Weeknight Potluck Playdates

by in Family, Recipes, October 27th, 2011

vegetarian lasagna recipeOnce three o’clock strikes, time seems to go to warp speed. Some days I feel like I’m on autopilot, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. It’s far too easy to get caught up in the monotony of motherhood — it’s okay to admit we don’t love every part, like homework and that whole work-life balance.

For this very reason, I make a conscious effort to not over-schedule my daughters with afterschool activities. I’m a firm believer in letting them have some time to wind down and enjoy the simple pleasure of playing at home. Still, I find myself exhausted come dinnertime these days. I may not be zipping from dance class to soccer every day, but suddenly thrown into single motherhood means I need to find new ways to ensure dinner doesn’t become boring — for me to cook, and for the girls to eat.

What I realize is I need to get back to hosting dinner playdates — hear me out on this one. Sure, inviting another family over for dinner means more clean up, but without the expectation of my husband, Mikey, walking through the door, dinner sometimes feels a little too solemn. Our minds drift to him being gone, as my daughters and I glance at his empty seat. Before he passed away, we were used to eating as just The Perillo Girls because he worked too late to join us. There was always the excitement, though, of hearing his keys jingle at the front door just as we were finishing up, or as we were settling in to read bedtime stories.

Since Mikey often missed weeknight dinners, I’d invite a friend over once a week to have an early dinner playdate with us. The company was welcome, and most of my friends’ husbands work late hours too, so it was a win-win. I’d usually cook the main course, and someone would bring over sides or dessert and, yes, there was wine too. The kids would eat and play, the mommies would eat and chat — this is an example of time flying by in a good way. As we ease into autumn and the nights get longer, I’m going to bring some smiles back to our dinner table and start instituting potluck playdates again. Give it a try for yourself, and you’ll see they really are fun for the whole family.

Recipes Fit for a Crowd

Parker’s Beef Stew
Chicken Enchiladas
Vegetarian Slow-Cooker Chili

Jennifer Perillo is a recipe developer and food writer living in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her recipes and tips for feeding families homemade meals are a regular feature in Working Mother magazine, where she’s the consulting food editor, as well Relish Magazine, Parenting, Kiwi and her blog, In Jennie’s Kitchen.

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Comments (11)

  1. Jessica M. Berardi says:

    I do not know how to cook for any amount under 6, so this is a great idea. Plus it would be great to have my brothers and sisters over more often. (Of course other people are welcome too lol) And I really need to learn to make a hearty veggie chili, so your timing is perfect! ____Wishing you laughter filled dinners with friends and loved ones.

  2. jeri says:

    Our block has been having potluck play-days for a long time; it's called block parties!!! Every week we block off our street (only block long with dead end) and each family would bring a dish. We would rotate the main so it was fair. During the hot summer months a BBQ was always going. All the kids could play in the street while the grownups (most of them!) chatted. It's a lot of fun and good for the block. We all look out for each other. We have had some of our friends pass and it eases the pain of the loss with the other friends gathering to celebrate the life of the lost one. We have been doing this for 20 years. As families move on and others move in, the tradition continues, we welcome the new-comers!

  3. Aggie says:

    This is such a great concept. My husband works late most nights & many friends have husbands who travel. What a great way to spend the time & dinner together!

  4. Justin says:

    Potluck playdates is SUCH a great idea on multiple levels! Organizing them would be totally easy with mypotluckapp.com once it launches. I hadn't thought of this great application for this..well…application haha Thanks for the article :)

  5. @eatdinner says:

    I love the idea of "extended family" dinners with a group of friends, a dinner playdate for kids and adults alike! We tend to do this for Sunday night early dinners, but can see the appeal if friends live close by. No big deal, just do it whenever you can, and not waiting for a "special" occasion (which often never gets scheduled). It's so great for kids to see the dinner table as a social hub, a place not just for them, but one that hosts for adult friends and conversations too.

  6. Anna S. says:

    my old apt. building in nyc used to have big potluck playdates all the time. i always looked forward to them. out here in the suburbs, we never do… but maybe i'll change that!

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