A few weeks ago, the hubs and I got into a bad habit of not making dinner and just snacking on random things or eating out. We had very few items in the kitchen that would make for a suitable meal. If I used such items, I might have time-warped back to college where all I did was scrap around and throw whatever I had in the pantry into a tortilla and call it dinner.
This went on for a couple weeks, but then I had a revelation.
I was going to a Death Over Dinner dinner (I’ll explain later) and volunteered to make chocolate chip cookies and bruschetta. So, I made a special trip to the store to get the ingredients so that I could provide some fabulous treats to my friends. (Check out my Easy Bruschetta Recipe: The Baguette You Won’t Forget.) I was so excited to share some of my favorite foods with my friends, and I poured all sorts of love into that cookie batter.
However, while slicing the baguette I realized that I put more effort into making something impressive for a get-together than I do on a regular basis at home. (I know the hubs will agree.)
Why is that?
Why doesn’t that excitement and energy about making a dish for a party translate to daily meals?
I realized that I had my priorities all wrong. Of course it is nice to make something delicious or special for my friends at a party; but if I am willing to put in extra effort for once-in-a-while events, I should definitely be willing to put in the same effort for myself and my husband at home.
So, I decided that I need to plan more home cooked meals as if I am hosting a party. I need get more excited about making something special for myself and my husband.
I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate. – Julia Child
It is so easy to get caught in the routine of “utility cooking,” but it just isn’t fair to ourselves or our families to prioritize infrequent events over daily lunches, dinners, and left-overs. The people at home are the ones who are there day-in and day-out, supporting us, putting up with us, loving us, making sacrificing for us, and so on. Those people deserve the best we can possibly offer more often than we probably give them.
Now, it is impractical to prepare a beautifully arranged, artistic, super awesome meal every single evening. However, we can definitely set aside one or two nights a week for a special dinner that is prepared and presented with care. Here are some examples that come to mind:
- Homemade pizza (including the dough)
- Seafood risotto
- Linguini with homemade alfredo
- Green curry with chicken and vegetables
- Seared scallops
- Stuffed mushrooms
As for the other nights, we should have a few go-to meals that are quick and easy to make. We can also pick a day to do some “bulk-cooking,” where we prepare a few sides and staples that will last the rest of the week. Here are some ideas for “bulk-cooking”:
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Pasta noodles
- Roasted vegetables
These are just some examples of items that will last 4 or 5 days in the fridge without going bad. Foods like soup, hummus, and meatballs can easily be frozen for a month and thawed whenever we need them. Pasta and rice are versatile for meals and sides and can easily be reheated.
Make a list of the special dinners you are willing to commit to and all the go-to meals that will save your stomach in a pinch. Look at your schedule for the rest of the month, pick a couple days, and put a few special dinners in the calendar. Set aside some time for “bulk-cooking,” and make sure you have all the ingredients you need for your go-to meals. Bonus: if you get your go-to foods down pat, you can easily make them your go-to party foods when you need to make a quick dish for a potluck.
The moral of the story is to prioritize your cooking based on who should reap the rewards of your effort on a regular basis. You and your family are top priority. Pour your love all over your meals by providing nutritious and delicious options for you and the fam to enjoy together or on the run. Dedicate one or two nights each week to prepare a special dish – it doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it should show that you care and put in quality effort. Get your “utility meals” down solid so that you can whip them up in a jiffy. Also, get into a “bulk-cooking” routine and learn to be efficient in the kitchen so as to maximize nutritious food options in the fridge and minimize time spent cooking. Happy meal-making!