The Spring sports scramble is on.
Two out of three kids play baseball and softball, and I always wind up being the “parent volunteered to be assistant coach.” 1 My youngest decided he doesn’t like baseball - no thank you, too much chance of getting beaned - so he took up Tae Kwon Do. 2
What does this have to do with Dad Cooks Dinner? When the kids were younger, I thought I had it rough. But…I had time to get dinner on the table most nights; I’d have to get creative three or four nights a week. Now? Between practices, games, and the usual school functions, we are busy almost every night of the week, plus weekends - sometimes with double or tripleheaders. 3
Instead of living to eat, we're often eating to live. Dinner is forced nutrition - “Get something in your stomach with protein in it, or you’ll be starving at shortstop by the third inning!” The drive home is half going over the game, half begging for ice cream. 4.
On game nights, I cheat shamelessly. Here are our go to diners, from least to most amount of time to prepare:
- Super sandwiches: Cold cuts, cheese, a loaf of bread, pickles, mustard, and a bag of pre-washed shredded lettuce (for the kids) and baby spinach (for the parents) so we have something green.
- Taco night: Tortillas, leftover shredded roast beast (whatever I cooked Sunday), salsas, sour cream, shredded cheese, pickled jalapeños, and the ever present shredded lettuce and baby spinach
- Quesadilla night: Same as tortilla night, without the leftover meat - I make the quesadillas on our electric griddle - think grilled cheese for dinner, but the Mexican version.
- Breakfast for dinner: What’s that? The refrigerator is bare? Time for scrambled eggs and toast.
- Lettuce wraps: If only one kid has a game, sometimes I can pull off a quick pan of ground turkey with Chinese flavors, then serve it with bibb lettuce or romaine hearts.
I used to be the kind of cook who spent Saturday mornings at the farmer’s market, carefully choosing local produce. 5 Nowadays, for vegetables, if it’s sold pre-cut at my local grocery store, I buy it. Bags of fresh broccoli, brussels sprouts, green beans, mixed vegetables, snap peas - microwave and go. Salad is quick - a bag of mixed green salads or shredded lettuce. The most common vegetables are ones we can eat without cooking - pre-cut carrots, grape tomatoes, and mini-sweet peppers. 6 And my “salad” is often a fistful of baby spinach. We also live on refrigerator friendly jarred vegetables - all sorts of different pickles and salsa.
I’m hanging on, trying to get us through to July, when baseball and softball seasons are over.7 Why do we go through all this? Because, as Gretchen Rubin said: “The days are long, but the years are short.” There’s going to come a day when they’re “too old for sports.” They’re not there yet…but I can see it from here. For now, they enjoy playing and being part of the team with their friends. I want to keep that going as long as we can.
What do you think?
Questions? Other ideas for instant weeknight dinners that don’t involve a drive-through? Leave them in the comments section below.
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