Thursday, August 26, 2010

the miracle of weeknight dinner

It feels downright miraculous to get a homemade dinner on the table mid-week during the school year. I'm not even back to work yet and it is already feeling that way! Yesterday I had many errands with Dieter in the afternoon--haircut (his request), doctor's appointment (for his kindergarten physical!) and a much needed Trader Joe's run (to stock up on supplies for the lunches--more on those later). And by the time we got home it was after five o'clock and I thought, 'oh my, I really hate starting dinner this late and without my afternoon routines completed.' I hemmed and hawed for a minute or two then just decided that I simply must drop everything and make the darn dinner, even if I didn't have the dishwasher unloaded or the table cleared or the laundry put away quite yet. And it felt good just to make it and feed the family.
I'm very much into the one-pot concept of dinner. Especially on a weeknight and especially during the school year. This is the zucchini pasta from How to Eat Supper. I like that book and really should make more recipes from it. The only change I made was to stir in a few spoonfuls of homemade pesto from the garden instead of adding fresh basil leaves. I loved it that way. I also felt so pleased with how colorful it turned out with using the orange and red cherry tomatoes. All the vegetables here are from the garden. I love the "homesteady" feeling I get when I can use our own produce.
The only side I served with this was cut up Elephant Heart Plums (also from the yard. Ken does all of the gardening--I think it's awesome that he grows so much food for us). I get less and less caught up in trying to serve side dishes or make a salad every night. I think releasing oneself not to worry too much about sides maybe makes it more likely that one will cook at all. At least that is true for me. So at this time of year it is nice just to cut up fresh produce and leave it at that.

That said, I still only manage to cook for us this way four nights a week. I struggle with this, but I keep coming back to the importance of sanity and family time. We still have nice routines on the other nights--pizza night we all watch a movie together, Subway night we all sit together in the shop. It's actually very bonding and it's amazing how much less work there is when you eliminate cooking, table setting, and especially clean up. I ease my guilt by reminding myself that we all take an healthy packed lunch to work and school every day, so no one is eating out or having unhealthy cafeteria food midday. It actually feels very rhythmic and balanced when I step back and think about it. It works for our family and that is what I love--choosing what is right for our particular situation and letting negative thoughts fall away.


Tammie said...

i love the last sentences of this post. my husband works a few evenings a week, until about 8:30-9:00. i have no desire to postpone dinner that late, so some nights we pick and graze. it's not always ideal, but we make up for it by having healthy lunches and breakfasts.

we all have to work out what's best for our family and situation.

Bec said...

I love your justification for takeout nights :) Makes perfect sense to me and I think there are far worse things you could do than takeout two or three times a week while enjoying family time. That dinner does look delicious though.

muffinmoon said...

Yum! It looks very tasty indeed. I have been shamelessly stealing great ideas from you blog for a few weeks now since discovering it and it's about time I added an idea! Weeknight dinners are hard but one thing I do a lot of is make fish cakes with good tinned or fresh salmon and mashed potatoes (plus dried herbs, lemon zest and a littel milk or butter) and freeze loads of them. They cook in a pan in olive oil in minutes or in an oven in 20 and then I just have to make a quick salad or heat peas or corn. We all like them.
Also frittatas go down well and leftovers can be used in lunch boxes.
Do you and you boys have any German books by Janosch? I think they and you'd love them. Great art and lovely messages.

Gift of Green said...

Oh gosh, Mary Beth! I return to work next week and I got all sweaty and anxious just reading your post!! :) My resolution is to just...breathe...when we all hit the threshold every evening... I'll be looking to your blog to help me. No pressure! ;)

Karen said...

wonderful post, marybeth! i could not agree more. hope things continue to go smoothly! friday night (tonight!) is pizza night around here, yum!!

Carrie said...

I have been under the misconception that dinner time for only two adults would be less time consuming, but it isn't really. Not if you want to eat well. Since we both work until 6:30 or 7 p.m. four days a week, dinner is easily an 8:30 or 9 p.m. event. I rarely want to cook on those four days. And while I like to cook on the weekends, sometimes it is hard with all of the weekend activities. I admire that you do cook for days a week and love the pizza night and Subway rituals. I am hoping to come up with some routine for the grown-ups this fall.

lisarenata said...

I totally agree that being on line can be addicting (just look at me it is midnight and here I am), So like you I am trying to cut down on the time I spend reading blogs and so on. No as far as my blog goes...I have learned to accept that I cannot (no matter how much I would like) post more that three times a week. Heck, life is happening an it sure isn't in the blog world, but here in my home with my kids. I can't let these precious years of theirs with me in front of the computer, instead of playing, reading, hugging, tickling, kissing them. No serie, nope!

=) So kuddos to you for slowing down.

heather said...

how funny that we both have this deal and both sort of posted about the same thing at the same time. love that. and, i ate some salted caramel chocolates last night as i was hanging up the laundry outside. just fyi. ha.

yes. we still play with the keva planks. a lot. i woke up this morning to fighting about them actually. i leave them out and they go to them regularly. and i love how their building will get more sophisticated as time goes on.