Last post I threw out some cheeky ideas about finding your food persona to help combat the monotony of dinner. While I do think it’s a good idea to really embrace what makes you passionate about food, I realize there are too many meals where we just need to put something nutritious and even fast in our mouths. So today I’ve got some more practical tips.
I’m a big fan of freezing. It saves your butt in the middle of the week when your kid forgot to tell you she needs 6 dozen cookies for school tomorrow, or your boss asks you to do one tiny thing more that means you don’t get home till 7:45. Soups and casseroles are easy and freeze well. The next time you make lasagna make it a big batch and freeze half. Chili is insanely easy and freezes great.
You don’t need to freeze an entire meal. Keep a supply of pesto, marinara, chimichurri, creamy mushroom sauce or mango chutney in the freezer. On one of those busy nights you can roast a couple of chicken breasts, a pan of broccoli and potatoes and drizzle a little pesto over it and all of the sudden there’s a little yummy pizzaz to something a little boring. You can throw any of those on pasta or on a fast cooking piece of fish.
Nothing I’m posting here is new, especially not this one, but I feel I would be remiss in not mentioning it. Involve your kids. Yes, it’s a bit more work in the beginning, but before you know it they’ll be making a whole dinner by themselves. My daughter started making scrambled eggs by herself when she was three. She did it all by herself with me right there by the stove as she cooked. By 14 she could make dinner, but 16 she actually offered to do it and liked doing it.
Give them easy, age appropriate jobs. Let go of perfectionism. The meatballs will still taste yummy if they’re not perfectly round. Your kids’ self-esteem, sense of accomplishment and mastery is more important than having things look the way you’d like. Let them have a say in what you’re making and let them experiment with flavors.
Back to casseroles and soups. They are easy breezy and very forgiving. Almost age kid can throw some ingredients in a 8×10 and leave it for you to pop in the oven. We do everything from scratch at our house, but even we occasionally resort to some mushroom soup and noodles kinda dish. It doesn’t have to look good, it just has to taste good. A perfect project for your nine year old.
This is something I’m not great at, but I’ve had friends whose families eat together twice a week. Close friends, obviously. One night Mom A cooks and another night Dad B cooks. Their kids are like siblings and two days a week the families insure that they sit at the table and break bread together. Maybe every week is too much for you. Every other week? Find what fits for your family.
Another friend participated in a food co-op. Family A would cook and make extras and Family B would stop by with their own containers, fill up and go home. Each family eats in their own home, without guests. Later in the week the families switch. It’s a great way to share the work without having to clean your house .
This may feel a little like the last post, but it’s a bit more practical. Find one thing that you’re great at; a cuisine, a technique, a dish and learn to do it in your sleep. If you GET Africa flavors and they seem to fall together effortlessly for you, make that your cuisine of choice a few nights a week. If you can whip together a quiche without thinking, do that often. You don’t have to have lots of variety. Comfort is in having the favorites over and over. At Serious Eats Sara Grey recently wrote about meatball nights at her house. It’s a night where the door is open and the meal is always the same. By choosing to make the same dish every week she and her family have streamlined the process and can make Friday night dinner in their sleep. There’s a comfort and a steadiness in the same meal being repeated week after week
Have more suggestions for making dinner fun and easy? Send them to email@example.com OR post in the comments below.