Food, Budgets, Children & Husbands

Every time I see a mother out shopping with her children trying to keep her goals in mind while the young ones clamor for everything the mother is not going to put in her grocery cart, I recall my own moments. Children are born with taste buds already acclimated to junk food and parents battle their inclinations from day one.

Children like recognizable food. If they can’t conveniently pick it up in their hands, they might not eat it. And, if the food, can be fried, grilled, or breaded, so much the better.
Unfortunately, the week before payday doesn’t always allow us the luxury of chunks of meat or chicken. This is when the bane of most children appears . . . casseroles!
Casseroles were invented when there was one shred of meat, two carrots, and a sprouted potato left in the larder. Whether it is a larder or refrigerator of today, we often have the same culinary scenario. This is when your motherly skills all come into play.
“Mom! What is that brown, crusty stuff on top of my food?”
“It is melted cheese. Eat it! Don’t take it off or you will be sorry!”
“Mom! There’s no meat under the brown, crusty stuff!”
“See! Didn’t I tell say you’d be sorry!”
For variation, all you have to do is add liquid to leftover casserole and you have soup. This is about as popular as casserole. Your children carefully skim tiny spoonfuls of broth from the surface of their soup bowls. There are whispered discussions and long, intent looks into their bowls. You get the impression that the appearance of the Loch Ness Monster from the depths of their soup would come as little surprise to them.
All the cookbooks and meal planners suggest stretching meals with a big salad. Salad often fits into my week before payday budget. Unfortunately, the children are all for drowning it in their soup and covering it with brown, crusty stuff.
Husbands should be supportive but, sometimes, they just can’t help what happens. Faced with a big bowl of mixed salad greens (two-pound bag on the ‘next stop, eternity’ used vegetable counter!), he tries to be encouraging.
“Children! Your mother works hard all day to fix us this wonderful dinner . . .”
“Dad! I don’t recognize this leaf!”
“It’s nettles, dear.”
“Dad! Nettles aren’t edible! It’s probably crab grass. Mom put crab grass in our salad!”
“Sweetheart! It’s not crab grass. I meant to say endive not nettles.”
“Dad! Do I have to eat the curly leaves?”
“If you want dessert, you do.”
“We have dessert tonight?”
“Well, no, but if we were having dessert, you could have some if you ate the curly leaves, too. Since we aren’t having dessert, you still have to eat the curly leaves so you don’t die of starvation by morning!”
“Dad! I think I saw something crawling in my salad . . .”
“Enough! I have heard enough complaints about dinner. I want you to all be quiet and eat your weeds! I mean, salad!”
Marriages are made in Heaven but I bet they happen before the salad course.

Our Favorite at the Family Salad Bar!

We enjoy salads in our family and are always trying out new combinations, dressings, and vegetables. The latest (pictured above) is the easiest yet most popular one yet . . . very few leftovers!

The Dressing is easy and most people will have the ingredients already around the house.

Peanut Butter Thai Dressing

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
4 tablespoons sesame oil
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
Juice of three or four limes
Dressing a little too thick for you? Just thin with adding a bit of water.

Combine all the ingredients in a container you can seal and mix until smooth. Refrigerate until needed. It keeps well for a day or two.

Salad
1 cup shredded carrots
1 red bell pepper thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups shredded green cabbage
1 cup shredded red cabbage
1 cup sliced cauliflower
1 cup broccoli broken down into small florets
1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
1/2 cup finely sliced green onion (used the white and green part)
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Prepare all your vegetables (You can add/substitute for other favorites) in a large serving bowl. When ready to serve, drizzle the dressing generously over the top of the salad ingredient and toss to coat evenly.

When we have guests, I like to bring the bowl to the table before using the dressing so everyone can see the pretty variety of salad ingredients and then
toss with the dressing just before everyone helps themselves.

We try to avoid too many carbs so often serve this with Cashew Chicken or a Spicy Beef stir fry. With all the produce and the rich dressing, no one misses a
side of rice . . . although no stopping you if you want to add that to the dinner plate, too!