I am a Stay At Home Parent Failure

I don’t cook.

Unless you count penne pasta with some microwaved Ragu sauce.

I do enjoy baking. Except for the mess.

This pattern of behavior resulted in dining out for dinner. A lot.

Because it’s really too hot to bake 75% of the year in Texas.

Having my appliances out to get me and ants claiming my stove didn’t help matter.

Today something switched over in me.

Maybe it was actually needing to wear long sleeves for the first time since spring.

Maybe it was the dry, refreshing air as I opened my windows.

Maybe it was reading multiple blogs this weekend posting recipes I thought my children might like.

Whatever the reason.

I’m going to try to turn over a new leaf.

For my children.

Right now I am a Stay at Home Parent Failure.

I admit it.

My house is still unorganized.

My laundry isn’t put away.

And I rarely ever cook.

My children eat Nutri-grain blueberry Eggos for breakfast. Every morning.

My children eat peanut butter and jelly for lunch. Almost every day.

We dine out for dinner. Almost every night.

When I do cook, it is either the aforementioned pasta or Duncan Hines brownies.

We used to grill a lot, until the temperatures climbed over 100 every day and a burn ban went into effect.

My daughter is the embodiment of two year old pickiness. She will not eat a vegetable. Some nights she’ll barely touch her favorite foods, much less something good for her like beans and rice.

My four and half year old son has become more choosy with age and will typically only eat vegetables in soup form. He does love beans and rice.

Both of them are happy to eat the usual “kid” foods (i.e. unhealthy) like pizza and hot dogs.

My 4.5 year old uses the mixer.

My son loves to help with baking, but the dream whip frosting isn't what I'd call "nutritious".

I want better for them.

I want to teach my children to cook.

Yes, the irony is not lost on me.

But I need help.

I have several recipes from my childhood.

None are for “healthy” food.

I need new recipes.

There are millions of them on the internet.

Most are not written for the cooking challenged.

I like directions written out and easy enough for a four year old to follow (example: a recipe for rice does not mention you should wash your rice first if it is not instant – oops).

I am a recipe follower. I measure ingredients to the letter. I’m told it has a lot to do with my love of baking – you can’t really tweak it before it’s ready.

I’m asking my readers for help.

I need healthy recipes (with one to all of requirements below):

  1. with easy to understand directions.
  2. my 4.5 year old can help me make.
  3. with a quick prep time (sometimes my daughter won’t let me boil pasta).
  4. creative, hidden, but still healthy ways to expose children to vegetables.
  5. my very picky two year old (who loves fruit, cereal, cheese pizza, hot dogs, but rarely eats meat) might eat.

Dinner recipes are needed most, but ones for healthy snacks or breakfast would also be nice.

As far as their tastes go, both of my children enjoy Italian food and fruit smoothies. My son loves Mexican food too.

My daughter licks her first beater at the age of two.

Lil Diva wants a piece of the action, further complicating completion of more intricate recipes.

I asked on facebook and someone mentioned Crockpot Girls. I couldn’t find a lot of feedback or nutritional information on many of the recipes.

I fear cooking dinner, having it turn into inedible mush, then watching meltdowns ensue.

I need recipes you’ve actually made, with any tweaks you did.

I don’t mind if they’re copy and pasted, linked to the recipe(s), a blog post you did about it, whatever.

Just tell me what the recipe is called and which number (s) above the recipe falls into.

Thank you so much for your help.

I’m tired of being a failure in the kitchen.

*Note: I cannot freeze anything, which complicates cooking ahead and thawing as needed.

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About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos (www.writingwithchaos.com) sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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70 Responses to I am a Stay At Home Parent Failure

  1. Katie says:

    I’ll get you some. Even though Satoko cooks many of our meals, Albert and I are capable of cooking too and I have some good easy ones.

    And I wouldn’t get too upset over your kid’s pickiness. We eat most of our meals at home, and Little Man still had a diet very much like Lil Diva’s. He’s just 2.

    I will say, though that my trick for hiding healthy stuff for him is pancakes. He loves them. They’re great for breakfast an snacks, and even a quick dinner in a pinch. You can get whole grain complete pancake mixes so they’re getting good grains. I always put some sort of fruit or vegetable in them. My usual is mashed up bananas, but I’ve also done applesauce, sweet potatoes, carrots and even zucchini. Satoko frequently puts yogurt and an extra egg in them. A scoop if protein powder would add some extra nutrients. I often throw in a small handful of chocolate chips too. By adding fruit and a small bit of chocolate, they’re tasty enough that he doesn’t need syrup. In fact, I dont even offer syrup.

    • When you used to write about your baking weekends, I was often in awe of you.

      I know it’s a lot harder with two kids. 🙂

      There was a period of time where Lil Diva wouldn’t let me cook (still is occasionally), so meal planning was nearly impossible.

      While my children do eat Eggos every day, they do eat them plain. No butter or syrup.

      Smoothies are often the best way to get my children to eat healthy, but the pancake option intrigues me. My issue is not understanding the ratios of what you can add and still have it taste good. I don’t “dabble”.

      The other issue I have is “caving” to Lil Diva. If I cook food she doesn’t eat, I have to make something else for her. Which sends the wrong message to my son. So often I will take the easy way and just feed her what I know she will eat. I can’t just not let her eat at this age (when she’s older, I will be able to), especially as she cuts the last two molars which make her refuse even her favorite foods.

      I look forward to recipes from you!

      • Katie says:

        Okay, I would also suggest a book for you. I LOVED this book! It’s called Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton, and I liked it so much I actually did a review of it on my blog here: http://kansascitykatie.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/good-and-quick-read/.

        The author is a stay-at-home dad and was formerly a food critic for the Seattle Times (I think that’s the newspaper up there, I could be wrong). He discusses how he tried to get his daughter to eat all of the variety of foods that he loves to eat and his struggles in that regard. Really funny and informative. Anyway, check it out, it’s awesome!

        As far as pancakes, I mash up 1 medium to large banana for a regular batch of pancakes. In general, I’d say that 1/2 – 3/4 cup of fruits and veggies would be a good amount. With vegetables, stick to ones that are sweeter (like sweet potatoes, squash and carrots) or ones that have very mild flavor (like zucchini) or else your pancakes will taste funny. And only add about 1/2 cup of veggies. And I usually eliminate the butter or oil that the mix calls for — most fruits especially will serve the same purpose. Also add your fruits and veggies first (before the water) and then just add water as needed to get the right consistency. If you add 1 cup of applesauce and 1 cup of water, you’ll have ridiculously watery pancakes.

      • Katie says:

        For yogurt in the pancakes, one regular container of yogurt would be fine. A flavored yogurt would taste best. Again, add that to your mix before adding water and then just add what water you need to get the consistency right.

        Have you ever made applesauce? Ridiculously easy! It’s time-consuming to cut the apples though so I do it at night after the kids are in bed. All you do is get a bag of tasty apples (don’t use red delicious — those are so incredibly boring). Honey Crisps are so good, but so are Jonathan, Gala, Fuji, Braeburn, etc. Peel and slice the apples into your crock pot (get it really fully because they cook down a lot). Then turn the crock pot on to low and cook for 8-10 hours. I just leave it on all night and then have applesauce in the morning! I don’t add anything to the apples — they don’t need any extra sugar or water. It’s so yummy this way!

        • I have a ton of apples and I’d hoped to do this tonight, but too much time at the store means it’ll have to wait until later.

          Of course, tomorrow is the day my house is cleaned, which means I won’t want to cook for at least 24 hours so it can sparkle before reverting to its old state. 🙂 I’m hoping to get stuff done before they show up in the afternoon.

          Trying out a granola bar recipe.

          I need to try your graham cracker one too. That was sooo yummy.

          Thank you for every bit of help you’ve given me. Don’t be surprised if you get an emergency “Crap! What does this mean?” email while I try out recipes… 🙂

        • Katie says:

          No problem! I’m happy to explain 🙂 Those Graham crackers are soooo good. I need to make some soon.

  2. Tara R. says:

    I have one word for you – ‘crockpot.’ I love my crock. Most recipes you can just dump all the ingredients in, put on the lid, set the timer, and leave it for 4-8 hours and viola – dinner is ready. You can even cook breakfast in it, setting it up at night, and it’s ready in the morning. This is one of my favorite recipe websites: http://allrecipes.com/Recipes/Main-Dish/Slow-Cooker/Main.aspx

    • See, I also love my crockpot. Especially in summer when it’s too hot to turn the oven on. The issue I have is many recipes either involve tons of prep work (cutting and slicing and dicing) to be healthy, or they contain ingredients me or my children don’t like (I’m trying to be better about it), but I lack the courage to “tweak”.

      Is there a favorite recipe at the site you love?

  3. Katie says:

    Here’s the link to the page where I’ve compiled all the recipes I’ve posted on my blog. http://kansascitykatie.wordpress.com/recipes/. I have my descriptions, review and instructions in the post.

    Something that we’ll do occasionally for an easy and quick dinner is make tortilla pizzas. The kids can make their own so it’s nice and interactive! All you do it take a flour tortilla (you can use whole wheat or regular), smear some canned pizza sauce on it, top with your toppings of choice, cover it all with cheese and pop in the oven for 10 minutes. Easy, yummy, and everyone gets what they want on their pizza.

    • I love the tortilla pizza idea. Sadly, all I think my children would add is cheese…

      You’re also doing a great job explaining things in “cooking for dummy” form. Thank you.

      • Katie says:

        Hey, tomato sauce and cheese is still pizza! If you want to sneak in some veggies that they won’t know about, what you can do it steam some veggies till they’re really soft (I’d suggest broccoli, zucchini, carrots, sweet potatoes, things like that), then puree them down really fine. (If you need to hide veggies and don’t have a food processor, you may need to get one, even a small one. Purees are great for sneaking in veggies). Mix a few tablespoons of that into the pizza sauce before you even give it to them to put on their pizza. Boom! They’re eating veggies and don’t even know it!

        • I have steam bags for veggies. How long do you steam them for? I know too much and they’re soggy. Too little and they are also gross…

        • Katie says:

          It really depends on the veggie (sorry). For hard ones like carrots an sweet potatoes, I’d probably do 3-4 minutes in the microwave. For stuff like broccoli and cauliflower, probably only 2-3. I just use a steam basket in a sauce pan though so I can check for doneness throughout. But if you overcook them, just puree and add to the aforementioned tomato sauce!

  4. True story- as I read the Nutrigrain Waffle part, I was listening to a Nutrigrain waffle commercial. It’s like advertising was beamed from you, into my head, and projected onto the tv.

    In all reality? The mom’s you see on TV are not real. Hell, most of the mom’s you see in blog-land aren’t showing the reality, they’re showing the good moments.

    I’ve been a SAHM now for 14 years. It started because Day care cost more than I’d make working. It stuck when my two youngest were SO DIFFICULT due to Asperger’s.

    Through out all of it, I have different phases. I went through a betty-homemaker phase where I actually got up at 6am to make pancakes, muffins, and eggs for the kids and my husband at dinner.

    Other times, I’ve gotten cereal out the night before, filled rubbermaid bowls with lids, and had it all set to go- just add milk in the morning. Seriously, it’s normal to do that.

    We’re not superheros. We’re people. We get tired, we get in a rut. Sometimes we change it up. Sometimes we don’t.

    The point of this? Don’t beat yourself up. Because?

    My house is still unorganized. – Your house is lived in, not in a magazine.

    My laundry isn’t put away. – Your clothing is clean.

    And I rarely ever cook. – Who does?

    My children eat Nutri-grain blueberry Eggos for breakfast. Every morning. – They had breakfast.

    My children eat peanut butter and jelly for lunch. Almost every day. – They have lunch.

    We dine out for dinner. Almost every night. – They have dinner.

    When I do cook, it is either the aforementioned pasta or Duncan Hines brownies. – And? It’s food, right?

    All that said, look up 4-ingredient recipes. There are TONS of books and websites filled with them. They are easy to make, and range from totally unhealthy to totally healthy. But with 4 ingredients for a meal? Can’t lose.

    And make it easy (and realistic) on yourself- don’t expect to change all your habits over night. Start light- 1 day a week, set aside time to make a home cooked dinner trying out a new recipe.

    Good luck!

    • Dear Anna,

      I think I love you.

      Thank you for that comment.

      Are the 4 ingredient recipes tasty? I have learned (with age) that much of my aversion to vegetables and foods is because when I tried them, they weren’t cooked or mixed properly. I am in search of these recipes to suddenly make me like the foods I hated for years. I know it can be done.

      I just don’t know how to do it without an hour of prep work.

      If I just had a kitchen aid who could prep all ingredients into to tiny bowls to be dumped into the recipe, I could totally handle it.

      Thank you for the advice of a slow change.

      Just.. thank you.

  5. Kristina says:

    I wish I lived by you. I would totally help you – really help you in the way an outsider can see the pitfalls you don’t even notice as you fall into them.

    I love to cook and do so – I make dinner nearly every night unless it’s a special occasion. The trick is: make a menu of meals that everyone in the family likes at least 1 part of and then rotate. Ex: spaghetti w/meatballs, green beans & garlic cheese toast is every 8 days. Make as much of that meal as practical, purchase the other components. And learn how to make French toast casserole. Oh, and stop worrying so much about each food group happening at every meal – look at the combined day and be happy if there has been color throughout.

    I have 1 kiddo who eats mostly air, bread & cheese. 1 who likes fruits & veggies & 1 that is flexible but refuses to eat anything his siblings have said they don’t like. So, 2 rules: no negative comments about meals and if you’ve tried everything, feel free to go grab something out of the approved fridge drawer or pantry basket.

    I can email you other ideas if you want. I’ve been doing this for almost 12 years – might as well share what has kept me sane…

  6. Boiling pasta and heating Ragu in the microwave isn’t cooking?
    Crap.

    p.s. I’m just going to send you my love on this one. I don’t think I’d be much help. I do cook, but my recipes are outside your list of requirements. So. Hang in there. And call me if you want to make dinner reservations…

    • I would love to meet you for dinner. Sadly, I think it would be a bit of commute for either of us.

      Let me know if you ever make it to Texas.

      I have the dining out thing down pat.

      I’ll pester you in a few more years for tasty “complicated” recipes. 🙂

  7. You’re not a failure, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. I bet you can find a ton of books or websites with kid friendly recipes. I think it’s great that you’re making the effort!

    • I’ve been looking and even have a kid friendly cook book. My biggest issue is it doesn’t give quite enough direction – it assumes I know how to cook.

      I also prefer “used” recipes that have been tweaked and have glowing recommendations from those with kids.

      I’m going to try.

      I have now spent two nights in a row at grocery stores. For two hours. Because no one store has everything and I’m looking for things I’ve never had to locate before…

  8. Helene says:

    You are most definitely not a failure! Sure, your house may be disorganized and dishes piled up in the sink but your children are loved and safe and happy. I’d happily walk away from a sink full of dishes to play a game of hide and seek with my kids! That’s not a parent fail at all!!

    I didn’t start out being a good cook…or a cook, for that matter. I never even knew how to bake or even liked to bake. But somehow I got myself to step out of my comfort zone and just teach myself. It’s actually a lot of fun once you get the hang of it.

    If you have a crockpot, there are a ton of easy things you can do. One of my favorite recipes (and my kids too) is to take 3-4 chicken breasts, a cup of salsa, a can of black beans and some taco seasoning and throw it all in the crockpot. Let it cook for about 4 on high or 6 hours on low. Then shred the chicken and let it cook a little while longer. My kids LOVE to help me shred the chicken. Then serve it in a warm tortilla with cheese or make nachos. It’s super delicious and easy…and healthy!! Sometimes I make a double batch and freeze half of it for a meal the following week!

    • I can’t freeze it but I bet my son would love that recipe. Lil Diva (lately) will only eat plain tortillas. No chicken. No beans. Not even rice.

      It’s driving me crazy.

      Do you (are anyone else) know a good brand for tortillas? I live in Texas so there has to be somewhere (other than a restaurant) where you can get delicious tortillas. It makes a HUGE difference in the final product.

      Thank you so much for the kind words. I see so many other mothers who seem to be put together and have hot meals most nights… and it’s about as far from me as you get.

  9. John says:

    I’ll have an email to you shortly with some of my go-to recipes.

    I’ve learned to love to cook. But I have a slightly unhealthy obsession with cheese. Mmmmmm, cheese.

    I really lucked out in that I have two kids who almost demand veggies. They may change their minds in the future . . . but for now, nothing beats a pile of frozen peas & carrots for dinner.

    • My son used to eat veggies in stir-fry. He’s gotten pickier since he hit the twos. He will eat them in small enough in soups or fried rice.

      Lil Diva…. she wouldn’t eat them as a baby and still won’t touch them. Tonight her dinner was chips and tortillas because she refused the fajita chicken (which she used to eat… sometimes). Her habits have become very weird since the cutting of the 2 year molars began.

      I cannot wait for it to be done.

      Thank you so much for emailing me more recipes. I’m building quite the collection and have had “fun” grocery shopping the last two nights (for four hours.. seriously).

      Oh, and I completely agree about cheese. Mmmmm..

  10. Jackie says:

    While my 3 yr old is picky, it’s nothing like my husband! That’s the real problem in our house! I am trying to be a better cook, and do it more, but it is hard!
    These blogs are my message board friends and might be helpful.
    http://runningmamacooks.blogspot.com/
    http://delish-lishie.blogspot.com/

  11. I just need to find the time to cook! UGH. I fail there, too.

    This is my favorite go-to for recipes- they are easy and kid-friendly: http://stolenmomentscooking.com/

  12. Sparky says:

    Feel privileged, fellow Fail-Mom…I am about to share my no–fail, sure-fire Chicken Stuffing Casserole recipe…which I have NEVER done before!
    Should cover numbers 1 through 4 in your list, and has an above-average chance at #5.
    This is my fall-back, fail-safe dinner for when my family is tired, cranky, hungry, and want comfort food.
    And it’s healthy!

    What you need:

    A box of Stove-Top Stuffing (any flavor)
    A can of Cream of Chicken soup
    A can of Cream of Celery soup
    A can of Chicken Broth
    2 cans of Chunk White Meat Chicken
    A little butter or spread

    What you do:

    Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray (or line it with foil, THEN spray…no fuss clean-up).
    Turn the oven on to 350.

    Drain the chicken and dump both cans into the dish.
    Dump both cans of soup over it and mash it all into the bottom.
    Pour the whole box of stuffing over it all and spread it out.
    Drizzle the can of broth over the stuffing.
    Drop little pats of butter here and there over the top to melt in.

    Bake it for about 15-20 minutes. The soup will bubble up at the edges.

    Some little tweaks if you like…
    Add some chopped onion (or onion flakes) to the soup and chicken mash
    Boil chunks of chicken yourself if you don’t like canned.
    A bit of seasoned salt and black pepper to the soup mash…if you want a spicier dish.
    Skip the butter…the broth makes it yummy enough. I use butter because the Guru will stand over me and insist.

    Hope you like!!!

    • Do you know how the recipe might vary if I cooked my own chicken and broth? I’m curious to try it that way. 🙂

      This sounds really good. I’m adding it to my list of stuff to try.

      • Sparky says:

        It’s great with “real” chicken and broth!! When I’m feeling adventurous I dice (about one inch cubes) some chicken breasts (about 4) and boil it with some salt and pepper. Then use the water you boiled it in instead of canned broth. For extra flavor you can throw in a couple of chicken bouillon (sp?) cubes while the chicken boils. Watch the boiling chicken pretty close…for some reason it likes to boil over the sides more than other stuff!!

  13. What you need is an email subscription to What’s Cooking (Kraft) and Canadian Living Dinner Club. I’m going to find you the links… also – I cook at night after the kids have gone to bed so the next day we can just heat up the leftovers.

  14. Oh – and what about a slow cooker? Do you have those waaaay down south 😉 ???? We live off of ours in the winter. Canadian Living has a fabulous beef stew recipe on their cover this month. My kids won’t eat it as “stew” but they will eat it as “gravy” over mashed potatoes.

  15. Here is my favorite easy/healthy dish to throw together:

    1 lb. broccoli
    1/2 lb. macaroni (or any kind of fun-shaped pasta)
    1/2 c. olive oil
    garlic powder or minced garlic (whatever you have)
    freshly grated parmesan

    -Boil the broccoli until soft and mushy. Remove from water, but don’t dump it out – use it to boil the pasta. Toss cooked broccoli and pasta together (it’ll kind of mush together so the kids won’t know it’s broccoli. It’ll just make the pasta greenish and delicious.)
    -Mix garlic with the olive oil (just enough for taste, depending on what kind of garlic you have. Maybe 1/2 tsp of garlic powder, or 1 tsp. if you have minced garlic will work) and then toss the pasta with the olive oil.
    -Top with parmesan cheese.

    You can throw grilled chicken (from Tyson, of course!) or shrimp or anything really in there. Maybe even chicken nuggets.
    (PS, this makes a TON of pasta – we eat it for a couple of days. It makes a nice cold pasta salad too.)

    • The biggest issue with this is Lil Diva automatically cringes from anything green in color. I need a way to hide the broccoli… Maybe an Alfredo sauce instead?

      I think my husband would love this and I might even like it.. 🙂

      • May says:

        Is she a dipper? Would she eat the veggies if she could have ranch dressing or cheese sauce to dip them in?
        When I taught preschool the kids loved for me to tell a story where they were giants. The broccoli spears were the trees that they devoured as they terrorized the world. Sometimes it is “dinner and a show” getting the little guys to eat!

        • Interesting about the “dinner and a show” philosophy. I’m not sure Lil Diva would fall for it unless she was in school.

          She is a dipper. She loves to dip, especially if her brother is.

          The sneaky girl will just lick and suck off the dip if she doesn’t like what she’s dipping.

          I fear there is too much of my genetics in her…..

  16. Paige Morgan says:

    Here’s my secret, we eat this healty, hassle free, meal at least three times per week and my kids eat it too – buy a bag of frozen, skinless chicken breast. Buy several bags of frozen steamable veggies – whichever ones you think the kids will eat. Buy brown rice or, even easier, frozen steamable brown rice.

    Throw the frozen chicken in a baking dish and bake in preheated on convection at 365 for approx 40 minutes or regular bake in preheated oven at 385 for approx 40 minutes. (For adult chicken, spinkle a little Lawry’s Montreal Chicken spice on it before you bake it).

    5 minutes before the chieck is done microwave the veggies and rice per the instructions. Give the kids a side of soy sauce to dop their chicken in. If you want to make real brown rice, start it when you start the chicken and follow the instructions on the bag

    • Lil Diva has really been anti-chicken lately. She’s even turned down delicious chicken she used to eat.

      She did, however, eat some grilled steak the other night, so I have hope.

      This sounds nice and easy.

      I haven’t had luck with kids eating frozen veggies unless very small or in something like fried rice, a sauce, or a soup.

      I’ll keep trying.

      Rice is something Lil Diva has really enjoyed at the last two meals, which is an improvement.

  17. Pingback: Family Dinner « Katei

  18. Allie says:

    It’s never too late to change things. Here’s one of our favorites. You can omit the green chili. It doesn’t sound like you’re a fan. The original recipe that I started with didn’t call for it. And no, I didn’t include to rinse your rice. But if you forget, is it really the end of the world? And so what if dinner doesn’t turn out so good? What if it does? It will not turn out well if you don’t attempt, that’s for sure. This recipe has vegetables and wild rice. I have a two year old and everyone likes it.
    http://www.teapartiesandfingerpaint.com/2011/10/10/green-chili-chicken-and-wild-rice-soup/
    I have also linked it up at My Baking Addiction for a Holiday Recipe Swap. I would encourage you to look at the other recipes that were linked there too.
    Before children, my husband cooked. He’s a real foodie. And being a noncooking person, dinner can sometimes be intimidating for me, especially when I first started. But I’ve come along way and you will too. The biggest issue is you have to decide you’re going to do it. You must put forth the effort and allow time for it. My biggest help is making a menu plan. Sit down and allow yourself an hour to gather your recipes, plan what days you’ll be eating what, and make a grocery list. Don’t plan a huge meal that takes too much time on a day you’re busy. It won’t happen. I find myself preparing dinner throughout the day often times. If chopping vegetable is not your cup of tea, then chop them for the week and be done. If you have a menu plan, you’ll know what needs to be chopped and how much and when you’ll need them. So do all your chopping at once and then use them later. Most of your vegetables you can do this with. I wouldn’t do things like tomatoes. But carrots and celery? Of course. A lot of dinner prep can be done when you have time and then the final prep done before dinner. So when nap time rolls around, do as much as you can that you want to do without kids or maybe just your sons help.
    I know that you say you don’t have freezer space, but you might check out Once a Month Mom. They do a lot of freezer cooking, however, you could skip the freezer. Instead of one big cooking day for the month, you could do for a week or whatever works for you. They have easy to follow recipes, very. The ingredients are all listed on a spreadsheet nice and neat. You can pick and choose what you’d like to eat, put in your serving amounts and print. It’s super simple. Sometimes precooking your ground beef can be helpful too. You can freeze it in small amounts. Even if you just use it for easy meals like adding it to mac and cheese to give a little protein. You can also add frozen peas to sneak in some vegetables.
    You can do this. Feel free to email me, I would love to help you on this journey. When I worked outside the home, I never cooked. My parents teased me that I didn’t need a large kitchen or even a kitchen. I always lived in apartments with small kitchens. The reason I didn’t need a large kitchen, well, how much space do you need to make orange juice…from a can? And that was about what I was capable of doing when I first started living on my own. But now there’s nothing I can’t make and frequently I make up my own recipes and feel very comfortable tweaking recipes. And someday you will too. All you have to do is try. And your husband will probably be thrilled that you’re trying and try harder than ever to be supportive. He won’t mind a few experiments for dinner, he’ll be happy that you’re trying.

    • Allie – Thank you so much for the kind words and tips. You’re right, I cannot fail or succeed if I do not try. And I have been trying this week.

      Lil Diva has had issues, but my son has enjoyed the food for he most part (not an asparagus fan).

      Really, not having a freezing has proven to be very difficult. I blogged about why I still do not have a freezer in the posts above, but the sum is: the new fridges do not have the design or the space I need for what my family eats. While water will freeze (eventually), meat and other things will thaw, so it isn’t safe.

      I’m still on the hunt for a fridge that meets my requirements. So frustrating.

      We used to cook at home more when there was a frozen option to pull out. With that taken away, I have to meal plan or the fresh ingredients go bad or aren’t around when I need them.

      I’m also making progress there and will post about it.

      I might be emailing you in the near future for tips and suggestions and will be sure to check out the Once a Month Mom you mentioned.

      Thank you for taking the time to reply. It is greatly appreciated.

      • Allie says:

        Wow, I read the posts about your fridge, but didn’t realize you hadn’t bought a replacement. We used to have the same kind of fridge you’re talking about. It is nice to have that extra cold place for your milk or beer as my husband liked to use it for. It was before we had kids. They are nice to have.
        I look forward to reading about your progress. Remember that sometimes we think dinner may have been a failure, but really it was successful. We now know what does not work. That’s a success. Best of luck with your new adventures cooking.

  19. Katie says:

    Hey, just ran across this interesting blog — by one of my favorite sewing bloggers. http://candjsgoodgrub.blogspot.com/

    You know, the need to rinse rice is often a myth these days. It used to be required because the powdery stuff that was on rice was some nasty chemical that you didn’t want to eat (can’t remember what), but at some point someone realized that a good vehicle to get vitamins into people in poor countries was through rice. So often now the rice is actually coated in a vitamin powder, not a nasty chemical. Not always, of course. So even though you usually don’t need to rinse rice (and maybe even shouldn’t to get some extra nutritional kick), the advice was so ingrained that most recipes still call for it. I read an article about that a year or two ago. I thought it was interesting.

    • The rice I have doesn’t show any “added” things in ingredients. The issue we had when we tried to make rice in the past is it became this gummy, mushy mess. I think it’s because it wasn’t washed.

      I have now made both instant and regular long grain rice and had it be successful both times! Whoohoo! It turns out Lil Diva quite enjoys it, especially if tossed in the wok for a few minutes with some garlic or turned into fried rice. I’m hoping to somehow sneak in some veggies that way.

      Do you have any good recipes with chick peas/garbonzo beans? I made something with those recently and Lil Diva actually ate some with her rice. I eat them too and I do not like beans at all, so it gives me hope.

  20. You’ve been dealing with a broken refrigerator that long??? Please go out and buy a new one. I have a 2-year-old, and he very rarely tries to open my bottom freezer drawer. In the meantime, I will search my archives for healthy yummy recipes!

    • I look forward to you sharing some recipes!

      Yes, it has been that long.

      The thing is, the chilled side is exactly what I want/need in a fridge. I cannot find the design or the utilizable space in the newer models. I would lose room and I pack my fridge full now with little kids because we eat so many fresh fruits, yogurt, and milk. I cannot afford to lose space on the newer models.

      The freezer will freeze water, but not much else, which means it is not safe to store anything with meat. I can live with that, but as I start cooking more, it does make it difficult.

      I assure you, Lil Diva would have the freezer open and emptied. She is just that type of two year old. She loves to empty the drawers in the kitchen which was never an issue with my son at that age. Of course, he figured out how to defeat the child locks two months after we put them in and she doesn’t have the patience to try. 🙂

  21. Anastasia says:

    I will make soup out of anything! A can of beans and a can of veggies and some broth, or water with a boulin cube. Then boil. You can add anything! Pasta, sausage, leftovers. Pretty easy.

  22. You are so not a SAHP failure.
    I don’t cook like I would to, either. But my kids get what they need even if it isn’t organic/home made/super fancy.
    I’m not giving any great recipes (though I usually have luck on allrecipes.com), but I have a suggestion:
    Make a couscous, while grain rice mix, whole grain pilaf.
    Add a bag of steamed frozen veggies (the kind without extra salt).
    Easy meal that’s not too hard.
    Good luck!

    • I am including my son in the cooking and it has proven fairly successful, although he gets disappointed where there isn’t anything to eat during the prep work.

      I checked out the cookbook link at Amazon and that sounds like the perfect cookbook for us.

      Thank you so much!

  23. Rainyday says:

    For the slow cooker, I love this site: http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/
    For more fancy, but delicious and very clear instructions (with pics and tips), I love http://smittenkitchen.com/. Everything I’ve made of hers turns out fantastic. But it’s hardly healthy – full fat everything. And soooo good.

    Currently, I do a 5 week rotating meal plan. It took a crap load of work to set it up, but now I have a grocery list set aside for each week and I (usually) stay on budget and always have what I need on hand.

    A favourite meal, that’s pretty easy to make is what I call Goulash: Boil water – probably 6-7 cups of it. Add 3 cups of elbow noodles, cook for 8 minutes, until tender but not mushy. Drain and set aside. While the noodles are cooking, brown some ground beef (maybe 500g? I just eyeball it). I dice up onion, green & red pepper (very small) and fry with the meat. You can add garlic too, diced or powdered. When the meat is done, I add it to the cooked noodles along with a can of tomato soup and half a can of milk. Add salt & pepper, if you want. Top with grated cheese.

    • I haven’t had goulash since I was a kid! I think the mix of beef and noodles would be perfect for Lil Diva and my son.

      I cannot believe I forgot about it. Also, I had no idea how to make it. Sounds like a great way to hide veggies too!

      Mmmm.. fat and delicious… I will check those out for special treat dinner nights. 🙂

      Is there a particular recipe you love on the slow cooker site? It is bookmarked for future browsing.

  24. Shah Wharton says:

    I’m okay with cooing as long as it comes in a jar or packet. ;D

    Here from the linky ;D

    I wanted to share with you that there’s a new writing challenge/linky in town. Every weekend I’ll share a PROMPT and every Wednesday everyone can link up there (poem or short story 500 max) response at the Storyteller Linky. This week’s prompt is a Picture. Check it out. 🙂
    I also have a spooky book review and the weekend blog hop right now too! http://wordsinsync.blogspot.com/2011/10/halloween-book-review-voice-of-blood-by.html
    Love to have you on bored, but have a great weekend either way. Shah .X

  25. Ok, here’s what I’m gonna tell you. You’ve got some good recipe ideas in your comments, so I will suggest something else. I cook most days of the week, so I like to buy 1 or 2 meals at the grocery store that are totally easy and still cheaper than eating out. You’ve got to give yourself a break now and then but still make it look like you cooked dinner. So, as you begin your journey of cooking a couple times a week, grab a couple of these items and voila! you’ll easily be on your way to dining at home many nights a week!

    Stouffer’s makes excellent casseroles that you find in the frozen aisle. Grandma’s chicken rice bake is one of our favorites (has veggies in it and it is creamy and yummy, the kids will like it). There’s a chicken broccoli and noodle casserole, plus a bunch of lasagna choices. All you do is cook it in the oven straight from the box. That’s it.

    All the different “skillet meals” are also yummy and easy alternatives to cooking from scratch. They are found in the frozen aisle in bags. You put it on the skillet for about 10 minutes and that’s it. Delicious pasta with vegetables or you can choose Chinese type stuff (serve with instant rice and Chung’s frozen egg rolls!).

    You know what else is yummy and healthy. Turkey burgers. Jennie-O sells frozen turkey burger patties. Follow the broiling instructions on the box. You just put them in your oven on broil for 5 minutes each side. Put some cheese on them, with your favorite fixings and a whole wheat bun. Easy, healthy, yummy. To please the kids you can serve with tator tots or fries.

    • Sadly the whole “lack of fully functional freezer” prohibits using frozen meals – I do not trust it to keep the meat safe as it will just barely freeze water.

      I love Stouffer’s lasagna and used to make the Bertolli’s frozen pasta that cooks in ten minutes frequently until they removed our favorite meal from the market (I loved their Gigantoni).

      Now if only I could find a refrigerator that didn’t cause me to lose fridge space and my cold milk storage (two things even more vital to me than a working freezer).

      For now it’s fresh food or dining out, which involves much meal planning.

      Speaking of planning, time to do some more.

      Thank you so much for your suggestions.

  26. Sara Grambusch says:

    In my opinion, you are far from a failure. My parents do far worse than eggos and PB&J. Plus the “parenting” part of a stay at home parent is the most important. Still, I applaud you for trying to enhance this area because I think it’s one the most important parts of childhood, both in terms of actual nutrition and forming healthy habits, but having a family meal together every night. I saw some else recommended burgers and I think that’s a good one. You can even sneak some veggies in the patty if the picky eaters don’t want veggies piled on the actual burger. Though as a former picky child I recommend you give them vegetable and let them learn to eat it. Don’t force it though. Get a nice whole wheat bun and it’s a totally easy, healthy meal. Browse around allrecipes.com. That site has everything, most of it is simple and you can search by ingredients as well which can be helping. Good luck!

    • I’m afraid I might have to sneak for a while.

      My children do eat whole grain wheat bread about 95% of the time, so at least there is something healthy with the PB&J.

      We do have a family meal most nights, it has just been predominately dining out, not at home. Between my fridge, oven, ant invasion, and record setting heat this summer, it completely killed any ease, will, or joy for cooking at home.

      With fall I hope to change that.

      I will check out allrecipes.com

      Thank you so much for your comment.

  27. I feel you, lady. I really do.

    I am all kinds of underwhelming on the domestic front and since I’ve been pregnant? Well, let’s just say that there have been waaaay too many take-out pizzas consumed.

    I actually love cooking but the stress of coming up with something that everyone will enjoy on a daily basis has taken the joy right out of it. My mum gave me two cookbooks written by two Australian mums – the premise is you only need 4 ingredients for every recipe. Here’s a link for you to check out.

    http://4ingredients.com.au/

    It has helped me out a number of times when I am in a last minute panic to get something – anything! – on the dinner table.

    And hey, you’re 12 kinds of awesome despite your perceived failings. Don’t forget that.

  28. Leigh Ann says:

    Kelly, check out my friend’s blog http://www.feedmymonkeys.com. I don’t think she’s updated it in a long time, but it has a ton of recipes on there that are quick and easy to make. Most of our regular favorites have come from there. If you need me to point you in the direction of some favorites, I definitely will!

  29. SusanB says:

    Hi, I’ve never read your blog before but am just randomly surfing–and came across it and love it! AND…I love to share recipes! AND we ADORE chickpeas at my house. One thing you can do is throw a (drained and rinsed) can’s worth of chickpeas into that Ragu that you’re microwaving on pasta night and boom! healthy protein-filled variety is yours.

    You can also just roast chickpeas and eat them for a snack! Recipe: preheat oven to 350. Combine 1 can rinsed/drained/patted dry chickpeas in a bowl with 2 T. maple syrup, 1 tsp. vegetable oil, 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp ginger, and 1 T. cinnamon. Spread on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray and bake 25-30 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes during cooking. (That’s from the book “peas and thank you”, I think.)

    We also like to open up 2 cans of black beans, rinse, drain, and put in a pot with can of Rotel and a little bit of water (try 2 T.), and heat till hot and bubbly, then add to tortillas or on top of tortilla chips. You can also cook rice and add or substitute that if you feel adventurous. That’s got several good things going for it AND no easily visible green stuff. You could sub salsa for the Rotel if you’d prefer.

    Another easy/healthy dinner is to take (for a family of 4) 1 lb. boneless beef sirloin, cut 3/4″ thick, and cut into bite-size. In a skillet over medium high heat, heat about 1 T. vegetable oil, add meat, and stir-fry until browned and juices evaporate (sounds weird but trust me it’s obvious!). Then add 1 can condensed tomato soup, 3 T. soy sauce, 1 T. vinegar, and some garlic powder (I do 2-3 cloves minced garlic but if that’s too much work…), and heat to a boil. Then add some veggies (for example, 6-8 cut-up carrots, or mushrooms, and traditionally broccoli but not for you, I think) and cook over medium heat till the veggies are as tender as you like. Serve over rice (oh, cook that at the beginning!) (Also, I double the sauce b/c we love sauce, but that’s up to you…)

    Sorry for the superlong post from a stranger. But I want to put the good cooking karma out there! It was a struggle for me. And I’m excited by what I’ve found out there. And I *really* relate to what I’ve read on your blog so far. Thanks for sharing! =)

  30. Pingback: Top 10 Things A Newbie Cook Should Know | Dances with Chaos

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