One-Pot Dinner

Well, I made it through my first semester of Grad School with two A’s in my pocket and my kids are still alive!  Here are some tips for success, if you find yourself in a similar situation:

  1. Forget about cleaning.  I mean, do a quick wipe-down on a weekly basis…but if it’s between reading your chapters for the week, writing a paper, or scrubbing the toilet, you know where your loyalties lie.
  2. Reconcile yourself to the fact that your social life will not just go down the drain, but it will be plungered and flushed away.  You just won’t have time during the semester, so all your pre-grad-school friends will probably move on to other more available friends.  And when you do have a break between semesters, your time will be spent reacquainting yourself with your husband, whom you have ignored for the previous four months, and convincing your children you are more than just “boring mommy”.
  3. Cut your hair.  I was in the “growing-out” phase, but in the hard in-between time when it was too short to pull into a pony tail and too long to just let air dry without turning into a poofy mess.  So I went back to the choppy pixie crop.  Time management is all about priorities, and I gotta say, I love that my whole shower to make up to hair routine now takes 20-30 minutes tops.
  4. Get reading glasses.  You may not need them now, but by week 5, you will.  So go ahead and stock up at the dollar store now, so when it’s time to hit the books, you can keep on hitting without those pesky headaches.  And wearing glasses just adds to your short hair, making you look more academic.
  5. Lower your dinner expectations.  By a lot. Costco’s ready-made quinoa tabbouleh salad is my new go-to.  If I couldn’t pull dinner together in 10-20 minutes, it didn’t happen.

I also instituted a new dinner initiative.  Instead of making dinner to order like I used to do, for each little member of my family, I made one meal.  We now call it “Real Dinner”.  The little family members are required to have one bite of Real Dinner.  If they like it, they get to eat the rest of Real Dinner served to them.  If they don’t like it, they are not allowed to make gagging noises, say “I don’t like that”, or “But mommy, that’s gross”; they politely request a dinner substitution by saying, “No thank you, I would not like Real Dinner tonight.  Could I please have Prison Food?”  Upon which they receive one slice of bread (no butter, jam, or honey), and water.  This really works!  But, fair warning, it is really hard to keep a straight face while your children are politely asking for Prison Food.

I treated school like a full-time job (after my full-time mommy job, of course), so I set Monday through Friday as my work hours, and used Saturdays only if I was completely swamped.  This happened a few times, as my classes were doubled up the second half of the semester (I don’t remember much from the last 7 weeks).  I also had to use Saturdays as my long run days–I’m training for the Zion Trail Ragnar!  Saturdays were definitely a needed running outlet–kept everything balanced.

One-pot dinners are life savers.  I just had to try One Pot Spaghetti from Martha Stewart–I was really skeptical that noodles, water, fresh tomatoes, onions, and basil would all come together while in the same pot, but it was magic!  You really just throw everything together, and the tomatoes turn into a flavorful sauce, the onions cook down to a sweet note, and the basil keeps things peppery.  Need a 20 minute one-pot dinner?  This is it!

And now on to deep-cleaning my house.  My bathrooms are gonna sparkle this week like no other sparkle on earth!


  • Servings: 4 bowls
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

From Martha Stewart’s One Pot Cookbook


  •  1 12oz. box angel hair spaghetti
  • 12oz. cherry tomatoes sliced in half, or 6 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated on a medium ribbon grater
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • freshly grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano cheese


  1. Combine all ingredients except for the grated cheese in a large pot.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Cook, stirring frequently with tongs, until al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 10 minutes.
  2. Serve with grated cheese and a sprinkle of olive oil.