I’ve been to the grocery store a lot this week: six trips in the last five days, including two emergency stops at Publix for cornbread mix (because there were no muffins left for our second night of chili). Saturday morning I had a little less than an hour to get to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s and get home again, at which point Jay and Caroline needed to leave for a birthday party. As I raced through a yellow light I was struck by this very obvious fact: The whole eating process- planning meals, grocery shopping, eating- takes up a huge amount of our time each week.
When I drop Caroline off at the university in the morning, the last thing we usually talk about is what we’re going to have for dinner that night. After I pick the boys up from school in the afternoon, often we head back home to get a jump on dinner prep. The days in which we have to make a meal from scratch feel like a scramble; the days we have leftovers feel luxurious; and on Thursdays, when we’ve exhausted the week’s menu plan, I consider the idea of skipping dinner altogether.
Putting food on the table each night is the week’s big chore. It’s also a small outlet for creativity, and a place where we can sneak some extra pleasure into our daily lives. On Friday after lunch I made a red onion marmalade to go atop pizza that night. The onion slices started out moist and firm, went wobbly in the skillet like cooked noodles, and turned a deep brown, before I doused them in an uproar of balsamic vinegar. It was one of a small handful of best things I did that week.
This is all to say I’ve realized that in order to give a full account of our family life, I need to talk about dinner. So, from time to time I’ll share the recipes we’re making that week, plus any other encounters we have with food. Like that picture at the top, which is of Wally watching canned cinnamon rolls bake in the oven. About twice a year they catch my eye in the grocery store and I can’t say no. We had them for breakfast Saturday morning, and did not stint on the frosting.
Dinner I: Pizza with red onion marmalade, ricotta, and prosciutto. We went with store-bought ricotta instead of making our own, and also pre-made dough. The marmalade was a marvel. The pizza was almost too acutely delicious.
Dinner II: Pasta with blue cheese, grapes, and arugula. This is one of our 20 or so staple dishes. When Caroline first made it a decade ago, I couldn’t believe we were eating cooked grapes. In pasta. But, the combination of ingredients is no accident; the blue cheese envelops the arugula, and the grapes wash it all away. (We skip the watercress called for in the recipe and use arugula, which is easier to come by.)
Dinner III: Slow-cooked chicken tacos. I don’t have a recipe for this one, but it’s straightforward. On Tuesday morning we’ll put a pound of chicken (breasts and thighs) in the crockpot with two jars of green salsa. We’ll eat it in evening as tacos with sliced cabbage.
Breakfast I: Buttermilk biscuits with chives and baked eggs with mushrooms and spinach. As noted in yesterday’s post, we served this to friends for breakfast. The eggs, especially, were easily as good as anything you’re likely to get at a good brunch place, and more unique. The biscuits and the eggs also have the advantage of being easy to make ahead. I made the biscuit dough on Saturday night, cut it and froze it, and placed it on a baking sheet in the morning. For the eggs, I made the vegetable base Saturday during quiet time. In the morning I combined the vegetables with 2/3 c. heavy cream, cooked the mixture on the stovetop for one minute, cracked in the eggs, and then baked for 10 minutes.