Thursday, November 5, 2015

The F-Word: Don’t Be Afraid!

Lots of great things start with the letter F! Some of my favorite things, in fact. There’s food, of course, which is what this blog is all about. There's also fun, family, fanciness, Fall, funny, fluffy, freedom. There’s even the great phrase, “fresh and funky,” which I think I read in a teen magazine once when I was in middle school. It might have been describing my very favorite 8th grade outfit: A choker worn with a plaid, ruffled “poet” shirt with bell sleeves, and a crocheted vest. Be still, my 90s heart.

But there’s another, F-word, too. It’s one that some people love but many more people are a little afraid of. Actually, some people are very, very afraid of it!

Hey, no, not that F-word. C’mon. This is a family blog.

The other F-word is….deep breath…FEMINISM. I whispered it when I typed it so you wouldn’t run away.

Oh, scary, scary feminism. That word is so heavy with debate and worry and hand-wringing. It evokes anger and fear. Why? Because, Oh my word, women are scary. We’re especially scary when we want to be treated like human beings.

Wait, what’s that I hear? That there’s GOT to be more to feminism than that? ‘Fraid not, peeps. That’s all there is to it. It’s wanting men and women, boys and girls to be treated equally. That’s it. End of story.

Very simple, really. Very straightforward. Very basic. Not scary at all. OK? Everyone on board?

Still no? Still scared?

I’ve wondered for a long time about why people would be afraid of or intimidated by this idea. I’ve scratched my head over it for so long that I think I have a little bald spot over my right ear.

And then one day I had an epiphany: It comes down to power.

People who deny that they’re a feminist often say it’s because they love men, and that they don’t want to disenfranchise men.

But empowering women doesn’t mean taking power away from men. Saying that women should be paid more DOESN’T mean that men should be paid less. Wanting girls to be educated DOESN’T mean that boys should be raised to be scullery maids.

The uplifting of one group doesn’t mean the pushing down of another!

It’s easy to see why people would be confused about this, though. We’re taught to compete! We’re taught to reach the top. And there’s only room at the top for so many people…if it gets too crowded up there, others will certainly fall.

But, call me crazy…I think there’s room for everyone. In fact, when it comes to basic human rights, there is no top and bottom. There’s only room to stand tall, or to be pushed down to the ground. The ground is hard, and rocky, and dirty, and you can get stepped on. But when you stand up, you can breathe. You can see the world around you. And when you’re standing up, it’s your human obligation to reach down, and put out your hand, and grab onto someone who wants to stand up, too.

So that’s all that feminism is. If you think that Joey and Mary should both get a dollar for cleaning the same toilet, then you’re a feminist. If you think that your daughter is just as good at science as the boys in her class, then you’re a feminist. If you think your mom is just as valuable to this world as your dad, then you’re a feminist.

Wear it proud! Don’t be afraid! Stand up! Reach out your hand. There’s room here for everyone.  

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

White chocolate bananas for the sick and infirm

In the past two weeks our family has had the occasion to send and receive a couple of fancy fruit baskets that come in the mail from loving family and friends. You know the ones I mean…the fruits are skewered, dipped in chocolate, and shaped and arranged like flower bouquets. (And their name is trademarked, so I probably shouldn’t write it in this blog post).

I love them, but my love hit a wall last week when I called to order one for my husband, who was in the hospital with a collapsed lung and was craving white-chocolate dipped bananas. As one does when one collapses a lung. 

Brian enjoying some hospital food. 

But when I was told that a box of such bananas would cost $30, NOT INCLUDING tax and delivery charge, I responded with a swift “hell NO” and headed to the grocery store.

I bought some very unripe bananas (still green at both ends), wooden coffee stirrers, and a bag of Lindt white chocolate morsels. Then I headed home, smug with the knowledge that this treat would cost a mere $7 and would be made with LOOOOOVE.

At home, I sliced the bananas into chunks large enough for a big, messy, and a bit rude single bite. I stuck a wooden stirrer into the end of each chunk. Finally, I heated the chocolate in the microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring between each burst.

I dunked each banana chunk into the melted chocolate, shook them gently to allow excess chocolate to run off, and set them down onto a foil-lined pan. It took 15 minutes. When they were all done, I let them set in the fridge for about an hour. Then I delivered them to my grateful husband.


These commercially sold fruit baskets—which cost roughly $50 and frequently more!—also seem wicked easy to make: A few pieces of kale are wrapped over a chunk of floral foam that’s stuck in a vase. The fruit chunks (some of which are cut into shapes) are skewered, and some are dipped in chocolate. The skewers are stuck in the foam. Done.

Of course the question arises about whether you actually want to spend the time making such a thing. Part of the allure of sending a fruit basket is that someone else does the work for you. I get it, of course! I’ve sent many of these things and LOVE receiving them.

But I come by the DIY-desire to save a buck honestly: When I was a kid, my mother once spent months saving the nubs of bar soap and tried to melt them down into a single bar of Franken-soap in a saucepan on the stove. The end result? A kitchen that reeked of burned soap for days and a ruined saucepan that met its end in a strange, non-culinary task.

Brian requested another round of bananas a few days after my initial DIY triumph, and in making the second batch, I learned two things: High quality chocolate and the ripeness of the bananas matters a lot. I used bananas that were too ripe, and low-budget, store-brand chocolate morsels. The first batch of melted chocolate burned (and the bowl burned me); and the second batch seized up into an unworkable brick because the bananas were too wet. (Adding water to melted chocolate makes it chunky and grainy, dontcha know?) My Auntie Jodi offers another great tip: Add a cap full of veggie oil to store-brand chocolate for even better melting! 


SO. Buy these fruit baskets? Make them yourself? It’s up to you. I think I’ve made the case for either choice. But if you don’t want to drop $80, it’s nice to know that you can DIY relatively easily for a fraction of the cost.

As an aside, my husband is basically a hot mess during the month of October; we’ve got three years running. Reminisce with me here and here

Sunday, August 9, 2015

What I will make you if I love you

For Sara Hannan

There might be times in your life when you feel hurt or scared or sick. And I will want to make you feel better. But I’m not a doctor or a magician, so I will do the only thing I can really do in such a situation. I will cook for you. And I might cook this: A chicken pot pie that is delicious and hearty comfort food, and that takes about three hours to make, from start to finish. That might qualify this recipe for “pain-in-the-ass” status. But it doesn’t matter. Because love is nothing if not a little impractical.

A chicken potpie recipe with enough endnotes for a David Foster Wallace novel

(See below the recipe for a really, really fast version!)

Cooking the chicken and making broth:

Start with a whole, raw chicken. I like Bell and Evans brand. Remove all the gizzards and neck.[i] Put in a large stock pot along with:

·         two peeled and quartered onions

·         a few peeled and smashed garlic cloves[ii]

·         4-5 carrots (don’t bother peeling them, just cut into chunks so they fit in the pan)

·         a few ribs of celery (leaves and all, and again cut into chunks)

·         fresh herbs: Thyme, rosemary, sage, preferably tied in a bouquet garni[iii]

·         Some whole peppercorns, if you have them [iv]


1.      Fill the pot with cold water, covering everything by about an inch.

2.      Bring to a boil; let it boil for about an hour. Check on it periodically to make sure it’s not boiling over and also to skim off any foamy scum (I can’t think of a better word for this, sorry!) that comes to the surface.

3.      Check the chicken for doneness using a set of tongs to pull and twist the drumstick; if it falls away easily, it’s done.

4.      Pull the chicken from the pan and set on a big plate to cool.[v]

5.      Fish out the big pieces of veggies and herbs from the pan using a slotted spoon and throw them away. To quote Alton Brown, “they’ve given their all.”

6.      Line a big colander with a couple layers of cheesecloth, place the colander on top of another large pan, and put the whole contraption into the sink.

7.      Strain the chicken broth into the colander.

8.      Put the pot of chicken broth into the fridge to cool.[vi]

9.      Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull all of the meat off the bone and either cut it into bite-sized pieces or shred it.[vii]

All of this can be done a day or two in advance. You can put the chicken pieces and broth in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.

Making the pie:

Now it’s time to actually make this thing! (By the way, you can also make a really nice chicken soup from here).

1.      Mince an onion. Peel and cut 3 or so carrots into bite-sized pieces. (You can add other veggies, too, if you like, such as a cup of frozen peas and/or corn). Sautee until soft in olive oil; set aside.

2.      Mince about a teaspoon each of fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme[viii] [ix]

3.      In a large pot, melt a half stick of butter (less if you’re also using schmaltz; the total fat should add up to ¼ cup).

4.      Add heaping ¼ cup of flour and cook for about 1 minute.

5.      Add 1 ½ cups each of milk and the reserved chicken broth and whisk until smooth.

6.      Cook and whisk over medium heat until the mixture is thick and bubbly. Add salt to taste. This means you should be actually tasting it and adding salt until it tastes good to you. Remember this is unsalted chicken broth you’re using, so salt is really needed here to get the flavor right.

7.      Add the shredded chicken, cooked veggies, and herbs to the pot and stir.

8.      Transfer everything to a casserole dish or very deep pie pan and top with a layer of pie crust. I use Immaculate Baking Company brand store-bought pie crust because it’s better and easier than anything I have ever made myself. But feel free to make your own![x]

9.      Bake in a 375 degree oven until the crust is browned and the filling is bubbling around the edges. (Put your pie dish on a cookie sheet to catch any spillage). Cover with foil if the crust browns too much.

10.  Let it set for 20 minutes or so before cutting into it.

The really fast version:

Hit the grocery store for boxed chicken broth, an already-cooked rotisserie chicken, and a bag of frozen peas and carrots. Start at step 1 or 2 of making the pie. Fresh herbs is the one thing I wouldn't skip.

As for that extra broth….

Freeze it in ice cube trays. When the cubes are frozen transfer them into a zip-top bag. Each cube will equal about 1/8 cup of liquid, so measuring for future recipes should be easy. Use the broth in certain recipes instead of water to add extra flavor, like when you’re making risotto or other rices. The broth is also great for sipping warm if you’re sick (don't forget to salt it!). Or use it to make chicken soup!

[i] Don’t rinse your chicken, no matter what other recipes say. Rinsing spreads germs!
[ii] Do it fast: Put a clove of garlic on the cutting board and lay a wide knife on top of it. Push down hard on the flat part of the knife with the heel of your hand. Pull out the smashed clove from its paper.
[iii] Tie the uncut, on-the-stem herbs into a little bundle, either with string or inside a square of cheesecloth so you’ve got something that looks like an herb teabag. This prevents the little herb pieces from getting loose in the chicken broth.
[iv] Likewise for the celery, or even the carrots.
[v] I use two big stirring spoons to do this, lifting the bird from underneath. If you find a better way, please tell me, because I don’t think this is optimal!
[vi] If you’re not in a rush, leave the broth in the fridge overnight. The next morning, you will find that the fat will have risen to the top and solidified. It’s called schmaltz. You can either toss it, or save it and use it to cook with. Before you say “eeew!” let me tell you that it’s “healthier” (clearly a relative term) than butter and will imbue your chicken pot pie with a rich, chicken-y flavor.
[vii] Taking apart the chicken while it’s still warm will be much easier and guarantee that you’ll get more meat off of the bone than if the chicken cooled completely.
[viii] Feel free to whistle “Scarborough Fair” while you’re at it.
[ix] Add more or less of each herb depending on what you like or don’t like.
[x] Sometimes I have made buttermilk biscuit dough and dropped it in spoonfuls on top of the pie filling. If you do this, bake at the temperature and approximate time that the biscuit recipe calls for. A toothpick inserted into the middle will come out clean when the biscuits are done.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Midsummer ho-hum, and a few things on my mind

It’s midsummer, Chloe’s between camps, and I’ve been awake since 3:00 am worrying about the tile job in our upstairs bathroom.
Toilet in the tub. Don't panic.
Instead of tossing and turning over such things, I got up and made banana bread, like any sane person would do at 3:45 am.

Here are a few other things that are catching my attention this week:
  1. I’m ridiculously excited to escape this weekend to Providence, Rhode Island, for WaterFire, an evocative nighttime public art event that transforms the Woonasquatucket River with 100 fires floating on the water’s surface. Also on the agenda: An overnight stay at the Omni, cocktails with a view at Rooftop at the ProvidenceG, brunch at The Duck and Bunny (where my favorite meal is served every day!), and a few leisurely hours at the RISD Museum.
  2.  In my overnight bag will be The Iliad, Homer’s 3,000-year-old, epic, and stunningly violent story of the Trojan War. It’s been a bit surreal to read The Iliad against the backdrop of the Greek debt crisis. How to reconcile the poverty and struggles of modern-day Greece with the mythical land of Achilles, Zeus, and Athena?
  3. Homemade sage and rosemary cordials are in the making on my kitchen counter. I’ll blog about the herb cordial-making process when they’re done, but I haven’t been able to resist peeking at their progress every day.

  4. Reading the reviews of Go Set a Watchman has made me realize that pretty much the only thing I remember about reading To Kill a Mockingbird 20 years ago as a high school freshman was learning what morphine was. I guess I should re-read it, which is fitting since I recently decided to work my way through “the classics.” 
  5.  I’m feeling way existential about the 20th anniversary of Clueless, so it was really fun to read this Vanity Fair article filled with reminiscences and insider info from Amy Heckerling, Alicia Silverstone, Paul Rudd, and other Clueless cast members (did you know that they considered Ben Affleck for the part of Josh?). Clueless was released about a year after I read and forgot the plot of To Kill a Mockingbird, and I am looking forward to the day when I can ceremonially preside over Chloe’s first viewing. But watch it with her? As if! She’s got to watch it with her friends.
  6. The New York Times Magazine story, The Mixed-Up Brothers of Bogotá, got under my skin in a big way.
  7. Speaking of The New York Times, did you know its book review panned The Devil Wears Prada when the book came out? Just something I stumbled upon when I fell down the rabbit hole of the Internet at 4:30 am.
  8. A new Canon PowerShot SX520 arrived on my doorstep the other day, and I can’t wait to play with it in Providence this weekend. I send editors enough crappy iPhone pictures with my travel stories that I figured it was time to buy a decent point-and-shoot camera.

    My first picture with the new camera.
    Love the sharp colors! 
  9. And now that I have a camera, it’s time I learn a thing or two about photo composition. I found some basic tips for upping my photography game here.
  10. The incredibly charming 1634 Meadery in Ipswich, MA, makes lots of varieties of honey wines, like apple and strawberry, but I'm partial to the classic Orange Elation, made simply with orange blossom honey. It tastes like a sweet summer afternoon.
  11. If you haven't been to Applecrest Farm Bistro yet and live near the New Hampshire Seacoast, stop what you're doing and go! It's a brand-new concept that takes farm-to-table dining to the next level by putting a year-round restaurant right on the farm itself. Fresh, creative, and delicious dishes and cocktails like these...can't wait for a third visit next week.

    The Dixon Way: Fresh cider, Bulleit rye, orange bitters

    Just-picked asparagus and poached duck egg yolk. OMG

Monday, July 13, 2015

43 days left

In 43 days, my life is going to completely change.

For the past six years and five days, I have given myself over to my daughter’s care. As a work-at-home writer, I’ve been lucky to have the best of both worlds. I’ve been able to be at home with her, drive her to and from school, sneak off to the beach for the day, host playdates, be at every doctor’s appointment (and there have been a lot), bake cookies, take her to story time at the library, volunteer in her classroom, and make her breakfast, lunch, and dinner, every day. I’ve been able to do all this without giving up my career. I couldn’t afford not to work, but I wouldn’t have wanted to stop working anyhow.

I also couldn’t afford to put her in daycare, both from a financial perspective and a caring perspective, especially considering how much time we spent shuttling her back and forth to Boston Children’s Hospital during the first year of her life.

“It’s so short,” I remember my mom telling me when Chloe was a baby. There are only a few, short years between birth and full-time school. It’s such a small amount of time to give your child. A relatively small investment for an incredibly big return. I’m glad I was in such a position to give her those years. More than glad. I can’t describe what it’s meant to me, and I hope, to her, too.

And yet it hasn’t been easy or smooth. I might not have given up my career, but it certainly hasn’t come first. I’ve worked the equivalent of part-time for six years, squeezing in writing when I could, first during naps, then during the handful of hours she was in morning preschool and kindergarten. I'm in front of my laptop at 5:00 am and, too often, at midnight. I had help, thank God, a couple days a week, but I never had enough time to really work on my career, to do anything other than feel like I was just hanging on.

And in the summer? Things are even harder without those 2.5 hours of morning kindergarten. On busy summer days (like today) when I’m cramming to meet a deadline and don’t have childcare, Chloe will sit in front of the TV for hours while I crank out my work, always with the promise that we’ll do something fun when I’m finished. And we will—we’re going swimming later today—but still, there are summer days when Chloe is a straight-up couch potato, when I throw food at her and don’t even get her dressed or brush her teeth until I can come up for air.

“I hate Mondays!” she just told me, after I explained that I had too much work to play Hungry Hungry Hippos with her.

So as much as I have cherished these years with her, I know that this special time at home with my baby is coming to its needed end. Because she’s not a baby anymore. And I need to get back to me a little more, too. It’ll be better for both of us, I know this. I won’t have to neglect her for hours at a time or neglect my work, either. I can give 100% to each, and be all hers, totally hers, after school.

No more missed work deadlines and no more “I’m almost done!” promises when she begs to play with me. I will be able to ramp up my career in new ways, and I will give myself to her, every afternoon, maybe even more fully than I’ve been able to before.

I don’t want to wish this time away. The summer is already flying by. My time with her feels like it’s slipping out of my hands like water. And yet, I am excited for a new beginning.

Only 43 days left!

I only have 43 days left. 

How about you make pizza with your kid?

Making pizza might be the most fun and easy meal to make with your kids. We make this one, which we call “Rachael Ray pizza,” all the time. It's adapted from a recipe from Every Day With Rachael Ray Magazine.

We also make a quick (really!) homemade pizza dough using these steps:
  • Mix one cup of very hot (not boiling!) water, a packet of fast-acting yeast, and a teaspoon of sugar and let stand in a bowl for 10 minutes.
  • After 10 minutes, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a teaspoon of salt to the yeast mixture (which should look bubbly) and mix it around. 
  • Add 2 and 3/4 cups of flour and kneed it all together for a few minutes until it’s smooth. I do this right in the bowl. Add more flour if it’s too sticky. Substituting up to 1/2 cup whole wheat flour is yummy, too.
  • Rub all over with a bit of olive oil and cover with a towel for at least 10 minutes, but 20-30 would be better. 

Waiting for dough to rise is hard! 

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Mince a few cloves of garlic and mix with 5 tablespoons of olive oil, a big handful of dried parsley, salt and pepper. Toss the oil mixture with 2 cups of baby spinach and drained and chopped artichoke hearts. (I actually squeeze the extra water out of them, too, so the pizza isn’t soggy).

Now call your kid into help!

Look at that rise! 

When you’re ready, sprinkle some cornmeal on a cookie sheet that’s lined with foil, parchment, or a silicon pan liner.

Punch down the dough.

Turn the dough onto the pan and work it to the edges until it’s spread out. 
Doing this with olive-oiled hands helps

Sprinkle the dough with 1-2 cups grated mozzarella cheese (I like more cheese, but you might like less). Spread the spinach and artichoke mixture on top of the mozzarella, and sprinkle ¼-½ cup of grated Parmesan on top of that.

Don't forget to sample! 

Sampling is expected.

A lot of sampling! 

Feel pride in your creation! And bake pizza for 15 minutes. 


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Magic croutons, quarters, and the day-old bakery cart

In my grocery store, the day-old bakery cart is very sad and forlorn, pushed into a corner of the store against a wall and far away from the fresh breads that are so lovingly displayed in the center of the aisle. 

All breads baked here start their lives as equals, but some of them never get bought. Maybe they're smooshed in the middle, or ripped a little on the edge, but for whatever reason, they miss their chance at culinary usefulness and get passed over on a whim of the masses.

Then, a couple of days later, without warning, these unsuspecting loaves are whisked away from their pretty, cozy baskets and plopped onto a cold metal cart, away from the self-righteous just-baked breads that are still warm and smelling freshly of yeast. They're made to sit all by themselves in the corner, like the kid who just puked in the lunchroom. 

Well, day-old breads, I see you and I reclaim you, even though shopping at your cart makes me feel a little like a hobo. I don't care! I love you because you're usually still pretty fresh, and because you're so deeply discounted, and because you make the best damn croutons known to man. 

Actually these croutons have caused a couple of my friends to dissolve into a kind of rapture that I didn't realize crispy bread cubes could produce. One friend hoarded a bowl of them in her lap during brunch and ate every last one. 

These miracle croutons start with a loaf of bread that's gone slightly stale, which you could either achieve at home by waiting a few days before using the bread or by hitting up the day-old bakery cart at your own grocery store (and saving some money along the way). The loaf I used was marked down to just a quarter! I like using bread-bowl type bread, but anything like it--a baguette would be good--would work.

Can you believe this cost 25 cents? I love America.

Cut the bread into one-inch-ish cubes and drizzle the cubes with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Toss them around to coat. I also like to sprinkle them with about a half-teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon (ish) of garlic powder, but I don't really measure. Or try adding any herb you like, like sage or oregano. 

Do these look an inch wide? Or a half-inch? I can't decide. 

Bake on a cookie sheet in a single layer in a 350 degree oven. After about 10 minutes stir them around. Stir them again after another 10 minutes. Start testing them then, too. They should be mostly, if not totally crispy, although full croutony-ness will come after they cool. My last batch baked for 25 minutes.

Wait for them to cool completely before packing them in a container, or use immediately. 

Other recipes where day-old bread is best: Bread pudding, grilled cheese, and French toast. 

Homemade pickles for the lazy and cheap

Next time you eat the very last store-bought pickle, don't dump the juice or toss the jar. Instead, save it in the fridge until you've got something else you'd like to pickle.

In our case last week, it was the radishes in our CSA. I sliced them thinly and tossed them in the pickle juice, and in a few days we had funky-spicy radish pickles.

Ta-da! (Picture by Chloe)

The pickle possibilities are really endless: Cukes, of course would be great, but so would carrots, onions, garlic, green beans, beets, cauliflower, kohlrabi and on, and on....

Just don't forget that these are refrigerator pickles, meaning that you have to keep them in the--you guessed it--refrigerator, as opposed to the cabinet. But duh, right?

And the cool thing about the radish pickles is that in a few days, all of the red from their skins will soak off and color everything a light pinky-orange. Neat!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A quick lesson in the difference between real and pretend

I LOVE Harry Potter.

I’m a full-on, total geek, would-wreck-anyone-in-trivia superfan. I read the books and watch the movies again and again, and may or may not have a teensy bit of a crush on Sirius Black. I have a JK Rowling autograph framed above my desk, have seen her speak at Radio City Music Hall, and was among the legions of fans waiting in line at midnight to buy the new books and see the movies the second they were released.

As much as I love the wizarding world, though, I understand that it’s pretend. I don’t pace in front of the mailbox waiting for my Hogwarts letter or try to perform summoning charms on my glasses from across the room. I don’t try to fly on a broomstick or attempt to apparate in and out of my house.

Like I said, I understand it’s not real. Therefore, I’m not aspiring to become a wizard.

But here’s something that many women and girls don’t understand isn’t real: Magazine covers. Over the past week, un-retouched images of two of the world’s most beautiful women—Cindy Crawford and Beyonce—have leaked online.

The images show things that are familiar to anyone with a face and skin: Pores, bumps, blemishes, stretch marks, sagging, lines. In other words, they show real human bodies (and the ladies still look gorgeous, BTW).

Unlike Harry Potter—which is clearly sold in the FICTION section of every bookstore—glossy magazines are sold as real, and the images in them are presented as real. Except they’re not real—no one looks like that! Even the people who look like that don’t look like that! No one’s skin is as smooth as plastic! It’s fake!

It’s all fake.

And because it’s fake—even fucking Beyonce doesn’t look like Beyonce!—it’s a ludicrous thing to aspire to. Just as it’s ludicrous for me wave a wand and expect magic to happen, it’s ludicrous to try to exercise or face cream or wax ourselves into magazine cover perfection. It’s a fight we will never win because—say it with me—it’s all pretend. Can we please stop aiming for the impossible?

There are no wizards. There are no perfect bodies. It’s all pretend.

Monday, February 9, 2015

10 more ways to make cooking suck less

A few weeks ago, I told you guys that being your own prep cook on Sunday is a great way to make weeknight meal prep a little easier.

Here are some more ways to make cooking suck a little less, with an eye toward the parts that everyone seems to hate the most: Planning, prepping, and cleanup:

1.       Think ahead: It might make for a painful half hour, but take the time each week before hitting the grocery store to meal plan. I usually plan for 5 nights, realizing that one night will probably be leftovers night and one night will we’ll get take out, go to a restaurant, order pizza, etc. If you’re the main chef for a family full of complainers, enlist their help. Ask for a meal request from everyone. And remember, as my friend Brianna pointed out, breakfast for dinner is always a crowd-pleaser.
2.       Drink: Pour yourself a glass of wine and relax.
3.       Use the oven when you can: The more you cook in the oven, the less you have to tend to on the stovetop.
4.       Use a single pan when you can: Roast a chicken in the same pan that you cook veggies in. Do the same for things like pork loin or pot roast, too. This works really well with harder veggies, like carrots, white and sweet potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, and gives them a lot of extra flavor, too.
5.       And when cooking in a single pan in the oven, line that pan with aluminum foil, parchment paper, or a silicon baking mat: Avoid foods sticking to cookie sheets or roasting pans by using one of the above. I like silicon mats (available anywhere, but here they are on Amazon) because they’re reusable, can go in a dishwasher, can withstand crazy-high heat, and nothing—I mean nothing—ever sticks to them. Depending on what you cook, you might not have to wash the pans at all; just wait for the liner to cool and put the pan away (you'll have to wash the liner, though, lazybones!)
6.       Make a lot: Double recipes when you can and freeze the extras. I do this a lot with pancakes.
7.       Think tacos: Whether you have leftover roasted chicken, beef, pork, or veggies (or all four) make leftovers tacos part of your meal plan, and add taco shells and fixins to your weekly grocery list. On taco night, mix your leftovers with taco seasoning or salsa for more flavor.
8.       Learn to love eggs: Eggs are so versatile and easy. You can make everything-but-the-kitchen sink omelets, frittata, scrambled eggs, or quiche by adding whatever leftovers you’ve got hanging around into your egg dish. Throw in everything from leftover deli meat and cheese, veggies, bacon, etc. I sometimes also hard boil a shitload of eggs all at once and save them in the fridge for egg salad sandwiches for dinner (add some of your pre-prepped veggies for sides) or just for snacking.
9.       Screw cookbooks: If you hate to cook, don’t bother buying cookbooks or cooking magazines. Instead, buy a three-ring binder and hit the library. Bring home a couple of cookbooks and experiment. Before you return the books, use the library’s copy machine to make photocopies of the recipes you liked and store them in the three-ring binder.
10.   Embrace the staples: It’s super helpful to have a handful of easy, know-them-by heart, go-to staple recipes that you know your whole family likes for nights when you’re really tapped for ideas. In my house it’s ravioli with mushrooms and spinach; chicken pot pie; and breakfast for dinner!