It’s not always easy to take care of your family, work, and cook dinner for a house full of picky eaters every night. But there are ways to make a nutritious dinner with less time and effort from you.
My first must have is a rice cooker. It doesn’t matter if it’s the cheapest one or it has all the bells and whistles. You will never overcook rice again! I bought mine at Costco for $25.00. It has a timer so I can add the rice and water before I leave for work and set it to be ready when I walk in the door. Mine switches to a warming temperature after it finishes. Even if you start the rice right before dinner, using the rice cooker lets you ignore it until it’s ready. This way you can actually concentrate on the other dishes you are making.
Many rice cookers have a brown rice setting, but I’ve cooked brown rice in cookers that didn’t have that setting with no problems. You can try some new flavors and use vegetable broth instead of water, or try using coconut milk to make rice that’s a perfect base for a tropical dish. You can also try other grains like quinoa in it. Make sure to keep an eye out when you cook a grain other than rice. Quinoa cooks faster than rice, so if you wait for the ding it will be unusable.
An immersion blender can be a lifesaver if you cook for picky eaters. You can cook up several different veggies and use the immersion blender to puree them, making it easy to hide them in soups and casseroles. One of my favorite things to do is to hide pureed beets, spinach and zucchini in baked goods. An immersion blender gets used right in the pot you cooked in so there is no pouring hot liquids in to the blender. And best of all – no blender container to clean. Just rinse the immersion blender and you’re all done with cleanup! You can use a regular blender, but make sure you don’t fill it too full or you’ll have a hot mess all over your counter top.
Try using an immersion blender to make mashed potatoes or fake mashed potatoes by substituting cauliflower or a combination of both. The immersion blender makes the cooked cauliflower a dead ringer for mashed potatoes. Add a little gravy and your little ones might even ask for seconds.
My most used and most loved kitchen appliance is my slow cooker. Well, actually my 5 slow cookers. If you have your Mother’s hand me down, one you’ve picked up in a thrift store, or a brand new programmable one, now is the time to get it out and use it. Most dishes can be made in an inexpensive 4 quart slow cooker. You can pick one up at Target for about $20.00. I love throwing a few ingredients into the slow cooker before I leave for work and having dinner ready when I walk in the door.
Slow cooker recipes have improved and you can even find healthy ones. It doesn’t have to be combining a can of cream soup over mystery meat. Use fresh veggies and make curries, sweet and sour tofu, and just about any soup you can think of. Just remember to add dairy products and quick cooking veggies about 20 minutes before you are going to serve dinner. If not, you may have to order pizza instead.
It still helps to make a menu plan in advance. If you know what you are making in advance you can prep a few things the night before. Then with the help of your rice cooker, immersion blender, and slow cooker you may just save enough time to have a few minutes that are all your own. Plus you know what your family is eating is fresh, healthy, and tasty.