Single parents always watch their budgets—so I know it’s a hard sell to convince us to stock up our pantry with expensive items. But believe me, it will make life SO much easier if you do. With certain go-to items always on your shelves, you can whip up a last-minute pasta, chicken or fish dish that is healthy and flavorful for your kiddos. And from an expense perspective, stocking up the pantry with these items each month will save you money in the long run. Ordering pizza or grabbing fast food two or three times a week isn’t as cheap as you think. If you haven’t read this New York Times article, “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?” I highly recommend it!
Even if you don’t go out to eat much during the week, serving your children processed foods like chicken nuggets and hotdogs or frozen or canned meals— loaded up with sodium—sets them on the path to obesity, or a limited palate at the very least. My time living in Europe inspired me to try to always serve one meal and eat with my children—helping them to develop healthier, broader tastes—and letting us enjoy more quality time together. Trust me, kids will eat what you do, eventually. I saw my son when he was three (now 10) eating chicken curry pie with beats and parsnips at his nursery school in London. It’s eye-opening, but for another blog post.
So, as I was saying, I know it’s exhausting after a long day at work to come home and cook and then have clean-up later. But I promise you if you can aim to do it five nights a week, it will improve your health, your waistline and your children’s health dramatically. Here are my monthly must-have pantry items. They have been lifesavers on many evenings as I’ve been able to throw together tasty pasta or add more flavor to veggies, sides or invent a quick pork or chicken dish. If you have a Trader Joe’s or a CostCo near you, you can really save money stocking up on these. And if you have any to add to my list, please chime in! I’d love to know your favorite staples.
Chicken Marbella is a wonderfully easy dish to prepare with very little clean-up. (And isn’t that what all us single parents need?)I love how elegant it is and it’s great to serve when you have friends coming over as adults love it and kids do too! If you have picky eaters, this dish will introduce them to Mediterranean flavors and we all know that a Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest for longevity. Read this article by the Mayo Clinic if you want further proof! While this dish does require some pricey ingredients, if you stock your pantry with them once a month, you’ll be able to cook a variety of dishes at the drop of a hat. I started cooking Marbella more than 10 years ago from a recipe that I found in the Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins. I’ve tweaked it so much over the years that it’s my own version now. Cook a lot more than you need, as it’s actually better the next day with extra marinade time, is good cold at picnics and also freezes well. I hope you and your family enjoy it as much as we do!
1 head garlic , peeled and finely puréed (or two tablespoons lazy chopped garlic.)
1/4 cup dried oregano
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 chicken breasts cut into small 1/2 inch to 1 inch pieces.
1 cup dry white wine (Red wine works fine too!)
1/4 cup fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley or fresh cilantro , finely chopped
Optional item: small pearl onions.
Handfull of brown sugar (also optional. I’ve cooked without and it’s still delightful.)
Combine the olive oil, vinegars, prunes, apricots, olives, capers and juice, bay leaves, garlic, oregano and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the chicken and stir to coat. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.Preheat the oven to 350°. Arrange the chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon the marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with the brown sugar and pour the wine around them. Bake, basting occasionally with the pan juices. Cook for 45 minutes, but check after 30.With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken, prunes, olives, and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of the pan juices and sprinkle generously with the parsley or cilantro. Pass the remaining pan juices in a sauceboat.
AloneTogether: Single Moms Support Group (This is a closed group, please say you found their site from me, Laura Roe Stevens, when requesting to join.)
The UCLA Family Commons: http://www.uclacommons.com/
Single Parent Housing: www.SPAOA.org
Pell Grants For Mothers: PellGrants.ClassesAndCareers.com