Have you ever wondered how our moms or depending on your age, their moms did it?  I grew up in a time when most of our moms were the stay-at-home type who cooked dinner every night.  How did they come up with meal after meal every night?  It’s not the actual cooking part that I’m questioning.  It’s the ideas part!  Here at BBTK, we sometimes experience cooking ruts.  Even my mom, the greatest cook I know has cooking ruts or so she says (I don’t actually believe her).  She often complains that the hardest part of cooking is coming up with what to cook.  That I believe! Maybe that’s why most conversations in our family revolve around food – we’re always looking for ideas!  So how do you come up with creative answers to “what’s for dinner?” night after night?  Whether it’s the internet, a celebrity chef or your favorite cookbook, learning to source meal ideas will increase your menus tremendously. But the best way I can recommend to do this is through your family or (as I like to describe them) the friends that have become your family.  This is where my mom has the edge.

Growing up there were a handful of neighbors my parents were close with: The Morelli’s the Mele’s, the Fiocca’s, the Autieri’s and the friends and family of their friends and family.  They made up the Italian contingent of the neighborhood and they were a tight bunch.  The few who are remaining still are.  They shared countless meals and memories, swapping recipes and hosting get-togethers, but it wasn’t until I went to kindergarten and met my two best friends, Mar and Ann, that my mom met her tribe (as they say these days).  The moms of my dearest friends became the dearest friends of my mom and her friends.
One of my favorite memories is of the ladies having coffee, a tradition that continues to this day.  As the coffee brewed, foil-covered dishes appeared bearing delicious homemade cookies and cakes, no doubt made from recipes the women had shared and equally mastered. Who could remember any more where the recipes originated?  They became the staple of birthday parties, graduations, weddings and afternoon coffee and conversation.  It was during this time, that the ladies swapped stories of family events and shared pictures of kids and eventually grandkids.  They discussed significant milestones and mundane news with equal care and attention and inevitably the conversation turned to dinner.  I must admit that Ann and Mar and I have really become our mothers in the best ways possible, but our experiences and opportunities are so much more varied than that of the women that came before us. Although we have definitely cooked together and shared recipes, we don’t have the luxury of afternoon coffee together.    And while we’re grateful for the opportunities and experiences our mothers’ never had, we can still admire, perhaps even envy (just a little) what they do have.  Those moments the ladies share each day are not via email, text or chat. They are real life and face-to-face for no special reason or occasion other than spending quality time together talking about life and kids and sometimes dinner.

When we were kids, often times what one mom was making for dinner ended up in another mom’s dinner menu that same night.  So if you didn’t like your options at home, going to your best friend’s house probably wasn’t a good idea.  My friend Mar learned that the hard way, showing up in our kitchen, many years ago, eager to escape the lentil soup her mom had made for dinner that night.  Much to her dismay, she found the exact same meal on our kitchen table.  My mom will never forget the look on Mar’s face or the drama in her voice as she lamented her dinner misfortunes.  My mom however, despite her claims to the contrary, is NEVER at a loss for meals.  Yes plural.  I can’t remember the last time she made one meal for dinner.   Much to Mar’s delight, lentil soup was only her starting offer.

The dinner Mar tried to escape – Lentil Soup
You might remember the lentil soup recipe from our last post. If not, check out To the New Year to catch up.

Check out Mar’s favorite childhood dinner  Chicken Cutlet with Corn.
It’s so simple and really comes in handy in a pinch.  You can even bread the cutlets in advance and freeze them for a last minute meal with unexpected guests. I always like to be prepared, and they defrost pretty quickly too. What are you waiting for? Check out the how to make chicken cutlet.