Thursday, March 18, 2010

What is this Harried Mom Cooking These Days?

More than ever this year, we have settled into a food routine. I cook up a few breads and main dishes on Sunday and just hope they last as long as possible. I throw leftovers in the freezer. Then the rest of the week consists of hamburgers, grilled tofu and rice, grilled cheese, pasta and sausages or hot dogs. With some vegetables and fruit, I can rationalize that the kids are eating pretty well. So despite the fact that this blog often makes it seem that I eat out most of the time, I really only can afford to do so once a week, at most!

On the weekends, I always get a few breads made. I start out Saturday night by mixing up dough. As I wrote about here, it is remarkably simple (really, seriously, I promise!) to do this. The dough goes in the frig and is ready to be shaped by the morning. I also throw a bag of dry beans in a pot with water to soak. Finally, I chop as many onions as I need for the next morning-one of the tasks that I can't do with the toddlers trying to help out! The next day I mix the dough with the other ingredients and it is ready to rise in minutes. The beans go into the slow cooker to cook up by lunch.

Here are just some of the things that I have cooked up:

1. Mac and cheese. The real thing. I started with the recipe in the new Pioneer Woman cookbook, but you can also read her great blog and recipe here. It also freezes well. I just throw the frozen mac and cheese in the oven and reheat it at about 350 for 1 1/2 hours.

2. Soup, soup and more soup. I always make at least one a weekend. Typically I cook from "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker." This book remains my bible for slow food cookery. The bean soups are easy, cheap and filling. They also freeze beautifully which means all I need to do for lunch is grab a container of soup. The last few weeks I have been cooking chickpeas. They are so, so much better than the canned version. (Think of how good real pasta is compared to Chef Boyardee!) My favorite cheap lunch: mixing the beans with some shaved parmesan, olive oil, salt, pepper and either balsamic vinegar or lemon juice.

3. Pot roast. There are so many recipes out there. Most consist of browning the meat and cooking it with onions, carrots and some liquid. This dish is great for a Sunday as it is even better by Monday or Tuesday. The slow cooker is great for this, as is a slow braise in my new Le Creuset. (It is worth a drive to the Wrentham Village Outlets just to shop at the Le Creuset Outlets.)

4. Meatballs. We all love them. They freeze well. Adding oatmeal or bread crumbs just extends the meat. I mix the meat up with some dried onion, garlic, oregano, basil, salt and pepper. If I have grated Parmesan I throw that in, too. I brown the meatballs and then freeze them to bake at 350 or simmer in sauce.

5. Chicken soup. Although there version is incredibly high maintenance, I love the Cook's Illustrated version. It has a number of steps, but the broth is fantastic. When I am too lazy, I just simmer a chicken in the slow cooker.

6. I try to prepare any vegetables I have for the week. It is easy to peel and seed a squash. Once it is cut in chunks it can stay in the frig for a few days. I love roasting it with shallots and serving it over pasta with asiago cheese. Broccoli, cucumber, cauliflower, carrots and radishes can all be sliced up for easy snacks and dinner side dishes.

7. Tofu. Russo's has some truly delicious versions, but any will do. My kids are happiest if I simmer it for a few minutes and serve it with noodles or rice and soy sauce. I love it Korean style as I wrote about here. This week I used cooked noodles from H-Mart, and simmered them with bok choy, tofu and Vegetarian Oyster Sauce. It was fabulous and cheap.

So what are your go-to meals?


  1. Awesome! Thanks for sharing. I'm just now learning to cook and am always looking for new recipes that I can master easily and without feeling like a dumbass. Which slow-cooker do you have, and what would you recommend? Also, do you post your recipes online? I have no idea how to make meatballs, for example, but would love to learn.

  2. Great list! Soups/stews/chilis and pastas are definitely my go-to dishes in the winter. I also like frittatas - it's easy to prep the potatoes and other veggies ahead of time. Baked shrimp scampi or baked shrimp with red peppers or tomatoes and feta are other favorites, since we usually have a bag of frozen shrimp in the freezer. I can throw it all together in a casserole dish while the baby is napping and then bake it later.

  3. Carla: I have a few slow cookers, actually. I really don't think the brand matters, which is part of the pleasure of a slow cooker. I would recommend starting by reading this post about my favorite slow cooker cookbook

    The "Year of Crockpotting" site is also fabulous.

    I do post recipes-just click on the right side under "FoodieMommy Cooks". But I am not sure the meatball recipe is there. I will try to post that soon!

    Lauren: alas, my kids can't eat shellfish or eggs! But those suggestions are perfect for parents, especially when it is so easy to get frozen shrimp. I may try that with a light white fish or chicken.