Oh, dinnertime. That 5:00 witching hour when all the stresses of the day seem to catch up with everyone all at once. You're tired and your children, who only an hour earlier were running and playing happily in the yard, are now fighting and demanding all of your attention.
Their transformation is often so well-timed I sometimes swear they plot ways to make me lose it in the evening.
I can just imagine Jack doling out the tasks, "Ok, Baby, you start screaming until Mommy is forced to pick you up and cook with one hand. Henry, you pull out all the pots and pans and place them exactly where she needs to be standing. And when she takes a pan away because she actually needs to cook with it, that's your cue to have a giant tantrum on the floor! And me? I'll stand by the pantry and whine for a cookie. And I'll make sure and tell her that I don't like whatever it is that she is making. Got it? Aaaaand go!"
|Dinnertime = Mischief + Mayhem|
I actually enjoy cooking, but I've come to dread this event called dinnertime. In an effort to minimize chaos, I've gotten into the routine of freezer meal cooking for our family. However, I don't just throw any old meal into the freezer. I have some stipulations.
First, I HATE the crock pot. Everything I throw into the crock pot seems to come out tasting like, well, crock pot. It is a giant vat of disappointment. I don't even know why people name recipes for the slow cooker. They should all just be called "Wet Meat Over Rice." Anybody with me on this?? AM I DOING SOMETHING WRONG?? I mean, the expression "That's a crock!" isn't exactly complimentary. (Exceptions: Velveeta cheese dip and BBQ meatballs.)
Secondly, I'm not crazy about casseroles. There are a few that I make on a consistent basis, but my kids have a thing about their food "not touching", so when a casserole is served, they usually spend 20 minutes dissecting it before telling me they don't like it.
Finally, I try and cook meals that are a least a tiny bit healthy. I haven't jumped on the all-organic bandwagon yet and I couldn't even tell you what gluten-free means, but I attempt to prepare dishes that resemble real food. In my freezer you will find Beef and Broccoli or Apricot Chicken, not crescent rolls wrapped around cheese wrapped around pepperoni wrapped around butter (though I'm sure those are delicious) (I'm serious, I would probably eat, like, 20 in one sitting. Which is why I don't make them). Basically, I try to find a happy medium between uber healthy and total crap.
I usually plan my meals and grocery shop (online!) in one day. The next day I spend a few hours assembling meals. I normally end up with about 10 meals that last us around 2 weeks.
|Yes, I will need 20 pounds of chicken and a toddler-sized straight-jacket.|
I still do weekly grocery shopping for the basics, plus fresh produce. However, if I happen to notice a great deal on chicken breasts, for example, I will buy a couple packs and quickly assemble them into freezer meals when I get home. That way I always have a few meals going in to my freezer as some are coming out.
|This makes me SO happy.|
I hardly ever meal plan on a daily basis anymore. I just keep a running list of the main dishes that are in my freezer. I also make sure to have starches on hand like pasta, rice or those "instant" mixes like rice pilaf, couscous, etc. I keep some frozen veggies around too. I prefer fresh veggies and salads, but when you're short on time and energy you can really put together a decent meal with some thawed, marinated chicken, rice pilaf in a box and frozen broccoli!
These are not fancy-schmancy gourmet creations. These are throw-it-together-to-make-it-til-bedtime dinners. And that's ok. There's a season for that kind of cooking.
That being said, over the past few years I've compiled a collection of tasty, simple "throw-together-and-freeze" meals. Here are a few freezer-friendly recipes that have proved to be hits with my family again and again.
I'd love to hear how these dishes turn out for you!