What do you do when it’s 6:00 pm and your kitchen looks like this?
Have you been there?
Maybe it was a meeting that ran later than you had thought, a sick child who wanted your attention all afternoon (the case for me today), or you just got busy doing something else. Regardless, it’s now 6:00 pm, you and your family are starving, and you haven’t even started on dinner. To make it worse, you don’t even want to step into your kitchen because it looks like a disaster zone. What do you do to make sure you and your family have a decently wholesome meal?
You need a game plan!
Here is a sanity saving game plan to help you put a last minute dinner on the table without losing your mind!
Confession: the picture above was not staged for effect — it was indeed the state of my kitchen last night! I would love to give you the impression that my kitchen always looks like the picture I posted here, but, honestly, it’s rarely the case! Our kitchen is the hub of our 6 person home and it generally has that “full of life” feel (and, though it may be cleaned and sanitized on my baking production days, I still manage to fill up every square inch of the counters very quickly!)
Crazy Days Dinner Plan
1. Take a deep breath – no, really! Slowly inhale, and then exhale. Do this while making a conscious effort to relax the muscles in your neck and shoulders. You need to just step back for a second and calm your mind and body (before you start biting off everyone’s head and firing off orders to all of your children or your spouse – ask me how I know!)
2. Take a long drink of water – Chances are if your afternoon has been busy you may not have had time to drink enough water. If you are even slightly dehydrated you aren’t going to be thinking clearly. Make sure all involved parties drink some water as well.
3. Eat a quick snack – Fruit is always a good idea (think apple slices, raisins, a banana…) Eat something to take the edge off of your hunger. Offer said snack to your children or spouse. It won’t “spoil their dinner” and everyone will be in a happier mood with a bit of an appetizer!
4. Create an island of sanity – even if you have to grab a box or laundry basket in which to stash some items, clear off a small work space for yourself where you can work some kitchen magic. While you are at it, turn on some fun or soothing music – whatever suits your mood.
5. Enlist some help – children, spouse, or roommate. Many hands make light work! Use the time to reconnect and to catch up on your day with each other.
6. Gather up the fragments – What do you have available in the refrigerator, freezer, or pantry that you can use to create a meal? Leftover spaghetti sauce? A few lone peas? A half of a rotisserie chicken and a container of brown rice? Frozen chicken broth? A half jar of salsa? Eggs – scramble or fry them to add to rice with some soy sauce, or to top a salad or sandwich. Pull out what you have left in the crisper drawers (you know some lone pepper or orange is hiding in there) and slice up some raw produce. You may have a hodge podge meal, but the goal is to get food on the table as quickly as possible.
7. Heat it up! Leftovers heat up quickly on the stove and taste much better than when warmed up in the microwave (add a little water or oil to the pan to help keep food from sticking.) I like to use my Panasonic infrared toaster oven (we use this quick heating appliance instead of a microwave). You can also slide thin meats or sandwiches under the broiler (it doesn’t take as long to heat as does the oven.) You don’t have to warm or cook everything — serve some veggies raw!
8. Set the table – Don’t feel obligated to eat on paper plates or use disposable wares just because you are having a thrown-together meal. Pulling out your nice dishes and flatware will help brighten your mood. (I believe that it’s all in the presentation!) If your table isn’t cleared off, why not head outside to eat or try a picnic in some other room of the house if it’s cold or rainy outside?
9. Serve it with a smile and give thanks! – Joy and gratitude go a long way toward flavoring a meal! (And, you never know, you might just make some memories or discover a new food combo that you love in the process!)
Real life dinner on our farm
Here is what I pulled together for my family last night when I “gathered up the fragments”. (Not a food glamour shot, but it gives you the basic idea!) I called it Creamy Chicken and Rice and served it topped with some homemade toasted breadcrumbs and a side of fruit.
- I diced an onion and sautéed it in a bit of leftover butter. While the onion was cooking, I chopped up some leftover rotisserie chicken from our dinner the night before (it had been another of those crazy days!)
- Once the onion was softened I sprinkled it with some whole wheat pastry flour and browned that for about a minute on the stove.
- I added 2 cups of frozen chicken stock to the pan (it melted quickly in the hot pan) and continued to stir until it was completely thawed and the sauce was slightly thickened. This made a type of white sauce into which I sprinkled some onion powder, seasoned salt, pepper, thyme, and sage.
- I tasted it and added a little more sea salt (I hadn’t added sea salt to my stock when I made it originally.)
- I added the remainder of some cooked brown rice and some cooked millet from some previous meals, along with the diced chicken and some frozen peas. (Oh, and a splash of lemon juice to brighten the taste.)
Verdict? My farmer said that it wasn’t bad (and he wouldn’t mind eating leftovers for today’s lunch– not that he ever complains) but he didn’t think that I should try to earn a living from serving anyone this dish! As it turns out, the breadcrumbs were stale — I threw them out to the wild turkeys and I promised him I wouldn’t serve this to guests or post this recipe on my food blog 🙂
I tell you all this to say that ours wasn’t a perfect meal, but it was good enough for us. (And, I made my farmer a few slices of cinnamon toast to end the evening. How is that for a combo?!)
What about you? What are your go-to meals when you have crazy days? I would love to hear from you and to share your ideas with our Ingrained Community. I am working on a resource that I’ll be sending along to our readers soon called the “Crazy Days Meal Plan” (because, as we all know, days like this will come again!)
Here’s to Wholesome (and to making everyday memories!)
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