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Posts Tagged ‘what’s for dinner’

Changing gears from yesterday: let’s talk about food and the practical concerns of getting meals on the table.

One thing that has become quite the quandary is how to feed my child now that she has more after-school activities.

She’s always done activities, but they were mostly right after school or on the weekend. Now, she has practices and lessons that don’t even START until after five. These are no longer after-school activities, they are now EVENING activities and I don’t like it. (I don’t dislike it enough to remove her from the activities, apparently.) Carla is a child who absolutely NEEDS eleven to twelve of sleep a night, so my husband and I are trying really hard to make sure she is in bed with the lights out no later than 7:30 pm. But when an activity ends at 6:30… how am I supposed to squeeze nourishment into the tiny space between “traveling home from activity” to “bedtime preparations”? It seems impossible.

(Perhaps you are thinking “McDonalds”! I have zero qualms about buying my child a happy meal. I ate fast food probably twice a week as a kid before gymnastics and piano lessons. But Carla does not eat fast food. Or, if she does, it is so rarely I cannot count on it as a reliable food source. Her palate baffles me.)

Options I have explored so far, with varying but mostly discouraging results:

  1. I made a big pile of sun butter and jelly sandwiches that I could freeze and defrost whenever we needed a quick meal. Carla ate one and pronounced it was terrible. Another night, she ate a few bites of a sandwich and refused to eat anymore. And then we lost power for many days and the rest of the sandwiches perished.
  2. Lunchables, accompanied by fruit.
  3. Snack dinner: some combination of pepperoni, cheese, crackers, olives, roasted chickpeas, sugar snap peas, and fruit. This is, I think, the most successful option. But it’s also challenging, because Carla prefers the same things over and over but then grows tired of them and then we are SCREWED.
  4. Bagel with cream cheese, accompanied by some combination of pepperoni, sugar snap peas, cheese, and fruit.

I have also been trying to bulk up Carla’s after-school snacking game. So on a day she has an activity at 5:00, I give her the usual banana right after I pick her up from school and then make her a yogurt and fruit smoothie to eat on the drive to the activity. Hopefully this is providing her with some extra protein and fat and vitamins, in case it’s a night where she only eats a Lunchable.

Over the summer, we were able to eat dinner as a family a lot more frequently than we ever have. But family dinners have gone right out the window since school started, what with Carla’s earlier bedtime and my husband’s work schedule. So that’s a bummer. But I am prioritizing my child’s sleep over everything else right now and I feel good about that. Carla is so busy and learning so much, I really want her to be well-rested so that she can get the most out of everything she’s doing.

The other Kid Activity-Related Issue that’s derailing my meal plans is that I am so flustered by what Carla is going to eat that I keep throwing up my hands and scrapping my own adult dinner plans in favor of Panera or takeout or prepared foods from the grocery store. Which are all fine options, but tend to be less healthy and more expensive than the food I’ve already planned to make. It’s just that I am TIRED by the time Carla is in bed. I am still doing my own thing during the day — a day in which I never seem to have enough hours — but on top of that, I feel like remembering which outfit she needs for that day’s activity or washing outfits for the next day’s activity or making sure we are stocked up on banana and frozen mangoes or rushing to pick her up from school or rushing to get her into her soccer uniform or rushing to get her to swimming on time is taking a lot out of me. And sure, it’s nice that she can come home after school to play for a while before ballet, but then I am driving to and from school and then to and from ballet when it would be much easier to go directly from school to the activity. The chunks of time between school and activity are too short to do anything of substance. I am constantly watching the clock or gathering necessary equipment or preparing snacks or driving or waiting in traffic or urging Carla to don her appropriate gear or prodding her to eat eat eat or brush your teeth or get your jammies on. It’s nonstop until she’s asleep, is what I’m saying. (HOW do you people with multiple children NOT COLLAPSE FROM EXHAUSTION?) This is what it is like to be Mariah Carey’s personal assistant, right? THEN, if I wait until 7:30 to start making dinner, well, we won’t be eating until 8:30 or 9:00 and that’s… later than I like to eat. More relevant is that I am TIRED. I don’t want to be chopping and sauteeing at 7:30. I want dinner to be ready to go. I can accomplish this, of course; it just means more meal prepping on shopping day, which I can totally do if I grit my teeth and just do it.

If you are a parent, you have my fist bump of empathy. If you are a parent of multiple children with (or honestly without) activities, you have my abiding awe and respect. If you’ve figured out the Kid Activity/Dinnertime solution, please let me know.

In the meantime, here’s what I’m planning to make and eat this week:

Dinners for the Week of October 15-21

 Note: I loved this the last time I made it, and, once again, I will make the peanut dressing from Damn Delicious for my husband and the teriyaki dressing from Le Crème de la Crumb for me.

Note: This is an old standby. It’s super easy to make, so my plan is to marinate the salmon and chop/wash the broccoli in advance and then make this on one of the late activity nights – I can shove everything in the oven and let it broil while my husband is reading to Carla.

Note: I plan to make this on another late activity night. It’s a slow cooker option – and, honestly, I need to expand the number of meals I can make in the slow cooker. This way, dinner will be ready to eat as soon as Carla is in bed.

Note: To make this easy, I need to make the yogurt sauce in advance and chop the bell peppers in advance. I can do it.

  • Pizza

Note: I haven’t decided yet if we’ll have traditional pizza or if we’ll do a taco pizza. I am leaning toward the latter, especially considering we are skipping taco night this week. But I will make a game time grocery store time decision on this one.

Note: I’ll probably save this for the weekend, because it’s a new recipe and because it seems somehow “special.” Probably because of the novelty. Also, I like to shop for fish on Saturdays. There is no reason, it’s just how I am.

  • Out

 

 

What’s on your menu for this week, Internet?

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The weather around here lately has been very fall-adjacent: no humidity, cool breezes, lots of fluffy grey-tinged clouds scudding across the brilliant blue sky. Leaves are beginning to do their autumn dance routine: curl, release, drift groundward. School has started, and the mornings are dark when I try to coax Carla from her warm little cocoon of bedsheets and blankets. We’ve been leaving the windows open at all hours. My husband had a pumpkin flavored coffee drink this weekend. Sure, there’s plenty of time for the heat of late summer to come roaring back. But right now, it feels natural that we’ve slipped into September.

Natural. But I feel a little off-balance with the speed of it all. Wasn’t I, just yesterday, putting away the winter things and getting out Carla’s spring dresses? Wasn’t I just packing her off for her first day of summer camp? Hasn’t it only been five minutes since she was born? I know the wheel of time spins faster and faster the further you get from the center. But this is ridiculous. Everything is going past in such a blur.

First grade. My baby has started first grade. It’s thrown me in a way I wasn’t anticipating, and I’ve been a little mopey and melancholy. A walk in the sunshine helped today. Let’s forget that I got nearly hit by a car (I was in a crosswalk! Crossing when MY direction was green and the driver’s direction was red! And she just rolled right through the crosswalk and right through the red light and turned right and only looked mildly startled when I threw up my hands practically right in her face because I was mere inches from her car!). I walked to do some errands, which was very satisfying. And I got to pass lots of adorable homes with their adorable lawns and exterior décor (one home had seating for TEN PEOPLE in the front yard! Three benches! Two chairs! And a loveseat!) and I walked past a pizza parlor that smelled heavenly in one way and a home in which someone was doing laundry and using Downy fabric softener which smelled heavenly in a whole other way.

And now I am thinking about meals, sticking rather sternly to salads and grilled meats while I can, even though the weather is urging me toward stews and soups.

Here’s what we’re having this week:

Dinners for the Week of September 3-9

Note: This is a new-to-me recipe, and I am skipping the mango/avocado salsa because I cannot stomach those two particular textures sharing real estate in my mouth.

Note: This is a new-to-me recipe, too. It just sounds yummy. And hearty in an almost-stew sort of way.

  • Out

And I have somehow managed to get through an entire summer without making an icebox cake, which is something I highly discourage. So I am going to try to remedy that by making this Lemon Icebox Cake.

 

What’s on your meal plan for the week?

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While I really want to continue with the Salad Theme, I may be over-salading? So there is only one – nope, two, I couldn’t resist – on the meal plan for this week. Let’s try

Note: This sounds… like not something I would eat. But it’s DIFFERENT and it has a white balsamic dressing, which sounds very tempting.

Note: THESE SOUND AMAZING. All the tacos, all the time.

Note: YUM.

Note: I will be not eating the chicken and instead loading it up with bell peppers, which are clearly on my Desert Island Food List.

Notes: I successfully ate chicken at my dinner party (no barfing!), so I am ready (I think?) to stick my toe back into the chicken water. Which sounds gross. Don’t bathe in chicken water. But this seems like a good, gentle re-entry back into chicken-ism. I will make black beans on the side, just in case this is gross.

Note: Two curries in one week?!?!?! Am I INSANE?!?!?! Perhaps, but I do not care.

  • Out for a Mother’s Day Treat!

Note: We will probably go to my favorite Mexican restaurant so I can gorge myself on cheese and chips and hot sauce.

What are you eating this week, Internet?

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Apparently, planning and executing an extravagant dinner party does not mean you get to SKIP making dinners for your family the rest of the week. Shock!

We are having a lot of vegetables this week:

Notes: This is just lettuce with avocado, bell peppers, and corn. I will put black beans on mine for protein and my husband will do chicken “marinated” in taco seasoning.

 

What’s on your menu plan for the week?

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Who has time to plan REAL dinners when all one wants to think about is Dinner Party Planning?

Well. Unfortunately, one’s family still needs to eat.

Here’s the menu for the week:

Dinners for the Week of April 9-15:

Follow Up: This was DELICIOUS. I used 1/16 of a teaspoon of five spice powder and it was exactly the right amount. I love how this sauce goes well with pretty much any veggies. You can throw in bell peppers, onions, zucchini, broccoli, pea pods — whatever! Anything goes! My only complaint was that I didn’t make enough vegetables. Make more veggies next time!

Follow Up: We did not actually make the shrimp portion of this meal (I think I made the broccolini with the vinegar chicken). The broccolini was fine, but I think I just don’t really LIKE broccolini. The stems are too tough for me to enjoy and the fluffy part is too small to make it worth the EXORBITANT price. I think I will stick to broccoli.

 

Follow Up: This was delicious. I made it with zucchini noodles, but I think it would be yummy to stir fry some bell peppers and/or broccoli with the sauce.

Follow Up: This was delicious. I “marinated” the chicken and shrimp in a teeny bit of olive oil and a good heap of homemade taco seasoning. Very yummy and satisfying.

  • Black Bean Burritos

 

  • Out

What’s on your meal plan, Internet?

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Welcome back from spring break! It is now time to meal plan, once again! Fortunately, the time away has (temporarily, I’m sure) reinvigorated me!

Here are some recipes I am actually looking forward to making this week:

Dinners for the Week of April 2 – April 8:

Notes: I will be adding bell peppers to this recipe for veggie appeal. Maybe chickpeas.

Follow up: This was decent. It tasted nothing at all like the kind of butter chicken you get an Indian restaurant, let’s be clear on that. But it was pretty good. And it was pretty easy. I did end up adding bell peppers and chickpeas, which were a good complement to the sauce.

Follow up: This salad is THE BOMB. The dressing is delicious and the pickled onions are SO GOOD. I never knew arugula could be so yummy!

Follow up: This batch of fire fry turned out to be WAY over-seasoned, when I was pretty sure that I had fixed my over-seasoning issues. (What I do is use an entire large container of yogurt, then increase the spices/herbs to 1 tablespoon where the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon.) My husband and I determined that it is the YOGURT that may be at fault. I use the cheapest, lowest-calorie fat-free plain yogurt I can find, which is Dannon. Next time, I am going to get a Greek yogurt instead and see if that helps. (I know that using a full-fat yogurt helps, because I did that accidentally recently and it was DELISH, but I am not really into using full-fat yogurt every time we eat this.)

Notes: Probably doing the yum yum sauce with the tuna is overkill, since it will be marinated already… but I have been wanting to do the sauce for a while, and this seems like a good fit.

Follow up: The yum-yum sauce was good, and I didn’t feel like it was overkill exactly. The marinade for the tuna was pretty mild. My bigger problem was overcooking the tuna. It is NOT EASY to get tuna to that perfect cooked-on-the-outside, -pink-on-the-inside level. Maybe next time I will use a different type of fish.

Follow up: This was very delicious.

  • Out

In addition to buying the ingredients for the above, I will be buying food to replace some of the items that were lost to our extended power outage. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been – it only affected one outlet, which had to be reset when we got home. The outlet happened to be the same one that powers both our wireless internet and our downstairs fridge. The wifi is now rebooted, and now communicating with our security system so our security company can stop calling us (they are on top of things, at least), and the fridge is up and running again. But everything in it was room temperature by the time we came home, so everything perishable had to be thrown out. The saddest things to toss were a) two miniature cakes I made with leftover cake batter from Carla’s last birthday; although my experience with eating the top of my wedding cake after a long stint in the freezer should have been enough to deter me from keeping them quite so long; b) a brand-new box of chicken dinosaurs, which have been Carla’s Entrée of Choice lately; and c) three packages of pork chops I got on sale. UGH. Oh, and a three-pack of butter from Costco. I held onto that a little longer than the rest of the stuff. BUTTER.

Oh well. Aside from the regrettable tossing of what was once perfectly good food, I am also kicking myself for not leaving the freezer unplugged long enough to clean it. Some ancient boxes of popsicles leaked and there are now greenish icebergs in the back of my freezer. Ew.

 

What are you having for dinner this week?

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I am not even going to preamble, today, Internet. Here are some meals I scraped together. But I refuse to enjoy ANY PART of the dinner process this week. I REFUSE.

Dinners for the Week of March 19 – March 26

 

Then, next week, we are going on Spring Break which is good because it means I don’t have to plan any meals… but bad because it means that I have to live with someone else making meals for me, which is stressful in its own way. I know. I am impossible.

What’s on your menu this week, Internet?

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