What do they want to eat? It’s important to have the dinnertime routine all set out. We have the beautiful dinner table all set, we have games at the ready, the candles lit, and music playing. We also have a chart of what needs to be done at the table. And, most importantly, we are all sitting there together! Now it’s all about the food!
My children are used to a set menu (a home-cooked one, of course), which is usually breaded meat or fish, pan-seared and then put in the oven to bake after being lightly browned. At my house, we bake the meat for about 20 minutes at 400°F, and we cook enough to provide one full portion each for the four older kids and one more cut in to cubes for the younger two. For our fish dinners we use either salmon or breaded cod, or alternatively any white fish, and for the younger kids we introduce healthy minced fish sticks. A great choice for the younger ones!
When we serve rice, the choices are seemingly endless - from Rice-A-Roni to brown rice, Uncle Ben’s white to Mexican rice, or a mixture of two or more varieties. Sometimes, couscous makes a delicious and welcome alternative. Choices of pasta are equally multitudinous, which varieties of colors and shapes, as well as decisions about what sauce to serve and whether to use butter or oil in the cooking process. I’m a very lucky mom when it comes to the vegetable department – my kids love them all! Corn and broccoli are particularly popular choices in my home, as well as asparagus, string beans and snow peas. Cold veggies are also on the table every night, including carrots and celery. Just as important are carbohydrates, to help give those kids all that energy! Every night the table’s centerpiece is a basket of fresh bread rolls or croissants.
The children have other voiced their opinions that they think they need a change in the menu, that they are being served the same meal time and time again and they want something new and different. Ask (politely) and you shall receive! We went around the neighborhood and picked up about 20 menus in order to find some new ideas and diversify the variety of meals we serve in our home. I also am lucky enough to have some great friends who were happy to share some of their delicious yet easy-to-make culinary secrets, all of which I am very eager to try out. Unfortunately, so far, the kids have been less than welcoming to the new menu items that have been added to the routine of late.
Today’s foray into new cuisine took on a Spanish flavor, and consisted of pork ribs, dough balls filled with meat and potatoes, and pork rinds. Things were already a bit shaking at the dinner table, however it was my earnest introduction of blood sausage that saw me booed out of the room. The night before was an exploration of Greek cuisine with a do-it-yourself twist, with a make-your-own gyro station set up, complete with sliced lamb, salad, yogurt, sauce, and feta, as well as a side of potatoes and broccoli. Unfortunately like its Spanish counterpart, this meal plan was met with a resounding “boo!” by the kids. The day before this was of Indian fare: sliced chicken soaked in delicious broth with choices of dipping sauces from orange to tandoori to sour cream, covering as many bases as possible. I handed out marshmallow skewers for the dipping process. Once again, a ho-hum response was all I got. The night before this was American night, and I cooked a favorite chicken, rack of ribs and mashed potatoes, pita breads, and corn on the cob. Yet, even this homegrown hero of a meal failed to impress the discriminating palettes of my apparently soon-to-be-food-critic lot of children.
So, the question remains: why did all these diverse menus fail to tickle my children’s fancies? After all, the children asked for variety and that’s exactly what was offered.
Monday, I will try something new! I have met a fabulous girl who is studying culinary arts, comes from a large family and is excited to try out her meals on us. I have managed to calculate the amount of money I spend on a take in delivery vs someone to help me sort out the same fare and grocery bill. And at the same time I am helping someone who happens to live 5 blocks from my house and can use the extra money after work! Where did I find her? Craigs List!