August 2, 2010

BlogVice: Wartime Dinner Secrets

Every parent fights the dinner time battle at some point. For the most part, I am resigned to the fact that I am going to walk in the door, kick off my heels, and start the battle. Every night.

Somedays, the war is not too bad (mac and cheese night). Sometimes, the outcome is shocking (they ate sushi?! and pot roast?! together?!) Sometimes, there is spinning of heads, spitting of green pea soup, tossing of plates, knocking over of cups, throwing of tantrums - these are the meals that question my capabilities as a human, let alone an actual mother.

I think the whole issue is the "surprise factor" of dinner time. I never know what the outcome is going to be. I tiptoe into dinner like a scared animal. Sometimes, the uncertainty of the battle is enough to make me loco.

With two kids spaced about six days apart, I have learned a few dinnertime secrets over the past two years. Thought I'd share some things that have helped me through.

1) Food shaped into animals/people/characters tends to work. No matter what the food. Mickey mouse pancakes. 90% success rate.

2) Shredded cheese or even vegan rice cheese, for the most part, will disguise most covert vegetable operations. Most effective on broccoli. Least effective on cauliflower. 75% success rate.

3) Hide baby food in spaghetti, cassaroles and pies. Jessica Seinfeld has a best selling book based on this concept. I think her recipes are awfully self-indulgent, but whatever. Who has time to puree peas and THEN cook a real meal? Crack open a jar of spaghetti and add a tub of Gerber peas. Now, we're cooking. 87% success rate.

4) If in doubt, let the them down from the table and just graze in the kitchen, while you randomly check your email. Hand them carrots, apples, raisins and cheese. Again, with the cheese. You're bound to find something they will eat. 92% success rate.

5) If I am feeling major tantrums brewing, I will declare the food is "magic" or "special" or incorporate some weird color (like Catalina dressing on chicken - voila - "pink chicken") For example, "Hey James, today we are having magic beans and pink chicken." Making up some nutty story at least grabs the attention (for a bit, until they throw it on the floor). 55% success rate.

6) Also known as the "Lazy Six," for when you KNOW you cannot possibly bear the battle, try this for dinner:
Sweet potato chunks.
Deli meat.

Now, the Lazy Six is downright lazy, but it works everytime. And you've got protein, vege and fruit. Heck yes. And if you are really adventurous, fashion the Lazy 5 into a magic monkey design, and you've got a true winner.

Sometimes preparing dinner is the worst end to an already heinous day. If you find yourself drinking three-quarters of the bottle of wine intended for use in the's time to just stop and go Lazy. Crack open the Sargento, Saltines and Salami and go to town. Happy kids. Guaranteed. 99.9% success rate.

Happy mealtime, friends!

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