Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dinner for Four

I have a difficult time getting motivated to make supper when my husband is out of town.


Back up.


I have a difficult time getting motivated to make supper even when Scott is in town. See the problem is the time of day. If I could make supper at, say, 2 p.m., I would be fine. But the kids come home from school at 4:15, and of course I want to spend time with them, because they've been gone all day. I want to play cops and robbers with Logan and basketball or football with Cody. From school they bring what seems like a ream of paper home each afternoon, each individual sheet clambering for my attention. Then there's the homework. Cody has homework every day, with which he needs help, and Logan often has homework, but even if he doesn't, I'm needed to run interference for Cody so Logan doesn't bug him too much while he's doing his. Then there's Caleb. That time between 4 and 5:30 p.m. is his most clingy and whiny of the day. This is not surprising considering that there are so many other things demanding my attention all of a sudden. Further complicating the situation is what I call the Caleb conundrum. If I give him something to eat, that will occupy his attention for long enough for me to help Cody with a math problem or help Logan practice writing his letters, but if he eats then, he won't eat his supper. So I don't give Caleb anything to eat, but instead carry him around with me, while he complains and grabs at anything he can get his hands on (like Cody's and Logan's pencils to draw on the table with, or their flashcards to throw around the living areas). With all this going on, is it any wonder that I dread adding one more thing by cooking supper? I'm sure those of you who have children can identify with my situation.

I've adapted. On weekdays now I only make things that don't require my attention between 4 and 5:30 p.m., so we've been having a lot of casseroles that I put together while Caleb is napping in the afternoon. Crock pot meals work well, too. I've also set a strict 5:30 supper time so that we have time to do homework after supper when Scott's available to provide one more set of adult hands. It's working well, and that time of day is substantially easier. I don't feel the pressure to get everything done before supper because I know that we'll have time after (no time for anything else, but I guess that's just the way it goes).

So, back to my opening statement. I find it really, really, really difficult to get motivated to make supper when my husband is out of town. Because, you see, I have everything going on that I mentioned above, PLUS I know that whatever I make, at least 1/3 of the children will not be happy with it. They regularly ask me if they can just have cereal or pancakes for supper, and I regularly say fine, because I'm too tired at that point to argue and cereal is really easy. I also know that I'm not going to have another set of adult hands to help with homework/Caleb occupying later on, so homework pretty much takes from the time they get home until the time they go to bed with a short break so we can eat our cereal.

The last time my husband was traveling for business (which was just week before last), I realized that I really need to be intentional about making sure that when he's traveling I have meals available that are really easy to get on the table...as in, put it in the oven for an hour, then on the table. I usually keep one casserole in our freezer for emergencies, but I decided that I needed to beef up my supply and to use those when Scott isn't here. So last week, as I was planning my menus and making my shopping list, I planned for tripling some of my casseroles to freeze. Last week I managed to get three super chicken casseroles and two tator tot casseroles into the freezer, and I was planning on chicken with a twist, and a beef and potato casserole this week...I just didn't know I would need them quite this soon. Yes, hubby is out of town again this week, and so far, so good. Last night we had the emergency pizza casserole, and tonight it'll be corn dogs, followed by super chicken casserole on Wednesday...
. . . . . . . .
Here's the recipe for Super Chicken Casserole, from our Lord of Life cookbook (submitted by Kris Nagao--remember Kris, everybody?). It's really good. In fact, you could easily call it Souper Chicken Casserole, because it tastes a lot like Grandpa Rotman's chicken rice soup.

6 oz pkg Uncle Ben's long grain and wild rice with herbs (I used the chicken flavor because it was on sale)
3 c. cooked chicken or turkey, cut up (I boiled chicken breasts, then used my food processor to chop it)
1 c. sliced fresh mushrooms
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 c. finely chopped green pepper
1 can cream of celery soup
1 c. chicken broth
sliced almonds

Saute mushrooms in 2 T butter or margarine. Cook rice according to package directions. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Put in large greased casserole and cover with sliced almonds. Bake at 350 for at least 1 hour, uncovered, until it is of serving consistency.

Mmmm, yummy. I forgot the almonds, but I'm sure it would be good with them, too. I tripled the recipe and got enough to fill, almost to overflowing, four 1.5 quart casseroles, one of which was enough to feed the five of us.

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