One of my least favorite questions is “What’s for dinner?”
Sometimes I reply, “Why are you asking me?” We all eat. We all cook to some degree. My 14-year-old daughter on occasion has pronounced she does not like what is planned for dinner and will just make something else, and sometimes I say yes and sometimes not.
My husband has had a valid point, though. “I don’t know what we have,” he’ll tell me. This would be because I buy the food. The kids buy food, too, but it tends to be replacement food, along the lines of my 15-year-old son asking for money so he can go buy lunch meat.
Did I mention we live two blocks from a grocery store? Makes all the difference in the world.
I said a while ago that the kids were going to add meal planning to their skills this summer. We’re in week 2, and so far so good.
For week 1, I had pointed out we have a cookbook of one-dish meals, and my son grabbed it, flipped to the skillet chapter and chose Meat Loaf Ole. “Done,” he announced.
His sister chose cheeseburgers and curly fries, and he rolled his eyes at the copout. I stayed quiet, but added a rule for this week: They had to use cookbooks.
When I cooked less, I had about twice as many cookbooks. I weeded them down to ones I might actually use, and three of them are great for the kids: Saving Dinner, a standby they’ve cooked out of before; 365 Easy One-Dish Meals; and Better Homes and Gardens’ Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes. (I include the links not because I’m getting any sort of kickback, but because it drives me nuts to hear about something fabulous and not have enough details to go get it myself.)
This week I pulled out the one-dish book and also the slow cooker book, because I often have said the Crock-Pot is my favorite type of cooking: chop everything up, dump it in, turn it on and walk away. I pointed out to my son there was a chapter called “Five Ingredients,” and he was right on it, pronouncing the first one, “Taco Chili,” as just fine. We had it last night, and unlike some X ingredient recipes that don’t count alleged staples or spices, this one truly had five ingredients: ground beef, taco seasoning, chunky tomatoes, kidney beans and canned corn. I browned the meat, dumped in the cans and walked away, and it was … all right. Not the most flavorful meal, but it was warm and different, and for a softball night that was OK.
My daughter flipped through the one-dish book, pausing first at the table of contents and muttering at how it was organized: by cooking utensil. “That’s stupid,” she said. “Not if you’re just starting out and only have a couple of things to cook in,” I told her.
Around then she saw the microwave chapter. I assured her it was fair game, and she settled on Easy Chop Suey. My husband is likely to grumble a little at the notion of a microwaved meal, but part of the idea here is to have the kids be able to eat something more than pizza and cold cereal when they move on, and it is likely microwaves will be part of that future.
In the meantime, I have a list on the refrigerator of meals for the week, and now when someone asks what’s for dinner, I can say, “You tell me.”
This post originally appeared on ourMidland.com, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.