Friday, August 08, 2008

Confessions of a Non-Cook

I just want you to know, it's a vicious lie. I cook. I do. I feed my family and everything. So if some skinny guy claiming to be my husband shows up and tells you that I don't... you can't believe him. Why, just tonight we had taquitos for dinner! With sour cream, salsa and guacamole! And last night was Annie's mac n' cheese and even...salad!

Ok, so yeah it's true that I don't cook as much in the summer. I mean, really, do you like to heat the house all up with the oven when it is 90 degrees outside? Me, either. And it just makes our air conditioner work that much harder. Tell him to quit sniveling. Besides, the only reason for a job is so you can buy food. Food that you personally don't have to cook or clean up after.

Don't get me wrong, I like to cook I really do. But some cosmic joker thought it would be real funny to time my childrens' meltdowns with the dinner hour. It is really difficult to wax poetic about creation and EVOO when you are trying to keep the little darlings from pulling each others' hair out by the roots.

"JBear, no, you can't throw your sister off the loft bed! No! I don't care if she took your stuffed animal. Maiming her in retaliation is NOT okay!"

Given this onslaught, is it any wonder I don't play more Food Network Fanatic? I am a decent cook. I can find my way around in my kitchen. I don't often burn food. People like what I cook. But have you ever tried to stir fry anything with a cacophony of

"GIVE IT BACK! I'M TELLING! YOU BETTER NOT! MOOOOMMMY! NO! DON'T DO.... SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECH!"

in the background? I swear, Alton Brown never had to contend with that! I can't tell you how many times I have been jarred into spilling food all over myself based upon that car-alarm scream! At some point, after the third time of turning the heat off on stir-fry, mind you! in order to go running down the hall, hoping to divert a disaster, you end up throwing the whole soggy mess down the sink and fetch fast food!

Someday, I am going to cook again. Life will be more than, "Quick, what can I make them before they can tear the house apart?" I broil a good piece of fish, and I serve that frequently. I marinate chicken, and they like that. But everything I do is fast and dirty. It has to be. The last thing I need to be is hauled into court as the prosecutor looks at me and asks, eyes beady over his horn-rimmed glasses: "And what were you doing while the children killed one another/burned the house down/streaked naked through the neighborhood??" Fixing dinner seems like a lame excuse.

I need to keep my wits about me. So for now, it's cook as fast as I can. Spaghetti, fish, chicken, things that require a minimum of prep. And the occasional fast food run is thrown in for good measure. (not that the kids mind that) As they get older, there will be more gourmet-type fare. Until then, maybe I will see you at Taco Bell. I'll be the one with sauce down my shirt and the wild look in my eye.

Here is where you come in. What are some, quick and tasty, tried-and-true meal ideas that work for you? I neeed your help!

T, who would like an Alice like in the Brady Bunch

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12 sent chocolate:

Condo Blues said...

Two words: crock pot.

The second best invention ever. The first? Chocololate of course.

Mrs. Tantrum said...

The other thing that has saved my behind is that place, Dinner's Done Right. You go and prep it, freeze it and then bake it in the oven. The blog http://crockpot365.blogspot.com is great. EVERY KIND of meal you could imagine, in the crock pot. AND she has gluten issues, and other food issues, so it would be up your alley. Also maybe getting the older kids involved in cooking would be a good way to get them to stop bickering and get dinner ready faster!

Alicia said...

My best tip for you is not so much a recipe as a technique; break your tried and true recipes into steps your kids can perform. Yes, you will still be working hard to orchestrate that, but at least they're too busy cracking eggs all over the floor to kill each other! And believe me, I've been there!

@JamiMiami (Twitter) said...

I hate to cook too btw but since I decided to leave my partnership at a big firm because i wanted to spend time w/ the kids, I figured it wasn't right if I didn't cook... so...
here are some things I do quickly:
1) we make our own pizzas. cheese, mushrooms, pepperoni, basil, etc. fun for the kids. easy to make. yes it requires the oven but for 15 mins.
2) Grilled cheese sandwiches + tomato soup. Kids love it for some reason.
3) Fajitas: quick & easy I buy the chicken already cut up or the steak. Put all the toppings (sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, beans) on the table and everyone builds their own.
4) Quesadillas - Same as above - buy the chicken prepared or use leftovers. Kids love it. I buy the big Mission flour tortillas.
5) Quiche - make them in advance & freeze them. Ham & Cheese, Broccoli, whatever is around and I serve that up w/ a salad.

I hate to cook but I make fun meals so that the kids don't get bored and then we have the one night where it's "gourmet night". I make something special.

Does this help??

eldevlin said...

Panini. Since most of the prep is before you cook it, you can assemble the sandwiches between breaking up fights. After you have assured the kids are relatively calm, throw them on the panini press. You even have a few minutes here to peek in on them. Flip. Check on the kids again and you're done. If you don't have a panini press yet they are only about $40 and one of the best investments I have made in my kitchen. I love to use homemade bread with pesto spread on it and turkey, bacon and cheddar. Delish. The panini press also makes great burgers and grilled chicken.

Alsymer said...

I'd second the crock pot, another family favorite in our house is a cheesy-chili casserole, and the kids get to help make it: heat your oven to 400", take a casserole dish and layer crushed tortilla chips, shredded cheese and chili in alternating layers, with a final sprinkle of chips 'n cheese on top. Bake in the oven for about 15min. We get the kids to shred the cheese, open the chili (we do the canned kind) and crush the chips (preferably not to a powder). Then they layer it too. Add in a vegetable to the mix as another layer (like bell peppers) for a bit more flavor. Serve w/ a salad and it's not a bad meal. Still involves the oven, though. :D

We also do a lot of scrambled egg 'n cheese wraps ... easy to scramble some eggs quickly, then get the kids to "build" their wraps with fresh tortillas, shredded cheese and a serving of scrambled eggs. Add diced ham or bacon for more protein.

And when it gets really bad, we do homemade "Lunchables" with deli-sliced meats, crackers and cheese, plus some veggies on the side w/ranch dressing. Not glamorous, but practical. :D

Summer said...

Here's another vote for the crock pot. Toss it all together, turn it on, and go stop the kids from killing each other all day. Also I love my George Foreman grill thing, mostly because what used to take 20-30 minutes not only takes 10. Less time heating up kitchen and less time trying to ignore the death match.

TLC said...

Thanks you guys, seriously. Now I have two new toys I have to buy: a panini maker and a George Foreman grill. I have a crock pot, but I guess I am either not organized enough or too lazy to use it. I do use it a lot in the winter. Summers seem to be a different story.

We have added problems because my son is allergic to gluten and dairy. So bread and cheese are out. The rest of us eat it, but he can't. Pizza is his favorite food, so we don't eat it in front of him.

Keep the ideas coming, they are appreciated!

Immoral Matriarch said...

Definitely get those two machines. And this will sound weird but when it comes to cooking NOTHING is more important than a good knife. It makes it easier and more enjoyable. :)

I make a Fajita Chicken Casserole that's super easy and tasty, but it's a no go with your son's allergies. :(

Dana said...

If it makes you feel better, I don't cook either....my husband does it all. He's so particular about dinner, so I delegated that duty to him. Serves him right. :)

Cindi @ Moomettesgram's Musings said...

Mother-in-Law 101 (before I was married)
Pot EVOO (before there was EVOO); hamsteak (cubed); 1 green pepper, cubed; saute; 2 cans stewed tomatoes. Another pot. Boil spaghetti. Add to pot. salt. pepper. voila. Irish spaghetti. And who says the Irish don't know how to cook?

P.S. I always called the time while dinner was being prepared & put on the table "the suicide hour."

TLC said...

Maria: I have some great knives, and when I get a chance to use them, they are wonderful.

dana: where do I find a guy who cooks? Ah, well, it's a bit late now...after 19 years I am not going anywhere. Besides, my guy is my tech support...he knows the way to my heart!

cindi: that sounds interesting, I will have to try it, thanks! Around here, I call dinner hour, Arsenic Hour...so I hear you. It would be more homicide rather than suicide, I fear.

Thanks, everyone, for the suggestions! I think I just needed some new perspective, you guys are awesome.

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