A few weeks ago I got this letter from reader Catilin:
So, um, DALS is one of the only things I read right now. I’m a lawyer (work about 65 hours a week), mother of two kids (3 and 1, oy) and have a great husband. Our life is really blessed, but as you can imagine, we do nothing but work and take care of our kids – literally NOTHING except that! BUT we both want to eat healthy food that gives us more energy (and less food coma), so we do eat frozen pizza sometimes, yes, but we also prep veggies, make soups and chicken stew and pot roast on the weekends so we can reheat it most nights for dinner. And I make homemade hummus every week, not because I’m Laura Ingalls Wilder, but because I find when we have it in the house, everything else falls into place. Hummus becomes a base for us to eat well and choose foods that last in the belly, as opposed to quick, fatty, salty things. It was one of the first things I learned to make that changed the way I thought about how to eat for energy and to keep up with my kids. It keeps body and soul together.
I tell you all this because DALS helps me keep the faith that at some point we may actually have the time and space from our kids to make things in a more spontaneous way – right now “cooking” on weeknights (even if its only 20-30 minutes) is impossible. So, we’re settling for reheating homemade stuff during the week. Which isn’t terrible, but not as fun as throwing together Chicken Marsala on a Tuesday night. Sigh. Anyway, thanks for all the good cheer and parental commiseration.
Let’s count how many things I love about this letter:
1) She has no time for anything except kids and work (sound familiar?) and yet she’s making time for DALS (yes!)
2) She has the good sense to make things on the weekend that can be reheated during the week. (And they sound almost exactly like what I make on the weekend.)
3) She also has to good sense to realize that this is just a phase and pretty soon she will be spontaneously throwing together that Chicken Marsala on a Tuesday night. (See “The Years the Angels Began to Sing,” in my book.)
4) She is not beating herself up over falling back on a frozen pizza now and then. (I just did that last night!)
5) It’s so well-written!
6) She knows what her security blanket is — she knowns what she has to have on hand in order to feel that all’s right with her dinner world. For me, it’s homemade salad dressing. For Andy, it’s Tuscan kale. For her, it’s hummus.
What is it for you?
Thanks for writing, Caitlin.
Phoebe learned how to make this hummus at camp last summer and we’ve been looking for an excuse to write about it ever since. I’ve tried a lot of recipes before, but this seems to have the right balance of lemon and isn’t overly garlicky. She throws everything into the bowl of an unplugged food processor, then I take over.
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups drained chickpeas
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin
juice of 1 lemon
water as needed
On a cutting board mince and mash the garlic to a paste with the salt. In a food processor, puree the chickpeas with the garlic paste, the tahini, lemon juice, scraping down the sides. Add olive oil in a thin drip until the hummus is smooth. Salt to taste.
Add water, if necessary, to thin the hummus to desired consistency and transfer the hummus to a bowl. Serve with pita or vegetable sticks.
For nut-free hummus, omit tahini.
Related: Two-minute hummus dinner.
Related: What’s Your Page-Turner?
P.S. An excerpt from Dinner: A Love Story on Cup of Jo. Thanks, Joanna!
Thanks! Will try this out this weekend. A great thing to have on hand when people could be dropping by any time.
I’m almost embarrassed to admit that my security blanket is frozen Kashi waffles. I have an hour commute to work each way and I find that having a healthy breakfast really sets the tone for the rest of my day. It’s not possible during the week for me to whip up anything too homemade for breakfast, but if I have a frozen Kashi waffle and some fruit on hand, it prevents me from the convenience of an Egg McMuffin and giant Diet Coke, which I inevitably regret 5 minutes later. That, in turn, keeps me on the path straight and narrow for whatever leftover or homemade lunch I’ve brought from home. And then I don’t feel bad about that pre-dinner cocktail and/or dinner glass of wine 🙂
What a great letter. I’m not a mother, but hope to be one day, and it gives me faith and courage to know that there are hard-working, loving mothers out there making things work, and keeping food and nutrition an important part of daily life. Thanks for sharing this.
Over here the security blanket, and gateway food to better eating is . . . . Trader Joes bagged Organic Baby Spinach. If it’s on hand, I can throw a handful into my eggs in the morning, or put it into a simple sandwich of deli meat and avocado. It gives me the option of a salad dinner, one where chicken (or dare is say bacon) can be the star among a host of other healthy veggies.
Now I’m hoping I’ve got some hummus too! Thanks!
I’ve never thought to make my own hummus — but I have to agree that having it in my refrigerator makes me feel healthier. Even when it’s storebought it keeps me from filling up on junk so long as I also have carrots or veggies to dip into it.
I agree that there’s nothing wrong with a good frozen pizza every now and then and just wanted to say that Fresh Direct makes some really good ones, if you live in the NY area. Very convenient for working parents also since you can shop from your desk. I don’t work for them or anything, I just like the food 🙂
My security blanket is a classic/simple/delicious pot of beans.
Slow simmered on Sunday with a ham hock and a little onion, celery, carrot, jalapeno, bay leaf. I usually freeze half (per your flat ziplock method), and use the other half during the week for an easy side dish, a taco stuffing, or to serve over rice.
Occasionally, I make big pots of soup, usually a chunky broth-y veggie one. I tend to just take whatever veggies we have abundant on the farm at the time and it always turns out great. It’s usually even better the next day, and I switch things up by serving it over pasta with a bit of parmesan or over rice, etc. Many healthy meals can be had from one big pot of veggie soup!
My security blanket is eggs. They are a staple in the fridge and I find that in a pinch, I can pull dinner out of them when needed – frittata, quiche, breakfast-for-dinner, fried rice, etc. In my freezer, my security blanket comes in the form of homemade turkey stock, butternut squash soup, pumpkin bread, and an emergency stash of Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken.
Caitlin, there should be a “It Gets Better” program for parents of young children that is similar to the one that is for the young LGBT community. Because, as a working parent of a 7 year old and a 3 year old, I can say firsthand that it really does get better. Keep on doing what you are doing. 🙂
Oh Amanda, how I envy you and your eggs!
Roasted cauliflower with garlic and lemon
Roasted Beets with thyme
Roasted carrots with garlic, S&P
With those basics I can eat all week with the addition of a roasted chicken, some braised chicken thighs, a bright salad or a romesco sauce for schmearing.
eggs and parmesan cheese. if i have these things in the fridge…i can make anything happen. we’re adding baby #2 to the family in may and i am already planning ways to make it work when it comes to eating half way healthy those first few months. eggs, the crockpot, and DALS will be makes regular appearances, i am sure.
I have to say that it is “a dinner defrosting”. Nothing is better knowing that the dinner you have to make, is pretty much already made 🙂 Great post!
Sauteed onions and a tub of spinach or spring mix in the fridge make me happy this time of year. And any thawed meat.
rice and eggs are our security…. literally… though we have them in the fridge all the time, we made an especially large amount of rice in preparation for hurricane sandy. when you’re limited on the food you can eat and the appliances to cook the food, there are few things better than a bowl of white rice with a fried egg and frank’s red hot. Stir up the gooey yolk in the rice and (sigh) you’ve got yourself a bowl of heaven!!
What a great letter! My security blanket is definitely eggs and potatoes. I feel that with those two ingredients in stock I can always come up with a good breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Like you said, Caitlin’s letter highlights the difficulties working parents have getting good food on the table. Good for her for getting it done, whatever way possible. Such a great example, just like DALS is.
It’s funny because hummus is also our security blanket. I’m a resident doctor and work between 35-90 hours a week. Lately it’s been more on the 35 hours side which is great for our family meals. We have an almost 2 year old and his favorite food is hummus. I make it (basically same recipe as yours – my Dad’s recipe which he has been making for more than 15 years) and love knowing it’s in the fridge because I know if Max won’t eat DALS fish cakes he will eat hummus on pita/bread. And that makes a Mama happy. 🙂
This time of year my security blanket is soup. I love making a big pot of soup that appears in our dinner rotation and keeps me satisfied for lunch, too.
Any green vegetable, e.g., broccoli, romaine lettuce, even just frozen peas. As long as I have that splash of color on the plate, I feel like whatever we’re eating is a “real” dinner.
Mine is multiple containers of leftovers in the freezer. They are my weekday lunch. Somehow knowing I have a healthy nourishing meal to throw in my purse gives me the 10min it takes to start the prep for supper that night. Even if it’s just chopping the onions or spinning the salad. And YES I learned that trick from DALS (the book).
We add plain yogart to our hummus and the kids go nuts over the creaminess! 🙂
My security blanket is meal planning. If it is not done I end up feeling panicky at about 4:30 and regret the events of the rest of the evening.
Our food security blanket is granola and plain yogart…and all three kids love it! 🙂
Homemade salad dressing and a loaf of homemade bread in the freezer – suddenly, salad greens and a fried egg can be dinner. Also, oats – my kids ate oatmeal for dinner the last two nights, as I have been under the weather – it takes ten minutes to make a pot of real rolled oats with water, and then they love to doctor it themselves with almond butter, honey, dried berries, toasted pecans, etc – if I’m feeling lively I make a quick pan of fried apple cubes and its sort of like they have a fruit and a whole grain, right? Right.
My security blanket is made up of potatoes, eggs and soup. I can always whip something up with potatoes and eggs. If that fails, there’s always a pot of soup in the refrigerator.
I always have roasted cherry tomatoes and roasted mushrooms in the frig to use together or separately – I can add to a grain as a main or side, add to spinach or kale for a salad, even put on flatbreads with some cheese for a quick pizza. I even freeze the tomatoes if we don’t use them quickly and save for soups or puree for quick sauce.
And, Sarah@Belle on Heels, my 13 year old starts every single day with 4 (!!!) Kashi waffles with peanut butter, cinnamon and raisins and a glass of milk. I tried making homemade and he protested. Since he’s out the door at 6:45 it’s a no-brainer breakfast here and he doesn’t get hungry before lunch! Glad to hear they are someone else’s go to!
Definitely eggs which luckily all 3 of my girls will eat at any meal. And more recently a bag of chopped kale or baby spinach which I can add to anything like eggs, soup, mac & cheese, chili…suddenly I am super mom & it’s like my kids never had fast food.
Had to click over from my google reader to read the comments. Love everyone’s ideas. Trying to think of mine. Right now (I have a 2 month old and 3 year old) and zero time to cook most days) I think I have two: breakfast burritos which I made assembly line style in huge batches and freeze. An easy filling breakfast that I can microwave and eat with one hand when I am starving after nursing all night. And avocados, because they are a superfood that needs no cooking. And my 3 year old loves “avocado toast” for dinner (smashed avocado on a toasted multigrain English muffin–which I keep split in half in the freezer for ease of toasting–with salt and pepper plus lemon juice or olive oil if you’re feeling fancy).
Thanks for posting this! I am a first time reader and I’m pretty positive that I’m hooked now. I am Armenian and hummus is a staple for us as well, and this is exactly how we make it at home! Delicious! My mom has been known to make a killer white bean hummus as well using white beans instead of chick peas!
So embarrassing, but mine is frozen green beans from Trader Joe’s, coconut yogurt for my pre-schooler, and hummus. I’m Greek-American and it’s a staple around our house and my daughter and husband both love it on everything. Ironically, I’m not so much a fan these days, but I go in and out on it.
With the green beans and the yogurt, I know my daughter will eat ANY meal I cook, or I can adapt it for her.
I have to add that I am SO envious of everyone for whom eggs are a security blanket. Before I married, eggs and a bag of salad were definitely mine. Then I married a man with a slight egg sensitivity and gave birth to a little girl who is deathly allergic to eggs. And our lives have completely changed.
This post warmed my heart. I loved the letter and how you picked it apart in such a uplifting way. My Husband and I are vegan, and you better believe we are trying this hummus recipe out this weekend! DLS is such a sweet/wonderful/helpful/cooking inspiring blog! Thanks Jenny!!!
– Purdue frozen chicken breasts (from Costco)
– home-made frozen pasta sauce
– white rice
I defrost the chicken breasts in the microwave and season liberally with Adobe and garlic salt and fry in a skillet with a little bit of vegetable oil. Serve with white rice and avocado which I season with olive oil and garlic salt. Dinner in 15 minutes!