It doesn’t count as making dinner if all you make is a phone call

Dinners in our house fall into two three categories:

1. Real meals using recipes I’ve marked in cookbooks/torn out of magazines/found on food porn websites and involve complicated grocery lists, several pots and pans, and careful measuring.
2. Stuff with ground beef.
3. Fast food.

I’ve never considered myself much of a cook, even when it comes to casual family type meals. I’m intimidated by all aspects of cooking, from chopping vegetables to knowing if the meat is done, to adding a “pinch” of anything. Cooking is art – the balance, the nuance, the improvisation – and art has never been my strong suit. Baking, however, is science, and baking is my friend. It’s exact, it’s chemistry, 2 cups flour, 1 tsp salt, 40 minutes at 350 degrees. I can bake anything you can write a recipe for, even if I end up using a wine bottle as a rolling pin and a light bulb powered oven.

So my anxiety levels always get very high right around 4 pm when it’s time to start thinking about what’s for dinner. I’ve tried making meal plans, with one epic trip to the grocery store for a week’s worth of ingredients, but invariably something isn’t in stock or the potatoes start molding before I get to them or no one really FEELS like having chicken again so why don’t we just order a pizza…and the whole thing falls apart. I’ve tried deciding what’s for dinner at 3 pm and making the Stop & Shop run once E gets home and I can pop in and out without the baby, but I always come home with a cart full of avocados, Pad Thai in a box, brownie mix, and oranges. Which, surprisingly, are NOT the ingredients for tacos. Or anything else. So one of us runs out and grabs burgers and fries and I sit on the couch hating myself for eating that junk again.

My other obstacle to cooking is my super picky husband. If you’ve ever tried to eat a meal with him, you probably already know how he feels about mushrooms (FUNGUS ISN’T FOOD), which rules out about half the recipes in both of my trusty, easy to follow Rachel Ray cookbooks. He also hates olives (no Mediterranean food), curry (no Indian food), pretty much anything green (no vegetables) and soup. Yes, soup. And chili. Seriously, if you ever consider marrying someone, FIND OUT IF THEY EAT SOUP before accepting a proposal. I’ve done a pretty good job expanding E’s previously even more ridiculously limited diet – for example, he now eats fish – but nothing is more frustrating than making a nice dinner and discovering he hates it after two bites. A few times I’ve just made whatever I felt like making and told E “if you don’t like it, don’t eat it” and left him to forage for himself…but I always feel guilty because dinner falls under my tasks per our very delicately negotiated household responsibility list and feeding both of us shouldn’t be that hard. But my cookbooks have all been read and bookmarked and my list of family approved recipes is still woefully short.

It’s times like this that I really admire my mother and her ability to get a home cooked meal on the table every single night, without a single frozen lasagna in my memories. The only chance of that happening in my house is if I win the lottery and hire a personal chef. Or if I legally adopt the pizza delivery guy.

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19 Responses to “It doesn’t count as making dinner if all you make is a phone call”

  1. Merin says:

    what about mac and cheese? I have a delicious baked gnocchi recipe (courtesy of Giada) that does have spinach in it but E might never taste it under all the good cheese. Plus, you can make a couple trays of it at a time and freeze it and/or leave it in the fridge for days before you bake it, which allows the delicious cheesiness to soak into the gnocchi. It is SO GOOD!!

  2. bebehblog says:

    Merin – I’ll take that recipe! Hidden spinach would probably pass inspection, especially if covered in cheese.

  3. ryan says:

    i am sooooo lucky in this area because i LOVE to cook and my husband will eat anything. seriously, anything. i said i LOVED to cook, not that i was GOOD at it…

    so, my three pieces of advice for you are:
    1) use ground turkey over ground beef. this is more healthful and E won’t notice. if he does, tell him to suck it.
    2) just leave the mushrooms out. it’s totally okay. i promise. you don’t even have to substitute something else. when you get to the shroomy part of the recipe just skip it. this is the beauty of cooking – it’s NOT science. leaving out the mushrooms (or olives or curry powder or obvious veggies) will not ruin a dish.
    3) find out what E will eat (besides ground beef, fish and fast food). sit him down and say, “listen. i am trying to be a good wife here and cook delicious home cooked meals but YOU’RE KILLING MY DREAMS! and look you just made baby evan cry. so tell me what you would like me to cook for you and i will try.” call him mother is you have to. just get three or four new items into the rotation, preferably made with things that you can always have on hand, and i bet you’ll feel so much better.

  4. mkpheartsnyc says:

    My aunt got me this cookbook when I went to college – http://www.amazon.com/Four-Ingredient-Cookbooks-Three-Cookbooks-One/dp/0962855030 Every recipe in it has four ingredients or fewer! (Sometimes the ingredient will be like..cake mix…but still! Makes shopping easier, makes mix-and-matching easier, lets you make more kinds of things with the same ingredients, generally is awesome..)

    I agree with above commenter – if you can get a baseline list of ingredients he doesn’t object to, then you can focus on recipes that cover them and introduce one new element at a time. I was kind of a picky eater growing up because I was allergic to onions and would always get sick, so I learned to eat around things that looked unfamiliar. Stirfry helped me get over about half of that, by introducing me to different vegetables in delicious hoisin sauce, and reliance on basic, easy things like Zatarans black beans and rice + kielbasa sausage provided the rest of my repertoire.

  5. Erin says:

    I would also love to have that gnocchi recipe!

  6. FourInchHeels says:

    I third the request for the gnocchi!

    I’m with Ryan on this one – leave out whatever ingredients you/he don’t like, and go with it. I also hate mushrooms, so just never put them in. I’m a baker at heart so have a hard time not following recipes to the letter, but I try to enjoy the fact that when cooking I can do whatever I want and it’ll still probably be ok.

  7. Just think of it this way, E is thoughtfully preparing you for life with a toddler. I like to think of myself as a cook, a damn good cook. I love to make fancy things with exotic spices and the SpaceHusband will eat anything as long as it’s covered in enough cheese. Calder, however, will eat nothing except for starches, hot dogs, PB&J, chicken nuggets and on nights he’s feeling magnanimous, spaghetti. He makes me want to punch myself in the face repeatedly. I even wen so low as to make/eat fish-sticks for him one night. Now that is love.

  8. E says:

    I love that you try and cook me dinner. That being said, I will let you know when the wine that was used went bad. And you make awesome dinners that don’t have any shrooms, or fishy fish, or other food items that my awesome pallet cannot take:).

    Lemon chicken = awesome,
    Salmon with anything on top or in it = delicious,
    fish tacos = yay ( for all the implied reasons also, double yay).
    Tacos, burgers, spaghetti, bowtie pasta with bacon, etc. = all good things to make.

    I am completely ok with unoriginality in my food.
    And I love you.

  9. lalaland13 says:

    I was half-tempted to say “Let him forage in the woods for berries if he’s so damn picky,” but then he posted that sweet little message and I can’t. Blast.

    My stepfather will not eat anything with mayonnaise or white sauce or just about anything white, period. He’s a food racist. But very easy to please other than that. If she tells him there’s a frozen dinner in the freezer with his name on it, he’s perfectly happy. Of course he does work at a vending machine company so that might have something to do with it.

    I think cooking is hard because it’s easy to feel like a screw-up if you aren’t entirely sure what a “medium saucepan” is. Or if you don’t have cow milk and use the soy kind. Yes, I may have made Pastaroni the other night. Mostly it’s frozen dinners and fast food.

  10. Other Erin says:

    I’m a big fan of “make your own frozen food.” You do it all in one batch and then freeze it. A big pan of lasagna cut into pieces and frozen in those cheap plastic tubs is a good example – then you just reheat it like you would a regular frozen lasagna. You can do that with pretty much anything: taco meat, chicken and potato dinners, grilled kabobs, etc. If you have enough stuff in the freezer, something will look good enough to eat on any given day.

    I also love cooking and will come and stock your freezer any time you want to give me a place to sleep and a boat to ride on. :)

  11. Merin says:

    From Giada’s Everyday Pasta:

    2 (17 oz) packages potato gnocchi (vacuum packed-I like Sclafani)
    3 cups heavy cream
    1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
    1/4 cup all purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1/4 teaspoon (maybe a little more) freshly grated nutmeg (I use powdered-who has nutmeg?)
    12 ounces baby spinach (fresh from a bag/pack; could use a little more if you like)
    3 oz fresh goat cheese (again, you could use a little more, but I wouldn’t get crazy with it)
    1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

    Preheat oven to 400 F (FYI-we have found that if you assemble the whole thing and let it sit in the fridge for a couple days before baking, it is way better!)

    Place the gnocchi in a lightly greased 9 x 13 x 2 inch baking dish. Set aside.

    In a medium saucepan, whisk together the cream, chicken broth and flour over medium heat. Continue whisking until the sauce is simmering and thickened, about 5 minutes (I think it takes a lot longer, but use your discretion). Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg and stir to combine. Add the spinach and toss to coast in the cream. Pour the cream and spinach mixture evenly over the gnocchi and gently spread the spinach out to cover.

    Crumble the goat cheese over the spinach. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered until the top is golden in places, about 30 minutes. Eat with pleasure :)

  12. Erin says:

    YEY!!!!…..

    …for the recipe. Thanks Merin!

    …for E’s comment :)

  13. bebehblog says:

    Merin – Thanks so much! I knew I liked you.

  14. Erin says:

    I just liked that he used the term “Fishy Fish”, like “Fish is okay, but not if it tastes like, you know, Fish.” But then, what would you expect from someone who doesn’t like mushrooms?

  15. Merin says:

    You’re welcome! I hope you all like it as much as we do!

    For some delicious fish taco recipes (and crazy delicious go-with sauces), check out this link:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14333245

  16. AGreenEyeDevil says:

    Red meat + grill = acceptable dinner

  17. Donavon says:

    Hey Suze. I am a little late in posting because I have been on vacation, but I wanted to comment nonetheless. I totally feel you with the dinner thing. My dad was a chef and completely loves to cook…it is his passion. So my entire life, I always saw that the man cooked. Not only did he cook, but he PLATED and SERVED us each individually EVERY.SINGLE.NIGHT. So when I went out on my own, I didn’t know how to cook because I never had to learn. Slowly, but surely I learned…a little from my dad, a little from books, internet, tv, etc… and now I have to say, I think I am pretty good at it. With that said, I HATE to cook. DESPISE it, with a deep, dark passion. I get so bored standing in the kitchen stirring this, simmering that, checking another thing. It drives me nuts. So Mike bought me a tv to put in the kitchen in hopes that it would help keep me mind on something more interesting and it does help a little. Mike, like E, is also quite picky. I try to find a balance of telling him, “I am cooking this, eat it or don’t eat it” and catering to what he likes. Mike doesn’t like fish and I love it, so some nights I say, “I really want fish tonight and that is what I am making. If you don’t want to eat it, you’re on your own.” So between Mike’s pickiness, my hate for cooking and just been flat out exhausted from the day, I am totally stressed out about dinner every night. But I am learning to cope and here is my advice. I do a combination of planning out meals and shopping/cooking on the fly. I shop for a couple (maybe 3 meals) at every major grocery trip, then I also make sure I always have ground beef/turkey and pasta and chicken breast in the freezer for easy spur of the moment or last minute meals. This gives me a good balance of feeling organized, but not too regimented. Also, Mike can very easily make tacos or some pasta if I really cannot cook one or two nights. Finally, if you don’t already get the magazine Real Simple, I HIGHLY recommend it. I get 90% of my recipes from the magazine and their website. The last page of their magazine is all perforated with little cards you can rip out. Some have recipes from that issue, or cleaning tips you can post in your house, somr have cheap, good wines etc. So I just rip all of those cards out and put them in my recipe box. They have everything from long complicated meals, to 15 minute meals to make ahead meals (my fave – put all ingredients in quart sized freezer bags with oven cooking directions on them, so that anyone can pop them in the oven whenever). I am going to send you an e-mail with a couple of my favorite and easiest recipes. I hope it will add a little variety in your meal rotation. Be on the lookout for an e-mail from me. : )

  18. Brigid Keely says:

    I can’t eat olives or mushrooms, largely because of texture issues. In fact, I’m a pretty picky eater. Both items can be left out of most recipes that call for them, unless it’s tapanade or beef stroganoff or something.

    The more you cook, the easier it gets. It’s something that takes practice and experience, and you only get that by doing. If you lived close to me, I’d LOVE to cook with you. It’s really fun, and easy, if you can get past the intimidation factor.

    Pick some meals that you enjoy eating out, find recipes that seem simple and, if they’re online, have comments from people saying they worked as written, and try it!

    And if all else fails, slap some red sauce and mozzerella cheese on some french bread. Pizza bread! Fast and easy.

  19. […] Konundrum One of the reasons I’m not a very good cook is I’ve never had somewhere really great to practice. At least that’s what I tell […]

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