We’ve had a busy and fun Christmas season with family and friends and did lots of cooking and entertaining at our house. We also enjoyed being hosted at many family and friend events too. The thing I love most about this season is the sharing of time with the important people in our lives, the sharing of laughter, love and great food. I love that it’s expected that everyone just gets together and visits. It reminds me of the weekly Sunday visiting we used to do when we were kids – long before Sunday shopping became a thing! When we get together during the Christmas season, it’s always fun to enjoy the traditional dishes we love that our family and friends prepare, as well as the new things they share with us. I love getting recipe ideas from others! So, today’s blog is going to feature some things that we made and some things that we enjoyed made by our family and friends.
Now that we are almost done with the holiday entertaining, I have found a little time to return to the blog. We’ve been busy with our Christmas cooking, baking and entertaining and haven’t done much of our regular routine of cooking ahead to make the week’s meal preparation easier. But, if you read on, you will hear about one big cook ahead day that always works out great for us.
If you are like me, much of your idea about what Christmas is has been shaped by the many Christmases you enjoyed as a kid and you wanted to replicate that feeling in your own home. My Italian grandmother was a great cook and my Mom learned lots from her and is also an awesome cook. Our Mom’s turkey and all the trimmings was always the best. It was hard to imagine anything better. So, when our Mom announced prior to Christmas one year that she heard that you could make your turkey a day ahead and reheat it, we were all appalled! Continue reading “What does cooking ahead at Christmas look like at our house?”
We know eating well is important to our individual health and we also know that family dinners around the table are an important connection for our kids and for all of us. Sharing our successes, plans and worries always seem easier when it’s over a meal. In our busy lives, it can be challenging to find that time to sit and connect over food. Part of the challenge is about finding the time to plan these meals. If you read my “about” page, you will see that one of the goals of this blog is to demystify delivering great food to your family. You don’t have to be an expert – you only have to find simple ways to prepare good food, to plan ahead, and to cook with love! Even if you can only do this once a week, you and your family will benefit, and it will get easier as you get into the routine.
My husband and I have worked for many years in very busy careers that often involved night time commitments as well as a full work day. Getting together to connect over a meal, even for an hour, was always really important for us and we felt it was important for the health of our personal connection with each other. We both came from families that also shared these values and we wanted to hold onto that connection time in this busy, modern world. We have both since retired from our work, which is why I now have the time to blog about all of the cooking and food prep we have done over these many years and continue to do today!
The secret for us to have a week of enjoyable and healthy eating is to cook a sort of traditional Sunday dinner that involves simple preparation and could cook in the oven without much attention. That allows us time to do other things while the dinner cooks. We always make a big enough portion to generate another meal in the week, and on the same day, we prepare a one-pot dinner that is enough for two meals. Sometimes that’s a crockpot meal and sometimes it’s a one-pot dinner that cooks on the stove at the same time as the dinner in the oven. That’s four nights of dinner with only a few hours of prep on the weekend (or whenever is convenient for you!). When we were working, our fifth night was ordering pizza! Since we’ve both been retired, the fifth night is usually a fish dinner. (Yes, we still have pizza from time to time!).
This week’s Sunday dinner was oven roasted pork, roast potatoes (which is a staple for us, and a historical family favourite of mine!), steamed green beans and a side salad. When we cook like this, my hubby usually prepares the potatoes and the salad. Typically, I prepare the roast and the vegetable side dish.
The make-ahead meal for the week gets done at the same time and usually, we share the chopping duties for that dish. Since it’s a one-pot dinner, we want to get as much goodness in the meal by having a variety of vegetables in there. That way, we only have to use one smaller pot to heat up our portions for the next meal. This makes weeknight prep and clean up a breeze. This week’s make-ahead is Black Bean Chicken Chili that was assembled for the Crockpot and then cooked the next day while we were busy with our weekday activities. We’ll add a salad and maybe some garlic bread too! But if you don’t have time for the salad and garlic bread, don’t worry the Black Bean Chicken Chili has all the food groups you need and warms the tummy on these colder days.
Once you get into a rhythm of thinking about two dinners you could make that would each generate leftovers, you’ll have the week beat and you’ll have healthy, delicious food that is easily prepared, leaving you time to be in the moment and connect with those you love!
There are no real secrets to eating healthy. There is a lot of information out there, but for me, it’s about balance, flavours, and routine. You need to have a good routine to set up your week to eat well, otherwise, you have to resort to options that are quickly available, which may be tasty, but certainly not the best nutritional value for you and your family. My hubby and I take a few hours each Sunday to do a little cooking ahead that make our lives easier all week long. On Sundays, we usually make a dinner that we eat that night and also creates enough leftovers for another meal, and then we usually make a one-pot dinner which cooks at the same time. That will be dinner for at least two nights in the week. So, with one and a half to two hours of prep, we have four nights of dinner already sorted out! Yes, it’s two hours on a Sunday, but you will be so thankful you did this all week long! We also had a fresh salad to most every meal.
Last week, we did a roast chicken, roast potatoes, roasted beans, and salad. That was Sunday dinner and we knew it would be another dinner that week too. While the all of those pieces are roasting for about an hour to an hour and a half, you can connect with the kids, read, do chores or have a bath! While you do this, the house fills with a lovely aroma that might remind you of your Sunday dinners growing up! At the same time, we often prepare a dish that will cook in the crockpot for Monday that will also be good for at least two dinners. So, if you are counting, we’ve now taken care of four dinners with one and a half to two hours prep per couple! Last week our make-ahead meal was a pot roast, which gave us dinner for two nights!
Because I love to add lots of veggies to everything, we had lots of veggie leftovers from the pot roast in a delicious broth, even after two dinners. It seemed a waste to just throw it away just because there were only a few bits of meat left, so I got the idea to turn my delicious Pot Roast leftovers into an equally delicious beef and barley soup.
I boiled up a half cup of pearl barley and threw it into the veggies and broth and then we had a few great lunches over the next few days!
I always try to add a lot of veggies to my meals for a number of reasons:
to get more goodness into my body. We all know that eating a wide variety of veggies is very good for our health
to get more goodness into the dish I’m preparing. Veggies add flavour, colour and interest to the dish
So, a little prep and a little creativity with simple ingredients will give you lots of great meals…be well and enjoy!