“What sounds good for dinner tonight?” My husband asks the family.
“Don’t know.” The thirteen year old mumbles, not looking up from his video game play.
He turns to our ten year old who ventures, “Chicken?” (This is his default answer anytime we ask for dinner suggestions.)
“We just had that a few nights ago.” Says my husband with a grimace.
“Nothing really sounds good.” I sigh.
Sadly, the above conversation is one that is heard all too frequently in our house. Does it sound familiar to you? Maybe you have this same dialogue in your home? Maybe its just between the two of you, or in a household of one maybe this is a conversation going on in your head (hey, I’m not judging!) Unfortunately, we all know that this scenario many times leads to eating poorly, or even eating out more often than one would like.
I don’t know about you, but I definitely find myself stuck in a cooking rut on occasion, preparing the same 6 or 7 meals over and over again….spaghetti, pork chops with rice, shrimp and noodles, chicken and whatever…you get the idea. Add to this the desire to provide balanced breakfasts for the kids in the morning, healthy sack lunches, and after- school snacks for two growing boys that will stick with them until dinner (but not ruin their appetite,) and meal planning can become what seems like a full-time job to us adults in the house.
Sometimes though, all we need is a little inspiration. I found mine recently when I was invited to an event for bloggers at my favorite recipe sharing site, Seattle-based Allrecipes.com. Now, any event that I get to hang out with friends (like two of my favorite local bloggers One family. Friendly Food and Jenny On the Spot), eat great food, and drink mimosas – I am so there!
And this place is so gorgeous! Who wouldn’t want to hang out here? I mean just look at this place!
And check out this pantry! I think I have pantry envy!
Anyone who could see my email inbox could attest to how much I love Allrecipes.com. I have way too-many-to-admit emails from them with great recipes that I have been meaning to save to my recipe box. I know I’ve mentioned before that their site is awesome for ideas, but they just keep getting better and better! This summer they kicked off their new web tv series “What’s Cooking?” with host Michael Ketchum, who travels around the country visiting the kitchens of Allrecipes.com power users and cooking up a storm! One of the latest episodes features the Make-a-Head Mamas who I had the pleasure of meeting at this event.
The Mamas are a lovely group of Seattle ladies who connected with each other when their children were in preschool. They get together every few months to cook up a week’s worth of meals and then freeze them. We’ve all heard of freezing up meals ahead of time before, right? But this operation is a well-oiled machine! They have a project manager, a treasurer who keeps track of all the receipts, designated bulk food shoppers, and a recipe selector who plans out the meals using Allrecipes.com. They even have someone in the group who creates all the labels to place on the Ziploc bags they use for freezing. The Mamas have put together this handy little guide for anyone wanting to start their own group. You can also find the Mamas on Facebook for more information and daily tips! One of their favorite recipes to make is the Beef Bulgogi recipe found on Allrecipes.com! Wow what a name – I want to make it just so I can say it!
It got me thinking that anyone could do this, even if they aren’t a mama! How difficult is it for couples or singles to make dishes for one or two? That’s why there’s a plethora of cookbooks out there titled, “Cooking for One”, or Cooking for Two”, right? What fun would it be for a bunch of single gals to get together and make up a whole mess of meals that could be frozen into individual packages? Have some wine, catch up with your friends, and get in the kitchen. Then, instead of eating out all the time, you could enjoy some actual home cooked food! It would also make a great date night for a group of couple friends – just freeze the meals into two-people sized portions.
In addition to the wonderful inspiration provided by the Mamas, and the “What’s Cooking” webisode, Allrecipes.com treated us bloggers to a fantastic cooking class taught by Whole Foods Chef, Joy Stroh. And oh boy, what a joy she was to have teaching us!
The focus of Joy’s session was on healthy meals, and snacks for kids, made easy. It really is so much easier to eat healthfully when you cook at home with fresh, local ingredients. She is so good! She even convinced me to taste this smoothie that had spinach in it – my friend Jen at work has been trying to get me to put spinach in my smoothies for a couple of years to no avail! It was actually mighty tasty, if you can get past how bad it looks – but the trick is that kids might really like it if they get to name it something gross. Someone at the event suggested “Smoothie Sludge”. Hmmm. Now that’s a great 10-year-old boy idea!
We had a fabulous time chatting with each other and making these Vietnamese Salad Rolls. What bright, brilliant colors those lovely vegetables have! Eating healthy really can be simple. These were super easy to make and fun! Most kids would enjoy making these, and the nice thing is that they appeal to us grown ups as well. They’re also extremely versatile, you can tailor the fillings to your own personal taste preferences. And no cooking is required!
Here’s a little spin on breakfast, or even breakfast for dinner. Whole wheat pancakes – a sneaky way to get vegetables into your kids. I would never have thought to put corn kernels in pancakes – but Joy did! See what I mean about inspiration?
We also had a little craft time! Joy taught us all how to make tortilla snowflakes. Remember making these with paper in grade school? Well the kid in your house, or the kid in you, will love making these!
You just lightly “fold” up the tortilla into quarters and cut shapes out of it.
So cute! Wouldn’t they be a lovely idea for the holidays? You could even serve them as a dessert with powered sugar or cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top.
Joy whipped up this Pumpkin Hummus to dip the toasted (in the oven for a few minutes) tortillas. To make the hummus a bit more healthy, she replaced the olive oil with 1/2 cup of water, reduced the beans to 1 cup, and reduced the pumpkin puree and tahini paste by half. She also skipped the garlic and replaced the spices with pumpkin pie spice. Personally, I didn’t care for the spice, and would probably just leave it out altogether. What a great fall appetizer this hummus is!
Joy also highlighted crock pot cooking as a way to make easy healthy meals! I could not believe how simple this Kalua Pig recipe is. When you just don’t have the time or inclination to dig up a pit in your backyard this is a wonderful alternative. I cannot wait to make this one – a little mac salad, a scoop of rice – Hawaiian plate lunch (of course for dinner) made at home easy peasey in the crock pot!!!!
And of course one must always have a little dessert. I just know we will be making these Rocky Road Bars in our house soon. They were sooooooo good!
And if you moms out there need any more ideas, Allrecipes also has a great resource page for back-to-school – I was so inspired by all of this that I decided it was time to spruce up my after school snack offerings – I am not allowing the kids to just raid the cupboards this year – no, no! Here’s what we made the other day…tortilla pizzas!
Gather all your ingredients: tortillas, pizza sauce, cheese and toppings.
Spread the sauce on the tortillas.
Add toppings and cheese.
Then bake in the oven at 425 degrees, on a cookie sheet, for 7-10 minutes.
Yes, my boys only like meat on their pizza! Guess we’ll have to find another way of getting their veggies in them! “Smoothie Sludge” anyone?