If your family is like mine, cooking for the crew can be a little challenging. We have six people in our family - and all with different likes and dislikes. Some days it seems like NO ONE can agree on what to eat. I face this practically every day. Four kids and me being a vegetarian. Well, you can do the math on that one! Sometimes I feel like a line-cook in a diner. LOL. So, I started thinking what I do that helps simplify things and get dinner on the table before midnight! I thought I'd share few tricks and tips that help.
Find those foods that everyone will eat (or at least ALMOST everyone) and serve those when you can. For us one of those foods is lasagna. Once we figured out that all the family liked lasagna we could make a big batch and serve everyone. We add a big salad and garlic bread and dinner's done. Everyone actually eats the same thing! It's pretty rare (no pun intended)! Put it in your regular rotation (perhaps with some variations so things don't get too boring)
Use The Differences
What I've learned is that those times when there are different foods on the table are good times to get some of the family to try new things. This has been especially true of my vegetarian food. Now I don't expect the family to all jump at the chance to try my tofu. But I've had a number of occasions when someone wanted to try a stir-fry or a veggie burger or something else I've made. And more often than not, they like it. And I encourage them to do that. That one quick "Have you ever tried that tilapia that Mommy's having?" turns into a new-found food like. Win. More than once we've been able to expand
One thing that seems to help things along is when I can at least find common ingredients for several of the dishes I'm making. It helps speed prep along. For instance, if several dishes need chopped onions I can chop up a bunch of onions all at once and separate them for the different recipes when needed. And you should actively look for recipes that can use common ingredients.
And, to my next point, sometimes things can often be prepped in advance - even a few days in some cases. You can chop veggies for several recipes a few days in advance. You can cook and slice chicken breasts a day or two in advance.
Prep in advance
One of the best tricks - and I'm sure you've heard it before - is to make what you can in advance. When you can, make dishes over a weekend and refrigerate or freeze them. That can be a huge timesaver on a weekday evening. Just pull your dishes out, defrost, and warm. I'd definitely recommend thinking about your meals in advance. Do a little planning and think about which things you can prep in advance. Sometimes it's as simple as taking chicken out of the freezer to defrost earlier in the day or to set meat and/or veggies in a marinade for a few hours. The fewer last-minute things to work on and last-minute decisions to make, the better.
Don't Fret About limiting choices
You remember how our parents used to say "You'll eat whatever I put on the table."? Well, there's some real value in that also. Sometimes kids need to be pushed to try something new and different. They may like it or not like it, but they (you) will never know until they try. One of or kids is convinced that she doesn't like mashed potatoes - and now she's extended that to baked potatoes. And, really, I don't know that she's ever tried either one...or at least given them a real try. So, we're having to do a little forcing to at least get her to try it. What we need to do is to just simply serve her a baked potato when that's what everyone else is having and see what happens. It's rare for a baked potato to actually kill someone, right?
Making endless numbers of meals can be a chore - especially on weeknights. So, look for ways to make it easier, simpler, and quicker...while still keeping the troops happy. I hope some of these ideas are helpful!
- Mise En Place: Be Prepared
- Easy Changes You Can Do RIGHT NOW to Improve Your Cooking Experience
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