I’m not a very practical cook. I like excitement, new foods and new ingredients and very little repetition. But each weekend, my husband takes my daughter to the grocery store, and they pick out a fish and a vegetable (we have plenty of starch at home), and he cooks dinner. And she is sooo excited. She knows there will be fish, she gets to choose what kind. She knows there will be a steamed vegetable, she gets to choose what kind. And then recently there was an article in the paper, which among other things said that kids like repetition in their food as well as their books. And suddenly I realized they were right.
Some kids do like to try new things, and I love that my daughter puts up with my experiments. But she also likes familiar things. She loves when we make soup, though the ingredients are never quite the same from time to time. It’s a familiar process, and a familiar product. While we make it, she can look forward to it, because she can imagine what it will be like. And years from now she can look back, and remember afternoons in the kitchen making soup. So I’m reining myself in.
Instead of looking for new recipes, I’m looking for repeatable meals, ones that I won’t get tired of. Where possible, ones which can be vegetarian when I want to cook that way. And preferably ones which are fairly quick to make, at least in right-before-dinner time.
Here’s what I’ve thought of so far:
- stir-fry – ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sherry, and whatever I’m in the mood for
- pasta – with olive oil, garlic, (or sauce) and whatever I’m in the mood for
- garlic bread – with pasta and sauce with sausage. This is already a traditional meal here, just not frequent, because my garlic bread is mostly butter.
- soup – broth, veggies, beans, and grain
- soup – pureed, served with bread and whatever else it needs to be a meal
- roast meat – with veggies and bread (or other starch)
- salads – quinoa salads, couscous salads, pasta salads, cabbage salads
- stews – meat chunks, vegetable chunks, and liquid
Other things I can’t generalize as well. Macaroni and cheese, tomato rarebit, chili, tacos, burritos, bruschetta, fondue, pigs in a blanket, pot pie, porridge… And my mom makes pizza for all of us most weekends, so I stay away from that.
So I’m thinking we’ll have fish one night, and pizza one night. One night is game night, and I usually don’t cook (at least not dinner). That leaves four. I think I’m going to shoot for at least two standards from that list a week, aiming for stir-fry, pasta, and soup most often. The remaining two can be new recipes, or just less standard ones. That will make shopping a lot easier too, because if I can’t think what to make, I’ll just get whatever veggies look good, and put them in a stir-fry, soup, or pasta dish. And it still leaves me room to experiment, which I need.
So here’s my question: What standards am I missing from my list? It’s a much longer list than I thought I had when I sat down to write it, but what do you guys make all the time, with variations?
Oh, and of course this is dinner. My breakfast and lunch lists are different. 😉