Friday, October 14, 2011

The Stretched Dinner: A family time-saver for food lovers

My passion for cooking when I was younger stemmed from my love to please and entertain people. I wasn't always a great eater so I am not sure I can claim that my desire to know how to make hollandaise sauce at the age of 15 was out of a need for a delicious bite of food. But watching people at my table enjoy the food I made has always been a great love of mine. At some point in my mid-twenties my cooking became more of a passion for what I wanted to eat. Not what I wanted to make for others.

These days it is no longer fancy dinner parties I use to flex my culinary muscles. I'm cooking for kids now. When my two eldest children were little I remember feeling flummoxed by having to make a toddler meal and then a grown-up meal 2-3 times a day. It got frustrating and exhausting.  I was so grateful when they got older and we could all eat together as a family when dad got home from work and we could all eat the same things.

Thank goodness I no longer need to see those smiles at my table to feel good about my food because so often I get the you made what for dinner? We are a two-bite rule and if you're hungry enough, you'll eat it kind of family. I don't feed my 8 and 9 year old kids fois gras, I don't make heavy sauces, but I don't make tacos either. (and for the record I happen to love a good taco) For the most part we sit down to a family dinner at.the.table each night and spend 45 minutes or so catching up on the day over a hot meal. A meal, that much to my husband's dismay, has made my kitchen look like we were either robbed or bombed. I want my kids to stretch the limits of their palates and learn to enjoy food. I also would like my kids to understand what food can do for them and also how it can work against them. But I also want my soccer playing/homework doing kids to eat enough that they don't crash on the field or at their desks.

When we got home from China I realized that I was back in the land of 4 pm dinner time. A world where multiple meals are made for several different groups of people. I feed the baby her dinner at 4:30, and then immediately go into dinner prep for the rest of us while she plays in her PJ's before her 6:30 bed time. All the while I am juggling homework questions, reading through school paperwork, or dealing with a last minute PTO task.

In an effort to streamline the...
getting dinner on the table
finding time to answer homework questions or change that diaper
continuing to feed the kids healthy food that they enjoy but which also expands their palates each day
and oh yeah, satisfy the foodie in me....

I have come up with what I call the Stretched Dinner. It's not a new concept by any stretch (yes, I had to go there) of the imagination because it incorporates tactics many busy parents use to get dinners on the table. What it does do though, is allow for you to bring good food to the table and keep everyone happy. I have been using it for a few weeks now and I am happy to say that I've been stretching ingredients to keep my 1 year old as happy as her 8 and 9 year old siblings. And at the same time, putting sophisticated enough food on the table to satisfy their parents.

I will be starting to throw Stretched Dinner ideas into the rotation here at PickleChatter for those of you struggling to feed baby, big kid, and yourself without dropping to the floor by 8:00 pm each night.


JennyA. said...

Woo hoo! Can't wait to

LV said...

Can't wait for the ideas! I am going to need them once I get home.