Episode 203: Five Tips for a Dinnertime Reset with Kelsey Nixon
You’re listening to Live Free Creative, an intentional podcast with practical tips for living your life on purpose. I’m your host Miranda Anderson. And I believe in creativity, adventure, curiosity, and the magic of small moments. I hope that every time you listen, you feel empowered and free to live the life that you want.
Hey there, welcome back to the show. You’re listening to episode number 203 of Live Free Creative podcast. I am your host Miranda Anderson. Today we’re going to be chatting with one of my friends, Kelsey Nixon. She is a kitchen cooking family meal planning expert, and I cannot wait for her to share some tips with you.
As we’re headed back into the fall back to school season is upon us and has whisked by, we are reestablishing those rhythms and getting into the groove. This is a perfect time to evaluate and set ourselves up for success in the kitchen, as we head into the end of this year with the holidays and all of the festivities and fun things coming up.
Peaks Of The Week: Favorite Kitchen Tool
Today’s episode is super practical, all about the kitchen and how to simplify and feel a little bit better so we have things under control at dinner time, So I thought I would share one of my favorite segments peaks of the week, all about my favorite kitchen tools.
I have to confess that even as a practical minimalist, I have a soft spot in my heart for kitchen tools. I worked at Williams-Sonoma as a young married person. It was the best timing as we were outfitting our kitchen of our small apartment for the first time. Being surrounded by really high quality, really gourmet cooking accouterments was very fun.
I’m going to share five of my favorite kitchen tools.
As you’ll hear from Kelsey later on in this episode–depending on your stage of life, your style of cooking and eating–these may or may not serve you. So I’m going to share some things that I really love.
They’re basic. So maybe you’ll be in the market for one or more of these things in your own kitchen. If not, you can just enjoy hearing what I love to outfit my kitchen with.
So number one, our knives. Kitchen knives are my very favorite kitchen tool. They do so many things and having excellent knives is really important to me. I started off back in those Williams-Sonoma days, investing in a really nice set of Woostoff knives, which I still have and still use.
I will say that my go-to knives right now in the last few years, maybe five or six years have been a set of inexpensive fist scars, kitchen knives. I will link them in the show notes. I bought mine as a set of five. I think you can choose them individually as well. If you’re interested in just one, really you only need one or two really great knives.
Fiskars kitchen knives. Fiskars is a brand that traditionally has scissors. I don’t know what, I guess what they originally started with, but I was introduced to them as the orange handled scissors that were like no-touch scissors in my mom’s sewing room growing up, very sharp honed metal shears.
They’ve expanded over the last couple decades into all sorts of areas, including the kitchen and my Fiskars kitchen knives are my absolute 100% go-to favorites.
The ones that I have are are shaped like chef’s knives. So they are like that long triangle and they’re varying sizes. So there’s a really big one for cutting a watermelon or if I’m slicing up like a really wide piece of meat or fish, and then they go down to the one that I use most often is probably about six inches.
And a key feature of this Fiskars knife set is that they have an offset handle. So my knuckles never touch the cutting board or the counter when I’m using them. Imagine the blade of the knife sitting straight down on your cutting board. And then the handle is about two inches above it offsets at an angle.
So you’re holding on above it. And that small thing, that small design element, makes it so ergonomic, so fun and easy to use. And they’ve been sharp for, like I said, I’ve had them for four or five years. I’ve never had to sharpen them. They have a tiny serrated edge, which keeps them really sharp.
And we also do keep the little plastic sheaths. They come with a little knife guard and we keep those on them when they’re in the drawer. I think that helps protect the blades as well. Absolute favorite knives, those Fiskars knives. I’m going to put those in the show notes.
The second peak of the week kitchen tools you may scoff at because it has this company has spent, I don’t know how much money on Facebook and Instagram marketing, but yes, I was sucked into the always pan and I’ve heard mixed reviews, like reviews from real people about this always pan.
It’s a non-stick pan that with a lid and a spatula, it fits right on it.
I’ll say the pan straight out of the box is gorgeous and works insanely well. And while it does lose some of its non-stick ability as you use it, I have found that it maintains its ease as a go-to pan.
I have a really nice set of All Clad pans, both non-stick and stainless steel pans that I’ve used for 16 years.
And I reach for the always pan more often than those other frying pans. I like that the lid fits nicely on. I like the depth of it. It has a high edge. So I use it for making pancakes equally for sauteing vegetables equally for a quick syrup or a piece of meat.
I put it in into the oven, the pan itself can go from the stove top into the oven.
I use the lid a lot. So for example, if I’m making grilled cheese sandwiches, the lid helps the cheese melt a little faster. So I can brown the bread, put the cheese on, put the lid on. So it all melts a little bit, flip it, finish the Browning without the lid on. And then we’re good to go.
Always pan is one of my peaks of the week. We got a beautiful pink one too, which I think helps contribute. It’s fun to have beautiful and functional things in the kitchen.
My third peak of the week kitchen edition is a nice wooden cutting board. I have several of these. I will link one of the ones that I have used for probably about 10 years.
Again, all of these favorites are things that are high quality, long lasting. I prefer a really hardwood board. There’s some great olive wood boards. I have one that’s mango wood. I have one that’s tea, these woods that are a little bit naturally water resistant.
I guess all wood is naturally water resistant, but some that are a little bit higher fiber density. I actually have no idea what I’m talking about. Maybe they do. They seem really hard. I’ve been cutting on them for a long time. I do take good care of them. So nothing wooden goes into the dishwasher, it’s hand washed, and then we dry it quickly.
I oil my cutting boards, maybe about quarterly when I can tell that they’re getting a little dry, you can find mineral oil, food-safe grade mineral oil, or even coconut oil will work. Keep those nice. And I leave mine on display, so they actually hang on the wall of my kitchen and then they’re easy to access every time I need to use them.
Love a nice wooden cutting board.
Number four is a basic silicone spatula. When I’m using the always pan, I make sure that I’m using either a wooden or a silicone utensil in it. And I found a set of three silicone spatulas, one’s a spoon, one’s a flat spatula, and one is a slotted spatula. I use them all the time, keep ’em in the drawer next to the oven.
They can be used at super high heat. They don’t scrape any of the pans that I’m working with and just easy to use.
So the one downside, I will say to a Silicon spatula is they are puppy magnets. So we’ve replaced them a couple times recently, not of any fault of the spatula, but because our puppy is a sous chef and loves getting down with the spatulas.
So I will link those in the show notes.
And finally, my fifth favorite kitchen tool is a small battery operated handheld frother. I mentioned this in the episode in the interview, you’ll hear that I just laugh that this has become a thing that we use often enough, multiple times a day, that it has a place on our counter.
We leave it out all the time. I’ve tried a bunch of these. And so I’m going to link the particular one. The brand that I have that I love.
It takes two double-a batteries. It lasts for a while. It has a little stand that it comes with. It works fantastic right out of the box.
We use it for hot chocolate. We use it for mixing protein into drinks if you’re making a protein drink. We drink some crystal light sometimes at our house. And so it’s perfect for mixing things. And basically it’s mixing powder into drinks.
I will tell you my secret use that I’ve started in the last little bit. I realized that the frother is a perfect way to mix in the powdered cheese in a macaroni and cheese situation. So rather than pouring it on and having this clumpy Mac and cheese, if you’re doing it out of a box, you have that powder.
I will put that little bit of milk and butter into the microwave to melt the butter, get the milk a little bit warm, add the cheese packet to that bowl and froth it up together, mixes it perfectly.
And then I’m pouring in this already pre-mixed cheese, milk, butter situation. And I don’t have any little clumps. The Mac and Cheese is like smooth and velvety and perfect.
So bonus. You can use your frother for Mac and Cheese, not only hot chocolate. Those my friends are my peaks of the week. They will all be linked in the show notes at LiveFreeCreative.co/podcast. Look for episode 203 and you can find them all right there.
Kelsey Nixon Interview
Before we jump into the interview, let me tell you a little bit about Kelsey Nixon. Kelsey is a food television star, as well as a cookbook author, and more recently, a podcast host and an online educator specializing in helping busy moms and busy families get food on the table in a simple way every night.
She’s a former host of Kelsey’s essential and Kelsey’s homemade on the cooking channel, the author of kitchen confidence and a mom of. Kelsey has had guest appearances on Iron Chef America, Chopped, Beat Bobby Flay, Guy’s Grocery Games, and Cutthroat Kitchen. She regularly appears on the Today Show, Rachel Ray, and Access Hollywood. More recently, Kelsey played the role of both executive producer and host of the hit family-meets-food game show, Dinner Takes All.
She has also helped design some innovative kitchen tools and small appliances for HSN to help home cooks cook with greater ease, confidence, and style. She currently offers a monthly recipe club where you can get five original recipes each month voted on by the community.
She offers a course called Family Meal Makeover that is a kitchen systems and recipe course to help you get back on track. And also she has a great cooking and consulting service called Kitchen Prescription, where she gives you one-on-one kitchen and meal consulting to help you get set up organized and ready for success in your very own home.
I was lucky enough to meet Kelsey in person a couple years ago at a conference and we have stayed in touch and been friends ever since.
Kelsey is a ray of sunshine. She’s a fun, creative and generous expert. And I’m so happy to have her on the show today sharing some of her favorite kitchen tips to get you ready for the fall. I’m so excited to introduce you to Kelsey Nixon.
Kelsey, thank you so much for being on the show today.
Kelsey: Thank you for having me Miranda. I’m so happy to be here.
Miranda: I’m thrilled to be chatting with you. I would love for you to give–I gave an executive bio–but I would love to have you just share with my audience a little bit about who you are and what you’re up to right now.
Kelsey: I would be more than happy to do that.
So I’d say my mission, my north star, ever since I started this career path in food media–food television–is really helping people get dinner on the table and make mealtime feel more manageable.
It’s this universal problem that we literally all have. It doesn’t matter what life stage you’re in, where you come from, what your socioeconomic status is. It’s just a universal problem that we all have to eat.
And we usually are in charge of feeding somebody else and I might–someone might–classify me as a family food expert, but the truth is it is still extremely difficult for me to feed my own family every day. And so I really have found passion in developing content and building programs that help people get dinner on the table.
And not only is it a utility thing, but I think it’s really important and it’s never been more important to create opportunities for us to connect with the people that we love. And I think the dinner table is a great place to do that.
So I did television shows for a bunch of years, and I’m still doing some TV projects. But right now I’m really focused on creating digital communities where people come together and we solve this problem of dinner.
Miranda: Yeah, I love this. And Kitchen Prescription is your main hub. It’s a community where you share recipes and tips and ideas, and it really–I love the name and I love just this idea of this is the solution that you’ve been looking for.
Kelsey: Yes. And the reason I call it Kitchen Prescription is that I think one of the reasons this continues to be a problem for so many people or a pain point for so many people, is that we’re all in such different circumstances.
I’ve got a two year old, a five year old, and a ten year old right now. So what I’m feeding my family is probably very different from what my mom and my dad are eating as newly empty nesters or as my sister-in-law, who’s got four teenage boys at home, or as my best friend, Rebecca, who lives in New York city and is single.
Everyone is in a different situation.
Miranda: Hopefully Rebecca is just eating out all the time, because if you’re single in New York, you should be eating good.
Kelsey: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I lived in New York city for just shy of a decade and trust me, I took full advantage of eating in New York, but it’s such a unique circumstance.
And so it’s a prescription, everyone’s going to have a different circumstance, but. Within Kitchen Prescription. I feel that I’ve identified this process of–I think everyone benefits from an organized kitchen. Everyone benefits from a well-outfitted kitchen.
And what’s interesting about that is the things that I have in my kitchen, feeding young kids–once again–might be different from my parents because you’re eating different things. So optimizing your kitchen for easy cooking–and that includes some really simple kitchen systems, which I know you love systems because you’re all about simplifying–can go a very long way.
So I have my podcast and then a recipe club where I share a curated recipe collection for my club members each month. And then I do some kitchen consulting as well within Kitchen Prescription.
I’m really just trying to help people get a handle on their situation when it comes to making mealtime feel more manageable.
Miranda: I love it. Yeah. Every single one of us needs this in one way or another, the ideas, the organization, the systems, and recognizing that what we need is really different from what our neighbor or our sister or our friend needs. Like you said, it is so individual.
And even at stages. I look back to when my kids were younger. I have a 13 year old, 11 year old, and 8 year old. And I bought groceries today at Trader Joe’s. The cashier was so funny. I don’t know why, but he asked me how old my kids were.
And I said, we were chatting, they’re so friendly there. And so we were chatting and he said–I mentioned that I have three kids and he said–oh, how old are your kids? And I told him, and he said, oh, how many gallons of milk do you go through a week? He was like, when I was 13, I was drinking three gallons of milk a week myself.
And I was like, yeah, that’s about where we are. It’s so funny because a year ago, the way that I shopped is very different than even now, because of the different stages that my kids and their eating habits are in. So it’s so true that it’s always evolving and I hope that–I am so excited to have you share some tips today.
I asked Kelsey to come with five tips to share with you listeners. And I think that they’ll apply because she’s so specific about knowing that we’re all so different. I think that you’ll be able to apply them to any stage that you’re at, any situation that you find yourself in.
So I would love to hear about your five tips.
Kelsey: Let’s do it. Let’s jump in.
Kelsey’s Fist Tip: Meal Planning
So the first. I’m going to tell you right now that as listeners, you’re going to hear this and you’re going to resist it, but I am asking you to lean in. For some reason, this idea of meal planning feels so stressful to people. And I understand, but I have yet to find a system that is as beneficial when it comes to getting dinner on the table regularly as a simple meal plan.
So before we just jump in and give that blanketed statement, that you should all be meal planning, I am just going to challenge you to set a specific time each week aside to make a plan, to sit down and make decisions once, rather than asking yourself every single night what’s for dinner, what’s for dinner.
There is nothing worse than 4:30 on a Tuesday, the dread of “Oh, I have to feed these people. I have not been to the grocery store. I have no idea what I’m doing.” And so I have a specific time, thursdays at 9:00 PM. I literally have an alarm that goes off on my phone and it is my dedicated time to sit down and map out meals for the week for my family.
Now, I also think that when people hear ‘meal planning’, they think, “oh, I gotta pick seven recipes to make.” No, a meal plan can include Dino Nuggets and Mac and Cheese. It really can. So if you know that Tuesdays are the days that you’ve got baseball and ballet, it should be a Mac and Cheese night and that’s okay.
And it feels so much better to plan that in advance than to be reactive and make a last minute decision at 7:00 PM when everybody’s hungry and cranky and you need to start the bedtime routine.
So for example, something that’s been really popular for me this summer–or something I keep going back to. Summer is crazy for us and I’ve got a son who’s just starting to play travel baseball. And I just empathize with parents who’ve got kids in sports, because it really can get so intense so quickly.
But almost every week I am doing this combination of a rotisserie chicken, a salad kit with some fresh berries and corn on the cob. And that is our meal. That is a meal on a Tuesday. And I am a big fan of grocery ordering, which we’ll talk about in a minute, but I just know that I’m adding that to my cart and something about having that meal in my back pocket, knowing it’s ready to go is so simple.
But it wouldn’t happen if I did not have a dedicated time to do it each week. And I do something called ‘habit stacking’ where, because I don’t look forward to this. If I’m being honest, I listen to–
Miranda: Wait. I feel like this is a big confession. Wait, let me hold up a second. Kelsey Nixon, who is a Food Network star, a Kitchen Prescription dinner specialist, does not look forward to meal planning.
Now I think anyone else can feel any certain way around it. If Kelsey can begrudgingly sit down to meal plan, all of us can feel totally justified in whatever feelings we have around it.
Kelsey: Trust me, I would rather be diving into a series on Netflix at the end of the day, but for some reason that’s the best time for me to do it. And one of my favorite podcasts comes out on Thursdays. And so I pop it in my ear while I do my meal planning so that I have something to look forward to while also attaching it to something so that it’s not that I dread it, it’ss just like another thing.
Miranda: I don’t like washing my hair either, but I have to do, like I have to do it. There’s some of these necessities of life.
Kelsey: So if meal planning is a muscle that you are struggling to develop, that is my best tip is to first dedicate a specific time, just like you would dedicate a time to exercise dedicated, specific time to do it.
Kelsey’s Second Tip: Shopping Your Kitchen
And that kind of leads me into my next couple of tips where after I’ve gotten to that point where I’m going to sit down and do this. And I’ve looked at the family calendar and determined which nights I’m cooking and which night I’m doing the Dino Nuggets, or which night I’m doing the rotisserie chicken.
I really encourage people to shop their own kitchens. And this is more important than ever before because the cost of food is so crazy right now that I have found this is one of the best ways to keep my grocery bill down.
In that dedicated moment, I open up my fridge. I open up my pantry. I open up my freezer and I look and see, what I have on hand that I need to use up.
And those are actually clues for what I’m going to make, because I hear from my community over and over again that they actually don’t mind cooking. They just hate deciding what to make.
And if on that Thursday night, when you’re meal planning, you still feel overwhelmed by all of the different things you could make, let your kitchen help you out.
Just this week I did this and I opened my crisper. And I had a ton of honey crisp apples, and I was like, oh, I must have gone crazy on buying apples. But I thought, oh, we have that apple cheddar grain bowl that everyone in my family likes; I’ll make that on Tuesday.
And it was just like a clue for something I could put on the plan.
Kelsey’s Third Tip: Displaying Meal Plan On The Fridge
The other thing I do is I put the plan on a marker board in my kitchen. It is not cute. It is messy. It is not stylized. But it goes on–it’s real, it’s real–it goes on the fridge because I’ve got kids that are getting old enough, who will ask me ‘what’s for dinner, what’s for dinner?’
And they don’t have to ask if it’s right there. And then we don’t deal as much with: ‘but I don’t want that’ because it’s just there.
Kelsey’s Fourth Tip: Ordering Groceries Online
So shop your own kitchen. I think that’s a really really valuable tip. And so after I’ve shopped my own kitchen. That leads me to my next tip, which is online grocery order.
And I hesitate again, because I hear the pushback and I am a Trader Joe’s shopper, just like anyone, and Trader Joe’s is one of the only holdouts who’s not doing online grocery order. And that’s okay. It’s the one shopping experience that I don’t mind because I find that they eliminate some of that decision fatigue, because they’re small little marketplaces of delight.
Miranda: I would say and friendly employees.
Kelsey: Yes. Most families don’t do all of their shopping at Trader Joe’s. And so if you are in a situation where you are not a Trader Joe’s enthusiast and you are shopping at maybe a big box store, like a Costco or a Sam’s Club or like a traditional grocery store chain, like a Kroger store or something like that, the pandemic forced those companies to figure it out.
And it has gotten so much better. So like for me I have a Kroger grocery store close by and what’s great is I have things saved in my cart. The things that I know that my family needs each week. And so I can just shave off so much time from going in the grocery store and seeking those things out.
And I’ve been able to optimize the system where I have a note in there that says, please select green–do not give me ripe bananas and they’ve just gotten better at it.
So if you are finding that you are strapped for time and meal planning is something that stresses you out, I highly encourage you to give grocery ordering another shot. It’s been a really big–I hate to use the word blessing. It sounds so cheesy, but honestly that’s how passionately I feel about it.
It’s given me time back that I didn’t have before.
Miranda: So it’s a miracle to have–I mean it’s like years ago, we would’ve said, can you imagine if you could just send someone to the store to shop for you? Oh. And we’re doing it. We do it. That person is a blessing.
Kelsey: Yes, the little grocery shopping angels totally bring groceries to our friend now. And a lot of–I do use instant because I have all these conversations with my community. And with Instacart service, there is a markup and I want to be really clear about that. But I stand by the fact that if I walked into a Costco and did my own independent shopping, you better believe I’m coming out of there with a new 20 pack of Sharpies and maybe a new printer and something.
I still think totally that with the mark up, I am saving because I am not impulse buying other things. And the time that I get back as a result is worth it to me.
And many stores like my Kroger grocery store, there is no markup. You have to spend a $30 minimum and I pick those groceries up and there’s no markup. And that’s great.
So if this is a pain point for you, give it a shot, give it a try. It’s much better than it’s been in the past.
Kelsey’s Other Fourth Tip: Dinner Done By Everyone
Number four is dinner done by everyone. And this is a phrase that I very much believe in, especially for your age of kids. I think that the traditional ways of thinking were typically that one parent would be in charge of mealtime, typically a mom, and that everybody just showed up and expected to be fed.
And I think that there is so much value in kind of flipping that narrative on its head. And everyone’s got a job at dinner. I think that it really relieves a lot if I’m making dinner.
And if I know for sure that I’m not doing the dishes, I’m going to enjoy making dinner a lot more. Or if I’m making dinner and I know that I don’t have to worry about setting the table because somebody else has that dinner job. I think it’s really important.
And I’m a big fan of Michael Pollen and he’s an amazing food writer who’s written on the subject for years and has all sorts of different books. But one of his books, Cooked, goes into this idea of the dinner table being the nursery of democracy.
And there’s some really cool things in here where it talks about how the dinner table is where we teach our kids to disagree with one another respectfully. It’s where we teach them that basic art of conversation. It’s like where we can teach them how to be good humans.
And this idea of everybody participating in this daily ritual. Now it may only last 11 minutes, honestly. That’s how long my family dinners last right now. I know it’s sad, but true.
But it’s more about the ritual and the commitment to come together and look at each other across the table and break bread with one another in a world that often feels like a dumpster fire right now.
I feel as a parent, this is one thing I can do each day within the walls of my home to really keep the narrative inside the walls of my home, that we are good people. We are doing our best to put good into this world. And we are going to support the people around this table.
I just think it’s really powerful. So by giving everyone an opportunity to participate in dinner in some capacity, I think it really helps so that it’s not a burden on someone.
Let me tell you, if I’m doing everything, if I’m deciding what we’re cooking, making the meal, doing the grocery shopping, setting the table, cleaning up. I’m not very happy at the dinner table. I’m mad and kind of resentful.
So thinking about your family structure and thinking about what’s a dinner job that could be delegated out. If I am typically the one that’s cooking, can my partner do the dishes? If I’ve got a 13 year old, can they manage setting the table every night? Things like that. I think that goes a long way.
Miranda: Yeah. And I’m glad that you clarified, I have a question about this. Do you have it on like a rotation system or anything?
Or do you just call it out each night, who’s doing what?
Kelsey: It’s a rotation, but they’re long. It’s per month because I find that they almost develop a little habit of it. So they don’t have to think about it. And then there’s less complaining about, ‘but I don’t want to do that. I want to do this.’
So we do switch it up, but it’s not like on Tuesdays this is your job and on Wednesdays it’s something else.
And that might just be reflective of my kids’ ages right now, but we switch things up every month. I think that’s
Miranda: I think that’s smart. When you initially said dinner done by everyone, I was thinking, ‘oh no, I can’t have kids in the kitchen while I’m cooking.’
So I love this, like clarification of someone cooks, someone does the dishes, someone sets the table, maybe someone clears the table.
Kelsey: My daughter right now, who’s five, her dinner job right now is she says the family prayer, like a statement of gratitude before we have a meal. And that’s it.
It doesn’t matter. I don’t really need her to help me that much. I also just need her–I want her to feel like she’s participating in the ritual as a family.
When they get older, they can actually help. Or like my son who’s 10 has just started to express a little bit of interest in cooking. And maybe we work towards once a month he makes dinner for the family. I don’t know.
And it might be grilled cheese sandwiches or Mac and Cheese or whatever it may be, but that could be a really fun opportunity. And I’m in charge of setting the table that day and whatever comes out is what comes out.
And the last thing I want to do is pile more on the parent of you have to make up your mind about what everyone’s jobs are. That’s why we decide once a month, this is your job. And then we’ll switch it up.
Miranda: Yeah, that’s really smart. I like that idea. I’d love for my, I do already, I already do this, but without thinking about it that way, and I know that there’s only like a couple jobs, so I’m like, ‘oh, it would be nice if everyone had a role.’
Kelsey: And maybe it’s even fun. Maybe it’s a kid is assigned with coming up with a family question at the dinner table where we’re all going to answer. For example, you’ve been gifted a million dollars. What are you going to do with it?
Alright, so dinner done by everyone.
Kelsey’s Fifth Tip: Having An Organized Kitchen
And then finally I want to talk about just how powerful and organized kitchen can be. And I think when I hear from my community members that dinnertime stresses them out, most of the time they’re asking me for recipes or meal plans.
And while I think that is part of the problem, I do not think that is the solution to the problem.
I think that, as cheesy and old as the saying is, the kitchen is the heart of the home. It tends to be that central location. And if your kitchen is in a state of chaos, no matter how great your recipes are, or no matter how buttoned up your meal plan is, I think that dinner time is going to feel chaotic.
And so I think it is worth taking some time to really go through basic organization in your kitchen. I am not saying that you need to go out and buy an acrylic bin and write granola bars on it and unpack it.
Now, does that exist in my kitchen? Of course it does because it makes me happy, but I don’t think that is what–that’s not what I’m talking about here.
What I’m talking about here is if you were married 20 years ago and you’ve got six of the same size caster dish that’s just sitting there because you don’t know what to do with it.
Get rid of it. Your kitchen should be a place where you are using nearly everything that’s in there in some capacity.
And I think a lot of people have a lot of clutter in their kitchens and it creates that stress. So organizing and then properly outfitting your kitchen because I also hear from people saying, ‘oh, I’m terrible at making rice.’ You might not be terrible at making rice, but if you are using the same pan that you were gifted as a hand me down from your aunt when you got married or you were in college, it might be the pan’s fall.
Let’s get you the right tools so that it makes cooking easier. Or like for my stage of life, love an air fryer. Like I use my air fryer every single day.
Miranda: So wild our–I had no idea–we got a new oven when we moved into this house. So we’ve lived in for about six months and it is a double–I love a double oven.
It’s a slide in, but it’s two small little ovens. And the bottom one, just because of the model, has an air fryer.
In the last five years since I bought this exact same oven for the last house, they’ve updated it. I use the air fryer all the time. And I had, I was like, ‘oh, I don’t need another kitchen gadget.’
I’m a little averse to extra random stuff. But now we use the air fryer more than the actual oven.
Kelsey: I believe it. It’s wild how it’s faster at higher temperatures. And so, depending on what you’re cooking, you tend to get a better result.
And yeah, I don’t love an instant pot. I understand why people do. I don’t like extra gadgets either. I am about the essentials and I just want you to have what you need.
But an air fryer, I make an exception for an air fryer because it really is pretty great.
Miranda: In all of these tips, the purpose is to create something that works for you and your family and your style of eating and your likes and dislikes.
And an air fryer is essential for you. It’s essential for me. And maybe there’s some specific, funky thing that’s really important for someone else’s kitchen that I wouldn’t even know how to use.
So just thinking about actually, it’s a funny example. We have a frother on our counter and I don’t like having a lot of things on the counter, but I do have a little cooking station with olive oil and avocado oil, salt, pepper, and Milo–
I make a frost drink every single day. If it’s not a morning tea, then it’s an evening hot chocolate. And it’s so funny. Like I would, for sure years ago have thought like, why would you need that extra little thing? Use a spoon, right? Or a whisk.
But we use it, every single one of my family uses it multiple times a day. And so it deserves its place. It has earned a place on the counter spot.
So you just have to really give yourself a personal audit about what is it that we’re using. And that will help with the decluttering too. What are we actually using? What do we have?
Just because–I find this is true. You don’t know what, unless you get married, as like a full adult in your thirties. And you’ve lived by yourself and everything. You’ve never had a kitchen before.
When I got married, I didn’t know what kind of kitchen stuff I needed. So everything for our wedding registry was stuff that I thought I was supposed to have. But I didn’t like half of it. I was like, I don’t know if I’m ever going to use this thing or not. And over time I recognized most of it is not stuff that I used regularly.
Kelsey: Yeah. And that’s where this whole idea of organizing your kitchen and having the guts to go in and say, ‘okay, I know that a lot of people think I’m supposed to have a KitchenAid, but the honest truth is I don’t ever use this thing.’
Maybe it’s time to pass it on and free up some space so that I don’t have this additional clutter. So I developed a course called Family Meal Makeover that walks people through this because it is so individual.
But the first thing you do is you organize and you look at what you’ve got and say, ‘okay, these are the things I’m using. This is where there’s gaps.’
Then you outfit, maybe you’ve been using the same knives since you were in college, right? You bought a knife at the dollar store and it’s still the knife you use. You would be surprised the things I see.
Miranda: Props to you for hanging onto it for so long. And we give you permission to retire that night.
Kelsey: I give you permission to retire the knife and to get–you don’t need a whole knife block. You really just need one, two, maybe three knives, that’s it.
And so in this course, it’s been fun where I walk people through determining what they need and because it will make it easier.
And then also I find that if you’re in a dinner rut let’s liken it to maybe being in an exercising rut, which I have experienced. Sometimes just the thing to pull me out of that rut is a new a new outfit, right? New running shoes. Some new leggings. Some little matching get up.
You also want to run in your kitchen when you maybe replaced that knife that you’ve had from the dollar store since college. It gets you excited about cooking, right? And if it’s this thing we have to do anyways, we might as well, it’s a worthy thing to invest in not only from a utility standpoint, but from like we were discussing, it’s a great thing to do within your household, with your family unit.
With so much chaos going on in the world. I think that ritual of coming together and breaking bread is just more important than ever before.
Miranda: Yeah. I love that. I’m actually I’ve I adore Michael Pollan, and I think I’ve read most of his books, but I haven’t read this one. So I’m so glad that you recommended it.
I’m going to grab it from the library like this week to read, because I love his advice. In fact, right before this call, I ate an apple and I remember. I think it’s advice from one of Michael Pollan’s books that he says, if you’re hungry, eat an apple.
If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, you’re not hungry. You’re not hungry enough to like, we don’t need to eat anything.
I was wandering around the kitchen. I kinda need a little snack in between lunch and dinner, I guess I’ll eat an apple.
Kelsey: I remember that principal from one of his books as well. And that’s why when my kids, mostly my five year old, tells me right before she’s about to fall asleep. That she’s hungry. I say, okay first of all, you’re probably tired, but if you’re hungry, you can have an apple. And if you don’t want an apple, you’re not hungry.
So isn’t it funny how those things stick? Really great advice.
Miranda: But he’s so great. Okay. I love these tips. So set a time to meal plan and I wanted to mention, this is something that I’ve done a few different episodes about meal planning over the years. It’s a topic that comes up time and time again, I think because it is so universally difficult, right?
We are all confronted by this dinner time. Like every single day I always make the point that everyone has a plan, even if their plan is just that their default is to go to Chick-fil-A. Or to make quesadillas.
If you look at the last two weeks of meals, you’re so stressed out by dinner, but you look at the last two weeks of meals, you probably already have some go-tos.
All that making a meal plan is, is doing your go-tos on purpose. In fact, during the pandemic, I was doing coaching calls on Wednesdays. I do them until late in the evening. So only night that I’m not home to make dinner. I’m home, like right before dinner.
It started becoming my default to just drive through Chick-fil-A on the way home. Because I had a meal plan but I just wasn’t–I didn’t have enough time or emotional capacity to get home and cook. So I’m like, I’m just going to drive through. And so we just changed it. I crossed off my thing on the meal plan and just wrote Chick-fil-A takeout. That was the meal plan there.
Kelsey: And I cannot emphasize enough. I feel like when it comes to feeding your family, I don’t really care what the food is. I don’t care if it’s three boxes of cold cereal. I think the most important part is gathering together, sitting down and looking at each other.
And so same thing we had my son just went through this crazy baseball season and there were a couple of times where dinner was literally hot dogs at the snack shack because we knew we were going to be in the baseball field.
And by the way, how fun is that for my kids? So it’s so fun. I think this idea of giving yourself the gift and maybe you decide, I only have the capacity to cook two recipes each week. Fine. No problem. You got it.
Pick those days, maybe Sunday is one of the days, because people tend to be home and maybe Wednesday you have one more time.
And maybe you look for recipes where you’re making maybe big batch protein on a Sunday, you do pulled pork and you do sliders the first day and you do tacos the second day and you do taco salads the next day, to get you through that.
And then it’s Mac and cheese night, of course. And then Chick-fil-A night.
But I think that’s one thing I’ve been sharing on my Instagram account that people have been loving is I do these five ingredient recipes on Fridays. They’re so great.
A salad kit here, a favorite jarred sauce there, but that idea of knowing I’ve got a couple of things in my back pocket, or I can throw just a handful of ingredients into my online grocery cart to make dinner feel more manageable has been really helpful to people.
So it does not–meal planning does not mean elaborate meals every night. Even me, I’m probably only cooking four nights. And I probably cook more than the average person. The other nights are, pulling stuff that we have on hand leftovers. We do pizza almost every Friday night.
Miranda: We do too. I think just making that decision. It’s okay. There’s no kitchen police. There’s no dinner police. No one’s going to come over and say, ‘oh wait, that’s not a real dinner.’
And I come from a nutrition background. And so I feel like there are like textbook what your plate should look like. And then there’s also the reality of feeding a family day after day after day.
I’m not going to fault you even as a nutritionist for having cereal or for having Chick-fil-A or whatever. I think that’s more important, especially at this point in our society and our culture, as like you mentioned earlier, is a dumpster fire lately.
For our emotional health, as well as our physical health, we need to just make the decision and then allow ourselves to not feel the stress.
To just say, ‘oh yeah, this is what we’re doing tonight. And I have no shame in that. And that’s the plan.’
We can write cereal on the meal plan and that’s going to be okay. Or hot dogs at the snack shack, or we go to the pool a lot in the summer and. If we’re going to the pool and we’re heading over there at three, we’re not going to be home in time for dinner.
We’ll just see, even if I do have a plan and I have all the ingredients in the fridge, we’re going to be having hot dogs and quesadillas from the snack shack. That’s because I’d much rather spend that time at the pool.
Kelsey: I will tell clients sometimes it’s a plan, not a promise. So if circumstances arise. Maybe you get sick. Maybe your family gets sick that week. And all of a sudden the grilled pork tenderloin you were planning on just does not make sense.
No problem. You bump that. You just bump it down a few days. You know what I mean? It’s totally giving yourself the grace and the flexibility to allow things to change is really important.
But especially if you’re new to meal planning, build in a couple of days, like we’re saying, don’t try to start meal planning and make six new recipes every week. You might just burn out.
Miranda: wiYeah. So we’re trying to make life easier. Not more difficult.
Kelsey: Exactly. Exactly.
Miranda: So leading into that, you talked about your five tips, which I love. I’ll make sure that they’re all outlined well in the show notes, you can find those, if you want to just look back at them, that’s always livefreecreative.co/podcast. Look for this episode number.
I’ve asked you also to share a couple favorite recipes with this.
Yes. Oh, I love to. So I’m so excited and I would just have to say, Kelsey did mention her Instagram, but you have to follow her and watch for these five ingredient, simple recipes. Along with all your website itself is just like a robust recipe book, but these simple meals. That’s so fun to see them pulled together in a 30, 60 second reel.
And you’re like, okay, I can do that. I can see myself actually making that and people enjoying it.
Kelsey: They really are. They’re so simple that a recipe really isn’t even required because you can see it. And you’re like, ‘ah, got it. Like I got it.’ And that is what’s great about doing it is that I started sharing the recipes.
I’m in this crazy stage of life. I am hanging on for dear life. Like I’m sure many of your listeners are, and it’s great. It’s a wonderful, full, beautiful life. And I embrace the chaos, but–
Miranda: Remind us your kids’ ages. You have 10 year old, you said 5 and 2?
Kelsey: Yes, and they conspire together.
Miranda: Of course they do. They don’t want any fun happening in the kitchen. They want to take up all of your time and energy.
Kelsey: They’re the best, but they really test my patience sometimes. But yeah, these are the real life recipes that are working for me right now. This is what’s working for me and I, in addition to the five ingredient recipes, I have this recipe club.
And the reason I created it is that my members actually vote on the recipes they need each month, because I’ve gone through the experience of writing a traditional cookbook.
I wrote a cookbook with Random House a couple years ago, and the publishing process, which I think you and I have talked about. It was the traditional publishing process and it was so lengthy from the time that I came up with these recipes to the time that the book actually existed in my hands. It was over two years and I changed a lot in two years.
I’m ike, I’m not even making this stuff anymore. And so I thought, why not create something where I can ask these members, what do you need? Do you need sheet pan recipes? Do you want bowl recipes? Do you want five ingredient recipes? And then I can take that feedback and immediately provide you with that solution for what you’re cooking, as opposed to me trying to guess what you’re going to need in two years.
I think something’s broken within the traditional publishing format and it’s been a lot more fulfilling for me as a recipe developer and a creator to be able to address the needs of my community much faster, especially in this category in real time.
Miranda: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I love that. I think that’s a great idea. Okay. So I’m excited to hear the recipes.
Kelsey: Okay. I have these loaded skillet nachos. And I know you’re a nutritionist, but you know what? This really is not that bad.
Miranda: No, but I love a good nacho.
Kelsey: So everything happens in a big skillet. I’m a big fan of a skillet meal, a one pot meal. And so you actually, you saute a little onion and then you’re going to add your rice, your beans, and some seasoning and everything in there, it simmers away. And then you throw your chips and your cheese on top and you just finish it off in the oven.
And it’s almost, I don’t want to say it, but I’m going to say it. It’s almost like a nacho casserole and I don’t want that to put anyone off.
Miranda: I am a little thrown by the chips on top. But they stay–because you do them in the oven they stay crispy on top.
Kelsey: crispy. But then what’s great about is because you’ve got the rice and the beans underneath scoop out, scoop it out.
And it’s like a full balanced
Miranda: And it’s a full balanced meal. Yeah. Throw some shredde
Kelsey: Throw some shredded onion on top and pickles tends to be a Sunday afternoon meal for us. We go to church every Sunday morning and when we come home, because I can throw it together so quickly. My kids love that. So that is a really, that’s a recipe that we love right now
Miranda: Great. We’ll link all of these in the show notes. So I’ll link you straight to Kelsey’s website.
Kelsey: Perfect. Perfect. I’ve got these Asian lettuce wraps that are a huge hit right now. I sometimes forget about ground protein. I think I grew up thinking that ground beef was like always associated with hamburger helper, but ground oh, anyways, ground like ground meat is awesome.
Ground Turkey, ground chicken, ground beef, and it cooks so quickly. It’s a great way to sneak some protein into a dish. And because my kids are a little younger, I find, especially with my two year old, she loves it because she just uses her little pincher fingers and pops it in her mouth.
I find that sometimes if I put like a whole chicken breast on a plate, my kids are like, no, overwhelming.
I create it into tacos. Or like these lettuce straps, they call them lettuce tacos. It’s so cute. But I have these Asian lettuce wraps that are so yummy and delicious.
I’ve also got these chili lime tacos, which is a Trader Joe’s friendly recipe. So for any of you Trader Joe’s shoppers, it uses their chili lime seasoning some ground turkey, a can of red tomatoes with green chilies and it comes together so quickly.
They’ve got these wheat and corn tortillas there that are so yummy. And same thing that ground base is so delicious. And I almost always do tacos one night and then the next night we do burrito bowls and I use some of that protein, but we throw in some some greens and grains and we mix it up a little bit and that is a huge hit.
So those are a couple of favorites. Last one I’m going to share is I’ve got this mango lime chicken with coconut rice. This just feels like summer in a bowl right now.
Miranda: That sounds amazing. The one thing I’m worried about is it going to burn rice. Do you cook it with coconut milk?
Kelsey: Coconut milk. Yep. And I do it in my rice cooker. A rice cooker is another one of those things that I’m willing to have an extra appliance around because I use it so often my kids do a lot of grains.
So while I cook rice in it, I cook all sorts of grains, farrow, barley, quinoa. I do a lot of deconstructing meals right now because I have picky kids who don’t want certain things to touch other things.
So if I’m doing like, for example those chili lime tacos, and let’s say, I’m going to do a burrito bowl the next night. My two year old’s not going to eat a composed burrito bowl, but I can take some cooked brown rice, I can take some black beans, and I can take some of that ground meat and maybe some diced avocado.
And we’ve got an awesome kid friendly meal. But yeah, with the mango lime chicken, it’s one of those it’s so darn good. I’m worried we’re going to burn out on it. And so I’m like, we got it. We gotta temper the request for the mango lime chicken.
Miranda: If it’s good, you can. So tell me more about the mango lime chicken. Do you cook the chicken and the mango? Do you cook the mango? Does a mango come on fresh like a relish afterwards.
Kelsey: So it’s mango with a little bit of tomato and some lime juice. And it’s just served over the top. Almost like a salsa in a way. And I’ve got like this anytime I’m doing a marinade, which I love a marinade, but I also want to acknowledge that lots of people don’t have six hours to marinate chicken, so I don’t want anyone to be turned off.
But anytime I’m doing that, I do this combo of three spices. I love a cumin, a coriander, and a chili powder. And so I like to marinate that with a splash of lime juice and some olive oil, and you let that go. You could do it the night before, even if it just goes for two min, for 20 minutes, it helps a little bit.
Miranda: Infuses a little bit of that meat.
Kelsey: Yeah, exactly. And then that flavor combo just seems to really do it for me. So that, and then the last thing I’m going to say is, do not discount that rotisserie chicken meal.
I am telling you when it is crazy, you pick up a rotisserie chicken, you grab a salad kit and some sort of fruit or vegetable, the summer months, it’s usually corn on the cob or watermelon or some fresh berries. And that’s a meal, that is a balanced meal.
Last week I did this and I had some fresh peaches that were going bad. So I made a quick peach barbecue sauce over the rotisserie chicken. Like it was so good. It was so yummy.
Miranda: I’m like a step lazier. I started buying the rotisserie chicken at Costco that is already shredded and de-boned. It’s like the ziplock thing of rotisserie chicken that is already off the carcass.
And I’m like, this is the ultimate path. And I have done that and then I can use it for everything. Right now, my meal plan has three different meals that we use it in.
Kelsey: And I, sometimes I will because I buy that all the time and sometimes I will flash freeze it and so I’ll unpackage it and then I’ll put it on a sheet tray, pop it in the freezer just for a minute.
And then I grab my individual containers or bags. And I portion it and then I pop it in. So then if, I don’t know, if I’m going to use it multiple times throughout the week, I can just grab and it’s just enough to do one little thing.
Miranda: Yes. I think it’s the meat of either one or two full chickens. Like it’s a lot.
Kelsey: But I want to note Miranda, because I feel like I did not start using a rotisserie chicken. So yes, we all shred them. But especially the Costco ones. I have a reel where I show you how to break down a rotisserie chicken, because if you take the breast off that rotisserie chicken and you slice it up, it’s delicious.
Miranda: Yeah, it’s so good.
Kelsey: I think a lot of people just assume that rotisserie chickens are for shredding, but if, especially if you’re going to serve it to your family on the day you pick it up, it’s good to just eat as is. Pick it up and serve it as if you have grilled chicken in the backyard and it’s delicious.
Miranda: Yeah. Yeah, it’s so true. I worked at Sundance Cafe when I was in college and one of the things that we did, they would make these rotisserie chickens as just part of their menu every day. And then they’d send a bunch of them over to us. And one of my actual jobs was deboning oh my chicken.
They give me a knife that’s like bigger than my head. And I’m like, okay, here I go. Learn how to do it. And then that also turned into my favorite chicken salad recipe that Sundance chicken salad, which I’ve shared on the podcast before, but it’s grapes and rosemary and that rotisserie chicken that’s already so flavorful and juicy and yummy, like just so good.
Okay. I have a question about the Asian lettuce wraps. Do you use some, we’ll link the recipe, but I’m just I’m just curious in general, do you make your own–I feel pretty confident about most recipes, most styles of cooking even, except the whole continent of Asian cooking.
I’m good with Mexican, any Latin American. I lived in Argentina. I took a cooking class in Spain. I’m like, I got most of this. I just feel so overwhelmed by the variety and intensity of flavors in Asian cooking. I just am like, eh, a little bit of soy sauce. I’ll call it good.
Kelsey: There’s a couple of ingredients I go back to over and over again. So like a soy sauce, a rice vinegar, like a soy sauce, rice vinegar balance. And then there’s this Samal chili garlic sauce. And it’s literally like $1.29. It’s the red paste.
And I don’t typically ever use it on its own, but that combo of the soy, balanced by the rice vinegar, which is going to give you that tanginess, and the heat and the garlic of the chili garlic. Like I go back to that combo over and over again. Also a little bit of sugar, a little bit of sugar, so much Asian cooking does have some of that sweetness that’s on it.
Miranda: I think of it as like plums, but I’m like, what, how am I supposed to get a plum flavor?
Kelsey: Maybe just a little, there are plenty of shortcut ingredients in that Asian cuisine where you could buy a plum sauce, you can buy all sorts of sauces like that.
There’s the Teriaki sauce is another. I am not above a sauce to make things easier. And there’s a couple like marinara sauce. I will die on a hill for that. I love that stuff so much there really, I think there are a couple of really great staple, short ingredients. And especially in Asian cooking, they’ve come a long way and offering lower sodium and things like that.
But I would say those three ingredients between the soy sauce, the rice vinegar and the some garlic sauce that to me is–that’s like a trifecta of Asian flavor.
And in those lettuce wraps, I also make a peanut sauce. Now sometimes I’ll make it, sometimes I’ll buy it, and I’m not above that–Trader Joe’s actually has a pretty good pre-made peanut sauce.
But once you learn how to make a peanut sauce, it’s pretty darn easy and contrasted with some of those other flavors is just so darn yummy.
Miranda: Yeah. Sounds so good. Okay. I’m excited. We’ll link all of these recipes. So when you listeners sit down for your pre-planned time that you’ve set aside now to sit down and decide what you’re making. You can grab one new recipe.
I feel like it’s a good idea to just choose one or two new recipes. Yep. If you’re going to choose new ones and then I love to just incorporate them. So choose one and then make it a couple weeks in a row so that you feel like you get a handle on it.
It becomes second nature. Your family gets introduced to it and they decide after a few. Give it a couple run throughs and then decide how you feel about it. But all of that sounds amazing and now I am definitely more hungry than just needing an apple.
So I’m going to grab one myself to figure out what to make. I’m going to break my own meal plan so that I can try some of your recipes and then definitely incorporate them in our next seasonal meal plan.
This was so wonderful. I just feel like I echo and agree with and love, and also was like totally enlightened by so many of your points.
And I’m excited that you have shared those so generously with us and the recipes. And I just I hope that everyone follows along with you. Check out Kitchen Prescription and the, what is the recipe club called?
Kelsey: It’s called the Recipe Club.
Miranda: And just continue, Kelsey’s your girl for I don’t know what to make. What do I do? Weeknight dinner.
Kelsey: I think about it all the time and I genuinely feel passionate about helping people solve that problem. So if you’re struggling to make weeknight dinner, come find me on Instagram, we’ll help you. We’ll help you get to the dinner table.
Miranda: Awesome. Thank you so much for sharing.
Kelsey: Thanks Miranda. Bye-bye.
Truly though, how delightful is Kelsey Nixon? She was so fun to talk to. I have used some of these tips, already incorporated them into my life, and into my family’s dinner time. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this episode and make sure that you head to the show notes; it’s chock full of resources, recipes, and all sorts of things that will help make your life easier.
So those are always available on my blog livefreecreative.co. There’s a whole section for podcast and there’s a search bar. So you can look up the episode by number or by title. I will also make sure that Kelsey’s Instagram handle and her website are available in the short show notes that you’ll see right on your podcast player.
And that last tip that she mentioned, that it’s a lot easier to cook in an organized kitchen, is a tip that can be applied across the board. It’s a lot easier to get dressed in an organized closet. It’s a lot easier to get ready for the day in an organized bathroom. It’s a lot easier for your kids to play with imagination and creativity in a fairly organized playroom.
I want to invite you if you could use a little refresh in any of these areas to join me for Decluttered, my six week intentional living masterclass. It is only available twice a year in January and September, and the doors are open right now.
And if you could use some accountability to actually get through each of those spaces, in addition to the six weeks where we focus on our homes, also our schedules and our mindset, I’ve added on a VIP program called Decluttered Plus where we stay together for an additional 12 weeks, focusing on one area of the home per week, coming together with an accountability call where we are diving in and actually getting the work done.
It is digital organizing coming right into your home, through your computer with a group of supportive, lovely individuals who are on the same path that you are. Visit livefreecreative.co to learn more about decluttered and to join today.
Have a great one. I will talk to you next week. Bye-bye.