You just got married and you’re settling into life with your spouse. In this day and age, I’m going to assume no one expects dinner from you, but you might find yourself wanting to provide home-cooked meals for your family, or teaming up with your partner to make cooking a priority. This can be daunting, but it doesn't have to be! Here are my top tips for turning out easy, delicious homemade dinners.
You aren’t Martha Stewart, and that’s ok.
So don’t try to be. Your goal is simple, delicious and nutritious meals that make dinner an enjoyable ritual — fancy is a bonus, not a requirement. In fact, I’ve found that most people just want comfort food with a healthy twist. Remove the pressure to make your dinner table look like it’s photo-ready for Bon Appétit, and I guarantee you’ll enjoy the process more.
Don't be a "Jack" of all cooking, master of none.
Pick 10 recipes that appeal to you and your husband and master as many of them as you can. Again, keep it simple — stick to recipes like crockpot dishes, pastas, tacos, baked fish and chicken. Make sure you have these recipes easily accessible in a binder or on your computer in case you forget a step. Also, make a list of all the non-perishables and dried goods like grains and beans from your recipe go-tos and keep those in your pantry at all times.
Move over MOH, your new bestie is your planner.
Planning out your weekly meals saves 90% of the stress of home-cooking. This includes picking your meals for the week, setting aside the time on a Saturday or Sunday to go shopping, and completing any prep before Monday hits —rinsing/drying, peeling, chopping, marinating etc. Rule of thumb: when it comes to produce, don’t let it into the fridge until it’s prepped. De-stem and chop kale for salad, slice cucumbers, peeled carrots and cut into batons, gently wash and dry cherry tomatoes. This will save a great deal of time on the back-end, and it keeps your fridge clean!
Two roads diverged: there are two successful, easy methods for meal planning.
Method one: make three dishes in large amounts, enough for two dinners for two people. Night seven is the wild card night. Keep track of the dishes and vary them each week. This method relies heavily on leftovers, but requires less cooking. Method two: designate a recipe for each night of the week, every week. This way you really get your method down pat, there’s no guesswork, and no one has to ask what’s for dinner. The downside is that it requires more frequent cooking.
Become an ice princess.
Another dinner ally? The freezer! Whenever you think of it, double or triple your favorite recipes and freeze what you won’t eat that week. I recommend buying portion-sized ziplock bags and laying them flat, horizontally. This way, you can fit a lot of them stacked in the freezer, and it’s easier to break them up when defrosting.
Don’t freeze: water-rich foods -- lemons, lime, tomato, melons, cucumber, citrus; dairy products -- yogurt, cheese, sour cream, milk; fresh herbs -- onions, peppers, radishes, sprouts, salad greens.
Do freeze: turkey and beef meatballs and burgers, veggies (with dairy free sauce), grilled chicken breasts, taco meat or bolognese meat, pancakes or waffles, muffins, cookies, granola bars, soups and casserole.
When in Doubt, BRINNER
When you need to pull a rabbit out of a hat, make breakfast for dinner! It’s the easiest meal of the day, and everybody loves it. Make a batch of homemade healthy pancakes or waffles and keep the in the freezer, tightly sealed. They reheat beautifully. Scramble some eggs and maybe grill a few pre-cooked chicken sausages or organic bacon, I love Applegate Farms for both. Voila! You have dinner in 10 minutes and it feels like a special treat for you and your spouse.