but WHAT do you eat?

(updated, and with photos!)

I am frequently asked, “How do you feed that many children?” or “What do you feed all of them?”

It always makes me laugh. Mostly because the increase in the amount of food that I need to prepare has gradually increased over the years. I am sure if one day I were single and then the very next day woke up and had to preapre meals every day for nine people that I would find it overwhelming.

A few months ago my friends Darren and Nabby came to visit. Neither of them have children. At one point during the evening Nabby looked over at my cabinet filled with food and said, “Wow, that is alot of food. Are you stockpiling or do you eat all of that?” I thought it was funny because to me it was looking a tad barren.

I buy bread 6 loaves at a time. That will last us for three lunches. They can go through two entire boxes worth of cereal in a morning. My children are big eaters like their father, and luckily they have inherited his metabolism.

I have always thought those plans where you cook once a month and freeze all the food would be really great, except that the sheer volume of food that I would have to prepare is overwhelming. In some ways my everyday cooking is bulk cooking.

Chris,

I love reading both of your blogs. I was wondering if you could write about meals that you cook for your family? I “only” have three kids and can’t imagine cooking for that many people everyday. It would be like having guests every single day. How do you manage? Do you have any favorite, kid approved (ha-ha) recipes?

Thanks so much!

This is one of the many emails that I have received asking the same basic question. This one mad me laugh the most though. My children are not treated to meals that would be considered holiday or guest worthy every day.

So what are some of our favorite easy meals. The keyword here is EASY. (ANd I asked the kids for their imput. Once I weeded out the answers of CANDY, PIE, and HOT DOGS, I had these.)

I have already expressed my love for the crockpot in the previous post. But not every meal can be put into a crockpot. Nor do I want to make every meal in a crockpot.

In the summer I cook on the grill a lot. I love my grill. But now that the weather is turning colder and soon it will be snowing, I have less desire to stand outside grilling. And it is time to move on to the “winter” recipes. God, I am old and boring if I can categorize my cooking by the seasons.

*****

Sloppy Joes:

This recipe is super easy and fast to prepare. One of my favorite ones to make when we are pressed for time in the evening because of activities. It is not a measuring dependent recipe, so feel free to add more or less of the ingredients.

4lbs of ground beef
4 cans of tomato soup
2 jars of salsa

Brown the beef in a large skillet. Drain the fat.

Add the tomato soup and salsa. Let simmer.

If you like it more runny add more tomato soup. If you like it spicier add a touch of tabasco. (We usually reserve that for just the grown-ups as the kids don’t really like it too spicy.)

Serve on buns. Sprinkle it with mexican blend shredded cheeses if desired.
Serve with a tossed salad and some corn chips.

******

We also like fun meals. The kinds where the kids can help, serve themselves, or make their own version of the meal.

Buffet

This is a favorite on a Saturday or Sunday evening when we are going to be watching a sporting even or family movie together.

The Crack Bean Dip (recipe in the link) with Tostitos

Buffalo Wings*

Buy the chicken wings and tiny legs. Toss with the hot wing sauce and broil.

Teryaki Wings*

Same as the recipe above, but with teryaki marinade.

Vegetables and ranch dressing dip.

I put all the food out on the table and they pick and chose what they want. This dinner is especially fun if you eat it in your tv room on a blanket spread out on the floor like a picnic.

*I also do the same but with chicken tenders and then serve it with dinner sized rolls to make little sandwiches.

******


Pizza

Who doesn’t love pizza? For a long time I was too intimidated to make pizza. It just seemed so HARD. Now I am not sure why I thought that, but if I thought it I am willing to bet that some of you think it too. Trust me, if I think it is easy, you definitely will.

This recipe makes 3 largish sized pizza crusts. (I double this for our family)

1 1/2 tsp salt
8 cups flour
3 cups water
6T veg oil
4 tsp active dry yeast

I pour the water and oil into the bottom of the bowl. Mound the flour and salt in the middle. Dg a little depression in the top and stick the yeast there. So that when you stir it the yeast comes into contact with water after it has mixed with throughtout the flour.

Stir it all up until it is mixed. Split it into three balls.

Now you knead the dough. Or punch it.

Making pizza

or pound it.

pounding the dough

Knead each ball of dough on floured surface until it is smooth.

Using just a little flour

Use your own discretion at the amount of flour you would like to use.

Spray a pyrex dish with cooking spray (I also spray the top of the dough so it doesn’t get crusty) and put them in a warm place to rise. Let it rise until they double in size (an hour or so. It doesn’t take long.)

Preheat the oven to 400.

With a rolling pin, roll the dough out flat. Spray your baking sheet with cooking spray and dust lightly with cornmeal. This will help it just slide off the pan when it is done cooking.

I put the dough in and let it pre bake for 7 minutes. This helps it get crisp without keeping it in the oven long enough for the cheese to burn.

The kids all love to help with making the dough.My older kids can do all the measuring themselves and really only need minimal supervision. And best of all, they think it is FUN.

The crust can also be wrapped up and frozen at this point to use another time. Fpr something like Breakfast pizza.

Now comes the toppings. The choices are infinite, depending on your likes.

I like to have a variety of chopices and ask the kids to personalize what they want. I have found that they will be more adventurous in their choices if they put it on themselves.

Chicken breast
Sausage
meatballs
pepperoni
green peppers
sliced tomatoes
onions
ricotta cheese
mozzerella cheese

My big pizza making tip is to USE LEFTOVERS!

Make some chicken breast for dinner and have a tiny bit left over, not enough for a full meal? Slice it up and freeze it in a small ziploc. We have even done this with sloppy joe mix, adding it on top of the jar pizza sauce with a little mexican blend of shredded cheeses and had mexican pizza, Ole’.

Teryaki chicken… well that makes an interesting Asian inspired pizza, if you add a little pineapple and green pepper.

I use inexpensive jarred pizza sauce. Spread it around the crust, sprinkle the toppings on and throw it back in the over for another 7-10 minutes.

It really is so simple to make homemade pizza. We almost never buy it anymore, in part because the kids enjoy making it themselves so much.

******

Those are the top three easiest to prepare kid picked- mom approved meals. I sound like a Jiffy peanut butter ad now don’t I?

16 Responses to “but WHAT do you eat?”

  1. Susan Says:

    You are like the coolest mom ever! How come I never thought of the buffet idea, or the spreading out a blanket and eating on the floor one!? My kids are going to be so happy with this. Thank you, Chris!

  2. cole Says:

    If you want to cheat and go cheap, Trader Joe’s has great pizza crust, whole wheat and regular white flour. We make left over pizza’s all the time. Great stuff!

    It is also a great way to get picky kids to eat their veggies if they like pizza sauce. I saute whatever I have….broccoli stalks peeled and chopped, zuchinni, spinach and add onion and garlic and then the tomatoes and they zap in the blender so no foreign chunks are visible and volia, veggies and they don’t ever know it!

    You can also make pesto with spinach and basil together for a yummy pesto pizza. You can even use silken tofu in the sauces, red or other wise to get in some cheap protein.

    Whatever left over sauce I have a recycle into a pasta sauce or pour over sauteed chicken and serve with rice the next night.

    I have a smallish family, just the four of us but I enjoy your blog and have been lurking for a while. Just wanted to give a shout out to hidden ways to get some green into picky kiddos.
    xx

  3. chris Says:

    Oh you people with your Trader Joe’s always making me all jealous ;-)

    Those are really great ideas about sneaking the veggies in.

  4. Julie Q Says:

    Good ideas. I’ll have to try the pizza crust recipe because that is something that has always intimidated me. We use the lazy version (or “resourceful” sounds better) of Boboli crusts or Texas Toast bread from the day-old bakery. I like being able to customize the toppings to fit the picky eaters.

  5. KimC Says:

    Salsa in sloppy joe? Different. I’ll have to try that!
    We make a sweet-n-sour type with ketchup, mustard, brown sugar and vinegar. I love it but hubby’s not crazy about it, so it’s a Dad’s-gone-day dinner in our house.

  6. CathyC Says:

    I just had to tell you that I am using my crock pot right now. In it I am making your chili. I did have to halve the receipe, though. It smells great, and I can’t wait to eat it.
    BTW, for pizza, I use the ready made dough that my supermarket sells. It tastes great and it’s not too expensive (only $1 for 1 dough).

  7. Kristen Says:

    I’m in awe.

    *hiding head for complaining about cooking for one*

    :)

  8. Izzy Says:

    Tha sloppy Joe recipe sounds really good. I’m going to add the ingredients to my list right now. Sadly, that shopping list is the pinnacle of my organizational prowess…

  9. Monica Says:

    I find the jarred pizza sauce is fairly expensive, so I buy the cans of Italian seasoned tomato sauce, or whatever spagetti sauce is on sale.

    Otherwise yes, homemade pizza on whatever we choose for the crust that day has always been a kid favorite. Bagels, english muffins, even ground beef during a short and not missed atkins phase.

  10. CathyC Says:

    Update on the Chris’ Trench Chili that I made on Thursday. DELICIOUS!!! My husband and I love it. My 2 yr old had a fever so he hasn’t been eatting. I’m adding this to my private receipe stash. Thanks, Chris!

  11. tanya Says:

    We do the buffet but, we call it a picnic and we eat paté and baguette, cheese and crackers, veggies and dip, shrimp ring, grapes, apples etc. The french version of your american buffet. Must be the Québecois in us.

  12. rain on tulips » yummm Says:

    [...] A pizza dough recipe from In the Trenches of Motherhood. [...]

  13. Mary Tsao Says:

    I love how the sloppy joe recipe starts out with 4 pounds of ground beef. Four pounds!

    You’re amazing. I’m gonna try the sloppy joe recipe but I’ll probably only use 1 pounds of ground beef and I’ll still have leftovers. :)

  14. Kris Says:

    Just dropping by to say thanks. I made the sloppy joes, and they were easy and very tasty! I bought the stuff to make your corn chowder too. I’m hoping at least a few of my kids will join me in eating it. :)

  15. Erika Says:

    one of our favorites is to use barbque sauce instead of pizza saucem put some chicken, brocolli, and whatever else you want and cook.. its delicicious. (altho last time we did this we also put french fries on it (Hey sounds weird, tasted really good!) lily loved it!

  16. Erika Says:

    wow lots of typos sorry!