Mmmmkay y’all. In case you’re new to this blog, let’s recap.
I generally do not enjoy cooking. Thus far, I’ve had exactly two posts involving food: one about cupcakes and one about a crazy diet we tried. I’d write more about food, but I figure you’re probably not all that interested in how I made Velveeta Shells and Cheese or put a Digiorno in the oven. And yeah, sometimes, that is my menu plan for the week.
I mean, if I have all day in a kid-free house with all the needed ingredients on hand for an easy-to-follow, foolproof recipe, then sure, hand over the apron! Because that happens ALL the time. Otherwise, I prefer that my food requires as little planning and effort as possible. The conundrum is that I have this husband and this baby and these two boys who seem to expect to eat every night (punks!), and all of these Facebook linkups to fancy recipes and Pinterest showers of culinary swagger kind of make me feel bad about serving fish sticks yet again.
However, I know I’m not alone in the world, so to those of you that shun dinner preparation in favor of Subway, allow me to share a recent discovery: the Once a Month Mom.
This blog provides menus and shopping lists that, in theory, will allow me to cook for up to a month in one day. There are several contributing women, and as you can see, they offer numerous menu options each month. Each menu comes with a customizable Excel spreadsheet, a grocery list, and printable recipe cards.
I’m still a bit skeptical, but I love the idea of having someone else do all my meal-planning for me and then being able to basically knock out all my meal preparation in one day. However, I must admit that at first glance, the system seems a bit complicated and will no doubt take some study and practice to master the concept, creation, and execution. Also, before I commit to the expense and time required for an entire month, I decided to try a few recipes to see if I can trust these women. I mean, if the food isn’t at least as tasty as Shells and Cheese, then it’s a no-go.
First, I decided to select some recipes from the Whole Foods menu. I went grocery shopping last Monday while Ellie was in KDO, and since Herdest was home Monday afternoon, I “invited” him to help me with the meal preparation. He was thrilled I tell you.
Monday night dinner: Pan-Roasted Chicken with Lemon Garlic Green Beans, from Real Simple.
Okay, so mine may not have been exactly that pretty, but it was delicious. Also, it was incredibly easy to make with preparation taking only about 10 minutes. And while Herdest chopped the potatoes for our Monday meal, I worked on…
Grilled Pork Chops with Garlic Lime Sauce, from epicurious.com
I ADORE recipes that involve throwing something on the grill, as those recipes are actually trickster manuals for getting my husband to cook dinner. “Look baby! I got you something to grill! Here’s a Corona; now go on out there and be the man!” He loves it. Seriously. Anyway, all I had to buy in addition to the pork chops (Cheap-o at Aldi) was a lime. I used the cilantro growing in a pot on the back porch. Who knew you can grow stuff and actually eat it?! I mixed the dressing up in a few minutes, covered the bowl in plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge. Tuesday night, I whipped up some mashed potatoes (yeah, the instant kind….let’s not expect miracles here, folks) while Charlie grilled the chops, and presto! Tasty dinner, done.
Next, we made Sweet Summer Vegetable Enchiladas
By far, this was my favorite recipe of the week. It took a bit more preparation time as I had to chop and saute veggies and such, but the final product was completely worth it. I cooked the “filling” on Monday and then put it in the fridge since I planned to use it on Wednesday, but there are instructions for easy freezing. On Wednesday, I just rolled everything up in tortillas and covered in cheese and enchilada sauce. We all loved it, and Ellie INHALED the food. After two entire enchiladas, she was still asking for more. Also, while this recipe called for canned, cooked chicken, I think it could easily be vegetarian. Next time, I plan to cut the chicken and throw in some mushrooms. Yum.
Thursday, I tried Crockpot Corn Risotto, from Stephanie O’Dea.
I’m not going to post a picture, because it looks kinda gross….like your morning oatmeal attacked some innocent corn kernels, reducing both to a sloppy, mushy mess. The taste, however, is quite lovely. Sweet, creamy, and hearty in a “Did Mom make soup?” sort of way. And as with most crockpot dishes, the absolute best part was that it took me about three minutes to dump everything into the pot on Thursday afternoon around 5. It was all bubbly and delicious a little after 7. My only recommendation (with limited experience, so feel free to ignore me) would be to use a stronger cheese than parmesan. The sweet corn and rice are substantial enough to balance more flavor, so I think next time I’ll try Romano or something similar.
So, four meals with basically one day of shopping and preparation. Not bad…..for me. Baby steps, after all.
On Friday, we had a date night, and Saturday, we ate with our Sunday School class. Even though the above meals turned out surprisingly well, I must say Friday and Saturday were still my favorite nights of the week. Thus, if in doubt at this point, go let someone else cook for you and try again tomorrow. No judgment here, folks.
The One I Probably Won’t Repeat
So last night, I attempted my last planned recipe and made Black Bean Patties with Corn Relish, from Annie’s Eats
Obviously, I did not pay enough attention to this recipe or I would have noticed the ingredient list was divided into THREE categories: for the patties, for the relish, for the avocado cream sauce. WHAT was I thinking? One ingredient and prep list is plenty enough, and if it passes five items or five steps, I start to get panicky. But the picture looked so pretty and healthy, and Annie made me believe! Evil enchantress.
Anyway, there were about a million ingredients and steps. Luckily, Charlie was home yesterday afternoon, and since it was Father’s Day and all, I only made him chop stuff for about 30 minutes. (Love that guy.) We made the relish, but I drew the line at avocado cream sauce. Whatever. Put some ketchup on it. After the preparation, the patties actually cooked rather nicely, but we decided to eat them on toasted wheat buns with some cheese. I cut the chile in the recipe because I don’t like overly spicy foods and, you know, I didn’t have one. Mistake. While the relish was nice, the patties weren’t nearly as flavorful as expected. I’d definitely keep the chile and maybe throw some salsa on top. The taste grew on me after a while, and it was one of the healthier meals I’ve made, but when the boys realized the “burgers” contained no meat, I received mumbled growls and dagger-like death-scowls. Don’t think those two will become vegetarians anytime soon.
Well, at least there will be leftovers.
PLEASE share what tried and tested recipes you depend on for your family. What’s your meal-planning, shopping, and food-preparation system? I’m open to any and all ideas for minimizing time in the kitchen.
And yeah, I realize I’d have more time to cook if I stopped blogging. Whatever. A girl has to have priorities. Headed to the grocery now, so stop worrying. I’ll feed them….eventually.