Wednesday, November 25, 2015

NaNoWriMo - Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Seventeen
Dinner or Supper, Whatever You Call It, Watch Out For the Dangers

Dinner used to a large meal in the middle of the day. Supper was a light meal after evening chores were completed. I think. At least that is what I have read in my books about domestic history. Dinner for my family growing up was the evening meal; and the largest meal on Sundays between church meetings. Now I use the two words interchangeably. Whichever name you use, let’s talk about the largest meal of the day, which for most people these days is in the evening.

My father had stomach problems and liked to eat at 5:00 in the evening. I grew accustomed to that time and have raised my family with approximately the same schedule, sometimes eating as late as 6:00 in the summertime, but not any later than that, unless we are out.

We eat breakfast at 6:30 together so we can eat and read scriptures together before Dad leaves for work. Lunch is any time between 11:30 and 12:30, so that by 5:00 we are generally hungry and ready for a meal. Eating earlier in the evening has two advantages, one, of ensuring that we will be hungry for breakfast in the morning, and two, that we will have time to digest the food and use the calories before going to bed.

I grew up eating simple suppers. We had a hamburger patty, mashed potatoes, green peas, and a gelatin salad, usually orange with grated carrots and crushed pineapple. Or Mom would serve a tuna noodle casserole, homemade pizza, soup, or her specialty, homemade tacos and enchiladas. We would have pot roast with potatoes and gravy on Sunday. My mom had a small repertoire of casseroles or one dish meals. I do not remember eating a lot of chicken, but we ate fish fairly regularly. My frugal parents would buy half a beef and stock our freezer for a year. We ate lots of hamburger dishes, roasts and steaks were for special occasions or holidays. We also ate a lot of rice, which my mom would buy in twenty-five pound bags. Except for the pizza and Mexican food, our meals were mild, almost bland, and simple to suit my Dad’s tastes and tender tummy needs at the time.

While there were usually cookies or cinnamon rolls in the house at all times, dessert was not an every night affair. Dessert was for Sunday and holidays. At least that is what I remember; perhaps my siblings’ memories would differ.

I have ventured a little further away from plain and simple with my own family, but when I read on blogs what others eat, perhaps it is only in my imagination that I have been more adventurous.

My Midwestern husband is a meat and potato kind of guy. I am a casserole, soup, and stew kind of gal. This makes for interesting supper times.

Whatever kind of food you like to eat, the most important thing to remember is that portion size matters. When we are out to eat and I see a sixteen ounce steak on the menu my immediate reaction is, “Goodness, that would feed my whole family! Who can eat that much alone?” Long distance runners I guess, and obese Midwesterners.

A good friend of mine who writes a blog called Heart to Heart wrote a post about meal planning which I think is great advice.

5 PM and What’s for Dinner?

What’s for dinner? I wish I knew. I wish someone would tell me! I don’t mind doing the work, but the brain power needed to think it up can be the very hardest part.

A chart to the rescue! Just glancing at it spurs the menu ideas, and can also help kids learn how to balance a dinner meal and include all those nutritious vegetables that might get left out otherwise.

[She includes a picture of a round plate labeled A Balanced Meal with various food items on the plate. Protein: meat, egg, nuts, dairy; Carbohydrates: potato, rice, bread, noodles; Vegetables: 1 cooked, 1 or more raw.]

Here’s how to do easy dinner planning:

1. Pick a carbohydrate: potato, whole grain bread or noodles, brown rice, wild rice, tortillas, barley, oats, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), etc.
2. Pick a protein: meat, fish, poultry, beans, eggs, nuts, cheese, yogurt, etc.
3. Pick a cooked vegetable: broccoli, green beans, onions, bell peppers, cauliflower, cabbage, asparagus, peas, yellow squash, zucchini, beets, winter squash, mushrooms, yams, artichoke hearts, etc.
4. Pick 2 or more raw veggies for a salad or raw veggie tray (also called Crudités, pronounced crew-di-tay): avocado, carrots, green onions, radishes, jicama, celery, cucumbers, lettuce, sprouts, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, bell peppers, snap peas, etc.

If you are making a soup or casserole, foods #1-3 (carbs, protein, cooked veggies) are included making things simple! All you have to add is the raw veggies and you are done! We eat lots of fresh fruit too in its raw form—at breakfast, lunch, snacks or as a dessert. For an extra-hungry teenage boy, you can set bread and butter at the table for extra carbs to fill him up.

Don’t forget to look at color combinations. What would your plate look like if you planned this dinner: mashed potatoes, white fish, cauliflower and celery sticks. Very white looking, and maybe not so appetizing. [Remember to eat a rainbow!]

Thank you Diane Hopkins! I hope this helps you, dear reader, get out of a little (or big) dinner making rut.

Diane further advises to play around with this idea. Put your favorite proteins, carbs and veggies on strips of paper and then put them together exploring new combinations. Brainstorm a little or a lot. Try something new each week. I have heard of homemakers trying something new every day, but that is too much for me. Besides, it is wise to leave room for eating leftovers or cleaning out the fridge somewhere in the week. Let’s not waste good food.

You know those cooking shows where the aspiring chefs are given an ingredient and an assignment to come up with a meal? I have an idea for a format that I would absolutely love to see. You know, those TV chefs have a pantry full of every imaginable ingredient and a kitchen with all the tools a person could desire. Most of us do not have anything like that in our homes. So my idea is for a crew to go to a neighborhood, any neighborhood, big city, small town, does not matter; knock on doors until someone lets you in to cook them dinner with what they have in their kitchen. Wow, now that would be a challenge for the chef. Cooking with limited ingredients and tools takes a whole lot more imagination and creativity than with an unlimited pantry and a fabulous professional kitchen even if there is a time limit.

Pretend you are a chef and there is camera crew filming you making your wonderful dinner. See if that doesn’t spur you on to greater heights of creativity and effort to put a delicious, nutritious meal on the table. Make the food look good. Set a pretty table. You and your family are special, use your good dishes; get out those cloth napkins. Make it an occasion.

Now, I know we are working on losing weight and gaining health so the same things we talked about with breakfast, lunch and snacks apply to dinner. Look for ways to decrease calories (mostly fats and sugars) and increase servings of vegetables. And always, until you can accurately eyeball it, measure portion sizes.

If you go out to eat, ask your “date” if the two of you can share a meal. Unless you are eating in a fancy, expensive restaurant where the portions are naturally small, there is usually plenty for two on one platter of food. Your waist will thank you and so will your wallet. An alternative to sharing a meal, if your date does not want to, is to order a smaller appetizer.

And that, dear readers, is as far as I got before my chest pains  got to me and I knew it was time to quit NaNoWriMo for this year. I'll get back to writing the rest of the story after Christmas. 

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