"I learned to find equal meaning in the repeated rituals of domestic life. Setting the table. Lighting the candles. Building the fire. Cooking." – Joan Didion
Last Thursday’s dinner was prepared and ready before my teenagers came through the door from after school sports activities. Advanced preparedness is required on my part to make this happen. I have learned that I am motivated in the morning to tackle just about anything, including cooking, but by the afternoon I am on a downward spiral and try in vain to avoid anything to do with the kitchen or housework. But these teenagers of mine are going to show up hungry every afternoon, whether I’m ready or not, and life seems to go oh, so much more smoothly if I can just get the meal pulled together before 5 p.m. – otherwise as mentioned in a previous post there is some major carb loading until dinner is on the table.
So dinner was ready – a frittata and a tossed salad – and before my teenagers walked through the door I sat down in front of the computer in an attempt to catch up on some emails. The front door opens and barely a “hi mom” is mumbled before my 16-year-old twin sons make a beeline for the kitchen. Glancing up from the computer I comment “Dinner’s ready, take it easy on the snacks” which was met with suspicious silence. I pop up to see a teenager eating dinner over the stove. In seconds, he had jumped right in and helped himself.
“Hey, set the table and we’ll sit down to eat.” I say.
“I don’t want to sit at the table.” was his response.
I stood there not really knowing what exactly he meant. Did he want to eat dinner standing up in the kitchen because it was faster? Or was it that he didn’t want to sit down and eat dinner as a family because he’s a teenager and family time is not cool?
I sigh, turn to his sibling and say “would you please set the table?” and I start to serve up the plates, thinking to myself, “let it go, just let it go” – it’s all about picking your battles right?
The kids and I did all sit down together to eat, a blessing was said, candles were lit. The dinner conversation was apparently not remarkable – since I can no longer remember what was said – but that’s not important. What is important is that for a very brief time, once a day, we sit together as a family. It is a nightly ritual. Rituals offer comfort, with so much changing all around us, especially as a military family, a family ritual such as a dinner together gives us the daily grounding we need.
What about the resident teenager who did not want to partake in a family dinner? He sat down and joined us and that’s enough to keep this mom ... inspired.
This past week was week 12 of my 12-week plan. Looking back I had some weeks that the plan was totally ditched due to schedules. Other weeks like this past one I modified the original menu plan and ended up with three new hits. Inching ever closer to my goal of 60 dinners that everyone in my house likes.
Creamy Spaghetti and Beans from Rachel Ray was a three thumbs up (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/creamy-spaghetti-and-beans-recipe/index.html).
The number one hit was the totally modified Spinach Burritos from Simple Suppers – I modified just about everything with this recipe, including making the burritos into enchiladas. Note the title of the book includes the word “simple” and yet I try to make some dishes even more simple using canned sauce instead of making my own and frozen spinach and boxed rice. I won't win a James Beard award that's for sure but if the plates are empty at the end of the meal and there are no leftovers, that's an indication I won high honors for the night.
Spinach Enchiladas (Jane’s way)
Preheat the oven to 350.
10 corn tortillas
1 bunch of scallions, chopped
3 cloves of garlic chopped
1 package chopped spinach, thawed in the microwave and pressed.
Do you know this trick? I microwave the chopped spinach in the box (minus the outer wrapping of course). When you’ve finished microwaving you simply squeeze the box containing the chopped spinach and it presses out the excess water. No more pressing out the spinach in a colander and getting all the little chopped spinach pieces stuck, or as I’ve done pressing out the water in the microwave dish over the sink and have half of the spinach fall out into the sink.
1 Box of Goya Spanish Rice cooked following the box instructions
1 tsp of ground coriander
2 cups of grated Mexican Cheese
1 can of Enchilada sauce
1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
Saute the chopped onion until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and saute for about 1 minute, add in the spinach and the cooked Spanish Rice. Remove from the heat, mix in 1 cup of the grated cheese and the chopped cilantro.
• Spray Pam in the bottom of a 11 x 7 pyrex dish. Add just enough Enchilada sauce to coat the bottom of the dish.
• Dip each tortilla into the Enchilada sauce. Add a few spoonfuls of the filling in the middle of the tortilla and roll up, placing in a pyrex dish. Continue until you have used up all of the filling. Drizzle the remaining sauce over the Enchiladas and cover with the reserved 1 cup of grated cheese.
• Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 5 more minutes.