Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What's for Dinner

Ah, the eternal question and bane to mothers everywhere! I was getting into a serious meal situation that involved a LOT of eating out, luckily as cheaply as possible and avoiding fast food, but when we ate hamburgers at a fast food place three times in one week, I knew we were in trouble!

I cook lunch for a small herd of kids for lunch every day. These are full hot meals. At some point right before bringing Jie Jie home, I realized I was feeding them quite a nice full dinner instead of lunch. I started to scale it down. After Jie Jie came home, I simplified it even more and got great feedback from the parents. Their kids had better appetites at home for dinner now. The drawback for me was that I spent time cooking for the daycare and would forget to plan for dinner for Jie Jie and myself.

At the New Year, I finally got a freezer and a few books. The best one, by far, is called Fix, Freeze, Feast and I highly recommend it. I, of course, being the thrifty mom that I am, bought it online used. This book doesn't make you fix a regular recipe, cook it, then freeze it, then cook it again. You may have to cook part of it, but essentially, you assemble all of your ingredients and freeze it so that the cooking happens when you take it out and defrost it later. All meals are for triple quantities.

I made the chicken broccoli bake the other night and it was very good. I started with a little more chicken than asked for, so I made four batches. I also used thighs instead of breasts and it was fine. I tripled the broccoli, doubled the seasonings and added others, and the fourth batch I cooked and ate right away, served over rice. Jie Jie gave it her rave, too.

Hints: I cooked the chicken in my pressure cooker in just 3 minutes after browning it a tiny bit in there first. I actually used two pressure cookers because it was so much chicken. I also didn't cut up the chicken, but ran it through my meat grinder with a 3/4 inch plate. It seemed too minced at first, but turned out to be perfect in the end.

The seasonings I added were cumin, cardemon, ceyenne pepper and a little, and I mean a little, salt. Tripling the broccoli was crucial, too, since I don't want to have to prepare another veggie at the time I cook this to meet our nutritional requirements.

I also have in my freezer, curry meatballs, swedish meatballs, shepherd's pie, and a lot of chicken and/or turkey soup.

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