Planning Dinner

Cooking dinner is part of most of our lives. Some of us enjoy it while others do it out of necessity. Whether we enjoy cooking or not, for most of us, deciding what to make for dinner can be the hardest part of preparing the meal. When I was a young mother, I remember dreading the four o'clock hour as it came around when I still had not decided what to fix for dinner. Sometimes the kids would ask, "What's for dinner?" as that time of day approached.

In frustration I would contemplate making macaroni and cheese with hot dogs, again. When it came to preparing meals, sometimes I wished I didn't have so many choices. I wanted the decision to already be made; we are having _ for dinner, then I would not have to think about it anymore, I would just do it. I remember seeing my sister browse through cookbooks for hours when we were teenagers. She loves to cook. She would read out a recipe to me then say "Doesn't that sound yummy?" I'm sure I looked back at her with black stares as I thought to myself, "how does she know if something tastes good without trying it first?" My sister seems to know instinctively how to adjust recipes to make them taste even better, leaving out this ingredient or that, then adding more of this, etc.

I am one who has to follow the recipe exactly as it is written. I only have to imagine the ruined meal if I were to try to change something. Cookbooks are helpful but they rarely include the complete meal put together.

I like knowing what side dishes go well with a main dish. I also want a week of meals to be well balanced. Often cookbooks are grouped by same foods. I might see a meatloaf recipe next to beef stroganoff, which is next to a beef stir-fry, then beef stew, and hamburger, etc.

I don't like spending time browsing through cookbooks flipping back and forth from category to category. A problem I have run into several times when following a recipe is when it calls for an obscure ingredient. On occasion I have wondered the grocery store isles looking for an ingredient listed from a recipe.

Being uncertain of leaving the ingredient out, fearing it would alter the outcome of the meal negatively, I would pace the store isles searching for the item, asking store clerks who usually shook their head stating they didn't know what it was or where it would be located. It's not that I reject the idea of new or different ingredients, but I don't appreciate searching the store for something, which isn't even available at a regular grocery store. One of the reasons cooking meals seems worth it to me is because I love having my family sit down together for dinner. It is always nice to hear my children conversing with one another and having that family time together. Even after I have asked my children how their day went when they return home from school, they give me a small report but for some reason much more information comes out at the dinner table while we are eating together.

It never ceases to amaze me. I noticed when we buy fast food, we rarely sit down together to eat it. We each take our food and go to various rooms in the house to eat.

But when I prepare a cooked dinner, we all sit down together at the table to eat, then the conversation starts flowing. We each have our own talents in life, and I recognize cooking is not one of mine. When something does not come easy to me, I can acknowledge I need help. For me, that help is having a weekly dinner menu plan with well-balanced meals, delicious recipes and a shopping list. Now I enjoy cooking dinner instead of feeling it's such a chore.


By: Kim Krueger

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