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Healthy family dinners that I can prepare during the day?

(28 Posts)
fuzzpig Thu 20-Feb-14 15:32:05

Apart from the obvious pasta bake and cottage pie!

DH is going back to work FT and I will now be doing all the cooking during the week.

Unfortunately I will also be doing the school runs and, due to my disability, am usually in a lot of pain and exhausted when we get in around 3.30. Even standing long enough to do a quicker pasta/sauce dish eg would be difficult on bad days.

However during the day (on non work days) I'm actually not too bad, and I've been enjoying cooking lately. I thought I could do most of the prep during the day and so I can just rest after school and then reheat it in time for 5pm.

We do have a slow cooker which I have used... once blush so any reeeeeally simple (and I really mean idiot proof as I'm by no means a natural cook!) ideas for that would be good too!

DCs not too fussy but don't tend to like a lot of 'wet' stuff like soup <sigh>

fuzzpig Thu 20-Feb-14 15:35:38

Oh and nothing too spicy either, sadly.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 20-Feb-14 17:06:48

How about a simple sausage casserole in your slow cooker? You'd need a packet of good quality sausages, each one cut into 4 pieces (grilled first if you want them to have some colour) , a chopped onion, a chopped red pepper, a drained can of cannellini beans and a can of chopped tomatoes. Some seasoning and maybe some Italian herbs or a little smoked paprika for extra flavour. Stir it all gently together and let your slow cooker do the rest. Serve with mashed potato.

fuzzpig Thu 20-Feb-14 18:02:26

That sounds simple enough, thanks! I don't really like sausages as they are but in casseroles it'd be good. smile

PotteringAlong Thu 20-Feb-14 18:07:02

www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/collection/slow-cooker

There are 33 really great slow cooker recipes here!

CMOTDibbler Thu 20-Feb-14 18:12:34

I did spag bog in my slow cooker the other day, and I was feeling particularly lazy so did the following
brown mince
quarter an onion, chop a few carrots into 4. Fling in liquidizer with half a jar of passata, garlic, stock cube, squirt ketchup. Whizz.

Pour into slow cooker with mince, add chopped courgette (I have been known to whizz this too) and mushrooms.

Add oregano and leave to cook.

I added beans (I cook a shed load of mixed beans at a time then freeze) and chilli to the leftovers the next day which was nice.

If you look on Pintrest theres loads of slow cooker recipes, and many can be bagged up and frozen to just dump in the slow cooker another day which is ace, and means you can make the most of when you have some energy

Tinkerisdead Thu 20-Feb-14 20:07:19

I make all my meals early in the day
Spaghetti Bol,
Chilli,
Curry,
Lasagne,
Chicken chorizo stew
Sausage and bean stew
Stew and dumplings
Goulash

I look on the cook.com website and steal ideas.

MrsPnut Thu 20-Feb-14 20:16:45

I often cook big quantities and then freeze enough for another meal, this means I can have home cooked food when I really can't be bothered to cook.

This week I made a huge batch of tomato sauce, I used frozen chopped onions, a punnet of mushrooms, 2 peppers that were slightly on the turn, a courgette and 5 cartons of chopped tomatoes. I also added a bit of frozen chopped garlic, some dried oregano, a pinch of sugar and a pinch of salt.

Simmer it for a while and then add a big glug of milk and simmer for a bit longer. Blend it with a stick blender or liquidiser and then taste for seasoning. Mine needed some tomato purée and some balsamic vinegar this week.

This was served with some meatballs that I cooked in the oven and spaghetti on Monday ( with some leftovers for lunch on Tuesday), it also made some pasta sauce for a quick dinner on Wednesday night with stuffed pasta and the rest was used today with some red wine, mince and chopped streaky bacon to make a ragu a la bolognaise to make a lasagne that has gone in the freezer for dinner one night next week (the mince needed using or chucking)

I have found the aggie Mckenzie book to be really useful when it comes to planning meals that use leftovers.

ImMarmite Thu 20-Feb-14 20:25:39

Could you bulk cook & freeze? That way when your not so exhausted you can do 2 simalair meals & freeze them ie spaghetti Bol & lasagne & chillie.

On a Sunday you could have a dinner & use the left over meat the following day with a packet sauce & veg/mic rice/pasta

fuzzpig Thu 20-Feb-14 20:39:31

Unfortunately I don't have much freezer space - only got a small 3 drawer and DH's bread (he's a coeliac and the dr only prescribes it in 8 loaf batches confused) takes up a whole one. Also freeze normal bread (we don't eat much of it - would like to start making my own instead but that may be a bridge too far for now, much as I love the idea of being a domestic goddess grin) and we use frozen veg.

I have frozen some 'flavour packs' though like chopped ginger/garlic/chilli/spring onion for stir fries, garlic butter etc to make things a bit quicker.

I could definitely do stuff like a tomato sauce in bulk though as that wouldn't take too much room! I have just got some new Tupperware grin

Does bechamel freeze nicely?

Is it easy to make dumplings?

Thanks for all the ideas smile

MrsPnut Thu 20-Feb-14 20:51:47

I've made up a lasagne today for the freezer and the bechamel sauce would be fine in it, I haven't frozen it on it's own before but it only takes a few minutes to make.

Dumplings are pretty easy, self raising flour, suet, a pinch of salt and cold water to bind. I also add mustard powder if I am making them for a beef stew, not much but enough to give a hint of a taste.

MrsPnut Thu 20-Feb-14 20:55:15

If you haven't got much freezer space, then I would think about what you can make with leftovers. So cook a gammon joint in the slow cooker for one meal with mash and veg or cauliflower cheese, then leftover ham gets used in a pasta bake or in a fried rice.

Roast chicken on a Sunday, maybe cook 2 chickens and use the leftovers to make chicken enchiladas, chicken and chorizo paella, chicken and leek pie or a chicken pasta bake.

fuzzpig Thu 20-Feb-14 21:09:17

Thanks all, new ideas to try smile

I think freezing sauces would really help, although things like bechamel/tomato etc are easy, it's the needing to keep checking/stirring, things like holding the heavy milk bottle to gradually add it to the bechamel, opening tomato cans/cartons etc - sounds lame I know but all those sorts of things can be draining/cause pain for me now sad so if I can make twice as much in one go then I will save half the energy smile

Could I make a paella in advance? All these meals sound yummy, I've been so unadventurous for years and haven't a clue how to make this stuff but I will definitely try! And it'll be a lot easier to try without small people running about. I get flustered in the kitchen blush (and I can't even blame that on my health really grin)

On days I'm working during school hours (3 days a fortnight) I'll need something really quick but I guess even making the tuna/sweetcorn etc in the morning for jacket spuds would help when I'm knackered. I just need to get my arse in gear and be organised!

MrsPnut Thu 20-Feb-14 21:30:33

Paella can all be prepped in advance, and I'm sure there will be an oven baked version somewhere.

I have it all chopped and spend a bit of time in advance getting it ready, sauté chopped onion, a bit of chopped garlic, some chopped chorizo and chopped pepper until it's all soft.
Add some sweet smoked paprika and if you have it some saffron you have soaked in cold water. Add chopped roast chicken and turn it over in the mixture before adding paella rice and coating it well. Cook it gently for a few minutes and it can be turned off at this point and saved for finishing later.
When you finish it, add chicken stock to cover the rice by about a cm and stir, bring it to the boil and gently simmer it for 20 minutes. Add some peas and chopped fresh tomatoes (you can prep these earlier and add them from the fridge) and mix gently.
I sometimes add prawns or mussels to mine as well or belly pork diced - then when the rice is cooked add some chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice.

It's an easy dish to make if everything is ready to go, it doesn't need constant stirring so I don't need to stay in the kitchen but I do use a timer to remind me to check on it every 8 minutes or so.

MrsPnut Thu 20-Feb-14 21:34:49

If you're working during the day, either put something in the slow cooker so it's done when you get home or have it prepped ready to put in the oven.

I make up stuff to go in the slow cooker in advance too, in a Tupperware box in the fridge so all I have to do is tip it in before I go to work.

Beef stew is handy, diced beef and frozen casserole veg in the slow cooker with a big spoonful of plain flour. Add thyme, Worcestershire sauce, beef stock, tomato purée and hot water from the kettle. Leave to cook all day on low.

TeWiSavesTheDay Thu 20-Feb-14 21:37:04

When I use my slow cooker I do stews etc for 4hrs on high, which means I can do it after lunch when I have time.

I haven't really expanded my repertoire of slow cooked stuff though! I do meat/potatoes/veg stews, cassolet, sausage/rice/tomato stew, bean stews.

sharond101 Thu 20-Feb-14 21:38:14

I prepare all my meals in advance and just cook or reheat at dinnertime. Recent examples have been,
*meatballs with crusty bread (reheated meatballs)
*homemade pizza (made base and topping then left in fridge and cooked at dinnertime
*fish goujons with potato wedges (breaded the fish and left covered in fridge, parboiled potatoes then put in roasting tin.)
*enchiladas (cooked the filling and baked at dinnertime)
*pork stirfry with noodles (did all the prep and stirfried at dinnertime)
*ratatouille in crispy tortilla baskets (made a large batch ratatouille and froze it - defrosted and reheated then baked the tortillas over wire sieve)
*pasta pesto (boiled the pasta beforehand, chopped some red peppers and a chicken breast. heated through at dinnertime)
*chicken tikka (made a batch and froze - defrosted and heated as rice cooked in rice cooker)

Spotsondots Thu 20-Feb-14 21:48:39

I have just put this in my slow cooker:

500g diced pork shoulder
12 shallots, halved
4 sticks celery, chopped
2 apples, roughly chopped
1 litre chicken (or vegetable) stock
Generous sprinkling of thyme
1tbsp plain flour

Brown pork in frying pan with a little olive oil
Add flour and thyme and stir so meat is covered
Add stock bring to boil
Meanwhile chop up other ingredients and shove in slow cooker pot then add meat and stock.

Cook on low in slow cooker smile

fuzzpig Thu 20-Feb-14 21:53:45

Crispy tortilla baskets sound right up my DCs' street sharon - are they literally just normal tortilla wraps put in the oven?

I guess actually on my non work days I could prepare the next day's dinner too. Stuff like fish cakes (haven't even made those in years!) need time to firm up anyway.

The plan is definitely taking shape thanks all smile

fuzzpig Thu 20-Feb-14 21:54:33

Spots that sounds lovely!

Spotsondots Fri 21-Feb-14 11:16:05

smile Glad you like the sound of it.

Can also offer you a really quick fish pie that can be made ahead of time and then bunged in the oven.

2x 320g pack fish pie mix
4 spring onions, chopped
300ml creme fraiche
Zest of a lemon
Large handful parsley chopped
2tbsp plain flour
Mash potato and grate cheese to top

Mix creme fraiche together with the flour, parsley, onions and zest.

Add the fish and stir around to coat.

Transfer to oven proof dish.

Top with mash and cheese

Cook for 30-35 mins in oven at 200 (180 fan)

sharond101 Fri 21-Feb-14 13:08:34

crispy tortilla baskets are just flour tortillas baked in the oven until they just start to brown then take them out and they will go crispy. I mould mine into a wire sieve and that is how it makes a basket.

Mrswellyboot Fri 21-Feb-14 13:14:06

I do my dinners in the day also as dh can get in anytime between 5 and 8 so it's easier

Today I marinaded pork chops and cooked them in a magic bag
I will leave them in the bag for now so they don't dry out. I sometimes use Cajun spice or just season all and then make gravy or pepper sauce

Mince with taco shells and salad / wedges or jacket potato if hungry

I don't make this because dh doesn't eat it but gammon in coke slow cooked

Curry

Also gnocchi is quick if you have the meat sauce done

Goulash with rice

Stew or braising steak

Mrswellyboot Fri 21-Feb-14 13:15:20

Oh I love all the ideas here runs to grab paper and pen grin

fuzzpig Fri 21-Feb-14 15:53:52

Thanks these all sound brilliant.

We got some nice Pyrex dishes when they were on tesco token thingies so I have plenty of scope for making up pies and stuff in advance, as long as I have the fridge space.

We are also going to switch to two smaller online shops a week rather than one big one so that should make planning a bit easier too

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