Feed my family!

by DaniGirl on December 28, 2006 · 30 comments

in Life, the Universe and Everything

Okay, bloggy friends. I need your help. (Yes, again.)

In the last couple of weeks months, I’ve gotten into the habit of only buying two or three meals worth of food at the grocery store. Three days later, I’m back in the grocery store again, agonizing over what to make. Two trips a week to the grocery store is neither fiscally prudent, nor incredibly efficient.

The reason is a complete lack of inspiration in the meal-planning department. I’ve never been overly fond of my role as chief meal planner, but in the last little while, it has become an arduous task. I don’t even mind the actual cooking, one I get going; I just can’t think of anything to make. My meal-planning list has been reduced to five or six meals in heavy rotation, and frankly, we’re all getting a little sick of them.

The rotation lately has mainly consisted of spaghetti, chili con carne, tortellini, lasagne, and tacos. Yawn! We need some variety. I pawed through my cookbooks a couple of times (I have all the books in the Looney Spoons collection – LOVE them!) so I can even come up with a few main dishes. But then there’s the whole “what goes with it” side-dish conundrum.

Seriously, I need your ideas. Desperately! What’s your favourite easy, healthy family meal? From soup to nuts, spell it all out – and if you want to leave me a recipe or two, I’m willing to try just about anything at this point!

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Miche December 28, 2006 at 1:31 pm

My husband and daughter have taken a surprising liking to “dhuna cas-saw-wole.” It’s the tuna casserole in the “Joy of Cooking” book — made with a can of cream of mushroom soup. I add extra cheddar and a handful of frozen broccoli. And my 2.5 year old says “Mmmmm……. moh dhuna cas-saw-wole peease!”

2 Andrea December 28, 2006 at 1:52 pm

Macaroni and cheese
YOu will need: about half of a standard bag of macaroni, one-and-a-half cups of milk (2% works fine), three tablespoons of flour, two tablespoons of butter, a tablespoon of cooking or olive oil, and one of those one- or two-year-old extra-old cheddar cheese wedges from PC. (You can use another kind of cheese, of course, but I find that size is perfect for one batch of mac and cheese.)
While the macaroni is boiling, melt the butter and oil in a large saucepan (large enough to add all hte macaroni to when it’s done–a wok is about the right size, if you have one). When it’s melted, add the flour and stir constantly for one to three minutes. If it’s starts turning brown, you’ve been cooking too long. I find one minute is generally not too short.
Then slowly add the milk, whisking as you go. Don’t worry if it’s a bit lumpy, it’ll all smooth out when you add the cheese. (I forgot to add that the cheese should be grated before you even add the macaroni to the pot, because it’ll take a few minutes). Stir until the mixture is slightly thickened and bubbly. Now add grated cheddar to the milk mixture by the handful, stirring until melted; reserve one or two handfuls of the cheddar cheese for a topping.
Once the sauce is done and the macaroni is done, drain the water from the macaroni and add it to the sauce pot, stirring to coat, then add the remaining cheddar cheese to the top. You can stick it in the broiler if you like, but I think that’s overkill. I usually just wait until it’s melted, or melty, and then it’s ready to eat.
Bonus: Frances LOVES it. When she won’t eat anything else, she’ll eat that. I adapted the recipe from one from Rachel Ray; there’s actually a few good ones in her cookbooks. Including a decent and easy onion soup. I also have a good minestrone soup recipe beating around (but it takes a few hours) and a good meatless casserole recipe, if your boys can handle a bit of spice in their food.

3 JanB December 28, 2006 at 2:40 pm

Sloppy Joes. Brown up some meat, drain it, add lots of ketchup and sweet pickle relish. Done.

4 Phantom Scribbler December 28, 2006 at 2:54 pm

I was going to answer this question, but I was overcome with a slightly hysterical fit of bitter laughter. Because I remembered that we have only ONE dish in heavy rotation here. Oh, you want the recipe? Sure!
One box pasta, cooked.
Serve with two spoonfuls of red sauce (Baby Blue and Mr. Blue) and a handful of Parmesan, or (LG) plain with Parmesan.
Every. night. For three years. Because any attempt to serve anything else is met with hysterics from the diners.
Never fear, though. If you crave variety, we have a lovely collection of take-out menus.
(Overcome with the fits of bitter laughter again…)

5 suze December 28, 2006 at 3:12 pm

I’m lucky, in that Mike does most of the cooking at our house (mainly because I’m not a very good cook. and I’m a messy cook to boot…) but this was an easy casserole that was in heavy rotation at my house growing up. Mike won’t eat it because of the cream soups, but it was tasty, even if it is a little bland…
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 to 1-1/2c. rice, uncooked (brown if you want to get really healthy)
1 can Campbells cream of chicken soup
1 can Campbells cream of mushroom soup
Some water (about 1/2 soup can at most)
Mix the cans of soup and rice together in a casserole dish. Add a little water to help ensure all rice is covered by the soup. Place the chicken breasts on top of the rice and cover with tin foil. Bake in the oven at 350F for 50 minutes to an hour. (or until the rice is cooked, and the chicken breasts are at a temperature of 160F as measured with a meat thermometer). Serve with a side salad, and whatever seasonings your family prefers. I always liked it with a good healthy sprinkle of Mrs. Dash.

6 Snack Mommy December 28, 2006 at 3:19 pm

Hi Dani,
I too, frequently find myself in a rut. When I think of it, I write down 7 dinners (with input from the family, whether they like it or not so they can feel my pain) on the corner of the shopping list, and then I make sure I have everything I need for those meals on the shopping list. I immediately post a sticky note inside my pantry with those 7 dishes, and stroke them off after I’ve made them throughout the week.
I rarely get through the week making all 7, but I definitely have more variety with this plan when I stick to it.
Do you have my Easy Peasy chicken recipe?
4 boneless breasts (supposed to be thighs, but I always tend to buy breasts)
1 pkge Lipton Onion Soup Mix (dry)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
Mix the soup mix, brown sugar, and vinegar together, and pour over chicken in casserole dish. Cook covered at 350 for one hour. The sauce is awesome over rice, so just add a veg and you are done!
Easy Peasy to whip together when you get home from work, and just toss it in the oven for an hour while you catch up with the men in your life :~)

7 sleepycat December 28, 2006 at 3:26 pm

I have several on my recipe archives at http://schoolworkcookknit.wordpress.com/recipe-archives/
Most use a crockpot but here’s another one that ChaosGirl liked last week
1 package chicken flavored ramen
some cooked chicken (you could used canned, I had cooked some in the crock pot for enchiladas)
some frozen peas and carrots
Cook ramen per package directions and add peas and carrots to boiling water with noodles. When cooked, strain and toss with seasoning packed and chicken. I had pan juices from the crock pot and thickened them with a little corn starch for a sauce but you could do the same with some canned chicken broth. I also added some Spike seasoning (like Mrs. Dash) and some garlic pepper.
I just served it with that garlic cheese bread you buy in the frozen section.

8 Not So Little Sister December 28, 2006 at 3:46 pm

Southwestern Corn and Sweet Potato Soup! It’s delicious and from the Moosewood Cookbook.
1 c. finely chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 small fresh chile, seeded and minced
1/4 tsp salt
3 c. vegetable or chicken stock
2 tsp ground cumin
1 medium sweet potato, diced (about 2 cups)
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
3 c. fresh or frozen corn kernels
salt to taste
lime wedges
finely chopped cilantro leaves
In a soup pot, simmer the onions, garlic, chile, and salt in 1 c. of the stock for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are soft. In a small bowl make a paste with the cumin and a tablespoon of the stock, stir it in the pot, and simmer another 1 to 2 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and the remaining stock and simmer for about 10 minutes until the sweet potatoes soften. Add the bell pepper and corn, cover and simmer for another 10 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender. Puree about half the soup in the blender or food processor and return it to the pot. The soup will be thick and creamy. Add salt to taste and gently reheat on low. If desired serve with lime wedges and top with cilantro leaves.
***I use more sweet potatoes than it calls for, usually 2 or 3 depending on how many people I’m cooking for. It doesn’t hurt to add more, but they you’ll need a bit more stock. I also use a whole red bell pepper. I puree most of the soup so that there are only a few chunks of sweet potatoes left. I highly recommend the lime wedges, but have never used the cilantro. The recipe is pretty easy and forgiving. I’m not the cook in the family but I am the one who makes this soup! I hope it makes it into the rotation. Good luck!

9 Rebecca December 28, 2006 at 3:50 pm

Curry. Cut chicken/beef into small pieces, fry in a little oil in a wok, add curry powder (from an Asian shop maybe) or paprika, fry until chicken is cooked, turn off heat. Add three tbsps of either creme fraiche or low fat yoghurt and serve immediately with steamed rice.
Sausage and mashed potatoes. Sausages in a bun. Stir fried vegetables.
Roast vegetables such as courgettes, aubergine and bell peppers in a little oil and a little balsamic vinegar. Serve with couscous with a little tomato puree added. One of my favourites!

10 Miranda December 28, 2006 at 4:00 pm

One of my children’s favorite meals is baked fish (it is some kind of really bland white fish), brown rice or whole wheat couscous, and steamed broccoli.
1. Start the water for the rice. Add rice (we prefer brown basmati) and cook according to package directions.
2. Heat oven to 375 F (can’t find my metric converter. About the same temp as making cookies.)
3. Place fish fillets in baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add a bit of dill if you like. I prefer fresh but I use dried too.
4. Bake for 15 minutes or until fish is flaky and not “slimy” any longer.
5. Steam veggies. If you want something different, put a little olive in the bottom of a baking dish and roast your veggies in the oven while the fish bakes.
(6) If you are doing the couscous, you would do that during the last ten minutes of cooking time. My kids like plain. They are kind of boring I think.
Good luck with the meal planning! I seriously hate it especially once the semester gets into full swing. I think I will put together a two week plan for our family and teach them all how to do it.

11 Trixie December 28, 2006 at 4:40 pm

Oh, Dani, you give voice to my pain! I go through cycles in the kitchen, from über-organized chef extraordinairre to brain-dead mama standing in front of the emptyish fridge wondering “what is it we eat again?” I’ll be printing out all of the replies to this post…
Here’s a life-saver from last night, actually: Bean & Spinach Quesadillas.
Saute a red onion and some garlic; add a package of frozen spinach (well, thaw and drain it first), add a can of black beans (I use the hand blender to mash most of them), and add some feta and/or mozza. Slop that stuff between some tortilla wraps and bake at 400 for 12 mins. Serve with sour cream and salsa if you like. All the food groups in every mouthful. Yummy and Mother-of-the-Year Award winningly heathly…
Of course, last night–for the first time ever–Sam announced his distaste for “warm and squishy salad greens” and asked for a peanut butter tortilla instead. May have to use that hand blender on the spinach part, too.
Otherwise, Pita Pizzas are a big hit on Last Resort night. We always have a bunch of wilting veggies in the bottom drawer of the fridge that taste great mixed with pesto or smothered in cheese 🙂
Meatloaf is pretty easy, too (Sam calls it “Chewed Hamburgers” but that’s not how I make it). It serves up nice on jasmine rice with some frozen veggies. Happily Costco has those Asian Stir Fry packs in body bags so it’s hard to run out. You can divvy them into large Ziplock bags for handy retrieval and extra damage to the environment.
Am I helping?

12 DaniGirl December 28, 2006 at 5:33 pm

Oh my god, I love you ALL!
Now, who’s coming to my house to fix all these yummy meals? Oh, all right, you did the hard part in coming up with the ideas, the least I can do is throw them together.
Seriously, thanks! I’ll let you know which ones I try and how badly I screw them up – er, I mean, how delicious they are.

13 Kerry December 28, 2006 at 5:43 pm

You bake your quesedillas? Really? I fry mine in a med-high non stick skillet. Interesting.
Here’s a few leftover meals for you:
Spaghetti pie. Mix your leftover spaghetti and meatsauce with “some” breadcrumbs and a whisked raw egg. Dump into a pie pan and bake at 350F for 30 minutes. If you want some extra love from the kids, put some shredded mozza in first.
“Pita stuffing”. Use leftover chicken or turkey and baked ham (chop up your leftovers and freeze them until you have leftovers from both meats). Chop meat into small (really small) pieces. Grate two carrots and chop two celery sticks into small pieces. You can also add bell peppers and radishes. Put everything together into a big bowl. Add mustard and mayonnaise until everything is moist but not soggy (this means you have to mix it). Let sit for two hours in the fridge to let the flavours mix if you have time. Serve in pita halves.
Both were big hits in my family when we were young.
Also, our sloppy joes were called “shredded beef”, and you basically roast a cheap cut of meat in barbecue sauce or ketchup for a really long time at a low heat (like, 5 hours). Take it out of the oven and take the meat out of the sauce. It should fall apart when you try to separate it with a fork (or two). Put the sauce in the fridge for 30 minutes to harden the fat. Skim that off and recombine. Nuke everything and serve over rice, mashed potatoes, or hamburger buns. Excellent with baby peas, or any kid-friendly veggie.

14 Not So Little Sister December 28, 2006 at 7:20 pm

Seriously, the sweet potato soup isn’t hard to make. Just try it. If you like sweet potatoes that is. If not, let me know. I’ll come up with something else for you.

15 Sugarmama December 28, 2006 at 7:35 pm

I was considering a post on just this topic over the holidays ’cause I think we all have standard recipes in rotation that are wildly different from what other families make. But since you beat me to it, I’ll just tell you what’s in our usual repertoire.
Vichysoisse (from Fanny Farmer), cheese souffle (from same), meatloaf or a roast chicken along with peas and mashed potatoes, fried catfish with sides like cucumber and onion salad and cornbread and succotash (I’m a Southerner, okay?), and…some other stuff that I can’t remember just now. I’m not so much of a pasta person, so I don’t know if this helps. Oh, and I’m a big fan of Rachel Ray’s 30-minute recipes cookbook when I get in a rut.
Good luck mixing it up!

16 Bethany December 28, 2006 at 7:40 pm

You cook? I hate it. Honestly. But since the hubby doesn’t do it either–we’d starve if I didn’t step up to the plate.
So, try a hodge-podge Shepard’s Pie.
Ground Hamburger (about a 1lb)
Potatoes (peeled and cubed)
Carrots (peeted and chopped)
Mashed Potates (Roughly 4-5 potatoes mashed, or buy Instant stuff like I do)
Shredded Cheese of your liking
Butter (2 TBS)
Optional items: onions, peas, sweet potatoes… you get the idea)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Get out a glass or metal baking pan (doesn’t matter on the size really).
In a large bowl mix: chopped potatoes, carrots, raw ground hamburger, optional items. Once mixed well. Spoon all of the contents into the baking pan. Place dabs of the butter over the top (about 1TBS on each half).
Spoon the Mashed potatoes over the top and spread to cover (like frosting). Sprinkle with the shredded cheese.
Place in the oven (lower rack) for about an hour (maybe an hour and a half depending on your likes or dislikes). In my family, I have to cook it until the Carrots and potatoes are mooshy (and the ground beef will be cooked thoroughly by then too).
I know. It takes work. and some time. Sorry. But it works. And there is usually left overs that can be rewarmed.
Happy Cooking. Or not.

17 andrea from the fishbowl December 28, 2006 at 7:45 pm

When I’m stuck for dinner I make french toast and cut up some fruit on the side.
Otherwise in heavy rotation we have: tacos/fajitas, pasta(s), or green salad with a side of whatever meat is on hand. We also like to have greek-like food for dinner: marinated pork tenderlion, couscous, homemade tzatziki (they love it, it’s yogurt-based) and grilled pita bread.
Hmmm. I wonder what *I* should make for dinner tonight?

18 andrea from the fishbowl December 28, 2006 at 7:46 pm

Haha. We don’t eat tenderLION btw, but we do eat tenderloin.
We’re not savages you know.

19 Bonita December 28, 2006 at 8:48 pm

I so hate meal time…I used to have lots of ideas of what to make and over the last few years I find that we are so rushed that we end up making whatever is fast and easy. One meal I have found, that my kids love and I even made it and took it to my son’s school – for a going away party for a kid in his class and all the kids loved it – ‘KD Lasagna’ (mac and cheese lasagna in the great old USA)and it’s so fast and easy.

20 Sara December 28, 2006 at 9:05 pm

Oooh, meal planning! My place to shine! (hear that in Martin’s voice from the Simpsons)
I draw up a meal plan before shopping every week. I try to work in one fish/egg, one chicken, and one beef/pork. Then at least one leftovers meal and one Pantry Special.
Some regulars in our rotation:
Ravioli (frozen) with sauce and mixed veggies.
Scrambled eggs ranchero style. Chop and sautee till limp an onion, ad garlic and peppers. cook until soft and fragrant, set aside.
Top tortillas with refried beans (or mashed black beans). Top with scrambled eggs, onion/pepper mixture, and cheese. Dribble salsa as desired. I consider this a one-dish number – no sides required.
Chicken sautee with couscous and braised greens (kale or spinach). Done with either white wine deglazing or mustard and cream….
Sausage/potato/apple/onion fryup thingie. It has no name. Mom used to make it. Her mom made it. My dad’s mom made it. Brown an onion, slice up about half a package of smoked sausage, brown that. Add diced potatoes and a little water for steam, cover and cook till potatoes are nearly done. Add a diced apple. (My innovation has been to use frozen hash browns – the cubed style).
Broiled fish with couscous salad side dish. Broil fish of your choice (I like Hake brushed with olive oil and smoked paprika, or peppered salmon). Make a box of couscous – don’t add the seasoning. Stir in a jar of julinned sundried tomatoes in oil, about half a bag of prewashed baby spinach, and whatever you think is a good amount of crumbled feta cheese. The heat from the warm couscous should wilt the spinach, and the oil from the tomatoes serves as dressing.
Burgers with sweet potato “fries”. Cut sweet potatoes into fry-shaped strips, toss with olive oil and whatever spices you like (seasoned salt, bbq season, whatever), bake in a single layer in a 400-ish oven until soft enough to eat.
Quiche and salad – three eggs and a cup of milk, poured over a pie crust lined with cheese of choice and assorted veggies (mushrooms, broccoli, onions, asparagus, whatever is in your fridge). Cheese goes down first to “waterproof” the crust.

21 liz December 28, 2006 at 10:20 pm

We currently have large quantities of lamb stew (meat! veg! taties! All in one pot!) and baked shells (like lasagna only better) in the freezer. And ham. Lots of ham. We also have salmon from Costco that we cut into serving sized-pieces and baked before freezing.
I’m fond of tetrazinnis (ham, turkey or chicken), chicken in spicy ginger peanut sauce (I’ll dig up the recipe if you want), and variations on risotto.
Cooking Light has a great recipe for oven-fried chicken, too.

22 Kate December 28, 2006 at 11:27 pm

oh GAWD I have these fights with myself all the time. Since I work from home, cooking dinner usually falls on me and many times I find myself panicked at 5PM dreading trecking down to the kitchen to see what’s there. But, I do have two words that can help (well, three really): crockpot, and indoor grill. Seriously, these two things have helped me many a night. A crockpot recipe that sees many rounds at our place is Chicken Taco Soup (you can find it at allrecipes.com) and the new grill does steak in under 5 minutes.

23 Sayre December 28, 2006 at 11:55 pm

Unfortunately, my diet after the first of the year will consist mainly of brown rice, fresh vegetables, and lots of fruit. No dairy, no sugar and a deck sized piece of meat two or three times a week. Per my doctor.
But for a while I was a subscriber to The Six O’Clock Scramble, which was designed exactly for people like you!
You might need to google it – I’m not sure what the web address is.

24 Michelle December 29, 2006 at 5:38 am

Go for my holy trinity of dinners: soups, salads and sandwiches. Each works as a complete meal with no side dishes unless you want them, they’re a balanced meal when done right and are usually cheap, colorful and have lots of variety. I could give you tons of recipes, we each one of each a week nearly.
Tortellini soup
sausage and baked potato soup
black bean soup
split pea soup
sausage and lentil soup
chinese chicken salad
paninis in all their forms

25 Shan December 29, 2006 at 6:11 am

I think everybody suffers from the same problem from time to time. I suggest heading over the http://www.kraftcanada.com and signing up for their free cooking magazine. I also post a new recipe (tried by me) complete with pictures on my blog. I found I was in a rut too, but making a commitment to post a new recipe each and every week has helped tremendously. Good luck!

26 Ingrid December 29, 2006 at 2:52 pm

Wow! Obviously a hot topic! Luckily my hubby does most of the cooking, but when it’s my turn, I also agonize over it. In the past, life has been easiest when I plan the week’s menu, but that takes so much self control to create it. What if I don’t feel like eating xxx on Wednesday, even though on Sunday I said I would?
A crock pot is a definite staple – make it in the morning (or the night before) and it’s ready when you get home.
Another simple idea is frozen tortellini – the 5 year old doesn’t like sauce so he eats it plain – we add some version of sauce. You can buy the multicoloured ones – which I like to think are not made of as much refined flour as the all white ones.
Glad to see we all suffer together!

27 JanB December 29, 2006 at 5:16 pm

Tuna Noodle Casserole:
2 cans drained tuna
2 cans cream of mushroom soup (or celery soup if you don’t like mushrooms)
milk – two soup cans full
wide egg noodles
velveeta cheese
mix the tuna, soup and milk in a bowl.
boil and drain the noodle, make them a little al dente
put the noodles in a casserole dish, top with the stuff in the bowl. Add slices of velveeta. Cook at 350 until the cheese is melted.

28 Tanya December 31, 2006 at 7:44 pm

get thee a crock pot! then go here: http://www.justslowcooking.com/index.html
lots of really good and easy recipes there, but a staple crock (why do i always want to type crotch? damn good morning vietnam…) pot meal for moi is cheesy chicken.
2 Chicken breasts or 4 thighs
Garlic powder (optional…i often forget it)
1 can Cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 cn Cheddar cheese soup (i usually just throw in a bunch of grated cheddar and a titch of milk)
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
the recipe doesn’t call for it, but i always chunk up the chicken so its ready to eat when done. you can put more chicken too…i’ve done this recipe with 3 chicken boobs and there’s still loads of sauce for it all. and i add just a little milk when i put the soup in so its a bit saucier. cook on low for 4 hours if the chicken is chunked, 6 if whole. (this is when one of those new fangled crock pots with a built in timer would be handy…all day is waaaaay too long for most crock pot dishes i find…) near the end of cooking, chuck in some frozen peas or something for veggies. serve over steamed rice or potatoes. AWESOME as leftovers.
i also do a menu plan every week. i tend to do it on friday afternoons when work is slow and shop for it on the weekend. i even built myself a little table in word so i can plan what i need to buy from each food group. lame, i know, but it makes shopping quicker and less expensive…

29 Madeleine January 4, 2007 at 8:23 pm

This is great. I hope you are still checking in, because I didn’t get a chance to type up my suggestion earlier.
This is one of my family’s favorites, and it can be made entirely from pantry/freezer ingredients. It can also be done simple or fancied up a bit. And all amounts are approximate — you can’t really go wrong. I generally have all of these ingredients in the house at all times.
Hoisin Chicken
Chicken (quick = frozen chicken breast strips, I get Jane’s at Costco; slow = fresh chicken breast cut in cubes)
Hoisin sauce (I use about a third of a bottle)
Chinese vegetables (water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, baby corn, whatever your family likes; get the wc or bs already sliced)
Broccoli (frozen or fresh)
Rice vermicelli or rice or other noodles
Defrost frozen chicken bits in microwave and chop up a bit. (Or, cut up and saute fresh chicken.) Steam broccoli in the microwave. Rinse canned chinese vegetables. Combine everything in a big saute pan and add enough hoisin to make a good amount of sauce and a bit of water to thin the sauce. Heat through and stir to mix. Serve with rice or noodles. We like vietnamese rice vermicelli. (Cooks in 1 minute! Available at my local regular grocery store.)
Fancy option: My mom marinates raw chicken with soy sauce, sherry, garlic, maybe ginger, and a little cornstarch. She uses the marinade to make the sauce instead of hoisin. Tasty, but more work.

30 Joe October 17, 2007 at 5:48 am

Great Site Thanks

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