My mom adventures in Fort Collins

Reflections on the homemade dinner

My mother has this annoying adorable habit of sending me clippings. It started, if I recall correctly, when she would send me packages in college. The care package would be filled to the brim with lovely sundries such as Twizzlers and Skittles and new slippers, but lurking somewhere in the box would be the Newspaper Clipping. In the past, my least favorite of these clippings would be the ones from our local hometown newspaper (usually the Sunday announcement section) which would reveal the engagements, the occasional underage drinking tickets and numerous Dean’s List honors of my former high school classmates. She has continued through the years, but now it is mainly recipes or cute parenting articles. The newspaper clippings now arrive with coupons for Pull-Ups and the yogurt that she knows my kids love. In the best of these envelopes full of clippings, there is the article that does make me smile, smirk, laugh and think. Recently, I reviewed my piles of paper scattered all over the house and found this gem written by Katy McLaughlin of the Wall Street Journal.

The essay is McLaughlin’s tale of how she home cooks–from scratch–many different items, saving her family money and giving them a gourmet experience. Yet, she described her husband’s aversion to this lifestyle. Why? She thought she was giving her family a gift, but her husband saw it as sometimes infringing on their time as a family. While she busied herself in the kitchen for long periods of time, her husband would have to referee between their two boys.

While I cannot personally identify with everything she says–I for one have never made homemade yogurt and I can attest to ordering pizza more than once–I can understand the dinnertime drama that sometimes surrounds your best laid plans. As a mother, I despise the “witching hour” (the time around dinner when the kids seem to fall apart at the seams), and yet it never fails that the night I want to make a decent dinner for my family is precisely the night that by the time dinner is served everyone is spent and barely a crumb is touched.

A photo of “Christmas Dinner” last year–I purposely only made food that the kids would eat. Thank goodness they like ham! (And so do we.)

This is part of the reason why my family went out to dinner for Thanksgiving last year. Yes, we went out for dinner. I didn’t love the experience, but I justified it by the fact that I disliked the idea of going out for Thanksgiving dinner less than I disliked the idea of cooking for hours only to have barely anyone enjoy it. So, the four of us traipsed down to a hotel and enjoyed glass elevator rides between munches of turkey and mashed potatoes.

The girls enjoying their dinner at the hotel. I believe the word “fancy” was used more than once.

What I’m saying is this: Yes, there IS a price to be paid for a family dinner. I personally love any meal that will feed my family for days. We just recently ate homemade chicken noodle soup for three nights in a row. Whenever possible, I try to do my prep work earlier in the day. I try to use my crock pot whenever possible. And any meal that requires constant stirring (risotto and polenta come to mind), well, these meals must be handled delicately. I tell my hubby in advance on risotto night so that he can come rescue me earlier than usual. Wine also helps with the dinner-time issues (at least for me it does!).

Around here it seems I am constantly stressing to Cory that going out to eat has a huge benefit for me. Going out means that I don’t have to cook and I don’t have to clean up. Because he is a sweet man, he will say things like, “Why would we go out to eat when you cook such delicious food?” That’s when I remind him that his flattery, while kind, is an excuse for him not relieving me of what can sometimes be described as domestic drudgery. Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely like cooking and I like taking care of my family. I just don’t love the exercise of cooking/dancing/putting someone in time-out/setting a pick/cutting vegetables/comforting a kiddo/setting the table/suggesting crayons and paper/stirring the pot/running out of paper towels and forgetting to write it on the list because someone needs me to help them ‘wipe.’ A true test of the Iron Chef would be to have the chefs surrounded by a floor full of Duplo blocks, a child slung on one hip and the small rubberized Polly Pocket clothing stuck to their feet.

Tell me, what are some tricks you’ve learned over the years? What are some suggestions that you have found helpful in your own quest to put dinner on the table?


6 Comments so far
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Keep it simple!

Comment by memyselfandkids

Why didn’t I think of that? Thanks for the comment.

Comment by jaymers

I make dinner 3 times a week for my family. I can’t say cook as I am so not skilled. But the boys will eat it and I try to have it be relatively nutritious.

Comment by memyselfandkids

I wonder if that’s a mother thing and I’m going to eventually be clipping things out for Bubba? I’ll probably just be emailing her links and Pinning things on Pinterest (or wherever technology is up to by then)! My mum has been doing that for years, so you’re not alone. She arrived on Saturday for a visit having not seen us for a couple of weeks because she’d been away. There were no fewer than 6 articles for me to read. As for your comment about risotto, I too used to be a slave to risotto, until I discovered the one-pot risotto bake. It is super easy! I wrote about it in this post – – but will track down the recipe for you too! I cook everything for Bubba and I (mostly on a weekend after our visit to the organic farmers’ market and while she’s sleeping) and our freezer is full of containers and snacks all portion sized. I can’t wait until she’s old enough for us to go out to dinner occasionally!

Comment by bumpyroadtobubba

How funny about your mom and the clippings. Must be a mom thing. I will definitely be checking out your risotto post! And I did just recently read where you can make risotto in a pressure cooker, but, alas, I don’t have one of those. Good for you for cooking in advance and being a prepared momma. Someone needs to teach me how to be organized like that. Thanks, as always, for posting!

Comment by jaymers

I am loving this no-stir risotto! I made this version today for Love Bug & me (we are vegetarian), but you could make it with whatever ingredients and herbs you have floating around the bottom of the fridge!

Preheat oven to 190⁰C (not sure what that is F)

1 cup arborio rice
½ cup butter
½ sweet potato – diced
½ eggplant – diced
handful kale – shredded
1 litre stock (I use massel – good for vegetarians & lower salt)
fresh thyme
A handful of grated Italian cheese (I used romano & asagio)

– melt butter and soften sweet potato, eggplant, kale & thyme
– pop all ingredients in casserole dish and mix well
– cook uncovered for 40 mins


Comment by bumpyroadtobubba

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