Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What's for dinner tonight?

You know, for someone who does not like to cook, I sure do an awful lot of it. From scratch. We don't eat fast food and we order takeout maybe once a month.

So, in any given day, I do the following:

Make breakfast -- Jenworld is not a pour-milk-on-cereal-for-breakfast kind of house. The girls usually have fruit and yogurt, followed by something else, such as buttermilk pancakes Pete made on Sunday or maybe whole wheat English muffins. These days, I'm having plain oatmeal and adding cinnamon and raisins, maybe a dollop of maple syrup. Luckily, Pete makes his own damn breakfast.

Pack lunch for the girls
-- Every. Single. Day. Not once have they bought a school lunch. And I'm fine with that because, let's face it, school lunches suck. A typical lunch for Elegant will contain a sandwich (peanut butter and organic local honey on whole wheat bread), fruit, something crunchy like Pirate's Booty, yogurt, and a small dessert. Graceful's lunch is similar, except right now she's big into peanut butter (smooth, instead of the crunchy that her sister eats) on whole wheat crackers. And, while Elegant usually buys milk at school, Graceful takes water in a reusable bottle. She usually doesn't drink it, so then I make her finish it when she gets home. Because I'm so mean about not allowing her to get dehydrated.

Buy groceries -- I am at the grocery store a minimum of twice a week. If I go longer between visits, the staff at Whole Foods actually stop me upon my return and ask if we're all okay. I am not making this up.

Planning meals -- Okay, actually, our weekly dinners don't involve all that much planning. I usually give it three minutes' thought at the beginning of the week and then amend the grocery list accordingly. I usually cook without recipes, which can be either good or bad, depending on the menu item and if I was paying attention while I was cooking. Suffice it to say that it's not a good idea for me to simultaneously cook and talk on the phone.

Cooking dinner -- This can take a while, especially in the winter. Pot roasts go into the oven hours in advance. Bread needs three hours in the bread machine. Soups simmer for an hour or two and stews take at least three. Beans are soaked overnight and then slowed cooked all day. That said, not every night is like that and I intentionally plan some meals that are short, especially on nights we have soccer practice or Brownies. That's when I pull leftovers out of the freezer or whip up some quick pasta. We do eat some simple meals, like tacos (often on Thursdays) or frozen pizzas (Friday or Saturday night). I rarely cook on the weekends and my family must survive on tacos or other southwestern food or frozen pizzas or Pete's cooking. He is, by the way, a far better cook than I am and did most of the cooking before we had children. As far as I'm concerned, once the girls grow up and are living on their own, we will revert to that division of labor, as it really worked well for me.

Why do I spend so much time messing with food if I don't enjoy it? Because I want my family to eat good food. Healthy food. Food made mostly from scratch and not coming from sodium-laden boxes and cans. It's important to me that we all eat well, so I suck it up and cook even though I don't enjoy it. I usually liven things up by listening to good music (such as Hannah Montana) (I kid) while I cook.

Tonight's dinner is a good example of what I'm talking about. We're having shepherd's pie. This dish originated when Irish housewives would toss leftovers together and make a yummy meal. We, however, have no such leftovers, so all of this is going to be from scratch tonight. It will take me well over an hour to do the following:
  • Cook the potatoes to be mashed. I don't peel off the skins, which my children believe is my attempt to poison them, but that's just tough shit. They'll eat it and I promise they won't die. If they're lucky, I'll remember to scrub the dirt off first.
  • While the potatoes are cooking, I'll brown some beef in a skillet with olive oil, chopped mushrooms, onions, garlic, and carrots. The mushrooms are my next attempt to kill off my children. Luckily, they never seem to notice the onions and garlic, because that would be the tipping point for them.
  • The contents of the skillet will get dumped into a baking dish with some broth and some frozen peas that I won't bother to defrost because that's what the damn oven is for.
  • The potatoes will get drained, mashed, and I'll add butter, salt, and milk.
  • The mashed potatoes will be spread on top of the stuff in the baking pan and then the whole shebang goes into the oven to cook/brown/make my house smell good.
  • While there's action going on in the oven, I'll steam broccoli and grate some parmesan cheese to go on top.
  • Depending on my mood AND how much time I have AND how much time I have to spend cracking the whip over Graceful while she does her homework, I may or may not make a salad. Romaine hearts, chopped pears, and a little vinaigrette. (Pete, if you're reading this, don't get your hopes up because my mood does not currently point to salads.)
And before all of the above occurred, I went to Whole Foods and filled up my grocery cart and then handed the cashier a large part of Pete's paycheck.

The kicker is that Graceful and Elegant will likely bitch and moan throughout the meal about how awful it is. But I don't run a goddamn cafeteria, so what I put on the table is what they'll be eating. Or not. I suppose they could just go hungry. They won't die overnight from starvation. They'll have to have at least two reasonable bites of everything, but whether or not they eat more is up to them.

Wow, I've spent the past half hour typing this and now I cannot remember what my original point was. Great. Well, take from this what you will and maybe I'll remember my point later and add it.

17 comments:

Mrs. G. said...

Leave them all and come cook for me. I will savor everything you cook and praise your every dish. I will put your name in lights. I get excited if someone else makes me a sandwich.

They will appreciate your effort in 12 to 15 years. Keep fighting the good fight.

Family Adventure said...

Jen, you rock!

Heidi

The Guider said...

I also make Shepherd's Pie but only on weekends. No mushrooms but a tin of Heinz Beans. And soy sauce.

Badness Jones said...

Mmmm.....I made shepherd's pie (also from scratch) last night. But mine didn't have mushrooms, as I like to tell Hubs, they're fungus grown in shit, and they won't pass my lips! I actually wish I did like them. And I did peel the potatoes, which I cooked along with sweet potatoes to make the mashed topping. I was really looking forward to eating the leftovers for lunch today, but apparently Hubs got a little peckish around midnight and had them for a snack.

You're a good mommy, cooking for your family. I love to cook, but enjoy it somewhat less with all these small people screaming and holding onto my legs.

The MomBabe said...

Sounds like my life. I think my kids eat like, 6 times a day....

Life As I Know It said...

wow. I love Shepard's pie, but it is a lot of work. And my kids would complain and not eat it, so I tend to only bother with meals they have a chance at eating.
I hate cooking dinner too.

smalltownmom said...

I cook every night, too. My husband likes everything, my kids like most things (but only a few vegetables). Sometimes I run out of ideas.

Sarah O. said...

Gee. I was thinking this might be a good night for a family cereal dinner but maybe I should change my mind...

Linda and her Surroundings said...

Like you, I am not overly keen on cooking but still make most things from scratch. Too many weird things go into processed and packaged foods. I always make a couple of cakes each week or cookies for treats. I like the idea of a bread maker though - I may add that to my kitchen appliance collection.

By the way, your breakfast nosh is pretty impressive.

Flutterby said...

Baked Ziti tonight. From scratch. And I made two of them so I could freeze one. And I don't peel potatoes either. And I usually remember to scrub them up first. Usually.

daysgoby said...

*Hurrying over to sit at your feet and gaze adoringly upwards*

Me and your dog, learning the cooking secrets that make the household run.

I am inspired to try harder in the mornings. They love oatmeal. Actually, I could feed them oatmeal for dinner too....

Josie said...

Sheperd's Pe is my favourite thing to make and WB eats anything possibly left for the next day. When I do have the time, I even make some for my Mom, girlfriend and sis so they can freeze it.
How can the girls not like it?

And the fact you cook everyday - makes you Mom #1 in my book hon :)

Hope said...

I am totally taking this two bite thing...I alrady had the go ahead and starve part down...I liked this post...lots of good points I thought...

Hope said...

I am totally taking this two bite thing...I alrady had the go ahead and starve part down...I liked this post...lots of good points I thought...

barbra said...

I was totally feeling you, except that my husband still does a lot of the dinner prep. After all, why should that change during the years the kids are at home?

MizMell said...

Sounds pretty good to me!

And btw, you've been tagged for a book meme!

alison said...

Sigh. I wish my kids could take peanut butter to school, but all nuts and nut products are a no-no in the school, as are kiwi fruit, as there are severe allergies. Both L and R have a peanut-allergic kid in their class. And R would live on peanut butter if I'd let her.

We don't order in, except for the occasional pizza, and we don't eat out except for the occasional bribe trip to McD's.

I do like to cook, and I tend to do it on weekends and freeze stuff for during the week. I wish my kids ate a bigger variety of things.