What We Ate #3 – 7/6/21

I don’t like to refer to myself as having been a “single mom” – Frank and I had joint custody, which meant that nearly all the duties of parenting were shared. But from the point of our breakup onward, I was a solo mom, and trying to support our little household on the income of a freelance writer.

If you’ve ever been a freelance anything, you’ll know that both your time and your income are wildly unpredictable. Which means that there will be days when there isn’t much money, which tend to be the same days that you take on too much work in order to get more money. Which in turn means that you’re always on the lookout for cheap meals that can be thrown together quickly, and that are tasty and filling enough to satisfy a couple of fast-growing, ravenous boys.

The Dudes never developed a taste for Purina Mom Chow (my experience is that few kids appreciate cottage cheese in any form). But a couple of similarly improvised dishes were in regular rotation chez Hardy/Taber.

We often ate Potatoes á les Dudes:

  • Bake one potato or sweet potato per person – in the oven is best, but if you’re pressed for time, the microwave works okay too
  • Slit the top of the potato and squeeze it so the inside pops partly out. Butter the inside with as much butter as your budget and waistline will permit.
  • Poach one egg per person and drop it into the opened potato.
  • Spread a handful of shredded cheese on top – we liked pepper jack, but any meltable cheese will do.
  • Microwave the potatoes till the cheese melts a little – 30-60 seconds, depending on how many potatoes you’re doing – and serve.

Some salsa on top makes the dish a bit more interesting for adult palates, but it’s good without it too.

Another infinitely variable dinner we ate often was Green Bean Tuna Melts:

  • Heat up enough frozen French-cut green beans to feed your group, and divide them into individual bowls.
  • Flake half a can of water-pack tuna over each bowl.
  • Drizzle a little olive oil and a little vinegar – use something with some flavor, like real cider vinegar – over the top.
  • Top with a handful of shredded pepper jack (are you sensing a theme here?).
  • Microwave till cheese is slightly melted and tuna is warm.

This dish lends itself to dozens of easy substitutions and additions – I’ve been eating it lately with a frozen roasted vegetable mix instead of the beans, and it would work fine with something like zucchini if that’s what you have on hand. You can also substitute canned salmon for the tuna, and I think canned chicken would work fine, as would meat shredded off a rotisserie chicken[1].

We also ate a lot of Velveeta mac and cheese – I won’t give you the recipe for that because I’m pretty sure it’s right there on the Velveeta box. I will, however, note that you can add chopped ham, Spam, hot dogs or cooked ground meat, and almost any kind of vegetables (peas are a natural, but diced cooked carrots would be nice too) to make it a tiny bit less junk-food-y. The one time I went all out and made proper, from-scratch mac and cheese, the Dudes wouldn’t eat it. That, in my experience, is the usual response of kids to fancy cooking. The good news is that they eventually get over it.

Something you do not want to do is get them into sushi at an early age. There’s a certain amount of amusement to be had by taking them to an all-you-can-eat sushi bar and watching the owner’s face fall, but that’s pretty expensive entertainment. If they have to get hooked on something, peanut butter and jelly works fine.


[1] We didn’t have those in my solo-mom days, more’s the pity.

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