Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Three Little Words

Only three words. But still they manage to strike terror into my heart.

"What's for dinner?"

Don't get me wrong, I like to cook. Trying out new recipes is fun; whipping up a dish that's been given the thumbs' up from the family in the past is a pleasure. But too often, I find myself glaring at the clock around 4 pm, then rooting around in the fridge in the vain hope that ingredients will magically rearrange themselves on the shelf so I can combine them into something tasty, healthy, and easy to prepare. What's worse is I work from home, so I don't have the handy "I was away at work all day" excuse.

And it can be easy to fall into a rut. There are certain quick and healthy meals I've given up on making, because I've gone to that well one too many times and have burned out the family on it.

That said, there are still a few things working for me in the meal-prep department.

1. The crock pot. Oh, crock pot, how I love thee. Soups, stews, tonight I even made barbeque ribs. There's something so satisfying about tossing a bunch of ingredients in a pot in the morning, ignoring it, and taking out dinner at the end of the day. It's like magic, but with more dishes to clean.

2. Listening to the family. Now, I'm not going to serve soda and pixy sticks at every meal just because the kids would really really like that pretty please. But when a meal is served and I get the, "didn't we just have this?" response, it's time to take it out of rotation, at least for a little while. Conversely, if something gets an enthusiastic YES, it's a good idea to keep those ingredients on hand.

3. Stock the fridge. This is where I fall down most often. The more ingredients I have on hand, the more likely I'll be able to whip something up for dinner at the last minute - and not be tempted by the "let's just go out to dinner" suggestion.

I'll end with one of my favorite quick to prepare crock pot meals. Feel free to add your own in the comments! *whips out notepad and pen, ready to take notes*

Cranberry Chicken

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (one per person)
1 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
1 packet dry onion soup mix
1/2 cup French dressing

Place chicken breasts in crock pot. (Can be frozen) Mix remaining ingredients together and pour over chicken. Cook on low 6 or so hours. Enjoy.

Seriously, it's so easy it's ridiculous - but incredibly tasty as well. Goes great with mashed potatoes.

Happy cooking!


Meg Benjamin said...

Back before I was a retired "lady of leisure" (please hear snickering at this point), I had this problem every night. My only solution was to figure out a menu each week and make sure I had the ingredients on hand for each dish. On the other hand, I still forget things like buying sausage for the sausage and potato dish! That said, my disaster fallback was always tuna and rice, which is just as it sounds--a packet of tuna, two cups of cooked rice, a little milk and butter, bake for an hour or so at 300 and serve with soy sauce.

Erin Nicholas said...

Oh, Kate-- I hear you!!! Plus I have picky eaters...ugh. One of my easy favorites is ranch chicken: breadcrumbs, a packet of ranch dressing mix, coat chicken breasts (or any chicken part! :)) and bake.
I'm ready to take notes too everyone! I have a crock pot and use it much less often than I should!

Cara Bristol said...

When I ask my husband, "what do you want for dinner," and he says, "I don't know" or "I don't care"...I take that to mean chicken.

Kelly Jamieson said...

Now you all know I don't like to plot, but when it comes to meals, I love to plan! I plan every meal for the coming week, including lunches for the kids,I check the recipes for ingredients and write my shopping list. Otherwise I too would be staring into the fridge, which is likely full but with nothing to eat.

Skylar Kade said...

Phin does all the cooking here, because I'm kind of helpless in the kitchen. But one thing I can do is Crockpot salsa chicken. Frozen chicken breasts covered in salsa, cooked on low for 6 hours. So. Ridiculously. Easy. We have them in tacos and quesadillas, or sometimes over rice. The chicken gets so tender it breaks apart under a fork.


Kim S. said...

Wow, these all sound yummy!

Tangy Flank Steak

1 Flank Steak
1 can of diced chili peppers
1 large onion
2 tbs. white vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

1. Cut flank steak in half, brown each half in non-stick skillet. Place into crock pot.

2. While flank steak is browning, cut onion into quarters, then cut each quarter into thin slices.

3. Into hot skillet; pour green chili's, fill the empty can with water and add to the skillet. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir, then add the onion. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat and pour over flank steak.

4. Cook on low 6-7 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.

I usually serve with potatoes made in my other crock pot or buttered noodles.


Victoria said...

I love to do a roast in the crock pot. Then do tortilla wraps the next night with the left-overs. There are about 80 different ways to do roast, every family has their special way, so go with what works. But when pressed for time, the package mix in the store does work in the crock pot just fine...

As for the mess/dishes--have you heard of the "Slow Cooker Liners" they now have out? I don't have a dish washer (well, not a machine anyway, haha. My hubby never gets tired of that joke, but never realizes that I am serious when I put a machine on the xmas list every year!). These liners have saven me countless effort and tiime scrubbing that wonder of the kitchen! Love them!!!

Zina said...

That sounds tasty.

Chicken noodle soup

1 chicken breast per 2 persons- cooked seasoned to taste and cubed.
Then along w/the chicken place in a crockpot on low a 32 oz carton of chicken broth and a lg family size can of condensed chicken soup.
Add a 1/2 bag frozen vegies of fresh that you like . I use frozen or fresh carrots, broccli, peas and then cut up some potatoes and celery to add, sometimes I also add frozen green beans and frozen or fresh squash. Add enough water to make as much soup as you want and let cook on low all day then 30 min before you're ready to eat add some extra wide egg noodles.


Zina said...

You can use frozen chicken breasts and just cube them and them throw them in the pot and season the whole thing before leaving it for the day, I just like my chicken to have a little brown color that comes from pre cooking it.