The right tools will make it seem like you are a great cook even if you are not. I wish I had learned this lesson years ago. Here are some of my favorite kitchen gadgets and small appliances

Rice Cooker

My family goes through a lot of rice. That meant a lot of time stirring and waiting. That is, until I discovered rice cookers. I was a little late the party on this one. I thought only restaurants had these. Boy was I glad to find out that they made smaller ones for the home! The secret to great rice and no work is this little gem. I found my first one by Aroma at a TJ Maxx about 8 years ago for about $15. Best find ever! They take up very little space, does the work for you, and it is a breeze to clean up- thanks to the inside being non stick and dishwasher safe.

I upgraded about a year ago to one that not only makes great rice, but also steam cooks vegetables, meats, and acts as a slow cooker. I love it! It comes with a steamer tray, measuring scoop, and even a rice paddle for serving.

I like to make about 4 cups of rice at a time so I can package up several meals. For white rice, I use 2 scoops from the included measuring scoop and add water to fill line 3 1/2, turn it on and go. Since it automatically switches to warming, I can turn it on and leave the house for a couple of hours and know that when I come back, the rice is done.

Toaster Over

Since getting one of these, my regular oven gets very little use. Where have you been my whole life??!!

I got rid of my toaster and put this neat little toaster oven in its place. This little gem toasts bread, bakes chicken, bakes pizza, grills steaks, reheats food like a pro!

And he cool thing is, since you don't have to pre-heat you save 8-20 minutes every time you need to cook something. My husband swears there is a little Keebler Elf in the house making cookies appear from nowhere! Yup, that's me and my toaster oven. Now it is no big deal to throw some dough on a cookie sheet and set a timer for 9 minutes. Before, I would have to preheat the big oven for 8 minutes, then bake for 9 minutes. By the time the oven is finished pre-heating, I using have lost interest or gotten busy with some other task.

Crock Pot

Ok. So what if you want some home cooking but will out of the house all day (or maybe you're home but would rather binge watch your favorite shows)?

Enter the Crock Pot (also known as a Slow Cooker). Amazing meals- let me tell you! From stews, to soups, to casseroles, desserts, dips, and entrees, this workhorse is powerful!

My family's favorite Crock Pot dish is pot roast. I also like to make jerk chicken which makes for a fabulous quick lunch.


Frozen Vegetables

Sure, fresh is best. But having food spoil because you just did not have time to get to it is even worse.

I love frozen vegetables- especially the steam in the bag kind. I buy tons of broccoli because it goes with so many meals. Frozen cauliflower makes a great rice or mashed potato substitute for low carb meals.

To liven up meals, I also love playing around with the different medleys like the Japanese blend which has broccoli, mushrooms, and green beans. Another great time saver is buying frozen diced onions- I often will substitute this for recipes that call for chopped onions. Look for a great frozen seasoning mix also called a soup starter as a quick way to add flavor to stews and crock pot recipes. The trinity mix (onions, green peppers, celery) is your friend!