November 9, 2010

Emily’s Case Against Family Dinner & Veal Stew for Two {Naptime Tales from the Trenches}

Veal Stew

Emily Paster is a busy woman. This mom of two, wife and part-time law professor lives in Chicago and writes about work-life balance on her blog, West of the Loop. When Emily responded to my query for guest posts she proposed an interesting essay topic: the case against the family dinner with a recipe for her favorite veal stew. Fitting great food into family life, she says, is a challenge with two young children. One of her concessions in recent years has been to eat with her husband after they are asleep. I was interested and excited to hear her argument. I have to say, after reading her essay I do agree with her on many points. There are usually one or two nights a week when we put my daughter to bed before eating dinner ourselves. It’s like having date night in our own kitchen. What do you think about family dinner? How do you feel? Let us know, Emily and I would love to hear.

Shhh…do you want to hear a secret? Come a little closer. Okay, here goes: my family doesn’t eat dinner together and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Are you shocked? Do you think my children will grow up to be overweight glue-sniffing felons? I’m actually pretty confident that my children are going to turn out okay despite my flagrant disregard for the importance of family dinner. You see, my husband and I have given up family dinners in favor of two other considerations that we believe are equally important: early bedtimes and happily married parents.

My husband works long hours.  Most nights, he arrives home at 6:45 pm. That is simply too late for our children, ages seven and three, to wait to eat dinner and still get to bed at what we consider a decent hour. Instead, I feed the kids their dinner around 6 pm and then, when Daddy walks in at quarter to seven, they are ready to head upstairs for baths and the bedtime routine, a routine which is handled exclusively by my husband. That way, the kids get some dedicated time with Daddy every evening.

As for me, while Daddy is handling bedtime, I am in the kitchen chopping, stirring and getting my cooking Zen on while preparing the adults’ dinner. I have a sizable roster of recipes that take about an hour to prepare. Sometimes I do advance preparation while my kids are at school; other days, if I still have a load of laundry to fold at 7 pm, I opt for a quicker dish. But no matter what, at 8 pm, my husband and I sit down to a delicious, home-cooked dinner, just the two of us.

Because I am cooking for adult palates, I have the freedom to try something new or add that extra dash of spice without hearing whines of “it’s too spicy” or “I don’t like herbs.”  Moreover, my husband and I have discovered that it is good for our relationship to sit down and enjoy a relaxing dinner together after a busy day.

Is it extra work to prepare and clean up two different dinners? Sure. And I expect that family dinner will become the norm when the kids are older. But for now, I am enjoying my hour of kid-free cooking and my leisurely dinners with my husband.

Recipe

Grown-Up Dinner: Veal Stew

This is one of my favorite fall weekday dinners. Veal is expensive and not typically used for everyday cooking, but veal stew meat is quite reasonably priced. And because it is not tough like beef stew meat, it does not require a long cooking time. I think the addition of fresh sage and orange zest at the end gives the dish a sunny, Mediterranean flavor.

Ingredients

1 lb. veal stew meat
½ cup flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup chopped carrots
½ tsp. dried thyme
½ tsp. dried sage
½ cup white wine
½ cup chicken broth
1 28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes, drained

Zest of one orange

Chopped fresh sage (optional)

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat. Place ½ cup of flour on a plate. Season flour with salt and pepper. Dredge pieces of veal stew meat in flour until covered on all sides. Shake off excess flour.

Working in batches so as not to overcrowd the meat, brown the veal pieces until golden brown on all sides.  The meat will not be cooked through at this point. When the pieces of meat have been browned, remove them from the pot and set aside.

Add the onion, garlic and carrot to the oil in the pot and stir to coat. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Continue to sauté the vegetables over medium-low heat until soft, approximately 5-10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and the dried sage and thyme.

When the vegetables have softened, return the veal stew meat and any liquid that has collected to the pot. Add the wine and chicken broth. Crush the whole canned tomatoes with your fingers and add them to the pot. Turn then heat up and bring the stew to a boil. Once it is boiling, turn the heat down and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the veal is cooked through, approximately 15-20 minutes.

Naptime Notes

Naptime Recipe Serving ideas

ight before serving, add the grated orange zest and chopped fresh sage, if using, to the stew. Serve over buttered egg noodles, mashed potatoes or rice. Enjoy!

Naptime Stopwatch

Roughly 45 minutes

Naptime Reviews

As she and her husband agree, this is a great meal for two (or more!)

More Naptime Recipes

  • Be Stairways

    I think its awsome!! We eat as a family every night. But I think I will try this out a couple of nights a week. It would be nice to have a relaxing kid free supper. Mom and Dad need some good quality time together as well!! Great idea!!

    • Anonymous

      Great Be, let us know how it goes! It is important for parent-only time, too.

  • Nicole

    sounds delicious. we actually do a “half and half” schedule – a few nights a week we all eat together as a family of four, and the other half I will sit with my kids while they have dinner, and eat later on with my husband, just to have some “down” time. This is definitely a meal I’m going to try!

    • Anonymous

      I agree Nicole – down time with the hubs is so important!

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  • http://twitter.com/thewickednoodle the wicked noodle

    That doesn’t shock me at all, in fact I think it’s almost a necessity to do it that way when your children are young. At that age they’re getting a lot of parent time because we control their lives and schedules. It’s when they get older and are much more independent that it’s important to create family time and the dinner table is a prime opportunity.

    • Anonymous

      I completely agree Kristy, parent time is so important!

  • Amanda Herzberger

    We tried this last night – yummy and perfect for a chilly evening! We made two changes – our small grocery store didn’t have veal so I used meat and I forgot to buy tomatoes (oops!) so we used tomato sauce – still delicious :) Thanks for the great inspiration!

    • Anonymous

      I am so glad you enjoyed it Amanda!

  • Megan Gordon

    As you know, I don’t have a family of my own (yet!) but I really related to this post. There’s got to be a balance between spending time with the kids and nurturing your relationship. Phew, especially when the kids are young, eh? And this recipe looks great-perfect for this time of year.