventually, I didn't even have to check. I started letting the first 3-4 students who did quality bell ringers work, grade their classmates. They would just stamp for me. It even made some of my super reluctant workers get theirs done, because even 6th graders want to grade! 

Eventually I just bought some stamper markers (instead of initialing because you have no idea how much time that wastes) and then it was really fast! 


This is the layout for 7th and 8th.  I (and my 6th graders) loved Picture of the Week, but I am teaching at a new school that uses the Core Knowledge and I needed a way to get our 7th and 8th Grade Foreign Phrases in, and that was the best option. I might switch some pictures for other activities when we need to mix it up.




You can purchase any of the Bell Ringers by clicking on their image below :). These seriously might be one of my favorite resources ever. All of these resource include 2-3 FREE WEEKS of Bell Ringers so you can try them out before purchasing




Classroom Economy in Middle School 

I recently posted a picture of my "Middle School Money" classroom economy. A lot of people have asked how I manage this in middle school. Truth is I have never technically done it. Buuuuuut… I did go from self-contained 5th grade to 6th grade where I had each class for about 90 minutes. This meant I went from having 10-15 minutes every day for classroom jobs (which included banker jobs who did all the economy stuff for me) to "how can I do this in 30 seconds?"

Why am I doing this in middle school when I will have 125 students?! 

  1. Because I love it!
  2. I honestly feel like middle schoolers are kind of the forgotten kids, and they don't get stuff like this. I mean how many middle schoolers will love to be able to purchase gatorade, candy, chips, and other snacks?
  3. I used to be a bank teller, in high school and college, and I can not tell you how important it is that I think students know how to write a check, balance money, and take care of money. 

Adding money to balance sheets:

  • When I taught self-contained elementary, I had a banker job, but this quickly became inefficient and my middle schoolers were just plain sneakier :). 
  • In middle school, I give them the money, they add it to their balance, and give me the money back almost immediately. I honestly didn’t initial when they added the money, and they were honest (i.e. no one was just adding money as they pleased). 
  • In general, I can keep of track of who is getting money and who isn’t. However, sometimes, in the early stages, I do initial each time they add (or have a trustworthy student help) so they “know” I am checking.  
Check Books and Balance Sheets
  • My students can fill out checks and balance sheets whenever they want (as long as it doesn’t interfere with instructional time). Most of mine do it once they’re finished with their Bell Ringers. 
  • I am VERY particular with what I will accept. Essentially, they can’t waste my time when they want to purchase something: 
    1. Students must have the check filled out completely and must TRY to sign their name in cursive.
    2. They must write the amount correctly in word form. 
    3. They must make the check payable to me. 
    4. The memo must say EXACTLY what they want to purchase (i.e. blue Gatorade, large Snickers bar, tropical Skittles)
    5. They must have all this recorded, subtracted, and balanced on their balance sheet. 
  • If all of the above is done, I simply initial their balance sheet, rip up the check (unless they are purchasing something like a book from Scholastic, in which I save the check until I remember to order the book), and then tell them to grab their purchase. 
  • They know to  grab their purchase quickly and go back to their seat. 
  • If they have done this correctly, it take maybe 5 seconds of my time and my middle schoolers are ecstatic they can buy food.

Of course I made everything hashtags and Middle schooler friendly with emojis. If you want to try this idea you can purchase it in my TPT store :). 


Back to School Activities for Middle School and High School

Lastly, I knew I had to change my community building and getting to know my students activities from an elementary mindset to more middle school type of activities. If I am being honest, middle school was seriously one of my favorite times of my life. I seriously LOVED middle school, so thinking like a middle schooler isn't that hard for me. 

Even better, my "little" brother is starting his freshman year of high school this year so he tells me when my ideas are "dumb." He is VERY honest. 

All my new activities have a social media theme, but all of them are designed to help me get to know my students and build a classroom community despite our 55 minutes together and the fact that they are a bunch of teenagers :). 

The social media profiles took me FOREVER, but I'm hoping to use them for a lot of our ELA activities throughout the year too! I was thinking we could make Facebook and Twitter profiles from book characters (provided my little brother says that isn't dumb :). 


  

    

Whew! That was a BIG one, but I hope you got some new ideas as you head into a new school year as an upper elementary or middle school teacher. 

Lastly, I bundled all of these resources (AND MORE) for back to school. I don't know if I will offer this forever, but it has a little bit of everything in a bundle that saves you 25%. Think of it as a Middle School teacher survival back! :). 



Happy Summer Friends!

Martina 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Teachers Who Cook Part II: Gadgets Appliances and Cookbooks


Hi friends! 

Miss L's Busy Bees and I are back again with our blog series! Today is all about our favorite "stuff" in the kitchen. I have so many but I am hoping to break it down for those of you just starting out and those of you who want to add to your arsenal of "stuff" in your kitchen. 

I tried to link to as many of the items as possible, so just click on the links above the images if there is something you're interested in.

Favorite Gadgets and Appliances

This is by far my favorite kitchen appliance ever in the history of the world. It is pricey, but I got it as a wedding present from my Godmother (wasn't even on my registry… she's just wonderful). It's an investment, but I seriously use if every week. If you're getting married anytime soon, I highly recommend adding this to your registry. 

KitchenAid KSM150PSER Artisan Tilt-Head Stand Mixer with Pouring Shield, 5-Quart, Empire Red

I love my knife set. I have a knife set similar to this. I have two knives that are my absolute favorite and use all the time. Good knives make cooking so much easier. I swear. If nothing else, go but one good chopping knife and your life will be forever changed. 



I am obsessed with the Pioneer Woman (you will see this more as the post goes on :) so I have her pots and pans set in turquoise. I use them for EVERYTHING. 



Because I am obsessed with The Pioneer Woman, I watch her cooking show all the time, and she is ALWAYS using a cast iron skillet. I went out and got one and honestly don't know how I ever cooked without it. You do have to hand-wash it, but that doesn't stop me from using it 3-4 times a week still. 




I don't use the food processor every single week, but I LOVE using it to a make Pioneer Woman salsa, shredding LOTS of cheese, and making pesto. 



I have 4 pairs of tongs and use them all every week. I have no idea why, but this is one of three utensils that I use ALL THE TIME. Chicken, vegetables, steak… I use them all the time. 


The second utensil I use all the time. Again, I have 3 spatulas and they are all used every week. Pancakes, cookies, potatoes, and vegetables. I use them to flip everything :). 


Last constantly used utensils are my wooden spoons. I use them for making marinara sauce, green chile, and any other things that need stirring. Again, always used all week even though I have three :). 



Cookbooks

I feel like I don't even know where to start with cookbooks. This is a picture of my cookbook cabinet.


I buy cookbooks like I buy books. I love to look at them before I get into bed, especially Bareefoot Contessa ones. I broke up into categories again.

I really do try to make stuff "healthier" when I can, which is why a lot of my cookbooks say "light" or "low-calorie." I have found that most recipes can be made better for you, so I try to do just that when I can.

If you are just starting out, and want super simple recipes any of the following cookbooks are great. I even used some of these when my husband (my then boyfriend) and I lived in the dorms in college, and his tiny dorm room has a little kitchenette that we cooked in.

This one doesn't even look like a cookbook, because it is so little, but I LOVED it in college because we could find our favorite foods from restaurants and this guide makes them simpler and healthier. It's still one of my favorites for weekday dinner.



This was another one I used ALL.THE.TIME in college. Some of his recipes are a little trickier, but in general, super easy and much healthier than the original versions of foods. 
Now Eat This!: 150 of America's Favorite Comfort Foods, All Under 350 Calories 



This one is so great for so many different reasons. Haley (Miss L's Busy Bees) has been trying to convince me of slow cooker meals, and I'm not there quite yet. I just hate prepping the meals, and I really hate having to get stuff in the slow-cooker in the morning. I do plan to work on it more this year (going from a 2 minute commute to a 30 minute commute might be the motivation). Anyway this one has it all… crockpot, large pans, dutch ovens. All of these meals take one pot! (Hello easy clean-up- Love cooking-HATE cleaning!) 

Weight Watchers One Pot Cookbook (Weight Watchers Cooking) 
Again! Amazingly fast (and healthy!) meals in this book. I love how it's broken up into 15, 20, and 30 minute meals. If it's going to be a super crazy week, this is my go to book. 

Cooking Light Complete Meals in Minutes: Over 700 Great Recipes


These are my absolute, use almost every single week, and obsessed with cookbooks

Cooking Light The New Way to Cook Light: Fresh Food & Bold Flavors for Today's Home Cook by Editors of Cooking Light (10/16/2012)

Hands down, this is my most used cookbook. It depends on the type of cook you are, but if there is one cookbook I HAD to have, this would be it!


LOVE this cookbook too! It's petty new and she takes a lot of great recipes and makes them "skinny!"

  The Skinnytaste Cookbook: Light on Calories, Big on Flavor


This cookbook isn't actually released yet (you can pre-order now-which I already did, because that's how much I love her first cookbook). I love that her new concept will be all about quick fix and slow-cooker recipes, so I know it will become another staple in my kitchen.

  Skinnytaste Fast and Slow: Knockout Quick-Fix and Slow Cooker Recipes


I love this Weight Watcher cookbook. Again, it takes the most common recipes and just makes them "lighter.

  Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook, Fifth Edition: Over 500 Delicious Recipes for the Healthy Cook's Kitchen


Another great Cooking Light cookbook. I don't use this one was much as my other Cooking Light cookbook, but it is great when I get a craving for a "comfort food."

  Cooking Light Comfort Food: Home-Cooked, Delicious Classics Made Light



These are my favorites in a a different way.

 I AM OBSESSED WITH LOVE The Pioneer Woman and The Barefoot Contessa, and Farmhouse Rules. I will be honest and say I don't make their meals every single week, but these are the cookbooks I use WAY more on the weekends and in the summer.

These are kind of like my guilty pleasure cookbooks. Now some recipes really are fast, weekday friendly, and even light. I am just saying that they aren't something I use for recipes for a whole week of meals. In general, I make a A Pioneer Woman meal a week and a Barefoot Contessa meal or Farmhouse Rules meal tends to appear more on the weekends :).

I  have ALL of these cookbooks because… well… I am obsessed.

I HIGHLY recommend The Pioneer Women Dinnertime cookbook for the most bang for your buck of her cookbooks :).













I hope you found some new "stuff" and cookbooks to add to your kitchen. Don't forget to check out Haley's post for all her favorite stuff and cookbooks! 



We also have another freebie for you that can be found in our TPT stores. This is really a meal planner just for teachers. This is so you can plan out your whole week of dinners, but also breakfast, lunches, and snacks. I am really good about the dinner part of meal planning, but during the school year, I struggle a lot more with the other stuff. Hopefully this will help us all. Just click on the image below to get your freebie! 


If you didn't get to read last week's post (Teachers Who Cook Part I: Meal Planning) don't forget to check it out!