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5 Real Kitchen Tools for the Young Cook

If you have a budding young chef on your hands, a great Christmas gift would be some tools to help them feel confident and capable in the kitchen. These are the kitchen tools my kids use the most when they either help me cook or go solo in the kitchen.

Sometimes having the right tool makes all the difference.


First, a sturdy step stool is a must. Being able not only to reach the counter or the stove, but to be able to have the leverage to stir without spilling or pour with ease instills confidence and minimizes messes. A step stool that is easy to wipe off, move around, and store fits the bill.

A small rolling pin gives the young cook more control over the dough and allows him to manage the task with skill rather than awkwardness.

An easy-to-use vegetable peeler is the best tool for very young kitchen helpers. They can peel carrots and potatoes or even swipe thin slices of cheese. Safer than a knife, a vegetable peeler in the hands of a child makes them feel and be useful.

Children using oversized tools is sure to cause unnecessary mess. However, a short spoon-shaped spatula is capable of stirring real food but not too big for smaller hands to wield.

Likewise, full-size pancake turners are too large and awkward for young cooks, but a brownie server is the perfect alternative, allowing them to move cookies, potatoes, roasted vegetables, or anything else from the cookie sheet to the cooling rack with capable control.

Hot mitt gloves are an excellent choice for kids old enough to manage the oven but not quite adept enough to not burn themselves with a typical round hot mitt. Plus, they look cool.

Now if your young cook needs some practice material and you really want to keep it practical and helpful, check out this holiday bundle from Simplified Pantry! You will receive digital downloads of Simplified Dinners for New Cooks, Simplified Breakfasts, Simplified Lunches, and Simplified Snacks.

Turn your kitchen helper into a kitchen elf this busy month and put them in charge of some family meals:

Simplify your meals

A peek into some breakfast strategies at our house

~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life – in my kitchen. ~

round button chicken

In honor of this week’s release of Simplified Breakfasts, I thought I’d share a little peek into breakfast strategies that have been working in our house lately.

Pretty Prepared

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The number 1 strategy that makes no-stress breakfast happen on homeschool mornings has definitely been taking the time on Saturday to prepare baked items in advance. I make an extra-large batch of muffins and bread and put them in the freezer for the week.

If I have at least 3 breakfasts and 1 lunch that are grab-and-go during the week, it smooths those meal transitions so much!

Happy Muffins

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how to menu plan 

I have tried muffin recipe after muffin recipe over the years and never found one that was a flexible enough base to handle whatever variations I wanted to try. Until, that is, Tracy sent me her first draft of Simplified Breakfasts. The very first thing I tried was her muffin recipe and I adore it! The proportions are easy to memorize so I don’t even have to look at it any more, and it’s flexible enough that I can create my own variations based on what I have on hand. My kids’ favorite variation, though, is Tracy’s: oatmeal raisin. Basic, easy, delicious. It makes a perfect breakfast because it’s a bread-muffin, not a cake-muffin, and it’s delicious even with whole-wheat flour.

This picture is an over-full batch of apple-cinnamon muffins – my first attempt at creating my own variation using her base. It was a smashing success.

Funny Helpers

Another breakfast strategy I frequently employ is to delegate oatmeal-preparation to my 12-year-old. He’s rather picky about the consistency of his oatmeal (he prefers it hardly cooked at all), which is fine by me as long as he’s the one making it.

When I make it, he thinks it’s overcooked, so he would rather make it himself than have me do it. Win-win.

Several of the recipes in Simplified Breakfasts are simple enough to delegate to the older kids. When the weather turns colder and they aren’t playing outside as much in the afternoons, I can foresee offering to let them make a batch of something for the next day’s breakfast as their afternoon activity. Score.

I have no pictures of that, though, because it happens too early to pull out the camera…

Real Cider

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My father-in-law manages an orchard nearby and delivered a full bin of juice apples (imperfects) to our driveway. My husband and the kids turned that bin into over 40 gallons of fresh-pressed cider.

Our freezer is officially full.

know what's for every meal, all week, with this free menu plan printable

Life in Photos

feeding people, educating people, managing people, loving people – see snapshots of it all on Instagram:

How to Simplify Breakfast on Busy Mornings

By Tracy Grossmann

If you are like me, your mornings are rarely peaceful and quiet. Already your mind is racing with the list you have going for today. You are thinking about getting everyone ready for what lies ahead…and oh yeah, everyone needs food.

Here’s how we can simplify breakfast

Having a few strategies in our back pocket is all we need to stay calm and cut stress.


1. Prepare in advance.

Often mornings are not the time where we have abundant time and energy available for making good food. But, there is no rule saying that breakfast has to be prepared in the morning. You could put an overnight casserole in the fridge as you prepare dinner the night before, or stir up 3 batches of muffins on a Saturday morning, instead of one, freezing the leftovers. Cooking ahead and freezing, or preparing at night for busy morning hours is one of the best ways to save sanity in the morning.

2. Simplify the recipe.

There are a million different things you could make for breakfast. Pinterest is full of delightful ideas that you could make (one day!). But for most days, keep it simple. Use super simple recipes that you can memorize. I know it’s crazy, but the simple act of taking out a recipe book, looking up a recipe, and then carrying out a 10 ingredient list will have me worn out before I begin most mornings.

So, if it’s going to be made in the morning, it needs to be memorized. I memorize my go-to recipes, and then they are easy to make while I am still in groggy morning mode.

3. Vary the plan.

It’s easy for me to get into meal ruts – especially with things I prepare while half-awake. I don’t always like thinking of something new for breakfast. My favorite way to combat this is to take a basic recipe I have memorized, and modify the flavors. For example, muffins, using the same basic recipe, can become Chocolate-Mint Grasshopper muffins, or Banana Cream Muffins, or Oatmeal Raisin muffins. Instead of memorizing three distinct recipes, I memorize one, and then quick-reference how to modify it slightly.

This way, no one tires of “muffins.”

Simplified Breakfasts was written with this format in mind: Memorize the basic, modify for variety.

The recipes are simple enough to be memorized quickly, and provide enough variety so your family doesn’t tire of the same-old same-old.

These are just a few of the ways that I make breakfast do-able at my house. I would love to hear what you do in your home!

Here’s to happy breakfasts and do-able mornings!


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You need to plan ALL THE MEALS

I know it seems overwhelming.

I know even just planning dinner sometimes seems overwhelming.

But, seriously, who wants to wake up and decide in the pre-coffee fog what to feed the troops for breakfast?

It has to be decided ahead of time.


Everyone talks about how much planning out dinners saves you from mental effort and decision fatigue, but that’s only 1/3 of the meals you feed people! Imagine if all the meals were planned – how much mental effort and decision fatigue would that reduce?

Personally, I think the reason we balk at planning all the meals is that we build dinner menu planning into this herculean effort. Do we want to do that 2 more times over? No way! But if we simplify not only the two lighter meals, but also the dinner effort, we can have our plan and our peace of mind as well.

Make an Easier Dinner Plan

You don’t need to have elaborate dinners every night to have a complete, healthy meal. Try thinking in threes and keeping easy to prepare vegetables always on hand. Rather than browse Pinterest or magazines to come up with dinner ideas, keep a list of your family’s go-to meals. Or, use Simplified Dinners, which is your list and guideline already put together.

Make an Easier Lunch Plan

Lunch, whether you have to pack it or pause the other business of the day to prepare it, it always seems to get in the way. While taking a lunch break is refreshing, taking the time to prepare it is not.

Coming soon: Simplified Lunches by Tracy Grossmann, a new approach to simplifying lunch.

Make an Easier Breakfast Plan

Breakfast hits us out of the blue, first thing in the morning. Rather than rolling out of bed without a clue about what to feed the troops, you need a plan in order to get things moving without feeling out of control.

A solid breakfast starts the day off on the right foot, so planning it is essential.

Coming soon: Simplified Breakfasts by Tracy Grossmann, a new approach to making breakfast. Check out the free sample here!

Planning All the Meals: two options

Try these two menu plan options to plan ALL. THE. MEALS. for your household. You’ll be amazed at how much it simplifies your life and reduces the brain power required to maneuver through your day.



With this format, you can plan all three meals on one sheet, including the reminder right there on the sheet to plan a complete dinner: main, side, and veggie/salad. There’s also a spot to name your days: Remind yourself that Monday is Mexican or Friday is pizza or Wednesday is crockpot.


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About her menu plan, Tracy writes:

To use the flexible menu planner, list out the meals you have planned for the upcoming week-10 days. Just make a list without worrying about which days you will make certain meals or serve certain snacks. This list will just serve as a quick-reference for your brain when you are idea-less. When I make mine, I also list what sides I am planning on serving.

One word of caution, if you have certain meals planned that take a bit more prep, make sure to not save all of them for last- you may end up with three or four days of “hard work.” Instead, decide each day what you are up for, what your schedule will allow for, and you will be just fine.

Download them both! They are totally free and flexible to use with any meal method or type.

You can do it! You can plan all the meals!

I promise it will relieve more mental strain than it causes.

My favorite tools to make homemade bread

Homemade bread is so simple and cheap to make, and homemade bread is so much more tasty and healthy, that I rarely buy my bread.

As Tracy explains in this post about how to make homemade bread simply and easily, bread making is more of an art than a science.

These are some of my favorite art tools, then.

Stainless Steel Bread Pans

These stainless steel bread pans are easy to clean, don’t wear out or flake weird coatings off onto bread, and make the perfect size loaf.


Pyrex glass measuring cups

The full amount of liquid is easy to quickly heat up in the microwave in these measuring cups. Starting with warm liquid helps the yeast to activate and the bread to rise properly.

Danish Dough Whisk

My husband gave this whisk to me for Christmas last year and I don’t know how I managed without it. Using this tool, I can manage to incorporate flour into cinnamon roll dough, artisan bread, or even a thick muffin batter.

Kitchen bench scraper

I use this scraper to cut cinnamon rolls, scrape dough off my counter, cut & move biscuits and scones, and numerous other small dough tasks.

heavy duty cooling rack

If you’re going to be baking bread – or even baking at all – cooling racks that can handle your production volume are essential. These ones stand up to use and abuse and hold a prodigious amount of baked goods. I own three.

French rolling pin

Hands-down this is my favorite type of rolling pin. I can apply the pressure I desire and seem to have more control over and more feel for the process.

Bosch Universal Mixer

And, of course, I couldn’t make bread on the scale that I do without my beloved Bosch mixer. This thing is a powerhouse – a kitchen power tool. If you like tripling or quadrupling recipes, you need a Bosch.

You certainly don’t need any fancy tools to make bread. A bowl and your hands will do the trick. However, sometimes the right tool makes it easy enough that we actually do it.

If you want to get started making homemade bread, download this free 1-page printable guide to help walk you through the process!