I know I had quiche on the menu for tonight, but I just wasn't in the mood for it. The weather didn't feel quiche-like to me and I was feeling kind of spunky, if not a touch punchy, about ruffling things up a little for dinner. After all, I had a bunch of organic broccoli that was one day away from heading to the compost bin, some sweet pork sausage left over from Thanksgiving, and a sad half onion - surely I could make this work. What could I do with these ingredients that would make my kids happy about dinner and would only take about 30 minutes to make?
Naturally I started to think of the usual vegetable/meat/pasta triple combination threat that I lean on at least once a week. But I wanted something more. Something heartier... something that I haven't tried to give to my oldest child in over a year because he nixed it so vehemently and something that my 2 year old has never tried. What is this? A suicide mission dinner?
It was certainly sounding like it.
When I announced what I was going to make for dinner when we got home, my husband did a double take and said, "Well it sounds good to me, but will they eat it?" I answered confidently (if not snappily) back, "Sure! Why not? I've always got cottage cheese* as my backup."
So I kicked off my work shoes and got to work. But as I chopped up the onion, I recalled my son's reaction 15 months ago when he ate this very same meal. He looked at me with a dead serious face and said, "Can you promise that we never have to have this dinner again?" Those words hang like a cloud over my head whenever I try to make a new meal for the family. But tonight I felt empowered and I was prepared to duke it out. I rehearsed my "I Am Mother Hear Me Roar" speech for when the inevitable whines and complaints would start. I planned to stomp my feet and scream, "I am SO sick of pasta! I am SO sick of doing the usual thing. We are branching out, people!" Lest you think I only let my 2 year old throw tantrums, I was all set to throw one of my own.
I was ready to rumble.
The risotto came together in a snap. I cooked the sausage (and bits were eaten on the sly by the kids), and the broccoli was tossed into the risotto for the last five minutes of cooking. After I added the Parmesan cheese, I put the dish on the table with a slightly defensive flourish and steeled myself for the barrage of complaints. But everyone just sat there with their bowls, looking pretty happy about seeing a new meal in front of them. Carefully I served the kids first and they tucked right in. I watched my son out of the corner of my eye, he being the harshest critic, and he was fairly quiet while he ate. I tentatively asked if he liked the risotto and he said without hesitation, "Yeah, it's really good, Mom. Like... really, really good" and he continued to wolf it down. After I picked my jaw up off the table, I noticed that the 2 year old picked out the broccoli and some sausage to eat before excusing herself. My husband and I ate ours with sauteed mushrooms on top and I had to put my speech aside and take my tantrum shoes off under the table.
There would be no rumble tonight.
Risotto, of all things, was like a breath of fresh air injected into our dinner. I went off the rails and our dinner survived. I did not have to give a speech or throw a tantrum, I did not have to resort to cottage cheese and everyone was well fed, happy and satisfied. I am a little stunned, a little sheepish about my defensive attitude about this meal going in. But I am so delighted that I can now add risotto to our dinner repertoire.
* Cottage cheese is our fall back food if dinner is not acceptable to the kids, if they cannot stand what I made, there is always cottage cheese in the fridge. It is the only food that I credit for getting us out of the "I will only eat pasta" phase we suffered from from ages 3 - 4 years old. I'd make a dinner and throw the container of cottage cheese on the table and he could have what we were eating or the cottage cheese. He lasted two weeks before caving in and trying something outrageous like chicken. Frustrating doesn't even begin to describe that time in our lives.