I have a blog still, you say? Very interesting. Life has gotten in the way of posting, and then my head has gotten in the way of posting – I keep thinking I need some kind of spectacular comeback post. [SPOILER: this is not a spectacular comeback post.] But this is my blog and I can post whenever I want, and I have been having conversations with a friend of mine that indicate that what I have been cooking may be of interest and use to some readers.
Background: Curt and I each work full time outside the home, and E is in daycare. During the week we leave the house by 7:25 am and get home between 5:20 and 5:30 pm. Miss E goes to bed around 7 pm each night and is also OMG STARVING when we get home, so our evenings are a race against the clock in the most annoying way.
Part of our solution is to have dinner on the table every night by 5:45 at the very latest, and I do that by cooking just about everything for the week ahead of time. I still like cooking on the weekends, but Monday – Thursday nights are about survival for us, not eating five-star meals.
How to manage this without spending your whole weekend in the kitchen:
- Make a plan.
- Keep the plan simple.
- Include dishes that complement each other in your plan. Using one thing in two ways (as detailed below, the chicken was all cooked together but went into the curry and fajitas; same with the pork and the salad/sandwiches) is a big time saver.
Last week, I made the following menu plan for this week – I plan weeks Saturday to Friday. Friday is always pizza night – we make homemade pizza while E snacks on cheerios and shredded mozz to keep her
alive from acting like a crazy person while we cook. We try to have something Asian and something taco-like (E loves tacos) once a week to keep some variety. Also so we don’t eat pasta every night – one cannot live by pasta alone, although we sure tried in the months right after E was born.
Saturday – crab boil! We had friends over and it was super-fun.
Sunday – party with Curt’s family, E had pizza with my sister who was babysitting.
Monday – grilled pork tenderloin w/salad
Tuesday – Thai red curry chicken & vegetables w/rice
Wednesday – Cuban sandwiches
Thursday – chicken fajitas w/black beans
Friday – pizza
This was an easy week because I didn’t have to pre-cook for Monday (hooray for three-day weekends!), but it’s hopefully a good example of how I usually do it.
- Start rice (takes about 20 minutes total).
- Start chicken poaching (I poached 1 lb. of boneless, skinless chicken breasts in seasoned water to use for both the fajitas and Thai curry; takes about 3o minutes total).
- Start chopping vegetables (do everything at once. 3 peppers and one onion for fajitas into one bowl, add olive oil and lime and season with salt, pepper, cumin, garlic, cayenne – will cook on the grill later; one pepper and half an onion for curry into another bowl, and add baby carrots, mushrooms, garlic, and ginger.)
- Rice is done.
- Start veg for curry.
- Make marinade for pork (to be grilled for Sunday night; leftovers to be used in Wed’s Cuban sandwiches) in a large ziplock; add pork. Will cook pork on the grill later.
- Chicken is done; drain and chop. Half into a container for fajitas.
- Half of chicken plus curry paste, more lime juice, coconut milk, and fish sauce into pan with veg.
Put everything away and load the dishwasher – this all (including some basic cleaning) took between an hour and an hour and a half and was done while Curt took E on a run and to the park this morning.
This afternoon, we’ll grill the pork tenderloin and veggies, and I’ll chop the stuff for the salad.
Total time: about 2.5 hours, plus time for grill pre-heating. Each night I anticipate it will take about 15 minutes to heat up any ingredients, chop any additions, or assemble anything. For example, on Tuesday and Thursday I’ll chop fresh cilantro to add to curry and fajitas. On Wednesday I’ll assemble and grill the sandwiches, etc.
It may not be the most glamorous menu or most fun way to spend a Sunday, but it’ll keep us all fed as we race through another week as a two-working-parent household.