Sunday Afternoon Cookin’

Tray of homemade potstickers read for the freezer.

Tray of homemade potstickers read for the freezer.

I love to cook. Yet I hate to cook — especially when it comes to packing lunches and weeknight post-soccer practice / Chinese class / kid activity dinners. Add into the mix, two boys who only want to eat teriyaki chicken and adult taste buds that are sick of anything child-friendly… and you can understand why the people at the local pizza place know me by name.

A lot of moms (who don’t even like turning on the stove) seem to manage to feed their families just fine… so why is it such a pain for me? I’m trying a couple things to make my life easier:

Meal Co-op: When a group of mom friends suggested starting up a meal exchange, I jumped onboard. Right now, my stove is fired up with red beans and rice, and I just put three trays of barbecued chicken wings in the freezer. Tomorrow, I’ll meet up withthe other mommies and “trade food” (as my five year old calls it), exchanging my BBQ chicken and red beans and rice for homemade lasagna casserole and teriyaki chicken and the like. Sort of like a homegrown version of Dream Dinners. We buy small disposable aluminum trays at the Dollar Tree to make cleanup easier — and so we don’t have to chase down casserole dishes. I know, not eco-friendly, but then again, neither is ordering take-out.

But this is not without challenges. My kids are not big into foods with “lots of stuff mixed together” (especially green stuff) and many of the dishes my family likes to eat don’t freeze well. I’d love to hear ideas from other moms with mouths to feed!

 Frozen Dumplings: We’ve all bought those giant bags of Ling Ling potstickers from Costco. And while they’re serviceable, they manage to reduce those “little bits of heart” into a boring mass-produced convenience food. My husband calls them the spaghetti of the Asian kitchen.

Inspired by my dumpling-making experiences with my older son, once in a while I will get the fresh skins, chives and other interesting fillings from Ranch 99 and spend an afternoon folding my own dumplings. Then I freeze  cookie sheet full of them, pop them into Ziploc bags, and we have a good supply of delicious little morsels. Plus I can make different batches with meat-to-veggie ratios that will ensure my handiwork gets eaten — not thrown on the floor!

Andrea Nguyen’s blog is full of inspiration for trying handmade dumplings.

Now, if someone can help me with packing lunches!

Bread… turkey… bread… milk box… snore… Seriously! I don’t know how my kids can stand eating this. I get bored to tears just making these lunches. Peanuts and peanut butter aren’t allowed at our elementary school, so that limits our dietary choices even more. My second-grader has come around to hummus and pita, and I especially like the single-serving Sabra hummus from Costco (again, the environment, I know). But that can get boring after a while, too.

Occasionally, I toy with the idea of making bento boxes, such as the ones on this blog: But really, I don’t enjoy packing lunches that much… especially if there’s a chance they’re coming home uneaten. It’s enough for me to throw in the towel, and pay for a week’s worth of government surplus chicken nuggets!

How do you do it? I need ideas, please.


  1. Michele says

    If I did a meal co-op, Cameron would starve. Literally. Because eating something mixed together is just not going to happen. :(

    Will M or N eat leftovers? Because I send Cameron a hot lunch most days and he actually really likes that — its not gourmet food, but it seems to work. Homemade mac-and-cheese and mini pizzas from TJ’s are the current favs. And it all stays warm in the expensive Clone Wars thermos I finally broke down and bought at Target. Katie on the other hand eats pretty much the same thing every day. Shrug. If they are bored, they are welcome to make lunch themselves.

    Anyway, as you well know, I feel your pain.

  2. grace says

    Nobody in our family really likes leftovers, including Mama! Luckily, the preschool can do warm ups, so sometimes I throw in some black beans or ranch style beans in a tupperware.

    The kids seem like they can eat the same food day in and day out, but I feel sad for them knowing all the good stuff (not to mention nutrients) they are missing!

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