Can 30 minutes or less really be satisfying?

Do you remember the first time you felt anything that took under a half an hour just simply wasn’t going to cut it?  As if time spent truly dictated quality achieved.  Well people, I am here to tell you quality is not always preceded by quantity, you can be lusciously happy in 30, 25, or even 20 minutes.  Allow me to seduce you into a new way treating your family meal time and help you stop thinking you can’t reach dinner time bliss without blowing up your kitchen!

Being a stay at home mom and loving to cook usually spells major frustration around dinner time.  I know, I know, you would think that by staying home, you could have a smooth, fun afternoon of prepping and cooking fabulous meals and then serving your family (little white apron donned and pot holders at the ready) who would of course thank you exhaustively for all your efforts and then insist on cleaning the dishes and kitchen in gracious return.   This of course would happen while you put your feet up, cool glass of wine in your hand, basking in all the appreciation flowing from your family.  What?  You say I must be inhaling too many cleaning fumes?  Ahhh, then you have the same experience I have.  Reality:  You spend most of the day picking up everything from yesterday, doing laundry, chasing the dirty, stinky puppy with a diaper in her mouth and caring for Bubba the baby Gorilla. Then, you put a great deal of time, effort and money into creating a meal, are left with a sink full of dishes and a family that turns into vapor in the aftermath.

O.k., so enough reality.  Let’s get to my point.  After a whole week cooking dinners from Ainsley Harriott’s Gourmet Express, I must report that my life at dinner time has become substantially more satisfying.  The food consistently exceeds my expectations for freshness, quality, edibility, time spent preparing and mess to clean up when it’s all over.  As if that weren’t enough, the ingredients are very easily interchangeable to work with what you have on hand or to fit family preferences.  On more than one occasion I switched up one or two (or a bunch) of items and they were still nummy.  I  was going to review the recipes individually, but then seriously thought, the recipes weren’t the point.  Besides, I already told you they were fab and who really wants to read a recipe blow by blow.  Drag yourself to the library and try Mr. Gourmet Express out for yourself, and then, like me, go buy it so it will be yours for evs.

FIRST STEP IN TAKING THE TROUBLE OUT OF DINNER~Plan, plan…plan

At the beginning of your week (my day is Monday, yours might be Wednesday depending on your Bubba or Hubster) go through your recipes, then go through your pantry and refrigerator (if you’re like me, throw out the mystery food in tupperware that you have no idea how long it’s been there…do not sniff it you will only gag and waste time, just toss it and chuck the dishes in the sink).  Try to see what you already have in order to save shopping time and cash you may want to save as well.

Now, plan every meal in advance and write it down somewhere obvious.  Be aware, if something comes up, your list is fluid, change it up for convenience.  This plan is about ease…not stress, if it doesn’t work that day, ditch it.  My youngest daughter, Miss Thing, got a case of the barfs last week, so Thursday didn’t work out like I planned.  Writing it down reminds you while you are hazy and bleary eyed after a night with Bubba what the plan is for the day.  I like not having to think when my brain cells are working off 3 hours of sleep and caffeine, I get cranky.  Below you can see my weekly plan, I re-purposed a cute little mirror that has no place in the house into a great little wipe board.  Dry erase markers work fab on this and I also get the added bonus of being able to actually check out how I look without leaving the kitchen so I know if there is the odd smudge of crap anywhere embarrassing.

Now, look at what you need to purchase in order to complete your list and then, try to find out what’s on sale and go to your coupons!!  Try Krazy Coupon Lady for a huge list of items, coupons and stores.  Here is where you must decide whether you will stick with the recipe or substitute items.  For example, Baked Penne with Chorizo and Taleggio Cheese sounded awesome, but possibly unreachable here in the desert.  I had a coupon from the Dream Fields website for $1.00 off Dream Fields Pasta (which was on sale so it cost me $.79 per box), but found the commissary was out of Taleggio and only had sub-par chorizo that really looked kinda sketchy and sad.  I was not up for turning this into a $40 meal.  Looking around, I realized I had:

A coupon for $1.00 off Kraft shredded cheese, so I went with the 5 Italian Cheese mix ($1.49 with coupon and sale) and picked up A container of ricotta ($1.50 on sale) as well as                                                                                                                                  Johnsonville Mile Ground Sausage ($1.02 on sale with $1.00 off coupon)

The recipe made itself, and since I could easily double it for less than $10.00, I did.

Baked Pasta with Italian Sausage and Cheese

I prepared the recipe exactly as I would if I had the original ingredients, and it was incredible with a fresh Caesar Salad.  Half of the left over uncooked mixture went into the freezer for next week.  Two meals for about $10.00 total, plus it took me less than 30 minutes to prepare.  Stellar.

  In mommy world, this is a major score.

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