Our lives go in cycles of busy and not-so-busy. During the not-so-busy times, I like to try and keep my mind away from my tragic bank account and worries by calling this time “planning time” or “repair time.” Or even “down time,” whatever that means.
It’s also a time to return to some semblance of health in our family. When we are busy, and my husband is working all week at night and I work on the weekends, and the kids are going strong with sports, we devolve into takeout land. So much that we begin to crave home cooked meals. This year we even got a subscription to one of those meal boxes so we would feel like we could cook without thinking.
It’s funny how that works. When you cook all day long, it really doesn’t matter what recipe is in front of you. You just want to have a beer or glass of wine and step away from the stove. Even the thought of throwing together the ingredients given is much toomuch energy. We sometimes even break down and get takeout food delivered, which seems truly decadent.
But that meal box has been useful for one thing-- we have ingredients in house when we haven’t gone to the grocery store. And we have made a few of the dishes they recommend. Mostly we have spent time using the ingredients to make our own dinner, with a few new items brought from work or picked up on the way home.
And when we are busy, we have a few go-to meals. Tacos is a favorite. However, we have graduated from ground beef to flank steak or slightly odd “fajita meat” sold at the mexican butcher store along with either chicken or seared tuna. Queso fresco and freshcorn tortillas from the same mexican store. Sometimes the salsa they sell on the side. Peppers and onions. Avocado. Weird refried beans.
Another dish is pork fried rice. One trip to the Asian grocery and you are set. Leftover rice is best. And you can add anything. Now that my wok is good and seasoned, I struggle not to use it for everything. My key to fried rice---make sure it is really flavorful without having it end up wet and gunky. Not that easy to do in my opinion.
Today I got home late from work and made a quick meal for one of the kids---chicken breast marinated with the cajun spice blend in the meal delivery box, braised onions and peppers, and sauteed fingerling potatoes because I made pasta on the fly yesterday and we were out. I wished for basil, for already shaved garlic, for rice that wasn’t going to need to soak for 30 minutes before going into the unintelligible rice cooker. But she seemed to enjoy it and even better, actually ate it. One meal down, infinite more to go.
I feel like 60% of my conversations with my husband and/or my children involve the question “what’s for dinner?” and I really couldn’t give a shit most of the time. If I were alone, I might have cereal. A lot. But there is joy in all of us eating together every night, even if we are only eating while watching the news. Gives us some good questions like “if the president can’t be prosecuted, then what would happen if he killed someone?” or “Did anyone tell that journalist before he was interviewed that his tie was sideways?” It isn’t quite the ideal family meal, where we all sit in the uncomfortable dining room and stare at each other. But we do get a chance to talk, even if our kids just argue about who stole whose clothes.
And, as political talk has taken us back to the 70’s, I remember doing the same with my mom. We watched Walter Cronkite every night. I can still remember the day the US left Vietnam, the day Cronkite retired many years later, and lets just say the Nixon years are still vivid in my mind, even though I was 7. Must have been all that yelling at the television from my mom!!! Hope my kids end up with some of the same memories, maybe with less of the yelling --- or maybe more?
Spaghetti Carbonara (kinda)
We have made this dish so many times recently that I know we ALL need a break. We keep the ingredients in our house all the time so it is an easy dish on the fly.
chicken breast- 2pc
slab bacon - can use regular bacon
cream or creme fraiche
frozen or fresh peas
Cut the chicken breast(s) into pieces and brown on the both sides. Salt and pepper lightly. When brown and cooked some, pull out of pan. Add the diced lardons or bacon or the dices of sliced bacon and cook them almost as much as you want them. Before you are quite there with the bacon, add the onion.
Dice the onion and add it to the pan, making sure you don’t burn the onion. This one I dice fairly small, then use olive oil as needed so it doesn’t burn. Add garlic (1-2 cloves) toward the end, as garlic tends to burn.
Then add stock and put the chicken breast back in. Meanwhile you should be boiling your pasta. Add peas and spinach right near the end. I let the stock get reasonably low and then add a bit of cream. I also make sure to add an egg yolk or two at the end. Pan should be hot but not quite on the burner when you do the yolk. You can also add a bit of parmesan cheese. When my blander eating kid is gone, I also add some red chili flake.
Then dish it up!!!