Dinner in a hurry

With our new winter schedule, like many of you, I am once again trying to get back into a menu planning groove. Dinner more often than not is a rushed affair complicated by potty training two toddlers and a 5 year old who just wants to help in the kitchen. Don't get me wrong, these are all great things, but when you are trying to get dinner on the table in under 30 minutes, spending 10 minutes in the bathroom every 10-15 minutes while trying to figure out what you can delegate to a 5 year old without putting her in danger of burning her hands or cutting off a finger, is a challenge.

One of the twins also wants to help in the kitchen, so it is taking even more planning on my part to figure out what tasks I can give them, because I really want them to be involved and interested in their food. Many nights however, I politely shoo them out of the kitchen and turn on the TV or some music and that gives me about 10 minutes to get myself organized. Why is it that they can entertain themselves fine earlier in the afternoon, but if I really need to get food on the table, they can't do without Mamma :)

My lofty goal is to take 15 minutes to plan our meals for the week on Monday nights while my husband is giving the kids a bath, since I mostly go shopping on Tuesdays. I have been writing it directly into my planner (yes, I know I'm old school and inefficient and still carry a hard copy of a day planner even though most items are on my Iphone calendar too, but I like to see it writing).

Here is an example of a week:

Tuesday: Roast chicken with potatoes, carrots and onions and spaghetti squash. I based mine on this recipe from Giada De Laurentiis but used what I had on hand for the vegetables. I roasted the spaghetti squash separately.

Wednesday: Pinterest recipe that is simple, few ingredients and tastes amazing!! Pad Thai. You can keep it vegetarian like the recipe or use leftover chicken, shrimp, steak, whatever you have. I used the rest of the roast chicken and rice vinegar instead of lime juice because I forgot to add limes to my grocery list. Still tasted great.
Thursday: What Karina calls "Eggy Pie" aka Quiche. You can make your own crust (don't be afraid! Its easy with the food processor and this recipe from Gourmet) or store bought is perfectly fine. Whip up about 5-6 eggs with about 1/4 cup milk or cream, salt, pepper, 1 minced garlic clove. I added in the leftover potatoes, carrots and onions from Tuesday night's dinner and a couple of handfuls of spinach, a diced tomato, some bacon and feta. If you don't have any leftovers to throw in, chop a jar of artichokes and you have a delicious spinach and artichoke quiche. I cook or heat up the filling (bacon, spinach, artichokes, onions, etc) first while the crust is baking. Then I take the crust out of the oven, pile the filling in it and then pour in the the egg and milk mixture. Drop some feta around the whole pie and sprinkle with mozzarella on top and bake. I can never get the timing right. It took about 40 minutes to cook. I had some hungry, grumpy kids on my hands, so fended them off with oranges :)

Friday: Take out Chinese food :)

Saturday: Shepherd's pie. Made this ahead for Tim and the kids because I had a fun girls weekend in NYC :) I made mashed potatoes with half sweet potatoes and half russet potatoes. The meat I ground myself and was a mixture of pork and beef. I LOVE my new KitchenAid grinder attachment! Ground meat just tastes so much better, more fresh when you grind it yourself, not to mention you know exactly what's in it. Take's 10 minutes and is worth it!

Sunday: Pumpkin pasta bake. I also made this before I left for my trip, since I knew I would be home just in time for dinner. I just boiled some curly q noodles according to the package, drained them. In the same pot, I added about a jar of sauce (Bertoli Tomato and Basil), 1/3 cup of chive cottage cheese, 1/2 small can of pumpkin puree (make sure its not pumpkin pie filling! just plain pumpkin. Trust me. I've made that mistake before), salt and pepper. Mix it all together and heat for about 5 minutes. Put in casserole dish, cover with shredded mozzarella.

Pastas, rice pilaf in the rice cooker, fresh fish, frozen cooked shrimp, kielbasa, frozen Trader Joe's meatballs, store bought mashed potatoes, zucchini, steak and squash that can be made in under 30 minutes are what I tend to make dinners from when I'm in a pinch. 

 Keep safe New Englanders! Here is a link to food safety guidelines if your power goes out. I have both crock pots going right now to cook a roast and sausage and potatoes so we will have some cooked food to eat, which I can store in my garage since it will stay below 40 degrees and I don't want to lose my last batch of boerewors!