Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Busy Week Night Tips

I am a very busy mom. I have a full time job with a 2 hour a day commute, kids, my blog, my Etsy, etc. I also need to maintain a healthy and clean home. Week night dinners are hard to fit into my tight schedule but I have a few tricks I'd like to share with you. They will work for busy stay at home moms, too. 

1) George Foreman Grills-
No matter which one you invest in, these are HUGE time savers! I am on my third! Is that because something happened to the old ones? No way! When they come out with a new one, I upgrade and gift mine to someone that can use it. It cooks in record time, cleaning is a breeze, and it drains the fat. My new one also can bake and cook sliders! 

2) Slow Cookers-
This is another huge time saver. Depending upon the meal, I sometimes have it in my removable crockpot bowl ready to go in the a.m. Mine is also a programmable. I should say my main crockpot. I have a large one that I can cook a whole meal or the main entree in. However, I also have several that can hold side dishes and desserts, dip, etc. Think you need a bunch of cookbooks? You don't. I regularly use Crockpot section as well as A Year of Slow Cooking at She has done all the legwork by trying out the recipes. While tastes may differ, the recipes are tested to see if the work. 

3) Pizza Cutter-
My pizza cutter is a necessary tool in my home. I have been through many in my home because the cheapies are just not made well. One day, while at Sams Club, I saw a commercial pizza cutter and purchased it. Best, minimal investment I have made! What do I do with my pizza cutter? First, the majority of use is cutting children's food. It cuts quickly, especially when they are hungry and getting upset. I also use it to cut a pan of brownies, herbs when cooking, etc. 

4) Quick GO-TO Meals-
Each family has their own, but you can keep a list of your go-to meals so that eating out is kept to a minimum. Not only is it a money saver to make your own meals, it is generally healthier. 

Here are a few of my family's go-to meals:

Tuna Noodle Casserole
(Many families may not like this but it is a favorite and requested dinner in my home. And it is very cheap!)
1 can of tuna, drained
1 can of cream of mushroom, or cream of chicken, or cream of celery
1 soup can of milk
1 16oz. bag of egg noodles
1 can of peas (I have also used frozen (thawed) broccoli)
1 bag of shredded cheese (I use shredded Velveeta because of it's smooth texture when melted)
Season to taste (I use salt, pepper and minced onion)

Boil noodles and drain. Put noodles in a microwave safe bowl. Mix the rest of ingredients into the drained noodles. Microwave on high. This depends on each microwave but mine is about 6 minutes. Everything is cooked, so all you are doing is heating through and melting cheese. 

Chicken Strips

These are so easy!

1 1/2 lbs chicken tenders (I cut my own strips to save money)
1 C. dry mashed potato flakes
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 egg beaten

Mix the dry mashed potato flakes and parmesan cheese in a shallow bowl.
Beat the egg in another shallow bowl.
Dip each chicken strip in egg then dry mashed potato flakes and parmesan cheese mixture.

I wear gloves to keep my hands clean.
Bake at 400 degrees in oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown.  

Salmon Patties
24 oz of canned salmon (drained and the bones removed)
2 eggs
4 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 C. mayonnaise
1 C. dry mashed potato flakes
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
1 t lemon juice

Mix all ingredients well.
Place 1/4 C. mashed potato flakes  in a shallow bowl.
Scoop salmon mixture and flatten on mashed potato flakes.  Flip to coat other side.
I use an ice cream scooper to make it easier and the patties proportioned.
To cook:
Heat 2 T oil in skillet on med/high heat.  Cook 3 minutes on one side and then flip and cook 2-3 more minutes.

5) Freezer Cooking-
When we have a little extra time on the weekends, we will plan short freezer cooking sessions. For example, we recently did a mostaccioli and lasagna. We purchased several family sized aluminum pans and made several. When we do a session, it is a lot of work, so we will use one of those for that night's dinner. We made about 10. We have 3 large freezers. 

I hope this gives each of you at least one tip you had not thought of. If you have a tip, enter it in the comments and I will post them!

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