People often ask how we manage our houshold with a lot of very little children. Do we have help? How do we organize the day? How do we manage meals? Everyone needs to eat and I like to cook the majority of our food from scratch. One big help is menu planning for at least a week at a time. I cannot simply run out for unplanned trips to the grocery store; four children need help with diapers and potty, shoes, jackets, buckling, and strollers. Along with menu planning, I always stock staples for a few quick and easy meals in the pantry and freezer in case life derails my cooking or grocery plans. Another trick is trying to cook what I can at convenient times rather than right at the hectic dinner hour. I tend to prepare a lot at once so one cooking session covers multiple nights and produces a freezer meal or two.
I love to experiment with new recipes, stir up French sauces, or throw together multiple complimentary dishes but this is just not the stage of life for extra hours at the stove. My first goal is to serve nourishing, filling, flavorful meals. If there’s a lot of time I might make something extra. If there’s not, I don’t feel guilty if it’s all in one dish and reheated from the night before. I know everyone has been fed with good homemade food. Time for complicated recipes and cooking extravaganzas will return soon enough; kids get more independent, and infants’ sleep routines become more predictable. This week’s menu is a good example of how these principles work for our family.
Breakfast for Dinner We were very short on ingredients because I prepared dinner while Carl was out picking up the week’s groceries. I pulled out the last couple strips of bacon from the fridge plus some sausage from the freezer and cooked it half an hour ahead, then set the meat aside to be reheated on the frying pan when were ready to eat. I stirred up my standard whole grain pancake batter while Carl and the kids were out and set it aside for half an hour so we could unpack and stow groceries before frying up the cakes. Apples, butter, and maple syrup rounded out the table. These pancakes actually turned out better than ever before – so perfectly light and fluffy. I think leaving the batter sit made the difference? This is a good example of a pantry meal I can almost always pull together from ingredients on hand. It’s also a good example of a meal prepped just a bit ahead during a quiet lull to reduce pressure right at the dinner hour.
Butternut squash soup with 30 minute dinner rolls The soup is from this staple fall recipe. I doubled it so we’d have a couple of nights’ dinner plus a couple freezer meals. I roasted the squash when I got up in the morning. In the evening I just had to assemble everything. I packed up the freezer half without the added milk as dairy products don’t always freeze well. This soup is always delicious and the kids loved it, even though I forgot to add dollops of sour cream. I served it with these 30 Minute Yeast Rolls, substituting honey for sugar. It was a disappointing bread recipe. The rolls felt flavorless with a borderline cake consistency. I won’t make them again, but it was nice to smell fresh bread baking for the first time since the new baby came home.
Pot Roast I followed my usual recipe, more or less, doubled so we’d have two or three nights’ dinners plus a couple frozen meals. This is another meal I had prepped and into a 300 degree oven by 7:30 in the morning. That allowed plenty of time for a three hour low and slow roast for perfect falling-apart meat. It guaranteed we’d have dinner in a busy work day no matter what happened or how hectic the afternoon became as I juggled small children. This pot roast is a great food to make in large quantitites because the flavors deepen and marry as they sit on the fridge. A lot of roasts don’t freeze well, but this one can be pulled apart into more of a stew and freezes nicely. The kids loved the meat, though they were more hesitant with the veggies. I’d considered a side of salad, fresh bread, or potatoes, but in the end bowlfuls of rich broth and veggies with savory hunks of meat were more than satisfying.
Goat cheese and red pepper frittata I found this recipe in a Williams-Sonoma vegetarian cookbook I borrowed from th library. We haven’t tried it yet but it looks tasty. I expect this to only make enough for one meal (reheated eggs aren’t great…). We will eat it with salad or raw veggies for balance.
On Sundays we usually eat dinner at our small group leaders’ home so I only plan six dinners a week. Breakfasts and lunches are pretty simple and routine.