The Secret to My Dinner Success (Well, For Now At Least)

Can you tell it's been a long and taxing summer for me given the blogging break I took? Let's just say it was a glorious moment when I opened the door and wished them well for their first day of school. The hectic nature of our day still exists but the dynamic has changed for the better and now I just have to figure out how to keep them all happy for the few hours they are together. With all that being said, we had a huge victory last night in our household and it took place at no less, than the dinner table.

If you have been following along our journey for the last couple of years, you will know that my man Preston is a very picky eater. We have been the rounds with trying to expand this fellow's eating horizons; we've persuaded, forced, cajoled, insisted, pleaded, begged, argued, cried. Dinner time has been a thorn in all of our sides for several years; so sad when it is supposed to be the one thing that brings the family together! At any rate, after our last visit to the pediatrician he gave us some clear boundaries to set with all of the kids at the table as our toddler and once fabulous eater had become equally as picky. Since then, if we stick to the protocol, the family feast becomes much less stressful (for me at any rate, my husband sometimes has a difficult time just letting things take their course).

So, here's the scoop. Choices are offered at every meal, including snack time even if it is as simple as "would you like peanut butter and jelly or peanut butter and honey?" Dinner time however is non-negotiable and they eat what is presented to them; I make only one meal. Now, there is some fun in this in that at the beginning of each week I sometimes entertain special requests. Once at the table, they have the choice to sit and eat. If they are not interested, they may be excused. At first, I struggled with this idea, but in the end I decided that I have the right to enjoy my meal (which is also important for your digestive process) and therefore excuse them happily without continued argument. Now, they are allowed to come back and forth to 'graze' per say until a specific time when their plate will be cleared for the evening. A five minute warning should suffice. After that, dinner is done and plates are cleared.

Here's the clincher - I have within the last two weeks introduced a dessert option every evening. It's not my first choice but in the end, there are several benefits that outweigh the negatives including extra calories and dinner actually being finished. Last night, I made a vegan lentil loaf (veggie meatloaf) to shake things up a bit and in it were lentils, onions, garlic, carrots, apples, flax seed and several other very healthy ingredients. So when you cut into it, there is no hiding that it is all veggies and not much else (but very tasty if I do say so myself). I put some salad and lentil loaf on Preston's plate. He immediately started complaining about how unfair it was that he had no other options because this was just plain un-doable. I remained calm and empathized with him but then gave him the choice to eat or not eat. When he asked if there was dessert, I said absolutely! Ice cream or out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies. This is the killer for me-he didn't complain. He gagged a couple of times and wandered back and forth to the table but in the end, he completed his whole plate. Granted, I didn't give him a huge serving, but I gave him plenty and he did it! I couldn't believe it!

You may be saying to yourself that this qualifies as a bribe and he should learn to eat without bribery. To this I say - nah, it's more like enticement. If the promise of dessert entices that kid to eat anything at all, I've hit pay dirt. For several months he wouldn't even eat dinner. Aside from the fact that I make delicious desserts that contain quality ingredients that I don't have to worry about giving to him or anyone in the family for that matter. It's all good.

Employ and enjoy.

Favorite Tried and True Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe
1 Cup Spectrum Vegetable Shortening
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Evaporated Cane Juice Sugar
2 Eggs
1 1/2 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt
2 1/2 Cups Unbleached Flour
2 Cups Semisweet or Milk Chocolate Chips

Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. Optional, 1/2 scoop Vanilla Sun Warrior Protein powder. I find the protein powder makes the cookies puffier. Without it, just a titch flatter. I just threw it one night and nobody could tell the difference aside from they are just gorgeous cookies. I also only bake enough for people to eat fresh out of the oven and refrigerate the remaining dough to bake up fresh for after school the next day or post-dinner the next evening because cookies are best when they are still slightly gooey in the center. Am I making your mouth water yet?  I've tried this recipe with butter and I've found that butter just makes my cookies flat. I've given up on butter with the exception of a few particular recipes and the one cookie recipe that calls for a pound of butter - now those are good cookies. ;)


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