Thursday, March 27, 2008

What's for dinner?

What does that question evoke in you? Some days it is the bane of my existence; others, not so much. I am never sure how many people I am cooking for. My family is made of up my dear (damn) husband (DH in text lingo), two teenage step-children: both teenagers, a girl (M) and a boy (J) , my two kids with my husband: a girl and a boy, and myself. I usually have to plan for as many as 6, but more likely it will be just the little kids and myself. There is a "shared parenting plan" on paper but that seems about it. Dad and J spend a lot of time at baseball-focused activities such as batting and conditioning which take place after school, regular practice and games. This growing boy has to be fed somewhere in between all his activities so the two of them often grab something at the store while on their way. M likes to hang with her friends so she will often eat out with them or have dinner with her mom, or a bowl of cereal while I am fixing dinner.

I don't mind left-overs - they make lunch really easy the next day and often I think the dish tastes even better. My husband? He hates left-overs, unless it is a ham. The teenagers aren't into them either. I will cook something new every night that I prepare dinner. So... I have to plan for 6, likely just feed 4 and try not to have too much in the way of left-overs as I hate to throw food away (my fridge can end up with a lot of left-overs). Or I end up with an odd number of uncooked items for the next night. If I am lucky, I can get my husband to take us out for dinner one night a week. It seems like a vacation to me.

Some days I don't even want to cook. Cereal makes a good dinner. So do PB&J sandwiches, but not for the baby because he has a peanut allergy. He is also allergic to egg whites which means no mayo - he is pretty much up spit creek as far as lunch goes. But I am talking about dinner.

Teenagers and toddlers are pretty much the same thing - their body size is about all that is different. They will look at food and decide they don't like it. They don't like green veggies. I am so proud of my little kids, though. They help themselves to bell peppers (red, orange and yellow) and munch on them like they are apples. The same with carrots ~ sometimes they are crunching away before I can even scrape them. So, we eat a lot of corn. And we all know what doesn't happen with corn the next day.

I try to make kid-friendly food. Kid-friendly food that I will eat. And I understand that my cooking is different from M & J's mom's cooking. But I haven't been able to win them over, except for a couple of dishes. I have noticed that they aren't always keen on what Dad cooks either so maybe it isn't my cooking, per se. So I leave most food in its basic form: steak, baked chicken, hamburgers (although I can gussy up those babies with grilled onions, bacon and cheese and they are still a hit), and hot dogs in the summer. I can branch out to tacos and paninis on the grill but that is pretty much the list of known eatables by all members of the family. No casseroles or crock pot creations. Even spaghetti is plagued by problems: my husband and I each like our own differing recipes, while M doesn't like red sauce but will eat the pasta with butter and garlic salt and J doesn't eat anchovies if he sees them go in his dad's recipe. They always go in the sauce, so you just have to time it right. I don't think you can taste them, the sauce just has good flavor. I like mine better because it is what my mom made for me.

My husband isn't too fond of pork ~ he thinks it is fattening. But when faced with the task of cooking he heads straight to chicken-fried steak. Go figure. Everybody likes that dish, even me.... I like it too much. He is also happy to eat Marie Callenders peach pies and ice cream. I guess it is selective fats that we shouldn't eat.

If you ask anyone around here "What would you like for dinner?" you are likely to get shrugs and "I don't cares" from the teenagers. My husband doesn't even want to think about it. He thinks I am nuts when I ask him in the morning before he goes to work if he has any wishes. I know it is morning but I will be headed to the grocery store before I see him again. And if my timing is right, I can get it done in the morning while the store is between meal rushes and my kids are well-rested. But I would love a suggestion here and there. Sometimes I want to be able to make something that I know he would like to eat. Or something that everyone will enjoy. Or so I don't have to think about it.

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.”
Oscar Wilde

Sure, until I am stuck with the kitchen clean-up too! :D
But that is another story.

What did you have for dinner? Got any good ideas?

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