Want to Be a W.O.C.M. Like Me?

For those of us with kids at home, here we go again. I think the biggest challenge of the school year for me is keeping myself and everyone else disciplined and on schedule. When I was a kid, being home after 9 months of school made me feel like something important was probably happening somewhere else and I was missing it, at home.  Now I relish waking up not sure what I will do that day. This summer in the midst of this hedonist relaxation, I started to notice that if my boys were home when lunch time came around they would open the refrigerator and pull out a carrot, or an apple to munch on, but making a meal never crossed their minds .

So we started “Operation Independence”, meaning they had to stick around and help while I made things. Eventually I just suggested ingredients and they had the option of doing it themselves or going hungry. Believe it or not, there were times they just wouldn’t eat, or the oldest with a car would go “visit a friend” (and his refrigerator) rather than put something with more than 2 ingredients together. Ever feel that way yourself?

I know I do even though I thoroughly enjoy cooking.  It just gets so much competition when leaving the house early and keeping to a regimented schedule in places other than home.  But after this nice, long break I feel ready to tackle the challenge with renewed energy and enthusiasm.  I would like to share a few things I do that transform me from a kitchen slug into a Well Oiled Cooking Machine which gets dinner made stress free and before 8:30pm:

1.  WHEN YOU COOK, DOUBLE IT.  This way you get to think and clean half as much!  Buy plastic food storage bins big enough to the other half you won’t be eating and either freeze it or make it into dinner the next day. Some suggestions for the transformation into another meal are:

-Cut it smaller, add a few fresh veggies and dressing and put it over fresh greens. 
-Spread jarred spaghetti sauce over some pizza dough and add cheese and leftovers to make pizza.
-Serve it over quinoa or whole grain rice. 
-When it gets colder, add broth and other favorite frozen vegetables to any meat and vegetables entree leftovers to create a unique soup.  Adding leftover spaghetti sauce, nutritional yeast or bean dips to the broth can add different flavors for variety.

In addition, many of the OTL recipes are either paired or will have suggestions for using leftovers to start another entree.

2.  ALWAYS START AT THE BEGINNING OF THE DAY.  For some reason this makes all the difference, even if it’s only 5 minutes to look over the recipe, take meat out of the freezer or simply visualize what you will be doing when you get home. Since half the battle with cooking is planning, use the Orange Tree Lane shopping list, recipes, and then along with this small bit of morning preparation you will be truly ready to tackle dinner preparation even if coming home from a long day.

3.  DO PREP WORK EARLIER.  Most Orange Tree Lane recipes have a section called “Prep Work” between the ingredients and directions. It will list the cutting and chopping needed for the recipe so that little pockets of time can be put to good use, or the jobs can be delegated to someone else who has a few minutes to spare. This saves an amazing amount of time for the cook and makes the whole job of cooking a meal go twice as fast!

Let’s apply these techniques to this week’s menu as an example of being a W.O.C.M.:

1)  First of all, the chicken nugget recipe has directions at the end for putting leftovers on a dinner salad another night.
2) Double the this chicken recipe and use it for making the other chicken recipe “Feta Chicken Pasta”.
3) Extra protein from any recipe can be cleverly paired with other leftovers in your refrigerator to make Spontaneous Black Bean Burritos if you always keep a few staples on hand like cans of black beans and large tortillas in the freezer. 
4) Make leftovers from the Beef, Bean and Kale entree into soup by adding broth, spices, and some other favorite vegetables.  Any extra quinoa thrown in would be the same as adding rice or noodles.

Here you can see how one night of cooking can be used for multiple days.  Using these three three techniques to create the most healthy meals with the least amount of time is how you too can become a Well Oiled Cooking Machine!  Give it a try and let me know how I can help.  .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

molly's avatar