Easy Saturday Afternoon Cooking

Saturday afternoon while my daughter and husband were out on the third grade hike to White Oak Sinks in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I decided to bake homemade Nestle Toll House Cookies, as well as make homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs.  As I was mixing the cookie dough and stirring in the chocolate chips, I thought ‘There really is no reason why I shouldn’t share these super easy recipes with everyone.’  Click on the links for the full recipes, but here’s a summary of what I made, along with my own hints.  The cookie recipe is none other than the original Nestlé Toll House recipe that can be found on the back of every bag of Nestlé chocolate chips.  The spaghetti and meatballs are from Epicurious.  Two very simple and fun recipes….anyone can do it, and have fun in the process!

cookiesThere’s nothing more rewarding than taking the time on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon to make dinner for later.  All we had to do when it was time for dinner was  cook the spaghetti noodles, warm up the sauce and enjoy. It’s a good feeling to know that you prepared a delicious meal for your family, no matter how busy the days’ earlier activities were.  And, here’s a newsflash all you busy moms and dads: cooking doesn’t have to be difficult, chaotic or intense.  Set all your ingredients out before you begin and clean as you go.  Remembering to do these two essential things will ensure you’re not angry, tired or crazy afterwards!

I started with the cookies.  Flour, baking soda, salt, butter, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, eggs, and chocolate chips.   Add chopped walnuts if you want.  Mix all that together and drop tablespoonfuls onto a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 375.  Cool, store in airtight container and that’s it!  You’ll have a happy family tonight!

The spaghetti and meatballs were just as easy.  For the sauce I used butter, onion, salt and two cans of San Marzano whole tomatoes.  Get San Marzanos if you can find them. Here in Knoxville, they’re easily obtained at Fresh Market or Food City.  To me, they have a stronger taste than regular canned tomatoes, and are sweeter and less acidic. For the meatballs it’s beef, pork, garlic, eggs, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.  Mix all together, chill for 15 minutes, then form into golf ball size meatballs, drop into the sauce and simmer for an additional 20 minutes.  Remember, for the meatballs, don’t overwork the mixture.

See?  That’s all there is to it.   I took the time to set out all my ingredients beforehand and cleaned up as I went along.  While the cookies were baking and the sauce was simmering, I put laundry away, responded to emails, swept the floors and wrote this article.  And I still had time to sit out on the deck, read and enjoy the summer rain showers that passed through. spaghetti

I’ve learned over the years that to truly enjoy cooking, take your time with the mundane tasks like chopping garlic or slicing onions.  If you don’t take the time to enjoy these simple acts, you’ll end up resenting cooking and seeing it only as work that has to be gotten through.  Enlist the kids when you can, let them be a part of the creating.  True, it will be a little messier and more chaotic, but remember, you’re creating memories with your children.  That’s worth a whole lot more than shooing them out the door just so you won’t have a big mess to clean up.  Have fun with it!  Cooking isn’t worth doing unless you can relax and  not be stressed about what you’re putting on the table for dinner tonight.

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