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I don't get it? How do you find time to cook? - Page 2

post #21 of 38
I have 8 children, ages 16 and under. We can NOT afford to eat out very often. In other words, I have to cook dinner.

I agree with a lot of what has been posted. Meal planning is essential, and the crock pot is your best friend. It's also good to prep as much as possible when you bring the groceries home from the supermarket.

My very favourite trick, though, is one that kathirynne (yes, our very own MDC organizational and frugality guru) taught me. (kathirynne is a single mumma of 4, who works 45 hours a week, has two high school athletes, and is active in her church. She is organized to the nth degree. Ummmm, yeah, she's pretty much my hero. )

Anyway, kathirynne cooks tomorrow's dinner tonight. In other words, between coming home from work at 5:30 and sitting down to the table with her children at 6:30, she preps the next night's dinner as much as possible. This could mean anything from making biscuits or rolls to tearing lettuce leaves and mixing salad dressing. It could also mean getting a head-start on a multi-step recipe.

I was a little skeptical at first, but I tried it, and IT WORKS! Dinner is no longer a hassle. :

Maybe, if we ask reallllly nicely, kathirynne will post on this thread and tell us exactly how she does it?
post #22 of 38
I always have the same things on-hand. A variety of cooked beans (I put 2 bags in my pressure cooker, once it's at pressure I turn off the burner and they cook w/o me worrying about them... I often do this when I get home from work/start dinner, then rinse them and put into tupperware for later), easy vegtables (for us that carrots, celery, squash/eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers and salad mix), tortillas, salsa, cheese, pasta and vinagrette. Any night I'm not up to cooking I combine stuff together in a pan and it become either burritos or pasta. Some weeks we have "variations" of the standards every night. Sat was burritos with squash/eggplant/black beans, Sunday was pasta with tomatoes and basil (from the one plant I haven't killed). On my days off (like today) I will try to make something more interesting, I will make 8-10 servings and put leftovers in fridge for lunches. Most night dinner includes a salad made from a mix + cherry tomatoes+ baby carrots.

Oh and dh keeps a stash of ground beef in 1 lb vacuum sealed bags in the freezer. If he feels the need for meat he will brown up a bag and add it to whatever we're eating.
post #23 of 38
This is a great thread.

My meals are very simple:

grain: brown rice or quinoa in rice cooker or baked sweet potato (DH is gluten intolerant)

veg: some kindof cooked veg. steamed, seasoned with salt, olive oil, lightly, etc.

salad

meat, chicken thighs, sauteed, burgers, fish popped in the oven, pork tenderloin, etc.

I usually try and put the grain in the rice cooker during or right after DS's nap, or when I get a free minute. I try and get DS involved in washing the veg. if I can. Today I made chard, I put a bathmat on the floor and put a dishpan with a little water in it on it and he sat and washed it to death while I put on the chicken. If DH comes home in the middle of it, he will watch DS while I finish. Getting it actually on the table, serving the plates can be the hardest part because by that point DS is pulling on my leg hollering for me. I let him peel carrots, wash greenbeans, potatoes, tonight I put a stool at the sink and gave him a dishpan of soapy water to play in, anything to distract him and let him be a part of so I can just get it done.

DH started working with a nutritionist recently, and they recommended smaller portions of meat (we used to be veg, but I can't keep it up nursing or pg) so I halved our meat portions down to what is recommended, 3-4 oz. It cut our food bill WAY down, and is healthier too...
post #24 of 38
I've invested in meal planning cookbooks. I use Cooking for the Rushed but a long time ago I heard about Saving Dinner which is an american author. My books have 5 meals for the week and also include grocery lists (this is really the key that I love about them).
I just bought a new book and the some of recipes make enough for two meals and so I can usually get a full week of meals.

I just take out my book, pick which recipe I want to make and take out the meat or whatever I need...
Anyway, these books have made eating so much more intesting (as we are eating things we would not have tried before) and made me a better cook - not my strong suit!!

Good luck!!
Shanta
post #25 of 38
For some reason DH and I have dinner ready in 30 minutes or less most nights without the help of Rachel Ray, meal planning or crock pots. If you think about it, most of the time your food is cooked from start to finish while you wait when you're at a restaurant. Want a yummy steak? It takes about 20 minutes to cook a 9 oz steak (enough for two, serving size is 4 oz) and in that time you can cook fresh green beans and some sort of grain/carbohydrate. It's the same for a chicken breast. If it comes out of the water, it's even easier, and quicker. We tend to over-complicate our meals, and really simpler is better and faster.
post #26 of 38

Making meals at home

I must admit, we rarely eat out or even eat prepared foods from the grocery store. In fact, at this time of the year, I buy most items fresh at one of three farmer's markets I may frequent along the course of a week. I always keep a protein thawing in the bottom drawer for "2 days from now". At present, I have a whole chicken for chicken & biscuits tonight and steak for steak & mashed sweet potatoes tomorrow. I meal plan while I'm picking up whatever is fresh this week. I just have an idea of how many leafy/starchy/legume veg to pick up, how much protein, etc. and then I snag whatever looks gorgeous and fits the budget.

I love my rice cooker. It's like a toaster. Buy one. It works for other grains, although the wild rice really gunks up the works (black residue). I'll pop a grain in the rice cooker, chop up some veg and protein, stir fry or grill those, toss the whole mix together with a sauce and serve. One bowl meal! This also works with pasta (although boiling water for pasta takes a smidge more attention than a rice cooker).

My favorite recipes are printed and sitting beneath the window in a recipe stand. I can rifle through and find what I need. Another good one is buying How To Cook Without a Book. It goes through standard techniques that you can build upon. It also provides a list of pantry & fridge staples to have on hand so that you can make most anything.

By the way - I'm very big on eat leftovers for dinner and mommy will find time between post-dinner and bed to prep food for tomorrow. Most things I make taste great the next day. My husband and I take leftovers for lunch most days of the week.
post #27 of 38
I am a personal chef, and here's what I do: start doubling meals and freezing them. Start with easy stuff--chili, spaghetti sauce, whatever you can handle. If you're making a casserole one day, double the ingredients, layer one (in a foil pan if you don't have enough dishes!) and freeze, or better yet, divide one recipe into 2 8x8 or 9x9 pans--you'll have plenty for fresh casserole twice if you have a family of four with younger children. Freeze soups and sauces flat in Ziplock freezer bags to maximize freezer space, or invest in a small deep freezer (even 7 cu. feet will help).

Don't use your freezer meals unless you have to get dinner on the table quickly. At first, you'll only have a few things, but with time, you'll build up an impressive frozen pantry of meals ready to go that only need thawing.

Learn how to make two (or more) dishes at once. Start something in your Crock Pot on Saturday, then put a meatloaf in the oven, then prepare the dinner you're going to have that night on the stove. Voila! Three meals for the week in ONE afternoon. You can freeze whatever's in the CrockPot and thaw it out Thursday for quick dinner.

Good luck ladies--the art of cooking is lost in this country, which is why I run a successful business!

Editing to reply to mom2reitmans: most food in restaurants is NOT cooked start to finish while you wait. Nearly everything is in some stage of prep, be it already washed and chopped veggies/salads, long-simmered sauces, pre-sauteed mushrooms, mashed potatoes sitting on a steam table, pre-baked potatoes/bread sitting in a warmer. Even pastas are par-cooked, drained, and given a hot bath to rejuvinate per plate. Only the finishing touches, the things that cannot be completed without an order (like grilling your steak to med-rare or however you like it) are done after you order. I agree that simpler is better, but it's kind of a misleading analogy and sets the average non-chef up for failure at home.
post #28 of 38
I don't know if anyone has posted this, but I am a big fan of making a large amount of meat, steaks, chicken whatever and having them so that I can easily use then in meals. My favorite is baking a family pack of chicken breasts in italian dressing and baking them at 350F for 30 minutes. I then cool them and put them on a cookie sheet and freeze them. When they are frozen I pop them into a freezer bag and then can easily use them for cooking in meals that require very little prep, stir fry, chicken ceasar salad, pizza made on store bought dough. It works great.

I also got a great idea on here-marinate before you freeze, put any meat in the a marinade and place in freezer bags, as they thaw they marinate. What a great idea for steaks, etc... works fabulous. My store always has wonderful sales on huge packs of steaks, so I break them up and do this. It makes grilling so simple.

I'm a prep ahead type of girl, I cut extra veggies, make extra steaks, whatever...I like planned overs.

Robin Miller on Food Network, is a really smart woman-I take a lot of ideas from her.
post #29 of 38
I've actually stopped meal planning for a while. I go back and forth with this. Meal planning stops working for me after a while. I guess I just get into a rut. For now, I'm just keeping the fridge, freezer, and pantry totally stocked and figuring out sometime during the day what I'll be cooking for dinner. It's working out much better for us.

As far as having time to cook goes, I get my older two to play some fun game with the little one while I cook. Usually they drag out all our Tupperware, pots, and pans and play "chef" right under my feet. If the little one is wanting attention, I put him on the countertop right beside me and let him play with something cool that he normally doesn't get, like measuring cups and raw rice. I'm getting him a little kitchen for Christmas, and I'm going to put it in our kitchen so that he can cook with me.

Oh, and I never ever ever make anything that requires more than 30 minutes of actually standing in the kitchen. Normally I only have to stand there and actually cook for 20-25 minutes. If I try a new recipe and it ends up taking more than 30 minutes of hands-on time, I never make it again. I just can't spend that much time in the kitchen right now, with my kids being as young as they are.
post #30 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Elecampane View Post
I buy two-packs of whole organic chickens weekly at Costco and roast them in the crockpot, then shred the meat and keep it in the fridge or freezer for tacos, enchiladas, casseroles, salads, etc. That way when I get home and open the fridge in despair (oh no what will we have for dinner??), there are some basics upon which to build a meal. I have a programmable rice cooker that I use constantly. In the morning I can throw in some brown rice or quinoa or whatever looks good and voila, when we get home we have a grain ready to eat.
Crock pot novice here, how do you roast a chicken in the crock pot? How does the rice cooker work? Sorry if these are absolutely stupid questions!
post #31 of 38

cookbook suggestions

great suggestions here. a couple handy cookbooks:
Vegetarian Express (meals in under 28 minutes)
The One-Armed Chef (as in, baby's in one arm, so you have one for cooking)

Both rely a lot on prepped ingredients, so they're more expensive and less healthy than they can be, but a good place to start if you're not used to cooking. for healthier fare that's still pretty easy:
The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Cookbook
we've liked almost everything from this book so far, and my partner is not inclined to like anything healthy.

I'll often get bagged spinach, chopped mushrooms, and canned organic beans at Trader Joe's. other things i find not too time consuming to prep. i try to keep some beans soaking in the fridge (for up to 3 days - the longer they soak, the faster they cook and easier to digest), but i have canned on hand in case.

DS is two now and loves to help me cook. he can tear up greens and wash fruit, and he likes to help me put ingredients into the pot/bowl and stir (have to be careful with the heat). i got him some toy pots from Ikea, so he has his own to play with. if i'm desperate, i'll put on a video to occupy him.

if i'm making something that will freeze well, i'll make sure to make plenty. also, i try to be creative with leftovers, so last night's veggies go into omelettes, fried rice, leftover burgers (grind veggies in a mini-chopper, mix with rice, an egg, maybe ground nuts), soup, or pasta.

if i forget the meal planning, i think about dinner when I get DS down for his nap. i try to keep the pantry pretty well stocked and will browse the shelves - pick out a grain, some beans or lentils or tofu, maybe some frozen veggies if we don't have fresh. i keep jars of tomato sauce and pesto for emergencies. i'll put a list of ingredients into google and find a simple recipe that includes ingredients i have on hand.

i try out different recipes to find simple tasty ways to cook things that are easy to keep around like carrots. and i do as much prep or cooking as possible while DS sleeps, or have my partner cook soup or beans after DS goes to bed, so we can heat it up the next day (i just ordered a crock pot, so will probably switch to that method).

good luck!
post #32 of 38
Thread Starter 

crockpot for veggie meals?

Everyone has mentioned how wonderful crockpots are. Are they mainly for preparing meat dishes or can you make good veggie meals in them?
Thanks
post #33 of 38
Thread Starter 

Best rice cooker?

I'd like to buy a rice cooker - any suggestions?
Can it cook all grains ie. quinoa, millet etc?
Thanks
post #34 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by babyjoeysmomma View Post
I am a personal chef, and here's what I do: start doubling meals and freezing them. Start with easy stuff--chili, spaghetti sauce, whatever you can handle. If you're making a casserole one day, double the ingredients, layer one (in a foil pan if you don't have enough dishes!) and freeze, or better yet, divide one recipe into 2 8x8 or 9x9 pans--you'll have plenty for fresh casserole twice if you have a family of four with younger children. Freeze soups and sauces flat in Ziplock freezer bags to maximize freezer space, or invest in a small deep freezer (even 7 cu. feet will help).

Don't use your freezer meals unless you have to get dinner on the table quickly. At first, you'll only have a few things, but with time, you'll build up an impressive frozen pantry of meals ready to go that only need thawing.

Learn how to make two (or more) dishes at once. Start something in your Crock Pot on Saturday, then put a meatloaf in the oven, then prepare the dinner you're going to have that night on the stove. Voila! Three meals for the week in ONE afternoon. You can freeze whatever's in the CrockPot and thaw it out Thursday for quick dinner.

Good luck ladies--the art of cooking is lost in this country, which is why I run a successful business!

Editing to reply to mom2reitmans: most food in restaurants is NOT cooked start to finish while you wait. Nearly everything is in some stage of prep, be it already washed and chopped veggies/salads, long-simmered sauces, pre-sauteed mushrooms, mashed potatoes sitting on a steam table, pre-baked potatoes/bread sitting in a warmer. Even pastas are par-cooked, drained, and given a hot bath to rejuvinate per plate. Only the finishing touches, the things that cannot be completed without an order (like grilling your steak to med-rare or however you like it) are done after you order. I agree that simpler is better, but it's kind of a misleading analogy and sets the average non-chef up for failure at home.

I do this too. My crock pot & kitchen kettle are most used of anything! I watch Food Network alot for new ideas & print recipes off websites too. Then I take a few recipes & make 2-3 meals from them.

And, I used to work in restaurants, nothing is made-to-order anywhere now!
post #35 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by pooppants View Post
Everyone has mentioned how wonderful crockpots are. Are they mainly for preparing meat dishes or can you make good veggie meals in them?
Thanks
I cook all my garden veggies in the crock pot! I just cooked & froze a 5 gal. bucket of Lima Beans.
I pour in some water or use broth from meat for seasoning. I also use bacon or ham hock to season dry beans. No need to soak them, just wash them really good & put them on low with enough liquid to cover them. They should simmer for a few hrs. but always make sure that liquid covers them every so often, you may need to add a bit of water. I also make a lot of soups & stews in Fall & Winter in the crock pot too.
post #36 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by pooppants View Post
I'd like to buy a rice cooker - any suggestions?
Can it cook all grains ie. quinoa, millet etc?
Thanks
You can also use a slow cooker for grains. Example: 1 c. brown rice and 4c. water. Cook on high for 3 hours. Voila! All done. If anyone else has slow cooker recipes for grains, I'd love to hear them.
post #37 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by 07Mommy View Post
My crock pot & kitchen kettle are most used of anything!
what is a kitchen kettle for ? I googled it but can't figure out how it differs from a crock pot...
post #38 of 38
I used to think the same thing. I think that eating out takes a lot more time unless you go through a drive thru all the time. Even on our easy nights, we just throw in some french fries and veggie nuggets or veg corn dogs in the oven. It takes no time to break up some lettuce and maybe cut up a carrot or something for a salad.

I also make a lot of rice to use for the next day. Stuff like that. Once you get used to cooking a lot, it gets easier to do and plan.
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