cooking

My Dinner Struggle

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. 

Timing
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. 

kids at the table

Planning
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). 

I'm tired. 

Supplies
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. 

double yolk

The Solution
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. 

The Questions

  • 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? 

The Recipe
Eggs are so versatile. Here's one of my favorite recipes for Veggie Pie that every member of my family enjoys: 

greens

Ingredients
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). 

Chopped greens, all playing nicely together

Chopped greens, all playing nicely together

lightly sauteed greens

lightly sauteed greens

eggs + greens + crust = ready for the oven!

eggs + greens + crust = ready for the oven!

Veggie Pi(e)! 

Veggie Pi(e)! 

Strummin' on the Old Banjo

Life is good.

I came across something on Twitter the other day that basically boiled down to 'slow down to recognize all of the wonderful things you already have around you.' Always a good reminder. 
As an aside, my infant is teething. I've been up every hour for two nights and have reached a new level of exhaustion. Or delirium. Or new normal - I'm not sure.  It's hard to notice the wonderful things around you, let alone celebrate them when you're in these kinds of trenches but today I was spending the morning with my son and at some point realized that I was giggling! Loved.That.  

Cooking Banjo Muffins with My Toddler

Cooking Banjo Muffins with My Toddler

My son is regularly this smiley; it makes him a delightful companion. And when it comes to cooking, he scoops and measures with gusto; he pours in cinnamon like there's a present at the bottom of the container; he acts like he's the luckiest guy on earth when he gets to sample the goods along the way. And the best part? He'll often jump off of his "helper chair" in the kitchen and run into the playroom to get a prop and pretend to be the Entertainment Committee, playing his guitar, belting out a song at the top of his lungs. Lately, he's all about being in the kitchen with Dinah, strummin' on the old banjo. And there we were, singing it loud and proud - working on the railroad, fee-fi-fiddly-eye-oh-ing. I felt happy deep in my cells. 

Pretty much everything that I bake, I bake with him. It's all toddler-friendly measuring-pouring-scooping stuff around here. If there are any more complicated steps, I can get those done while he's in the midst of his musical interlude. Anyway, so today he wanted to bake muffins and use our Dora the Explorer cupcake liners. We devised this recipe together, tossing in some beet and apple for color and sweetness. Once cooled, he gobbled one down and declared it "dah-lisheey-ohso!"

Ol' Banjo Muffins
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup grated sweet potato (basically one medium sweet potato, peeled and grated)
1/4 cup grated apple (one medium apple, peeled and grated) 
1/4 cup grated beet (one medium beet, peeled and grated) 
1/3 cup coconut sugar (* you can substitute brown sugar) 
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tablespoons flax meal
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup oat milk (* you can use whatever milk you'd like... we made this dairy free) 
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

Method
Preheat oven to 350. Line a muffin pan with liners (this recipe makes 12). In a bowl, mix together all of the dry goods. Add grated veggies and fruit and mix well to combine. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, oat milk, oils and vanilla. The coconut oil may be clumpy so using a whisk is probably best. Combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients. Scoop into muffin tins and bake for approximately 20 minutes.
Let cool for 5-10 minutes and enjoy.