By Ruth Topper
Does the thought of putting a meal on the table create stress for you? Well – me too. Cooking has never been one of my favorite activities. In fact, I would rate my personal satisfaction of cooking pretty low on a scale of 1 to 10. I would trade off doing lots of dishes – including pots & pans – every night in lieu of cooking. In fact, while dating my husband, Gary, I told him straight up that if he was looking for someone who would put a meal on the table every night for him – then he wasn’t looking at the right girl. (Fortunately he must have seen other qualities and stuck with me)!
I felt added pressure when I stepped off the full time Merry-Go-Round after the birth of my daughter more than 15 years ago. Gary was always home from work before me, so for more than 7 years of marriage, he had dinner already started by the time I got home. Now that I was a “stay at home” mom I felt the pressure to start making dinner every night. I certainly couldn’t be home all day with the kids and then have him come home & make dinner. So – I made Gary write down (for the first time) the recipes for some of our favorite meals. Slowly I started to put together a repertoire of a few dishes I could make on my own. Although to get to that place – I can’t tell you the number of times I called him at work that first year to clarify instructions to make a particular dish.
So why is cooking such a chore to me (and maybe you)? Here are some of my theories:
1. Deciding what to make each day for dinner. There are so many options to consider and what is an option that everyone, including all the kids, will eat? Is it relatively healthy? If your family is anything like mine there are many times that you can’t sit down together for a meal due to sports & activities. What do you make that won’t seem like a “leftover” three hours later?
2. Figuring out the timing of all the components (meat, potato, vegetable, etc.) of the meal so that everything is hot & ready at the same time. This is truly a science that I have yet to figure out! All I can say is don’t ever put me in charge of Thanksgiving Dinner! At my house – I go run the “Turkey Trot” early on Thanksgiving morning while Gary makes the filling & stuffs the turkey! I’m very good at making the rolls the day before and jumping in at the last minute to help put the various items in serving dishes and/or to stir the gravy – but do not put me in charge of making sure everything is done at the same time!
3. Measurements for ingredients included in a main dish recipe are often not precise. Let’s take soup as an example. Gary is a “Soup Nazi.” I see him pulling spices out of the cupboard & just sprinkling a little of this & a little of that into the pot or adding vegetables, meat, cheese, etc. without even thinking about measuring them out! How in the green earth does this “mish mash” end up tasting so good? We recently purchased a quart jar containing “Seven Bean Soup” from our church. The jar contains a variety of dry beans and the recipe to make the soup. The last “ingredient” on the recipe is “spices to taste.” How is someone, like me, ever to figure out what these “spices to taste” are!
In spite of my great dislike for cooking I do manage a few times a week to put something edible on the table for my family. I learned early on that you need to develop a few “go to” recipes that just don’t fail for you. One of these recipes in our family is meatloaf. It is a comfort food, something that everyone likes, warms up nicely or is great the next day cold in a sandwich too.
1 ½ lbs. ground beef
¾ cup of milk
½ cup bread crumbs
¼ cup onion, chopped
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 ½ Tablespoons parsley
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup catsup
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon mustard
Mix all ingredients together – except the topping. Place in a shallow baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Drain any grease off meatloaf. Add topping and bake an additional 10 minutes. Enjoy!
So – are you challenged in the kitchen (like me) or is cooking something you love to do? We would love to hear from any of you who have “survival” tips? Do you have any favorite, easy meals that are your stand-bys? Please share!