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My Plan to Win the Dinner Wars

 

By Debbie Koenig

For the first two weeks of August, I anticipate a pitched battle. The last Friday in July, my family will head upstate for the weekend as usual. But Sunday night, instead of piling into the car to head back to the city, I’ll be driving my husband to the bus depot. Junior and I will remain upstate for the next month, and my husband will join us full-time when his vacation starts mid-August. While I’m really looking forward to two weeks of just me and my boy, one conflict does scare me a little: Weeknight dinners.

“Picky Kid, Busy Mom,” the name of this column, clues you into the situation. When I’m cooking for the three of us I always try to find something easy, healthy, and flexible enough to please everyone. Not an easy task, but I’ve been doing it for years now. However, when my husband doesn’t join us for dinner I tend to slack off — junior prepares one of his preferred foods (hot dogs, pizza, or chicken tenders) while I have something simple like pasta with vegetables. He looks forward to it, just as I looked forward to the TV dinners my mom would heat up when my dad traveled for business. This culinary no-man’s-land is not viable for ten consecutive weeknights.

Until we leave, I’m preparing for the nightly skirmish. I have no doubt that kiddo is going to fight back when I inform him that he will not be eating one of his three favorite meals every night. My strategy so far:

  • Shield myself with meal planning. I won’t present him with ten nights of dinner plans as a fait accompli. Instead, before we head up, I’ll sit with him and discuss how we’ll handle things. We’ll draw up a list of a dozen meals that theoretically please both of us, and I’ll work from there. If he starts to complain, that list will protect me.
  • Use protein for ammunition. For as much as kiddo likes to push back, when it comes to simple preparations of chicken breast, steak, and burgers, he’s actually pretty amenable. I’ll arm myself by loading up on the basics.
  • Choose kebabs as a weapon. Hey, they’re already spear-shaped…. Now that we’re proud owners of a gas grill, we’ve been skewering foods pretty regularly — so much so that junior now suggests it himself. We’ll both enjoy chicken marinated in lemon and garlic, and I’ll add several sticks’ worth of vegetables for me.
  • Outflank him with lunchtime wieners. The beauty of the gas grill, we’re finding, is that we can grill lunch as easily as dinner. If I let junior cook up a midday dog or two, he won’t expect them in the evening.

Achieve peace via ice cream. In the nearby town, there’s a soft-serve ice cream stand. Just before summer started, the owner announced that she joined Weight Watchers! Junior and I can both be happy there.

Follow Debbie on Connect @debbieskoenig

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