I have a confession to make. When my kids were young we didn’t have weekday family dinners. In fact, it wasn’t until they were both in high school that I actually succeeded in cooking a single meal every night that everyone would eat! You probably wouldn’t guess it, but I do place high value on nutritious, home-cooked meals, so how did this all come about?
The first culprit … Corporate America. Apart from short maternity leaves, I had a more than full-time corporate job until 2004 when my kids were aged 9 and 11. That meant they often ate dinner before I got home at night.
Both my kids were picky eaters but in different ways. My son would eat four different meals … chicken nuggets, grilled cheese sandwich, hamburger, pizza. However, for the most part, brand didn’t matter. A pizza was a pizza, grilled cheese was grilled cheese. Did you notice that pasta was not on that list? That’s right. This is the kid who didn’t touch pasta until he was in middle school.
My daughter did have a broader repertoire, but was picky in a different way … cheese had to be a certain color, bread had to be a particular brand, pasta had to be shells. Get the picture?
I never intended them to be picky eaters, but I also wasn’t going to try to force them to eat foods they didn’t want. That’s what happened between my mother and my sister when I was growing up, and I didn’t have the stomach for those arguments.
After I left my corporate job, I started working for myself from home and that meant for the first time, we would all sit down to eat dinner together, after-school activities permitting. We might not have been eating the same meal and I still felt like a short-order cook, but we were eating together and that was progress.
The transition to eating the same meal came slowly, but gradually the kids became more adventurous and I became less accommodating. It’s been a process but today, my kids are no longer picky eaters and there’s no shortage of meal options.
My two biggest challenges these days are what to cook when I’m short on time and finding fresh, quick ideas for when I’m feeling uninspired. As a single parent there are some days when I simply don’t feel like cooking dinner but know that I have to because there’s no one else.
Just recently I was attending a five-day divorce mediation training course about 40 minutes away from home. By an odd coincidence it was just across the street from where I worked back in 2004 and hence the flashbacks to the picky eater days! Knowing I wouldn’t be getting home until after 6 p.m. meant I needed some meals that were easy and quick and with perfect timing, Campbell Soup Company and BlogHer came to the rescue with this review opportunity.
So I turned to Campbellskitchen.com, which is packed with fresh twists on classic faves and totally new recipes. The Lemon Asparagus Chicken looked very appealing, but I ended up adapting the recipe to use some celery and broccoli I already had, by using Campbell’s Cream of Celery soup. The end result was a very presentable meal with minimal preparation, about 15 minutes cooking time and was exactly what I needed after my long, mentally-demanding day of training.
P.S. Seriously, I wish Campbell’s soup and The Wisest Kid In The Whole World with their fun, quick meal ideas had been around when my kids were toddlers. Maybe they wouldn’t have been able to resist those delicious recipes!