I get it now. I’m now in the mix with all the rest of the parents who are bustling children to and from activities and attempting to make dinner time possible. In the last week I’ve tried serving dinner around 4:30 in order to sit at the table before a 5:30 practice and I’ve also left dinner linger on the table for Baron to come home to around 8:00. Neither of which felt particularly natural but we got the job done.
While the kids were still babes I naively told Gabe, “We’ll never be like that.” I meant the sort who rushes from place to place just moving each child from point a to point b. Just like all the other “we’ll never” statements this one quickly became, “ohhhhh now I get it.” Our ideals and “we’ll nevers” are no match for reality. And I don’t mean that in a self-defeating way, there is simply no way of knowing what reality looks like or feels like until we are living in it. Then when you are in it you adjust the plan and reconfigure to what makes sense for you and your family.
The truth is that reality is often so much better once you relieve yourself of the “we’ll never”. When I said “we’ll never be like that” to Gabe in reference to the families who raced their kids from place to place I couldn’t see the sweet moments. Like the times in the car where conversation can flutter more freely than it often does in our home where we all get tied up in our own activities. I also never knew how much I adore being a baseball mom. I’m reworking my schedule, moving things around and saying no to otherwise very much “yes!” opportunities just to watch my boys stand tall on that pitcher’s mound. Seriously you guys I have zero cool at these games. I scream and holler, roll my eyes in the direction of the ump and pace back and forth when my boys are up to bat. I embarrass myself and love every moment of it.
I’m a very stubborn person so I don’t take my “I’ll never” statements lightly but I’m continually taught that reality and relationship are far more important than what I once deemed my ideals.
In light of this new season it’s no surprise then the the first recipe that caught my eye in Sarah Waldman’s new book, Feeding a Family, was one that required the use of a slow cooker. A recipe that practically takes care of itself with a bit of chopping on your part; Slow Cooker Greek Chicken Gyros. But here’s the thing. I don’t have a slow cooker what I do have is an Instant Pot which works better for my lack of planning abilities. You see this recipe would have required me to know what I wanted to have for dinner at the start of the day. I didn’t and very rarely do. But with my Instant Pot I went from frozen chicken to tender shredded chicken in about thirty minutes. As much as this sounds like an infomercial it’s really not, I just think we can all benefit from sharing with one another the real practical tips that we’ve found to make life a bit easier. The point here is a speedy, no fuss dinner with a good bit of health and one with very few complaints. My family really loves the sort of dinner where they can custom make their plate. Ivy now asks at dinner “can I serve myself? because she knows that mama likes to really pile on those vegetables. So here she can add extra olives, a few green things and a good bit of chicken.
For those who do have and use a slow cooker I’ll write the recipe as Sarah intended and I’ll give some instructions for those who are like me and need the use of a pressure cooker to get things really moving.
Now to all the parents out there where my judgmental “I nevers” were directed I am so sorry and also, why didn’t you tell me that baseball games were so stressful? We are all better off if we are in this together and I’ll never, excuse me, I will try do my best to go and judge no more.
I've added the recipe here just as Sarah wrote it with a brief mention of my cooking time using the Instant Pot. I also served mine with hummus and leftovers were combined with more arugula to make a lovely salad. I have quite a bit of chicken leftover and for that I am very thankful.
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
LEMON YOGURT SAUCE
1 cup plain full-fat Greek yogurt
Juice of 1 lemon
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lavash or pita bread, warmed (1 per person)
Minced yellow onion
Pitted Kalamata olives
Lemon slices, for serving (optional)
In a 6-quart slow cooker, combine the onions, chicken, lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, dill, salt, and pepper. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours, until chicken can be easily shredded with a fork. Before serving taste and add more salt, pepper, fresh dill, or lemon juice as needed.
In an Insta-pot combine all the same ingredients, hit poultry then up the time to 30 minutes.
To make the sauce, whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Sauce can be made ahead and kept, covered in the fridge, for up to 3 days.
To assemble the gyros, spread some of the lemon-yogurt sauce onto each piece of lavash or pita, add a few forkfuls of chicken, and top with chopped tomatoes, cucumber, onion olives, and baby arugula. Squirt with more lemon juice if you like.
I think now is as good a time as any to make the formal announcement that I’m working on another cookbook! If you are a newsletter friend then this is old news (also, thank you for subscribing!) or you may have noticed a sly little hashtag on Instagram, #newcookbook, popping up in a few of my recent photos. I’ve sort of tiptoed around all of this for awhile but today it felt right to tell you all. While the fanfare may not be the same as the first time around, the excitement joy I feel is allllll the same. Perhaps even more so because I get it. I mean I know what’s coming and while part of that is terrifying (truly, like wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night scary) mostly I’m reveling in the creativity – waking up and going to sleep thinking about new recipes – and just so excited to share extremely practical, delicious, inventive recipes that will bring us all to the table.
This book is quite a departure from the first and yet totally not because they are both completely me. Date Night In was date food. I mean some menus took hours to prepare and the food was indulgent in the best sort of way – it needed to be, because again it’s date night! The food helped set the intention behind the evening. With this book though, my aim is for it to be stunningly practical. We’ll cover everything from Tuesday night dinners that take all of twenty minutes to prepare and utilize pantry staples, to our Christmas Eve Wellington with homemade quick puff and Winter Greens Gratin. There are recipes for those weekday mornings when you need to somehow make breakfast in-between showering and brewing coffee like Cocoa Coconut Date Shakes or Sesame Fried Eggs with Miso Aioli. And then for those mornings when you have time to preheat your oven and can make Oven Baked Pancakes with Maple Roasted Rhubarb.
Even though I’ve done this before I’m approaching this yet-to-be-named book quite differently. Date Night In started off with an 80 page proposal which served as my road map. This time it was as if the map was sketched by a 4 year old. But I love that about it – sure it’s caused some fretting in me (I can’t help it, I just fret a lot) but I’ve grown accustomed to this new process and embraced the fact that much of this book is simply coming from me spending time in my kitchen. I want to take you with me as I approach food from the perspective of having worked in professional kitchens but now am a home cook who has a passion to feed my family and friends food that evoke joy and beauty. The recipes don’t necessarily follow a certain diet trend and yet to me it’s health food because they are made with real ingredients with the intention of sharing or sparking a moment of gratitude in our otherwise frantic days.
This post is making all of this real. I mean the contract is signed it’s totally happening but it suddenly feels more real having shared the news on this space. After all this is the place that started it all. And even though the Internet is crowded and we are taking in information at rapid speed and most of us are probably feeling overwhelmed by all the noise, this place will always be my happy home on the world wide web. It’s here where I learned how to take photos of food and by making thousands of mistakes I learned how to write a recipe that you all could follow. It’s here where I discovered a love of writing and sharing my heart. This place, and you all, led me to writing Date Night In where I found that writing books is quite possibly the best work I could ever imagine. And here we are doing it again. It’s just all so damn good I don’t even know what else to say, except thank you. From every square inch of my being I want to thank you all for being here, supporting me, sending me the loveliest emails that so often encourage me in my moments of doubt and insecurity. You all are the absolute best and I can not wait to cook with you in the kitchen through this next book, whatever the name may be.
Now let’s talk about tacos for a minute. Asparagus Tacos: Two words found on the Taco Tuesday menu at Essex and the moment I saw them I knew two things – 1. I had to order these tacos and 2. They had to make them at home. My version uses asparagus that I roast with olive oil, salt, and whole cumin seeds. With a few staple ingredients we whip up a zippy, but not too much so, sauce and top it all with shaved radish, cilantro, lime and crumbled Queso Fresco. What I’ve since learned about these tacos is that they are much more pleasant to eat when you roughly chop the asparagus so that’s how I have written the recipe although the images were taken prior to that revelation. Since it is indeed spring asparagus makes perfect sense but I can imagine the taco craving being just as strong in the winter so in that case I think cauliflower roasted in the same way, or even broccoli or brussels sprouts would make a fine substitution.
With a mouthful of asparagus taco my friend said, “This better be in the book!” Yes, it will be in the book.