Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Salads Save the Day

We often have unexpected dinner guests. Usually I have enough food in the house that if we split up the protein everyone still gets enough to eat. Usually. When kids eat here, they really pig out. They tell me their parents don't cook like I do. I really think most of them live on frozen and box meals. It's how I grew up myself, pot pies and hamburger helper. When I was photographing 120 high school kids and Kurt was doing the cooking, it's how we ate. But the Crohn's changed all that. I was starving my body and I craved real food, so I took back the cooking, and now I often have kids showing up at my door at dinner time, crazy beings I live in the middle of no where.

Sometimes it's more then I can feed. Last night's noodle dinner I just happened to have 5 breasts and just went ahead and cooked them all. Would have been fine if it was just Chloe's little friend that showed up. (She called to come over at 6pm, while I was cooking and her mom drove her out in time for dinner) Maddie called about 5 minutes later to tell me that two of her guy friends were coming home from the pool with her. They had been at the pool all day, they are teenagers, and they eat, and eat, and eat....

I have an emergency, feed kids cheep stash.

I grabbed the hot dogs and buns out of the freezer and threw them on the dash of the car - yes I did - it was hot, they thawed fast. :) I stock up on hot dogs and buns when they are under $1 and freeze them. I buy chips in generic or on clearance and keep them in a storage room in the basement. My kids don't eat chips on a daily basis, even if I let them they wouldn't so I don't keep open bags around to go to waist. I always have baked beans, also stocked up when under $1 and Maddie has a special recipe she loves that we throw together that takes less then the time it does to heat them - but we didn't need to make beans yesterday because I had a ginormous tub of macaroni salad. So hot dogs, chips and salad and the teens were fed, they also split Maddie's chicken 3 ways. :)

This doesn't just happen at dinner either. We have a pool, not a big one but good enough for Chloe and her friends, Maddie always goes to the big pool in town. So often in the afternoon there will be a random child dropped at my door. The kids will go for a swim for a while then come in hungry. I can't tell you how nice it has been to have food that I can just pull out and offer them. I don't have to have anything made. There is always fruit, and cheese, and yogurt, now the salads, and jello. They almost always choose the salad and jello. There is also usually something baked around also. Right now it's chocolate chip cookies. Last week it was 'knock you naked brownies' from Pioneer Woman, I had half a basket ball team here that week, they didn't last long.

I do all my 'extra' cooking in the mornings. I don't sleep so I'm up at around 4:30, everyone is out of my way and I have gobs of energy then. By the time dinner is here I'm pretty much dragging to get through it. We gril a lot so Kurt takes over that part. I season, or give him a sauce to baste, but he does the actual cooking. I do what ever sides need to be done. Most week nights that just putting the salad and jello on the table, sometime lettuce and condiments for a lettuce salad, sometimes a cooked vegetable. On Friday and Sundays I make big meals with full on side dishes and sometimes those sides carry over for a day or two.

I guess the long winded point to this post is that it is so little work to cook this way. One big salad can last a week, but you only have to make it once. Think of all the little meals I would have to make with all these children running in and out. How many times would I have to dig chicken nuggets out of the freezer and heat them up because "picky kids are hungry and they don't eat real food" I don't. I just open my refrigerator and the food is already there, it costs me no spoons for my kids to have their friends over and for me to be a good host without resorting to keeping expensive junk food in the house.

Classic Macaroni Salad

"That macaroni salad was the bomb, I'm not lying, and I lie a lot" ~ Colton

4 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
2/3 cup white sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup grated carrot (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped pimento peppers (optional)
  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni, and cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Rinse under cold water and drain.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper. Stir in the onion, celery, green pepper, carrot, pimentos and macaroni. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving, but preferably overnight.               

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