Staying sane with easy meals. (Or, "What do you mean, I have to actually *feed* my kids???") - J. Kenner

Staying sane with easy meals. (Or, "What do you mean, I have to actually *feed* my kids???")

I cook. A lot. We used to eat out a lot, but those were in the pre-kid/lawyer paycheck days when dropping over a hundred for sushi after work because we just felt like it didn’t seem financially idiotic. Now, we’re followed by those every-present specters of freelance life: will I get another contract? wouldn’t the sushi money be better spent on a college fund? why do growing kids eat so much? (Okay, wait. That’s not a freelance thing.) And, of course, there’s the time suck of going to a restaurant.

Yes, you heard me right. Time. Suck.

But, but, but…isn’t that quick and easy? Don’t you just bop in, tell them what you want, and bop back out again? Maybe in your family. In ours it’s a frenetic shuffle to get the kids organized, to find all the stuff that seems required to travel with us (music, stuffed animals, books). Then there’s the getting strapped in, the getting to the place, the frequent wait for a table, the waiting to order, the waiting to get the food, the eating, the waiting for the check, the waiting for EMS after the heart-attack induced by the restaurant bill for four people, including two kids who haven’t eaten off the kids menu since they were in utero, yada yada yada. Don’t get me wrong, I love eating out, but add up all that time and, well, it’s a lot of lost time.

I don’t have time for lost time. Seriously. I have laundry breeding in the back of my closet. I have a garage filled with boxes instead of cars, despite having moved over 15 months ago. I have deadlines and kids to school. And I have a TBR pile that is growing exponentially. I’m frickin’ busy.

One option is to let the kids feed themselves, but somehow I think that a diet of trail mix and dark chocolate would result in less than stellar school performance and whining. I don’t deal well with the whining. Better to just feed them well.

Fine, you say, but how? It’s easy. The simple acknowledgement that cooking at home does not require you to be Julia Child. You don’t need to know fancy cooking words. You don’t need to know how to make a roux (or what a roux) is. You just have to think Quantity and Easy and Leftovers.

Here’s a work-week of easy yummy dinners

Grocery list:

A big ass roast (no, not necessarily a rump roast; just a lot of poundage)
iceberg lettuce,
ground beef, a couple of pounds
can of diced tomatoes
can of pureed tomatoes
a variety of veggies, fresh or frozen
sour cream
some spices (probably already in your pantry, but see below)

Monday morning (do the prep work Sunday night to make it even easier) put onions (quartered), chopped carrots, and cut up potatoes in a crockpot. Plop the roast on top. Add salt and pepper and water (I put water up to about 2 inches from the crock pot rim). Turn on low. Forget about it. That’s dinner Monday night, along with steamed or stir fried veggies.

Tuesday, have leftover roast (I told you to buy a big one!). Let it cook all day again on low. Second day roast is delish. Swear! More veggies as a side. A baked sweet potato to go with is great, especially if you avoid potatoes. (Husband and I don’t eat a lot of white potatoes, so we tend to leave those for the kids and add a sweet potato or pig out on the veggies.) Tuesday dinner, done and done!

During Tuesday’s dinner clean-up (or Monday if you pretty much polished off the roast), dump the leftovers in a stockpot. Add a can of diced tomatoes and/or a can of pureed tomatoes. Add salt, pepper, dried onion flakes, onion powder, bay leaves (3 or 4), tumeric, parsley flakes, celery flakes (or actual diced celery along with the leaves). I just eyeball it, but if you need more guidance, do 2 tsp of Tumeric, 1 Tbs pepper, 1 Tbs salt, 1 Tbs onion flakes, 2 tsp onion powder, 1 Tbs parsley and celery flakes. Stir it all up. You want it reasonably thick, so keep that in mind when you add water. How much water depends on how much liquid you dumped in. I’d say about 3-4 cups. Let it simmer on low until bedtime. Next morning, put it on the stove and do more simmering. At some point in the day, use a big knife or kitchen shears to cut up the big pieces. Simmer until dinner. Voila, Wednesday’s dinner, a yummy beef soup/stew. (Oh, you can also toss in a can of green beans or your leftover veggies from the previous night’s dinner). (This is, in fact, our dinner tonight. Here it is simmering away:

As you can see, that’s a lot of soup. It doesn’t really need a side, but if you eat bread (we don’t), it’s very dunkable. We do like it with coconut drop muffins or oopsie bread, and I’ll post those recipes in the future. You can freeze the leftovers (it reheats great). Like all soups, though, it’s better on day two. So this can be your Thursday or Friday meal, too.

That leaves one meal for the work week. A super easy one is tacos. Brown your ground beef along with some spices such as cumin, tumeric, garlic powder, onion powder,salt and pepper. Just sprinkle it in there. Cayenne pepper adds a kick, but may not be kid friendly. That’s your taco filling. The shells are iceberg lettuce leafs (or tortillas if you aren’t wheat/grain-free). Add diced tomatoes, diced avocado, diced onions, salsa and sour cream and it’s a yummy, healthy dinner!

So there you go. Hope you enjoy. Another favorite is my mom’s amazing (seriously) spaghetti sauce. Will post that one soon!

Enjoy! Hope the recipes save you some time and keep your family full and happy. Me, I’m taking my extra time and writing! At the moment, I’m revising a book with vampires and a para-daemon who needs souls to live. Alas, the vampire diet just doesn’t appeal, and I don’t have a recipe for soul-soup. Guess I won’t be doing the ShadowKeepers Companion Cookbook …..

Image: digitalart /


Sherri Browning Erwin

Oh hahaha! You obviously have girls who are not yet teens. This would work for our household if we were two adults, maybe two small kids. Once the kids hit the teen years, forget it. And if you had a boy teen, especially forget it. And let’s hope no one hits the “I’m going vegetarian” stage (talk about challenging your creativity). Enjoy it while you can!

We’re a four adult household when both kids are home from school and our grocery bills are astounding. So I will tune in for the spaghetti sauce recipe (what do you put it on if you’re avoiding carbs? I just made a wonderful pasta-free lasagna using zucchini instead of noodles), and the coconut drop muffins. Tonight’s dinner here: white chicken chili.


We avoid grains, so it’s low-carb by default more than design. But, the pasta’s an issue, and we use zucchini, too. Have this great gizmo that cuts it into spaghetti, and even Isabella, our pasta-nut LOVES it. White Chicken Chili sounds FABULOUS!

And you’re probably right on the kids and growing up. But for the moment they’re little and under my complete control. Bwahahahahahahahahahahaha (actually, they’re already pretty self sufficient in the kitchen. Catherine makes some mean ham and eggs!)


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