Tag: what’s for dinner

Anatomy of a working mom’s evening


4:15 – Learns little league is cancelled due to rain. Relishes the thought of an evening with no activity. Decides she can probably make those Vietnamese noodle salads for dinner after all.

4:30 – Receives text that younger son is leaving for a friend’s house and will return at 6:30.

4:45 – Finds out son will be bringing a friend home with him at 6:30; mentally adds one more for dinner.

5:00 – Packs up items to work at home the following day to avoid another rainy, congested commute.

5:15 – Leaves work. Raining. Spends 35 minutes in stop and go traffic.

5:50 – Stops at grocery store to buy remaining items needed for Vietnamese noodle salads. Ends up spending $88 on…well, who knows.

6:10 – Loads groceries in the rain. Splashed by passing car.

6:20 – Arrives home; pours a glass of wine.

6:30 – Starts to boil water for rice noodles; chops vegetables; chops leftover chicken and stretches it from 4 servings to 5.

6:45 – Puts egg rolls in oven. Wonders why younger son and friend are not yet home.

7:00 – Tracks down younger son and finds out he needs a ride. Drains rice noodles and hopes for the best. Instructs older son to listen for the timer, flip the egg rolls, then reset the timer for 15 minutes. Asks him to repeat instructions.

7:15 – Picks up younger son and friend, in the rain.

7:30 – Arrives home to find rice noodles in glutinous heap and egg rolls removed from oven in complete disregard of the instructions. Older son deflects blame, says, “(Daughter) told me to take them out of the oven.”

7:45 – Throws glutinous heap in the trash, egg rolls back in oven, and cooks second package of rice noodles.

8:00 – Constructs salads individually to account for children’s dislikes. There are many.

8:09 – Serve salads; sends guest’s salad flying when teenage daughter pulls out a chair and hits her in the elbow.

8:10 – Scoops salad up off table and makes daughter switch with guest. Rubs bruised elbow.

8:11 – Thinks about pouring another glass of wine and decides against it.

8:20 – Kids finish eating.

8:30 – Still in work clothes, starts dishes with kids milling around uselessly. Starts to get a little irritated. Sends them off to various rooms to pick up the afternoon’s detritus.

8:45 – Friend heads for home. Kids scatter.

9:00 – Realizes that folders needed to work at home the next day are sitting on desk at the office. Balances heading into the office after all with trying to reconstruct needed information. Opts for reconstructing needed information.

9:30 – Gets kids to bed. Throws wet laundry in the dryer. Starts another load. Cleans cat box. Wishes she’d changed out of work clothes before cleaning cat box.

10:00 – Thinks about turning on the TV but too tired. Opts for turning in. After all, tomorrow’s another day in a paradise.

10:15 – Switches second load of laundry and sets up the morning’s coffee.

10:45 – Hits the pillow with this thought of gratitude, “At least I didn’t have to sit through baseball in the rain like we did on Monday.”

X is for Xtra

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Cheap, I know, but I’ve left out one of my favorite tips and I need to find a spot for it. So the spot is here. It’s a tip for the easiest, fastest, most gratifying dinner ever.

Are you ready?

It starts with a slow cooker, a pork roast and a cup or two of leftover coffee. Really. If you’re wondering how I discovered this amazing combo, it’s easy. One day, I just threw  the leftover coffee over the pork as a marinade because it happened to be sitting there. This was a true stroke of spontaneous genius.

To finish the meal, set the slow cooker on low as you leave for work, and shred the pork when you return. Done.

Of course, you’ll probably want to throw a few additional items over that pork, so here are three tested ideas:

  1. Sprinkle the pork with a TBSP of cocoa, and pour over it half a jar of whatever salsa you have in the refrigerator.
  2. Rub the the pork with garlic and ginger – powdered if you must, but fresh is better. Pour in 1/4 cup soy sauce (I like mine low salt) and a TBSP of something sweet – maple syrup, agave syrup, brown sugar, honey – whatever you want.
  3. Pour a good dose of your favorite BBQ sauce in. It really requires nothing more if you’re using the coffee.

Depending on the mood, we eat the pork on buns, toast, baked potatoes, noodles, tortillas…The best part – it makes a ton so it’s good for doubling up as tonight’s dinner-after-the-baseball-game will attest: leftover pulled pork on corn tortillas with sour cream, avocado slices, cilantro, salsa, and a little shredded cheese.

The meal practically makes itself. And you don’t have to throw out OR drink that last cup of coffee.

Read the series at A is for About

O is for Oven Timer

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If there was no such thing as food poisoning, and I could leave food in my oven all day, I would cook every meal using my oven timer.

Since reality intervenes, I cook only selected items using my oven timer, but when it works, it works really well. If you have the wherewithal to prepare a large casserole of some sort in advance, you can pop that baby in the oven on your way out to the little league game, and a steaming, hot dinner will be waiting for you on your return.

As a bonus, it gives you a pat answer to the inevitable question, “Can I have money for a hot dog?” You can smile sweetly and say, “I have dinner in the oven,” when what you want to say is, “Another hot dog? Seriously, how many darned hot dogs can you guys eat in a season?”

There are a few things you can leave in the oven all day, if you are a roasted-vegetable sort of person. Cut a squash in half, clean it, and place the two halves face down on a cookie sheet. They can sit all day and fire up for the evening meal. So can any number of winter vegetables – turnips, beets, kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts. And of course, potatoes. But you still have to pull something else together to go with them.

What I really want is to be able to have the whole meal waiting for me when I return from work. That would require an appliance that is a refrigerator all day, and then becomes an oven just in time for dinner. Surely with our advanced technological know-how someone could come up with one of those.

Tomorrow…P is for Posture

Read the series at A is for About

M is for Mashed Potatoes

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I mentioned in an earlier post that I am of the “cook once, eat (at least twice)” school of cuisine. One of my favorite double-up foods is mashed potatoes, and here’s my favorite way to use them.

Potato Leek Soup

What you need:

  • 2 leeks, washed and sliced thin – white parts only!
  • TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1 cup of white wine (only 1/4 cup is for the recipe – the rest you drink while you’re cooking)
  • 4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock (I prefer mine low- or no-added salt)
  • Somewhere between 1 and 2 cups of leftover mashed potatoes

What you do next:

Leeks can be gritty, especially if you buy organics, so here’s how I deal with mine: Slice them first, then rinse them under cold water. Soak them briefly if you have to.

Next, melt the butter over medium-low heat, then add the leeks. Sauté them at a low heat for ten minutes or so until they are softened, but not browning. Next, add 1 cup of the stock and simmer them for 25 minutes at a very low heat, stirring occasionally.

Then add everything else, and blend the soup – I use a hand blender for mine.

That’s it! I serve this instead of rice or potatoes with a meal, but it could be the main event if you wanted. You could even add some fun stuff – chives, cheese, bacon or diced ham – but I usually like mine as is.


Tomorrow…N is for Nuts

Read the series at A is for About

D is for Doubling Up

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OK, one more food post and then I’ll move on for a bit…

I’m of the “cook once, eat (at least twice)” school of cuisine. Heck, to be honest I would eat the same food day and night for a week if it would save me time, but the rest of my crew is not enthusiastic about this practice. So when I cook, I do what I call “doubling up” to save me prep on future meals.

I’m not talking about preparing vast amounts of crockpot standards like beef stew, pasta sauce, and chili, although that works, too. I’m talking about preparing more ingredients than you need for one meal and putting it in the refrigerator or freezer so you have a head start the next time you find yourself staring into the fridge, slack-jawed, trying to make dinner out of nothing.

Here are some of my favorite double-ups:

  • Poached chicken – Buy a gross of skinless, boneless chicken breasts, put them in the crockpot overnight on low, and in the morning you have chicken for all kinds of wonderful things. If you’re not going to use it within a day or two, shred it or cube it, and freeze it in portions sized for future recipes (1 to 2 cups?) Works with turkey, too.
  • Mashed potatoes – Is it really that much more work to peel 8 potatoes instead of 4? Mashed potatoes freeze really well. You can either serve them as a side dish or use them in recipes – they’re great in blended soups that call for potatoes, and since they’re already cooked and mashed, they cut at least 20 minutes off the prep time.
  • Mirepoix – Which, thanks to Trader Joe’s, I’ve learned just means diced vegetables – there’s is composed of onions, carrots, and celery. All three of these freeze well enough – if you’re going to throw them in soup later, who will even know they’ve been frozen? (Or, of course, you could just pick some up mirepoix on the way home.)
  • The brassica plants(Like how I’m throwing these official-sounding terms around? This one I learned from my kids.) I chop up a whole broccoli or cauliflower at once, then prepare it or throw it in salad over the space of a few days. My kids like it roasted, which is a cinch – just toss it in olive oil and pop it in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. It’s done by the time I’ve changed out of my work clothes.
  • Kale – Right, I know – kale is a brassica plant, but I love kale so I’m granting it its own category. The best part about using kale as a salad green is that this stuff keeps for days. It does not give up the ghost overnight like lettuce. I wash mine on Sunday, and even slice it ahead of time, then I can throw a salad together in no time. One hint for kale – if you find it bitter, use a dressing that has lemon juice in it. It cuts the bitterness. Oh, and make sure to massage it before you serve it (in other words, mash it up with your hands), or the kids might find it a little challenging.

I’m sure there are other ways to double up out there – any suggestions? I’ll take any help I can get.

Next up….E is for Eight-minute Yoga.

 Read the series at A is for About

One pork chop

food chart snapI’ve hit upon an ingenious way to use that last pork chop – I shall explain.

We are a family of five. Most cuts of pork these days come packaged in threes. I have always been greatly disturbed by this. It means each time I serve my family pork chops I end up with a leftover.

This sad leftover sits in the refrigerator until it is beyond hope and I throw it away, because no one in my house really likes leftover pork. Even I, a general advocate for leftovers, will usually opt for something a little more interesting like the beef stew or the black-eyed-pea salad, and skip the lone pork chop. But it bugs me to throw it out.

Then I hit on an idea. Many times, when I serve my family a meal, one child opts out. My kids have vastly different tastes. One eats nothing spicy. One won’t eat fish. The third won’t eat anything that resembles sausage.

So now I freeze that sixth pork chop – tuck it in its own little bag and store it for the meal one kid won’t eat. I thaw that baby, season it, throw on two teaspoons of cider vinegar and two teaspoons of maple syrup and twenty minutes later I have a back up meal. Voila!

Works with that sixth chicken breast, too.


The (dinner) matrix

The (dinner) matrix

Dinner – that blessed time of day when families gather to share thoughts, experiences, and food. That is if they’re willing to share food.

I have spent the last 15 years of my life trying to get nutritious food into three children with wildly differing tastes. One will eat vegetables all day, but virtually no fruit. One eats fruit by the pound, but skips most of the vegetables. One eats neither. And then, in a twist that I will never understand, two of them will eat oddities like mussels and escargot. The nerve!

In order to make dinnertime a little more palatable (get it?) I’ve developed the handy, dandy chart, below:

food chart