When I was a kid, my mom would walk in the door from work and before she had her shoes off, we’d jump off the couch and pepper her with the dreaded, “Mom, what’s for dinner?” Back then I never understood why she hated that question so much. Today, I totally get it.
My boys have their own variation of the dreaded question. “Mom, what are the kids having for dinner?”
For the first few years of my children’s lives, I made two meals a night: theirs and ours. This started when my boys were babies. You see, I enjoy cooking for my husband and me. And I enjoy eating those meals accompanied by a glass of wine and a healthy dose of good conversation. Like most mothers, I don’t enjoy food fights, bad table manners, or the inevitable, “Eew. That’s disgusting!”
And yet every time I tried to change the family’s eating habits and schedule, the resistance from my kids was enough to break me. Dinnertime became one big battle that usually ended with tears: theirs and ours. (Okay, so my husband didn’t cry, but he would get angry and frustrated.) Earlier this year I got serious about getting us all to the table at the same time, but I still served modified meals.
About six weeks ago I said, “Enough.” I started planning meals that I felt the whole family could and should eat. I’ve read books, consulted the experts, read countless blogs written by other moms fighting food battles in their own homes. No one seems to have the magic answer. I’ve heard a child needs to be exposed to a food eight, fifteen, thirty-five times before he will eat it. I am living proof that you can put the same food in front of a child fifty times prepared fifty different ways and he still won’t eat it.
In my struggle to learn new recipes and get my kids to eat new foods, I have discovered several great online resources that are worth sharing. One of my favorites is StartCooking. Kathy is a former home economics teacher—Do they even have that in school anymore?—who teaches the fundamental basics of cooking from how to juice a lemon to how to make a meatloaf. Her site is super user-friendly and the quick how-to videos always include the ingredients and equipment list at the end.
Another favorite? The Meal Makeover Moms, Liz and Janice. Both registered dietitians and cookbook authors, these ladies have taken some of the most offensive kid-friendly meals and given them a healthy makeover. Their new audio podcast “Cooking with the Moms” is a fun mix of mom-chat and nutritional analysis combined with recipes kids should love. If you like more spice with your cooking, check out the HD Apple TV video podcast Bitchin’ Kitchen.
A new resource I’ve just discovered is The Dinner Spin. This is a subscription service that includes a weekly menu, shopping list and game plan to get you started. The meals are simple (think Thai chicken wraps made with peanut butter and soy sauce—two ingredients you likely have in the pantry) and the organizational tips help you prep ahead to save time. You can sign up for a two-week trial membership to the site for free.
So what are you making for dinner tonight?