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Friday, December 17, 2010

In which I launch an audacious plan

So here's the thing. I make dinner for my family a lot. I make dinner almost every single night. I make entrees, side dishes, salads, soups, sometimes even breads and desserts. Sure, we have the occasional pizza or once in a while a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, I mean those are staples. However we almost never go out to dinner unless we are on vacation or something. This as not always the case mind you. When I was working full time and my husband was in law school we were "regulars" at our local Mexican place. We kept stacks of what we called "emergency back up pizzas" in the freezer. We routinely cadged meals from my in-laws after work/school and ate at more fast food restaurants than you could probably even easily name.

Since then I have had the time to really teach myself how to cook and even though there are still those nights that I want to wave a magic whisk and have dinner appear magically on the table, (or you know, call out for some Chinese food) I have come to really (mostly) enjoy the process. I am a Stay at Home Mom, which helps FOR SURE, but I too have to have dinner on the table quickly. Those hours from 5 to bedtime go by awfully fast for everyone, and with dance classes and after school activities and PTO meetings and church and homework it is essential for everyone to be on their GAME in maximizing that time. In fact some of my best dinners have been inspired by having "something come up" and I suddenly have only 20 minutes.

Of course you can make a meal with all day to cook and a full refrigerator. What do you make when the cupboard is bare and you have literally no time (or often) no money to run to the store? That's my inspiration right there! A moment of grace as life teeters on the edge of catastrophe...

So for the next year, starting January 1st, I plan on cooking dinner for my family every night. In fact, if you stay with me on this journey of culinary self discovery, we can learn together the answers to the questions, "What makes a good weeknight meal?'" "How long does it take to make pot roast?" "Leftovers, again?" and "Who put the ram in the ramma lamma ding dong?". I have a lot of fun ideas!

I plan on making Lent (the 40 days leading up to Easter) into a vegetarian period for my family, excepting the fish on Fridays tradition I was raised with. And of course kicking that time off with a real New Orleans style crab boil on Fat Tuesday! Cinco De Mayo will bring us an entire week of Mexican food; favorites from my family, as well as recipes that I have never tried. St. Patty's day we will travel beyond the realms of Corned Beef and Cabbage and try some authentic Irish cuisine; sweets for Valentine's Day, a simple anniversary dinner, and of course what to feed your little ghouls and goblins before they go out to Trick or Treat! I'll bake bread, I'll toss salads, I'll flambé a dessert or two. Perhaps even some intentionally! And along the way I am hoping you guys chime in with your favorite recipes, trick and techniques to getting the food on the table.

Disclaimer: **Some restrictions apply, offer not good in the District of Columbia** I am reserving a total of 14 days to not cook dinner. There will be one (glorious) 5 day period where I am going to be in a hotel room in Washington D.C on vacation with my family. We will be making simple breakfasts that week since we will have access to a refrigerator and a microwave oven. The rest of the days I am reserving in case I come down with Bird Flu or Swine Flu or One Flu Over the Cuckoo's Nest or something. There will be pictures, there will be recipes, there will be jokes made at the expense of myself and others. Join me, won't you? Please? Pretty please? I'll make you dinner!


  1. WOW. I hate cooking dinner. I am duly impressed!

  2. Well, see, even if you hate cooking dinner, it is STILL something that needs to get done, right? So my idea is to make it as painless as possible. Nothing I make for dinner requires long cooking times unless it is something I make in the crock pot or a special occasion meal like Thanksgiving. So maybe I can give you some good, easy, tasty meals to try. :)

  3. Love this, Suzanne. I'm looking forward to some inspiration. I cook, let's say, an average of 6 nights a week, basically from scratch. I love experimenting, but due to a husband who would happily - happily - eat meat and two veg forever and kids that have intermittant picky phases, it seems like I cook from the same basic 20 ingredients. I mean, it gets eaten, it's balanced and healthy, but man, do I dislike the routine! I'm looking forward to some inspiration from you! No pressure! ;-)

  4. I was thinking about your challenge this afternoon, as I was cooking four things at the same time. Rather than saying I cook dinner every night, I'd say that most nights we eat something I have cooked. What has worked for me, as someone who likes to cook but who works full time, is to do one of two things

    - cook multiple things on Sunday that we can eat in combinations over the week

    - cook tomorrow's dinner tonight. Sometimes I'll cook a second dinner in the evening and then that's our dinner for the next night.

    Both of these strategies allow me to cook things I enjoy but to have dinner on the table in less than a half hour from when I get home from work.

    This strategy would be much harder without a microwave.

  5. Sue, I agree, multiple nights of cooking is KEY to getting that dinner on the table!! I very often prep or sometimes even make two dinners in one night. On nights I do that I will go step by step on the blog and say how/what I did. I also make frequent use of my slow cooker, microwave, and pressure cooker. They are lifesavers (though not STRICTLY necessary) to getting dinner done!

    Rachel, I grew up cooking with my Mom and she was a "foodie" before there was such a term. She was naturally adventurous with food and was raising us in a bi-cultural house so we had all sorts of things. Oysters casino, mushroom crepes, huevos rancheros, Betty Crocker style meatloaf and stir fries prepared in her giant wok were all family favorites. Hopefully some of my recipes and ideas will be big hits for your family as well! Fingers crossed!