One daily habit that is very important to me is eating dinner with my family at the kitchen table. The reason for this is two-fold. Firstly, this is one of the rare moments in the week where the four members of my family are in the same room, at the same time, for a common purpose. No phones, no tablets, no distractions. Just good old fashioned chatting and eating. Secondly, and most importantly, I make one dinner, the same dinner, for all four people involved. Dinner is there, you can eat it or not, but you do not get to choose an alternative. Aren’t in the mood for chicken? Take a bite or two and then fill up on sides. Suddenly have an aversion to kale? Fill your face with more pasta salad instead. I offer two to three items on a dinner plate so there is no excuse to leave the table hungry.
Which brings me to May. Crazy, over-busy, over-scheduled May. Every year I enter a panic spiral as soccer overlaps with baseball and choir bleeds into play practice. I find myself driving children here, there and everywhere at all times of the day and night and wondering if and when it will ever end. Mealtimes, specifically dinner, therefore become an issue. For several nights a week it is nigh impossible to gather around the dinner table for a common dinner and “talk about our day”. Dinner is instead a rushed affair with multiple sittings and locations (4pm early dinner at home for son; 5pm dinner in the car for daughter). And so I have become resourceful.
There are several items I like to make when times get busy. Salads, soups, grain salads, pasta and anything egg-based can all be either made ahead or eaten at different times. We eat eggs for dinner at least once a night in my house, since an omelet can be whipped up in two minutes flat. Fill it with veggies and pair it with fruit and a side of Canadian bacon and you have a satisfying, filling dinner. Recently, I made this tagine during the daytime and then served it up as needed in the evening (note, I omitted the saffron and preserved lemons because I didn’t have any, and then served it with couscous). The next day (and I was proud of this one) I used a slotted spoon to scoop leftover tagine into a tortilla, mixed in some couscous, and instantly had a “Moroccan wrap” for my daughter to eat in the car on the way to guitar. Apparently anything (soup excepted of course) can be wrapped into a tortilla and eaten on the go.
It takes a bit of planning, but it’s still a viable option to eat well at the busiest of times. Something as simple as cooking a big pot of beans or roasting some chicken breasts at the beginning of the week to provide a quick source of protein for your on-the-go meals, will really make life easier and tame the over-scheduled panic spiral, at least for a little while.