Smells of warm cookies waft down the hall. Supper is warming in the oven. Vegetables are steaming on the stovetop. The home-made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are perched on their cooling rack. The sweet sound of a cork popping from the bottle of red wine and the clink of wine glasses are heard. Add a little music in the background and this could be dinner at the ski lodge, college friends gathering for a dinner party, or a romantic dinner for two. The real background soundtrack? It’s two four year olds racing through the house like energizer bunnies with car batteries, a couple of two-year olds rumbling by on trucks and declaring “that’s mine” every couple of minutes and three parents trying to keep the kids in check, balance their glass of wine, and set the table at the same time.
The supper club was a weekly thing when I had just had my son, one friend was pregnant with her second, and another friend has also just had her son. Our other halves were either at work late or had some other function at least once a week so we would gather for an early (for the grown-ups) dinner. The elder siblings would play, the babies would gurgle and fuss and the parents would chat, bounce between babies and tykes, and set the table.
Daddyless dinner is what my friend Myndi calls it. In our neighbourhood there is always a variety of schedules. Some dads are home several days a week. Some moms travel for work on a regular basis. It’s a town of academics, professionals, business people and tradespeople. We all have different schedules and it just so happens that at least several times a month we can get together, let the kids entertain one another, have an early meal together and be home in time for bath and bed. Even with all the chaos, it’s so much nicer among friends. The key to making this work is to prepare foods that are easy and quick. The children had chicken nuggets (we like Bell and Evans), rice (steamed from the freezer), steamed frozen peas and broccoli. The big kids made cookies from the Second Helpings Please cookbook. Yesterday, I made Braised Beef with Carrots from Patricia Wells’ Vegetable Harvest and I had cabbage from the CSA so I made her grated salad as well with my favourite dressing. The dressing recipe can be found on my blog (look “along the vine” on the right hand side). My friend Samantha picked up some fresh pasta on her way here. I threw a pot of water on the stove, the chicken nuggets into the toaster oven, the braised beef into the oven, zapped the rice, zapped the peas, and sat the broccoli atop an inch of water in the pot to steam it. By the time the table was set and the children were rounded up dinner was ready.
What I like about the main entree Braised Beef with Carrots is how simple to prepare and inexpensive the ingredients are. I bought 3 pounds of top round from Whole Foods which was on sale for about $3.99/lb, a 5 lb bag of carrots, two cans of tomato paste, chicken stock in a tetra pak (3 cups), and grabbed the open bottle of red wine from the counter (3 cups for the recipe…at least one for the chef). Those are the ingredients, plus some salt, pepper, and dried herbs. You cut up 3 lbs of the carrots into thin round slices, brown the meat on all sides (this can take a while make sure the meat is at room temperature). Salt and pepper the meat and then add everything into the pot. Bring the pot to a simmer. Put the lid on. Let it cook for 3-4 hours and occasionally turn the meat or spoon the liquid over it. Once cooked you just slice it and it’s ready. We had plenty left over to send home for the daddies who are in town and plenty to freeze for another cold winter day.
Bon appetit. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)