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Making Mundane Meals Magnificent

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I was mentioning in another thread about how I have been being creative with meal preparation and presentation so as to help my kids enjoy meals that would normally be considered mundane.


I thought it would be a good thread to share what tricks of the trade we could pass around to each other.


One thing is so simple it may seem silly. Desserts!!! We can have a very plain meal of rice and beans for instance, but I'll put the dessert (whatever it is) right in the middle of the table on display. The kids are so focused on the cake or cookies or etc... they don't mind a very frugal meal.


Another is atmosphere. I might pull out the fine china, or one of our favorites is to have "High Tea" for lunch. Everyone puts on a fancy hat and we pull out cups and saucers while dining on sardines, viennas, crackers and cookies.


One thing that I have done often to make a meal into an event, is to declare a 'theme'. Tonight is mexican night!! the other night we did this and I made homemade salsa, homemade tortillas, refried beans, Nacho chips. (cheap meal but high excitement as I flipped the warm tortillas right off the grill and onto their plates).


Variety!! Most of my kids like raisins in their oatmeal so.... I don't always let them have them. It keeps them from taking having the raisins for granted. I may do cinnamon toast instead of raisins one day or another day we may have hot chocolate with the plain oatmeal (with sugar and butter ofcourse).


Okay, that's enough from me, what about you, how do you go about Making Mundane Meals Magnificent??




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Well, we aren't as good at making meals an event as you are Stephanie--with just three of us, it's hard to be eventful at mealtime! However, during the power outage, I found that finding ways to bake things made a huge difference. You're right about some kind of sweet treat making the difference between feeling deprived and feeling like we pulled one off big time despite current conditions.


We have also served dinner on the floor on a blanket and declared indoor picnic night on occasion. For this, we toast our hot dogs in the fireplace, have smores stuff on hand for dessert, and serve up home-canned salsa and chips. We also played board games DURING dinner one night during the outage. We can get away with that sort of thing with just a small group--it might be a huge mess with a larger and younger group. This is fun in the middle of winter when there's a foot of snow on the ground and more falling out of the sky.





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A simple dessert like pudding, or fruit, in a fancy glass works wonders at our house. We also have had "hotdogs" and s'mores cooked in the fireplace.

"Dagwood" (build your own) sandwiches are a hit.

Different colored food some times works. - Not Matrimonial Cake with green icing! My sisters choice for a birthday cake when she was a child. Now part of our family history.

Eating with kitchen utinsils, or without any utinsils, makes a meal fun for kids. Try eating spagettii with your fingers!

Learning to use chop sticks with the rice takes the fun up too.

Having children prepare the meal, or a dish within the meal, makes anything a Royal supper. Stephanie think how royal you would feel every night of the week if the kidos made supper. mademyday

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I was thinking about this today. The other day I treated us to Taco Bell for the first time in ten forevers. My DD was so excited I had to stop her from hopping out while we were still moving.


I noticed the portions were much smaller and I could have made quite a meal for the money. We probably won't do this again for a very, very long time. I felt yuck afterwards and not because of how much I spent. That stuff just isn't healthy.


What are some of the things your family likes when you eat out? Can you make healthier versions at home? Some things, like egg McMuffins are really easy to do. What are some of the convenience foods you normally buy? Do you use a lot of canned soups? Try making them from scratch. You won't believe how much better they taste.


Another thing is to decorate the food. Have you ever made radish roses? Carrot curls? Draw faces on the oatmeal with homemade fruit syrup. Put slices of boiled egg on the spinach. When you make cornbread use those cute iron molds shaped like corncobs.


Color makes a big difference and seasoning. I was surprised to find out many people don't put salt in the oatmeal and wonder why the kids don't like it.


If I had kids old enough and capable of learning, they would be doing a lot of the cooking. I've been cooking since I was 9.

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Judy, we have made campfires in the back yard and roasted hot dogs and even made Dutch Oven Dump Cake. Making Memories. smile


lovinit, I like the chopstick idea, very cute. And yes indeed, I get the kids involved, with 7 I have one kitchen helper each day of the week...works out nicely! wink


Pogo I couldn't help but think of Proverbs 17:1 after reading your post. "A dry crust eaten in peace is better than a great feast with strife."


Trish, I totally agree with the 'colors' of food influencing its appeal. It really does make a difference in how appetizing it seems to be. And Yes indeed, I am teaching my children to cook, every single one of them. However, I'm not quite ready to just turn the kitchen over without a teensy bit of supervision. Perhaps a case of 'smothering mothering'. laugh


Radish roses..... yumyum



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I try hard now to stay away from artificial colorings but when my oldest was small and a very picky eater he was allowed to order what colored food he wanted. We would have blue mashed potatos with red gravy, green/red/purple/blue mac and cheese or rice, and of course green eggs and ham.


I would use the squirt bottle to draw little notes or designs onto the top of his oatmeal with chocolate syrup or jellies.


I, too, would be VERY afraid to turn my kids loose in the kitchen and they are a littl older.




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lovinit, I forgot to answer your question about the favorite foods. They like my homecooked stuff of course smile


Cornbread dressing is a big favorite, Candied Sweet Potatoes, Spaghetti, Venison Stew, Chicken Casserole, Eggs and Bacon, etc...


My experiment was trying to see what would happen if we were limited on our ability to gain foods that we were used to picking up weekly. In other words, live on our preps. I guess I was thinking about how to prevent food fatigue. The kids did great...what I found was it was me who struggled with "Cooking Food Fatigue".



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Food fatigue, it's name is DH! laugh


I know, it's always difficult trying to come up with new menu ideas. BUT in a crisis or busy time, I'm always glad I've kept a list!

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Okay, speaking of food fatigue, what do I do with a semi picky hubby who has low end diabetes (the type he controls with diet, no insulin, just pills), blood pressure has a tendancy to run high, needs no salt or sugar in his diet, and only likes beans, fried potatoes, mashed potatoes but is tired of them, meat and then salads during the summer. Only wants his broccoli smothered in cheese sauce, his white beans cooked with ham, and really doesn't like casseroles.


He likes stir fry but only wants it once every 3 weeks or so. Meat usually isn't a problem, it's the veggies and sides that drive me nuts. He won't eat soups or stews, except for chili, and is tired of that. Every night it's the same, meat, some type of beans and some type of potatoes. Cooked the same way, night after night. arrggghhh!!



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Does he make that all by himself or are you making it for him?


I find no problem with the beans. I'm in the same condition as him but when I buy only certain (good) foods it is amazing that one learns to cook and eat those things only.


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Arby, nope. I do try to cook healthy and both his cholestrol levels, are good, his bad is down and his good is just a little down. I don't like to fry a lot of food, I'd rather stir fry, and I don't use a lot of fats and salt.


Canned, I make it for him because believe me, it is easier. If he cooked for hmself, we'd run through all the "nice to eat" foods in 2-3 days and be left with nothing he'd eat.


Any suggestions on different ways to fix beans where they won't get boring? Potatoes too?



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Originally Posted By: Mini
I make it for him because believe me, it is easier.

Easier, Yes, but you are looking for solutions. My partner would never put the bad things in front of me because I will eat them, though you need to have certain times during the month to let loose a little, like pizza night.

If I wanted the bad things, I had to go out and buy and prepare them myself. That gets old fast.

Even with the McD trips I now take the salad instead of fries and the Big & Tasty instead of the 1/4 Pounder. Still not the best, but it is a compromised "better".

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Mini, my daughter is Celiac, I'm not. Sometimes I just want stuff she cannot have, so I fix it for myself and fix her something different. Some things I like and she hates and some she loves and I hate. If hubby doesn't like stew, make a big pot and freeze it in individual portions. Feed him what he wants and heat a bowl of stew for yourself. Maybe do the stirfry, but cook each item individually, mix yours the way you want and let him pick and choose what he wants.

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I've found that CGA's method works well.


My DH is a picky eater for many reasons. Mostly, if the spices aren't too strong and the dinner is yummy, he will eat it. A couple of times early in our marriage he didn't like the idea of my entree and pulled the "Oh, well, I'll just eat cereal" thing. That did NOT go over well. tapfoot


I politely explained to him that I went to great efforts to make a healthy meal - he wasn't allergic to anything in the meal and didn't have bad associations with it. I explained how important it was to me that he respect my work in cooking and serving healthy meals.


He quickly saw that he was behaving like a spoiled child and discovered that the meal was terrific. I've also had to try the same meal a few different times and call it different things. Sometimes on the third or fourth try, he'll really discover he likes it.


Also, I've discovered that DH's mom was a very PLAIN cook. Nothing above the welfare level of the food chain until he was in middle school. This has adversely affected his palate as an adult.


I also have to be very careful about feeding him leftovers. I can't use the word. I have to say, "I made some of that soup we enjoyed last week." Which is not false, I did. It came from the freezer. rollingeyes


Also, involve him in the cooking. Let him do more than hand you a spoon. I've listed ingredients and recipies on the fridge and forced him to cook. When I was blind for two weeks due to an eye injury, he HAD to cook. Some nights it was eggs and toast, others it was tuna salad. The point was, he had to get into the pantry and TRY. Praise the efforts. Tell him what you do to make it special.


If he's a Star Wars fan, quote Yoda, "Do or do not, there is no try."




Also, my mom would trick us into thinking something ordinary was special by switching up the plates we were using. Sometimes we would forget we were eating BORING and feel special we were using 'company' dishes.


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I have a DB and DS, both over 60, and they are pretty much meat and potatoes (and desserts) type people. Beans are not even accepted very often. We have given up on trying to get them to try things. They will say, O I like green beans (or whatever) I just don't want any, etc. However, they don't get tired of eating the same things over and over. DS could eat a peanut butter sandwich everyday of her life, DB probably could,too. So the rest of the family when we get together cooks what we all like, and let them pick from it. Of course, they get more than their share of the meat and potatoes, but we just live with it.


Since your DH is getting tired of it, I like what C4C did to get her's to branch out.

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  • 2 months later...

When DH and I first got married he was a very picky eater meat and potatoes only. I had a DD from my 1st marriage and warned him that I would be cooking balanced meals because DD needed to have balanced meals. If he did not like what I cooked he could just not eat the offending item, but if he ever refused to eat something and the children then tried to refuse to eat something because he was refusing to eat it we would revisit this subject. At about the time DD1 was 5 and her sister was 3 DH pushed some peas off to the side of his plate stating he was not going to eat them. DD immediately did the same thing. It was one of those moments he looked at DD and then at me and said yes you will because I now have to eat them also. LOL I was so proud of him that day. Never had any problems with him eating his veggies after that day.

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  • 2 years later...

I can't eat meat, dairy, eggs, or gluten (wheat, barley, rye, oats) and I have to avoid or limit some other foods (green peppers, soy, pineapple, walnuts, etc. ). I have Celiac and multiple allergies and food intolerances.


I certainly have staples and favorite dishes (beans, rice, corn, gluten free pastas with sauces, flat-bread, lots of fruit and veggies.) , but even with a limited diet (and budget) I don't have trouble with food fatigue. I have been exploring the cuisines of cultures that use a lot of the same ingredients I can eat. Indian food, Mediterranean, dishes from the various Latin American countries, Middle Eastern, Asian, etc. Many dishes I have found use or can be easily adapted to ingredients that are off limits to me (which may work for you), and I have also been able to find many that I can adapt to my needs.


I live in an area where I can find markets that carry the spices and ingredients that make these dishes unique. If this is not the case for you, ordering online may be a possibility to consider. Health food stores also carry some ingredients you may not find at a supermarket.


I'm not picky (can't afford to be), but even I have foods I just don't like. For instance I have hated eggplant my whole life. But roasted and pureed with tahini, it is one of my favorite foods. I'm going to try some Japanese eggplant soon (as long as I can keep the critters from stealing/ruining the ones I'm growing), as it has a milder flavor, so hopefully I can expand my diet even more.


One of the benefits of my exploration has been finding stores that carry the staples I use in bulk at low prices, without having to pay for a membership. This has made stocking my cupboards(and closet, etc.wink%20(2).gif) much easier for me.


With my favorite dishes, I try to regularly change things a little bit. When I first went gluten free, (I was already vegan) I didn't know very much about what foods were gluten free. I ate a lot of spaghetti sauce, rotating between 3 or 4 different shapes of rice pasta. I still vary my pasta this way, and I change up the sauce too, sometime I add mushrooms, or capers, or olives, etc., or I make a simple marinara. (I also now know how to make many other sauces too. Heh.)


(Sorry this is so long, but hopefully it helps. yum3.gif)

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I guess my familys tastes were simpler...as long as I had homemade bread and nice thick gravy on the table I could serve a sauteed shoe sole and my husband would think himself fortunate...Ive passed that tip to many a new wife along with my bread and gravy recipes....

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