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#1 of 16 Old 08-17-2011, 09:38 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I am committed to providing very healthy food for my 2 year old but I feel as though a very large portion of my day is spent in the kitchen preparing food and cleaning up.  Does anyone else feel like this?  Also, my little guy often won't eat leftovers which makes things a little bit harder.  Any efficiency tips would be appreciated! 

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#2 of 16 Old 08-17-2011, 12:39 PM
 
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Mark Bittman in the NYT is always going on about cooking fabulously healthy meals quickly, but I find it to take a good bit of time, both in preparation and cleanup. And planning and shopping too--fresh food doesn't last.

 

I try to use my crock pot and pressure cooker, and when I cook things like waffles, muffins or pancakes, I triple the recipe and freeze the excess. I try to do the same with meatloaf and casseroles. I sneak spinach and/or carrots in all those things, plus berries for the baked goods, so a meatloaf or casserole will be the meat, starch and veg all in one.

 

I also try a lot of one-pot meals, or keep things super simple by just having 1 protein and 1-2 vegs. I rarely plan on the kids eating leftovers, but we pretty much eat the same lunch every day. That's a big time and energy saver for me--a predictable food schedule. Like pretty much every Mon we have pasta, Wed is chicken, Fri is pizza. Lunch is almost always quesadillas or sandwiches, unless we have leftovers they like. Breakfast is almost always reheated frozen baked goods that I prepared in advance. One of my kids like hard boiled eggs so I do a lot at once. But IME, scratch cooking takes time and after 6 yrs of family cooking I just accept it. I have frozen organic ravioli, mac and cheese and of course baby carrots when I'm just too rushed or tired to deal.

 

I would try posting this in the cooking forum here. Whenever I stop in there I'm wowed and inspired.

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#3 of 16 Old 08-17-2011, 04:39 PM
 
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#1. Yes it does take a long time. This whole 30 minute meals is a joke in my house. but here is where I trim the fat...All of my baking is vegan and either sugar free or fruit sweetened in order to serve them anytime of day with no complications or arguments.

Breakfast

Muffins, pancakes, and waffles freeze well.

Muffins are made in 4 dozen batches (the four trays are rotated completely up/down side/side). Once cool they are frozen. I use tupperware...well, glad or ziploc and pulled in batches of 4-6. I put them in the fridge. I make sugar free (fruit sweetened) vegan vegetable muffins (carrot, zucchini, pumpkin, parsnip, corn & pea, sweet potato, etc) I use them in a pinch if I need a vegetable and grain for dinner.

Pancakes are made in batches in 3 doz (that day breakfast is done at the griddle). Once cool (several hours), they are frozen between batches of 4 and 6 between layers of parchment paper and in bread bags. The parchment is not reused for cooking but the bread bags are. They are put in the microwave for about 20 sec (or if I actually have it together...aka once before...they are put in the fridge overnight). Then crisped and heated in the toaster oven...in about the time it takes to set the table (I dunno 3-5 minutes.) Always check the center.

Waffles are made with frozen fruit...never fresh and never chunky as it never really works out. They will come out kinda soggy and limp (good). Once cool they are sandwiched in parchment and frozen in batches of 4 to 6. They are cooked like pancakes only take a little longer and come out perfect! really!

other breakfast choices are cereal with hemp or coconut milk, oatmeal or millet (add extra water and it will come out PERFECT for breakfast) bar with dried fruit, coconut, maple syrup, and some non dairy milk. I also allow toast with jam and hot tea as an acceptable breakfast on occasion.

Lunch

Only options available are pb&j, 1 child serving of some sort of junk food (pretzels, veggie booty, corn chips), 1/2 cup of juice (with water to make full cup), and gummy vitamins (it's candy) OR leftovers with junkfood and vitamins.

If sick I do chicken, beef, vegetable broth (I just bake vegan not cook ^_^) frozen in large batches for soup but also 1 cup servings and 2 cup servings to cook grains or whatever...so yea broth, can beans rinsed or cubed tofu, frozen veggies. I also always keep miso in the fridge.

Dinner

one pot meals...v8 rice or red lentils, carrots, tomato, tofu served over rice or soup or stew. I also take a roasting pan put root veggies, peas, corn & chicken with onion and lemon in cavity and bake...325 let's me do other things 400 puts dinner on the table faster.

I also have basic meals: Grain (millet, quinoa, rice, barley, pasta made with as many different grains as I can get my hands off) Orange veg, green veg, tofu.

Pea burgers also freeze well.

 

most of the dinner meals are planned by week so twice a week we eat meal X instead of pasta monday, mexican tuesday (I'm just not that cool)

Soups, stews, casseroles and such are made in large batches and frozen into meal servings so on days when someone is sick or on the off chance we get to go out....we have a meal.

 

I also take one weekend day of the month and try to make 4-5 large dinners that freeze. In spring, I stockpile to get through summer.

 

I will say, both my son and I HATE leftovers. two ways I get around it is to take leftovers and make something else...if you eat eggs, quiche or frittata is a good way to do it...I do stir fry.

the other is well, reality. No child will starve themselves. Really. In my house I make it clear. I am NOT a short order cook. What is for dinner is what is available. I always have bread and avocado available. If you do not eat dinner you can have bread and/or avocado. When the meal is refused they usually get hungry later on. I would offer the meal, bread or avocado. Before dinner Bread is the only option. My husband caved and allowed him to eat cereal once but that was a mistake.

He will from time to time refuse the meal but he knows the routine.

 

I also make sure I offer snacks like nuts and such.

 

All in all, I spend about 1.5 hours in the kitchen (most of it for dinner), once a week about 2 hours, and then 1 day a month I spend about 5 hours in the kitchen.

 

yes, it is a lot of time...but from time to time we eat out. Also, my husband knows how to make a couple of things and he makes dinner when I just can't.

 

 

good luck. I'm sorry I couldn't be a real help. Good luck.


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#4 of 16 Old 08-18-2011, 08:33 AM
 
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I never plan to be in the kitchen for only one thing.  If I am in there making lunch, I try to go ahead and chop up some veggies or do some other prep for supper.  I am in the kitchen ALOT.  It's really just a fact if you want to provide healthy meals for your family. 

 

I have gone to streamlining our meals more and more and I have decided NOT to feel guilty about it.  For instance, last night we had the 6 of us, plus one drop in neighbor I invited to stay to eat, and 2 girls sleeping over.  I decided on tacos since they are quick and easy and a one-dish type thing if I want it to be that simple.  I got out 2 chafing pans (the huge ones) and loaded them up w/already-made tacos (I made 45, btw).  Then I toss napkins to everyone and the dig in.  Serve sour cream and salsa on the side.  MUCH easier (and for clean up!) than putting everything out and having everyone assemble their own.  I try to make enough most nights to serve for lunch the next day (and for dh and oldest dd to take--they work together).  Night before last I grilled (using 2 grills) 40 pieces of chicken.  That got eaten w/a massive salad (lasted 2 days), and fresh strawberries.  Lunch today will be leftover pieces of chicken and sliced cucumbers and strawberry banana smoothies.  Tonight's supper (girls still sleeping over) will be spaghetti or stir fry w/any leftover chicken meat.  I know the amounts I have to do are WAY more than you would need to do, OP, but I'm hoping you get my drift.  Always cook more than you need.  Be creative w/leftovers.  At the end of the week I make a leftover soup w/all the veggies, meats, leftover rice, etc. that would easily go together and season it however works best w/the leftovers.

 

Any amount of something that doesn't get eaten goes in the freezer for "clean out the freezer and fridge night" or for dh's lunch if we manage to not have leftovers.

 

Fresh foods do not have to go bad fast.  Depends on how you store them.  I routinely have fresh veggies that are still perfectly good 2 wks after I buy them/harvest them.  For instance, store your celery wrapped in aluminum foil.  You'd be surprised how long it stays good.  Leafy greens of any sort (lettuce, kale, chard, herbs) get washed and then wrapped in a kitchen towel and then put back into the produce bag and into the crisper.  The towel absorbs extra water which is usually what causes greens to go bad so fast.

 

Snacks....Have an assortment of easy to grab snacks ready (prep this at night or during nap time or on the weekend).  I make sure to have nuts, granola bars (bought or home made, depending on my time), fresh fruit, cheese, cut up veggies (my youngest adores bell peppers and cucumbers), etc.  Often I will just have cooked chicken legs or something in the fridge to be grabbed and eaten cold (my preteens love this as they are needing SO much protein and eat ENORMOUS amounts of food daily--like the tacos--there were NONE left).  They also like hamburger patties and all the fixin's in the fridge so they can have a burger (I have them do double patties so they don't eat so much bread) anytime (and they've been known to eat 2 or 3 a day in addition to breakfast, lunch, and supper). 

 

Suppers...use your crockpot or do slow-simmering dishes on the stove, or roast things that you can toss together and do all at once.

 

Breakfasts...we aren't the hugest fans of "breakfast foods".  We eat alot of leftovers but if we don't have that the kids will eat yogurt, cereal w/goat milk, sandwiches, or they will make pancakes or something (they'll make a triple batch that will last several days--they never make it into the freezer, lol).  They are on their own for breakfast, mostly.  Sometimes I'll make a huge batch of sweet potato black bean burritos and they will eat those.  Or when we have eggs (our chickens are standing w/their legs crossed lately from the heat) they'll make an egg sandwich or just fried eggs and fruit.

 

I feel like I'm all over the place with this post--sorry my coffee hasn't kicked in yet.  I hope something here will help you.  I need to get in the kitchen, lol....


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#5 of 16 Old 08-21-2011, 06:52 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Wow!  Thanks everyone!  Those are some great tips.

Thanks again.

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#6 of 16 Old 08-31-2011, 07:46 PM
 
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When cooking extra meals to freeze do you have a plan of when you are going to use it or do you just keep it in the freezer for a day when you don't feel like cooking?

I made a couple of casseroles and put them in the freezer. And they are still there 3 months later! I never think to have them for dinner when we plan our dinners for the week.

I was thinking maybe we should plan our meals for two weeks and have a few of the dishes be meals that can be frozen and plan on when to eat them?

 

Also. How do you freeze the pancakes and waffles and have them have a good texture when re-heated? Do you freeze them in a single layer first and then bag/package them? Or do you package them up and throw them in the freezer?

 

Thanks.


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#7 of 16 Old 08-31-2011, 08:07 PM
 
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Wow! I was just thinking about this and thinking I must simplify my cooking. I spend so much time making messes inthe kitchen that I am just spinning my wheels everywhere else.

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#8 of 16 Old 09-01-2011, 11:46 AM
 
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I either use stuff from the freezer when I didn't plan well, or for lunches for dh if I didn't make enough supper.  Or for those times when we are running low on groceries!

 

For freezing pancakes and waffles (when ours make it that far, lol) I just put a layer of waxed paper between them and then put it all in a freezer bag.  Works great!

Quote:
Originally Posted by colsxjack View Post

When cooking extra meals to freeze do you have a plan of when you are going to use it or do you just keep it in the freezer for a day when you don't feel like cooking?

I made a couple of casseroles and put them in the freezer. And they are still there 3 months later! I never think to have them for dinner when we plan our dinners for the week.

I was thinking maybe we should plan our meals for two weeks and have a few of the dishes be meals that can be frozen and plan on when to eat them?

 

Also. How do you freeze the pancakes and waffles and have them have a good texture when re-heated? Do you freeze them in a single layer first and then bag/package them? Or do you package them up and throw them in the freezer?

 

Thanks.



 


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#9 of 16 Old 09-01-2011, 04:28 PM
 
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Great thread! lurk.gif


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#10 of 16 Old 09-01-2011, 09:48 PM
 
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Lately, I've been trying to simplify, especially in the summer.

 

I've been serving more lettuce, rather than soaking, trimming, & cooking green vegetables.

 

I've been doing more baking and steaming of dishes and less frying (easier clean up and less fiddly. While the stuff cooks, I clean up other stuff). Or, just make one pot dish (like risotto) and serve w/ lettuce.

 

Some key points I try to follow, you may already do some of them...

 

1) Clean as you go

   - for example, while the onions & garlic are simmering, wash up the cutting board and knife. Dry them and put them away.

 

2) Serve simple food,

For example, on a regular basis serve bread rather than muffins, pancakes, or waffles. Less sugar in the diet and easier to eat & prep. Save things like muffins etc. for special occasions like birthdays or holidays. Kids can do quite well eating bread or toast every day.  Boil eggs rather than scramble or fry.

 

Lunch can be a hunk of cheese, some grapes, and a slice of bread.

 

3) Separate food for re-use.

When the kids were younger, I would not put sauce on all the pasta. I would boil pasta and have people serve the sauce for themselves. That way, I could store the left-over pasta separately. Re-heat left-over pasta & add some marg or butter - most little kids will eat it up. Other foods work well with this too.

 

4) Serve the left-overs

 OP said her kid will not eat left-overs. I think properly presented they can & will be eaten. For example, left-over rice as fried rice is a fine lunch or dinner.  Soup can also work well (make a pot and eat for a day or two until it is gone).

 

 

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#11 of 16 Old 09-02-2011, 09:49 AM
 
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OP - have you declutterd the kitchen yet?  My decluttered kitchen is my pride and joy and I am proud to say it has not only stated decluttered but I continue to eliminate more and more.

 

I found having less in the drawers and cupboards makes it much easier to clean up and put stuff away.

 

I related about the time spent on prep and cooking but it got much, much better with a clearing kitchen.  For example, I used to have at least 4 cutting boards and would have two or three in use at one time.  Now I slice my bread first, chop the veggies second and then if I do need to do something with meat, the meat goes on after everything else is chopped.

 

I eliminated actively planning a starch component in our meals.  I grew up with every meal being comprised of a protien, a veggie and a starch.  Now, if there is good bread in the house, that is the starch and our meal is a protein and veggies. 

 

I also find keeping fresh veggies in the house to be hard.  The stuff seems to spoil so quickly.  If we have salad, we have salad for three days straight as lettuce just doesn't stay fresh for me. 

 

I also like Mark Bittman but agree, he makes it seem so easy but it just isn't for the average person.  As much as I learned from Rachel Ray's 30 minute show, what makes the 30 minutes work is that all the stuff is sitting right there in the fridge, ready to go.  If, for example, you buy your chicken breast in big packet, it needs to be broken out into managable portions.  That takes time.  The shows and cook mags don't include those steps.


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#12 of 16 Old 09-11-2011, 07:42 PM
 
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It's great to cut down on things in the kitchen. But I must admit I have always had the belief that it is necessary to have a separate chopping board for meat, for health reasons? headscratch.gif

 

I suppose as long as the chopping board is plastic and not wood, and goes through the dishwasher at a high heat, then it should be safe, but I still like to have a separate one for cutting chicken and meat.

 


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Originally Posted by Caneel View Post
  For example, I used to have at least 4 cutting boards and would have two or three in use at one time.  Now I slice my bread first, chop the veggies second and then if I do need to do something with meat, the meat goes on after everything else is chopped.

 


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#13 of 16 Old 09-11-2011, 07:58 PM
 
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I cut meats (on the rare occasion that I have to cut it) on a plate. non-porous and sanitized in the dishwasher. I rarely use my cutting board because it is so big and doesn't fit in the dishwasher very well.

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#14 of 16 Old 09-13-2011, 09:11 AM
 
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I only cut raw meat on a plastic cutting board.  I will use my wooden one for cooked meats, though.


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#15 of 16 Old 09-13-2011, 01:39 PM
 
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i use a plastic cutting board of a different color for raw meat

another plastic cutting board for vegetables

and I have a larger wooden one with a ridge, which I only use for cooked meat (since any juice can get in the ridge and be poured & used)

 

problem is enlisting help from DH for drying and putting away = he will put the wooden one either with the plastic cutting boards, or with the pastry sheets

whereas I much prefer to keep it in a separate location so that I'm sure it's only used for cooked meat ...

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#16 of 16 Old 09-14-2011, 07:28 AM
 
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I have three cutting boards because I prefer to use wood, but it absorbs flavours. So I need one board for garlic, onion, strong herbs and other savoury foods. I have another that is used only for baked goods, chopping chocolate, etc.  The third is kind of multi-purpose, it gets used regularly for meat. I'm not worried about it, it's cleaned up right after use. 

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