Chat Leftovers: When Life Gets in the Way of Dinner
Arlington, Va.: Help. I am a mom of a 17-month old, and I've been finding it really hard to plan quick, healthy meals for my family. I'm a fairly competent cook, and I love being in the kitchen, but now that my daughter is mobile, it's been hard for me to find time to cook dinner and pay attention to her. (I get home at 6; her dad gets home at 8:30, after she's in bed.) I would love to designate Sunday as a planning/prep day for the week ahead, but I can't seem to figure out how to get organized. I'd love any tips & recipe suggestions.
Although I don't have a squirming bambino in my kitchen midst, I certainly can relate (as can so many busy home cooks) to the ongoing conundrum of trying to squeeze in time to make supper. A few months ago, I wrote a piece called Save the Nancys, the story of two women with very different lives in different parts of the country who share your struggle with getting a healthy meal together in under an hour. Take a look at some of the 30-minute meal ideas plus the great tips shared by readers.
As a birthday gift for my dear friend, Leslie, a single mom who's got a very bouncy eight-month-old boy, I got her a copy of “Feeding the Whole Family: Recipes for Babies, Young Children, and Their Parents” by Seattle writer Cynthia Lair, who's got a lively blog called Cookus interruptus.
What's nifty here is that Lair takes one dish and offers suggestions on how to accommodate everyone in the family, including the newest eaters at the table.
I agree with you that Sunday should become a planning/prep day, but go easy on yourself. Do one or maybe two projects, nothing more; you've got a lot on your plate (for lack of a better expression), and stressing about the week's meals will not serve you in the long run. One thing that works for me is to make a big batch of rice that I can reheat throughout the week, plus have one pot of beans or soup on hand, particularly if I know if Mister MA's schedule is not synching with mine. You may want to sketch out on paper what a few meals look like, and include your husband to get his feedback and ideas. This is helpful even if the week turns out completely different from what you imagined.
Desserts: My church is hosting a group of homeless people next week and I need to provide desserts on two nights. I know one night I'd do simple brownies and chocolate chip cookie bars, but I'd like to do something different for the other night. It's for about 50 people and will need something that I can easily do the evening before and deliver mid day. Any suggestions?
You’re a good egg. I hope you know that.
I’m thinking quick breads or Bundt-style coffee cakes, which are great for either dessert that night or breakfast-to-go for the next morning. You’ll need three, maybe four loaves or whole cakes, as you’ll get about 12 pieces from each.
These could all be made in advance, frozen and thawed out the night before delivery day. My favorites in this category include: Banana bread, cranberry nut tea bread, apple coffee cake, Aunt Rita’s marble cake and a low-fat vegan chocolate cake. You can't go wrong with any of these sweet things.
Chicago, Ill.: We just joined a meat CSA with a sustainable farm that is about 70 miles from our house. I think your encouragement and posts over the years are a big part of why we joined. We got our first box of meat on Saturday and so far we've tried pork chops and stir-fry beef. Everything has been incredible so far! We received something labeled pork shoulder steak. Any ideas?
Way to go, Chicago! I am so excited for you. I’m thinking you should contribute a regular CSA report for the blog, maybe once every six weeks, and share your experiences getting meat straight from the farm. Let’s tawk!
As for the pork shoulder steak, you’re in for a treat. Also known as a shoulder chop, blade steak or pork steak, the shoulder is loaded with flavor and loves slow moist heat. Braising is the operative word here, dear. Is your steak bone-in or boneless?
You can use wine, beer, chicken stock, and/or juice (I’m thinking orange or apple, but there’s a ton of options) as your braising liquid. You can brown the steaks, then a chopped onion, some herbs and your liquid. You’ll want to bring up to a simmer, then lower heat and cover and let the braising fairies do their magic. Steaks should be tender in about an hour, if they’re about 10-12 ounces each.
What's Cooking transcript in entirety.
Join me and cooks across the country (and on three continents) next week on the Eating Down the Fridge Challenge! The frugality begins this Sunday, March 8, for a week-long experiment of using up what's in the fridge, freezer and pantry. To sign up, e-mail me, including your city, state and country (if applicable -- we've got EDFers in Australia, South Africa and Denmark!), and I'll include your name on the EDF Honor Roll.
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