Sunday, February 26, 2012

Please Come Out of the Kitchen With Your Hands Up

Somewhere during the week of my last fairly labor-intensive menu plan (on the night I was making coconut shrimp from scratch, as in grating my own coconut, which just happened to be Valentine's Day), my husband glanced around at the giant mess of food prep covering our kitchen counter and not so much asked as suggested that we just have easy meals for awhile. "That's why my mom made Hamburger Helper so much, because it was easy," he said.

My husband may just as well have said, "Please come out of the kitchen with your hands up." I was under arrest for making too elaborate of meals. Actually, I think it was really for making too much of a mess during those meals!

Yet, with children all under six--while they can help a little in the kitchen (like shredding lettuce for tacos and putting out silverware and cups)--almost all of the food prep, cooking, and cleanup falls on my shoulders. Executing three meals a day, seven days a week, does become a little burdensome at times.

I truly enjoy cooking. To me, it's not only fun; it's my labor of love for my family. Sitting at the table as a family for dinner is like the crescendo of the orchestra: it's the point when all the work pays off and is celebrated. Or, at least, it should be.

So when your husband suggests you start making...ahem...Hamburger Helper instead "because it's easy," it feels like someone's asking Chopin to dumb it down and play Chopsticks instead of one of his masterpieces (not that I am drawing a comparison between myself in the kitchen and Chopin on the piano...). It kind of takes the wind out of your sails. But then you realize: he's right. Night after night, it is a lot of work. Let's find a way--in this season with a six-month old baby--to make it a little easier. It can still be healthy; it just doesn't have to be so labor intensive.

So this is the start of the week of easy meals.

In her book, Created to Be His Help Meet: Discover How God Can Make Your Marriage Glorious, Debi Pearl has a great section on making meals manageable, largely utilizing the crockpot, and sticking to the same basic meals each week.

She suggests peanut butter toast served on paper towels for breakfast, burritos from beans in the crockpot plus veggies for lunch, and a rotating list of simple evening meals.

Because I just can't bring myself to fully remove creativity from menu planning (and because I like to try new recipes), here is my list of more simple, but still enjoyable, recipes for the week:

  • Oatmeal with a little butter and brown sugar, fruit salad of blackberries/kiwi fruit/strawberries/clementines 
  • Fried eggs, toast, clementines
  • Applesauce bread, smoothies
  • Yogurt, granola, blackberries
  • French toast or waffles, orange juice
  • Cold cereal and juice
  • Pancakes, bacon
  • Veggie scramble and toast
  • Taco salad
  • Leftover beef stew
  • Southwest salad (corn, black beans, cheddar cheese over romaine. Dressing: mix Ranch with salsa) and tortilla chips
  • Homemade macaroni and cheese, mixed vegetables
  • Beans and rice on tortillas (like tacos)

  • Crockpot beef stew, salad, crescent rolls (in the can--that's easy)
  • Crockpot creamy chicken and mushroom pasta, asparagus, garlic parmesan bread (from Walmart)
  • Creamy shells with tuna and spinach (from the latest issue of Everyday Food,but here is the closest recipe link), cooked carrots
  • Cuban black beans, rice, tortillas (again from Everyday Food,--I could not find the recipe online)
  • Skillet ziti with chicken and broccoli (but probably making it in the crockpot instead) over pasta with salad and bread
  • Pizza, carrot and celery sticks
  • Sausage Rigatoni, salad, garlic bread 
I'd love to hear your easiest, go-to meals, and ways you streamline weeknight meals! Do you make the same things every week? Do you often use your crockpot?

(linked up with Menu Plan Monday)


  1. One of our favorite easy go to meals is CHOP. Corn, hamburg, onion and potatoes. I use 1 pan to brown the hamburg, set it aside and then fry thin sliced potatoes and onion in the same pan with butter (after rinsing out the hamburger grease). Then at the end throw some frozen corn and the hamburg back in and cover for about 5 minutes. I'm actually making it tonight. My whole family loves it and my 3 year old daughter (she'll be 4 or 1 on Wednesday the 29th) loves to smother it in ketchup.

  2. Love your title! And I like your outlook on dinner: the crescendo of the orchestra! I enjoy dinner each night around the table, but I don't think I've thought about it that way...I'm gonna reflect on that one. :)

    Thanks for all of these terrific menu ideas. I needed them!