Confession: I am a culinary loser.
Honestly when I think about cooking I envision an old black and white horror film involving stainless steel pots and pans with the Psycho music playing in the background. Okay, not really, but I have to say that cooking is not my favorite thing. Being the mom of four hungry children, however, I realize that I do have to provide something for them to eat.
Since cooking is not on my top ten hobby list, my creativity in the kitchen waxes and wanes. Right now we are definitely in the waning phase. So how do I cope without resorting to take out?
Plan Easy Meals for Hard Days
If I know that I am particularly unmotivated to spend time in the kitchen I plan a super easy meal like BBQ chicken nachos (recipe here). It requires minimal effort because the crockpot is doing most of the work and my older children can serve themselves when it’s dinner time.
Other easy meals are hot dogs and canned baked beans; grilled cheese sandwiches and canned soup; quesadillas and raw veggies with ranch dressing, and crockpot chili (recipe here).
Ask for Help
I am now the proud mother of two cooking teenagers. My son can make a mean quesadilla so I ask him to cook for us on a semi-regular basis. My daughter is a terrific baker so we often benefit from her culinary inspiration.
When my children were smaller I would ask my husband to help occasionally in the kitchen. I tried to limit these requests so that he didn’t “burn out” on cooking for us, but it was really nice to have a break every once in a while.
Start in the Morning
For some reason, cooking rice is a challenge for me (no laughing please!). If I am looking at a bag of rice and an empty pan at 5:00 in the evening, we are probably not going to be eating rice. In order to trick myself, I measure the water and place it in the pan on the stove and place the appropriate amount of rice in a bowl next to the stove. Now cooking rice at 5:00 doesn’t seem so difficult.
Other dinner prep tasks I often do in the morning are chopping vegetables, marinating meat, making bread in the bread maker or placing pre-cooked ground beef in the refrigerator to thaw.
If I happen to find a moment of inspiration I try to cook extra so there is food in the freezer to pull out during challenging days. Having food that only takes a few minutes to prepare keeps me from picking up the phone to call the neighborhood pizza place. (Believe me, I am tempted on a regular basis!)
How do you deal with a cooking slump? Share a comment so I can be inspired. 🙂
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A long time ago I found out how to cook rice in the microwave and I have never done it on the stove since. I start with 2 cups of water and 1 cup of rice in a microwave safe bowl that has a lid. Just dump the rice into the water and give it a stir, then place the bowl in the microwave without the lid and cook on high for 5 minutes. Give it a stir and add the lid and cook for 6 more minutes. Give it one last stir and cook for 3 more minutes and ta da…perfect rice every time.
I try to make extras of venison chili, pulled pork, or soups and then freeze them for days when I just can’t get my act together. It’s like a present to myself that I take out of the freezer.
I’m not alone! I make everything from scratch and sometimes it’s so hard to face cooking another meal…3 meals a day adds up quick!
About rice…I used to loathe cooking it! I bought a pressure cooker used and now in 7 min I have perfect rice every time! Works for any kind of rice. Cooks beans, meat, potatoes, etc. In a flash!
I don’t enjoy cooking either and I’m horrible at it. I do have a handful of meals I do well and my family will ask for. I’d rather scrub the toilets than cook!!! Since eating out every meal isn’t an option. On the days I work I have something quick…..hot dogs, hamburgers (hubby will grill), or a frozen pizza. The days I’m home I’ll throw something in the crock pot or put together an easy casserole. Not wanting to cook seems to be worse in the hot summer months, it’s easier in the colder months????
I wanted to share something out of my long years experience with rice cooking. I can honestly say that I mastered it with a 99% success without rice cookers or microwaves and can see just from looking at the water level in the pot if its right 🙂 BUT!!! it all comes down to the quality of rice you have….you get what you pay for 100%. It is waaaaay easier to mess up cheap store brand rice compared to for example “mahatma” or good brand jasmine rice.
I think it is pretty much the same thing with cheap pasta….it never turns out as good as imported pasta like barilla….
For brown rice I found that you can boil the water in the morning, put the rice in, turn the heat off. Let it set for about 5 minutes, then stick into the refrigerator until time to make dinner. It will be cooked. All you have to do is warm it in the microwave.
Interesting–I’ve never heard anything about that method.
I’m in a slump because I don’t feel good. I have had a urinary tract infection for about 3 weeks. 🙁 I’ve been depending on my family to cook, 3 teens and a husband who are all pretty capable and also doing the just dump some meat and veggies in the crock pot method.
To the commenter above, I have now conquered cooking rice because I have a microwave that has a “rice” button on it. I just pusH the button and walk away. 🙂
Recently I have found a great alternative when I’m craving take-out pizza, MINI PITA PIZZAS. All you need is mini pitas, pizza sauce, cheese, and whatever toppings you want (or have lying around). Don’t to anything to the pitas, just lay flat, put sauce cheese and topping on, bake in an oven or toaster oven at 425 for 8-10 minutes (or until the cheese is all melted) . Some of the pros: So easy and quick, everyone can have whatever toppings they want (and they can make theirs themselves). I found the key to making them taste like restaurant pizza is the spices. I always top them off with basil, oregano, and garlic powder. Want to be a little healthier? Buy whole wheat pitas and skip the cheese, just do sauce veggies and spices.
Now I always have a bag of mini pitas in my freezer waiting for my next pizza craving. I can do 6 at a time in my toaster oven which is the perfect amount if I’m alone for dinner.
Very good idea Maya–thanks!
Laura @ Laura's Crafty Life says
Glad to know I am not the only one. I actually like cooking, but when I feel like all I have been doing is cooking and cleaning up the kitchen for weeks on end, it can become a little mundane. I think having easy, go to meals that don’t take a lot of thought or preparation are key for me on these nights.
I have to say… I’m also rice-cooking challenged. Nobody can really figure out why! Now instead of regular rice, I make ricearoni, which somehow doesn’t come out too terrible.
Can’t figure out why I can’t cook rice…
Two words for you: rice cooker! I just got one and it is such a help! (You can get one from target for about 30.00). They are programmable so you can set it in the morning and the rice will be ready in the evening when you want it done! The rice cooker makes the rice perfect every time and no boil-overs. You can also make a ton of rice on the weekend and freeze it in dinner-sized portions. Just zap it or reheat it. You could also keep instant rice on hand for emergencies. It still beats getting takeout. I also hide a frozen pizza in the freezer for emergencies. I try not to do too many convenience foods but sometimes they can save you!
These seems to be very popular–I may have to check into it. 🙂
Or if you look at certain times of the year, they clearance out their displays (they don’t have instruction manuals, but those are easily found online) I got my rice cooker for 3 dollars, last fall before they reset everything for Christmas.
Now THAT’S what I’m talkin’ about! 🙂
Julie W says
Two super easy recipes!
Sauer Soup (not sour – named after the person who made it up)
1 large can white northern beans
1 large can chicken
8 oz pepper jack cheese, shredded
12 oz salsa
Dump in the crock pot on high for 6-8 hours. You can serve with tortilla chips/strips.
2 1/2 cup cooked chicken breast, chopped (2-3 breast)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon poppyseeds
8 oz sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
10 butter-flavored crackers, crushed
Mix all ingredients together (except the crackers). Put in an 8 x 8 baking pan. Top with crushed crackers. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
I have been making this for years. My husband likes to put it over biscuits.
I also make ahead and freeze the mix. Then move frozen to fridge the night before to thaw.
Hope these give someone some inspiration.
This is where I have the hardest time. I never feel like cooking. I do notice that if I have all my ingredients ready, it feels like less of a challenge.
Loved this post!
Thanks Andrea. 🙂
When I’m grumbling about cooking and pouting about wishing I had money to eat out, I try to remember that I am blessed to have food in my pantry to cook. I try to remember that when I cook it blesses my family as well, but on a bad day I say- Let them eat sandwiches! Breakfast for dinner is good too in a slump. When I really don’t want to cook dinner I whip up pancakes and sausage. My crockpot helps too on busy days when I may not feel like cooking. I love two blogs that help me w/ crockpot recipes called SixSister’s Stuff and Crockin’ Girls.
Getting a combination rice cooker/steamer was one of the best things I’ve ever done! I also could not cook rice to save my life. Now I can throw the rice in, let it start cooking while I chop up a vegetable to steam, and throw that in the steamer dish. I have three young children (3 year old twins and a 9.5 month old), so I need meals that don’t require a lot of prep time. 🙂 This is what I have: http://www.target.com/p/oster-14-cup-rice-cooker-black/-/A-10990077#?lnk=sc_qi_detailbutton
That one is sold out but there is a 6 cup steamer here
As for rice – I am a fail. I invested in an expensive rice steamer. Was well worth the savings in ruined rice and my sanity… it was pretty cheap and can be used for veggies, and, if you are a meat eater, fish and chicken…. I personally like to cook – EXCEPT in the summer. Sunshine and high temps suck all the motivation out of me… Planning helps… ‘Cool’ meals – salads, tacos, etc are my go-to…
I plan my meals out a week at a time according to what we have going on & then write them on the calendar. That way when I get in a rut I can go back to previous months to get ideas.
That’a a great idea Jorjie. I look back at my old menus too.
Rachael from KitchenCourses.com says
I did a guest post on this very topic over at food.yourway.net – http://food.yourway.net/how-to-get-out-of-a-cooking-rut/
It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut, especially when things get a little chaotic with busy schedules. I hope some of these ideas help out!
Thanks for sharing Rachael. I’ll check it out. 🙂
I absolutely have to cook ahead. If I make chili, I make a ton and freeze it. There are just too many nights during the week that I do noooot want to cook, but throwing something in the microwave is doable (even then it might get forgotten haha) : )
I see you post GF coupons a lot, you’ve probably already seen this coupon but if you havent- looks like a new one for $2/1 UDI’s product http://www.grocerycouponnetwork.com/coupons/?cid=16448080&PLID=GCN_PGCP&CRID=GCN_OG&PLID=GCN_PGCP&CRID=GCN_OG
Carol in Florida says
I am no Paula Deen either, but with a husband that just had a heart stint I really have to watch our diet – not my favorite thing to do because now – NO FAST FOOD! (I can’t control the sodium content when we eat out.) So, I’m trying to find quick and easy LOW sodium recipes to fix for us – plus we just found out my youngest daughter and son in law are expecting their first baby (and my first grandchild!) Now, I also need to find healthy dishes that she will eat – that won’t make her sick – she is having a MAJOR problem with morning sickness (actually, all day!)
You are more than welcomed to check out my blog at http://www.cdm-arewethereyet.blogspot.com for my “Recipe Wednesday” posts and see what you think – would love your feedback! Thanks and hope to “see you on the blog”!
Thanks Carol! It is even more difficult to cook when you have health issues to deal with. I will check out your blog for some recipe inspiration. 🙂
Krisi Davis says
Rice cooking procrastinators unite! I thought it was just me. I hate making rice. It never turns out right. Sigh. A rice cooker is a great idea. Great post!
Haha! Thanks Krisi!
Thanks for sharing these tips–I am going to try some of them for sure!!! 🙂 I am a total take-out junkie! I mean, who wouldn’t rather let someone else plan, prep, & cook the meal? And I would much rather roll up little paper wrappers and toss ’em than wash dishes! BUT, I was given a food sealer a while back and have used it to make meals easier. Not only is it good for dividing meat into portions for freezing, but it is also a great 5-minute marinator. Add your meat and marinade and seal. Since it seals it up, it marinates faster so if there is a day that I am running behind, I can still serve a good marinated chicken or something. It is also great for making my 3 year old a homemade lunchable. I can pre-pack a few trays, seal them up and refrigerate them. Easy to grab on the way out the door or when I am having an unusually busy day (which is every day!!) haha! Thanks, again- I love your blog!!!
I have heard of the food sealers, but haven’t tried one. Thanks for all the great ideas to use one. 🙂
sheri cost says
In the AM put something in the crock pot and then you do not have to worry about it.
Or you can havea cooking day and do meal for the week. Then just pull it out and you are done.
Or call the delivery place and set up the time you want dinner to arrive everyday that week. Not to cheap that way.
Sheri–the crock pot is my favorite kitchen tool.
Oh, I love this post -thank you, thank you, thank you! SO ME!! and I am SO with you on the rice thing too – it’s either crunchy or mushy. I need to get one of those rice steamers! And yes, when I’m somewhat motivated, I totally go to town on it, which will be used in the next 2-3 days bc I’ve used up all my motivation in that one spurt. LOL. And I have 5 kids, all of whom are huge eaters, so Ive taugh my oldest one to cook a lot of things – and I’m teaching the next one in line 🙂
Haha Denise–we’re soul mates! lol 🙂
You should try baking your rice. It turns out perfectly EVERY time… even brown rice 🙂
I just use water if I am making the rice to go with anything that I will be adding a sauce to. I hope you all love this recipe as much as I do!!