Tuesday, February 12, 2013

For the Love of Food: Making Cooking Easier

“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”  My husband, Chris, loves when I cook.  I mean, when I “really” cook.  As in, from scratch.
Sure, he’ll eat country-fried steaks out of a box from Sam’s Club.  He’ll eat them and he’ll like them.  But, if I breaded some cube steak and made white pepper gravy from scratch, he would love it.
He would eat them.  Then he would ask, “Do you care if I eat the rest of these?” and he would tell me how delicious are.  Then, he would take the leftovers to work to show off.  Then, he would tell everyone he met that week about his wife’s “amazing” homemade country-fried steaks.   He would tell you that the recipe is easy and he would name the a few ingredients, just to prove it.  “Try her buffalo chicken meatloaf.  It’s easy.  It’s just chicken, hot sauce, and an egg!”  Not quite, but okay.  Then, he would tell you to visit my blog and try my other recipes.

If you know anything about The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman, you probably can tell that my husband’s love language is “words of affirmation”.  If he loves you, or something you did, or a product that he bought, he’s going to tell someone about it.

My love language, on the other hand, is “acts of service”.  To “tell” my husband that I love him, I clean up his desk, or organize the garage, or mow the grass, or make his favorite meal.

But it’s tough when I’m working almost full time with two little ones.  By the time the weekend is here, I just want to lay on the couch and watch a movie with my Valentine.  Or, I want to put away those stray toys littering the living room.  Or, vacuum the corners where cobwebs are starting to form.  Or, do anything but make a bigger mess in the kitchen!

I’ve found a few tricks that help me “love” my husband.  These things have helped me cook more—and they have led to a happier husband.

Make a menu plan.

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If I plan my menu, I share it on my blog.  My husband will check and see what is planned for the week.  If I have a favorite planned for that week, I get an email or text from him at work, “I’m so excited for General Tso’s Chicken tonight!”  I love that.

I don’t always follow my menu plans, exactly.  I leave myself some wiggle room by planning for a night out or leftovers.  I will plan more complicated dishes for days I’m not working.  We eat a lot of crockpot meals when we’re busy.  But, making a menu plan gives me more commitment to cook at home.  If I said I was going to do it, I am more likely to stick to it.
Make a list of your husband’s favorite meals (and yours too!).  Use that list to plan your meals for the next few weeks.  Do all of your shopping for that week’s menu at one time.

Prep ahead of time.

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The more I can get done ahead of time, the better.  That’s just less work I need to do when I’m tired after a day at work.  After that weekly shopping trip, I try to do as much of the prep work as I can.
Repackage meats when you buy them, so it’s easy to grab that night’s portion to thaw.  Make up breading mixes ahead of time and freeze those as well.  Mix up a meatloaf ahead of time and freeze it.  Chicken can be frozen in a marinade. 

Take shortcuts!

Not everything has to be done exactly the way the recipe specifies.  My original General Tso’s Chicken recipe came with a full page of ingredients.  I have since shortened it, by at least half a page.  The first thing I did away with was “fresh grated ginger”.  I did it once.  It was an awful mess.  And, we don’t use it frequently enough, so the rest of the ginger spoiled.  I use ground ginger instead.  It’s so much easier.
I fry breaded chicken for Chicken Parmesan.  When we have company, and I can’t fry more than 3 pieces of chicken at a time, I bake it.  Then, I can do something else while the chicken is cooking.  And, there aren’t grease splatters all over the kitchen.
Try adjusting one of your recipes and see how it turns out.  Could you use garlic powder instead of fresh garlic?  Try using onion powder in your meatloaf instead of chopping all those onions.  Could you skip the breading on that chicken recipe?  Could you throw it all together in the crockpot?
I encourage you to try one of these tips this week as you love your Valentine.

Stop by Simply Helping Him where I'm sharing as part of the Simply Helping Him Corner.


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