Last week Anne @ Modern Mrs. Darcy blogged about some of the meals her family eats regularly for dinner. I’ll admit, her family’s regular meals may have made me weep a bit with envy: Sesame chicken, cauliflower, salsa verde beef, fritattas and paleo pizzas. That is her world and yeah I’m mildly jealous.
I’ve got a four year old who I’d suspect was a vegetarian if she didn’t devour bacon like it’s her job – and an eight year old who is trying so hard not to be a picky eater but failing miserably. Words like potatoes, chicken, rice, broccoli, seasoning, casserole or crock pot are fighting words to my kids. Simple foods have become the name of the game for this season of our lives. And when you throw in karate classes, cub scouts and other various afternoon and evening activities – suddenly super fast and easy are added to my list of requirements most evenings.
So what can I make that is healthy, balanced, of neutral palate for the kids but not too neutral for my husband, fast to prepare and affordable? Every night.
This is my life right now. I keep a long list of possible dinner ideas on pinterest but lately we are so busy that trying new stuff is rarely a good option so we’re getting by on tried and trues with a few frozen convenience options thrown in for sanity’s sake. And Dairy Queen. I’m not perfect. When a new meal does get prepared and is met with mostly smiling faces, I’ll pin it to my Dinner Wins Board. But a lot of my stand bys are not really “recipe” type meals so much as the “common sense get it on the plate” meals. Some favorites in our house include:
On Mondays I am usually cranky that it’s Monday and throwing something together after karate. I want something tried and true and quick like:
- Crock Pot BBQ Chicken is great because I can start it in the late morning / early afternoon and have it waiting when we get home. Use this recipe or just throw frozen chicken breasts in your crock pot and pour a bottle of BBQ sauce on top and heat. Only downside is my children hate chicken and will give me the death glare. Mac and cheese is often a usable peace offering side dish.
- We also like this brown sugar maple crock pot pork tenderloin. And by “we” of course I don’t mean my children. They don’t like anything. If I really want to make them cry, I’ll serve it with mashed potatoes.
- Tacos if I have a little extra time. If you are looking for a homemade taco seasoning recipe, we like Alton Brown’s. If my daughter declares that ground beef is the devil, I’ll make her a cheese quesadilla.
- If I have a little more time – tacos sometimes turn into enchilada style mexican pizza, a recipe I’ve been adapting and tweaking for years. My daughter will not like it but the rest of us love this one. I’ve had to learn to accept that at least one person probably won’t like whatever I make.
- Or I’ll come up with some reason why I can’t make dinner and try and talk my husband into picking something up or taking us out. Mondays are hard.
Tuesdays became Pasta Tuesday at some point when I was playing around with having themed evenings for meals. This is really the only theme that stuck but I like it and so it continues. Most evenings this just means a box of pasta meets up with that one bottle of sauce that everyone likes right now. Sometimes I throw in ground beef or crumbled italian sausage or frozen meatballs that I microwave while the pasta is cooking.
On days when the sun is shining and my motivation is super high (see also, once or twice every other month) I’ll make:
- The Pioneer Woman’s Penne alla Betsy. My husband LOVES this dish and if I serve the kids before adding in the shrimp there is no blood loss.
- This End of Summer Pasta recipe from Parents Magazine is one of my favorite things to cook. I found this the first time we bought a share in a local CSA and found ourselves with a mountain of vegetables. It’s pretty adaptable to whatever you have on hand and deeply satisfying if a bit ugly. Sometimes I’ll make the kids’ a version with raw tomatoes and not much else because it’s prettier and easier for them to pick around. Also pasta with butter and parmesan cheese can go a long way in a pinch.
- If I don’t make pasta, sometimes I’ll make this vegetarian french onion soup since Tuesdays are usually the only day I seem to have any spare time. It’s been awhile since I’ve made this but my husband and I both love it. The kids will often just have tomato soup from a can and leftover french bread.
WEDNESDAYS AND THURSDAYS
Afternoon and evening commitments-wise these evenings are pretty similar. We’re often rushed and crazy and short tempered. Usual dinner suspects include:
- Frozen lasagna even though invariably one child will declare they don’t like lasagna (not always the same one) or Stouffer’s will change their recipe just to infuriate me.
- Sandwiches in a pinch. Ham and cheese makes my son weirdly happy and my daughter would eat PB&J for every meal if we let her.
- More pasta.
- Soup – a can of tomato for the kids and maybe something more fun for us. Ramen Noodles if anyone is under the weather.
- That awesome pre-made meal at the grocery store that just saved my life – sometimes there will be a pre-assembled chicken pot pie or we’ll pick up a rotisserie chicken and a bagged salad and call it a meal.
For Friday nights when we may watch a family movie and I have a little time:
- French Bread Pizza is something I have been really into. Joy the Baker has some great tips and topping ideas.
- If I have more time, I’ll make pizza dough in my bread machine and make homemade pizza. Pepperoni is the old stand by but we love to play around with toppings. I’ll make two pizzas – one for the kids and something more fun for Dan and I. BBQ chicken or spinach and mushroom on an alfredo sauce are favorites.
- For a more rushed Friday night, I am not above frozen pizza or take out.
- Breakfast for dinner is a nice way to end a long week, too. I really like this baked french toast and this waffle recipe.
On the weekends we can often have a little more fun with cooking – usually because my husband who loves to cook is home. When we aren’t grabbing something at a resataurant in between errands, some favorites that he may make include:
- Potato soup or clam chowder (love this recipe passed over from my best friend).
- Parmesan baked salmon – my husband loves salmon and this is pretty much the only salmon recipe we’ve found that I like.
- This is also a time when we might try a *new recipe* – either something fun I’ve seen online or something my husband comes up with.
- Or if the weather is nice, we’re grilling hot dogs and bratwurst or fresh fish (and hot dogs).
- Or if the weather isn’t nice, we’ll have homemade pizza if we didn’t have pizza on Friday but he’ll make the pizza dough the way he likes to without the bread machine.
So that’s our typical meal situation – what does your family like to do regularly for dinner?
Tell me the glorious and not so glorious details in the comments section!
One response to “What’s for dinner?”
Love it! I need to work on getting some new things on my menu. I am a horrible cook and not very adventurous.