Summer schedules have yet to make any more sense to me than they did last time we visited. And I’d bet I’m not alone. Parents everywhere are shuttling their kiddos here, there, and everywhere, while also scrambling to keep up with everything else. And if you’re like me, suppertime takes a hit.
Some folks combat time-crunched evenings with advance preparation: Slow cooker meals, making meals on weekends to freeze for busy weeknights, etc. And while I applaud these approaches–and even use them on occasion–my usual method to get a meal on the table when everyone is running everywhere is to punt. Taking stock of leftovers and what’s already on hand and turning it into a meal is a call to arms and I love a good challenge.
To illustrate: One of the “to-dos” on my list is make lasagna for a friend having a baby. I’d promised to deliver it Wednesday evening, which meant I needed to get things in place by Tuesday. My shelves held the noodles and ground beef and a quick trip to the store added the cottage and mozzarella cheeses. Rather than buy pasta sauce, I wanted to make one. Besides DIY tasting better, it gave me an excuse to clean out the freezer from last year’s garden tomatoes. (My mother-in-law’s, not my own. A gardener I am not.)
A quick-fix recipe from Alana Chernila’s The Homemade Pantry seemed the ticket, though I ended up doubling the tomatoes and adding a few glugs of merlot and a splash of honey to get the flavor I was looking for.
A side note about the oregano: After learning about Mary’s Secret Ingredients from a fellow WordPress blogger (hi, Suzanne!), I quickly signed on to receive my own quarterly surprise foodie packages. If you love food and you love snailmail, you need to click over to Mary’s site now (er, I mean, please finish reading my post, THEN click over to Mary 😉 ). Your purchase helps fund Feed The Children and you’ll have the pleasure of receiving seasonal culinary grab bags (though in reality, they’re beautifully packed boxes). Which is how I came upon this amazingly fragrant dried oregano from Harmonian. It’s fantastico.
So here’s where the supper part comes in. While I was making this sauce, it occurred to me that I had to get a meal on the table stat as I needed to run my youngest to t-ball. As well, I wanted to leave a decent meal for my husband and older daughter, as they were off to her lacrosse game within the hour.
I had clearly not made enough progress on the lasagna (was making one for our family as well) to serve it up for the evening meal. A quick inventory of the pantry turned up freekah, which seemed a good base for tomato sauce. And the quail eggs I’d found at the farmers’ market had been on my mind since their purchase.
My meal, then:
A pile of freekeh, topped with tomato sauce and two quail eggs. The eggs cooked with a quick spin in the microwave, then a turn with a fork tossed it all together. It was amazing, in part because it had come together without a grand plan, but also because the varied textures and flavors complemented each other so well. I gave myself a pat on the back for a “win” in the What’s For Dinner game that night.
That said, I suspected my kids would not be on board with the quail eggs, so had quickly made up a box of their favorite mac and cheese. And while my husband is good about trying new foods and has yet to complain about my cooking (though he often has suggestions along the lines of, “this would taste better if you added ground beef”), I wanted to burn through more of the leftovers in our refrigerator, so I heated up a plate of pulled pork and potato wedges from another meal for him.
Our “family supper,” then, consisted of my youngest enjoying her mac and cheese solo while I stirred my freekeh concoction together. My husband and daughter ate after we left for the game. Togetherness? Sort of. But we all ate decently and without fast food. True, an already-prepped meal or enough forethought to assemble a slow-cooked meal that morning or even the night before would have brought more sanity to mealtime. But sanity has never appealed as much as the rush of throwing stuff together last-minute. It’s not always a win, but at least I know now that I’ll have a frozen lasagna on hand to save me when things go wrong.
With that, I wish you as much sanity as you desire–along with many good meals–as we move through July.