Some individuals struggle with empty nest syndrome, others are ready to celebrate. I was closer to the latter, but that may be due to a schedule that included full-time work, studying for a Master’s degree in management and training for a marathon. Frankly, I did not have time to feel morose. My biggest struggle was suddenly cooking for two.
Our offspring seem like sets. The two oldest were born in the same year. Then the third did not arrive until the first two were about ready for school. The last was a few years behind the third. But the last two left home at the same time. This caused a big shift in cooking habits.
When we were six at home, we seldom had leftovers. The meals consisted of generous portions and necessity dictated quick to prepare recipes. Four kids meant a lot of activities. Each was allowed one sport and one non sport activity plus school and Sunday school. Of course there were guests around from time to time as well.
Empty Nester Cooking
The portions are now quite a bit smaller and even then we have leftovers. Sometimes we go for more complex recipes but I still like to keep it simple. One of the best parts of this empty nest cooking style is the impromptu aspect. Such was the case recently when I decided to prepare Roasted Root Vegetables for Two.
Even though we have had more than a handful of 100 degree days, we enjoyed a cool front (complete with 3/10 an inch of rain, Yahoo!) Since I harvested a rutabaga that morning which had survived the flea beetle attack along with beets, I decided roasting the vegetables would be a nice change. We added some store-bought potatoes and carrots. Garden onion and garlic were also utilized. I am including the recipe below.
The life style change has impacted our kitchen preparations. Pancakes are seldom on the menu and I do not recall when I last made goulash. Yet when the kids were at home both were weekly occurrences. Now, each weekday lunch is centered on a smoothie. No mac and cheese or other quick order meal for the high school kids on their lunch break.
Dinners have been the biggest change. I no longer plan out the meals a week in advance. In the summer, meals are decided last-minute based on what the garden has yielded that day. Favorite meals are homemade pizzas, cold soups, and grilled everything. The colder months feature crock pot meals or casseroles. Both yield lots of leftovers.
There are some things one can do to offset the challenges of cooking for two. First is freezing. Often part of the meal is put in a freezer container. This relieves the boredom factor of eating the same thing for three or more days. Second is creating or finding recipes such as Roasted Root Vegetables for Two. This helps eliminate the overabundance of leftovers. But perhaps the best way is to share the meal.
Sharing a meal with other couples, neighbors or family members is no longer commonplace. However, I think as a society we need to revisit this custom. When the kids were little neighborhood gatherings were commonplace. Perhaps not every weekend but more than once a month. However, that no longer seems to be the case. Now the occurrences are once or twice a year.
Since one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to socialize more, I plan to host some gatherings once the outdoor building project is completed. In my case it has been easy to retreat once the kids left the nest. I enjoy being at home since I am a bit introverted. Entertaining takes time that could be spent on other activities. But I do think it is important to keep resolutions so neighborhood cook-outs are on the docket. Let me know how you adapt to cooking for two!
Roasted Root Vegetables for Two
2 carrots or 1 cup baby carrots
1 TBS olive oil
4-6 garlic cloves
Salt to taste
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut vegetables into small chunks and spread out in baking pan. Drizzle olive oil over the vegetables. Stir every 15 minutes. After 30 minutes sprinkle the garlic cloves among the vegetables. Resume stirring every 15 minutes. Test for doneness at one hour by piercing rutabaga with fork. Salt to taste and serve. Note: If rutabaga not included cooking time may be reduced to 45 minutes.