I cook differently than I used to.
I hate to say it, but with such a large family, the pendulum is swinging back toward easy and cheap. After years of striving toward as whole, organic, and natural of foods as possible, this is sometimes backtracking a bit.
I still value whole, organic, natural and all that. And there are some things that I will never ever buy, such as margarine instead of real butter. However, living on this earth is toxic no matter how careful you are about your food, and life is also about balance. And I need to make huge quantities of food three times a day on a budget, both of time and of money. Mostly of time. I need easy. I need fast.
Some cheap, easy things are super healthy. Like split pea soup in the crockpot. Or oatmeal for breakfast. I do have quite a few recipes like that. Some, like split peas and lentils, my family will only tolerate occasionally. Others, like bean burritos, we eat a lot of. We have bean burritos probably twice a week and luckily none of us have gotten tired of them yet. We also eat mountains of homemade bread. The Badger mostly makes it these days, since I have a tendency to do dumb things like forget to put it in the oven for hours and hours. Or forget to make it at all.
So I guess in a lot of ways we still eat pretty healthy. But a few unhealthy things have been making a comeback in our diet. And I don't feel guilty about it, because I know I am doing the best I can under the circumstances.
For example: condensed cream of chicken soup. I swore off it years ago because of all the scary chemicals. The few recipes that call for it that we loved too much to give up I just adapted and made them with a white sauce instead. A little extra work, but they tasted pretty good.
Well, now Aldi has this thing where they have gotten rid of several big offenders in their private label foods: stuff like MSG and high-fructose corn syrup. Love you, Aldi! So I have started picking up a few cans of cream of chicken soup here and there. I know it still isn't good for you, but with the MSG gone it's not as bad. So now we eat it sometimes.
My favorite thing right now is canned chicken. I am in love with canned chicken. No boiling and shredding and afterward scrubbing out that weird white foamy stuff that cakes on the kettle. Just open a couple cans and drop it in. Please don't tell me what's in it or why it's terrible for us. I'm sure it is. But oh, I love it so.
Tonight's dinner was an old recipe that had fallen by the wayside as I was questing after better nutrition: chicken enchilada casserole. Basically, you layer corn tortillas in a casserole pan along with a sauce of cream of chicken soup, canned chicken, diced green chiles, cumin, and a little milk. Go back and forth with the layers a couple of times, and then top the whole thing with cheese and bake, covered, until bubbly. It is so fast and easy and yummy. And not so unhealthy if you cook some veggies to go on the side and throw together a salad while it's all cooking (love you, bagged lettuce!)
Another great thing about easy recipes is that they make it easy to get the kids involved in the kitchen. And that makes cooking a lot of fun!