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Every parent knows the gangrene hour. It is between the time you walk in the door at the end of the day (from work or wherever) and when you feed the monsters children before their hunger-induced frenzy destroys sanity and household.

Back in the last century when my children were young, I had several meals that took 20-30 minutes tops to put on the table. I tried to keep staples for these meals in stock at all times. I mentioned these meals with only a few ingredients when posting on Swistle’s blog and heard from Momma Goose asking for those recipes. Had I blogged them?

No, but I thought I could find them again and began looking. And looking. What did I find? I found that what I served my children in the last century are nowhere near what I would serve them today. When you learn better, you do better.

Peachy Beans:
Easy recipe: 2 cans of Campbell’s Pork and Beans and a can of Delmonte’s sliced cling peaches, drained. Pour drained peach juice into saucepan and heat, adding a spoonful or so of brown sugar. Stir until dissolved. Add beans. Heat to eating temperature. Serve with iceberg lettuce, carrot curls, or cucumber slices on the side. Optional: add coins of hot dogs for meat serving.

This is far too high in sugar content and salt (why didn’t I notice how much salt was in those cans of beans?) to be a go-to item today. I rarely added hot dogs back then because the prepared lunch meats totally wired my son who dealt with ADHD. Iceberg lettuce is basically water, not a ‘real’ vegetable at all.

Uncle Ben’s Instant Rice/boil-in-bag rice with Peas and Velveeta Cheese:
If we had ham steak, pork chops, or grilled chicken, this was an easy ‘side’ to round out the meal but… Instant rice has very little nutritional value. Jasmine rice or basmati rice doesn’t take longer and is much better for you. Better choices now are Quinoi or even brown rice (but that takes much longer to cook, so you need to plan ahead and reheat). As for the Velveeta? I could pour a sauce of melted Velveeta on anything and my son would eat it. Now I grate fresh cheeses for the same effect and *much* better nutrition.

Pasta Mix-Ins:
I had the right idea. Keep pasta on hand and mix it up depending on what was available. My mix-ins were usually pasta primavera concoctions made of frozen (or fresh) veggies, sauteed together in butter and canola oil. The most time consuming part was the slicing and dicing. Then I served it with garlic bread or butter rolls. Today I would offer a pesto dipping sauce instead.

I made meatballs ahead of time and kept them in the freezer. Cook in oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees and add to tomato sauce. This time you really need a salad and bread sticks or garlic bread. (healthy is nice, but get real! You *need* garlic bread at least! <g>)

Chicken Patties/Gordon’s Fish Patties:
More freezer staples—add a salad or fresh carrots, cucumbers, celery, or tomato slices and you are good to go… but I put them on rolls with mayo. Not what I would serve today. Today I roast a whole chicken and then save the leftovers for chicken salad, or as add-in to fresh garden salads. I use pita bread (whole wheat/flax) instead of rolls, mashed potatoes, and gravy.

Young children need meat proteins, but I can get my proteins from a variety of beans, poultry, and fish. I do not buy frozen fish or chicken patties these days, preferring to poach salmon, grill sword steak, or saute chicken. (DH makes an awesome sauteed catfish!) Not quite as fast, but still within the 20-30 minutes put-it-on-the-table time frame.

Another go-to back then was Steak-Umms — thin slices of frozen roast beef that you cooked 30 seconds per side, delivered on a hoagie/sub roll with sauteed peppers and onions (and maybe cheese). Honey – thy name is cholesterol! But fast? You could hardly beat a 2-minute (max) meal!  Do they still sell Steak-Umms?

Ramin Noodles Smorgasbord:
I would take the ramin noodle packages and add ground hamburger, sliced onions, and whatever frozen veggies I had for a casserole. Lots of sodium and fat in that meal. Nope—not on a menu today!

With practice, slicing and dicing veggies gets faster. Veggie stir fry’s take 20 minutes from frig to table. Cooking sauces can be olive oil, water with a pat or two of butter (most veggies have a high water content to start with), or peanut oil. Add soy/teriyaki sauce for salt flavoring. I use sea salt, myself.

I don’t cook much these days. DH has eating issues so I trust him to cook what will work for him. If he has troubles with what he cooks, I don’t feel guilty, but if I cooked the exact same thing and served it, I would. He is a wonderful cook so I don’t miss much except the raw fruits and veggies I love. I enjoy them at lunch when I don’t dine at home.

What do I miss the most? Fried scalloped potatoes. Not healthy and not something DH can keep down, nor can I get my favorite, personally developed and adapted, recipe at a restaurant. Which is probably a good thing… It isn’t on healthy lists anywhere…<g>

4 adults
3 laptops
1 kitchen

One is checking a recipe.
One is logging in to check email, and also confirming contents of recipe being used by current cook (see previous).
One is attempting to log in to a new account on a new netbook.

They are all conversing with one another at the same time… well, taking turns to speak, of course, but having actual social dialog while they check the recipe, the email, and the login procedure.

For the past several years, holiday meals and meal planning have not featured piles of cookbooks spread across counters in the kitchen. The more common sight ’round these here parts <g> is the cook(s) staring intently at a laptop screen as they stir, peel, measure, or assemble shopping lists and ingredients.

Welcome to the future.

For cooks it has to be the best of times. We have access to fresh fruits and vegetables year ’round. We can store meats, entire meals, and freshly-picked organic produce in freezers for months on end. In the dead of winter we can taste new spring peas, blueberries, and carrots.

When cooks find themselves with an overabundance of one item, they can search the ‘net for what to do with it (chicken sausage was my most recent one). Just type in what you have in your cupboard, and voila! A list of recipes using your ingredient(s) appears to choose from. (If you find one for broccoli rabe, skip it entirely no matter what the comments say. yechh!)

You know, I can do that for knitting too. I can log into Ravelry and look for patterns using XX yards of [insert yarn type/name here]. Granted, the results can be quite extensive, and hard to pick between, but the deal here is, you have access to people who already did this project — and instant human reference for assistance! They have photos of the finished items in most cases.

In addition to the wonderful Ravelry site, I can find video tutorials for almost any stitch you can name. In the privacy of my own laptop I can watch, re-watch, and watch again how to to the kitchner stitch (almost 20 times, but who’s counting?). I can now do the kitchner stitch with minimal visual reminders for assistance.

Ahem…but I digress…

Computers in the kitchen are now as basic as the dishwashers, refrigerators, and microwaves. And more multi-functional to boot!

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