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Working mom needs some cooking inspiration

I'm a working mom, and I've found that I'm in a total cooking rut lately. Or, as my husband puts it, I've lost my cooking mojo.

I basically have 30 minutes or less from the time I walk through the door to get dinner on the table (or meltdown city ...). This means, either very simple recipes, or a lot of pre-prep the night before.

My daughter is a pretty good eater and will at least try most things (even if she doesn't like everything), though heat-spicy stuff she won't. Family favorites are roast chicken, chicken soup, peanut soba noodles, enchiladas, pasta (of course!), roasted sausage with peppers, tofu stir fry ...

What do you cook for your family that is a crowd pleaser? I'd so appreciate some inspiration!

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  1. Try searching this board for discussions of cookbooks of quick recipes, and other similar searches, like this: http://www.chow.com/search?q=quick+me...

    Also Jacques Pepin's PBS shows, (More) Fast Food My Way, which have accompanying cookbooks, are running now on CreateTV, a PBS channel. As is Sara's Weeknight Meals.

    1. Also try Jamie Oliver's 20 minute meals.

      This is an easy, delicious go to for me, Lidia's poor man's risotto. The longest part is dicing the vegetables but you can also put it in a food processor. It makes the vegetables tiny and disappear into the rice.

      http://www.lidiasitaly.com/recipes/de...

      1 Reply
      1. re: chowser

        I am in a chicken rut. This recipe by Lidia looks easy & delicious. Thanks.

      2. Make ahead meals. Do a lot of your meals on a Sunday and then just warm up for meals during the week. I make and freeze a lot of things that I can then pull out a night or two before I reheat. Stews, casseroles, etc. You can make most anything and freeze it, then while it is reheating, you can make a side at the same time.

        1 Reply
        1. What about chili? If you have a slow cooker you can set it and forget it and come home to a filling meal.

          When I'm pressed for time, frittatas come to the rescue. It's "whatever's in the fridge" omelet. Leftover sausage? Lobster? Easter ham? Throw it in. Serve the frittata with some smashed potatoes or a quick mac & cheese.

          If your family likes wraps, summer rolls are really quick and easy and the kids can messily assemble their own.

          1. Do you have a slow cooker? That can really help. While you wouldn't want to eat meals from it every day of the week and can help you out a lot.

            Do you like to cook overall? A life saver for me has been batch cooking on the weekend to fill the freezer. I usually pick one or two Sundays a month and make huge batches of things like meatballs, meatloaf, spaghetti sauce, pizza dough, all kinds of soups and stews, assorted baked pasta dishes. Many of your family favorite lend themselves to batch cooking too like pastas, chicken soup and enchiladas

            Many of those things can be popped right in the slow cooker, still frozen, before you leave in the am and then the main part of dinner is done when you walk in the door. Or leave a sticky on the fridge the night before to remind you take something out to defrost

            I also make point of making extras when I make pancakes, waffles and french toast. They freeze great, layered between wax papers. Pop in the toaster and you have quick breakfast, snack or "breakfast for dinner".

            Things that are guaranteed to get my son to the table are make your own burritos/tacos, meatballs/meatball subs, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, carrot/ginger soup, chicken noodle soup and make your own pizza

            5 Replies
            1. re: foodieX2

              Thanks, foodiex2. This is really helpful. I do like to cook, actually, but hate the rush. I was good about the cook ahead thing in the winter, but it seems summer hasn't been as conducive to that. So many other fun things to do on weekends, and somehow many of those cook ahead things didn't seem as appealing.

              A question about the slowcooker, though. I have one but think it might be too big. I can't leave it for too long unattended unless it is full, and that results in quantities to feed an army. How big is yours?

              1. re: ClippyZ

                I hear ya. Summer food doesn't call to mind stews and other crockpot things. You want fresh, light stuff. One thing I've realized is easy: fish tacos. Do thin filets on the stove in 10 minutes including preheat, prep guac in the meantime, sliced onion & lime, jarred tartar sauce and sriracha, tostadas = pretty tasty dinner. I also do large quantities of pulled pork, not necessarily in BBQ sauce (can do 'Asian' or green chiles), and use it many ways: tacos, nachos, sandwiches, most recently ramen! It even freezes well.

                1. re: julesrules

                  Mark Bittman has 101 summer meals that are supposed to take 10-20 minutes I think. It is from the NYT. Some are kid friendly, some are not but obviously depends on the child.

                2. re: ClippyZ

                  On the crock pot... I sometimes use it just for cooking meat instead of a stew/soup, etc.
                  Example, a big roast that can then be divided up to become sandwiches, into a salad, shredded for tacos or sliders, etc. I've done similar with chicken breast, then divided the meat up for different purposes (tacos, pitas, on pizza, into a curry, etc.). If it will all get used up in meals over a few days, I leave it in the fridge. If not, packed up in meal-sized portions and into the freezer!

                  1. re: ClippyZ

                    Mine is big and it does hold a lot but it also switches to warm when the cooking cycle is complete. Does yours have that option?

                    Agree that summer is not conducive to batch cooking! We were just talking about this on WFD threads-how Fall is nice because its back to routine!