Tag Archives: Dinner

What’s for dinner? (Blog and Recipe)

Typical Day with four teenage boys and a somewhat passive aggressive mom:
0700– Someone in the house ask you “What’s for dinner”. Say you don’t know and wait for the next 4 people you meet to ask you.
1000 – Nonchalantly get up and look at what’s in the freezer and see you have some boneless chicken thighs.
1200 – Next time someone asks “What’s for dinner” say “chicken”.

When they say how are you going to make it? Say you don’t know .

Listen to them ramble on about what they personally want and why you should make that particular dish. Explain patiently that different folks in the house don’t LIKE what they want and then say you’re only cooking one dish.

Listen as they relentlessly plead their case about how the others in the household don’t matter.
Approximately 1500 -Watch now, as they circle the kitchen more deliberately, but separately, getting really concerned about the dinner situation.

(Fun thing for mom): Send them on little goose chases – “Well do we have buns?” (that might mean friend chick-fil-a type sandwiches.

“No buns”.

“Hmmm…do we have charcoal?” (that might mean teriyaki grilled chicken thighs.

“Nope not enough.”…then shake your head in dismay and act as if you have NO IDEA what to do then.
1600 – Ask who is doing what in terms of evening activities to figure out the timelines you’ll be cooking.
“Well dad and Dan have practice at 6.”
1602-1645 – Listen to them moan about not being able to wait until Dad and Dan get home and how you really HAVE TO COOK SOMETHING OR THEY WILL DIE!
1800 – commence to cut up the chicken thighs and watch as they all settle down cause they know SOMETHING is coming soon.
1810 – cut some bread and put it out (see 6:16 entry).
1815 – stand by as they start to get aroused by the aromas and they begin to move out of their rooms to circle you.

Caution them as they try to reach their hands into the boiling hot pans ONCE AGAIN and tell them things in hot pans ARE HOT (ONCE AGAIN) and they must take care not to burn themselves.
1816 –  After the first one yells because he’s burned, direct them all to the bread.

1830 – Tell them they can get food but caution them that Dad and Dan still have to eat.

1833 – Tell them yes they can get seconds but they can’t divide what’s left into 5. Dad and Dan deserve a full serving. They may get a second SMALLER serving. (Explain that a couple of times as they protest about “snoozing and loosing” yada yada.)
1845 – Sit and finish your drink just smiling cause you know your dinner (or at least the passive aggressive build up) was on time and on target!
1850 – Sit at your computer with a second glass of wine and reflect on how freaking lucky you are!

1855 –  Say “Yes you can be excused” and smile as they get up and start to clean the kitchen without being asked!!!!

They are satiated beasts at this point and will be relaxed and somewhat slowed in their next few movements.
2200 – Go to bed cause it is all going to happen again tomorrow and you need your strength!
Recipe – “What’s for Dinner Pasta”
Boneless chicken thighs salted and peppered on both sides
Cut boneless chicken thighs up into small pieces and cook in a pan in hot evoo. Drain and put in a holding pan. (Don’t move them around too much on each side. Let them brown-hard to do cause you worry they’ll burn so get on Facebook work something for about 4-5 minutes per side).
Start pasta water BUT DON’T PUT THE PASTA IN YET. Wait until you’ve melted the butter for the sauce (follows).
Same pan you cooked the chicken in. Leave the brown bits (that’s flavor baby) but get rid of the excess fat.
Melt 1 to 1.25 sticks of butter. Keep the flame LOW so it doesn’t burn.
Add either three diced garlic cloves or in a crunch put in about a tablespoon of garlic powder.
After that melts SLOWLY and is bubbly add in about 2 tablespoons of cream cheese.
Once that is melted and smooth add 1/4 cup of whatever spaghetti sauce you like.
Keep mixing. By now you should have had the pasta in the boiling water.
To the sauce ingredients add either a 1/4 cup of diced basil or about 2 tablespoons of the tubed basil you buy in the store. Sorry I like that for sauces cause it dissolves.
Add 1 tsp of red pepper flakes.
Keep mixing.
Add the cooked Angel hair pasta and some pasta water cause the pasta will soak up all the sauce…and you want it a bit saucy.
Once it is all combined and “stewed” for a couple minutes…throw the cooked chicken on top and tell the heathens it is ready to eat.



When the boys ask me why I rest my hand on their father’s leg when he’s driving, I think about all the miles my family would travel in the car on summer vacations.  I remember looking to the front and she’d be sitting there with her hand resting on daddy’s leg.  They didn’t speak too much but occasionally they’d look at each other and smile.  When I touch my husband’s leg, or reach over and hold his hand in the car I tell the boys:

My momma taught me that. 

When I come down in the evening in my PJs and the boys come rushing over to sit by me, Sam will raise his head and say:

 “Ohhh….you have on that perfume don’t you?”

 I think about hugging my mom over the years; burying my head into her neck and smelling her perfume.  I remember it warmed me and made me feel safe and loved.  So when the boys snuggle down next to me taking in long breaths of whatever perfumed lotion I’ve slathered on, I think:

My momma taught me that.

When I give a stranger a couple of dollars  I remember watching my mom reach into her pocket book and pull out money at the grocery store.  She’d help the person in front of us if they were a little short.  I’d walk away from the register holding her hand, looking up at that beautiful face, and feeling so proud.   Charity is one of the things she taught me.

When I start to put together a meal, I think about all the meals that she made in our kitchen.  Meals weren’t just something you ate, meals were an event.  Meals were cornbread and pinto beans, collard greens with ham hocks and sausage gravy and biscuits.  Saturday dinner was a steak, always a steak, sometimes in the kitchen or sometimes in the dining room where you “dressed” for dinner and ate by candlelight.  The kitchen table was a place of ritual and family, sometimes heated discussions and always good food.  When people ask me where I learned to cook I tell them:

My momma taught me that.

When I stand on the porch and wave goodbye to family and visitors pulling down the driveway and I take a moment to say a little prayer for their safe journey, I remember all the times I left my home on May Avenue, watching momma wave to me as I pulled away.  I know how important that last wave is and I think:

My momma taught me that. 

Even as mom started her slow journey from us, even when she didn’t always know who I was or where she was, even then she’d hug me and tell me she loved me.  That was her nature. 

I wonder if I would want to live the last years of my life as my momma did.  I can’t help but think about how much comfort and joy she brought us by being there for us to visit, to touch and hug.  We’d sit and share a cup of coffee, maybe watch a cooking show or take trip out to the garden.  Sometimes we were strangers, sometimes we were her daughters but always her gentle nature recognized us as friends. 

She gave so much and continued to ask for so little.  I’d want to do that for my boys as well.  She allowed us to let her go slowly and when it came time to say goodbye, we did.  My sister was there when she left us.  As gently as my momma lived, she died.   

Many years ago, right after my grandmother died, I found my mom in her bedroom writing down her thoughts.

Through her tears she said:

“You can read this when I’m done.”

She wrote pages about the things her momma did that made her world so full of love.  

If you wonder why I thought it important to write these things down now,

through my tears I can only tell you:

My momma taught me that.

                                                            Janice Irene Austin (Barrett)

                                               October 17, 1923 to November 7, 2009

                                             Every good thing I am; is rooted in you!


“What’s Wrong With Mom?”

Sunday Afternoon (The scene):

      Four boys sitting on one couch looking down and playing their new DS games they purchased earlier in the day.

     Husband of four boys sitting in “his chair” (why do men have “a chair” anyway); looking down at his laptop.

     Mom walks in, sits down and literally as her butt touches the cushion:


Brother #1 (not looking up):

    “What’s for dinner mom?”


     “Flank steak and roasted red potatoes.”

Brother #2 to Brother #1 (not looking up):

     “What did she say?”

Brother #1 to Brother #2:

     “Meat and potatoes.”

Brother #4 to Mom.

     “What kind of potatoes?”


     “Roasted red potatoes.”

Brother #4 to Mom:

    “Do I like those?”



Brother #2 to Brother #4:

    “What’d she say.”

Brother #4 to Brother #2:

    “Potatoes I like.”

Brother #2 to Mom:

    “Do I like those kind too Mom?”

Mom to Brother #2:

     “Yes, you like those kind.”

Brother #1 to Mom:

     “They’re not the kind I like are they mom?”

Mom to Brother #1:

     “I’m not sure you do like those kind Jake.”

Brother #1:

     “Oh Man.” (In that long drawn out “maaaaaaaaaaan” sort of way.)

Brother #3 to Brother #1 (without looking up)

    “What’s wrong?”

Brother #1 to Brother #3:

     “Mom’s making the kind of potatoes I don’t like for dinner.”

Brother #3 to Mom:

    “Do I like them mom.”

Mom (a little louder):

    “I DON’T KNOW IF YOU LIKE THEM BEN.  But those are the kind I’m making.”

Brother #4 to Mom:

    “Can’t you make French fries?”

Mom to Brother #4:

     “Yes, I COULD make French Fries, BUT I’m making roasted red potatoes!”

Brother #1 to Brother #4:


Brother #4 to Brother #1:

     “She won’t make us French Fries.”

Brother #1:

     “Oh man!”

Brother #2 to Mom (not looking up):

    “Can we have peaches?”

Mom to Brother #2:

    “Yes, if there are peaches you can have peaches.”

Brother #4 to Mom:

   “But I don’t like peaches.”

Mom to Brother #4:

    “Then you don’t have to HAVE peaches.”

Brother #3 to Mom:

    “Can’t we have mandarin oranges.”

Mom to Brother #3:

     “I DON’T CARE if you have mandarin oranges instead of peaches; it’s up to you.”

Brother #1 to Mom:

    “How about salad.  Are we having salad?”


Husband to Mom:

    “Where you going?”

Mom to husband:

    “I’m going to watch TV in my room.”

Husband to Mom:

    “What’s for dinner?”

Mom to husband (Who is STILL looking down):

     “You’re kidding me, right?”

Brother #3 to Dad:

    “What’s wrong with Mom?”

Dad to Brother #3:

     “She’s a little edgy today.”

Brother #1 (without looking up):

     “What’d he say?”

Parenting Tip of the Day:

When they were little I started serving the boys spinach with ranch dressing.  It was “dark green lettuce” I told them.  Now they are very happy to “eat their spinach”.  (All except #4 who won’t eat ANYTHING other than meat and potatoes.)

I was the Turkey

I fancy myself somewhat of a cook.  Of course that skill has evolved over the years and my husband is quick to tell the tale of my first apple pie.  The resulting coat of flour on the floor and cabinets made the idea of “homemade from frozen” much more appealing.  Thanks to the Food Network and my need to overachieve, I have honed my skills since staying home. 

When I had my fourth son on November 14 a few years back, I wanted to celebrate by doing something different and outstanding for Thanksgiving.  My goal to serve a deboned, stuffed turkey for my family of six and visiting in-laws quickly became an “I can do this” obsession.

The week before I practiced deboning just about everything I could find (we didn’t have the doggies yet).  When the time came to debone the Thanksgiving bird, I spent the better part of an hour working to extract every piece of cartilage and bone that might have taken away from the “oohs and ahhhs” I expected to hear as I came out to the Thanksgiving dinner table.

Sure enough, when it came time to serve dinner, everything was wonderful.  The turkey was beautiful on its platter, albeit smaller given the absence of bones.   The turkey’s breasts were perfectly browned, the legs actually edible by adults since they were stuffed individually and sliced, and everyone gave me the praise I’d needed for my ego. 
Everyone except two little boys pulled up to the holiday table.  Jacob and Sammy sat with just their little heads bobbing above the table, with their crystal water glasses, linen napkins and fine china; looking very, very, sad.

“What’s wrong?” asked their Bubbie (Yiddish for Grandma).

“Where’s the big one?” asked Jacob, at tear welling up in his eye.

“What big one?” I said between moments of patting myself on the back.

“The big turkey” both Jake and Sam said without hesitation. 

“You know mom-the big turkey like they always show on the TV commercials; like the pictures from last year and like on the Charlie Brown special.  Where’s the BIG TURKEY?”

It was that moment that I knew I’d blown it.  I’d turned the holiday into something I’d wanted focused on me instead of allowing the tradition of the day to carry the family through.

That was the last Thanksgiving I served anything other than the BIG turkey. As we speak my big turkey is defrosting in the sink ready to be brined and rubbed for cooking.  The family picked out the type pies we’re going to fix, the veggies they’ll be chopping and how they want the potatoes fixed.  It won’t be like Emeril’s dining room but I’m smart enough to not make the same mistake twice.

However you make your turkey this year, I hope it is served with platters of love and hope, charity and goodwill, and sprinkled with generous portions of health and happiness. As we enter the holiday season may you and your family always be on the winning side of the wishbone.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Parenting Tip of the Day:

Some churches open their doors and provide holiday breakfasts for the homeless.  My husband and I are taking the boys down to cook pancakes in the morning at a local church and then coming home for dinner.  I’m hoping it will really help us understand everything we have to be thankful for.  I’ve read that tons of young people believe that volunteering is important, but fewer than ever do so.  If you can, take the time to show our kids how much they can impact our world.  Even a January neighborhood food drive and trip to the local food bank is a tremendous learning experience (and great winter break project).  Show them what a difference they can make.