Ellie and I spent the afternoon at Emily’s house cooking. For those of you who know me, yes, you read that right. I actually do cook occasionally. Once a month, to be exact. Thanks to the fine folks at Once a Month Mom, Emily and I have gotten into the habit of spending one day a month cooking enough stuff to fill our freezers for the next 30 days or so. I can’t tell you what a huge help this has been in getting a decent dinner on the table every night. But even with this additional shove in the right direction, I still have a hard time connecting with my inner Martha Stewart.
When it was just me I had to worry about (I almost said “when I was single.” That’s what it feels like – the difference in single and attached), I could come home and eat cereal for dinner. Or ice cream. Or Doritos. Hence the name of this little writing experiment. But now I have to be a responsible adult and put something nutritious on the table for my daughter. The problem is that I am expected to do this EVERY NIGHT. Whose idea was THAT?!
This is something I’ve struggled with since the day Ellie came home. I’m just not good at it. It’s not that I can’t cook – if you’ve met my mom, you know I’ve had a good teacher. I just can’t cook and get anything else done at the same time. If we have an errand to run, or we’re late getting home for some reason, or there’s yard work to do, there just isn’t time to cook, too. I can come home and spend the evening getting dinner on the table, or I can take care of other business. I just can’t seem to do both.
And of course, I’m dealing with a two-year-old. If dinner takes 60 to 90 minutes to get on the table, she’s having a meltdown by then. So am I. And if I give her a snack to tide her over, then she doesn’t want dinner, and I wind up thinking “Well, hell. I could have just fixed a bowl of cereal after all!”
The Once a Month Mom girls have helped me out considerably – as long as I remember to get something out of the freezer to thaw, I can now have something cooked and on the table in a reasonable amount of time. I’m still not good at being organized enough to serve anything else, though – if lasagna is what I’ve thawed out, then that’s what we’re having. No salad or bread. Just lasagna. Which is fine right now, but probably won’t cut it as Ellie gets older. It takes more forethought and organization than I’ve got to get the side dishes together. Hell, it takes more forethought than I’ve got to get something out of the freezer a day ahead – I can’t be expected to remember salad too.
Last week I had a moment of inspiration – I used the time delay thingy on my oven and set it to bake while I was on my way home from work. Voila! Dinner was ready when we walked in the door. I see two problems with this arrangement, however. 1) I could set the house on fire. 2) I could give us botulism by leaving the food out all day in the oven. Botulism toxin is what’s in Botox, right? Could better skin be a side benefit of giving my family food poisoning?
When I told my friend Diane that I had set the oven timer and was thus a culinary genius, she told me a horrible story about a time when she set her BRAND NEW oven to cook over several hours while she did other things around the house. She had set it on 350, and when she passed by it, she happened to notice it was up to 500. She tried to turn it off, but it wouldn’t shut off. By the time she got to the breaker box, the temperature was so high it was no longer registering, and the stove was so hot it was glowing.
This was not what I wanted to hear. Truth be told, I’m a little afraid to leave even the Crock-Pot on when I’m not home – I’m not sure I can adjust to knowing the stove is on in my absence on a regular basis.
So all this bitching is for one purpose: I want to know what you other working moms do about dinner. Do you practice the once-a-month method? Do you use the Crock-Pot faithfully? How do you feel about the risk of having an appliance on when you're not home? Do you regularly resort to frozen food and carry-out? I know I’m not the only one who gets home at 6:30 and still has to face this dilemma every day. I’m open to suggestions, ladies. Please help me in my quest to feed my daughter nutritious stuff – she deserves better than Doritos! I anxiously await your input.