She Says… What’s Cookin’?

As I’ve said before, I LOVE to cook. And Benjamin and I both love to eat fabulous food. We used to spend a lot of time in the kitchen whipping up delicious dinners and trying new recipes. Since Owen came along, my love affair with cooking has been a little hot and cold. On again, off again, if you will.

When Owen was teeny tiny and staying up until after our normal dinner hour, we did almost no cooking. It was the last few weeks of summer so I didn’t want to turn on the oven and heat up the house, and frankly, we had our hands full with our squirmy baby during that lovely early evening “witching hour”. I remember eating a lot of salads. We still ate pretty well because we planned for meals we could throw together in a few minutes, but it didn’t really satisfy my urge to get in the kitchen and create something wonderful. Once we started putting Owen down to sleep much earlier (6:00pm – 7:00pm), I reclaimed my time in the kitchen. I loved being able to put Owen down for the night and then have some time to just… cook. The last few months we’ve gotten into a nice routine where Benjamin preps things for me while I’m doing bedtime with Owen, so that when I come down we can cook it up and eat together. I love it.

That said, I still design my meal plans for the week based on whatever is easy and quick and doesn’t create a lot of dishes. Not exactly the relaxing, indulgent time of bread making and roasting and creating meals that I used to have. It’s possible I should just kiss those days goodbye, since I’m sure it doesn’t get any easier as the kids get older and go to bed later (or you have more than one!).

Last night Benjamin, Owen and I came home from an afternoon of house hunting to find that our house smelled glorious. Like the inside of a warm, steamy Italian restaurant. Garlic-y. Buttery. Holy YUM. It was a blessing and a curse. The smell was fantastic, but it wasn’t coming from our kitchen. It was coming from our tenant’s kitchen on the 1st floor of our house. We breathed in the deliciousness and joked about how we were going to their place for dinner.

And then we made a lame dinner of frozen ravioli and tomato sauce.

It made me realize just how much I miss that time in the kitchen I used to love so much. Don’t get me wrong; we cook every night. And I enjoy it. And we eat very well. But I can’t remember the feeling of flipping through a cookbook in the morning, picking out a new recipe to try, going to get the ingredients and losing myself in chopping and stirring and tasting.

Roast chicken and veggies is one of our favorites, since I just throw everything into one pan and stick it in the oven while we do bathtime and bedtime, and it’s ready when we’re finished. I’m also learning to love my slow cooker. The other week I made an Italian white bean soup and today I have a corn chowder bubbling away. It’s kind of the lazy man’s way to get that “cooking all day” smell. Any other suggestions of delicious but relatively quick dinners that could be made after the baby’s bed time?

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22 responses to “She Says… What’s Cookin’?

  1. I really like Everyday Food magazine. Everything is always tasty and fairly quick and easy to make!

  2. Although it’s not always the healthiest choice, we live on a lot of casseroles these days. I spend one day every few weeks in the kitchen (usually on a Sat when Rob’s home to help with Liam) and I make about 3 casseroles and 3 different pots of soup. Once they’re prepped, the casseroles are split into two portions and put in freezer-safe containers. Soups are put into portion sized tupperware. At the end of the day, I’ll have at least 6 dinners of casserole and 6 dinners of soup. It lasts us a few weeks in between our meals of turkey sandwiches and dinners out. It’s not the best, but when you have a four month old, what do you do? Some days it’s a miracle we eat dinner at all! 🙂

  3. Try this Cheddar Chowder recipe! http://www.thestrengthoffaith.com/2010/01/weekend-recipes-cheddar-chowder.html – it’s really versatile, you can add, subtract and substitute with different vegetables and meats. You can make it as gourmet or as easy as you’d like! It’s easy to prepare and then you’ve got lunches for awhile.

  4. Have you thought about cooking a few things on Sunday and reheating them through the week? I did that even before going to work. Things like chilis/stews/soups, roasted meats, casseroles, enchiladas, roasted veg, grains all reheat well as long as you do it gently in the oven or LOW in the micro.

  5. I have become a fan of recipes that use few ingredients, and sometimes I prep dinner the night before and then just heat/cook it prior to eating it the next day. How about picking one recipe per week where you can really let your creative juices flow and have your husband take care of the baby for those few hours? My favorite quick meals are chili, various pasta dishes and hearty soups paired with a salad or bread/biscuits. Last week I made lobster bisque that required very little time and fewer ingredients than I thought possible. Another thing I do is what I call “bulk” cooking. For example, I get a few pounds of ground beef and make meatballs, a meatloaf, and season some for tacos. Then we have the base of three meals done in very little time. Good luck to you and enjoy every moment with your little guy!

  6. I’m a big fan of Papa Johns delivery 🙂 Just kidding, but I have no clue. We live on frozen ravioli too.

    Maybe cook nice stuff on the weekends and make enough for leftovers for a couple nights?

  7. Life is really all about seasons–sometimes we bake bread, othertimes we eat what others baked. Sometimes smelling someone else’s meal is enough to remind us that this too, shall pass.

  8. I have some great go-to recipes that don’t take a long time (and I know from experience that you can still make them when your kids get older and hang all over you while you’re trying to cook). I don’t have your email address but I’ll try to send them to Benjamin.

  9. I was going to suggest prepping on the weekends for dinners throughout the week too. It will certainly be interesting to see how our eating changes once the baby arrives. But I can’t say I’ve thought about it too much.

  10. The Laundry Lady

    Homemade calzone is quick and easy if you already have the dough prepped. I make a couple batches of dough and freeze them. Just toss the bag of dough in the fridge before going to work and it should be ready to go when you are ready for dinner. Just fill the calzone with your favorite veggies, meats and cheeses.

    Our other quick dinner recipe is what my husband calls The Lemon Pepper Chicken Thing
    Two or more chicken breasts cut into small pieces, cooked in oil with lemon pepper
    At the same time, boil water for pasta of choice (I like tri-color rotini)
    Also at the same time, steam veggies (we like broccoli, cauliflower and carrots). Using frozen veggies is a prep shortcut. When all the pieces are finished toss it in a pot with a little oil, and more lemon pepper and serve. I put grated cheese on mine. The whole thing usually takes less than half an hour.

  11. The Laundry Lady

    Sorry, I should have added that you bake the calzone at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes or 500 degrees for 20 minutes. I like them better at 400 for 30.

  12. Not healthy, but corned beef and cabbage in the crockpot is the best!

  13. Put a whole chicken in the slow cooker just clean it and season it with paprika and garlic salt and cook on low for 6-8 hours! It’s super easy and the chicken just falls off the bone!!

  14. my advice? enjoy it! If you guys have another baby one day dinners are really tough! I remember having Lilly and eating dinner peacefully each night around 7:30 or 8:00. Now we have to make sure Lilly is fed and one of us is usually entertaining Chloe or putting her down for the night while the other gets dinner done, Lilly cleaned up, in bed etc … It’s tough for both of us to eat together with Lilly. Tonight we had a sitter here and she took care of Chloe while the three of us ate together. first time in a long time! It was really nice but I kind of felt like I was cheating on Chloe! Anyway, we have many nights where it gets to be 8:00 and we think, “shit, we never ate”! I promise that Lilly always has dinner even if we don’t! Thinsg will get easier with Chloe and she will eventually be able to sit with us and eat her dinner and I will miss her “baby” days so I am just trying to enjoy all of it because I know how fast it goes. Enjoy these days the way you always do! Love yah!

  15. We made roast chicken and vegetables this weekend! I love it because I did the veggie prep throughout the day bit by bit, assembled the whole shebang, and left it in the fridge until dinner. And it tastes soooo good. Huge reward for very little energy investment. We stuff ours with lemon and garlic and fennel tops. The bulb gets roasted of course, fennel is my fav. Cooking is just starting to come back at our house. We use a lot of whole foods’ chicken sausages – they come in tons of flavors. SautĂ© with any dark leafy green and serve with quinoa cooked in chicken broth. Less than 10 min start to finish, delicious, and so healthy. Or split it open, crumble and sautĂ© with a can of tomatoes for pasta. Tonight I made a portugese style soup with it. Or if meal plans all fall to pieces by the end of the week, throw them in the freezer and try again another night. We also keep frozen shrimp on hand, very easy to do lots of different things with (fra diavolo, roasted with garlic, stir fry). And check out the cooks illustrated 30 minute cookbook. It’s my #1 go-to nowadays, because it’s fail-safe deliciousness. Google new York times black bean tacos for a delicious, healthy and quick recipe using basically staples (if you keep frozen tortillas). Everyday foods is good, but Martha’s site is a little hard to navigate.

  16. Another thought – Ziplist has been a lifesaver for menu planning and keeping the pantry from going barren!

  17. I love Ina Garten’s Parmesan Chicken. It’s not like regular Chicken Parm, and it seems labor intensive but it really isn’t. Great comfort food. Check it out. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/parmesan-chicken-recipe/index.html
    The vinaigrette that you make along with this is delicious and simple. Oh, and instead of pounding the chicken breasts (noisy and way too much work) I just buy the thinner-cut boneless chicken breasts. They’re just as good!

  18. Thanks, ladies! Wonderful suggestions! I can’t wait to get cooking 🙂

  19. I have a little one too, about four and a half months old and what I do is plan means and prep thing through out the day during his naps and once he’s in bed I put it all together and spend as long as I want on it!

    Also, remember that as they get older they can help in the kitchen and enjoy it with you! That’s what me and my siblings did when I was growing up and I cherish those memories!

  20. Stir fry is quick and easy.
    Pot roast in a slow cooker or, on weekends, in the oven. Slow and easy.
    Fish is fast.
    And I echo Diana – get the little ones to help out ASAP (safely, of course). My eldest grew up to be a master chef – was making omelettes himself by the age of 8 – and better than mine. If nothing else, they can set the table, make a salad (you cut), mash potatoes and so on. Mine would always eat whatever they made although they might refuse the same thing if I made it !

  21. Ok, I’m lame when it comes to cooking…how do you roast a chicken?

  22. @Kari, Hahaha, don’t worry! This one only became part of our normal routine recently. It’s SO easy. Chop a bunch of veggies (we like zucchini, roma tomatoes and red onions, but you can add anything) and toss them into a baking pan with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Then plop raw chicken breasts right on top (I use breasts because that’s what I like to eat, rather than roasting a whole chicken I have to cut up) and top them with some seasoning (we like lemon pepper). Then put the pan in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes, give a stir, and stick them back in for another 20 minutes or so. We like it with a hunk of multigrain bread on the side. Yum.

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