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Moms Talk: What's For Dinner This Summer?

Getting a meal on the table—even if it's at a restaurant.

You would think that I could get a lot more cooking done in the summer. The bar is set pretty low. Hot dogs, buns, chips, watermelon—what is not considered a full meal when the school year starts is just fine in the summer.

Of course, it’s less fine on the seventh day in a row.

Here’s the main problem with cooking. Cooking is not all you have to do.

You have to come up with ideas for what to make. You have to shop for the ingredients. You have to prepare the ingredients. Then you cook them. Then you serve them. Then you watch the child’s lip curl in distain at your “I just thought I’d try something new” offering.

Each step is a possible place for me to run out of time or steam.

This is hard enough in the winter, when I’m doing the shopping, prep, and often cooking on my own. (For those of you who with young children, I recommend The Naptime Chef’s plan of doing most of the prep when your kids are asleep or at school. Wonderful stuff.) When I’m alone, though, the process of making dinner is mostly a matter of imagination and willpower, or at least the triumph of hope over experience. 

In the summer, I’m doing all of this with my daughter. That means coming up with interesting ideas for dinner while watching her choose the blandest possible breakfast. Then, I must drag to the grocery store a child who hates shopping with the burning passion of a thousand suns. 

And, actually, getting her input earlier in the process is not better.

“Bananas? Why are we buying bananas? You do remember that I don’t like bananas, right mom? Well, why are we buying them, then?”

And I try mightily not to answer, “Because they’re in your favorite muffin, but you don’t know that, because I usually make them when you’re not here.”

I know there’s a belief that moms—with all their free time—are just lazy slobs who want nothing more than to have a cleaning service and be taken out to eat. I will not laugh hysterically at the thought of free time or argue that our jobs (whether we be full time outside the home workers or SAMs) even without cleaning and cooking.

I will just say that when the husband suggests a restaurant for dinner, he will be getting an equally desired gift in return that night.

There are many kid friendly restaurant options in Redmond. Don’t ask a mom around here what their kids’ favorite is, though, unless you have ten minutes for her to cry on your shoulder about the closing of .

Hopefully all of us will chip in our ideas for favorite family-friendly restaurants in the , and then we’ll all have some new places to try. In the meantime, here are some suggestions for general guidelines.

Fancy does not mean unwelcoming around here.  is lovely, and very happy to treat kids to dinner on their own special TV-tray style plates.

Asian restaurants are almost always kid friendly. No matter how extravagant or hole in the wall, I’ve never had staff at any Chinese, Japanese, Thai, or Vietnamese place even blink at my child’s behavior, even when she was in the “I only eat rice and I throw more than half of it” phase. (Our family favorite is , but shhhhhh. Don't tell everybody.)

Don’t ignore the obvious. The ? Probably going to be OK with your family.

Do not forget the budget joys of the “Kids Eat Free” night. A few local options:  on Mondays, on Wednesdays, and on Saturday and Sunday. (Please let me know of others I don’t know about or have forgotten in the comments.)

Finally, do cook at home when you can. Summer is undemanding in the meals department. If there are two parents, one can run to the store for hamburgers, buns, and a salad after bedtime, and then those will be in the fridge for tomorrow—or the next grilling weather day. If you’re parenting alone, try to convince a friend to take turns watching the kids at a park while you each race to the store for a quick bag full of prep. 

Or take the whole family to the . We can even bring the dog along when we shop there. For some reason, my daughter thinks a place with crepes and shave ice is better than a grocery store.

But be it at a restaurant or at home, eat together this summer, and eat well. Fall—the true crockpot season—will be here before you know it. Be sure to crack into at least one good tomato before then.

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