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The farce that was dinner the next night

You guys left so many helpful suggestions on my dinner post last week. I was so grateful. Really. I had thought of a lot of the things you mentioned, but in no organized way, or in a framework where I actually felt I could pull off a freezer full of main meals or prepping in the mornings. But after reading through everything you said AND (this is key) lowering my standards, I feel like I have some workable options. Or at least things to TRY in this current season of Dinner Despair. 

I know it's funny to say that I had to think about lowering my standards when I was ALREADY feeding my children mac and cheese three times a week, but it's more of mattering the standards in my HEAD instead of the ACTUAL standards. You know? Like to just PLAN to have breakfast for dinner one night a week instead of having breakfast for dinner one night a week and feeling like I bombed the menu planning that week. Also, I LIKE breakfast for dinner. DOESN'T EVERYONE?

But I have to tell you about dinner the night after I wrote that post. For it is indicative of, well, everything. 

SO. Lovely Lisa recommended sticking some pork chops in the slow cooker with a packet of dry onion soup mix. I COULD DO THAT. And I had thawed pork chops in my refrigerator already. AND dry onion soup mix in my pantry. Obvs that's what we were having for dinner that night. In the morning before school drop offs I dumped everything into the crock pot, turned it on low, and congratulated myself for not having to wonder about dinner at 4pm. 

For a while things were great. My house started smelling SO GOOD. I knew I had precut broccoli in the fridge and we like it roasted, which is pretty much the easiest way to make broccoli. I had noodles for the kids. So around 4:30 I started making a salad (because it's easy to make a salad when everything else is pretty much already finished!) and cooked the noodles for the kids. And I just planned to feed everyone at 5 (because my kids are always starving at 5 lately) and Phillip could eat whenever he got home. And my mom was here and I was very much looking forward to putting out a Healthy Balanced Dinner at an actual dinner time, with plates and napkins and everything. 

But oh, Internet. Even though I had been sneaking peeks at the pork chops all day (and I know you're not supposed to do that) and 5pm they were dried up, hardened on the edges, the onion soup mix a black congealing mess. It was... oh, it was SO DEMORALIZING. I mean, for the first time in a long while I was EXCITED ABOUT DINNER. I was LOOKING FORWARD TO DINNER. And I felt like an IDIOT! I realized that all the fat I'd cut off those pork chops (but not all of it! I thought there was enough!) had probably made a big difference. And my mom was so nice. "It looks fine! We can eat it! I'LL eat it!" (No. We could not eat it. UGH.)

Whatever. Pork chops are not my favorite anyway. I had the noodles done and the broccoli going in the toaster oven. I'd just throw some hot dogs on a sheet pan in the oven and the kids could eat those. So I did that, set the table, and ignored my leathery pork chops. 

Of course Emma can't be starving at 5 like everyone else, she has to be starving at 4:30. So she was already in the high chair eating noodles and whatever other scraps I threw at her, and when the broccoli timer went off I went to add that to her plate. Except the broccoli was nowhere near done. It was still raw. I had put the broccoli in a toaster oven whose timer worked even if it wasn't plugged in. AND IT WASN'T PLUGGED IN. 

Eventually I slammed down noodles, hot dogs, hockey puck pork chops, and barely cooked broccoli (because it was taking too long, on account of NOT COOKING THEM THE FIRST TIME) on the table and spent the dinner hour banging my head against the table. My mom was nice about it, but I'm sure if she had her own blog she would have had a nice write up. And Phillip was super late of course, so even if I'd managed to make a decent dinner he would have missed the whole thing anyway. 

And this, Internet, THIS is me in the kitchen. There is no natural talent, not even any common sense. It seems like when I make something that everyone likes or something that actually took some work, it's the exception, not the norm. I think I might actually be getting WORSE. Where I am confident and easygoing and happy about baking, I am beginning to wonder if I might ever have friends over for dinner again. 

There are about 7 or 8 meals I make reasonably well (when I remember to plug things in.) About half of those can go in the freezer. The other half I can at least do a lot of the prep in the mornings. I'm just not going to care that we're eating the same things all the time, at least not right now. Trying harder is not working, so it's clear I have to try SMARTER with the things that already work. 

I was too busy for grocery shopping this weekend so I'm going tomorrow. Also Phillip and I are trying hard to low carb it for a while

  • Monday -  big make-yourself salads with Costco rotisserie chicken. Kids will eat chicken and fruit and whatever else I find in the fridge. During naptime/any free time cut up/prep package of chicken breasts for dinners later this week and next. Take out pork chops from freezer in the morning, marinate in the evening.
  • Tuesday - Honey mustard pork chops, asparagus, rice or noodles for kids
  • Wednesday - chili, make in the afternoon, simmer until dinnertime (I have a meeting at 7, so this is a super low maintenance dinner night)
  • Thursday - chicken curry casserole with chicken prepped on Monday (maybe the whole THING is made on Monday and I just have to take it out of the freezer? I CAN DREAM!)
  • Friday - leftovers or scrambled eggs and bacon

I like the IDEA of spending a day prepping everything for the week ahead, but it's never quite worked out for me. Am terribly lazy. But I think I can do at least a package of chicken breasts all at once, especially because I HATE having to deal with frozen chicken that isn't ready for anything. Motivation! All right! Go team!

ETA: WAIT! I forgot Phillip is going to the Star Trek movie Tuesday night. CEREAL FOR DINNER! WAHOO!

Comments

Lisa

Oh no! So sorry about the pork chops! It always works for me, but my chops are always bone-in, thick and full-fat. And maybe also a difference in crock pots? Truly, though, check out Crockin Girls. So many great ideas on there.

 Dr. Maureen

When I saw Diane putting "breakfast for dinner" on her meal planning calendar, I was all "Yes! PLAN for it!" So now we generally do it once a week by design. I'm with you on that.

Sorry about the crock pot fail, Maggie. It's happened to me, too, and it just stinks.

katie

Yep. That's happened to me. But we learn from our mistakes. When I use the crockpot I tend to put in more liquid (wine or beer) since you can always drain out excess.

April

My kids beg for breakfast for dinner, we do it once every couple weeks. Also make your own pizzas - I put a bunch of toppings out and buy premade pizza dough from the grocery's deli section.

Hillary

My cooking career began as a teenager when I burned ground beef for tacos beyond all edibility because I was waiting for the meat and spice mix to boil. I never added the water.

Mike and I once got into a major fight because I couldn't get stupid potatoes to cook.

I still won't attempt frittatas because the first one I made stuck so badly to the pan, I had to throw the whole damn thing away.

Following recipes helped a lot -- especially really specific ones that leave nothing to the imagination. Now I'm confident enough to improvise, but it's taken a lot of years.

Kelley

Aw Maggie please do not be so hard on yourself! I have 3 kids 4 and under and I don't love cooking. I have a really nice kitchen which helps me enjoy it the rare time lol.

I make chicken, rice and broccoli more nights than I care to count! Sometimes tacos, spaghetti, or the crock pot. Or grilled cheese. Rarely anything from scratch. And of course my mother in law has to make a comment (she is a big help normally I swear!) about my kids not eating this, this etc. and what am I cooking all week? And she always says how she cooked from scratch all day when her kids were small (but they were also immigrants at that time and poor.) My kids are pretty good eaters with fruit etc so I am not too concerned but she made a comment yesterday about why do I need a fancy kitchen if I don't cook? To her cooking is everything all day from scratch. But she also had no car so couldn't go anywhere so she could cook all day! Anyway end rant!

You are doing a great job. Try the meal plan and it will get easier. We have hockey Monday nights so that is our "easy" night.

Kelsi

I'm not crazy about cooking either. In fact I barely cooked at all until my daughter was born and got old enough to eat "real" food, which was only about 8 months ago (she's 18 months). However, I grew up eating dinner with my family every night and I want my daughter to have the same experience. So I've been putting a real effort into it. I took to Pinterest to find the simplest, easiest, fewest ingredient recipes out there (most of them crockpot). A few were really good and a few not so much. But I think as long as we're trying that's all that matters. My mom cooked for us 3 kids almost every night. It wasn't normally fancy, elaborate meals. It was simple dishes, and the company, that we loved. :)

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