There are a few things in life I don't like skimping on. In fact there are 3 that really stand out. Things I will pay more than 2x for. Toilet Paper. Facial Tissue. Q-Tips. These are no-brainers. I will not listen to any arguments. Case closed!


If I had to extend my list to a 4th item, it would be cutlery. Also known as knives you use to cut food. If you've ever used a low-quality knife and you've tried doing some extensive amounts of cutting, slicing, or chopping. If you are using


German vs Japanese

I've only ever owned German-style knives (Wusthof), but have used a few Japanese brands such as Shun and Global


German - Rocking motion, Weight is distributed more towards handle, Best for lots of cutting.

Japanese - Chopping motion, Even weight distribution, Better for precision cutting.


The best way to find out what knife is right for you is by trying out a few. Stop in to a Williams-Sonoma and ask to try out some knives. They'll let you cut some produce right there in the store. At the end of the day, it's all in the feel. Some people like a heavier handle (German) but I've learned some women prefer the lighter weight knives (Japanese).


Since I own German knives, more specifically Wusthof Classic, below is by analysis of each of the knives I use and why each one has their own specific uses.


Wusthof Classic - The Essentials (Ranked 1-10 based on necessity)


#1. 8" Chef's Knife



Uses: The workhorse! This is my top recommendation if you are only going to get 1 knife. 90% of my cutting is done with this knife. Everything from cutting raw chicken for a soup to slicing the skin off a mango, it does it all!


#2. 3 1/2" Pairing Knife



Uses: Peeling fruit (ex: kiwi) or vegetables (ex: small potatoes). Cutting soft fruits like strawberries, bananas or grapes. I have this knife out a lot for the kids as I'm cutting things into small pieces.


#3. 5" Santoku Hollow Edge Knife



Uses: Great for cutting vegetables for a soup. Think carrots, celery, small onions, mushrooms. My wife likes this knife a lot because it's a little small than a traditional 8" Chef's/Cook's knife.


#4. 9" Double-Serrated Bread Knife



Uses: Well, the name of this knife kind of says it all. Perfect for a bread with a hard crust and soft inside like a baguette, or a sandwich bread where you don't want to smoosh the breadActually thinking of the knife gives me PTSD as it's the one knife that has giving me the worst cut on my finger. Super sharp! But that's a good thing as long as you are paying attention, right?


#5. 5" Serrated Utility Knife



Uses: This is a great knife for preparing a charcuterie board. It will cut your cheese's your fruits (fresh or dried) and even your meats. Very practical!


#6. 9" Hollow Carving Knife



Uses: Roasting a whole bird? This comes in handy when doing a whole chicken on the grill or Thanksgiving turkey. The hollow grooves on this knife allow for cutting through the crisp skin without it pulling or ripping.


#7. 8" Vegetable Knife



Uses: Perfect for cutting root vegetables or starchy vegetables. I talked myself into this knife because I was tired of vegetables sticking to my knife when I cut them. I use this primarily for squash, sweet potatoes, russet potatoes. Don't use this for cutting garlic I've learned as the small garlic pieces get stuck in the holes of the knife.


#8. 6" Utility Knife



Uses: I use this knife for cutting a whole roasted chicken into parts. I choose this knife over the others because it is sleek and shorter than the other knives. It gets into the crevices so as to not mutilate the chicken. It's all about the presentation, right?


#9. 5" Tomato Knife



Uses: Great for soft skin foods like tomatoes or soft cheeses. The big thing with using this on tomatoes is you won't get the squishing of the tomatoes makes the seeds and juices release.


#10. 5" Boning Knife



Uses: This is great for those of you who want to go to town on a whole fish or whole bird. There is something satisfying to breaking down a chicken into 8 parts instead of paying the extra money for the butcher to do it.





The term Meal-Planning sounds great, and even looks great depending on the IG accounts you may follow. But reality is these visuals rely on a lot of planning, execution and probably most importantly, time.


I don't make claims to be a MP expert and it's doubtful I ever will, but I want to share a few tips that will hopefully give you what everyone wants more of: time!


When to Plan?

If this is going to work, it's all going to start with the planning...REALISTIC PLANNING. If your family is up to your eyeballs in activities like we are, I feel like 3 "everyone is home to eat at the same time" meals is a good start. Spending a good hour on planning is a lot but if you can knock it out early on a weekend morning before anyone gets up, that might be your best bet.


Pen/Paper or Phone?

I often see people in the grocery aisles crossing off items one-by-one on the back of a crumpled up receipt. If that is your best solution then keep doing it. I prefer to use my phone, and more specifically an app called Paprika (https://www.paprikaapp.com/). I've mentioned it in earlier posts, but it truly is a huge time-saver. The best feature might be the Grocery List feature which automatically categorizes items by their location in the store (i.e. Canned and Jar Goods). You can also import any recipe you find on the internet and it will save it within the app so you don't have to remember which website you found it on when it is time to cook.



Types of Meals

Here is a tip that will allow you to prepare 3-4 things simultaneously without feeling like you are cramped, no matter how small your kitchen. It's all about using a variety of heat sources...

  1. Stovetop Range (ex: Soup or Chili)

  2. Oven (ex: Lasagna or Whole Roasted Chicken)

  3. Slow Cooker or Pressure Cooker (Bolognese for Pasta or Pork Shoulder for Tacos)

  4. Raw (Any Hearty Salad - Greens, Chickpeas, Peppers, Cucumbers, Avocados, etc)

Freezer Friendly Meals

It's inevitable that the week will become busier than anticipated and you might have time to cook 1-2 meals instead of 3-4. This is the reason we own freezers, right?! When planning meals for the week, think through the meals that will be OK to freeze (soups, chilis, meat sauce, lasagna are all great).


**Tip: Buy portioned salmon filets and freeze as-is or marinate and freeze.


Sides and Dressings

If you take the 4 cooking techniques approach like I mention above, you'll have time to make some sides during a bit of down time.

  1. Cook big batch of grains (Rice, Quinoa, Oats)

  2. Steam veggies (Potatoes, Broccoli, Green Beans)

  3. Make 1-2 salad dressings (Creamy and Vinaigrette)

Storage

If you don't have glass storage containers, load up on some! Here is a really informational post from The Spruce Eats. I think it's a good idea to get a variety of sizes for things as small as salad dressings to large ones for soups and chilis. If freezer space is an issue, food can be stored in Ziplock bags so they can be laid flat and stacked.


Labeling

This might not seem like a big deal, but trust me on this one. I can't tell you how many times I've had to ditch bad food, whether it be leftovers or a pasta sauce I bought from the store. Here are a few tips for labeling...

  • buy freezer-safe tape or stickers like these from the Container Store

  • use a fine-tip Sharpie

  • move items to front of fridge or freezer that are quickest to expire




For our family, and the cook in the house (me), dinner starts hours before we even sit down to eat. No, I'm not planning dinner...I'm fearing dinner, and I can't get it out of my head.


I know two things: 1.) People always assume our kids must be great eaters because of what I do for work, and 2.) Those people are dead wrong. Here is a summary of our 3 kids and their food style.

  • Prefers white carbs anytime of the day (3 of 3)

  • Demands a snack immediately after every meal (3 of 3)

  • Sugar? (3 of 3)

  • Leaves the dinner table to go play with Lego's (1 of 3)

  • Leaves the dinner table to brush her doll's hair (1 of 3)

  • Leaves the dinner table because he fell off the bench (1 of 3)

We value dinner time very much in our house as it's the one meal each day we get to spend together, yet we as parents we demand our kids to eat their food or else "insert consequence here". After spending years trying to figure out the best meal-time approach for our kids, I realized our kids don't like being told what to do. But honestly, who does? So here is my guide to one easy solution that has helped...


Things you'll need...


  1. Table

  2. Chairs/Bench

  3. Picky Eaters

  4. Hungry Small People

  5. A Platter (placed in middle of table)

  6. Plates/Cups

  7. A Good Variety of Food


As for the food, think different types of food as well as colors. Kids eat with their eyes first, so if it isn't stimulating it might be an attractive food option. In this picture we have: pita bread, hummus, cheese, snap peas, tomatoes, meatballs, grapes and kiwi. By letting the kids believe they have the choice in dinner, the nagging stops, and everyone eats what they feel like eating that night.


Here are 2 (if only for a day) happy eaters:


ryan@chefryanhoffman.com

phone: 651.470.3202

©2018 by Chef Ryan Hoffman