Not so very long ago I was a presenter at a webinar entitled Toddler School; How To Prevent Disruption And Destruction And Keep The Wee Ones Engaged. Feel free to go listen, it's downloadable. During the course of that webinar I mentioned that if you were homeschooling and trying to keep toddlers and babies occupied this was not the season of your life to try to put a gourmet meal on the table every night. Your focus should be nutrition and easy. That's it. One of the ladies asked for quick and easy recipes and I promised to do this.
The first thing I would highly recommend is to always have certain ingredients on hand. Ground beef, while onions, whole chickens, garlic powder, potatoes, cheddar cheese (shredded), eggs, tortillas, broccoli and any other vegetable your family enjoys. Also a good supply of beans, kidney, garbanzo, etc… I buy these canned (organic).
A well stocked pantry is really key to being able to put a meal together quickly, we all know this but sometimes it seems hard to pull off. I make use of Peapod which is a local grocery delivery service. I think it costs $5 in delivery charges. I'd use that in gas and way more in aggravation. There are also a few big chain stores here that have delivery service so check online with your local stores. Amazon grocery is also a good option for basics (not perishables). If it's possible shop without the little ones. You are less likely to overspend and not forget anything. Go in the evening or on a Saturday or switch babysitting with another mom so you can each have an hour in the grocery store.
I would also like to refer everyone to my, fairly, recent menu planning posts, here, here and and here. There are menus you can print as well as recipes. They are all basic and most can be customized to reflect your family's taste.
Now I would like to share one of my cooking nights which resulted in four easy meals with less than an hours work.
About nine in the morning I put a whole chicken, two peeled and cubed sweet potatoes, cubed butternut squash, two while onions peeled and quartered, and two parsnips peeled and cut up in my large enameled, cast iron dutch oven and put it in the oven at 250 degrees. That was it until 4:00 pm. Oh I did sprinkle some salt and pepper and pour about 1/2 cup of water in there first. At 4:00 I pulled it out and took off the lid and let it sit for about an hour to cool.
At 5:00 I pulled all the meat off the chicken and put it in a foil pan.
This was some of it.
Then I poured off the liquid and added it to my broth jar. I keep this in the fridge and use it for making rice, thinning soups, all kinds of things.
Then I took those veggies, some of the broth which I had skimmed, and about two handfuls of chicken and threw it in the blender. I pureed the heck out of it and returned it to the Dutch oven to heat up. When it was heated I added about half a cup of cream some salt, paprika and pepper and that was it.
This took about twenty minutes and the kids loved it. I had put the bread machine in action so there was cheddar and onion bread to go with. This soup would be great with some curry if you are curry people. My kids are not curry people.
The remainder of this meal making took place after the little ones went to bed. I still had a lot of chicken left. The first thing I assembled was Pioneer Woman's Chicken Spaghetti. Very easy and my kids would walk through fire for this dish. They love it and Dave doesn't mind it either. I forgot to take a picture of that one but I assembled it in a dollar store foil pan, pressed some parchment paper on top and then tightly wrapped it in cling wrap and then foil. I labeled it and into the freezer it went. Meal two.
Meal three. I took about 1 1/2 cups of the shredded chicken mixed it with two cups of cooked brown rice (that simmered while we ate, I want a rice cooker). All in a foil pan.
Keeps the clean-up easier. When that was all done I added, 1 can mushroom soup (see, it's not gourmet eating), 1/2 cup of milk (skim is fine), and mixed it up. Then I put a stick of butter in a Pyrex in the microwave to melt. While that was melting I opened a package of frozen broccoli florets and tossed it on top of the chicken mix. When the butter was melted I mixed it with bread crumbs until it was pasty and then spread it on top.
Again, wrapped it and labeled it. To heat it should go in a 350 oven for about 45 minutes.
The chicken is running low. Time to add some fiber. So now we will be making a pan of chicken enchiladas.
Saute' one medium white onion in two tablespoons of olive oil until translucent. Add two cans (15 oz) of tomato sauce, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp oregano and simmer for at least ten minutes and as long as thirty. Reserve 1/2 cup. To the remaining sauce add the chicken and one can of rinsed kidney beans. In a 9×13 pan (foil for me!) spoon a thin layer of the reserved sauce (don't use it all). Spoon some of the chicken/bean mixture onto half a tortilla and roll. This recipe makes about 12-15 rolls. After you've placed them in the pan spoon the remaining sauce on top and then add a few handfuls of shredded cheddar.
There are two layers there. Again, wrapped and labeled and into the freezer.
Now I was able to pull this off in about an hour (not including clean-up) since I've done it before if you are new to it then it might take a wee bit longer but for a relatively small time investment you can have three meals in the freezer for those busy nights. It was not too big a deal since the littles were in bed, I had a glass of wine and there was Pandora or maybe the Fox News channel on the kitchen TV. I don't remember.
I hope this is helpful. Next time we'll do a beef thing.