For the past six weeks or so, I have had to put one of nature’s strongest instincts on hold for the holidays. My mind was furiously making lists of things needed to do to make things just right to welcome a new baby, but I simply had to wait until I made it through everything that goes with having lots of kids at Christmas. There were plays and baking, shopping, wrapping, company and parties and as I look back, I’m not sure how I made it It was a grand time though!
As we said farewell to the last out of town guests, a wave of nesting came crashing down on our home – more specifically on me (but you know when it hits momma, it hits everyone.) Decorations put away, closets cleaned out, baby bed set up, baby clothes washed, floors scoured, laundry caught up. And that was just the first day – kidding – more like the first week. Yesterday I even managed what my friend Tricia has termed a big cook. I was amazed because It only took me about 1 hour and a half, maybe 2 total.
It was a group effort. My oldest and her friend entertained the kids wonderfully. My sweet neighbor dropped off some aluminum pans for freezing that I had forgotten to buy. My back cooperated And for our efforts, we now have:
- Two batches of meatballs, from the Betty Crocker cookbook, for subs and spaghetti
- Two meatloafs, also from Betty Crocker, simple and delicious
- Two pans of my friend Kim’s chicken spaghetti (I add the rotel)
- A pan of baked ziti – noodles, sauce, meat, cheese – nothing fancy.
- A pot of chicken riddle soup for today, from the Kid’s in the Kitchen Cookbook by Pampered Chef
- And homemade chicken nuggets with a new family favorite – pastina pilaf (on the back of the ronzoni pastina box)- for last night’s dinner
If you haven’t tried a big cook, I highly recommend it. For not that much more time spent one dinner, you can make several. Ease in with two, even, which means only cooking every other night.
Pointers to speed things up:
Streamline: I tried to make things that were somewhat similar, like the meatballs and meatloaf that share a lot of the same ingredients.
Prep: I had already pre-chopped my carrots and celery when I brought them home for the store, cutting some in sticks for snacks and the rest chopped and portioned for the soup and pastina. I also had slow cooked my chicken breasts and shredded them the day before for the chicken spaghetti and soup, saving a couple of raw breasts for the nuggets.
Strategize: Pick a time where you can be focused. My husband gets home a little later on Fridays which meant I had a little extra time before dinner, and with the teens helping with the younger ones, I was able to work undistracted. Saturday mornings can be a great time for this. Maybe there’s a project the kids can help the man with while you cook it up. Of course, the kids can help you, too. I prefer to do that one at a time, though, rather than a free-for-all When you’ve already made the bulk of the dinner, it actually makes having the kids in the kitchen during the week to help make the side dishes and such much more doable. Our kids each have a designated night that they help.
Now I can open the freezer and gaze at the fruits of my labor and know that there will be nights when I sigh with relief that dinner is already taken care of.
What do you think? Have you done a big cook? Are you ready to try one if you haven’t?