The Dinner Things in Life

What do you do when your children expect dinner EVERY night?

I have a friend who posted on Facebook that she was making breakfast for dinner. (Yes, these are the types of things we moms happily post on Facebook.) My friend was psyched because it was an easy meal to make; and her family was equally thrilled because it was just as yummy to devour. (Pancakes with fresh blueberries and sausage, you know you want some.)

“SCORE,” she wrote.

Almost immediately she started getting responses from friends who were practically jumping up and down (and drooling) over the idea. Pancakes for dinner? No downside to that. I remember when my mother would whip up breakfast foods for supper. We’d feast on Oscar Meyer bacon, eggs, biscuits from a tube, and peaches from a can. We were so happy you would have thought it was Christmas morning. My mom was quite pleased as well, it was a simple and economical way to feed six rapidly elongating children.

In my current household, we eat omelets for supper at least once a week. I use up whatever veggies and cheese we have in the fridge, and present the results on fancy dinner plates under the glittering lights of our dining room chandelier. It makes for a colorful and delicious meal that takes all of about seven minutes to prepare and three minutes to clean up. Everyone’s content, especially when I throw in some cinnamon buns from a tube—then they’re downright giddy. Score.

As the oldest daughter in my family, I would often help my mother make dinner in our large country kitchen with the brown and cream accents and big, oval oak table with matching chairs. I remember Mom saying she didn’t mind preparing supper every evening, it was the planning that drove her crazy—coming up with a variety of sufficient, healthful meal ideas that pleased everyone, and then making sure the necessary ingredients existed somewhere in the house. That’s no cake walk when you’ve got a family of eight to feed. I have only half the family she did, and I know exactly how she felt. As much as I’d love to have a personal chef, I’d gleefully settle for a benevolent supper fairy to plan my meals for me and provide me with a coordinating grocery list organized by aisle. OK, if she could do the shopping as well, I’d joyfully gift her with a rainbow painted unicorn to help her cart the groceries home and some finely milled glitter dust to strengthen her wings so she could stock the high shelves.

I guess the biggest hurdle I face is that my children want dinner EVERY night. And they usually anticipate a meal in the morning and afternoon as well. Seriously. I’m not making this up. I could break my back making Rare Roast Beast for dinner with homemade who-pudding and an exceptionally satisfying who-hash, and still, the next morning, my children would emerge from their little who-beds expecting MORE FOOD.

Even if I was Wonder Woman, Martha Stewart and Julia Childs all rolled into one, I'd still have to face the fact that my while appealingly vintage and adorably accesorized, is about the size of a nickel. My refrigerator is one of those shallow "space saving" units that can barely accomodate a frozen pizza, let alone a week's worth of nourishment. And my pantry, although recently redone, doesn't have the girth to withstand anything with the words "bulk-sized" printed across it, which rules out just about everything from those magical, mystical warehouse stores I visit in my dreams.

Sarah S. May 23, 2011 at 03:19 PM
Crock Pots!!! I use mine a few times a week, for anything from light soups to pot roast and potatoes. It's so easy to throw everything in and forget about it until dinner time. Great for chili, too. Easy to clean, doesn't take up much room. I'm pretty sure you can make a mean who-hash as well :-)
Cathy May 23, 2011 at 03:33 PM
I usually have to go out at least once week in the evenings -- book group, ladies night, or just a sanity outing. Dinners on those nights are nearly always pancakes and bacon, gleefully prepared by my husband, and two kids who are eager to flip the little buggers into submission. Lately they've begun adding food coloring. Blue pancakes for dinner? Why not?
Grahame Turner May 23, 2011 at 04:02 PM
I don't have kids, but every now and again I take a page out of the "Scrubs" book and serve up Brinner: Breakfast for dinner. (I may also have learned half of what I know about medicine from "Scrubs.")
Adrienne Kerman May 23, 2011 at 04:33 PM
LOVE the food coloring idea, don't know why I never thought of it, red-heart pancakes on Valentines Day, green shamrocks on St. Paddy's Day ... a whole new world for the little munchkins ... Thanks, Cathy!
Pam Roberts May 23, 2011 at 04:42 PM
If possible, when cooking a meal I make enough for a night of leftovers. We are part of a farm share, so there are usually varied veggies to add to the table (much easier to make something like a cooked kale and white bean salad when the main course doesn't have to be cooked, too). I also have some easy favorite recipes, such as chicken parmagiana, curried chicken & bananas, and a Mexican version of shepherd's pie using ground turkey and corn meal -- I might ask one of my children to pick between two of these recipes for dinner that night. On Sunday evening, my husband likes to grill a whole mess of meats (some combo of salmon, chicken, steak, turkey burgers). These will last us a few days -- I can take some of the barbequed chicken, dice it up with peppers and onions, and make a stir fry pretty quickly. And about every three or four weeks, I make a big pot of my own spaghetti sauce. This can cover three meals for my family during a week -- yum! I also try to save one night a week for Anna's takeout, if possible.
tara May 23, 2011 at 06:03 PM
J May 23, 2011 at 07:28 PM
I'm famous for cooking up scrambled eggs, fruit and toast for dinner. It's quick, healthy, and the kids think it's the coolest thing ever to have a "backwards night". Lots of upside(s)...zero downside. LOVE your articles.
Michael & Nomi Burstein May 23, 2011 at 07:50 PM
I do home-made macaroni and cheese because it's fast and simple. I also do French toast about once a week, and eggs with or without vegetarian sausage for dinner.
brooklineparent May 23, 2011 at 08:00 PM
I know what you mean about kids always wanting food! I'm always hearing, I'm hungry, I'm starving, What's for dinner, and When can we eat ... I have a small kitchen, but we have a freezer chest in the cellar that makes all the difference. We keep frozen meets, ice cream, frozen fruits and vegetables, and loaves of bread in there. We wouldn't be able to stay fully stocked without the extra freezer.
Rubylee Shuman May 24, 2011 at 02:02 PM
you have garnered some wonderful and innovative ideas from many of your readers --- some others might include asking hubby and sons to write down their favorite meals and designating one meal to their requests --- this is a perfect time to plant a veggie garden, especially when everyone in the family is involved --- it is amazing how "acceptable" veggies can be when planted, nurtured and picked by one's self --- then if you have a son grow up to own a restaurant, you can eat there or pick up take out when ever you don't feel like cooking, shopping or cleaning up !!!
momalot May 24, 2011 at 02:06 PM
I really enjoy these stories, sometimes you absolutely hit the nail on the head when describing a busy mom's life. It's nice to be able to laugh at it all! As for dinner, I order out probably much more than I should ... but I do make incredible home made soups that we can use as meals or snacks throughout the week.
momalot May 24, 2011 at 02:20 PM
I just realized, if this was truly a mom's fanstasy, you'd have the supper fairy be male!!!!! ;-)
Adrienne Kerman May 24, 2011 at 09:31 PM
Aah, we all should be so lucky ... Great idea about the vegetable garden, our neighbor has a wonderful garden and fantastic salads to show for her efforts ... and the kids love to harvest and eat them!
Susan Sturman May 26, 2011 at 03:28 PM
Soups are a favorite with my crew, as long as they are substantial: black bean soup with bacon and tomatoes, or chicken corn chowder....both are a meal in a dish when accompanied by a salad or some raw veggies and a great baguette from ClearFlour...or a quick batch of skillet-baked cornbread. Fritattas are even easier than omeletes and have the advantage of being excellent cold as leftovers for breakfast or lunch the next day. I also make roasted chicken thighs with all sorts of different things, one of our favorites is to lay them on slices of lemon and spread a bit of (store bought) pesto under the skin. Pop 'em in a hot oven and you have a really yummy meal in 40 minutes with minimal effort. Add some couscous which takes 5 minutes, and a quick veg and you're all set. My kid's absolute favorite is pasta with chicken, peas, and shrimp in an alfredo sauce. Takes about 15 minutes: boil the water and cook the pasta. meantime sautee a couple of chicken breasts and cut them up or shred them. Add frozen shrimp and pease right in with the pasta at the end till they are just cooked through, and toss with egg yolk, loads of grated parmesan, and a little cream and melted butter. Ever tried Pork Burgers? Makes a fun change from hamburgers (if you eat pork)...or lamb burgers...mom used to make those!
Adrienne Kerman May 26, 2011 at 03:37 PM
Thanks, Susan for all of your mouth-watering suggestions! Now I have a craving for black bean soup and cornbread! Maybe that's what dinner will be tonight ...


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