As regular readers of EP know, I function as a stay at home parent. Notice I didn’t say “work.” Where I come from, Earth, work is traditionally something you get paid for. Otherwise it is an internship or volunteering. Since an internship implies a lack of permanence, I suppose I am a volunteer. And I’m fine with that; I did voluntarily leave my job to take care of my kids. I also really don’t like it when some condescending asshole tells me I’m doing “the most important job in the world.” Since I take care of two children, technically wouldn’t someone who works at a day care center and takes care of three or more children have a more important “job” than me? How about an airline pilot responsible for hundreds of lives per flight? How about the mechanics who work on the plane? All I’m doing is making sure my progeny are well taken care of, which is damned important to me but surely of little significance to anyone else. My only request of other stay at home parents is that their little snowflakes grow up well adjusted enough not shoot up my children’s school…
Now that my mini-rant is over, on to the point of this post. Sometimes I am pressed for time to make dinner. Shocking, huh? Two small children harassing me and making demands of all sorts, from help me tie my shoe to make my stuffed polar bear sing “Polar Bear Picnic” again, continually conspires to keep me from plating an intricately prepared meal on a nightly basis.
So what’s a Dad to do? I still want to make something delicious and quasi-healthy. The answer is pretty obvious. Focus on the heart of the meal (chicken, fish, etc.) and make use of side dishes in a box. (If any food snobs have an issue with that they can say it directly to me. You will not find me making pasta salad every damn day during my daughter’s nap. Sometimes Daddy needs to chill for a while and not be catering to whims of another human being. If I want to watch a rerun of The Wire during her nap, I will, and anyone who has something negative to say about that is itchin’ for a fight). Fortunately there are a few decent choices out there, that while not recommended to serve on a nightly basis are still delicious (any reader who disagrees is free to dispute that and recommend something else) and simple to make. That way my mustard fish has a decent side dish and I can keep my sanity alive, if only for one more day.
Number 1: Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice
I have never heard a negative word about using Uncle Ben’s Wild Rice as a side dish. Ever. Once I made shrimp scampi with Uncle Ben’s as my side and all the compliments were for the rice. I would have felt insulted if I gave a shit what the people thought, or didn’t partly agree with them. Mix the seasoning with the rice, boil, cover, and 25 minutes later: consume. Also, it goes great with mustard fish.
Number 2: Stove Top Stuffing
Boring? Bland? Perhaps, and I would never serve Stove Top on Thanksgiving but for a quick side dish you can be damn sure it works just fine, and is quick and easy. If you are feeling adventurous cook up a batch of McCormick’s Turkey Gravy (more on that in a future post), pour on said stuffing and people will think you actually worked to create the dish.
Number 3: Macaroni and Cheese
Yes, I’m a real genius for uncovering this gem. Every college student and person on a budget knows about Mac and Cheese, right? Of course, but let me sadly state that Mac and Cheese in a box is uniformly awful. How do I make it palatable? A few key additions. First, when mixing the cheese powder, add dried thyme and Dijon mustard — about a teaspoon of each. If your kids or fellow diners can handle it (and if they can’t feel free to haze them) liberally add Frank’s RedHot to it as well. Now you have Mac and Cheese from a box that is edible.
A word of caution: Be sure to stay away from instant mashed potatoes. Awful beyond belief or description.
I’ll do veggies in another post. Actually, I won’t, I’ll just add that in now. The secret to add veggies in a quick manner is to serve them raw (my kids prefer carrots or peppers) and offer them something to dip them in. Hummus or Ranch dip or whatever strikes your fancy. If your little ones still won’t eat the veggies, just tell them if they don’t eat them they will never be allowed to have dessert again until they either turn 18 or get a job. Works like a charm.
Now if you will excuse me I have to go fold laundry and clean up a giant mess of legos along with misplaced puzzle pieces and blocks. You know, the most important job in the world…