Over the holidays my sister from NJ was at my house and complimented my (wicked) potato kugel. “How do you make it?” she asked.
“Well, you know. I don’t peel the potatoes.” She stared for a minute, so I explained. “Yeah, you know, no one really tastes the difference, and it’s healthier and a huge time saver.”
“You need to write a book about your life hacks,” she suggested. So, not a book, but a list, from me to you. All the ways I’ve saved time, money, and energy over the years. Except money. You’re welcome.
First, yeah, I quit peeling potatoes like a year ago. Omg where have I been? Why did every newlywed experience, especially when every single recipe I owned came from an Ashkenazi Jew, start with “peel potatoes?” My name is Ruchi, and I hate peeling potatoes. I am also giving my knuckles some self care and they appreciate it. Btw, my recipe is at the end of the post.
Chicken. This was always a go-to dinner. Easy, less expensive than meat, and most kids like it. So the first trick is: anything on the fire is faster than anything in the oven. When it’s a half hour to dinner and I don’t know what to do I throw the chicken in a pot and cook it with some seasonings and water and voila! Stir-fry is also perfect for that “I forgot people were going to want to eat dinner again tonight” amnesia. A time-management dream. In the oven in needs an hour-and-a-half, minimum. The other cool thing about chicken on the bone is that you can literally throw any salad dressing or bottled sauce on it, and bake. It will be delicious. Then when people ask you for the recipe you’re like “oh I threw some stuff on it, I don’t know, it’s not really a recipe” thing.
On the topic of cooking, I bought a pareve crock pot and it saved my soup sanity. See, in my judgmental mind, Real Moms Make Soup. Hot and hearty and healthy and waiting to warm up little tummies on cold Cleveland afternoons. Except I’m not actually such a soup-making mom. So, with my crock pot, I throw in stuff in the morning, turn it on, puree it a few hours later with an immersion blender, and it’s always amazing. By “stuff” I mean butternut squash, potatoes, onions, split pea, anything. Salt and pepper etc. Go.
With regard to clean bathrooms. I don’t want to get too graphic in a public forum but we’ve got a full house around here and so, yes. I keep a spritz bottle and a rag in the cabinet under the bathroom sink. When I see something, I do something. Chop, chop. Very efficient.
Laundry is always a fun thing to whine about when you’re a mom. Fortunately we live in a high tech society where children are very savvy with pressing buttons. Therefore as soon as they hit junior high school they are sufficiently tech-aware to operate a washer and dryer. I teach them how and I am no longer responsible for “I have no socks left”; “those are my tights”; “when are you doing laundry”; and, my personal favorite: “is this pile clean or dirty.” In terms of the rest of our laundry, my other hack is I don’t sort laundry by color, which is almost sacrilegious, I know. Instead I sort it by room. I throw the whole room’s laundry in together, and wash it on cold. Then the whole pile goes back to the same room. This is a sanity saver.
For more sacrilege, check this out: no one makes beds. I don’t really know why anyone has to make a bed. It’s their own bed. I like to make my bed, so I make it. Whoever likes a made bed (and these children do exist) will make it. I have absolutely zero evidence that mothers who make their kids make beds produce adults who make beds. So why stress myself, and them, out? More time, more love, more calm.
On picky eaters: I make dinner (most of the time). When I make it, someone – or more than one someone – won’t like it. So they can make themselves a sandwich. Or crackers and cheese. Or pretzels and peanut butter. Let’s all broaden our view of what constitutes dinner. Cuz I ain’t making two.
Here’s how I handle kids who aren’t ready for school on time: I wake them up earlier. If they can get ready faster, cool. If not, they clearly need more time. Since no one wants to get woken earlier, there is a neat little incentive built in. And sometimes, we all do need more time, and that’s what calms us all down. By the same token, I have been lobbied by some law-school-bound little attorneys for a later bedtime. To which I reply: if you can get up on time and not be tired, I will change your bedtime. That usually ends that.
“All my friends get to ____” – this is time-honored hoax that emerges every few months, and there is only one way to quell it: “Produce three names.” Three parents who allow it – whatever “it” is. Typically, they don’t exist, but if they do, I do call them and I usually get a very novel side of the story. Win-win.
What about bored kids? Bored kids get jobs. Like, empty the dishwasher, clear the table, fold laundry. It’s an effective vaccine for boredom. Likewise, we abide by the Eleventh Commandment which is: If Thou Complainest That Thy Dog Smelleth, Thou is Duty-Bound to Bathe Him.
When I want my kids to help around the house, I create a sign-up sheet. First one to sign up gets to choose the most coveted jobs. Last one gets what’s left. It’s a race to the finish, folks! Similarly, when we need to go somewhere, the first one to arrive at the car gets his pick of seats. Slowpoke gets the last choice.
So that’s how I manage – hope you like! Would love to hear your best hacks! Oh, and here’s my potato kugel recipe:
7 UNPEELED POTATOES
3 onions. Please peel them.
1/4 cup oil
2 tbsp. salt
a few shakes of pepper
Please note: this is the only thing I make that has more than 2 steps so please don’t get the wrong impression. I use a food processor and do this:
- Preheat your oven to 400. Drizzle oil generously at the bottom of a pan (I could lie and say “use pyrex” but I often just use a disposable tin and it tastes great) and put it in the oven.
- Combine the eggs, oil, and seasonings in a bowl.
- Process the potatoes and onions through the shredder blade.
- Moving quickly to avoid “greyage” of shredded potatoes, dump out the shredded potato and onion into the bowl that has the other ingredients. Change the blade in your processor to the really sharp one that goes in the bottom of the machine and looks like a really violent “S”. Dump all the stuff back on top of it and process, only till blended. Now STOP! Any more and you have mush. No pressure.
- Dump mixture into your preheated pan. It’ll sizzle…. ah.
- Bake on 400 for one hour, then 350 for another. Or more. Whatever. Till crispy.