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Love and Hate

The ups, downs and overall delights of parenthood
Jul 27, 2011
10:02 AM

Love & Hate: I Love Easy Dinners

There's nothing fun about having to plan, execute and clean up after dinners every night. But it's worse when the recipients of our hard work moan and complain about our meals. That why it's exciting when we find a dish everyone will eat.

Love & Hate: I Love Easy Dinners

I am a rather finicky restaurant eater. I know when the pasta isn't al dente, the seafood isn't fresh and the veal has been frozen. Hrumph!

But at home, I have much lower expectations – mostly because I know I'm the chef. I mean, how good could the food be if I'm making it? But that's OK, because at home, the taste of the food isn't very important to me.

What I care about is: How long will it take to make, and will anybody eat it?

The first rule of Mom Cooking, at least in my experience, is the inverse relationship between time spent preparing a meal and the enjoyment the kids derive from it. In other words, the more time I spend cooking, the less my kids like it.

And that's OK with me. I'm happy to find fast and easy meals to make the kiddos happy. As a matter of fact, after watching my kids turn their noses up at all kinds of fancy meals, I was thrilled to fall back on some of my mom's old repertoire from when I was a kid. Do my kids love sausage patties and macaroni and cheese for dinner? Yup. Hamburger Helper? Yes, ma'am! Sloppy Joes? You betcha!

Sorry, healthy moms of the world. I just can't handle making low-fat, organic, vegetarian, nitrite-free, Omega-3-enriched dinners every night. What good are healthy dinners anyway, when the kids won't eat them and then sneak a bunch of cookies in the middle of the night? (Or is that what my husband does?)

Problem is, I'm so desperate to find stuff they love that once I do, I go into repeat mode and keep giving it to them over and over and over again. First time they'll say, "Oh, I love this stuff!" and eat like hungry mountain lions over a steamy gazelle. The ninth or tenth time they see Sloppy Joes, well, they've caught on to my devious plan. "Sloppy Joes aGAAAAIIIIN!?"

And then it's back to trying to remember easy meals mom used to make, snipping deceitful recipes from magazines (gourmet meals in under 20 minutes? Don't believe it!) and getting creative with soups and frozen chicken tenders.

It's only fair, I say. Who needs all this made-from-scratch health-consciousness, especially if you're a working mom, right? I say we should embrace our simple dinners! Appreciate how pizza meets the requirements of all four basic food groups. Claim mac and cheese as a vegetable! TV dinners? Why not?

Because if my mom could give us Hamburger Helper every Wednesday, BLTs on Thursdays and burgers every Friday, why can't I pass down the simplistic dinners of yesteryear to my little darlings?

It's tradition.

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