It's time for me to make a confession. I've been terrible lately at making meals at home. Our schedule the past several weeks has had us away from home during the late afternoon hours and it's just so hard to arrive home after 6pm with a starving family and expect to whip up a decent meal in minutes. It's been so much easier to go to our favorite "kid's eat free on Tuesday nights" restaurant. Hey...if we have to eat out, at least we're not paying for the kids. Problem is...it's usually junk the kids end up eating (hot dogs, grilled cheese). Sure, it's nice to go somewhere else where they cook and clean up and we return to a perfectly clean kitchen. Still, it's more money unnecessarily spent on a not so decent meal. In my defense, there's been plenty of nights I have planned ahead and organized something very easy to make on these busy days, but my well meaning husband is very good at talking me out of going to the trouble of making dinner and our behinds end up in a restaurant booth. It's a guilt ridden process: I feel guilty for spending the money on poor quality food, guilty that my kids are eating it, guilty that I couldn't be more on the ball and have dinner ready myself, and guilty that I'm probably consuming way more calories than I would at home. Planning has got to be key, but I've also got to plan meals that can be cooked earlier in the day and warmed up just before serving. I'm becoming more friendly with my crock pot again. Staring in March, the boys will have some type of activity nearly every day that will have us out of the house in the later afternoon hours. I won't have the time to devote to making dinner at dinner time.
It's can be weird to think about preparing dinner in the AM hours, but that's what I think will save us. Take today, for instance. I'm taking one of our favorite meals...grilled chicken, black beans and rice and making most of it in the morning. I soaked the beans overnight; very easy to do. Threw them in the crock pot along with some onions, garlic, cumin, curry powder, salt, white wine, rice vinegar and chicken broth. I'll cook them on low for 6-8 hours and cross my fingers that they won't get overdone.
The rice (brown jasmine) was cooking while I made the boys lunches and the chicken is marinating in the fridge. Once we get home tonight after 6pm, I'll throw the chicken on the grill, heat the rice, and maybe even toss a salad together. The final plan will be to make Tex Mex Bowls...layer in a bowl: rice, shredded cheddar cheese, black beans, chopped chicken, shredded cheese, salsa and sour cream.
If all goes well, we'll be sitting down to dinner around 6:30. Not too bad.
Another great idea for these types of meals is bar-b-q chicken Kelle's way. It basically consists of throwing a few chicken breasts into the crock pot, pouring a bottle of gourmet bar-b-q sauce, perhaps a few chopped onions and garlic powder and let it do it's thing until dinner time. I love bar-b-q this way since I can control the type of meat (hormone and antibiotic free). Plus, the leftovers make great lunches.
I'm going to have to brainstorm to come up with more ideas like these. There's always the typical pot roast, but we don't each much red meat in our house. Maybe some good chicken recipes are due.