Dinner Chaos (Recipe: Paula Deen’s Skillet Ravioli)

When you are a mom, especially with a curious and very busy toddler on your hands, turning your back for just a few minutes can lead to lots of extra work for you. This is a picture of Leah after she decided to eat a Red Crayola Marker (thankfully non-toxic) for dinner while I was on the phone with my friend, Amy from She Wears Many Hats. Doesn’t she look so pleased with her little self? Mmmmm….markers. Little stinker.

As much as I love to cook, making dinner with this little one constantly under my feet or into something has become a bit of a challenge. I have to either make the decision to 1) let her get into anything and everything, which will make her quiet and happy but triple my cleanup work or 2) hold her and entertain her while I also stir, sautee, slice, boil, steam, etc. Since she is the fourth kid, I’ll admit that I probably let her get into things just to keep her quiet more often than the alternative (and now that I have the joy of older kids, they get to come and clean up after her! Parenthood is paying off!)

Instead of spending a lot of time in the kitchen lately, I’ve been going for those dinners that are quick and easy to put on the table, simply so I don’t have to do the dinner disco with Leah under my feet. The crockpot has been taken out of the cupboards and dusted off for use more often. “Fast Foods” (like shrimp, polish turkey sausage, pasta) are making a regular appearance on our weekly menus. Anything I can do to get dinner on the table without a lot of time devoted by me is pretty much what is happening anymore.

This recipe from the May / June 2010 issue of Cooking with Paula Deen magazine caught my eye for just that reason. It is quick, easy, hearty and since I was going to be cleaning red marker off of Leah’s face, I might as well let her get all down and dirty with the red sauce from this dish.

What are your tips for keeping the kiddos out from under your feet while you cook dinner?

Skillet Ravioli (adapted from the May / June 2010 issue of Cooking with Paula Deen)

1 (20-oz) package refrigerated four-cheese ravioli, cooked according to package directions and kept warm
1 lb. ground beef
2 (8-oz) can tomato sauce
2 T. Italian-style tomato paste
1 t. dries parsley (I used fresh)
1 t. dried basil (I used fresh)
1/2 t. garlic salt
1 c. shredded parmesan cheese

In a large skillet, cook beef over medium-high heat for 8 to10 minutes or until browned and crumbly; drain. Return beef to pan, and add tomato sauce, paste, parsley, basil, and garlic salt; cook 6 minutes or until heated through.
Add cooked ravioli to tomato sauce. Sprinkle with cheese, and serve immediately.

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  1. says

    That looks delicious! I’ll have to add it to my menu too! My mom used to give us a pot upside down with wooden spoon. We’d bang on that instead of annoying my mom :)

  2. says

    I’ve always wondered how to dress up store bought ravioli!

    Can’t help you with the kiddie question, mine were 5, 8, and 9 when we adopted them!

  3. says

    I love the simplicity of that recipe! I can always use something like that for the crazy nights we have during the various sports seasons. My boys are closer to your son’s age, so I don’t have to entertain them all that much during dinner… unless it’s the question “what can I do?”. Sometimes I have them help, or since it’s summer I torture them with the Summer Bridge workbooks… that will sometimes deter them from asking me that question! 😉

  4. says

    I’m not a very big fan of pasta, but this looks delicious…I will try it and keep you up to date of what happened. I must mention that I’m a disaster in the kitchen :))

  5. says

    This looks delicious for a great weeknight meal! I don’t have little ones anymore, but I certainly appreciate an easy meal.
    Leah looks quite proud of herself! She’s a litle doll.

  6. says

    This looks delicious!!! And omg that photo is a classic. You are likely going to pull that out many many times as your daughter grows up :) Glad it was non-toxic!

  7. says

    When I was her age, my favorite spot in the kitchen was in the tupperware cabinet. I would play there while mom cooked, totally happy.

    I’m a big believer that food doesn’t have to take hours to be great!

  8. says

    How awesomely simple is this recipe! Although, I’m pretty surprised there’s no butter in it since it’s a Paula Deen recipe.

    What, you mean markers don’t count as lipstick? Leah’s adorable!

  9. says

    I can’t believe what a big girl Leah is now – such a cutie! I usually set up my 7mo in his high chair in the kitchen with me with a toy (which I fetch numerous times). For my 2yo, she enjoys some Dora on the DVR. I try to finish up before I start hearing the first bars of “We did it!” :-)

  10. says

    When my kids were high chair age I put them in their high chair and brought it next to me in the kitchen. Since it was on wheels I could move them around to wherever I was. I gave them crayons/markers and paper or playdough to stay busy. Other times I just gave them their dinner while I made everyone else’s. I’m kind of sad we’re out of the high chair days. Now they just fight and whine while I’m cooking, which I feel like is kind of conditioning me to not enjoy cooking as much since it’s become a negative experience whenever I’m the only parent home. They use that as the opportunity to be totally obnoxious.

    When Madeline napped I could at least get all the prep work done ahead of time so the dinner prep wasn’t as involved/messy…but like all things eventually do, naptime has pretty much ended here.

    This dinner looks yummy. I’m definitely going to have to start making more simple dishes.

  11. says

    Would you look at that face? Marvelous. And full of the devil, too.
    We went through stages….first high chair entertainment, then play pen entertainment (does anyone even use playpens anymore?), then kitchen cupboard entertainment ( a little messier).

    I love this easy dinner!

  12. says

    I could not have survived without two things when my girls were little: pack n play (play pen), walker, and an entire cabinent full of plastic measuring cups, and storage containers – the ONLY cabinent that was not equipped with childproof latches. And let’s not forget the power of cheerios and kix. My kids spent many an hour where I was close by cooking and watching them chow down/make a mess in their high chair.

  13. says

    I think my parents just chucked me in that bouncy chair thing that hangs in the doorway, I can’t remember the name of it, and called it a day. I was hopping around like a champ but couldn’t get far enough to actually mess with anything. I think maybe nobody uses those anymore. And anyway I guess you can only use those up until a certain age. After that, I guess my parents just suffered with me being a little terror underfoot all the time. Which is probably what I’ll have to do if I have a kid, unless I can pawn him or her off on my husband when I need to concentrate.

  14. says

    My oldest helps out a bit in the kitchen but the little one usually plays. I let her pull all the tupperware out, bang on things with spoons, or play with her play food. It does create more work but a hot meal for my family is worth it. Besides, she will always feel welcome in the kitchen. I never make my children leave the kitchen unless I am opening the stove. Some days the girls end up having a little something to eat before the meal to allow me to finish up preparations.


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