what’s for dinner?

This evening, I fed my daughter scrambled eggs with broccoli.  She said it was gross and why do we always have broccoli and I’m really annoyed that you put the broccoli with the eggs and finally, my stomach hurts.  I didn’t have any excuses really, except to tell her that some children were starving and she was lucky she had food and that I did her a huge favor by adding cheese.  She just stared at me like really, mom.  Don’t do me any more favors. My husband walked in and stared at the skillet with disgust.  “Is this supper?” he asked.  I told him he could just have cereal.

I enjoy cooking.  I like to make really complicated dishes involving demi-glazes and stuffed pork and sautéed vegetables.  I love shallots and herbed chicken and thick cheesy potatoes and fresh thyme.  It’s soothing to have the time to roast and baste and present things on woodland spode platters.  And there’s nothing like pumpkin bread fresh from the oven.

But when I’m home late, my son’s pointing to the high chair and shrieking at the top of his lungs, and my daughter’s begging for more applesauce (“I’m starving to death.  To death!” she says), I’m in total panic mode.

I have exactly one recipe I throw together in a moment’s notice.  I mix together pre-cooked brown rice with raw eggs into a rudimentary batter and fry it up in some olive oil.  We call them rice cakes, and we eat them with sour cream and sea salt.  But that only covers Monday.

So I sat down and forced myself to come up with a list of simple meals that you could assemble quickly.  Many you can do over the weekend, freeze, and literally just forget about.  Until that one weeknight that you need them, and they’d be there like trashy reality tv.

Just consider this post a public service announcement. You’re welcome, people.

(1) Make a truckload of meatballs on Saturday and freeze them.  When you’re crazy busy, you can just microwave them, heat up some sauce, and serve with a bit of shredded cheese.  I also heavily butter and douse whole-wheat sandwich bread with garlic salt and then toast in the oven, which sounds gross but at least your kids are getting some whole grains.  I have also discovered Quinoa pasta, which is quite good if you have the energy to boil water. Which I rarely do.

(2) Put any sort of beef or pork roast in a slow-cooker with BBQ sauce (thanks, Neita!).  You can freeze this as well.  Then, on a Tuesday night, thaw out some hamburger buns, nuke the meat, and ta-da!  But if you do meatballs and then BBQ in the same week, that’s a lot of meat.  Unless you’re from Texas, and then it’s not that much, really.

(3) Cook some really good rolled oats over the weekend – slowly and stirring often –add milk, butter, cinnamon, honey, and raisins until the whole mess is sloppy, sweet, and wonderful. Then swat at your children’s hands as they reach for a bite, let it cool, and put it in the freezer in some Tupperware dish with a lid that actually matches.  Some random weekday, you can defrost it in the microwave enough that it pops out of the plastic tub and plunk it down like a hockey puck into a saucepan.  Add a bit more milk to thin it out, cook on low while you feed your starving son some grapes, and in no time you’ve got a great healthy dinner (even though it’s technically breakfast.  And mostly carbs.  But I doubt your kids will complain.)

(4) I make a ton of quiche.  You can literally hide almost anything in quiche (except, apparently, broccoli) and your kids will (possibly) eat it. Plus, it sounds fancy to say you made a quiche.  Unless you make a ton of quiche, like me.  Then they aren’t so easily fooled. This is a good way to use up lunch meat ham that’s about to expire.  You can also use canned spinach, which is otherwise quite disgusting. It’s super easy to throw together, but it does take a while to cook.  That’s the only downside.

(5) I have discovered that ring sausage lasts for an unusually long time in the fridge.  The expiration dates are crazy far-off, which means that they are probably full of preservatives and perhaps shouldn’t be consumed by humans.  Nonetheless, I buy it and keep it in the bottom drawer for emergencies (until it gets close to expiring, when I’m forced to cook it).  I just sauté bell peppers and onions in oil and then throw in the sliced sausage.  You can serve over rice if you have the energy. My daughter always balks at the onions and peppers, but I tune her out.  I also tune her out when she says she wants to be tinkerbell or a cheerleader, so I have loads of practice.

(6) The other egg dish that my family actually likes is to sauté shallots in butter,  add herbs de Provence, leftover roasted potatoes, eggs, then shredded gruyere.  It really only takes about five minutes. But you have to have the leftover potatoes and gruyere on hand, which isn’t often the case.  Unless you’re a gruyere junkie like me, and most folks aren’t.  Smart thinking, since that stuff’s way too expensive.

(7) Tuna.  I know, it’s basic, but I always forget about it.  Make a simple tuna salad with canned tuna, mandarin oranges, pecans, mayonnaise, and lemon pepper.  Serve with crackers. But be sure to take out the trash.  No one wants to wake up with bad breath, stumble into the kitchen for coffee, and smell tuna cans.  Ick.

(8) There’s always yogurt parfaits, which I’ve done on occasion.  Layer fresh or frozen fruit with yogurt and granola.  Hey – at least there’s some grains, fruits, and probiotics.  Could be worse.  I just tell my kids it’s dessert for dinner and they totally believe me every time.  Suckers.

So these are my humble suggestions.  Just stock your pantry, frig, and freezer with these things and you’ll be guaranteed a week’s worth of meals in no time.

I realize I’ve suggested meatballs, BBQ, preservative-laden sausage, oatmeal, tuna, and a large number of eggs.  That’s a strange listing of food, so your family might say they’re actually full from lunch and why do you always make meatballs because it’s really quite annoying.  That’s your problem to solve.

Tell them there’s always cereal.

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