Last week I admitted my failure as a stay-at-home parent.
More precisely, how my children live on Eggos, PB&J, and think “dinner” has to take place in a restaurant.
I asked for help. For recipes. For cooking while two young children demand attention.
The response was amazing.
The encouragement was exactly what I needed.
In one week’s time, we dined out only three nights, and cooked actual meals the other four.
Real dinners. With side dishes. Not our previous “one dish is good enough” that sufficed during rare at-home dinners in the past.
Naturally this means a top 10 list is imminent.
10. Start dinner preparation at least forty-five minutes before you think you need to if you are new to the experience.This time will be required to Google “how do you prep asparagus”, “how do you prep the rosemary, thyme, and oregano you bought fresh”, and “what exactly does simmer mean?”
9. A laptop in the kitchen is vital. You need it close for posting on facebook, Googling, and tweeting. As I prepared my first meal, I found myself asking friends “how do you keep rice simmering when the burner is turned as low as it goes?” and “Do you broil beef on HI or LOW? I have never broiled before. It’s a round cut.”
It’s okay. You can stop laughing at me anytime….
8. Try to do most of the prep work during your two year old’s nap time and involve your four and half year old as much as possible. Using sharp knives while your legs are crashed into is not recommended. Keeping your older child occupied, engaged, and slightly increasing the likelihood he will eat the food? Priceless.
7. Aprons were invented for a reason. Namely the high probability you will spill soy sauce or other sticky, staining substance all over your torso. Have one. Use it.
Don’t forget the mini ones for your children.
6. Enlist your spouse to help clean up. They will be so grateful you’re trying to cook, he/she will bend over backward to help. This is in hope to circumvent your kitchen catching fire, dinner turning into an inedible mess, and/or the likelihood you will give up this cooking venture entirely and make them take over and do it by themselves.
5. Any shopping venue containing cooking items is suddenly transformed into your childhood candy store. A simple trip to the grocery store to buy one additional 9 x 13 baking pan results into a shopping cart full of all the items you need for the future meals you envision.
Such as: mini measuring bowls/cups, the thingy you put lemon wedges on to juice, new wooden utensils, tortilla container, new rice cooker because your old one sucks… the list goes on. You only stopped because if you didn’t, your two year old would miss her nap…
4. A good rice cooker is a necessity. Seriously. The directions to make long grain rice in my new cooker are easier than making instant brown rice, the time is just longer.
But it tastes so good.
And my two year old will actually eat the rice.
3. Finding the ingredients you’re looking for could suck up several evenings. Every grocery store here carries different things. Even though they are the same chain, some have way more inventory. This means a lot of trial and error in the beginning to find out where you need to go for what you need, then going to more offbeat places for the “specialty” items.
I have been to three groceries stores in a single day, more than I typically would go in a week when I didn’t cook.
Still working on efficiency…
2. If the food doesn’t reheat well, invite
guinea pigs family and friends over to share. Part of the reason we never made more than a single dish (the main course typically) in the past was it alone was enough food to feed the two of us. Adding courses only encouraged us to overeat.
So invite people over. It’s a great way to have a small semblance of a social life and share the food.
They might even be nice enough to either A) help with the dishes or B) distract your children so you can do the dishes.
1. Don’t be afraid to try things never done before. I’d never tried cooking fried rice. I never dared flipping food by jerking the handle instead of using a spatula. Sure I continue to spill food everywhere as I try to master the technique, or stop to Google or ask my husband “do I brown the onions first and add oil, or do the garlic with the butter, and how much soy sauce does this need?”
I’m learning. I’m trying.
And I’m having a surprisingly enjoyable time doing it.