*Former Fixer Upper star Joanna Gaines recently released her first cookbook, Magnolia Table. She and her husband, Chip, also opened a restaurant by that same name in Waco, Texas. While fixing up your own house might not fit your skill set, anyone can use Joanna Gaines’ cooking tips. Follow her lead to become a whiz in the kitchen. We especially love her style with this last idea (page 10).
1. Plan ahead to avoid unnecessary stress
- Cook like Gaines: Use these meal prep tips to save time.
In construction, they always say, “measure twice, cut once.” Gaines uses that method in the kitchen, too. “If you plan in advance, that’s a huge deal for me,” she told Real Simple. On Sunday nights, she asks each of her children and Chip what foods they crave, creates a meal plan, and then goes grocery shopping.
“If I can pre-plan, if I have everything in the fridge by the time I get home, I actually really enjoy the process,” she explained. Planning ahead keeps things harmonious in the Gaines household and it will in yours, too.
Next: The following gadget also keeps the homestead running smoothly.
2. Your slow cooker is your friend
- Cook like Gaines: Set and forget these slow cooker recipes.
Gaines also uses a slow cooker to keep dinner stress-free, and you should too. She explained that she did try the trendy Instant Pot, but that she finds a Crock-Pot easier to use.
“I’m a little more traditional in that I use the Crock-Pot because I don’t have to study how to use it as much. And for me it’s nice to leave at nine, come back at four or five, and have the house smell heavenly,” she told Kitchn. A lot of recipes work great in the slow cooker already, and you can also adapt some of your favorites.
Next: Keep these staples on hand to stay ready to whip up dinner.
3. She always stocks these things in her fridge
- Cook like Gaines: Here’s what you can make with what’s in the fridge.
When it comes to shining in the kitchen, first you need a well-stocked fridge. Gaines dished to Food & Wine about what she keeps in hers. “I always have milk. I always have buttermilk, butter, eggs, bacon for Chip and the boys, and then I always love having a spring salad mix.”
If you come across a recipe that requires buttermilk and your fridge doesn’t follow Gaines’ lead, don’t stress. You can just stir a tablespoon of white vinegar of fresh lemon juice into a cup of milk for each cup of buttermilk. Let it stand for five minutes and get on with your recipe.
Next: Whether you have a big family or a party coming up, you can use the following.
4. Casseroles work great for both families and parties
- Cook like Gaines: Whip up these recipes to satisfy a crowd.
Whether entertaining friends or just her growing family, Gaines also loves a good casserole. She told Food & Wine that the kind of foods friends can just dig into also grace her table. Because of her large family — four kids and one in the oven — she needs enough to feed a crowd.
“I love when my family and friends come and gather around the island, and they’re eating dips,” Gaines explained. “Casseroles are nice because they feed a lot of people. I like artichoke dip, queso, guacamole—anything that you can dip a chip in, that’s me.”
Next: Both expert cooks and novices can also benefit from this next tip.
5. Don’t fear failure in the kitchen
- Cook like Gaines: Don’t let these cooking myths discourage you. Get back in the game instead!
The first time Gaines made dinner for Chip, he actually didn’t like it. But that actually just inspired her to keep cooking. “That set me back a little bit but then eventually I got over it and was like, ‘Hey, I mean I gotta try my hand at this,’” she told PEOPLE. That eventually led to her wanting to write her own cookbook, too.
“I think that’s why I have such a heart for it, is that I really feel like [cooking] isn’t something that you have to be amazing at,” Joanna Gaines explained. “It’s just the idea of getting after it, trying it, being okay with failing, but then there’s so much more reward.”
Next: Unlike fixing up a house, you can also try a recipe many times to get it right.
6. Practice really does make perfect
- Cook like Gaines: Here’s what you need to equip your kitchen for success.
In a blog post, Gaines admitted that it took quite a few tries to get her famous biscuit recipe just right. Her family served as her willing taste-testers, as she tweaked it week after week.
“For the past year or so, I have spent almost every Saturday morning perfecting this biscuit recipe,” she wrote. “And we finally have one that has the seal of approval from Chip and the kids.” If you have a recipe or technique you really want to hone, make it again and again. When it comes to cooking, practice really pays off.
Next: Even the shiplap queen doesn’t always bake from scratch.
7. Pre-packaged starters can save dinnertime
- Cook like Gaines: Packaged starters help send these recipes to the big time.
Even if you run a bakery like Gaines, you don’t always have to make every element 100% from scratch. Business Insider notes that Gaines relies on pre-packaged pie crusts, crescent rolls, and even biscuits for her Magnolia Table recipes and at home.
When you just don’t have time to prep, packaged dough will work perfectly well. Go ahead and use packaged pie crust, drop canned biscuits onto that pot pie, or use whatever shortcut you have to. Convenience doesn’t have to mean takeout.
Next: Gaines also uses the following trick to make everyday foods taste fancy.
8. Pump up bottled condiments
- Cook like Gaines: Here are some more fancified condiments to spice up your table.
We all love flavored oils, fancy aioli, and condiments that taste like homemade. But to get that same effect, Gaines takes her favorite mayonnaise (she prefers Hellman’s) and stirs in a handful of herbs and spices. She heads out to the garden and grabs some chives, dill, and parsley, then adds garlic, paprika, and some lemon juice.
You can also do the same, with whatever herbs you have on hand. Feel free to experiment, because if the Fixer Upper star encourages one thing, it’s creativity.
Next: Especially in the morning, this next idea goes a long way.
9. Keep a pancake mix on hand
- Cook like Gaines: Pump up those pancakes with these recipes.
While Magnolia Table features an amazing recipe for fluffy pancakes, even the Gaines family doesn’t always have time to make them. For those busy days, Gaines says, “I always have a boxed mix in the pantry for when I just don’t have the time.”
Always keep a few boxed mixes and meals on hand, for days when you run out of hours. Sometimes soccer practice runs over, traffic gets heavy, or you just don’t want to cook. Your pantry can save you, in that case.
Next: But sometimes, you also just need to give in to this impulse.
10. If all else fails, pizza comes through
- Cook like Gaines: Ordering pizza? Be nice to your delivery person with these etiquette tips.
Sometimes, the best laid plans go awry. If something goes wrong and your dinner flops, don’t sweat it. Instead, take this advice from Gaines: “There’s always pizza.”
If the Gaines family knows one thing, they know how to stay flexible. Fixing up houses, running several businesses, and keeping four kids happy and healthy requires you to go with the flow. Learn that essential skill, and you will already have half your kitchen stress handled.
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