Today is a Cooking Day.
These days don’t come around all that often here at Chez Wonderwheel, but I’m always happy when they do. In fact, I don’t usually know it’s a Cooking Day until the morning comes and I see that rare block of time that would allow me to both shop and cook. Today, for example, was supposed to be a Workout Day, until I rose and realized that my chest cold was holding on just long enough to cause too much asthma and coughing for a good workout. And so – presto chango! – it became a Cooking Day.
Rushing to the local market after preschool drop-off, where I would someday like to spend hours exploring the aisles of food whose labels are in languages I can’t even recognize let alone translate, I picked up the ingredients for Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken, Quick Tortellini Soup, and Chickpea and Sausage Stew. I also have ingredients ready for Slow Cooker Sweet Potato-Pinto Bean Chili, which is outrageously delicious and will be made as soon as the slow cooker is free of the Salsa Chicken that is currently making my home smell fabulous. A shout-out goes to Shannon, whose selections for her Tuesday Do-Little Dinners series have been really yummy and (as promised) easy, even for me! I’m always looking for easy meals, especially ones I can throw in the crock pot in the morning and either freeze or eat later.
None of these will be tonight’s dinner, which is going to be Sloppy Joes, much to the boys’ excitement, but when a Cooking Day arrives, I make as much as I can for all the rest of the days when I come home at 5:30, hang out with the boys and then realize they’re falling apart and famished and it’s time to pull out the Panini Press for Yuppie Grilled Cheese and warmed up veggie soup – or something a bit heartier that I’ve made ahead on a Cooking Day.
Speaking of the boys, I should add that they eat almost none of the foods listed above. (Other than the aforementioned Sloppy Joes, of course.) This may sound heartless, but I sort of don’t care. I hear that other kids (like Shannon’s) do eat some of these meals and love them, but my boys only rarely enjoy something that wouldn’t be found on a Kids Menu at your local American Cuisine restaurant. This is not something we encouraged, nor do we support it, it’s just reality with their particular taste buds right now (although I see it gradually changing). But we don’t make separate meals. I try to make sure there’s one thing on the plate they like (maybe a few apple slices or half a slice of bread if I know the entree is especially unpalatable to them) to get Lyle to the table and seated without a big fit, but if they don’t like dinner they don’t eat it. (But they still have to stay at the table until we’re all done.) Thankfully, they’ll eat a good variety of vegetables and that’s not usually a battle. They don’t get more bread or apple slices unless they’ve tried everything (at least a “no thank you” bite). Yes, they go to bed hungry sometimes. Tough luck, guys. It’s not like they’re underfed. And as a toddler Lyle truly went to bed without a bite of food multiple times – nor milk because he was so upset about the offerings that he wouldn’t come to the table – and gone to sleep hungry, but he has never woken up hungry in the night since infancy. He just eats a ton of breakfast the next day. And there are enough other nights when they get things they love and they chow down.
Here is part of what drives this decision for me – I don’t want my kids to behave like whiny little buggers at other people’s homes, which is what Baxter used to do when we catered to him more at home. It’s downright embarrassing when the child gets to be around 3. Now they know, wherever they are, that they can eat what they like on their plate and need to keep quiet about the rest.
And so, it’s a Cooking Day. Thankfully, I know that at least the adults in this household will love everything that is on the stove, in the oven, and in the crock pot, and I’m having a great time making it!