| Dinner Hour |

Dinner hour with Rochie Laufer

Rochie Laufer
Brooklyn, NY 
Special ed teacher 
Cooking for 8

During a workshop I once attended, participants were asked to list the top three stressors in their lives. Dominating my list was feeding my family. I literally feel physically different when I know the whole family has eaten. Feeding six kids and two adults, baruch Hashem, is a constant challenge, especially for a mom who’d rather spend quality time with the humans in the home than with the stove, not to mention the impracticality (or impossibility?) of cooking much while holding an infant and entertaining two toddlers, all while listening to the grade-school wonders and woes that occurred in three separate classrooms. So that’s how dinner in my home gets made; minimal time at the stove and on to the serving and eating, which is the real challenge. How to make something that everyone will eat?

My kids enjoy simple dinners like pasta, homemade pizza, and meatballs (each with their own specific preferences), while my husband and I enjoy more grownup flavors and plating. I don’t like cooking two (or more!) separate dinners, never mind the time constraints, so I plan one basic dinner each night and then tweak the components a bit so I can cook once and please more people (not everyone, because there’s always going to be at least one kid who chooses cereal instead!). Here’s one example: I’ll cook pasta and mix some with cheese. I’ll make a basic bechamel sauce for the kids who don’t want plain pasta, and then I simmer some of the sauce with marinara sauce, cream cheese, basil cubes, and a splash of vodka for an easy penne a la vodka for the adults. Or I’ll stuff lasagna filling into mini tri-colored peppers and bake them in marinara sauce for a low-carb option, while the kids enjoy the traditional version.

When it’s time to eat, the youngest ones eat first, followed by the older children, who drift to the table as the smells draw them in. Then I’ll sit and eat with my husband when he comes home from work, usually with a couple of children joining us for second helpings, to finish homework, or just for company. Sometimes they’ll even sample the grownup version of dinner and decide they prefer it to their own! That’s a total win because it means less cooking for me next time, and they’ll be getting more nutrients from added vegetables and herbs in their dinner.

Do your kids participate in supper prep or clean up? How? 

My kids loved watching Food Fight and Skill’it, as well as creating their own food competitions during our Mommy Camp, so they know their way around the kitchen. They measure and mix ingredients, peel and chop veggies, and love learning new cooking techniques.

Do you have a dinnertime bickering savior? 

For the little ones, we turn our cutlery into airplanes, flying in our relatives from around the globe. Even the big kids like hearing about far-off places like Moscow, Aubervilliers, Melbourne, and Milano. Thank you to all our cousins around the world for helping us make it through dinnertime!

What was the best new recipe you made recently, and where did you get it from? 

Chavi Feldman’s Caramelized Mushroom Topping for hummus. It’s the newest staple at our Shabbos table.

What is your favorite freezer to- table supper? 


How do you get your kids to eat veggies? 

Thankfully my kids love all kinds of fresh vegetables, I just have to cut them up and put them out. And if the kids pick them fresh from the plant, it’s a guarantee they’ll get eaten.

What’s your absolute worstcase scenario supper? 

If there’s no dinner ready, I learned from my mother to start by frying onions. Then at least it smells like good food is coming. But scrambled eggs (dressed up with some sautיed mushrooms or broccoli) with cottage cheese and toast is a quick and easy crowdpleaser here.

(Originally featured in FamilyTable, Issue 670)

Click below for the Dinner Hour Recipe

Versatile and Delicious Béchamel Pasta 

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