Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Let them eat cake.

My husband has been out of town the past few nights so come dinner time, I've been all about the path of least resistance. We still maintain our regularly scheduled meal time and sit together as a (slightly smaller) family, but rather than racking my brain to come up with something satisfying for the adults that won't make Liam melt to the floor in a puddle of whine, I go kid-friendly all the way. Smart dogs and baked sweet potato fries? You got it! Mac 'n cheese with apple slices? No problem! A bowl of cereal and a glass of wine? What? Moms need dinner too, you know.

But last night, even with zero pressure to impress my fellow diners, I still felt like dinner time snuck up and bit me on the ass. We had walked to the neighborhood coffee shop after school where I was really hoping we could sneak in a super early "supper" (that's what Liam calls it when we eat earlier than usual) but they were no longer serving food food and a sugar cookie just wasn't going to cut it. So we walked home and played outside and bounced on the trampoline and watched the dog chase her tail and forgot about dinner until we finally came inside and realized it was 6:00.

Almost time for dinner.

A quick glance around the kitchen confirmed I was going to have to get creative unless I wanted to serve the exact same dinner from the night before or repeat what Liam had had for lunch. While I'm usually fine with stuff like that (I can do leftovers for lunch and dinner a couple days in a row no problem), last night I had a temporary case of OCD. I simply COULD NOT serve the same dinner twice!

Fortunately I had stumbled across a recipe in Parents magazine earlier in the day that I had all the ingredients for and thought the kids might actually like. Because it was a recipe for cake and nobody doesn't like cake. (My husband says he doesn't but we're pretty sure he's lying.)

The reason I felt I could get away with making it for dinner is because it was one of those sneaky chef kind of things so it was kind of like cake but it was cake with zucchini. And by the time I got done messing with it and substituting what I could to make it vegan (yeah, we're doing that again), it was practically a dinner all on it's own!

Practically but not quite. I couldn't just serve my kids cake for dinner. I had to come up with a side main dish of some sort too. But what? What...

Aha! That's it! An old family recipe passed down from my mom who probably learned it from her dad or her favorite aunt.

Beanie weenies.

Liam walked into the kitchen just as I was dumping the can of baked beans into the pot of sliced up Smart Dogs.

"What is that?" he asked, turning up his nose and eyeing me suspiciously.

"Dude. It's beanie weenies. Total kid food!"

"Ugh. It looks terrible."

"Well it's not. It's good. Trust me! This is the kind of stuff I was raised on!"


"Well, whatever. Go wash your hands."

While he was getting ready for dinner I sliced up a bunch of strawberries and an avocado and quickly made myself a kale salad. Then my boys and I sat down to a very nostalgic family dinner with plenty of time to eat before bed. Score!

And as for the meal? Rave reviews. I mean, rave reviews for our house. No one gagged or cried and the whining and fear-based negotiations were kept to a minimum. The strawberries and avocados disappeared first and after eyeing the cake and carefully taking a bike Liam said, "You know, you never can tell what something will be like on the inside by looking at it from the outside. For instance, this cake looked kind of bumpy and weird but it's actually really good."

It sounded like somebody's classroom had been visited by the guidance counselor so I went with it. "You're exactly right! It's a little bit like these beanie weenies. You're pretty sure you're not going to like them, but you haven't even tried them. They might be the greatest thing you've ever tasted! But if you never give them a chance you could go your whole life thinking they're gross."

"That's different."

"Well, think about it like this. What if someone thought you were mean for no reason at all."

"But I'm not mean."

"Well I know that. But what if someone just thought you were and never gave you a chance to show them that you weren't?"

"No, no, no, no. That's totally different."


"Because that's people. This is... dinner."

Eventually he took a few bites and I think he even liked it although I pretended not to notice or care. It works better that way.

Anytime Cake

1 zucchini, finely grated
1 banana, mashed
1/2 C unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C sugar
2 Tbs ground flax seed
1-1/2 C whole wheat flour
1tsp baking soda
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9X9" pan with nonstick spray. Combine wet ingredients. Add sugar and mix well. Stir in dry ingredients. (If you follow directions and like to combine all the dry ingredients together first in another bowl, be my guest. Me? I like to use as few dishes as possible. And NO ONE has ever complained that my baked goods could use a little pre-mixing.) Transfer batter to pan and bake for about 25 minutes. Enjoy with dinner, breakfast, lunch...anytime!

(I just made another batch since I hadn't really paid attention to what I threw in there the first time around so I know for a fact that this makes a fantastic breakfast. Particularly on a rainy Saturday morning in Nashville. Have a great weekend!)

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