I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Feed a Crowd (Quickly)

The one thing I haven't told you in all of this is that I am quite possibly once of the laziest mothers and cooks you've ever met. I like to take the least amount of time and effort in order to achieve the maximum of success. So - how does this all work so well? - EASY. I employ child labour (to set the dinner table), I outsource (the dishes to DH) and I multi-task (more below.) Without all of that I don't think this would be as easy as it all is.

In terms of the multi-tasking - here are a few pointers:

- Lunches are made at the same time as afternoon snacks. If I waited until after dinner, or the next morning, it would just be a painful, annoying chore. I've also trained the kids to drop their lunch boxes on the kitchen counter IMMEDIATELY as they walk in the door so I don't need to go hunting. I find if I finish all the food prep jobs before dinner, that leaves me free evenings to do other things and I'm not standing in the kitchen all night.

- Dinner is made at the same time as I'm cleaning up from lunches. Similarly if I've peeled carrots for lunch, you can guarantee something peeled (potato, sweet potato, pumpkin) is also on the menu at dinner. The peeler is already dirty, right? If someone asks for rice crackers for their snack, that's what I use in the lunches as well since they are already out of the cupboard. Lazy, lazy, lazy - but it works.

- I prefer to cook dishes which involve loads of chopping rather than loads of cooking, because chopping is a whole lot faster! So - casseroles, one dish dinners, soups, etc are all a hit around here because I can chop like the bloody wind but I can't make a pot boil any faster. I'm a huge fan of 'fix it and forget it' style of dishes because I know it's ME who can make it faster to prepare, and then once it's on the stove or in the oven I can be doing other stuff.

- Clean up as you go. I do outsource dishes to DH, but similarly I don't think it's fair to leave him with a sink load of dirty pots and pans. So as much as I can (and as he will tell you, I sometimes fail) I try to use a pot and wash it. Usually I'll wash stuff while I'm waiting for something to simmer or reduce.

- A watched pot is a waste of time - learn to turn the heat up or down. Unless your kitchen is as big as a football field, you'll be able to get to a burning pot in time. Most things can be thrown into a pot and you can WALK AWAY for a minute, even if it's only to put away the lunch makings and so on. So if I'm sweating onions, I throw them in the pan, shimmy them around a bit, and then go do other smaller quick jobs before coming back in a minute or two to shimmy it some more. Of course use your common sense and don't walk from boiling oil, leave a pot handle sticking out, and so on. If you're worried about burning stuff, turn the heat down a bit until you're more confident.

- Learn to shimmy a pan (my own expression, not a cooking term.) In other words learn the pull-and-flick motion of turning things in a pan without using a spoon or utensil. It takes practice but it's totally doable (after all, chefs on TV manage it.) For beginners I highly recommend using a pan with rounded sides as it helps move the stuff kinda up and over.

- Use slave labour. My kids all know how to chop, peel and wash most vegetables, plus stir stuff in a pot (no shimmying allowed for kids under 10). Yours should too (although you can adjust the job for age appropriateness.)

- Read, read, read. I own a lot of cook books but I don't use very many of them - because I've discovered the very quickest of recipe finding is the 'net. Bloggers like sweetnicks and $5 dinners often post fast, inexpensive, family friendly meals. Get yourself a Google Reader account, find some really great parenting blogs which feature food (or food blogs which feature parents), and learn how to subscribe to those blogs. I've gotten some fantastic recipes from other bloggers who themselves are needing to feed a crowd. The joy of using Reader is that you can just scroll past the stuff which does not interest you.

- Lastly, admit defeat and order take-out once in a while. I won't tell.

That's it! I hope you guys have enjoyed this little mini-series of posts - it's been quite fun writing them all. I'd love to hear if any of you have adopted any of these hints, or have some of your own to share.

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