Friday, September 09, 2011

Dinner Swap, Week 1

OK, Week 1 of the Dinner Swap is done and it was faaaabulous! I feel like a crazy person one day and a queen in the lap of luxury three days. If this week is any indication, worth it. Usually we'll swap Monday through Thursday but since it was Labor Day this week we did Tuesday through Friday. Here's the low-down.

Tuesday (my day)
Thai Steak Salad (prepared components with assembly instructions - recipe here)
Egg rolls (frozen from Costco, cooked, dipping sauce included)

Mixed fresh tropical fruit (pineapple, mango, kiwi)

It was a good day for me to go first because it was the first day of school for everyone else, whereas Hazel has been in school for a month already. I kept my whole day clear, save one small errand, and paced myself on prep throughout the day. But despite doing everything you can ahead of time, there are just some things you have to do in the last hour, so that makes the afternoon a bit hectic. BUT it was much easier this time than the two summer trials, probably because my expectations, and execution, were more realistic. And this time my kitchen was just really messy, and not the grenade explosion it was the last two times. Good thing, because my dishwasher is broken and I am handwashing these days. Ah, takes me back to New York...

I think it helps to make something you're very familiar with - I've made this salad at least six different times - it's a favorite at our house. It helps to know what can be done ahead, and how much work each step is. Overall it was very doable (and delicious, in my opinion!) I left at 5:38 and the three drop-offs took about 20 minutes. Not bad.

Pineapple Meatballs over linguini
Fruit (watermelon & grapes)

Homemade wheat bread

What I did from 4-6pm instead of making dinner: Baked an afterschool banana snack cake, and sat down and ate it with the girls. Then since I wasn't cooking dinner, I made a big batch of breakfast burritos* for the freezer. Then I did some math "homework" with Ginger (counting household things and then graphing them) while Hazel did her homework, and then I read Poppy a book. Then I laid down on the couch and read a magazine until dinner came. Call it a life of luxury.

But poor Shanna! It was her day to cook, and she had meticulously planned out her day to time things right for a 5pm delivery. But her kids' school bus was late. And later. And it kept not coming. For 45 minutes she stood out in the rain waiting for that bus, when she really needed to be in her kitchen getting everything done. Which just goes to show how stressful cooking day, and especially that last hour, can be, no matter how well-planned. And which is why we have a generous 1-hour window for delivery (5 to 6pm). So she meant to bring it at five and it came closer to six. To her it was horrifically stressful. But to me? Well it just meant I got to read a few more pages of my magazine. No big whoop.

Hickman Breakfast Burritos: Cook 1 lb. bulk breakfast sausage, pour into a big bowl. In same pan cook 1 bag Simply Potatoes diced potatoes and onions according to directions (about 15 minutes, turning every few minutes until browned and crispy; their Southwest hash browns are also good in this), I also add some seasoning salt; pour into the bowl with sausage. In same pan scramble about 8 eggs with a splash of milk and some Mrs. Dash; add to bowl. Grate about 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese and add to bowl. Mix it all up. Add scant 1-cupfuls onto large burrito-size tortillas, roll up with ends tucked in, and wrap individually with plastic wrap. Place in large Ziploc freezer bags (about 4-5 per bag) and freeze. To reheat, partially unwrap and microwave for about 1 to 2 minutes. Makes about 9

Tender slow-cooked beef au jus
Red-skinned mashed potatoes

Steamed broccoli

Onion-rosemary focaccia

What I did instead: Sat down at the counter next to Hazel - while she did her homework I slowly sifted through the "Thursday Express" weekly folder full of finished work and flyers. Got the girls a snack. Took about 10 minutes "Mommy alone time" in my room - started a new book while I was in there (I got a stack from the local Borders at 70% off.) Came down and sent the girls upstairs to clean and play. Had a nice long talk with Ed on the phone, who's in Phoenix all week. Knocked out a few blog posts. My kitchen counters stayed clean the whole time! AND. Incidentally it was a wicked rainy day, lots of thunder and rain coming down in sheets. Very happy I didn't have to deliver that day. Or cook. Or do anything but wait around for a fabulous dinner to come to me!!!

Herbed tilapia
Carrots with dill
Zucchini Carpaccio

What I did instead: It was the first sunny day all week so when we got home from picking up Hazel, the girls got in swimsuits and I filled up the baby pool and water table out back for them. Kept an eye on them outside while I caught up on email and worked on some of the many blog posts I have backlogged in my head. Then when the girls came in I gave them all a small handful of M&M's and performed my "I-Don't-Have-to-Make-Dinner" song and dance. Helped them get dried off and dressed, and held Poppy and sang with her and kissed her until dinner came. What a great Friday afternoon.

And here is a direct, unsolicited, unedited quote from Ginger just now - "Mom, you know why I like dinner exchanges?"


"Because I get to talk to you when you're supposed to be making dinner."

If that doesn't sum it up nothing can. Laaaaa for the Dinner Swap!!!


tona said...

Here's a logistics question: how far apart are all the families from each other? How long does it take to drive the delivery route? Don't you hit traffic at that hour? Just curious.

Disco Mom said...

Yeah, it's only worth it if delivery doesn't take too long and the houses aren't far apart. Mine took me 20 minutes from my door to the last door on the route, with a brief (1 minute or less) chat at each door. There is some traffic, but most of the driving was done in neighborhoods, not major roads, so the time was mostly slow speed limits, speed bumps, stop signs, etc. And a few traffic lights crossing major roads. Then from the last house it's about a 8 min drive back to my house. So it was after 6 by the time I got home, so my family's dinner was late-ish and kinda frazzled, but just for one day. And honestly, I have toyed with the idea of, on my cooking day, cooking for THREE families, delivering, then getting my family drive-thru on the way home. It's my back-up; I think some day that may be just the thing.

An informal poll of participants showed that the last hour is crazy for everyone - even if all the food is done there is the packaging up and loading the car, plus your own kids, and a little extra pressure if you want anything to be hot. But the key is it's only one day. Only one day.

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