Now That's a Mouthful

Episode 69: Kitchen Commandments: Setting yourself up to win.

Episode 69: Kitchen Commandments: Setting yourself up to win.

Here are the rules to live by in your kitchen, especially when the holidays are on the horizon. Similar to our SEASON 3 EPISODE 50 YOUR KITCHEN, YOUR RULES, YOU’RE READY. This short blog cast talks about setting yourself up to win in the kitchen, regardless of who’s coming to dinner. These rules let you stay in control of your home, and especially your kitchen.


When you’re the one in control, you'll find that you can cook at home pretty much anytime without fear or anxiety. Confidence that comes from knowing exactly what you are going to do helps you be successful in your kitchen.

Rules #1. Set yourself up to win: know your “Back Pocket Recipes.
It’s your kitchen. You SHOULD be the one making the rules that best suit you. You only need a small handful of go to, can't miss recipes or dishes. Tried and true – reliable and flexible so you can change out ingredients to suit what's in your kitchen, or in-season, or your guests needs. Everyone, especially you feels satisfied and grateful to be at home – or in your home - eating the food that you prepared.

Learn things like slaws or sides that go with any protein. Try our Hot & Spicy Cabbage Slaw or the Apple Fennel Kraut. Or a Kimchi Fried Rice can pair with everything from meat to poultry to fish or provide a substantial base for vegetarian or vegan entrees.

 Regarding store-bought prepared foods:
Give yourself the opportunity to try different markets, grocers or take-out menus. You’ll be surprised at the differences in flavor and probably price.  But you’ll also notice things like how you feel after you eat food from one place versus the next. That knowledge gives you the confidence to make the best choice when you need to pull dinner together on the fly.

Our other “back pocket sides” include:  Charred Market Peppers with Pickled Feta, and Roasted and Marinated Roots with Smoky Yogurt, Crisp Lentils, and Dill Vinaigrette. Great component recipes that can make a difference in your cooking repertoire.

And for that matter, check out our blog cast on PESTO or even POTATOES for more impressive sides. Bring home a rotisserie chicken or even a take-out roasted turkey for Thanksgiving. Platter that and put a home-made side dish (or dishes) along with it, and everyone is singing your praises. Plus you didn’t spend all day cooking FOR A MEAL THAT ONLY LASTS ABOUT 15 MINUTES!

Back Pock Main Course Recipes:
Chicken Roulades with Goat Cheese and Asparagus remains one of our easiest and most elegant dinner options. This one impresses and it is virtually foolproof. ANY of our PASTA dishes from our recipes page can work, and are flexible so you can add a protein if you want it. Try our Ravioli Lasagna or the

Crab Fra Diavolo, or Rigatoni with Roasted Cauliflower & Crispy Capers, or even the Pasta with Shrimp in Tomato Cream. Last season our home cooks loved the versatility with Spaghetti with Olive Oil and Parsley.

Combine any of those dishes with the No Knead Dutch Oven Bread (or listen to our BONUS EPISODE ON IT) or if you have the time – ANY of our YEAST-RISEN BREADS from our recipes page you have a spectacular meal.

Rule #2. Make as much food in advance as possible. 
This takes a lot of the glamour out of the idea of “just whipping something up,” but the simple fact of the matter is that you can't prepare everything you need to make a meal in 10 or 15 minutes.  Refrigerate or freeze, reheat, then add your finishing touches, which can be as simple as a salad you bought at the market on the way home. Work ahead; buy ahead. Remember, you DO HAVE TO PLAN JUST A BIT, but the payoff is huge and keeps you in control.

Permission to Shortcut.
You can buy almost everything you need to put a meal together already made. So do it! Adjust the taste with some fresh herbs or seasoning. Refer to EPISODE 35 ALL PURPOSE SEASONINGS or LEMONS AND LOVING LEMONS MORE You’ll get the taste you want out of store bought foods!

Rule #3. Your rules, no one elses.
Remember, whatever you do is enough and it will always be enough because it's what you're willing to give of yourself. Regardless of the food, regardless of the day or event, regardless of who's around the table, when you invite people into your home and cook for them you’re acting in one of the most gracious and caring ways.

Chef Donna’s one thing to know from this blog-cast:  quite simply there is no requirement that dinner be served in a certain progression or that a holiday gathering need to adhere to some format. You'll have as many enjoyable meals with people sitting around your kitchen island and sticking forks into a communal platter or tearing off breads to go with a salad as you will serving multi-course dinners in the dining room. Don't put any pressure on yourself to do it all or anything other than what you can commit to with conviction in that day. It's enough, and it will always be enough. Just commit to the idea of having those few back pocket recipes, cook as much as you can ahead, and define your rules for your kitchen.

And we’ll get you the rest of the way there with these great ideas and all the terrific recipes you’ll find on our blog at

Join our Community of Home Cooks and Recipe Testers. No special skills required, just an interest to cook new, current, and sometimes different recipes. You’ll always learn something new.

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These RECIPES are referred to in this episode. You can find more information on our Cookbooks Page.