From Exhaustion to Efficiency: Or, How I Make it through My Week with Minimal Crying!

Whether you are a busy working mom trying to balance the scales without having anything fall off, or  a Stay at Home mommy in charge of all the littles and praying for an iota of conversation that does not involve high pitch inflection or anything Gerber related; we are all just doing the best we can, right? While I am a working mom, another important thing for me is that my family eats together, and that the meal is nourishing and healthy. As a result, I have to find extra time in my day to plan and prepare dinner, and as tempting as it is to order in Pei Wei (Spicy Korean, anyone?), I make sure we eat in 5-6 nights a week at least. Between kids’ homework, school schedules, my work and fitting in Grey’s Anatomy, that leaves little time for messing around.  People question my ability (and sanity, but that’s another post) to get it all done, but in reality, it isn’t that big of a deal. Eating healthy and together is important to me, and we tend to make time for the things that are important to us. Here are a few tips that have helped me along the way.

grady family

My taste-testers

 

1. Prep early. There are several things I do as soon as I get home from the store that help me later. I wash and bag my lettuce in a ziplocks with a paper towel inside to soak up moisture and keep it fresh. If I have bought celery and carrots, broccoli or green onions, I wash and chop those to throw in salads or other meals. I don’t pre-chop onions, because who needs a fridge that smells of pico de gallo all week, but once I use part of one, I wrap it in a wet paper towel and put it in a ziplock and voila! No smelly fridge. I also buy berries in bulk from Costco and although my kids inhale this fresh fruit, I usually freeze a quarter of the amount and use them for after school smoothies. Berries also get the tupperware/paper towel treatment and make sure they are dry so they last longer.

2. Have a well-stocked pantry. In my dream world, this means smoked oysters, truffles, artichoke hearts and Lindt Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt,  but those may or may not be so family friendly. Instead, I make sure to always have the following: white beans and garbanzo beans that I use to make hummus or throw in a salad, black beans and pinto beans that are yummy and go with anything Mexican and in lots of casseroles, tomato products (diced, sauce, crushed, whole, paste) to use in virtually anything or as a base for sauces of all kinds, brown and white rice, whole grain pastas (penne and spaghetti or angel hair), Cream of Chicken and Cream of Mushroom soup and Quinoa (which I pronounced /kwin o ah/ until it became popular and I figured it out), couscous, Lipton onion soup mix (as a marinating agent for pork or potatoes), canned tuna, canned corn and loads of chicken broth or stock. Even if you can’t make it to the store for a week straight because of consecutive bad hair days or temper tantrums, if you are stocked in this way you don’t have to! It is also important to have a few oils (Canola, olive, coconut) and some vinegars (balsamic, red, white and rice) and maybe some cooking wine (or some for drinking that you can toss in the cooking!)

3. A little planning goes a long way! For the most part, I know that we will have one to two chicken dishes, a pasta dish, some pork or beef, and some fish throughout the week. If I am in a hurry, I can grill one of those, add a veggie sautéed in a little olive oil and garlic, and a starch and I am good to go. I like to get a bit more creative for the sake of my family, but if I have this stuff, it is very easy to create different combinations. I also use a few different food blogs for inspiration. If I have the  ingredients mentioned above and a well-stocked fridge, I can sometimes stop on my way home to grab the one or three things I may not have and then make a new meal that night. I also have a binder in my kitchen that is broken down by section: apps, salads, meat entrees, seafood entries, pasta’s, sides, desserts, cocktails (my favorite section), where I have printed out recipes or torn them out from magazines and organized them into a solid recipe book. I may or may not suffer from OCD, but whatevs! It gets me through, people. One thing I do is that the recipe doesn’t go in until I make it and it gets a score of 8/10 from me or the powers that be in my home. Otherwise your reliable book becomes not so reliable and filled to the gills!

4. Stick to a Schedule. I almost always start dinner the same time every night. I have left play dates early, picked the kids up from practice if it isn’t over on time or skipped things entirely if they get too much in the way of sticking to what works for me. This leaves me able to be spontaneous and either order in or have a GNO if I want to. However, if I didn’t make dinner and eating together a priority–well,  between exercise and work and the circus/shuffling that is our lives, I would just be another person in the take-out or drive through lines. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have a few trusty numbers memorized that can solve my problems in 20 minutes and I like to use them from time to time to feed our family, but for the most part, we are just used to saving that money so I can buy some Manolos. Kidding. Mostly. I do want some before I die, though.

5. Balance is Everything. Some nights I may not want my menu broadcast over the internet because it seems embarrassingly simple. Other nights I want to take a picture of the meal and frame it. Some nights my family of men swoon, and reward me with hand and foot massages and scented oils.  Okay, Oreo kisses and some satisfied belly pats. But still, I will take it. Some nights I fix stuff for my carb loving 6 year old blue eyed funny guy, some nights I cater it toward my freckled, good-natured 8 year old protein lover, and finally, sometimes it is for my 40 year old garbage disposal wonderful man that thanks me after every single meal I prepare. Sometimes I succeed and feel like a rock star, and sometimes I fail, but I always try, and it is always made with love. And that, ladies, is all that matters.

 

Indian Chicken (You Can Make TONIGHT)

The title of this recipe can be a bit decieving in that although it uses some Indian themed spices, you could not be an Indian food devotee and still enjoy this dish. I have also heard versions of it called “Butter Chicken,” and although butter isn’t bad and I like chicken, I don’t think those really go together. Maybe butter and bread. Maybe butter and toast. Maybe butter with popcorn.  Maybe “I can’t believe it’s not butter.” Someone stop me…..I digress. My point is, get over the title and make this tonight! The kids will even love it. Here’s what you need:

4 pieces boneless skinless chicken breasts or a pack of chicken tenders

1 onion, diced

1 lime, juiced

1 t salt

5 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp ground Coriander

1/4 tsp Cardamom

1/2 tsp Cumin

1/4 cup butter

1 can (14.5 oz) Tomato Sauce

1 can (14.5 oz) Petite Diced Tomatoes

1 pint Half and Half or Whipping Cream

1 bunch Cilantro, chopped to taste

2 Cups Basmati Rice or White Rice

Here’s what to do!! Step one, open up a nice bottle of Sauvignon blanc. Oh wait, that’s me, sorry. Combine chicken, garlic, lime juice and all the spices in a ziplock and marinate for several hours or overnight. You won’t believe what these flavors do together. Also, if you don’t have Coriander and are shocked by the sticker price at the grocery store (as my sister was who called me up to gripe about it in the grocery line), you can probably get by without it. However, it is a good spice to have and lasts forever. Onward….Start the rice if you haven’t already made it. Get out the marinated chicken and get busy. Saute the onion in the butter until it is translucent and soft. Add chicken and cook 8-10 minutes or so. Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Cook for 25-30 minutes over medium to low heat with the lid. Add the whipping cream or half and half and cilantro just before serving. This dish is a bit spicy, but my kiddo’s loved it. You may want to only do half the cayenne, serve the littles, and then kick it up a notch for the bigs.

Enjoy! It’s a crowd pleaser. (Oh, and it really does pair well with a good Sav blanc, Brancott comes to mind!)

Food and Wine – What to Choose

As a mom, wife and entrepreneur, running around in a million different directions is normal. That’s why when it comes to deciding what wine to pair with my meal, I don’t have a lot of time to consider it. And I figured most other people don’t too.

So whether you’re always in a rush, like me, or simply need help determining what wine to pair with your meal, a few simple guidelines can help you make a deicion more quickly.  These are not rules, and I am a firm believer in drinking what you like, but it is true that certain flavors in wine and food pair better together than others. The idea of pairing wine and food is balance and for the two to complement each other.

Match Food Weight with Wine Weight
If you’re preparing, or buying from the market, a heavy dish (ie., lasagna) then you want to choose a wine of equal weight and body (ie. something heavier). You don’t want to select a wine that is light in body because it won’t stand up to the weight of the food. Remember, lighter foods with lighter bodied wines and heavier foods with more full bodied wines.

Consider Food Preparation and Flavor Profiles
Delicately prepared/flavored foods (ie., steamed, poached) pair best with more delicate wines. And the reverse holds true. Sauce and accompaniments are just as, or even more, important than the actual main component. The dominant flavor or sauce in the dish should match the wine. (For example, if you are having turkey with a dried cherry sauce, the sauce is more important to pair with the wine than the turkey itself.)

Match Sweetness
When pairing sweet dishes with wine, remember that the wine needs to be as sweet as or sweeter than the dish at hand.  If it isn’t, then the food can make the wine taste less fruity and astringent. So while you may love chocolate and Sauvignon Blanc, the two together do not mesh.

Balance Acidity
Foods or dishes that are high in acid (ie., tomato-based dishes) pair best with wines of equal acidity. Again, like sweetness above, the wine will taste bitter if the dish is more acidic than the wine.

Consider Flavor Opposites
If you have a spicy dish, often occurring in Asian or Indian cuisine, consider pairing it with a wine that is sweet. The sweetness of the wine will cool the spiciness of the dish. You can match a spicy dish with a spicy wine (ie., Syrah) but the spice in the wine will accentuate the spice in the dish. So if you like that combination then go for it.

As I always say, don’t fret over food and wine pairings. It should be fun. Good company is the most important, but understanding some of the guidelines of food and wine pairings can make a world of difference. Wine consumed by itself will taste completely different when paired with food.  So, have fun and experiment!

 What are some of your favorite pairings?  Do you have any questions about which foods and wines to put together?  I’d love your feedback!

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