When you have tired, hungry kids to feed, dinner time can start to feel like a real drag.  Especially since it typically coincides with the “witching hour” — that hour (or two), when your kids whine, you long for wine and the notion of #winning is replaced by a dreaded sense of #fail.  Well, fail no more my friends.  Dinnertime, like most things that involve the kids, is always better when you have a plan.  Since coming up with the plan is the hard part, I thought I’d share a few of our go-to weeknight dinners.  I’m even throwing in a few bonus Sunday Suppers for good measure because if you start planning on Sunday, you’ll have some leftovers to power you through Manic Monday and all the days that follow.  Without further ado, here’s what we’re serving on any given night in the Lyons Den:

Sunday Supper:  Sundays are ideal for roasts.  This “fix it and forget it” approach lets you pop dinner in the oven early in the afternoon so you can go enjoy the day/watch the game/carpool to the birthday party/cheer from the sidelines/take care of the kids while dinner takes care of itself. The best part is how easy this is.  I’m not including or linking to recipes here because you really don’t need them.  Rub your pork loin with olive oil and put some sliced garlic and herbs on top.  Treat the chicken the same way.  Or maybe add some rosemary and pop a few lemons or onions inside.  You really can’t go wrong.  And that’s what makes these two choices sinfully easy:

  • Roast pork loin with roasted potatoes and kale
  • Roast chicken with mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts

Meatless Monday:  Mondays are tough.  It’s not easy to drag the kids out of bed and your butt back to work. Or wherever your day takes you.  Knowing the day will be hard, dinner should be easy.  Our picks are yummy, speedy and crowed pleasing.  After all, after a long day back at the grind, the last thing you need is that annoying chorus of “I don’t like it!”  Try these — they’ll like it!

  • Veggie quiche (make or buy over the weekend — store bought is a.ok!) with roasted (or grilled, if you prefer) asparagus
  • Cheese Tortellini with pesto sauce (also ideally made or purchased over the weekend) & spinach sauteed with garlic and oil

Tuesday Taco Night:  It’s Tuesday. Two days down, three to go.  Why not celebrate with a hands-on meal that makes mouths happy?  You’ll be happy too given that tacos are super fast, super fun, super easy and can incorporate your leftovers from that Sunday Supper.

  • Chicken tacos: toss in some frozen corn when you heat up the meat and serve with avocado for extra nutritional punch
  • Pork tacos (or fajitas) served with peppers (roasted or raw — whichever meets the least resistance!) and a side salad

Wacky Wednesday:  They call it “hump day” for a reason and the good news is that you’re almost over the hump!  Mix things up with a perennial kid favorite: Breakfast for dinner.  And I’ll be darned if the notion of pancakes at 6:00 pm doesn’t put a smile on your face too.

  • The Egg-cellent Option – Whip up an omelet, scramble them or serve them over easy.  Add some whole wheat toast, fruit and milk and there you have it — a dinner of champions that will make Mom a big winner. a
  • The Sweet Option — Pancakes, waffles, or french toast served up with some yogurt and fruit.  Syrup mandatory, whipped cream optional.

Pasta Thursday:  Now you’re in the homestretch, just a hop, skip and dinner left before Friday arrives and the weekend begins. Why not plan a pasta night to carbo load you and the kids through the remainder of the week?  Again, it’s quick, easy and almost objection-free when it comes to the junior set.  Our top picks:

  • Spaghetti and meatballs; make them yourself or let Trader Joe/Giotto do the trick; with both beef and turkey varieties in the frozen section, it makes this weekend dinner a snap!
  • Penne with sausage and broccoli.  Enough said, right?  Yum!

As for the weekends, Friday night is almost always pizza night in our house.  It gives us all something to look forward to — especially when accompanied by Family Movie night, which gives us  the much-needed opportunity to cuddle, snuggle and unwind after a long week.   Saturday night is really a free for all – maybe we go out, maybe it’s take out, maybe it’s time to empty out the fridge for what we (rather unfortunately) call “Garbage night” — a great way to use up any remaining leftovers so you can start anew again on Sunday… bon appetit!

Look familiar?

Does this picture look familiar?  With five kids who are now seven, five and three (times three!), this is a look I see all too often.  Like three times a day.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Times five kids.  That’s ten eyeballs rolling to the skies with pretty much every plate we ever place in front of them.

What’s a frustrated (and occasionally pissed off!) Mom to do?  We’ve tried reasoning with them: “Just try it, you might like it.”  We’ve tried pleading with them: “Please? Please eat just one!  Just ONE?!”  We’ve tried bribing them: “Eat your beans and you can have dessert.”  We’ve tried bargaining with them: “Ok, just eat seven beans because you’re seven years old and you can have a cookie.” And, as a last resort, we’ve even stooped to guilting them, just as our parents did to us: “You HAVE to eat it. There are starving children in (insert country here).”

Needless to say, none of these ploys work.  And, my frustration is growing in direct proportion to our growing grocery bills.  I just can’t stand — can NOT stand! — throwing food away.  We work hard for our money; we work hard to provide healthy, well balanced meals.  And, if that’s not enough to persuade our persnickety half-pints, there truly are starving children all around the world — and, for that matter, close to home as well.

My frustration reached fever pitch the past few weeks with the return of school — and the associated return of lunchboxes that came home almost as full as when they left.  Each evening, I was faced with room-temperature yogurt, misshapen cheese sticks and soggy sandwiches.  “Why didn’t you eat your lunch?!” I yelled at their little upturned noses.  “It was too warm.” “It was squished.” “It was soggy” I was told.  Of course, that wasn’t quite the truth.  The truth is that they were bored with the same-old options.  In an effort to control my temper and not further frighten my third-grader who was eyeing me like the madwoman I was, I gathered what wits I had left and asked him to write down five things he’d like to have for lunch.  This is what I got:

  • pasta and butter
  • mac and cheese
  • chicken nuggets
  • chicken noodle soup
  • grilled cheese

You know what these things are?  Dinner! Not every night, of course but, these are my lazy working mom’s go-to weeknight standbys.  I panicked.  If I give the kids mac and cheese for lunch, what will I do for dinner?!  And then it hit me.  Sandwiches! Yogurt! Cheese Sticks! Apple slices! Carrots sticks!  And all the other yummy, healthy things that I pack for lunch and unpack at the end of the day.  Yes my friends, that is the solution.  A weapon in your arsenal against picky eaters:  Make lunch the new dinner and vice versa!  It works!

From a kid perspective, it is fun and novel and new — and that is half the battle.  We’ve long enjoyed “breakast for dinner” on busy nights when the fridge can’t cough up more than a few eggs and english muffins but, the notion of “lunch for dinner” or better yet, “dinner for lunch” hadn’t occurred to me. Until now.  And so far, it’s working like a charm.  As for the old line about hungry kids around the world, well, we can’t help them all but we sure hope to help some.  This fall we’re going to bake brownies for a local shelter and deliver food baskets for Thanksgiving.  I’d like to think that we’re doing our (admittedly small) part in stamping out hunger and, selfishly, I will sleep better knowing that my own kids won’t be “starving” in their school cafeteria.

Do you have any tips for picky eaters? Please share — before the novelty of this one wears off for our brood!