How to avoid the hypnotic draw of the neon Drive Thru signs or the Tale of a Busy Mom!

In addition to being a mom and a personal chef, for the past 25 years of my life I have also been a speech pathologist. I worked in schools for several years before having children and once our second daughter was born 14 years ago, I found a position with a small agency where I remained until this past August. It was a perfect job that allowed me great flexibility to be home with my kids most of the time, and as they got older, it gave me time to start my chef business. In August I parted ways with my employer and for the first time in a long time was looking for another job. As most of you know, the job market is tough, even for teachers and therapists, and so I am still looking, but meanwhile I am filling a two month maternity leave in a local school district. It is a full time job 8-3:30, Monday through Friday.

I realize that a great majority of people do this and more each and every week, and I will go on record as saying that I have always had a great respect for working parents, and even more now as I am experiencing the crazy, hectic schedule and the physical exhaustion that accompanies working full time and managing a busy family of five!

After a couple of weeks on this new gig, I completely understand the hypnotic draw of neon signs saying “Drive thru” and “Pick Up Window” that seem to get brighter and more intense at say…5 pm while driving home to figure out what to feed the family! I get it! I really do! BUT…. I also know how important good nutritious food is for me and for my family. I know how much better it tastes to eat a home cooked meal AND I know that even with this new chaos in our lives, there IS a way to make it happen without collapsing on the floor in exhaustion or being chained to the kitchen after arriving home!

Tonight I ran into one of my neighbors, also a teacher and busy mom, in the grocery store on the way home from work. She jokingly asked what WE were having for dinner as she was trying to figure out what THEY were having for dinner. And it got me to thinking that maybe I should share some of my techniques for those of you struggling to “do it all!” Do we still order a pizza once in a while, you bet! And yes, even at the chef’s house, we have breakfast for dinner on occasion when the best laid plans fly out the window, but with some planning ahead, a couple of great kitchen tools and strategies, we can all eat better at home! So for the next few weeks I’ll share whatever tips I can along with some simple recipes that my family loves, and hopefully yours will too!

Tonight’s strategy? Ask for everyone’s input! I started this tradition many years ago when I got in a rut or got bored with what my palate was thinking of for dinner. I ask each family member to think of 5-7 dishes that they would like to eat at dinner time. Not only does that give me a nice selection of approximately 20 dishes (there are always overlaps between the kids), but it really cuts down on the upturned noses at the table. I asked them all for there lists this week and so far here is my working list in no particular order:
*Pasta Fagiole
*Cider Braised Chicken
*Salmon Burgers with Ginger
*Steak Fajitas
*Turkey Lettuce Wraps
*Fried Chicken
*Grilled Steaks
*Lamb Chops
*Homemade Pizza
*Chicken Noodle Soup
*Chicken Pot Pie
*Tilapia with Chile Lime Butter
*Beef Stew
*Pulled Pork
*Linguine with White Clam Sauce
*Shrimp Scampi
*Turkey Burgers with Wasabi Mayo
*Chicken Parmesan
*Mexican Tortilla Soup
*Pizza Supreme Soup

That made my life much easier already! With Thanksgiving and Christmas looming, we might not make it through them all, but it really helps me to organize a monthly menu. That’s right, I said MONTHLY!

When I make a monthly menu I always leave a few days blank for leftovers, to use up some things that we have, to try a new recipe that sounds delicious or if we have a crazy night and the plan becomes a joke…

And tonight our dinner utilized another of my favorite tips that I’ll talk about later….stocking the freezer! I had ground turkey ready to go and I was able to whip up a batch of our favorite Asian turkey lettuce cups!
Happy weekend!