Really? Dinner Again?

Somebody recently asked me if I enjoy cooking.  The question surprised me because, sadly, I don’t think of cooking as fun.  I love gathering my family around the dinner table and feeding them well, yet the process is a whole lot of work.  I used to wonder why it took me so long to prepare a meal until I realized that most people don’t bake 15 pounds of potatoes at a time  or make gallons of beef stew in their largest roasting pan.

Celebrating & Letting Go

Love the drama they add to our lives.

Last night we celebrated Christmas with Mimi and Andrew and today they fly to San Antonio to visit Andrew’s family. For the first time in my mothering years, one of my children won’t be home for Christmas and while it is sad, I’m trying hard to roll with it and know that this is only the beginning. My heart wants to keep my children close as they grow, but not in a smothering, guilt inducing way.  With eleven children who are rapidly growing up, the likelihood of having them all home for the holidays is small.

How About Recipes?

Forever Day 2010

Many of us have the daily task of feeding our families and it is a lot of work.  Most nights I cook for eleven to thirteen people, and often more.  I can’t say that I love to cook, but I do love sitting at the table with my family and enjoying a good dinner…and that means planning, shopping, and cooking.  Noah does my grocery shopping, which is a lifesaver, and just think of all of the good preparation it is giving him toward living on his own.

I got an email today from Chris, a reader who recently brought home two new children from Ethiopia.  She said,

…we’re now a family of 8 kids.  Growing into a larger family, I am now looking at cooking a bit differently. (smile!)  I was wondering if you, or your readers might be able to share some of their favorite meals that they make for a crowd?  Of course with lots of young kids, I’m not able to spend lots of time in the kitchen, so any quick fixes are always a great find!

It is hard for me to choose one recipe; however this is a more recent favorite.  We love burritos, but it takes a long time to pass each item around the table for people to build their own.  My friend, Beth, shared this recipe in our church cookbook and it is a huge hit with my family.  I serve this in warm, soft tortillas and then each person adds lettuce, tomato, salsa, and other fresh ingredients.

Beth’s Tostada Bake

1 lb. hamburger

1/2 c. chopped onion

1 pkg. taco seasoning (I use chili powder, garlic salt, and cumin)

8 oz. tomato sauce

16 oz. refried beans

4 oz. chopped green chiles

2 1/4 oz. sliced olives

1 c. sour cream

1 egg

2 c. shredded cheese

Cook hamburger and onion.  Stir in taco mix, tomato sauce, refried beans, green chiles, and olives.  Spread into 8 X 8 baking dish.  Mix cheeses, sour cream, and egg.  Evenly spread cheese  mixture on top.  Bake 30 min. at 375 degrees.

I double everything except the meat and bake it in a 13 X 9 pan.  It takes minutes to throw together. I like to cook hamburger in large quantities and freeze it in quart bags (approx. 1 lb. each) for quick dishes like this.  Put this in warm tortillas and you can’t go wrong.

Let me know if you try it!

Let’s each take a few minutes to share a quick, yummy recipe that a busy mom (or her helpful kids) can fix for the family.  We can encourage each other and make our families happy at the same time.

If you would like the recipe for the Honey Curry Chicken we had on Forever Day, you can find it in THIS POST.  I’ve adapted it quite a bit, substituting olive oil and chicken broth for the butter, and my family loves it both ways.   We top it with green onions, chopped red peppers, peanuts, coconut, and anything else that sounds good.  It is another easy meal for a busy day.

Let’s have fun with this.  Which recipe will you share?

~Lisa

Tuesday's Answers: Feeding Large Families – Menu Planning

My Special Friend

The best way for me to successfully feed my family is to plan ahead. My day is nearly doomed if I wake up thinking, “What will I make for dinner?” The thought keeps coming back until I finally figure out the answer, but on occasion, the day is so full that an answer does not come and my family is resigned to having quesadillas for dinner. I much prefer to glance at my menu the night before and do a bit of advance planning. […]

Tuesday's Answers: Feeding Large Families

Before I launch into your wonderful responses to this week’s Tuesday Topic, I have to share a picture of this super sweet baby. Beniam brought his parents and aunt to visit us Friday morning all the way from California. Our families have connections through friends and have followed each other’s blogs, but had not met in person. It was so great to spend the morning with them. My kids were quite taken with Beniam and had a hard time sharing him with each other. Honeybee loved taking care of the babies at her orphanage and when they prepared to leave she grew quite sad. I think he was a little bit of “home” for her. You can read about their adoption journey on their blog.

Thank you to everyone who responded to this week’s Tuesday Topic!

Tyra asked two questions:

The question that always comes to my mind when reading about extra large families is: How do you feed them? The challenge of providing healthy, inexpensive meals that everyone will eat seems daunting. What are your strategies?

And how do you help picky eaters eat what you fix?

Lana emailed her response:

We currently have 6 kids (4 bio – 12,10,9,7; 2 adopted – 3 & 2) and are currently in the process of adopting 2 sisters from Ethiopia, ages 8 & 6. I never planned on this many kids (I always thought 4 was good) but God has had other plans for our life and so here we are.

In regards to food, a few things have helped tremendously.
1) We have an extra fridge and freezer in the garage so that we are able to shop in bulk.
2) I make out a menu every month so I have a plan when we go shopping. Wed. & Sat. are “leftover” days so we try not to let food go to waste.
3) We shop at Costco and we generally do one big shop a month. We find that we are able to save quite a bit. For example, we pay ~ $1.65 – 1.70 per gallon of milk so we usually buy 10-12 gallons at a time. The savings can add up when most places around our area are $2.50-2.65 per gallon.
4) We don’t spend $$ on soda. It’s milk, juice, or water.
The rule at our house has always been — you eat what is in front of you. If the child refuses, they will wait until the next meal (even if that is breakfast). We don’t have snacks around. There is NO dessert unless they have cleaned their plate. We don’t always have dessert so that when we do, it is a treat.
I look forward to seeing the feedback to this question. It can certainly be a challenge.

And More Responses:

Blogger Nancy said…

I only have 6 children, ranging from 16 to 2 years old.

Feeding a large brood hasn’t been a problem. I at least double all entre/main course recipes, but mostly quadruple them making twice as much needed for a dinner. Then half is frozen and saved for another day. This way I only cook half the time and the other half, I really only heat up. I collect recipes that are good for this, including soups, casseroles, etc… This leaves me preparing side dishes each meal and that’s not too bad as I think are pretty easy to come up with like salad, vegetable, crusty bread, fresh fruits…

We also rely on some traditions, like Thursday is spaghetti night (again half of the sauce is frozen and saved for another meal, like stuffed shells w/sauce, or lasagna) and on grocery day we usually have hamburgers, or a roasted chicken from the grocery, (Not a lot of time to cook large on grocery day) and Fridays are frequently left-over night.

As for picky eaters, I have always been under the impression that picky eaters are made rather than born. Ya, this may not go over well. I only cook a single meal each night and will not make a separate meal or entree for anyone, as there is always an abundance of extra fruits or veggies on hand if someone doesn’t prefer the entree. This doesn’t always go over well with company/friends that the kiddos bring home. So my kiddos have always found some part of dinner that they like and been able to fill their tummies. I also try to serve what they like, and they know that I’ll take suggestions from them and do my best to get it on the table in the next couple weeks.

However, as I start to put my foot in my mouth and get what I deserve, when we adopted our youngest daughter, she came with quite a few food/eating issues, (she was force fed as an infant and malnourished when we got her) and is the pickiest eater I have ever seen. As I had always believed and followed, simply relying on the adage that, “they’ll eat when they get hungry,” does not work for her. She will starve without consideration for her food preferences. So now we must supplement our meals with additional foods for her if there isn’t anything on the table she will eat, which happens daily. She’s still little yet, so it’s not a large inconvenience, and with on going therapy, we hope to resolve the issue. Until then, I’ll keep making more food for her but the others get what’s served.

Also can’t get leave without saying that eating together as a family is so so important. We try to eat together for both breakfast and dinner every day. Starting off our day around the breakfast table, with family prayer and then each sharing what’s going on that day, and discussing trouble spots early in the day, has been an extra blessing that I never guessed would be so rewarding!

LOVE to hear others suggestions too! Great idea for a Tuesday topic!

Nancy
http://nancyvnjourney.blogspot.com/

9/22/2009 5:43 PM

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Blogger Chris said…
We only have 5 kids 4-18. I’ve found that basic food costs a lot less than anything prepared. So potatoes, meat on sale and veggies in season. Ice cream is our indulgence. Meatless meals make the dollars stretch a bit.
or put less meat in a casserole than the recipe calls for.
Ah yes the picky ones, our oldest came picky (bio) at 18 he is finally half decent to work with. I started just cooking and tried not to make objectionable food 2 nites in a row.

9/22/2009 7:00 PM

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Blogger Cindy said…

Something that I feel I struggle with – feeding my family of eight on a budget – and feeding them healthy foods! I keep things quite basic. Breakfast is usually either cereal or peanut butter toast, bagels, or maybe eggs. Lunch – pasta, fruit, sandwhiches, crackers, other simple foods. Dinner – a wide range of things. Seems that my 6 kiddos prefer “basic” foods – meat and potatoes always goes over well with all of them. If one or more children do not like what I have prepared, they do not have to eat it. Our rule is that we must first see them at least taste it. I will not cook another food however. They dont have to eat what I have made, but they must choose a healthy alternative and make it on their own. Usually that means they will make a bagel, some toast, fruit, etc. I have one child who puts Berebere on everything! At first, I was kind of offended by it. But soon realized that hey – at least she was eating healthy food! Two of my children that are from Ethiopia eat pretty much everything. The other of my children from Ethiopia is quite picky, but learning to try more things and finding out she likes more than she realized! The big thing she just can not handle – CHEESE! She can not stand it. i think it’s the texture more than the taste for her. Can you imagine? A girl from WI not loving cheese?!! LOL!

9/23/2009 5:59 AM

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Anonymous Becky said…
We have 13 children, with 9 still at home. (Oldest 4 are married, but we get to have all 13 plus spouses and grandchildren for Sunday dinners,which is so fun! I’m excited to hear some new ideas on this subject! This is how we do it at our home. We have a monthly meal chart with all the meals for the month planned out. Those are basically our meals for the year, with just starting the chart over at the beginning of each month. I do substitute meals here and there when I find a new recipe that I want to try, though. The meals are centered around nutrition and frugality, but are things that on any given day, most of the family likes. I do most of my cooking from scratch, but I also don’t have a lot of time to cook each day, so I incorporate time saving techniques, such as cooking up 20 lbs. or more of hamburger at one time when I find it on sale, and then packaging it for the freezer in amounts needed for each meal. I also do the same with chicken when I find it on sale. I cook it, then cube it in bite sized pieces, and freeze it in meal sized amounts for use later, such as for soups, chicken burritos, etc. I also double or triple recipes when I cook, and put what we don’t use in the freezer for another meal. It doesn’t take a lot longer to cook a triple amount of a recipe, over just cooking a single recipe, so that way one is saving time and being able to cook from scratch, thus saving money. Learning to make homemade breads is another way to save a lot of money. Homemade biscuits, rolls, muffins, etc. are much less expensive than buying premade or buying boxed mixes. One other thing that is often a money saver is buying in bulk. A 25 lb. bag of oatmeal where I live costs approx. $12.00, where a 3 lb. container of oatmeal costs approx. $2.25.

9/24/2009 6:47 AM

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Blogger Sandee said…

oh, this is such a hot, hard topic at our house. I only have 3 kids, adopting a 4th, and I can hardly EVER cook anything that they all will eat. The only two dishes are pizza and tacos.. I get so discouraged…and then even more so, when I have somethign that they all love the first few times I cook it, and then …wham…surprize, someone decides they don’t liek ti anymore! 🙁

I have tried to get down to one bowl meals..ie simple. I have tried crockpot, cassarole, cook and freeze ahead.

I would say meal planning is the most stressfull part of our homelife. Wish I could just hire a cook. lol.

I know this does not help…and I work full-time outside the home. (sngle mom, no choice).

9/24/2009 8:39 AM

Thank you for your great answers. Becky, if you read this, Sandee asked if you would share your monthly menu and I’m sure there are many others who would like to learn from you. Please email me if you are interested.

I have tried many different approaches to feeding my family from Once a Month Cooking, to cooking in bulk by doubling/tripling every meal, to a rotating menu. The one thing I have found that absolutely does not work when cooking for a large family is “flying by the seat of my pants”. At present, my most useful technique is having a weekly menu for breakfast and lunch and a monthly menu for dinner. The breakfast/lunch menu doesn’t change much, but planning the dinner menu takes a bit of time each month.

Once I began writing about my cooking and menu plan, the post got so long that I decided to separate it into a post of its own. I’ll see if I can get that on my blog this afternoon. Rusty has big plans to update my blog and put it in a format where I can have different pages for topics, so there would be a page for My Learning Curve, a page for Large Family issues, etc. That way you can find what you want without wading through topics that don’t interest you. I would even love to have a page for favorite recipes that work for large families. Maybe Rusty will have time to tackle the project when the Cross Country Season is over.

Have a wonderful Sunday everyone! I am traveling to Seattle tomorrow with Dimples and Boo. We are going to visit Sweet Pea and have an appointment with Dimples’ therapist on Monday morning before heading home. We had to cancel our last appointment due to the flu, so I’m hoping we can cover lots of ground.

Back soon!
~Lisa