Tag Archives: dinner

Menu Subject To Change Without Notice

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I am not good in the kitchen. I’m much better than I used to be though. Seriously, the only things I ever made in the kitchen were a huge mess and few small fires. If it didn’t come in a box or couldn’t be cooked in the microwave I didn’t make it. And when the “Holiday family get-togethers” rolled around I always brought the ice. But I brought the good ice!! It was Sonic Ice!!!! I know, right? I was good at ice!

My mom blames herself for my lack of skills in the kitchen. I think my lack of interest is to blame. I always had more desire to eat the food than cook it. Wait, I’m still like that. I wasn’t your typical little girl either. You were more likely to find me outside in a tree, swimming, riding motorcycles or playing in the mud than in the kitchen. Unless I was eating then you’d find me there. And I think I had an Easy Bake Oven but I’m pretty sure I baked more insects instead of cakes. What? I was a curious child.

The only real ‘cooking’ memory I have as a child is Christmas time. Nana used to do a lot of baking at Christmas. I never actually helped her, mind you, but I remember sitting in the kitchen watching…and smelling. The one thing I do remember helping with was the Buckeyes. My favorite!! I remember rolling the peanut butter into cute little balls. Then we would stick a tooth pick in it on top so we could dip it in the chocolate. I didn’t know they were called Buckeyes because they resembled the nut. I always thought we called them that because they looked like eye balls after you dipped it in the chocolate and took the tooth pick out. I think I was in my twenties before that revelation finally hit. Anyway, I love those memories of making Buckeyes with my Nana!

Today things are much different. I actually cook. I only use the microwave to melt butter and reheat items for left over night. I even make a few things from scratch. And they’re yummy!! Those of you who know me can pick your chins up off the floor now. Get this~ I actually enjoy cooking . I find pleasure in taking all these ingredients, putting them together and creating something that smells so good and makes my family smile. I have to be honest and say that some days, most days, I still see it as a chore. I would rather be relaxing on the couch playing Scramble with Friends, reading The Hunger Games series or working on this blog. However, we gotta eat. And I found out that things that you actually cook taste way better than things you get out of a box or microwave. The other thing that I enjoy so much about cooking dinner is that Gary and I usually do it together. One of us is usually the lead chef for the evening but the other is always right there to help and most importantly to spend time with. Gary and I use the time it takes to prepare dinner to talk about our day, share things, vent and encourage each other. Granted, we’re interrupted every few minutes by a kid asking any number of random questions . But we still enjoy it and it’s still great time together!

Dinner time can be extremely stressful in any home much less in a home with a large family. Before Gary and I were married we would eat dinner together at least 4-5 times a week. We would always email each other during the day and ask “So, what’s the plan for dinner?”. Then one of us would go by the grocery store on the way home. This happened every day. Occasionally we would get smart and plan two meals and buy both in one trip. I just knew that after we were married and living in the same house dinner would be so much easier. And it was. Sort of. We still did the emails of “So what’s the plan for dinner?” but instead of meeting up for dinner I ran to the store with all the kids before Gary got home from work. Yeah, the grocery store with five kids under the age of 13 is not fun. No matter how short the trip. So after a while of almost daily trips to the grocery store for dinner I realized there has to be a better way. That’s when I decided we needed to plan our meals out for the week and do a weekly trip to the grocery store.

I have to admit that meal planning is not my favorite thing to do. It’s a little tough finding seven meals that seven people agree on. I do realize that we can’t make everyone happy, but the kids need to realize they can’t have their favorite meal every night either. It’s very hard to teach young kids compromise. It doesn’t help that we have two very picky eaters. That is frustrating! [Apparently it’s some kind of payback. According to my mom anyway. I don’t know what she means by that exactly but whatever.] I struggle with how to handle Emma and Cullen and their finicky-ness. I really do, because I can see both sides of the situation. I have strong preferences when it comes to food too and I don’t want to force someone to eat something that revolts them. However, if you just don’t feel like having lasagna tonight because you’d rather have baked chicken and green beans, well, you’re out of luck. That’s where the compromise comes in. There are plenty of nights I’d rather have something else instead of what we’re having but you roll with it!
We’ve finally figured out a way around all of this. First and foremost, we are not short order cooks and you’re not going to have another meal prepared for you. Also, if we know it’s something you have eaten before, that’s what you eat. When it’s something we know they just won’t eat we make sure that we have some leftovers in the fridge that we can heat up for them. They don’t go hungry, we don’t cook two meals. Everyone’s happy.

I also want to share with you our Menu Board. I found this idea on Pinterest from The Creative Mama and I love it! [Visit this cool mama’s website for directions on how to put yours together] It works great for us. Before I just typed up a little boring list of what we were having for dinner each night and stuck it on the fridge with a magnet. Now we have this adorable, and functional, board on our fridge that makes dinner planning a breeze!

I'm so thankful for our menu board!! It makes a huge difference in our routine!

There’s two things I love about this type of menu board. One is you have all the meals you make already written out on little cards and all you have to do is flip through them and decide what to have that week instead of wracking your brain for ideas. The other is how easily you can switch the meals around if you need to. Sometimes things come up and you need an easier dinner to prepare or you decide to do left overs instead. However, you may get some back lash for that. To avoid a mutiny because we’re having lasagna instead of pig in a blanket I added a little disclaimer to the bottom in smaller print~ “Menu is subject to change w/out notice.” It keeps all the griping to a minimum. I would highly recommend it. You may have to explain it the first time but after that just point.

Once the menu is done it’s time for grocery shopping. Another necessary evil. I have a whole system for that too. I can’t wait to share it with you! In the mean time you should go have a snack!

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Come And Get It

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As I sit here thinking about what to write about dinner at our house I realize that it probably does look crazy and chaotic from an outsider’s perspective. Gary and I fixing plates [side note: that’s what we say in the south. The plates aren’t actually broken just so you know], the kids coming in and out of the kitchen, the fridge opening and closing. I see it all in my mind, sped up just enough to make it comical and the Benny Hill song playing in the back ground.

Our dinner routine has evolved over time to suit our needs. When we were first dating there were only 4 chairs at the table so we had to use a bar stool as well. Which caused arguments over who was going to sit on the stool….and our first schedule was born! Everyone had ‘assigned seats’ at the table [alright, alright…I might be a bit OCD] so the stool just made its way around the table giving each person a turn to sit on the beloved stool. Which I don’t know what the big deal was. It was too high for the table and you had to lean over to take a bite of food. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, dinner routine. The table was only large enough for four, five with the stool, so Gary and I would feed the kids first and play waiter while they ate. Once the kids were done we could enjoy a peaceful dinner, and I use the term peaceful very loosely. This routine continued on for quite a while. We still use it when we have our friends over so the adults can sit together and converse over the meal and the kids can run off and play. However, we now eat together as a family every night!

Our first meal as a family was on Memorial Day. Gary had made the best looking ribs, I made potato salad and baked beans…the whole nine yards. The food looked fabulous!! Gary looked at the ribs and then looked at me and said “We’re all eating together today. There is no way I’m going to sit and watch them eat these ribs and have to wait on mine.” So we had our first meal together as a family, all at the same time! All joking aside, Gary and I truly value our faith and family and we decided that we needed to start eating our meals together as a family to reflect that.

Our dinner routine runs rather smoothly I think. When dinner is almost ready we call one of the kids to set the table. Depending on the type of dinner we have we either go ahead and fix [prepare for you northerners] the kids plates and put them on the table. Usually the child that sets the table helps with this part too. Sometimes we put all the food on the table “family style” and serve them there. If we have tacos or something like that we either call each child to ask for their preferences or send a child to take orders just like a waiter. Don’t laugh, it works. I even write their names on the edge of the paper plates with my sharpie sometimes to keep track. Those of you who know me are laughing now because they know all about me and sharpies. You are aren’t you? Once all the plates are ready and everyone is seated we say the blessing and enjoy our time together. Sometimes the discussions are silly, sometimes intriguing. Some nights we have wonderful discussions about right and wrong, our faith and how great life is. And we almost always learn something new about each other. One by one the kids finish and ask to be excused. We have to be a little strict here because we have a few who like to inhale their food so they can return to their xBox game or television show or drawing or whatever. They know up front that if you finish first you will have to sit and visit for a little while before being excused. So you may as well slow down and actually taste your food. Everyone clears their own spot putting their cup in its spot on the counter (yes, I even have a certain place for their cups to stay), trash in its place and the dishes in the sink. Then a child wipes down all the place mats and puts them away, wipes the table and pushes in all the chairs. Gary and I are left to clean the rest of the kitchen but together we knock it out in no time. Plus, it gives us time to chat and I really cherish that time. On the weekends, school holidays and summers we do the same for breakfast and lunch except I’m doing it alone sometimes. Those meals are a little more laid back but still pretty much all the same rules apply.

Our friends are amazed at our dinner routine. They watch in awe as we float around the kitchen, and each other, as we spoon food onto plates, pour drinks and herd five kids to the table. The real challenge is finding something everyone likes to eat. Especially when you’ve got two picky eaters in the family. One day I’ll share with you the many ways to serve pasta with butter and plain hotdogs. I’m sure you can’t wait to share those recipes with your friends and family.