I am not very good at planning dinner. I often find myself asking the question, "What am I going to do for dinner tonight?" 30 minutes before we are supposed to eat. Simplified Pantry has provided a solution. Mystie Winckler has made available to the public her years of trial and error produced out of a necessity to provide for her oldest child who was allergic to corn through Simplified Dinners. Once she found out he was no longer allergic, she continued to prepare meals in this simplified way. Natural ingredients used to create from-scratch meals are better for you, cost less, and taste much better than the preservative-filled foods that are "quicker." Simplified Dinners Gluten Free/Dairy Free is set up the same way that Simplified Dinners is, but special attention is given to a menu that has gluten-free and dairy-free choices.
When I opened the file and started reading, I was immediately encouraged. I thought, "I want to do this. I want my life to be simple like this." Mystie says that simplifying your menu planning and having less to keep track of frees up mental resources. Who couldn't use some mental resources freed up? I know I could. She also says that limitation brings freedom. It is such a simple concept. I know that I would love to walk through the grocery store and not feel bombarded by all of the choices, most of which are not even good for me or my kids. I wouldn't have to clip coupons for every product I might ever use or that would maybe at some point in life be on sale before the coupon expires. There would be freedom (and an uncluttered table).
How do I know what to buy for my simplified menu planning and cooking? Well, Mystie has created a Mastery Pantry List for each of the books. These are the fewest things to have on hand to make anything in the book. She lists produce, seasonings, dry goods like cornstarch and wheat, bottled goods like vanilla and oil, canned goods, dairy, meat, frozen ingredients, and beer or wine depending on the recipe you choose. I would suggest going through the recipes before you fill your pantry. There are probably some things you won't use. On the other hand, there may be things you like that she doesn't list. One of the great things about this list and these recipes is that they are easily customizable.
Simple, basic instructions are listed at the top of each page of recipes along with specifics for the flavor you are going for. For instance, the page for slow-cooker roasts has four basic instructions. Number two says to whisk together seasoning ingredients. The ingredients you'll use in this step are listed for the specific recipe.
There are beef, pork, fish, and chicken recipes. There are pasta recipes and bean recipes. The Mexican food lover will be pleased as there are fajita, taquito, and quesadilla recipes, as well as instructions for a taco bar and burritos. There are egg recipes and homemade pizza recipes with a large variety of sauce recipes for your pizza. Mystie has included potatoes-as-a-meal recipes, stews, quick soups, main dish salads, veggie side dishes, and starch side dishes. I personally don't eat any pork, so I would skip every recipe with pork or substitute another meat.
I love to use my crockpot, if I can remember that I have it in time to actually finish the cooking process before we need to eat. My favorite recipe was the Orange Honey Chicken. There were only four ingredients needed, and they were ingredients I always have in my house. I used no-antibiotic, no-hormone chicken cut up into tenders that were already thawed (instructions are given for frozen and thawed), orange juice, honey (recipe says brown sugar can be used as well), and a little bit of ketchup. It created a sweet and tangy sauce. The amount I made for my chicken was close to what would be included in a bottle of sweet and sour sauce for a fraction of the cost, and it had no preservatives besides what was in the ketchup. There was not one complaint from my family members.
The e-books are available as PDF files for $12.99. This is a great price considering the number of recipes included and the flexibility it gives the cook. The only trick in all of this is to find your meat on sale, but we all probably try to do that anyway.
The gluten- and dairy-free book is extremely helpful for those on these restrictions. A list of ingredients that may potentially contain gluten, as well as one for dairy, is provided at the beginning of the book. Even the Master Pantry List places an asterisk beside the ingredients that should be double-checked to ensure they are safe. A lot of the recipes are the same between the two books. There are even some in the GFDF book that aren't in the original version. The pizza section is left out for obvious reason, but there is a section on gluten-free and dairy-free desserts.
One other product I had the chance to review was Paperless Home Organization. I read through the book but have not implemented any of the ideas. Mystie mentions two programs that she uses - Remember the Milk and Evernote. I just recently downloaded Evernote, so I need to go back through and read how to use it. It is a bit intimidating just looking at it. I am encouraged, however, by the idea of having a more organized home. I have so many piles all throughout my house and am growing weary of going through them and moving them and not knowing where important papers are. Mystie gives tips on organizing more than just papers, though. She teaches you how to make your email more efficient, how to use the Google calendar, and how to use Gmail.