The Joy of Dinnertime (It’s Possible)

Tiffany King honestly

photo credit: Tiffany King

I love to cook, and for the past 10 years I’ve cultivated a business by writing recipes and meal plans for busy families like mine. Recently, I found myself in the kitchen on a Saturday afternoon enjoying putting together a delicious meal of salmon on the grill, pasta salad full of summer veggies, and a blueberry crisp. My daughter and son-in-law came to enjoy the meal with us, and afterward we all raved about the meal. I truly relish those moments in the kitchen when I have time to breathe and take joy in the art of cooking.

To be honest, I don’t always feel passionate about making weeknight dinners. Last summer I was in the depths of writing my new cookbook Eat At Home Tonight, and I cooked hundreds of test recipes. Some of it was fun, and the whole family enjoyed recipe testing with me. But the sheer volume of dinners was exhausting. I was burned out.

You don’t need to have written a cookbook to understand the feeling of burnout that comes from making dinner. Every. Single. Night.

There are many times in my life that I did not feel passionate about scrounging in the kitchen to conjure up a meal out of (almost) nothing for our family. Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t give up. I’m glad I didn’t stop cooking because of the lack of passion I felt about making spaghetti for four kids and a hungry husband.

What I found passion in was what those dinners led to in the long run: spending time with my family, building strong bonds with my children, and having great talks with my husband (even if it is over washing dishes or chopping onions). By making dinner most every night for the last 30 years, I’ve been able to carve a sacred space out of our busy lives so we can reconnect, share life and enjoy the company of others.

If you’re stuck in a rut, remember that passion ebbs and flows. If you’re feeling burned out, take a break! Let the kids fend for themselves with cereal for a few nights (they’ll be fine). If you’re feeling bored with the task, maybe mix it up. Try a new recipe. Maybe your spouse or kids can get involved too!

Above all, remind yourself why you cook to begin with. You might not be passionate about putting food in the slow cooker. Few people are. That’s OK! But gathering your family around the dinner table night after night will give you memories and bonds that will last a lifetime. I still make dinner at about 6 o’clock every night. Now that two of my children are married, one is in college and the youngest is nearly 16, many nights it’s just my husband, Jim, and I. That said, we’re frequently (and happily) surprised when one of our older kids or kids-in-law stops by for a bite to eat.

For the days I don’t feel like making dinner, I think about the joy it brings me to have my kids coming around to spend time (and have a little something to eat).

Try out a new recipe that your family will love. These enchilada melts are so fast and easy, there will be plenty of time for the part of dinner that we’re most passionate about: Eating with our families!

Chicken Enchilada Melt Sub (serves 6)

  • 3 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles, drained
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 6 sub rolls

Directions:

  • Preheat the boiler.
  • In a large microwave-safe bowl, stir together the chicken, chiles, tomato sauce, and garlic powder and season with salt and pepper. Microwave the mixture for 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of the cheese and stir to combine.
  • Split the sub rolls horizontally and set them cut-side up on a baking sheet. Toast the buns under the broiler, watching closely so they don’t burn. Set the top halves aside and divide the chicken enchilada filling evenly among the bottom bun halves. Top with the remaining 1 cup cheese.
  • Broil until the cheese has melted and the tops look toasty. Remove from the oven and place the top of the bun on each sandwich.

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Tiffany King has cooked more than 10,000 meals for her husband and four kids. Over the years, Tiffany has learned what works and what doesn’t for getting dinner on the table fast. Her recipes have been developed in a real kitchen for her busy family and tested by the millions of readers of her website, Eat at Home. She also shares recipes and demonstrates cooking techniques through weekly live videos on her popular Facebook page. When she’s not cooking, you can find her curled up with a good book. For more information, visit www.eatathomecooks.com.