If I never see another frying pan, I think I will still be able to live a full and happy life.
Seriously, I’m suffering from a severe case of cooking burnout. After preparing numerous breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for my brood of three children over the summer months, even the thought of serving up another tasty, healthy, attractive, and inexpensive meal for dinner tonight has me gnashing my teeth and reaching for the take-out menu binder.
I usually don’t mind cooking – in fact, I quite enjoy this way of nurturing and caring for my family. But every once in a while – like tonight! – stick a fork in me. I’m done. And I know you’ve felt that way, too. So here’s a list of five “cheats” to pull out of your chef’s hat when it’s a quarter-‘til-dinner and you have no motivation.
1. Breakfast for dinner!
This is a favorite for younger kids. Make waffles, pancakes, French toast, scrambled eggs, bacon, an omelet – anything you’d normally serve up in the AM. If you really want to get nutty, have everyone come to dinner in their PJs. I guarantee your little ones will love it (Your husband? Not so much). Find some great breakfast recipes on southernfood.about.com.
2. Have the kids cook.
Yeah, this may mean extra clean-up, but you were complaining about cooking, not cleaning. Give the kids a recipe and have them go to town. Stay close by for supervision, but even your youngest school-aged kids can make English muffin pizzas, boil pasta, or open the cans for soup night. Recipe Goldmine has a variety of great kid-friendly recipes. Warning: many rely heavily on packaged or prepared foods, so either substitute in or suspend your from-scratch cooking rules for the night.
For some reason, every time I step near the grill, my husband immediately removes the tongs and platter from my hands and takes over. Sure, it doesn’t take much to “throw another shrimp on the barbie,” as the old commercial says. But still, if I’m not standing near the heating source, I’m not cooking. Even if I did have to flip the dogs, it sure beats the stirring-sifting-grating-shaking-sauteing routine that typically characterizes dinnertime.
4. Make your own pizzas.
This is a favorite around our house. I buy a few packs of pre-made pizza dough and sauce from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, we grate a big ole’ pile of cheese, and I set out bowls of different toppings (sliced mushrooms, peppers, and onions, ham, salami, and whatever else you have in the fridge) and let everyone go to town. Dinner can be on the table in 20 minutes, and I didn’t have to do anything but dump the toppings in bowls and turn on the oven.
5. Give in.
Just do it. Scrounge the extra dimes from underneath the couch cushions, check the bottom of the washer, and shake out everyone’s backpacks, purses, and briefcases. Promise to take your lunch an extra day or two the coming week, and order in an inexpensive meal. Pull out the paper plates, put on a DVD, and relex. Every once in a while, you have to give yourself a break. You’ve earned it!