I just read an online article from Gourmet about a mother who was trying to cook dinner with her baby in a sling and it accidentally caught fire. Clearly it wasn't a major fire and the baby was not hurt but it brought back memories of when my oldest was a baby and I was trying to cook dinner. There I was, at the stove, baby in one arm, wooden spoon in the other. My body was at such a strange angle in an effort to not have her splattered and burned that cooking just became one of my larger challenges.
It took me 7 years and 3 kids to "learn" how to cook dinner with a family. Not for a family, but with a family- there is a difference. Long gone are the days I would spend hours on a Sunday preparing something new and wonderful for me and my husband. Now, if I spend all day cooking on a Sunday it's to make things that can be frozen and used later such as spaghetti sauce. I can't stand sauce in a jar so whether it ultimately becomes part of pizza, vodka sauce, or chicken parmigiana at least my sauce is at the base of the dish.
There are other easy things I have learned to do. i say easy beacause they can be done when my kids are not around or don't immediately need me for some emergency like getting a toy off a shelf.
Use a slow cooker: I know- it sounds so 1970s, but there are some really good recipes out there and you can get a good slow cooker for as little as $35. It's worth every penny. Some of my favorite cookbooks are: The Best Make Ahead Recipe, the Best Slow and Easy Recipes, (both are from the editors of America's Test Kitchen) and Southern Living's Slow Cooker Cookbook.
Cook Ahead: This does not have to be a casserole, but can be a roast that goes in the oven two hours before you eat or something you pull out of your freezer and cook. I also will make something like rice, mashed potatoes or pasta in the late afternoon (around 3) so that at dinner it only has to go in the microwave to be heated up.
Use Steam in the bag vegetables: In my opinion, this is one of the best recent inventions. My favorites are the ones from Whole Foods and the time they save is amazing.
Roast: The editors of Fine Cooking magazine put out special publications fairly often. Most recently there was one on Roasting for meats, vegetables, and fish. The recipes were delicious and in most cases, roasting simply involves a little oil, a little seasoning, and sticking food in the oven- somehting that can easily be done just before, of after, getting that toy off a shelf.