MLC, Can you recommend some healthy family size recipes for busy on the go families?
Oh, gosh. Even though I cook for the family almost every day, and I am always trying to find new ways to make big portions of things that I can either serve up for days as leftovers or freeze for later, I have to make a confession: my first instinct when I read your question was,
“Can you give ME some ideas?”
We just can never have enough dinner ideas, right? Because—and here’s the dirty little secret that we aren’t supposed to admit—even if you love cooking, constant menu-planning and feeding people can be…well…awful.
Yeah, I said it.
I tire of having to find a vegetable to go with our protein (“Is [insert disliked vegetable] worth the fight?”).
I tire of deciding which protein to make (“How many times have we had chicken this week?”).
I tire of trying to balance the meal with the schedule in what feels like a perpetual story problem from a math class from hell (“If all of us are only in the house together tonight for 20 minutes after school/before activities, but I won’t be home for 7 hours before that 20 minutes, and we’ve had slow-cooked/pressure-cooked/leftover food 3 nights this week, already, is it even possible to order pizza and get everyone fed on time?”)
If you are like a lot of the home cooks I know who are also responsible for feeding a busy family, some nights you may just want to retreat to a spot on the couch by yourself, stream a show you are wanting to binge watch, eat a cup of yogurt and some snacks, and call it a day. This is not the family table dream—it is the secret, special dream of the parent purveyor of the family table.
I’m sure you know how to make a lot of healthy, family-sized meals, so forgive my redundancy. Anything that can be made into a casserole, or baked up in a casserole dish, can be a solid choice. You can avoid using the usual cream soup binder by making your own (chicken or vegetable) version, like this cream of chicken soup starter from the kitchn.
I like to roast a whole bunch of vegetables on a sheet pan on weekends, so I can reheat portions for snacks or meals throughout the week. Brussels sprouts, tossed with salt, pepper, olive oil, and a little garlic are a family favorite, cooked at 350 degrees until starting to caramelize and brown. Cauliflower, broccoli, squash, and sweet potato are also great.
I also stock up on cheater “steam in the bag” freezer vegetables when they go on sale. I will readily admit that at least half the time, our vegetable doesn’t really go with our protein, it is just whatever I have on hand. As my kid likes to say about two clashing items she wears together, “They go together if I put them together.”
Lately, like most of the foodie world, I’ve been mesmerized by the fun-and-easy food prep/recipe idea videos that have gone viral and pepper many of our social media feeds. A quick search of the Tasty Youtube site, for example, rendered this entire page of family-sized meal ideas.
While I don’t always follow these to the letter, they often give me ideas from which I jump off. Here’s just one of their options, for example:
And don’t forget to check the “Up Next” column next to your video—just by viewing the above crockpot video, I got all kinds of suggestions for crockpot freezer meals, for example, with actual human beings demonstrating how to make them. They look happy to cook, so they must have cracked the menu-planning code that seems to stump me.
Here’s a yummy find from the “up next” column, for example:
I hope these ideas help. If we balance out some tried-and-true, “never get tired of them” recipes with some video inspiration, we may keep these busy families of ours fed, after all.