Let me just put this out there: My husband and I don't usually eat dinner with our kids. I grew up eating family dinner and the thought of sitting and chatting together around a table of deliciousness sounds fantastic, but I can't quite figure out when that's going to happen around here. Or how. But the problem is bigger than that.
My kids are still young (9, 5 and 3) and they eat early, around 5:30 pm; my youngest is asleep before my husband gets home from work. The kids eat together and then later in the evening, my husband and I eat together. Having the opportunity to break bread as a twosome at the end of the day is lovely in many ways. That said, I'm naturally hungry much earlier than we eat so I don't particularly love eating dinner at 8:30 or later. I usually end up sitting down with the kids for a little nibble and then eat another small plate later. Far from ideal.
Some nights I'm a rockstar and I make one meal for all of us, and serve part of it to the early birds and save the rest for the night owls. But each and every time, I stand in my kitchen wondering: do I leave this food out on the counter or the stove top for hours? Or do I refrigerate it? I never know the answer.
Despite the fact that I cook dinner for 5 people every day and have been doing this for years, I somehow haven't mastered the art of quantity. Sometimes I cook a meal that I think should be enough for all of us and one (or more) of the kids is hungrier than I'd anticipated so there isn't quite enough for the night owl dinner. On the flip side, occasionally I'll make a meal and my kids aren't as hungry as usual so there are way more leftovers than planned. Other times I'm in the mood for something that I know the kids won't enjoy so I end up cooking twice. That's when I stand in my kitchen wondering how crazy I must be to make two separate dinners in one day (followed by packing three school lunches).
You'll find me in the grocery store about twice weekly -- it takes a lot of food to feed five people and my fridge isn't as big as I'd like. But let's be honest, I also enjoy browsing the aisles and discovering new products. Shopping more than once per week gives my kids more options to choose from to plan their lunches and I like to cook so it felt like a win until I realized that I'm feeling stretched too thin.
Something had to give. I decided that any time there was an issue with dinner, eggs were the answer. If I make a dish that I'm pretty sure the kids won't like, I offer it anyway and when it's inevitably rejected, they get eggs (with veggies and fruit). If dinner is gobbled up more than expected, my husband and I have eggs (with veggies). Eggs are a great source of protein and vitamin B and also happen to be delicious! And the money spent on a dozen eggs goes a lot farther than many other proteins. So we're in an egg routine now. I've been buying jumbo eggs for a while now, mostly because of their size but also because finding a double yolk gives me an absolute thrill every single time.
- I'd love to find dishes and straightforward recipes that can accommodate all of us. Do you make one meal for everyone in your family?
- I don't know when I'll figure out a way for us to eat dinner together - for now, our family meal is breakfast. Do you eat together? If so, how old were your kids when you started that?
- It's pretty lucky that we all dig eggs. For me, it was important to have a fall back option so that I don't feel guilty or stressed out or resentful about dinner. What are your standbys? Do you have a source for recipes that you absolutely love?
Eggs are so versatile. Here's one of my favorite recipes for Veggie Pie that every member of my family enjoys:
8 eggs (I use jumbos but large will work just fine)
1 pound of spinach, chopped
1 pound of asparagus, chopped
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
2 scallions, chopped
1 teaspoon of salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
1 pie crust*
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
*the pie crust is optional. I've made this dozens of times with no crust at all.
Method (photos below)
Preheat the oven to 375. Prepare your pie crust as needed. I often use a ready-made dough which needs to be par-baked. Mix the greens, salt and pepper in a big bowl to evenly distribute all ingredients. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the greens. Sauté for just 2 minutes, when the greens begin to shrink. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Place greens back in your big bowl and add the eggs. Combine all ingredients and pour into your pie crust. Bake in the oven for approximately 35 minutes (time will vary depending on the depth of your container, so keep your eye on the oven).