The kids and I have been back to school for about a week now. I had this vision that all in life would immediately settle into a new routine as the over-business of my summer magically turned to mist and evaporated. Sadly, that is not how it is going. Take Two.
I made a meal plan last week and shopped without considering our schedule — XC practice every night with one weeknight night meet and an overnight on the weekend, a late afternoon department meeting, and plans to check out the new brewpub with a friend midweek. Both kids had heavy first week homework loads to boot. Much pizza and subs were consumed while my beautiful end of summer produce rotted in the fridge.
This week looks just as full — more XC practice for Travis, Jack in driver’s training until 7:30 tonight and tomorrow night, Open House at the high school as well as a work commitment tomorrow night as well. My goal is simple meals (for me anyway) with an abundance of late summer fruits and vegetables to make up last week’s lack.
Monday – mojo grilled chicken wraps with avocado/ lettuce/ tomato, black beans
Tuesday – french dip roast beef sandwiches, tomato salad
Wednesday – salmon with roasted cherry tomatoes, couscous, zuchinni gratin
Thursday – chicken souvlaki with zucchini, tzaziki, pita, greek salad
Friday – burgers with avocado/ lettuce/ tomato, corn on the cob, baked beans
My boys are both in high school now, and both are running cross-country. My older son is driving now so the two of them leave the house around 7:45 in the morning and are gone until 6:30 or 7:00 in the evening. I am hearing faint whisperings of an empty nest. At first I felt a bit at loose ends, but then I remembered how much I relish time home alone. And in the past few weeks, several tasks that have lingered on my to-do list for an absurdly long time have finally gotten done. I had hoped that if I ignored that stuff long enough it might go away but apparently the IRS had no interest in cooperating.
Family dinner is more important than ever. Warren Buffett is constantly begging to watch New Girl during dinner but I resist. We talk about school, all the crazy politics these days, Warren Buffett’s latest plan to make a million dollars. I tell them goofy stories about my students, correct their table manners and insist they eat their vegetables. They make me laugh. They make each other laugh. And then we watch New Girl.
This recipe for chicken meatballs with pasta and a pomodoro sauce served with a green salad is a perfect family dinner — lots of carbs and protein for the athletes. The meatballs can be a do-ahead or a chance to drag the kids into the kitchen and put them to work. It is a versatile meal– skip the meatballs and go vegetarian or skip the pasta and go low carb. Make a double batch of the chicken meatballs to use in meatball subs for a later meal. I freeze them before baking, but you could also bake and freeze, then rewarm in the sauce.
Wipe out the non-stick skillet and heat the 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil. Add the minced onion and cook for about 10 minutes until it softens and begins to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1-3 minutes.
Increase the heat to medium and add the crushed red pepper flakes, tomatoes, basil puree, pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook the sauce, stirring occasionally, until it thickens, about 20 minutes.
Add the 1/2 teaspoon salt to the pot of boiling water then drop in the pasta. Cook the pasta according to package directions until it is not quite tender (about 2 minutes less than the prescribed cooking time). Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of pasta water.
Turn the heat up to medium high and stir the pasta water into the sauce to loosen it. Bring the sauce to a boil and stir in the drained pasta, continuing to stir until the sauce coats the pasta and the pasta is al dente.
Serve the pasta in shallow bowls. Top each with 3 meatballs and a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano and parsley.