I've started this post about three times now. The interruptions to my creative flow are small, but mighty.
“Mama, I want a cwackoo, please!”
Telling a hungry four-year-old to hang on a little longer while Mama is working is a lot like telling the tide to “stay out there for a bit.” It’s a fine workout for your jaws, but hardly effective. This is where the magic of prior planning comes in handy.
Pulling two or three apple slices from a container in the fridge, I hand them off to Junior and commence digging. In the freezer, I find a package of chicken, precooked and shredded by yours truly earlier in the week. I grab that and a bag of frozen peas. The pantry, which is French for aging bookshelf that sags against one wall of the kitchen, yields a box of whole-wheat pasta.
While the pasta water boils, I thaw the chicken and peas in the microwave. In about twenty minutes, I’ll have a steaming pot of macaroni, dressed in a light sour cream and mild cheddar sauce, and spruced up with the chicken and peas. Maybe a shake or two of garlic powder and pepper. Junior is happy, the dishes are minimal, and everybody goes back to their evening routine.
|Photos courtesy of stock.xchng|
Finding time to cook can be a challenge, especially if you try to do everything all at once. Here are a few handy tips to keep the fuss low when appetites are high.
- Do prep work on a slow day. Portion out meats and veggies into serving sizes, packaging them in freezer- and refrigerator-safe reusable containers. Precook wherever possible, and consider labeling packages with the name of the meal and the date to be served.
- Keep staples well-stocked. If you use a lot of tomato sauce, keep plenty on hand. Same thing goes for, well, pretty much anything. If anybody wants to comment on the sixteen cans of green beans in the cupboard, tell ‘em they won’t get dessert unless they stop being nosy.
- Plan meals in advance. Even two or three day’s warning will give you an idea of how long you’ll be in the kitchen, and let you plan the rest of your day accordingly.
- Be fearless with leftovers. I don’t mean that you should spring Cole Slaw Parmesan on your unsuspecting family, but do try to think outside the TupperMaid. Leftover mashed potatoes and ham? Add some milk and an extra potato or two, and you've got the beginnings of a tasty soup.
Still casting about for ideas? How about one hundred meal ideas? PBS Parents columnist and Tasty Kitchen contributor Alice Currah has put together a book that’ll give you that and much more. Savory Sweet Life: 100 Simply Delicious Meals for Every Family Occasion is a prize for home cooks and for one of our creative blog followers. Leave a comment describing your great go-to family meal idea. An esteemed panel of culinary experts, which is really just plain ol’ me in disguise, will choose a favorite. The contributor of said favorite will receive their own copy of Savory Sweet Life, plus gloating privileges. So!