Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Making it from scratch

Being a stay-at-home mom has had some unexpected, yet good, side effects.

Because you see, aside from the fact that I find myself with no spare time on my hands because caring for two kids is a full time job, I find myself with more time to do things that I a) never had a chance to do when I was working full time or b) never even thought of doing when I was working full time because it would take too much time and energy to do.

Does that make sense?

Being a full time mom means hanging out with my two monsters for 11 to 12 hours a day. Just me and the kids and all those hours to fill. We go out. A lot. On playdates, to programming, to the zoo or science centre or just to run errands. Doing all those things helps engage them, entertain them and keeps them from spending the day killing each other and driving me absolutely crazy.

But any one of those activities takes no more than three or so hours out of our day. So what's a crazy mom to do with the rest of the hours in the day?

Apparently...cook. And many times, it's with the 'assistance' of my monsters.

That's not to say that I didn't cook before. I cooked. And, except for the time I tried to poison Ryan with raw chicken o-so-many-years-ago, I think I'm a pretty decent cook. But there have always been certain things in my life that are about convenience.

Meatballs come frozen in a box, don't they? As do chicken fingers, lasagnas and perogies. And pizza -- unless it comes from me calling someone to bring it hot to my front door. And pasta sauce comes from a jar; as do relish, salsa and salad dressing. And don't forget cakes and muffins -- they come pre-mixed in a box from the baking aisle.

But suddenly, being home all day with kids leaves me more time to try new things with them and, when I'm really feeling brave -- hunkering down in the kitchen to ' whip up' some food for the freezer after they go to bed.

In the last six months, I've made all of the above listed frozen/jarred/boxed items from scratch -- and for the most part -- they've turned out pretty good. I've even made pizza, on more than one occassion, starting around 2 p.m. by tossing dough ingredients in the breadmaker. The kids love the entire pizza-making process (even watching the breadmaker do its thing for an hour and a half -- although they don't stick around for the whole time). And because it's such a process, it turns into an until-daddy-gets-home-at-6:30-activity.

Because I'm making so much from scratch, I loathe the idea of going back to pre-made for some items. A box of meatballs or chicken fingers are handy to have in the freezer (and the kids love them) but I'm down to my last container of spaghetti sauce from my garden tomatoes and I don't know if I want to eat canned sauce again until the next tomato season.

And because I have a freezer full of food -- I also have my own pre-made food hanging around waiting to be eaten. When I had leftover mashed potatoes from Christmas dinner, it occurred to me to make Shepherd's pies. There are now two sitting in the freezer. And with the leftover turkey, I made a whole bunch of turkey pot pies (sans pastry topping). A year ago, believe it or not, it never would've dawned on me to use up the leftovers in such a way. Instead, everything would've sat in the fridge until they went bad and then I would've tossed it all in the green bin.

I guess not spending 8 to 10 hours at work a day, really does give me more time in a day -- even if I don't feel like I have a spare second to myself.

And on that note, I should figure out what the heck to make for dinner tonight.

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