So I said yesterday I was going to do this thing, posting in November for NaBloPoMo. Which means I gotta come up with fodder to blog about. Which got me thinking about…food. (Well, I am currently shoving food into my face…be that as it may.)
For a household without allergies, I still spend an inordinate amount of time preoccupied with food. Hats off to those families who have to deal with highly allergic children – my own niece has a serious egg and tree-nut allergy, so I have some idea how cooking for special needs people has to be approached.
But here’s my thing: there’s always someone that has a special need, preference or peculiarity, even in an allergy-free home.
Of course there’s also the scheduling of meals around activities and sports. And work for those who leave the house and commute in traffic.
I too have needs, mainly to keep noisy complaints at bay after slaving over hot stoves and cutting boards all day. It’s not exactly comparable to the worries of cross-contamination, but still something I’m faced with.
So I begin my day like so many other moms do: while sipping coffee, I think about dinner.
- Do I need to take something out of the freezer?
- Is there something eatable that everyone will like in the house?
- Do I need to go shopping?
As I mechanically assemble the kids’ lunches, I contemplate:
- Who has an activity tonight?
- When and where is it?
- Is it a short or a long drive? Will rush hour traffic delay us?
- Can the kid eat prior to leaving the house or does the meal have to be portable?
- Will the other kid come along? What type of snack food she’ll actually eat at the rink is there to pack?
- Can dinner be prepared ahead of time and reheated when we get home?
Actually I rather enjoy cooking. Now that we’re post-renovation and in an open-concept kitchen that has a huge counter facing the TV (ha!) I enjoy it even more. But it does get kind of cumbersome sometimes, doesn’t it. Everyone constantly wants to eat.
And now we have a newly developed sensitivity where one kid appears to have a lactose intolerance. Luckily for me (and her) she reacts well to the lactose free milk products, so we’re adjusting one aspect of the cooking to accommodate her tummy. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not complicated like a more severe allergy would be, and I count my lucky stars for small miracles.
The same kid is a carb queen. She’ll eat mashed potatoes or bread every day and never complain, and forgo pretty much all protein that isn’t forced on her. Compare this to the other kid who would live on raw vegetables and pasta dishes. Problem with raw veg is that they’re not exactly high in calories and that kid is in competitive hockey and super lean, so trying to give him enough calories to sustain a hockey game isn’t the easiest thing in the world. As much as I like pasta, hubby and girl-child aren’t crazy for it, and even I don’t want to dip into those hearty Italian meals on a daily basis. But the boy? He needs his carbs, and he hates potatoes.
Hubby in the meantime wants to follow a Paleo diet. That means lots of meat, and lot of veg. Vegetables in Canada during the winter months are not only expensive but also not particularly tasty either (depends what you buy). We tend to reach for the raw, or frozen options more than the canned option, to keep the sodium at bay, but even that gets a little boring at times. And meat is expensive because we insist on the humanely-treated, antibiotic-free sort. I cannot stomach the idea of factory meat. Ick.
So my challenge is to cook something everyone will eat, provide plenty of nutrients, is high in calories for some of us, and provides enough protein to maintain healthy stamina every single friggen day.
The answer is – Casseroles.
Casseroles work for us now, but didn’t so much when the kids were younger (cooked food mixed together wasn’t well-received). They’re easy, versatile and mostly accommodating because there are big chunks people can pick out themselves to eat, or not eat, pending their mood, preference or whatever other issues kids have with food cooked for them by loving moms like me.
Aside note: I am mean. I make them eat at least most of what I cook. Suck it up, I tell them. Unless you turn green or start to puke, you’re gonna finish the two bites of chickpea salad.
Casseroles can be made ahead , include various types of food chopped into bite-sized pieces, added to rice, or pasta which can both be pre-coooked and kept in fridge for a few days (or substitute with quinoa which both kids will eat, or couscous), and you’re good to go. Sometimes I make two, and put one in the freezer.
I made one yesterday. Chicken, squash, rutabaga and canned tomatoes, sprinkled with bacon.
The activity meter yesterday was on Hotel Service Required.
The boy and his dad-coach had to be at the rink at 5:30. Girl had gymnastics till 6. Boy had to eat properly prior to leaving, but the girl only had time for a quick snack. The casserole went into the oven prior to school pick-up (I am a SAHM so this is an option that works for us) and those who had to eat right away could.
The convenience with casseroles is that they can be kept warm in the oven allowing for this type of eat-when-you-can.
Bonus was I had leftovers for the thermos this morning. At least one kid will get a hot lunch today.
And so will I…
Today’s dinner challenge….oh, don’t ask me. They can have leftovers or bread.
How’s this for my second NaBlogPoMo? See you tomorrow.