Monday, September 28, 2009

A Dinner Effort

I am celebrating the onset of cool fall water by shaking things up a little in our household... wait for it... I am making dinner. I mean, actually preparing a home-cooked meal instead of sticking something frozen in the microwave or ordering a pizza from Mark’s.

Since dinner generally goes so poorly, I am loathe to put any effort into making something fancy- and I admit my definition of fancy may differ greatly from yours. Dinner generally ends in tears and mass consumption of the yogurt I keep stocked in the fridge for these numerous occasions. I usually stop crying by the kids' bedtime and they, at least, get calcium and protein from the yogurt.

Making a meal means following some sort of recipe that uses mysterious words like “dredge” and “braise” and “simmer.” However, if other people can do this, why not me?

I am inspired by my fellow blogger friend who writes the charming Life in A-Town. She shared her lack of housekeeping and culinary skills recently, and as I read her piece, An A-Town First: Recipe- For a Clean House and a Home-cooked Meal, I thought to myself, I could have written this verbatim. Especially the shoving of papers into random closets pre-guest arrival. There was one exception: I rarely cook for visitors, we almost always order pizza or grab subs from Wegmans, because I have a fear of poisoning somebody. But gosh, that cheesy casserole thing she forewent for the yummy stew? Sounds delectable. This may or may not be a hint for a dinner invite.

There are several things to think about when I cook dinner.

1) Will anyone eat this?

I have actually begun a list of home-cooked meals all four of the children will eat. So far, this includes homemade macaroni and cheese and baked ham. That’s it. And I actually don’t even bake the ham. It is pre-cooked and I just, well, microwave it and serve some mashed potatoes on the side. (I just thought of something! I could put ham IN the macaroni and cheese!! Wunderbar!)

Last week, I made my signature spaghetti and meatballs. Caleb ate them. Ella not only refused them, but threw her meatballs AND her bread roll. Daniel refused the entire thing as well, though he happily devoured his roll and the one that Ella threw in his general direction. Ben ate the noodles. He pretty much refuses to eat any meat product. This may account for his pallor.

2) Do I have sufficient ingredients to make this food?

I needed vegetable oil to brown some beef in. I couldn’t find it. It took me a while to remember I had moved it to the high, far corner of the pantry, where the twins couldn’t see or reach it. They had an annoying habit of pulling it out of the pantry and bringing it to me, whining, “Juice? Juice?”

3) There are other questions I must ask myself, like:

How long are onions good for in the fridge? Do bouillon cubes expire? Can I substitute tomato paste for tomato sauce? Where are my swimming goggles?

Swimming goggles are an absolute necessity for me when dealing with onions. There is no other way to not have watery, burning eyes for the rest of the night. I’ve tried everything else Martha Stewart has suggested. I came up with the swimming goggles on my own. Sometimes, I have moments of absolute brilliance.

The following is a lovely fall recipe and one of my favorites from my childhood. My mom occasionally still makes me a birthday dinner, and when she does, I request this. It is yummy. It also works well in the slow-cooker. For sides, I recommend any kind of frozen veggie that can be unthawed about seven minutes before you’re ready to eat. Or bread from the store. Or nothing-tell the kids to suck it up.

Braised Cheddar Beef Cubes

2 1/2 lbs of stew beef, cut up
¼ cup of flour
¼ tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
3 T. oil
2 bouillon cubes
1 onion, chopped
½ tsp celery seed
¾ cup water
15 oz tomato sauce
2 T brown sugar
4 oz grated cheddar
8 oz fresh mushrooms, halved

Dredge beef in flour, salt, pepper. Brown and pair off excess oil. Add bouillon cubes, onion, celery seed, and water. Cover, cook slowly 1-1 1/2 hours. Add tomato sauce and sugar- cook 20 minutes or until beef is tender. Add cheese and mushrooms. Cook 10 minutes. Serve over rice or noodles.


Dinner did not go well. Don’t let this deter you from making his recipe. Normal children like it. Here were the opinions of my four:

Caleb: “I kind of like it.” He ate three bites and declared he was finished.
Ben: “I’m going to choke!” He spit his first and only bite into his milk.
Daniel: “No! No no no no no!” He flat out refused.
Ella: “Cheese! Cheese!” Though she had a hankering for a slice of American processed cheese food, she did eat several bites! A great success for Ella. I rewarded her with cheese.


MGBR said...

Thanks for the plug. Meanwhile, my blog envy deepens. You managed to incorporate 'Wunderbar!' and 'pallor' into the same post. You're my blogger superhero. (Great tags, too, btw.)

btobey said...

Sorry that your dinner efforts did not pay off! I'm constantly trying to pass on easy dinner recipes to my sister, who has three kids (I think she has it a bit easier than you though--no boys and no twins!). Next time I send her something, I'll CC you on the email. ;)

A Mom After God's Own Heart said...

Love your blog....that recipe looks yummy...i may have to just try it out:) I am following you after finding you on MBC

Jeremy Graham said...

There are some cheap swimming goggles for the onions here: