I have made a couple of posts that included some insight into my cooking abilities (or dis-abilities?). I can NOT make biscuits, buns, rolls or cookies. By some inexplicable phenomenon they always come out raw on the top and absolutely burnt black on the bottom. I have tried lowering the oven temp, raising the temp, different cookie sheets, I even bought a stoneware baking sheet. Although it is pretty hard to burn stuff on the stoneware, you can, it turns out, still bake something till it is as hard as a brick. I do, however, manage to put a home-cooked dinner on the table at least five nights a week. I have told you all of this to let you know that I can cook. I do not especially like cooking. And no matter what I serve I always end up with at least one “I hate this dinner!”. That being said, the next week when I make it again the hater declares it their new favorite. I have learned with small children you can NOT win. So, here are some tried and true tricks that put me at ease in the kitchen.
Have on Hand
I do my serous grocery shopping once a week. I make a list of the new recipes I will try with the necessary ingredients, along with the replacements of the things we ate last week. I always have a pound of burger in the freezer, tortillas in the fridge, and mushroom soup in the pantry. Maybe not the healthiest, but I know in a pinch I can make a meal out of them. The burger I can thaw for hamburgers, stroganoff, pot pie, or spaghetti. The tortillas I can broil with some cheese and lunch meat or spread on some peanut butter and jelly, or some sugar and cinnamon. Oh, and mushroom soup…so many things you can do with that! Scalloped potatoes, stroganoff when paired with the beef or actually just make soup. These are among the things I replace pretty much every week. Things that I know I can make a dinner or lunch out of easily.
I love my crock pot; it is a life saver. I can set it up in the morning and at five I have dinner ready. My friend who never used hers asked me what to do with it; I said what can’t you do with it? Now don’t get me wrong, some things just taste better when made in the oven or on the stove, but really the possibilies are endless with your crock pot. My favorite are a traditional roast with carrots, potato, and onion; chicken and dumplings; and a simple greek chicken recipe. I found a chicken curry recipe that I like, but the kids hate so I make it for myself and a friend and we swap dinners. She makes a great chicken chili she trades with me. My Step-Mother-in-Law gave me a crock pot cook book that is tops. Did you know that you can also make desserts in your crock pot? I didn’t either.
S has a stoneware chicken recipe that she swears by. She uses a glazed stoneware baker from Pampered Chef but you can get one most places. The key is to find one that fits entirely in the microwave with the lid on. Then you can pop an entire chicken in there with the normal roasting veggies, set it for 30-minutes on high, and you finish with a tender, moist, chicken nicely browned on top. The stoneware basically makes a stone oven inside your microwave.
Thinking Outside the Box
My kids love breakfast for dinner. The only problem I have with that is bacon and eggs with toast or hash brows is lacking two major foods groups. I am trying to eat healthier not only for myself, but my whole family. To fix this I’ll make the eggs with mushrooms, onions and peppers for my husband and I (heaven forbid and onion pass my children’s lips) and slice up pineapple and oranges as a side. I also love soup and sandwich which is traditionally lunch… my favorite is split pea soup (made in the crock pot) paired with a sandwich which makes a filling dinner.
Try New Things
I am a stay at home mom. One of the benefits is the kids get to go to the grocery store with me (
some many most days I do not feel it is my benefit). I like it when they ask me to try new things. We play a game in the produce section to see if there is anything we have not tried. If there is something new, we get one of the new item and try it. Note: starfruit is fun to look at, but not to eat, ugly fruit is tasty, and cactus pears are not really meant to be eaten as is. I like arugula, but no one else I know does… I have been accused of feeding my friends weeds from the backyard. This gives my kids a sense of participation and it opens them up to new things.
I hope this can get you out of the rut of dinner time blues. Don’t be afraid of the kitchen. It won’t bite. Don’t forget the internet for new recipes. You can type in the few ingredients you do have at sites like recipematcher.com or supercook.com and they will spit out tons of recipes for you to try. Check out our a-store for our favorite cookbooks and we’ll keep sharing our recipes as we stumble on new favorites!