As a working mom, I often find myself torn between wanting to cook a delicious meal for my family and having the time to do so. Because I refuse to give in to the call of fast food more often than once a week (fiscally and physically smart!), I had to develop strategies to make weekday cooking easier. Here's a list of my most frequently used strategies:
1) Plan ahead. I know this seems like a no-brainer but you'd be surprised how few people actually do this. I take stock of what's in my pantry/freezer mid-week and plan my menu around what I already have. My goal is to only do one big grocery trip per month, with weekly trips to the store for perishable items. Planning saves a lot of time and money and keeps me from impulse buying at the grocery store.
2) Keep the basics in stock. I always make sure to have canned broth, cream of chicken/mushroom soup, canned veggies, rice, beans, noodles of all shapes and sizes, bouillion, dried minced onions and other spices on hand. You'd be surprised at how quickly you can whip something up with just the basics.
3) Slice it and freeze it. How many times have you made a recipe that calls for sliced carrots and celery and once you've done that, you still have tons of carrots and celery left over? Tired of wasting these veggies that are staples for just about any soup, I started slicing these veggies and freezing them in one cup portions. Granted, if you want crisp celery and carrots, you need to go with fresh produce. However, if you're only going to throw these into a pot of soup, you won't miss the crispness that is lost in the freezing process. I've done the same with green chiles, corn on the cob and grated zucchini.
4) Cook it and freeze it. I am in love with my crockpots (yes, plural) and they are easily my most utilized kitchen appliances. One of the best ways to use them is in cooking meats with the intention of later freezing them, usually in 2 cup portions. I crockpot roast, shred it and freeze it for making green chile burritos, shepherd's pie, roast and gravy over biscuits, etc. I crockpot chicken with the skin removed, shred it and freeze it for soups, chicken enchiladas, etc. And I recently browned over 4lbs of ground beef in the crockpot (cook it on HIGH for a few hours and frequently use a spatula to break up and stir the meat until done) and froze it in one pound portions. You can use the one pound portions for tacos, tostadas or even add it to Hamburger Helper and cut down the prep time.
5) Leftovers are your friends. I know. You hate leftovers. Who wants to eat the same thing two nights in a row, right? My solution to this is to go ahead and cook with leftovers in mind but freeze your leftovers. This way, you can have a homemade frozen dinner right at your fingertips. In my freezer now: cheese enchiladas, bean soup, chile verde, homemade pasta sauce, etc. Any one of these can be thawed and served in no time. Viva la microwave!
So, all these tips lead me to the dinner I made last night. It was fast, easy and most importantly, delicious. Enjoy!!!
Busy Mom's Chicken & Dumplings
4 cans chicken broth
2 cans cream of chicken soup
4 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 can corn, drained
1 can green beans, drained
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup sliced celery
1/4 cup dried minced onions
1 tbl dried parsley
4 heaping tbls chicken bouillon
1 can Grands biscuits - uncooked
Add all ingredients, EXCEPT the biscuits, into a large stockpot. Add 4 cups of water and bring ingredients to a boil. Lower heat to medium, cover and cook for about 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. While soup is cooking, cut the Grands biscuits into chunks, about 6-8 chunks per biscuit. After the vegetables are tender, drop the biscuit dough into the pot, stir and cover. Cook for about 10 minutes and stir again. Your soup should have a gravy/stew consistency. Makes 10-12 hearty servings and reheats easily for next day leftovers.