Okay, so that’s a pretty corny post heading and not my usual style, but it is exactly what I did today, a Mama Baking session with my friend the Double Letter Thief. We both have two young girls and we both find the whole getting a healthy, home cooked meal on the table when it needs to be (and not a minute later or watch those sweet loving children turn on you!) a bit of a struggle some days. I love days where I’ve got something I can take out of the freezer in the morning and just reheat on the stove or in the oven whenever I start to notice signs of children turning from delights to ferals (I say that in as loving a way as possible).
So what exactly is Mama Baking? The idea is to get together with some friends, neighbours, mother’s group members or whoever and share the cooking load, each person cooking a big batch of one or two dishes, divvying it up between you all and going home with a stash of meals to fill your freezer with, like this…
Considering there was only two of us and we did want to fill that freezer, we did three meals each. We tackled this by cooking two of the meals at home on our own and then got together to cook the last one together, which was good because my oven is still on the blink… the repairman is coming back next week. We then split the meals between us and had at least a week’s worth of dinners.
This time around we used some of the big batch recipes from the Mama Bake cook books, but halved most of them (some were for feeding up five or six families, not two!). This was a good move, there’s no way I would have fitted that much in my pots. There was one dish that wasn’t halved, 3kg of beef and 4.5kg of carrots… that’s a lot of carrots!
I did a very basic chicken casserole with carrots, celery, zucchini, green beans and parsley which I’ll serve with rice. I’m hoping these simple ingredients might tempt Miss Four to eat this one, but it might be a bit plain for the rest of us. Next up was a pumpkin soup, a classic and favourite in this house, especially with a little extra butter and cream added when we’re heating it up (okay so not exactly low in calories, but all home made so it doesn’t count!). And the final dish were these cheese and leek tarts which smelled fantastic cooking as we finished of the rest of the cooking and divvied up the meals between us.
My friend made an awesome bolognese sauce which we both enjoyed for dinner with our families tonight (you should have seen Miss Four wolf this down! Miracle!) and with enough for another meal in the freezer. A sausage goulash with chorizo – this was the one dish we halved and shouldn’t have. I’m thinking some nice freshly made bread for serving with this one. And finally the mammoth beef and carrot stew. This was a slightly odd recipe, with a huge amount of carrots but no other vegetables. Considering how much we have I think I’ll try and change it up a bit by adding extra vegetables, zucchini, beans, peas, fresh tomato etc. It could be served with pretty much anything, pasta, rice, mashed potato, etc.
So other than having the next week’s meals already sorted besides cooking a bit of rice or whatever, this group cooking thing has a few other things going for it.
Firstly our girls played pretty much contently for the few hours we were together cooking away. A Freddo Frog half way through may have helped there a little bit. The smallest of the children, the gorgeous Miss Six Months was a little unsettled here and there, she’s a real Mum’s girl and liked nothing more than to be snuggled into the baby-carrier while her mum got on with things.
Secondly, having a bit of adult, female companionship while getting the cooking done was a nice change to my usual company. While I do love to cook, trying to do it on my own and while supervising or interacting with the kids and umpiring the arguments inevitable at the end of the day is somewhat tiring. This was not and it was nice to offer some cooking advice to someone not so into cooking at the same time. I have plenty of family and friends who have done the same for me so it’s nice to be able to pass some of what I’ve picked up on.
And finally, the big advantage is the transformation to the end of our day I’m expecting. Instead of being frantic, crazy and full of angst, tears and raised voices, I’m hoping it will be calm, quiet and savoured. Miss Two is always exhausted by the end of the day – not that it means she will go to sleep easily at bed time, quite the opposite – so snuggling with her on the couch is a nice way to end the day. And as Miss Four squeezes in next to us and wraps the blanket over all of our knees we can have a nice chat about the day, read some books or just watch a couple of short shows on ABC2 while we wait for dinner to heat up. I would love to be able to pick up my crocheting at this time to, but I won’t push that too much.
Now the big decision is… what will I take out for dinner tomorrow night?