Despite the increasing busyness of my family, I remain a firm believer in the family sitting around the table for dinner as often as possible. It's the way it's always been for my children, and so I sometimes take it for granted that the family dinner time is becoming extinct in many busy households. There have even been television ads promoting its benefits, which are many. Who knew? Well, maybe God, when he instituted families in the first place.
The problem was, I was growing bored with dinner. Not with eating, but with that age-old question, what to make? I think I got stuck in the rut of the same old thing, what I could recall from memory, with that list growing shorter and shorter. And so, without great ideas, I'd put off making dinner, and when dinner hour came around, I found myself irritated that everyone wanted to eat. (I think my irritation stemmed from hunger. And self-betrayal, but that's a whole other post.)
I needed some fresh ideas. And my sister, Hannah, introduced me to a blog she'd discovered called Real Mom Kitchen. In a word, salvation. Dinner has been saved, and everyone is loving it. Including me. I am so, so good at healthy, filling breakfasts, and substantial, nourishing lunches. Dinnertime found me burned out. Lately, even my cookbooks were boring to me.
Real Mom Kitchen is a delightful blog written by Laura, a Real Mom, who simply loves to cook, and most of what she cooks is just up my ally. I don't want fancy gourmet meals with hard-to-find and expensive-to-buy ingredients. She doesn't either. And I don't have time for long, involved dishes. Each day she tries a recipe that she's gathered and collected, or invented herself, and she posts it. With a lovely picture, and with an honest critique of the outcome and how her family responded. Very helpful. From what I can tell, Laura has received many awards and even makes television appearances from time to time sharing her recipes and love of cooking for her family.
I find myself scouring her website at the end of each week and picking 4 to 6 new recipes to try for the upcoming week. The ingredients I need to purchase are few and easy, and often coordinate nicely with my couponing and stockpiling.
So far, I've tried (some of these more than once) the Slow Cooker Italian Beef for Sandwiches, Tuna Noodle Casserole, Crock pot Orange Chicken, Creamy Italian Chicken, Crock Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup, Clam Chowder in homemade Italian Bread Bowls, Zucchini Cupcakes with Caramel Frosting, Key Lime Smoothie (and the same idea made in Lemon), BBQ Chicken Quesadillas, Chipped Beef Gravy, Black Bean and Corn Salsa, Potato Slabs, and Fruit Pancake Roll-Ups.
Coming up this week I'm trying Mandarin Chicken, Skillet Enchiladas, Cheesy Lasagna Rolls, Ranch House Crock Pot Pork Chops with Parmesan Mashed Potatoes, and Apple Pudding Cake.
It sounds like I've moved into my kitchen, doesn't it? But no! None of the recipes takes much time, and many of them I can throw into the crock pot early in the morning and smell their goodness all day long. (It does much to boost my morale as a mom to smell dinner cooking at 11am. . .and you should really smell that Slow Cooker Italian Beef cooking. Oh. My.)
It's been so fun to feel excited about dinner again, and to serve my family new dishes, or variations on old dishes long forgotten. Almost everything has been well-received by the kids and husband. And we have leftovers to serve at lunchtime, or on a busy piano/school night, so we don't have to make a quick run for fast food.
Once someone asked my stepchildren what they liked about having me for a stepmom. I was pleasantly surprised to hear them say that they loved that I had sit-down dinners almost every night. That reconfirmed to me how important and noticeable it is when the family comes together over a meal. I want to make sure I utilize that opportunity to grow close to our children and nourish them the best that I can. And I hope to make it a tradition that is carried over into their families as well.