Not only do my kids vary in age, but they range so far from each other in personality, including their taste in food. Camrie has a more sophisticated pallette and loves sushi and authentic Italian food while Cole has more pedestrian taste and favors more meat and starches such as potatoes or rice, or americana type fare such as buffalo wings, pizza, burgers. He hates things with sauce - I honestly don't know how you eat anything without sauce! But that is my sweet 14 year old.
As a parent who aims relentlessly at keeping the dinner hour a happy one, cooking meals that makes everyone happy is like trying to find a pearl in a bank of snow. I know, the analogy is a bad one - but it just won't happen! I recently came to terms with this - yes, it took me many, many years of trying to please everyone. It was a slow journey, but am now appreciating - not condemning - their varying tastes in cuisine.
I used to try to find meals that would please everyone and was always disappointed. There was always something that someone didn't like. So, I changed my approach. Now, I find meals that are favorites of each person in the family, and make that meal once per week. This very idea is so simple, yet it took me years to discover!! Maybe you've already figured that out, and to you - I tip my hat.
There were a few lessons our family learned through this process:
1) I learned that I just cannot please everyone at once. That expectation was unrealistic!
2) My kids learned that they may not always like what is placed in front of them, but they should attempt to put a polite dent in it. After all, our home will not be the only place where food is placed in front of them that they are "not crazy about". Think: friend's homes, future in-law's homes, etc! But, out of courtesy to the one who made it, they should eat - unless it's totally disgusting and they just can't scarf it down. To that I coach my kids: tell the cook they just had a huge meal somewhere else and really can't eat any more!
3) Each of us is valued and I want to show how much they are valued by making something they enjoy. While Cole may eat something he doesn't like one night, hopefully he will realize that he is making a small sacrifice for his sister who loves the meal and that another day, she will do the same for him.
4) Who knows - they may someday appreciate the meal they once didn't like!
Don't misunderstand: we don't make our kids eat the food placed in front of them. I have vivid and disturbing memories of my parents forcing me to eat everything on my plate. The idea is to bring a better understanding and respect of dinner and of our fellow family members. Thirty years later, I still feel guilty about not ever making it in the "Clean Plate Club".
So, tonight - I will be making Susie's absolutely favorite meal. This child would eat it every day if she could - Lord knows she asks for it every day! Camrie and Cole are not big fans of this, but they tend to eat more rice these nights than any other night, but out of respect to the rest of the family - they politely take a few bites.
Chicken and Cheese and Brocolli Casserole
1 pkg Chicken Breasts, bone in, skin on - cooked and shredded
(I use a Costco rotisserie chicken - it's much faster & cost effective!)
1 C Your Favorite Mayonnaise (I prefer Kraft Real Mayo)
1-2 bunches of brocolli, cut up
2 cans Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup
3 C Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Curry Powder - to taste
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium sized bowl: mix soup, mayo & curry powder (be very generous with the curry).
In a 9x13 dish, spread chicken along bottom. Then layer brocolli. Pour soup mixture over the chicken & brocolli. Spread and smooth.
Top with cheddar cheese.
Bake for 45 minutes. Top over rice.
Note: this is a very "saucy" recipe and recognize not all kids are going to like this. Or - maybe everyone in your family will love it, it's a very Minnesota casserole!
Also, this notion of "taking turns" may not be easily adapted into the family. It's hard to introduce new ideas to those (i.e. toddlers!) who are not open to this type of idea. It took a while for my kids to understand this concept. However, be patient - be realistic - don't give up!