Moxie Mom On Life and Kids

MOXIE MOM on Life & Kids

Dinner Successes

For some reason, I have been raking in the compliments on dinner menus this week. Truly, I have never experienced this phenomenon in all my years of parenting, and I have grown a hardened shell when it comes to comments on dinner.

Normally, the first thing I hear is, “I won’t eat that. I can’t stand [fill in the blank].” Or “I hate [fill in the blank].” Sometimes there’s just a teary face on one side of the table as the dinner attendee thinks about how hungry he’s going to be because he doesn’t like the menu. Another attendee tends to be loud about what she won’t eat, and while her feedback bothers the other adult in the family, it only registers with the cook when that other adult complains.

However, compliments on the food do register. They’re just so surprising.

Don’t know if there’s much of a secret except unwittingly appealing to a kid’s palate. The other night it was vegetable fried rice with lots of teriyaki sauce and oil and scrambled egg mixed in like the Asian restaurants make it. The kids told me it was as good as Supon’s veggie friend rice, which we had just eaten a couple nights before. I’m pretty sure that was the compliment of the decade. And all I was trying to do was use up the extra rice in the fridge.

The next night it was breakfast for dinner, which we never do, and I have no idea why because it was such a hit. Note to self: breakfast for dinner often. Throw a simple frittata in the oven, fry up some breakfast sausages, convert a melon into fruit salad, and you’ve got yourself a happy family. Actually, I think you could just serve breakfast links and they’d think you were Julia Child.

Last night? Leftover spaghetti sauce converted into a casserole with a lot of mozzarella cheese. Who knew it could be so easy? But here’s what I heard: “We have been having a lot of good dinners this week. They are yummy.”

I couldn’t help basking in the glow of satisfied, complimentary kids. I guess positive feedback does make a difference. And here I had thought I was immune. 

Now the trick is keeping the streak going.

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Sometime in the last week, Leah suddenly and inexplicably returned to eating meat. I think it might have been the night we were having hot dogs for dinner.

“I’m not going to be a vegetarian anymore. Can I have a hot dog, too, please?”

But of course.

“Does this mean you’re going to be eating all kinds of meat or just hot dogs?” I asked.

“Mm, I don’t really know. Hot dogs, I guess. Is that okay? I mean, is it weird to just eat one or two kinds of meat and not all of them?”

“You can do whatever you want.”

But you know what I’ve noticed? Every time I ask her if she wants whatever meat we’re having, she says yes. And chows it. It makes me wonder if her growing body craves meat the way pregnant women crave it. I don’t know much about these things, other than what I experienced with my own pregnancies. I was a partial vegetarian—seafood only—back when I got pregnant with Leah (nearly thirteen long years ago), and I took to eating a can of tuna a day. Ack! This was back before there were any limits recommended, and I still wonder how much mercury might be floating around in our two bodies. Or is it settled in a heavy layer on the floor of our stomachs? By the time I was pregnant with Ty, the recs were out, so I ate chicken instead. Now I eat anything. Well, tuna freaks me out.

(Or maybe it was all that track that brought Leah back to meat. By the way, the second day of the city meet went swimmingly for her—she and her teammates won the 4 X 100 relay, and they were stoked. So was her mama.)

Anyway, we accommodated Leah’s vegetarian diet for over a year, which didn’t feel like a deal since I did the same for myself for fifteen years. We served up tofu in place of pork chops, bought all manner of veggie burgers (still do), and combined beans and rice, which I’ve since learned is an outmoded idea.

At one point, I wondered if she was getting the nutrients she needed, as a pubescent girl. Did she need more protein than an adult woman needed? More iron? More calcium?

I went through a phase of checking out veggie cookbooks from the library and figured out that no, a veggie diet is fine, and that it’s more important to eat healthily across the board than to substitute protein for protein. I also figured out that my kids’ diets, both of them, were sorely lacking in the greens department. (But really, what kids’ vegetarian cookbook recommends kale, for Pete’s sake? What planet are these people on?)

Still, I went through a phase of thinking about my kids’ diets, worrying they weren’t getting their daily sources of iron and calcium (sugary yogurt doesn’t count in my book). I even tried a peanut butter squash stew thing that one book proclaimed a kids’ favorite. The result? “You have got to stop reading these cookbooks, Mom,” Leah said. She and Ty refused to touch the stew.

So I quit reading. And I stopped thinking about what my kids ingest except only in the most general way—have they had any fruit today, or something vegetable-y? I figure as long as their diets aren’t too processed, we’re probably doing okay.

And the meat eating? Bring it on. It’s awfully nice cooking one menu for everyone. Of course, if we’re not eating burritos or pasta, there is the Ty conundrum.

“What am I going to eat, Mom?”


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Meal Planning

So last night I gave my family a research task (Super-mama and I are obviously on the same page at the same time about meal planning—planet alignment or just mama burnout?). I asked the fam to poll friends for some new dinner recipes. I told them they could even use the Internet (I thought this would be a hit) to research kid-friendly meals. This in a burst of inspiration arising from the depths of my brain-dead dinner mind.

Once upon a time I liked to cook—I still do if someone tells me what to make—but coming up a meal that everyone will eat without loud complaints is a trying task. Leah is a self-confessed vegetarian, I recently (mostly) gave up dairy, Ty eats nothing that isn’t pasta or taco makings, and Curt would prefer something that doesn’t involve eggs, the spicier the better. For the record, he does not complain—he also cooks, which takes a load off.

Frankly, my brain is plumbed where dinner is concerned. Snaked clean. As a result, we’ve been eating the same few meals every week for I don’t know how long, and I have come to dread the late afternoon. People say if you don’t think of it in the morning, it’s too late. I disagree. Deadlines work wonders, even though they’re stressful, and by 5:00 I’ve always thought of something. I’ve also heard it said that women think about dinner as much as men think about sex. Really? I think about dinner an awful lot, or at least about the fact that I haven’t thought of anything yet. No wonder…but that’s a different topic. 

So the task. My kids were less than enthusiastic about taking any responsibility, but in a burst of helpfulness Leah thought up five meals and wrote them on our chore board so I wouldn’t have to think for the next week. True kindness. But what I really want is new recipes for meals my kids will eat. I’ve told them to ask their buddies what their favorite meal at home is, and then to ask that parent for the recipe. I’m pretty sure they think I’m not serious. I am. I’ll keep you posted on how it turns out.

Meanwhile, I’m going to write down that easy chili recipe.


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