10 July 2008

Getting Dinner on the Table

Like most parents, dinnertime is a struggle for me. By the time I pick the twins up from daycare and we make our way home, it's at least 5:15. It's hard to fit in dinner, some playtime, maybe a bath, and our bedtime routine before lights-out at 7:15. Sometimes I have something prepared in advance for Maddie and Riley to eat, sometimes not. I never wanted Maddie and Riley to be Those Kids, the ones who will only eat mac'n'cheese and chicken fingers. I had always imagined that I would feed them whatever I was eating; they're not going to starve, and if you offer them good food, they will eat it, right?

While this is a good theory, here's where it falls apart in practice, at least lately: I eat crap for dinner. OK, sometimes it's not crap, but it's usually not something that qualifies as a meal for my toddlers. I might have a bowl of cereal and a banana. Or a piece of toast with sunflower seed butter. Or some microwave popcorn and some ice cream. Or a bowl of chips and some baby carrots. Those kinds of dinners are fine for the kiddos on occasion, but I don't want them to think that dinner is always like that. 

Our typical eating pattern is like this. We eat a good breakfast together: fresh fruit (always) plus oatmeal, whole grain toast with sunflower seed butter, bagels with cream cheese, egg sandwiches, pancakes, or whatever. The twins always have a hearty lunch at daycare; I pack all their lunches for the week on Sunday night, and they get a main course, fresh fruit, yogurt, no-sugar applesauce, and some kind of crunchy snack. I pack my own lunch for work and try to make it something hearty and healthy. 

When dinnertime rolls around, we've all had our big meal of the day, we're tired, and we're pressed for time. In theory, I want us to all eat as a family, but in practice, I'm not ready for dinner at 5:30 or 5:45, and the twins still require enough management while eating that I don't really get to enjoy my meal when we all eat together. I have a laundry list of twin-friendly dinner foods (yes, that includes mac'n'cheese!) that I can cobble together quickly, and I usually just serve them an old standby. I eat a little snack with them so that we're at least sitting down together to eat, and I can help them as needed. Then I eat my craptastic dinner after Maddie and Riley go to bed.

I actually love to cook. In our pre-kid, pre-cancer lives, John's and my relationship revolved around food. We ate out a lot—dining out was by far our biggest entertainment expense—but we also cooked elaborate meals at home. Despite my documented hatred of Christopher Kimball, I am a whore for Cook's Illustrated. It used to be that when my new issue would arrive, I would pore over it, selecting the item I was going to prepare first, making my grocery list as I went along. John and I had complimentary skills and worked really well together in the kitchen, and I have many wonderful memories of meals we created together. Even when I was single, I would spent weekends in the kitchen, cooking gourmet meals just for myself and friends.

It's precisely because I love to cook that I haven't been doing it anymore. The truth is that I'm a snob when it comes to food and cooking. Since I no longer have the energy to make the time-consuming, gourmet meals that I used to make, I just don't bother to make much of anything at all. Add to that the fact that grief has sent me into serious comfort-eating mode, and you have a recipe for dining disaster.

In the past week or so, I've started pulling myself out of the rut. Between getting a bit more sleep and feeling emotionally lighter after my anger realization, I have had a bit more energy to deal with all aspects of my life, eating included. I've long shunned (remember: snob!) those types of books that promise family-friendly meals in less than 30 minutes with no more than six ingredients . . . and yet I'm starting to realize that those kinds of books are exactly what I need. I need to readjust my idea of what cooking is and focus on what is really important here: getting healthy, tasty food on the table rather than martyring myself for not being able to work full-time, take care of two kids on my own, and cook gourmet meals to boot.

After reading through the comments on Moxie's post on this very subject, I decided yesterday to order The Six O'Clock Scramble. We'll see how I like it. I also printed some recipes off of the very excellent A Year of Crockpotting. I'm putting together a grocery list for next week. My pattern has been to cook at least one leftover-friendly meal each weekend; that's where my lunch comes from. If I can cook one more such meal, plus find some recipes that I can make after work without feeling too harried, I think we'll be much closer to being able to truly have family dinners. 

If y'all have any favorite quick (vegetarian, please) recipes that you want to share in comments or via e-mail, please feel free. If my motivation continues and I find some good meals,  I'll share them here at the blog if there's interest.

Random aside: I finally got my BlogHer Ads approval! Sweet. Ads should be up soon. I apologize to those who find ads offensive, but after careful consideration, I've decided to go for it. Please pardon my shameless commerce.


Nancy said...

I'm always so impressed with (and envious of) families who eat dinner together. My husband doesn't get home until after 7:00...just in time for a little bit of play, a bath, and bed. Then we eat together.

I like your idea of a snack with them. And *sigh* we're the mac&cheese, chicken nugget family.

I rely on my crock pot all the time, but the kids don't always touch what I've made in it.

Jan said...

There's quick and then there's quick, so these might not qualify, but here are two favorites at my house:

Fettucine alfredo --

While the fettucine noodles are cooking, mix together:

2Tbsp butter, melted
garlic (I've used powder or minced)
oregano (I use dry)
basil (ditto)
1 cup sour cream (light is ok, don't get nonfat, the texture is just wrong)
grated parmesan (I get fresh reggiano at costco, but I used to make it with the green can and it was good, too)
1 egg yolk

steam some broccoli and cut up in smallish pieces (frozen is fine)

When the noodles are cooked, drain hot water, then IMMEDIATELY mix in the sauce (this will cook the egg). Fold in broccoli pieces and top with more parmesan. (When I make it, I also put in some grilled or even boiled chicken -- I think a firm tofu would work, too, to add some protein).

The other is a recipe I got a couple of years ago off (suburbanbliss) Melissa's blog.

Bean soup:
1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 can refried beans
1 can chopped tomato
1 can chicken broth (vegetable works, too)

Throw it all in a pan and heat it up. Sprinkle with grated cheese. The original recipe calls for mixing crunched up tortilla chips in, but I leave them out and serve the soup with a healthier chip-type food.

This recipe freezes reasonably well, too.

Good luck! The suppertime scramble can be rough, for sure.

Crockpot Lady said...

thank you for linking to me!

I think the family dinner table stuff is over-rated. Family time is important, sure, but I don't see why that has to be centered around a meal. It just seems like one more thing for moms to stress about not being good enough at.


Vacant Uterus said...

I lived on this in college:

brown rice (cooked, can be made in a rice maker in the AM and kept warm therein all day)
black or red beans

Combine all of the above in whatever proportion suits you; I like more beans than rice and enough salsa to make it wet.

Stuff it in pre-boiled (for about three-five minutes) green pepper, bake for 25 minutes, sprinkle cheddar cheese on top.

If the pepper is too much work, just mound up the bean/rice/salsa concotion and sprinkle some cheese on top; melt in the microwave. Yum!


You're doing a great job, Snick.

Anonymous said...

I hear your struggle, even though I'm not raising twins! ;) Here's my favorite 5 ingredient dinner...

2c red lentils
4c water
1 can tomatoes
1 onion

- in a soup pot, fry the onions in a small amount of oil (i've been substituting coconut oil for olive oil lately, but that's another topic!)
- add the water, lentils and tomatoes and bring to a boil. reduce heat, cover and cook for 25 minutes
- add 1 tsp. cumin, 1/2 tsp coriander and 1/2 tsp curry powder.

Serve with brown rice and yogurt (optional). It's DELICIOUS!

medstudentmom said...

this comment is kind of a faker, because since i've become a mom, i haven't really cooked anything, but pre-baby i loved (and made lots of stuff on weekends out of it, then ate leftovers all week) the moosewood simple suppers cookbook. i generally found that things took <30 min, especially with my slow cooker to hang out during the day or overnight. and all vegetarian, obviously, since it is moosewood.

Sara said...

this is an amended black bean salad recipe from (i think) gourmet magazine. i added the corn and avocado to make it a little bit more substantial (and more tex-mex).
i call it my black bean "guacamole" salad:

1 can black beans (i love goya), drained and WELL rinsed
1 can whole kernel corn (drained)
1 medium red onion, diced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
2 avocadoes, diced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (you can substitute canned diced tomatoes in a pinch, drained)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp cumin
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 jalapeno, minced or hot sauce of choice
juice of 3 limes
salt and pepper to taste

mix all the ingredients together. with all the acid in the salad, the avocados actually keep for a couple of days without turning brown (or you can opt out of the avocados altogether). i generally pack a tupperware tub of the salad, and a ziplock bag of organic tortilla chips and i dig in. forget the fork. it's like eating salsa and chips as a meal, except so much better.

it seems like a lot of ingredients and a lot of work but if you make a giant batch of it and keep it in your fridge, it lasts at least 3 days.

Fishsticks and Fireflies said...

I was going to recommend A Year of CrockPotting! A quick stand-by for us is 'brinner' - breakfast for dinner . . . the kids think it is great, and there seems to be more breakfast-y foods that they will eat over dinner-y foods. They are also fans of rice thrown together with corn, green beans, and carrots and topped with a little chedder cheese.

Janice said...

Have you considered those ready to eat meal prep places? Getting dinner on the table is tough but most of these really tasty meals can be defrosted overnight and then cooked up in a flash. (30 Min or less) I did this for months. I could package 12-15 meals in two hours. Most places let you divide the meals in 2 or 3 portions.

I've started doing this on my own. I'll make 4 or 5 pans of lasagne or fajitas, or fried rice, or whatever I'm cooking for dinner and freeze the rest then, a week or two later we ca break into the rotation of our frozen meals.

Allison said...

Thankfully, my husband is willing to cook because I mostly loathe that job. A SUPER easy dinner in the crock pot is :
1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 can corn
1 can tomatoes (chopped, diced, whatever)
1 can canneloni beans
1 pkg taco seasoning

Let it cook all day. I put 3 chicken breasts in with it and let them cook to and then shred it before we're about to eat. Then put some cheese and sour cream on top. I LOVE IT and it makes your house smell so good when you get home after a long day.

mMm said...

I heart my subscription to recipezaar.com. I can search for recipes by whatever criteria i want (crock pot, vegetarian, toddler friendly) and then generate a shopping list with exact amounts of what i need. It can even be sent to my phone if i don't want a paper list.

This is a standard favorite in my house... i'll make it (without bacon) for so many occasions. It's much in demand at Christmas:


(This freezes well, too.)

Betty M said...

I can recommend Real fast Food by Nigel Slater - all recipes and ideas which can be done in about 30 mins. He is passionate about good food. Nigella Express is pretty good too - although not very vegetarian.

Those breakfasts sound fabulous!

Rachel said...

I use the crockpot a lot. Sometimes I throw in a bag of lentils with some chopped-up carrots and onions + a can of tomatoes and plenty of water. I cook rice in the rice cooker to serve with it. Today I'm making a white-bean and vegetable soup. Sauteed onions and carrots, 1 can of white beans, 1 large can of tomatoes, a cup or two of veggie broth, a couple of handfuls of spinach, and a 1 can of cannellini beans. I usually cook a small pasta shape (like orzo) to go along with it, and you can shred parm on top. Also, you might want to look at the jap chae recipe I linked on KMs. It's vegan, and you can do a lot of the work ahead of time.

But if you're eating breakfast with them every morning, I think that's fine too. I think the important thing is to eat a family meal together, and it doesn't matter so much which one.

Shannon said...

One of my quick dinner favorites is a taco salad: black beans, corn, greens, salsa, sour cream, cheese, fake ground beef (I use Morningstar Farms) seasoned with cumin, garlic, and chili powder. Throw it all in a bowl, crush some tortilla chips over it, and mix it up! I always crave this after a gym workout.

On another note - do you feed Maddie and Riley a vegetarian diet? I'm planning to have kids in a few years and already nervous about the challenges of raising them veg (though I want to)....

Anonymous said...

I'll have to go through my own recipes to see if I have anything fast to contribute (I'm mostly vegan, but I'm a meal snob as well! Most meals take over an hour).. but I wanted to make a quick note.. I see a few have recommended dishes that use sour cream. Traditional sour cream is not vegetarian... there's gelatin in it.

Cheryl Lage said...

We eat dinner together, but rarely is it the type of meal I feel proud to put on the table. Fear I've descended to the "well, just for tonight."

Glad to hear I'm not alone in the "maybe a bath" department either! ;)

Hooray on the BlogHer ads! You deserve any and all compensation you can get for your wonderfully crafted posts! :)

tousquireste said...

Couscous (ww, when possible), steamed veggies (or veggies thrown on a george foreman type grill briefly), chickpeas, and salsa, with some grated cheese if you like, was my favorite for a long time. I often just micro'd frozen veggies, too.

Since overdosing on that, I've created "Sort-of Moroccan-inspired Couscous Mush" that probably only involves more prep if you use fresh veggies (I imagine frozen would be fine):

Lightly saute veggies you like/frozen veggies. (I always parboil sweet potato(es) to toss in since I love the texture, but they take a long time to peel.)

Once veggies have softened chuck in turmeric, cumin, a dash of cinnamon, and some cayenne. Maybe basil, too. I guess if using frozen, you can just add the spices right away. I don't measure the spices.

Mix in a can of crushed/diced tomatoes, depending on preferred consistency/what's in the cupboard. Add a can of chickpeas.

Cook couscous(on stove or in mirco) while tomato-veggie mix cooks. I use 1.5 cups dry couscous and always have too much mush.

Stir couscous into tomato mush. Let cook a bit.

Taste - probably add salt.

In fact, I have a bucket in my fridge from last night. Yum!

Tempest in a Teapot said...

My go-to dinner for the past six weeks or so is one I adapted from Cooks' Country— which really isn't as good as CI, but I do love hunting for the rooster.

Anyway, there is oyster sauce, and the only cutting is the tofu and red pepper. Hope that's okay.

Kung Pao Tofu
2 tsp canola or similar
1 package extra firm tofu, cut into bite-sized triangles
1/2 cup peanuts (coarsely ground for toddler types)
1 red pepper sliced into thin strips
1 cup green vegetables (asparagus lately, but frozen peas in the winter)
2 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
2 Tbsp garlic, minced

1 cup veg stock (we always have a store-bought box on hand)
3 Tbsp oyster sauce (Lee Kum Kee makes an MSG-free one)
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp Tabasco or similar (opt. for a family meal)
2 tsp honey or brown sugar

First, get a pot of white rice going, and mix up the sauce.

Heat large skillet on medium-high, add canola, tofu and peanuts, cook 5-7 minutes, salting to taste. You want a nice crust on the tofu, and no matter how dark the peanuts get, they don't seem to taste burnt.

Remove tofu and peanuts, then add red pepper and green vegetable, and saute 2 minutes or so, add ginger and garlic, saute for 30 seconds. Add tofu and peanuts back in, dump in the sauce (stirring first to dislodge the cornstarch from the bottom of the bowl), and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes.

Serve on rice.

I think I'm going to go make this now. Also, when you get a little more time, Jacques Pepin has a book called Fast Food My Way, which has saved me a couple of times I was contemplating a dinner of banana smeared with peanut butter.

Anonymous said...

Mmmmm... you people are making me hungry!!!

Julie said...

Second the couscous — nothing's faster. We often have it with sauteed mushrooms/garlic/spinach, some parmesan, and a drizzle of olive oil. We're not vegetarian, so our meal usually includes chicken or fish as an accompaniment, but I can easily see adding some white beans or tofu to the saute.

Also, for hot days and make-ahead points, what about cold sesame noodles? I do mine with whole wheat linguine. Plenty of protein, especially if you sprinkle chopped nuts on top in addition to the nut butter in the recipe. I like to serve them with cucumber and red pepper strips.

OTRgirl said...

Great post and the ideas in the comments are fantastic!

When I'm alone, my super basic, yet satisfying (non-gourmet) dinner is a lettuce leaf, turkey slices and a slice of provolone. Roll and chomp. Two of those and I'm full enough. Jrex is the one who makes sure we eat nicer meals. I'm sure I'll be hunting for this post if/when we have kids!

Anonymous said...

This is not exactly a cookbook recommendation, but may I suggest that you check out the library for cookbooks? Ours has a wonderful selection, and I can test drive them without forking out the cash.

I eventually buy those which keep coming home again and again.

And I don't have any cookbook recommendations because my six year old is incredibly picky and won't do noodles at all. How I wish I could feed her mac&cheese!

Earthchild618 said...

As a single mom to a toddler, I would love some quick and healthy recipes. I get home at 5:30 pm from work and the babe goes to bed at 7:30 pm. Not too much time for snuggles, play, bath, food, nightime bottle, and cooking there.

BTW, as a side note: I find myself exhausted and dragging myself around most of the time...you amaze me with how much you do with your kids. You have two children and are dealing with the death of your husband and you get more done with the kids than I seem to do with only one child and no grief to deal with. (I adopted my son at birth as a single parent from the start).

Julia said...

No idea if the kids will eat this yet, but I would recommend stuffed eggs. I make mine with mushrooms that I pre-stew/fry with onions and then chop with a hand-chopper. Then I mix in the egg yoke and mayo and stuff back into the egg whites. If you make a dozen eggs one evening, you have 24 halves for you and the kids to chow on here and there.

I also like the three bean salad-- one can each garbazano, white kidney, and red kidney beans, 6 TBSP olive oil, 2TBSP vinegar, and 2TBSP fresh herbs or 2tsp dry herbs. Mix the beans, in a separate bowl mix oil, vinegar, and herbs, pour over the beans and mix. Let stand overnight for the flavors to mix. Yum!

Eva said...

My kids love tofu. One quick weeknight meal is to stir fry tofu. I cheat and buy different stir fry sauces. We have Wegman's but I think you're in the Boston area so should have a Trader Joe's nearby and they're great for that. I know it's cheating and not gourmet, but we find it works well. I stir fry with different veggies, make rice, couscous or noodles, and voila, dinner is served.

Also, Bon Apetit just had an article in June called "15 dishes in 15 minutes." I checked and I think 6 of them are vegetarian (if you eat eggs and dairy).

Watercolor said...

savingdinner.com has saved many families I know. May not be your cup of tea, but it is a new menu each week of easy dinners plus the grocery list. At the very least, the web site might give you some ideas. She has a vegetarian menu. And I think she has sample week menus you can download to try, too.

Sandy said...

Here's a recipe that I make for my one-year-old. I like it too! The texture is a lot like mac and cheese, but the dish is a bit healthier. I make this recipe in batches and freeze it. I'm not a seasoned cook, so I hope I'm getting the terminology correct.

I can't wait to read the dinner ideas that others have submitted!

Creamy Broccoli with Orzo

Puree a head of boiled broccoli
Add one cup of cooked orzo
Add as much cream sauce as you like (while I make the whole amount, I usually only add about 3/4)

Cream Sauce:
Melt 2 tbs butter in a pan. Add 2 tbs flour and mix over medium heat for one minute. Then slowly add 1 1/4 cup of milk as you mix continuously. Once the sauce thickens, remove from heat and add 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese.

monica said...

I've got to put in a plug for "Capones" -if you don't know about it, you have to find it. It is an Italian fresh pasta/other great food store that has its original location in Uniion Square and now for the last year or so, there is also a store on Mass Ave in North Cambridge. In the Union Square location you can get it cut fresh to order - in whichever "shape" fettucini, linguini etc you want. Also you can buy it in sheets which makes it really easy to make lasagna cause you don't have to cook it first. Anyway, they also have lots of frozen pastas (especially the raviolis) that are really great. They also have a bunch of other stuff - great olives, bread etc. I really like their pesto - though I generally make and freeze my own, in the winter I often buy theirs, and and had been eating it for years before I realized that they make it without pine nut -s so I can also send it to school with the kids (nut free zone)!. I don;'t know how how make it taste great without nuts, but they do - also - less calories!!!

My current fav thing to make is to cook their lemon fettucinii then when done, strain and add olive oil, juice of a fresh lemon two, throw in some mini mozzarella balls from Trader Joes and top with lots of parmesan and maybe pine nuts an fresh mint. Great summer meal

Anonymous said...

Do you live near a Trader Joes? They sell packages of Curry Chicken in the refrigated meat section. Pour a can of regular or low-fat coconut milk in a non-stick skillet. Add the raw chicken curry. Stir and simmer for about 30minutes. While chix. is cooking make rice or rice noodles, garnish with fresh cilantro. You can get several meals out of this.

I am Italian and this is a favorite. One can of whole San Marzano Tomatoes, one whole small or half a large onion, 1/2 stick butter. Combine all and simmer for 35 to 45 minutes - stir every few minutes. Break up tomatoes with back of fork. Combine with favorite pasta and top with parm cheese and if avaialble fresh basil.

Simple soup: Heat chix broth or soy/ginger broth from Trader Joes in pot. Add frozen uncooked shrimp, when shrimp is pink add handfulls of fresh spinach or other veggies. Once wilted garnish with green onion, cilantro, fresh ginger - whatever.
And my favorite quick dinner - FRENCH TOAST and fresh fruit. Carbs, protein, produce!
Love these cooking blogs:

Anonymous said...

Here is another go-to - Grilled Chix Salad:
Bag of salad, frozen french fries or sweet potato fries, grilled or baked chix, anything else you'd like to add to a salad, cheese - mix with Italian Salad dressing or oil and red wine vin - very good.

One more idea - fish. Vacum sealed fish - qickly defrost in warm water in kitchen sink - season and bake or grill.

Flank Steak - season in morinng and marinate. Throw on grill in evening. Bag of salad and bread.

Elle Woods said...

I am exactly like you with regard to cooking -- I took gourmet cooking classes before grad school, and I never looked back. To date, my boyfriend has never experienced my cooking, and I think he sometimes believes I don't actually know how -- I work such long hours that it's not feasible for me to cook the way I'd like to.

(Aside: I came across your blog last night while reading the CNN article, and browsed through a lot of your archives. Your writing is amazing. I have quite a few cancer deaths in the family and close-family-friend circle, including a recent one, but I couldn't imagine going through it myself. You are an incredibly brave woman and a very dedicated mother.)

Anonymous said...

Wilson's farm in Lexington has a bunch of fresh pasta that cook in 2-3 minutes. I usually just cook the noodles, pick a vegetable and sautee it in olive oil with garlic and ginger take the noodles after I've rinsed them and saute for 30 seconds while adding seasoning. It's a really quick dinner. Play around with squash, asparagus or whatever is in season. I think the key is using good, fresh ingredients and you can make anything taste good. Oh, and some of the raviolis already have vegetables in them.

every tenth said...

Pre-twins, I was also a Cook's Illustrated devotee. While I still subscribe to the magazine, I no longer follow the recipes to the letter. The point is to have meals that are enjoyed by the eaters. I'm fortunate that my audience does not care that I use chicken broth instead of making my own stock. It's all about not feeling guilty when taking shortcuts that make life easier. No Guilt!

Amy said...

I was going to recommend a crock pot. Seems you are already considering it. Works for us.

I too believe in family dinners. Usually the only time of day we are all home together. A carry over from my childhood I suppose.

All the best with the cook books, let us know if the first one gets a thumbs up. Could use such a book.

Bremily said...

I have recently begun to eat a veggie diet and keep craving my "easy favorite".. peanut noodles with broccoli florets and tofu. I'm sure there are much fancier recipes for this but I always have the ingredients on hand, at least for the sauce.

1 box whole wheat angel hair
1 head steamed broccoli
1 tofu steak, cut in small cubes, browned (I like seasoned or cajun)

2/3 cup natural peanut butter
2/3 cup water
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1-2 cloves chopped garlic (or some garlic powder)
cayenne pepper to taste

Mix sauce ingredients together and microwave for about a minute, stir, microwave again until all pb is dissolved. Mix it all together in a big bowl. The noodles are also good cold, but I don't care for the broccoli and tofu cold, so I heat it up. I like to use crunchy pb and like to add extra soy sauce on my leftovers, but I'm a soy sauce fanatic.

You sound like you're doing a great job with breakfast and lunch .. and I personally think dinner is less important and agree that it is good to eat your biggest meal at lunch. Cereal for dinner is good sometimes.

buddha_girl said...

I'm with you on the what the hell am I going to cook when all I want to do is breathe and possibly sleep hell.

During the school year, Buddha and I usually don't get home much before 6pm while having left at 6:30am. I've made peace with the dinner gods by serving Bernie O's one night per week with a side of green beans, peas, or carrots. At least we're eating together, right?

Anonymous said...

sometimes we switch it up and have breakfast for dinner since its easy to prepare and almost a guarantee that the kids will eat it!

Samantha said...

Don't stress about the meals Snick! When I was growing up our big meal was always at lunch with something light for dinner. It really worked for my family.

I would do exactly the same thing now with my 2 year old if my husband would go for it! (He's of the "proper meal for dinner" school!)

Sandi said...

Even when my husband was alive and well, I spent all of Sunday cooking for most of the week and then all we had to do was heat up food when we all got home from work and daycare. I still do it and it takes A LOT of pressure off.

Can you get a mother's helper to come in the evening and help you out. Since John died, that has worked out well for me, too.

katia said...

It's posts like these that make be breathe a huge sigh of "thank God I'm not the only one" relief.
I'm off to look at those cookbooks.

caro said...

I hope you like the "Scramble" cookbook. It's definitely less boring and bland than many of that genre. I try to think of it as a completely different thing than the recipes I used to use (I love to cook elaborate, "real" stuff, too). Many things in there are so simple I feel like I would have been able to make them up myself if I weren't so tired and scatterbrained. Super useful to have a book to replace that bit of my brain for the moment.

spoiledonlychild said...

A few ideas that our family eats often on weeknights:

Make pesto ahead (you can make it out of anything, not just basil, as I'm sure you know if you're a gourmet), serve mixed with pasta and frozen peas.


Make peanut sauce ahead. Mix with rice and stir-fried veggies (and tofu if you want).

Beans and rice from a box. Side of veg.

Also slices of grilled polenta (the kind you buy premade in a tube) are delish. You could top with tomato sauce and mozz, or just eat plain.

Don't do it for the twins. Do it for you. You deserve to eat better!

Kim said...

I just made some slow-cooker ratatouille, which we ate with pasta, and I'm making into sandwiches today. I have to admit I like my slow-cooked stovetop ratatouille better since it gets more jammy and lush, but the convenience of the slow-cooker trumps it.

I've discovered what you have, that I've made compromises in the way I cook now that I have kids. But it's better than takeout or heat-and-serve.

Becky said...

Nice! I'm glad BlogHer finally approved you!

Susan in CA said...

Rather than fancy meals, my family requests "soup & bread" for supper. This works well in the winter and the crockpot works for summer. I also try to make a greek salad for supper as often as possible. We sleep better when we eat a light supper. It sounds like your family has healthy breakfasts & lunches.

jenn3 said...

I have this same problem. We don't get home until at least 5:30 and my daughter wants my attention, so it's hard to cook something. I try to prepare stuff the night before, because I refuse to let her live off of nuggets and fries. I love the crockpot, but only know how to make one thing in it. I look forward to any recipes you might post.

Thy said...

Pasta con Fungi

While boiling water for pasta and the pasta itself, chop up a whole bunch of white mushrooms and fry with olive oil, lots of finely chopped garlic and fresh parsley. Add salt and pepper and toss together with the pasta.

Lara said...

Would you consider joining our food blog? (Link to eat it and weep is on my profile) I'd love more people to share recipes. If so, email me & I'll send an invite.

As for a good vegetarian recipe, I found one just last week in Good Housekeeping magazine, and did a search online to find it. Well worth the search... it was delicious! I can't seem to post a link so I'm emailing you the link from their site.

melanie ajumma said...

While I was reading your blog, I was struck that the thing about realizing that you feel a certain way for a certain reason is that after the initial aha moment, your life doesn't magically change like the montage scenes in movies. The reality is that you have to make a solemn effort that can can be easily sabotaged by yourself. It's a lot of really hard work.

Just thinking out loud.

susan said...

I'll get back to you with a recipe, but I wanted to mention another cookbook: Jack Bishop's A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen. It's a nice balance of quick but more foodie sorts of recipes, and most of them go quite quickly. It's gotten my own cooking more interesting again after a few years of not-the-foods-I-used-to-cook.

Ah: thought of a recipe, which I got from Ianqui: 1 large jar of V- juice, several kinds of chopped up vegetables (potatoes, zucchini, whatever you have on hand), and 2/3 c. barley. Dump them all into a pot and simmer until the veggies are cooked, maybe 20 minutes. Add more V8 juice if the barley absorbs too much.

winecat said...

epicurious.com has a feature that lets you select "quick meals". I've found some really wonderful recipes.

Lisa V said...

Cooking Light has a section called Superfast that I use all the time. And most stuff can be adapted to vegetarian. I have 2 kids who are vegetarian, so I only use meat maybe once or twice a week because I only want to cook one meal.

gwendomama said...

i am glad to have found you. you are an involuntary hero.

rock on, mama.

Nina said...

Good for you and your shameless commerce. =)

Korean spicy (or not) tofu
Sauce: soy sauce, brown sugar, sliced green onion, sesame oil, sesame seeds, a bit of red chili powder

Slice the tofu into squares (not cubes) and sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt. Fry on both sides with a little oil.
Mix sauce ingredients.
Place fried tofu on plate and pour a little sauce on each one. Let soak for a few minutes.

Here's another variation (with garlic and no sesame seeds) and pics.

Even better, you can mix the sauce ahead of time.

Leigh said...

This is quick, and has the added advantage of being an easy way for kids to eat lots of vegetables, or try new ones. Microwave a frozen package of Stouffer's Welsch rarebit. While it is nuking, gather random veggies. Good ones are broccoli, cauliflour, baby carrots, tiny potatoes, mushrooms, peppers, etc. Either steam them lightly, or serve raw. Except for the potatoes: boil or steam them. Slice some healthy bread into cubes if you have it. Put it all on the table. Instant fondue. And, incredibly tasty. Kids will DEVOUR this. Plus, almost no dishes to wash. A win-win!!

Lori said...

Quick vegetarian meals are my specialty!

Quesadillas made with whole wheat tortillas, mozerella, soy bacon bits and fresh tomatoes. Serve with salsa or guacamole. Sounds strange but it's delish.

Check out this link for yummy vegetarian crock pot chili. I served this with baked potatoes to two picky kids and a carnivorous extended family and got rave reviews. http://www.vegcooking.com/recipeshow.asp?RequestID=1535&Search=chili

Check out the Skinny B1tch in the Kitch cookbook for their homemade mac & cheese. It's made with soy cheese and pureed winter squash so it's healthy in addition to being highly addictive. Plus it makes for great leftovers.

Oooo, this mock meatloaf is great and even better the next day (I warm up in a saute pan to get those crunchy edges). http://www.vegcooking.com/recipeshow.asp?RequestID=149&Search=meatloaf

Okay, those last couple recipes might not be quick but they keep well. Good luck. I can't wait to try some of the recipes other people have posted.

lala said...

I usually make a big pot of soup or vegetable stock on the weekends (onions, carrots, leeks, ginger, sweet potato, etc thrown into a pot of water and simmer for a few hours), divide it up and freeze it in toddler portions. Then on weekdays after work I reheat one portion for dinner, throw in some couscous while the soup is still hot and cover for about 5 minutes. If I have the time & energy to make the effort, I usually use the soup/stock as a base for something else, rice& fresh vege stew etc

Anonymous said...

I just made up a quick after-work recipe last week - orzo salad (can be a side dish or the main if you add beans - cannellini or garbanzo would work well - could also do tofu or grilled chix for those who eat it). No measuring involved - cook up some orzo, drain well, drizzle with olive oil. While the orzo is cooking roughly chop up some grape or cherry tomatoes, fresh spinach, fresh parsley, and chives. Toss everything together with cooled pasta. Season w/salt and pepper to taste and a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice. This was so quick and really tasty. I also tried the huevos rancheros recipe from smittenkitchen.com the other day - also very easy and very tasty.

ivfcycler said...

tomato-mint pasta

(you can only make this one for the couple months fresh local tomatoes are to be had, so try it soon -- best reason i know to grow a pot of mint on your balcony)

per person:
1/2 big or 1 small tomato, chopped
small handful of almonds, chopped
~2 sprigs mint, chopped
1 serving fusilli pasta
top with olive oil and fresh ground pepper
(note, the only thing cooked is the pasta)