What do I cook when I don’t feel like cooking? Scrambled eggs. Beans on toast. Canned soup.
But Caro Chambers, recipe developer, Substack author and mom of three little boys, might instead go for Jerk Chicken with Coconut Rice and Strawberry Salsa, or Lamb Pita with Dilly Minty Yogurt Sauce, or some other recipe with prepositions in the title, from her popular Substack “What To Cook When You Don’t Feel Like Cooking.” Once a week, she releases a new recipe to her 112,000 subscribers, who pay $5 per month for fifty-two new recipes per year plus access to the archives.
“If you want something done, ask a busy person,” said either Benjamin Franklin or Lucille Ball. This could be Chambers’s slogan. Known as “WTC,” Chambers’s Substack caters mostly to the busiest people you know — working moms of young kids. Moms can’t live on dino nuggets alone; Chambers offers ideas for making sophisticated adult dishes kid-friendlier. These recipes call for melted cheese, vegetables bathed in maple syrup and liberally buttered spaghetti and polenta. Fruit is added at every opportunity: apple slices, pomegranate seeds, seasonal berries. Each recipe is a complete meal.
A thriving community of commenters leaves reviews, tips and feedback on each recipe, typically thanking Chambers for helping them navigate busy weeks and picky kids.
I stepped into their shoes by trying one of Chambers’s meal plans: five dinner recipes along with clever plans for lunching on leftovers and a tidy downloadable grocery list. Printing Chambers’s list gave me back the half hour I usually spend writing my own, easily worth the monthly subscription. But the plan was otherwise uneven. Monday’s simple cherry tomato pasta was tasty. Tuesday’s Cheesy Chicken Baked Spaghetti Squash was delicious, but the ninety-minute cook time meant that dinner wasn’t ready until nine o’clock. Pork Chops with Apples and Polenta and Fried Chicken Sandwiches produced scant leftovers. Meanwhile, the Lemony Chicken Orzo Soup made such a massive amount that we had far too much.
Except for the tomato pasta, every meal on this plan was surprisingly challenging: not a thirty-minute one-pot stew or stir fry in sight, but many pans, cutting boards and timers. Though the flavor profiles are broadly child-friendly (so much cheese!), I can’t imagine the prep and clean-up are. After five nights, I was tapped out. I don’t know how the moms from the comments section do it. Ask a busy person, I guess.
Fortunately, WTC has a handy index for selecting meals according to protein, method and prep time, and I found some winners for my regular weeknight rotation; my husband requests Chambers’s kimchi pork bowls every few weeks. After a month with WTC, I’m still unlikely to turn to Chambers when I genuinely don’t feel like cooking. But when I want to cook — that’s another story.
This article was originally published in The Spectator’s January 2024 World edition.