February Challenge for #1

DH’s tenure packet is due in March.  Also this month the school is going to try to have a budget for next year and become solvent for this year.  DH has somehow ended up taking over the financial committee for the school, and the administration are all terrified of numbers.  It’s an uphill battle, but he’s determined.

So my February challenge is to help him out by giving him the gift of time.  I pondered how best to do that and decided I would like to take care of dinner (even if taking care of dinner is just telling him where to pick up take-out on the way back from picking up DC) every night this month.  With the pregnancy and the m/s, food duties had pretty much shifted over to him and that needs to eventually change back to something more equal.  Maybe a month off will spur in the direction towards equality.

Tonight I plan to make Cantonese Fish Stew.  Tomorrow… I got nuthin, but hopefully will come up with something.  We do have beef stew in the freezer that can be defrosted.  Really all I want to eat is ice cream.

Wish me luck!  How do you handle dinner preparation?

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26 Responses to “February Challenge for #1”

  1. Practical Parsimony Says:

    First of all, make sure you have plenty of ice cream if this is an ongoing craving.

    I have two packages of chicken breasts thawing…five pounds. I will put those all in a cooking bag and bake. I can have chicken over salad, with rice and something creamy, in sandwiches, with seasoned rice, and a thousand other chicken recipes. I can eat chicken everyday for lunch and again for dinner, day after day. But, most people cannot, will not. So, freeze some of the baked chicken. You may want other pieces of chicken rather than breast. Go for it.

    If you eat meatloaf, bake three; eat one; freeze two. Soon, you will not have to cook every night, just thaw and heat. I eat lots of brown rice. I cook it and freeze in the proper portions.

    For vegetables, salads are good. I will not eat a green pea, so green beans go in anything/casserole that calls for peas. Do you eat beans? Make a pot and freeze in portions for your family. Make hummus from them. Fresh or frozen vegetables can be easy if the meat and main idea is there.

    Tacos are easily assembled. Like I said, I don’t know what you eat. When you thaw the soup, make another pot and freeze more. For fifteen days or less you will cook and thaw the other fifteen or just assemble.

    I live alone and do this and don’t make tacos. But, you get the idea.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      No matter how much ice cream we buy, it just doesn’t seem to last through the week.

    • Debbie M Says:

      My mom freezes gooey things like chili, chili con queso, spaghetti sauce, and matzoh ball soup in ice trays. Once frozen, you can move the food to (collapsible) ziplocks. (Unlike with other containers, as you use more, the rest takes up less space.) After a while you learn how many cubes is a serving, plus you can change that amount depending on how hungry you are. And the food microwaves up faster in those smaller pieces. (I don’t user her ice cube trick, though, because I don’t mind eating the same thing all week and my boyfriend hogs all the freezer space.)

  2. Thisbe Says:

    We made a spreadsheet! It is great because it removes almost all of the decision-making stress.

    We sat down and spent a few hours thinking of foods we like to eat and that are simple to make and healthful. Then we organized them into weeks; for each week, there are two different lunches, five dinners (but three are the same every week), and several snacks (breakfast is always the same). On Sunday we decide what week of food we want to have, and go shopping. Every day we decide which dinner to make, but there are only a few options so it is not a creative challenge.

    We worried before we started that we would feel sad, because what if I wanted one thing for dinner and it were not on that week’s plan? It turns out to be a complete non-issue, since I know what my choices are and can choose which one of those I want most. And there is enough variety built in that we don’t get bored.

    If I want to cook something fancy and/ or ridiculous, there is always the weekend.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Before the food issues set in, we’d keep a running list of foods for the week (generally ~5 dishes, leaving room for leftovers and a meal out) on the back of an (used) envelope, and we’d make sure we had the ingredients for all the meals. I need to sit down and do that again… maybe this weekend.

      Tonight, DC begged for quesadillas, so they will be having quesadillas and I will be having cheese melted on top of brown rice cakes.

      • Thisbe Says:

        Sounds weirdly delicious, actually. Can you not eat corn tortillas either? So sad…I love making little tostadas with them, although I have a sad habit of setting the toaster on fire when attempting to do this.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I can’t have corn tortillas because of the insulin resistance. Sorrow Sorrow.

  3. Debbie M Says:

    “…and the administration are all terrified of numbers.” I couldn’t help finishing that thought with “Especially the number 13.”

    I go back and forth between making a four-person dish (like spaghetti or chili) and eating that for four days and making a one-person dish (like eggs or grilled cheese). My boyfriend and I cook separately because we have very little overlap in foods we like. Many of his are almost good–he just likes too much flavorings in them (hot, spicy stuff; fish sauce; bell peppers). Plus he likes big hunks of meat or seafood and I prefer dairy and grain. I do agree with him on garlic, sharp cheese, and dark chocolate.

    One more suggestion: Make ice cream into a healthy meal. Oh, is that not possible? Well, you can at least eat it with bananas, peanuts, and dark chocolate sauce. Or strawberries and granola. Also, it’s really good on oatmeal. And then have a small salad for dessert.

  4. Cloud Says:

    I cook on weekdays, since I get home first (with the kids). I put some show on the TV and make dinner in 30 minutes or less while I hope the kids either stay interested in the show or play on their own. It is fun! And not stressful at all!

    My husband cooks on weekends and makes really yummy things.

    Anyway, I can recommend Robin Miller’s Quick Fix Meals for fast dinners. There are some yummy things in there. I really like the curried butternut squash soup and there is some sort of spicy corn soup that is good, too. And other, non soup things.

    I also have a Rachel Ray cookbook home from the library right now, and am surprised to find that I like it. I made a citrus spaghetti last night that was really yummy. And easy.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We like Kevin and Nancy Mills’ Faster! I’m starving! And Help! My apartment has a kitchen!

      My life sucks right now because when the fam has spaghetti… I pour the sauce over beans. :(

  5. julier Says:

    Have you tried Relish!? (relishrelish.com). It’s a service that will help you plan your meals; you get to pick 5 out of a possible 8 or 9. Once you choose what you want to eat, it creates a pdf that includes recipes and a grocery list. Most of the meals are healthy, delicious, and quick to make. There is a small fee to subscribe, but it can be totally worth it when you need help with deciding and planning what to cook. They also have quite a few yummy freezer meals that you can prep several days in advance and then cook in just a bit of time when they’re needed.

  6. Suzita @ playfightrepeat.com Says:

    Tenure packets are pregnancies are so very similar. The both take a lot of tiring work, which includes bouts of nausea. And with luck, patience, and a lot of rest both eventually produce an amazing end product. Hang in there!

  7. Thisbe Says:

    Personally I don’t really like using cookbooks for everyday meals – I find that the cookbooks are usually fussier than I want to be. Also most cookbooks seem to be based in a style of cooking and eating that I am not interested in.

    I have done the “cooking lots of things and freezing them” thing, and it does work. The problem that I run into is that making large batches of food requires spending a long time doing that, and I usually don’t have any interest in doing so. I would rather spend a half hour every day making dinner than six hours every two weeks. But that’s just me.

    Some of the things that we eat that are fast and easy, pretty healthy, tasty, etc:

    A big one is salads. We will put ground nuts, cheese, pickled beets, grated carrots, hard boiled egg, dried fruit, diced bell pepper, sprouts, sliced cucumber, leftover meat shredded up, or whatever else sounds good on top of a salad. Even being really fussy about it, it takes half an hour or less to make. We do this at least twice a week.

    Chicken baked with rice. One quarter to one third cup rice, dry, per person, in a baking dish. Twice as much liquid (stock, water, ?) as rice poured over. An appropriate number of units of chicken set on top; I’ve done this with breasts and whole legs, both are fine. Foil over the top, oven at 350 degrees, bake until the rice is done, bam. You can also stick vegetables in with this if you feel like it, works fine.

    Breaded and baked fish – the fish is just dipped in milk and then in bread crumbs mixed with powdered cheese of some kind, and baked on a wire rack. Homemade fish sticks!

    Lentils are delicious. Red lentils cook in a really short time. Onion + oil + tomato + spice + lentil + water = food.

    Hummus. If you make it with chickpea flour instead of whole chickpeas, it is a) more delicious and creamy and b) takes about fifteen minutes start to finish, seriously. See Nick at Macheesmo’s post about this:

    http://www.macheesmo.com/2010/09/creamy-hummus/

    Sausage and potatoes, +/- something like brussels sprouts. You can do it all stove top, or you can toss it in oil, stick it all in a baking dish, and mostly leave it alone. (For the baking dish method, you would want to slice up the sausage into sausage coins. At least that’s what I do.)

    And gosh, I haven’t thought of this in years, but there’s always the old midwestern Hot Dish. Classic, though not particularly healthful. Maybe I will make that again soon.

    I don’t know exactly what your food issues are so I don’t know if you can eat all or any of those, but I hope it’s helpful to someone.

  8. mom2boy Says:

    Oooh cooking. I suck at it. So does my partner. Together it is fun. Less fun by myself. Last night was “stir fry” which was microwaved fresh veggies in a bag, microwaved rice in a bag and precut chicken strips I cooked stovetop (newly acquired skill not kidding) that soaked in some szechuan sauce while we took the dog for a walk. The small fry ate all the veggies, snow peas yummy, so I feel pretty good about it even with the ridiculous amount of convenience products I used in what should be such a simple from scratch dish. Seemed (and tasted) better than a frozen pre-made meal though.
    When I make chili, we just eat it for days until it is all gone. The whole freezing for using later thing hasn’t taken hold here.

  9. rented life Says:

    We share. I usually start the idea process and then tell him to give me 3-4 ideas over the weekend. Then I put it all together, see what we have, what we need etc. Shopping depends on who has most time and cooking depends on the meal–we each have things we make best. I really hate figuring out what to eat. For lunch and breakfast, you’re own your own.

  10. oilandgarlic Says:

    We have no system! My husband does most of the grocery shopping so he buys ingredients for whatever inspires him. He’s the main cook so he knows what he needs. We try to stock up Trader Joe pizza and other favorite ingredients like frozen artichoke hearts, fish, meats as back-up. If I have a craving or want to do a certain recipe, we buy specific items.

    I admire you for taking over this while pregnant. I had zero energy to handle anything else!

  11. frugalscholar Says:

    I thought you were apprehensive about DH’s tenure prospects. But surely–if he’s on that important committee…
    As for meals, I make a big pot of beans every week. Also, I make a lot of soup. Easy–and we get several meals out of my efforts.

  12. Jacq Says:

    I’m a “Sunday cook ahead” type of cook and really enjoy the process. That’s what we take for lunches to school / work every day. But lately, the 11 y.o. has taken to making himself a steak on the George Foreman when he gets home from school every day so I’ve kind of stopped making dinner entirely and am just eating something small like cottage cheese or crust-less apple/pumpkin pie with high protein Greek yogurt and raw veggies. We spend “dinner time” walking the dog together instead. Fortunately this is turning out to be a great method for easy peasy weight loss. ;-) It’s also a time saver and lowers the frequency of doing dishes.

    When I did have normal family meal times, I grocery shopped on Saturday and all the prep on Sunday mornings for 4 evening meals. I didn’t plan ahead and used whatever meat loss leaders that showed up on Saturday at the store. Usually I made 2 slow cooker meals and 2 ~ one hour cook time oven meals. That way I could walk the dog while the meal was cooking in the oven. Fridays was and always will be “no cook Fridays” in our house.

    It really helps to have non-fussy boys to satisfy in all of this. And when all else fails, there’s always something in the fridge / freezer that needs to get cleaned up. Or we just get busy and forget to eat entirely.


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