Thursday, July 10, 2008

Now we're cooking

A few months ago I switched shifts, going from 9 to 5 to more of a second shift 2 to 10. The change came about when my husband's new job caused him to change his hours. And while it's nice to be at home in the morning with the kids, it created a bit of a problem -- dinner.

The crock pot and the timed start on my oven are becoming my friends, but I've felt like I've had my family in a bit of a dinner rut. Something chicken one night, pasta another, pork a third, then quick and east options such hot dogs, macaroni and cheese and pizza rounding out the choices. And within those catergories my reportoire was a bit limited. (When I was making dinner I would often "throw" something together using what was in the cupboard so I didn't always plan out dinner).

I started looking for new recipies shortly after I changed shifts as well as looking for good ideas for make-ahead meals. I hit paydirt with Diane Phillips' "You've Got it Made: Deliciously easy meals to make now & bake later." Its 150 recipies cover everything from appetizers to desserts.

Even better it includes a list of all the ingredients that are used in the book's recipies in the first few pages, with the idea being that if you have those items on hand you can make any recipe in the book.

The big test for any cookbook is if I can actually find more than three items that I can make for my family. After all I have a 1-year-old, a nearly 5-year-old and my husband to please (oddly it's often the husband that perplexes me the most) as well as my own desire to make something that tastes good and is healthy.

There are plenty of items that should please all (and here's where I knock wood and note that I've been blessed with two not so very picky kids and two kids who don't object to spices and flavors) -- penne, sausage and meatball bake, pesto ravioli bake, arroz con pollo casserole, French toast cobblers, various enchilada and strata recipies, pot roast, stuffed pork tenderloin, oven-fried chicken, chicken cacciatore, pot pie, do-ahead mashed potatoes, eggplant rollatini, fruit crisps, and log cookies all make the short list.

Each recipe is divided into two parts -- make it now and bake it later -- and include refrigeration and freezer time limits. The instructions are easy to understand and none of the ingredients are outlandish.

Happy eating.

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