Rachael Rachael, a mom of two daughters, is a freelance editor and writer who enjoys gardening and dreams of keeping chickens in her suburban St. Louis backyard. In her spare time, she helps to edit her husband’s science fiction books. Read more of Rachael's work at www.rachaelsjohnston.com or contact her by emailing rachael@mumblingmommy.com.


I cook dinner for these little ones!
Do you cook dinner for your family every night? This question has presented itself to me lately, as I’ve been on maternity leave and at home every day. When I was at work, it was really tough for me to muster the energy to cook, well, anything at the end of a long day. Don’t get me wrong, though. I totally love to cook. I was just exhausted after work, especially when I was pregnant and would frequently collapse onto the couch after I got home and only get up to go to bed.
Now that I’m home, though, I find myself able to cook again! It’s great. It’s still not the easiest task, considering I  have a precocious (read: never shuts up) 4.5 year old and a newborn. But I’m making a point to cook a great dinner for myself and my husband at least a few nights a week. My kiddo is still in the running for pickiest eater on the planet, but he will at least sit with us.
Here are a few things that I’m doing to make our dinners a bit tastier and more memorable:
Buying higher quality meat. I discovered a hidden gem in my city, an awesome independent meat market/small grocery store called the Winter Park Meat House. They have really nice cuts of meat, and a lot of them are pre-marinated or have some kind of flavor built in, which is great as I still don’t have unlimited time to cook. Last week, I bought 2 chicken breasts (they were still attached at the back) stuffed with spinach and feta cheese. It baked for an hour and it was really, really good! It is a bit more expensive (um, yes, I might have paid $2 PER SHRIMP, but man, were they tasty), but the meat tastes better and we eat less of it.
Making my own sauces and dressings. Store-bought sauces and dressings are, of course, an easy route to take, and I definitely do it. Hidden Valley Ranch makes just about everything taste better. But I’m finding more and more that it’s worth the effort to make my own. I love making homemade ranch or blue cheese dressing. My husband likes to make vinaigrettes. Earlier this week, I made a balsamic reduction to drizzle over roasted veggies. You can buy it in a bottle, but why bother when you can just as easily make it (and pronounce the ingredients)?
Making my own dessert. Oreos (um, have you tried the Mega Stuf ones?) and leftover holiday candy certainly still make their way into my house and get eaten for dessert on occasion. But I love, love, love to bake. I haven’t been baking much lately, but I’m hoping to get out of the rut. Dessert doesn’t have to be a baked good though. Last week I made strawberries and homemade whipped cream for dessert. Homemade whipped cream is so much tastier than the stuff from the can. All I needed was some heavy cream, a few tablespoons of sugar, and my trusty KitchenAid. Also, check out my berry compote that’s a great topping for waffles or ice cream!
It looks like I’ll be free to continue my dinner and dessert exploits because, as of the beginning of this month, I am no longer employed full time. I quit my job to stay home with my kids and do some web content creation and other work on the side. I’m excited to see where it takes me!
So please share, do you cook every night? Or are you a take-out kind of family? Does your spouse or significant other take care of the meals? Have any favorite recipes? We’d love to hear more!

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Category: Family Free Time

Tags: baking