Thursday, March 6, 2008

Cooking Day

Today is a Cooking Day.

These days don't come around all that often here at Chez Wonderwheel, but I'm always happy when they do. In fact, I don't usually know it's a Cooking Day until the morning comes and I see that rare block of time that would allow me to both shop and cook. Today, for example, was supposed to be a Workout Day, until I rose and realized that my chest cold was holding on just long enough to cause too much asthma and coughing for a good workout. And so - presto chango! - it became a Cooking Day.

Rushing to the local market after preschool drop-off, where I would someday like to spend hours exploring the aisles of food whose labels are in languages I can't even recognize let alone translate, I picked up the ingredients for Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken, Quick Tortellini Soup, and Chickpea and Sausage Stew. I also have ingredients ready for Slow Cooker Sweet Potato-Pinto Bean Chili, which is outrageously delicious and will be made as soon as the slow cooker is free of the Salsa Chicken that is currently making my home smell fabulous. A shout-out goes to Shannon, whose selections for her Tuesday Do-Little Dinners series have been really yummy and (as promised) easy, even for me! I'm always looking for easy meals, especially ones I can throw in the crock pot in the morning and either freeze or eat later.

None of these will be tonight's dinner, which is going to be Sloppy Joes, much to the boys' excitement, but when a Cooking Day arrives, I make as much as I can for all the rest of the days when I come home at 5:30, hang out with the boys and then realize they're falling apart and famished and it's time to pull out the Panini Press for Yuppie Grilled Cheese and warmed up veggie soup - or something a bit heartier that I've made ahead on a Cooking Day.

Speaking of the boys, I should add that they eat almost none of the foods listed above. (Other than the aforementioned Sloppy Joes, of course.) This may sound heartless, but I sort of don't care. I hear that other kids (like Shannon's) do eat some of these meals and love them, but my boys only rarely enjoy something that wouldn't be found on a Kids Menu at your local American Cuisine restaurant. This is not something we encouraged, nor do we support it, it's just reality with their particular taste buds right now (although I see it gradually changing). But we don't make separate meals. I try to make sure there's one thing on the plate they like (maybe a few apple slices or half a slice of bread if I know the entree is especially unpalatable to them) to get Lyle to the table and seated without a big fit, but if they don't like dinner they don't eat it. (But they still have to stay at the table until we're all done.) Thankfully, they'll eat a good variety of vegetables and that's not usually a battle. They don't get more bread or apple slices unless they've tried everything (at least a "no thank you" bite). Yes, they go to bed hungry sometimes. Tough luck, guys. It's not like they're underfed. And as a toddler Lyle truly went to bed without a bite of food multiple times - nor milk because he was so upset about the offerings that he wouldn't come to the table - and gone to sleep hungry, but he has never woken up hungry in the night since infancy. He just eats a ton of breakfast the next day. And there are enough other nights when they get things they love and they chow down.

Here is part of what drives this decision for me - I don't want my kids to behave like whiny little buggers at other people's homes, which is what Baxter used to do when we catered to him more at home. It's downright embarrassing when the child gets to be around 3. Now they know, wherever they are, that they can eat what they like on their plate and need to keep quiet about the rest.

And so, it's a Cooking Day. Thankfully, I know that at least the adults in this household will love everything that is on the stove, in the oven, and in the crock pot, and I'm having a great time making it!


Niksmom said...

Sounds like a day to relish indeed! (Sorry, I couldn't resist! Blame it on lack of sleep!) I'm trying to train Nik's tastebuds to try anything and not give him too much "kid" food. Not that he really eats by mouth, but you know what I mean...

I applaud your approach with the boys about food and only making ONE meal. I watch my sister make multiple things for her teenager daughters and think to myself "if you don't like the choice, get up and make your own @#^%$ food!" (which I don't actually say outloud!). Kudos to you for training them early.

Anonymous said...

I admire your organization with this Cooking Day thing. I should try that. It's not that I hate cooking, I actually like having a good meal at home, but it's just the day after day amount of time. My favorite meals are almost always leftovers.

I also admire your approach with the boys. I have not been so great about that. My mom always made separate food for me, or something prepared slightly different, if that night's dinner wasn't part of my limited repertoire (I was a super picky eater). I'm crossing my fingers that my kids never embarrass me in public by whining about food. So long as we're having something I know they'll eat, they have to eat it, but when it's something I know they don't like, I'm lenient. Like your kids, mine so far at least like their veggies. The oldest does. The 15 month old is still figuring her palate out.

I'm very curious about the Pinto Bean Sweet Potato Chili...

Jordan said...

The Pinto Bean Sweet Potato chili is sooo good! In fact, last time we made it, it was just finishing up in the slow cooker while we had a babysitter here on a Sat. night - she was so impressed just by the smell that she took the recipe home, made it the next day, and said she and her fiancee declared it the best chili they'd ever had!

I forgot to add to my post that a Cooking Day is always fueled by one large skinny hazelnut latte and a lot of really groovy music to keep things moving! For me, these elements are critical.

I am celebrating the fact today that I finally have kids in my house who will amuse themselves for a period of time so that I can cook. Aaahhh, sweet relief.

Shan said...

Hey, thanks for the gracious shout-out! I'm so glad someone outside of my own family likes my cooking! :) I swear that small children can and do devour the recipes I post; my 3-year-old loves every single one, and my 1- year-old (picky eater) inhales the polenta, salsa chicken, and minestrone. (Hates the frittata and anything involving sweet potatoes, however.)

We generally offer bread and butter on the side, as a semi-natural dinner accompaniment, for the picky eater baby among us. Fairly often she eats only that, or that plus the veggie I've made. I never make an entirely different meal for her, but I do make an alternate dish if, say, the one she isn't eating is because she's not yet old enough to partake--not her fault! (i.e., if we're eating salad and she can't chew the lettuce yet, I'll make her some peas.) Occasionally I'll give her a dish of whole-milk cottage cheese if she simply won't eat the entree, but only because she refuses cow's milk, is in the process of weaning from nursing, and isn't getting enough protein or calcium and her pediatrician suggested pushing cheese and other dairy/protein sources. However, I agree 100% with the philosophy of NOT becoming a short-order cook!

Your comment about eating at others' homes makes me wonder--and sort of dread--how the baby will be by then; I can totally see her being the embarrassing food refuser, no matter what I do! That child is STUBBORN!

OK, again--thanks for the mention! :)

CKH said...

I'm going to try the Sweet Potato Chili next week. My current favorite chili recipe involves dark chocolate, brown sugar, and sour mix, and it really is delicious, but it also requires a lot of prep time. Still, for something sweet, spicy, hearty, and tangy, it's fabulous!

Boy oh Boy did you strike a chord with me on the whole eating dinner/ dull taste buds thing. We catered like crazy to Anya for the first three years because she had such a serious eating disorder, and now she primarily likes yogurt, pasta, dumplings, and other flavorless children's menu items. She's lactose intolerant which means milk is out, and is hugely reluctant with fruits and veggies, although buying a juicer this year helped. You can add almost anything to fresh apple or orange juice and have it come out tasting good (carrots, ginger, jicama, cukes, spinach, etc.) But all of this means that when she eats with other people, she is often left hungry. I really do think it's time to push her into tasting new foods. But - she's also three months shy of five and only weighs 26 pounds. So I'm not as willing as I'd like to let her skip any meals. People talk about the serious problem of overweight children in this country, but what I'm struggling with is a little girl who simply can't put the weight on (she'll probably have it made in her twenties). Sorry to go on...I think about this topic far more than most parents do, I suspect.

Enjoy the wonderful smells!

Shan said...

In response to dear ckh above--a longstanding friend--I would DEFINITELY feel differently about catering to my children's tastes if I had a seriously underweight child. I have local friends with children with milder forms of this issue, and I completely approve of them pretty much letting their children eat whatever they will deign to eat! In your case, I'd totally be catering, with no qualms. It's amazing to me to consider a 26 lb. almost-5-year-old. I have a 23 lb. baby (and even she is only in the 40th percentile for weight)! I think in atypical situations you have to go with whatever works.

Jordan said...

Yes, CKH, I would be catering to Anya, too. I know that I can only be so cavalier about the pickiness issue because my particular kids don't have any medically-based (or emotionally based) eating challenges (like Anya and Nik) but if they did it would be an entirely different story. I hope everyone sees that distinction and understands that I respect it.

Drama Mama said...

I loved this post. I have a little cheat-sheet of cheatie soups from a Fitness magazine that I use, and I'm the only one who likes them.

The food thing is hard, but we have the same philosophy.

Just how LONG can Roxie just eat noodles?

(BTW, I find it hilarious that the kid with sensory issues is the easy eater, and my "NT" kid is the picky one! They just keep changin' it up!)

Emily, as some know me said...

Coo-king? What is this...coo--k--ing of which you speak?

That's what Mr. DMFP is for around here. That man has a little roster of dishes he makes, and we like 'em all. My version of cooking is to throw a bunch of stuff in a pot or pan or whatever is fireproof, toss in some spices and stuff, and let it all get hot. Sometimes, this does not go over well with all of the family. ;)