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My in-laws are coming...

So, my inlaws are coming to visit us and staying for about a week.

My mother-in-law is quite the cook, with a specialty in old school (meatloaf, roast chicken, ham) They are not particularly interesting eaters (see previous: meatloaf, roast chicken, ham entry). But they sure are picky. As it turns out, I missed all of the classes on meatloaf, roast chicken and ham and instead majored in "other". I like to cook spicy ethnic food. They do not like to eat spicy ethnic food. Damn.

So, what's a girl to do? How do I feed the midwestern basic eaters with my obviously lacking "fancy" (not my word, apparently pasta falls into the fancy category) cooking?

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  1. Pull a Tom Sawyer and ask your MOL to show you how to make the stuff she likes :-)

    1. Tell your mil that you know that she is a really good cook and you specialize in other things, and ask her to share and show you how to make the "basics". She probably would love to show you and you would be making points.

      1. The twelve states that make up the "mid-west" include such a wide range of ethnic groups that it's difficult to define what you mean by "mid-western basic eaters". But from the three protein entrees you listed I'd assume something in the from a good German cookbook might work out just fine. You could combine some sauerkraut with slices of sausage, slices on onion and some chopped garlic then butterfly a chicken and lay it on the sauerkraut mixture onto which you might sprinkle some pieces of browned bacon and cover to cook at about 350 for 45 - 55 minutes (or until chicken is done).
        When I have guests and am unsure of what they might like, I usually try to please them by cooking things that I like (but not spicy dishes unless I ask first) and share that "something special" with them.

        1. Well, on meatloaf night, it would be no real trouble to speak of, to make two smaller meatloafs, rather than one large one. Make one "traditional and safe" (i.e., bland, to you) and make one with seasonings and/or additions you and hubby like. (E.g., you could make a chili or harissa, or garam marsala, or whatever meatloaf for you guys.) Just don't get them mixed up. :-O ;-)

          Same principal if the in-laws like steak. Easy enough to broil or grill two of them; marinate one of them to your taste. (For that matter, you could do that with chicken.)

          So, since pasta is fancy, does that mean that something like spaghetti and meatballs or marinara sauce are too exotic? If not, divide the sauce and turn some into Arrabiata for you.

          You get the idea. I think you could do a few of these things without adding on an inordinate amount of prep time for you.

          And then for some of the other nights I like the suggestion that you see if MIL will teach you a couple of her dishes.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Normandie

            Certainly a well thought our response. I'd endorse all of these ideas.

            1. re: todao

              TY, todao. It's my deep conviction that nobody other than a Foreign Service employee should *ever* have to eat something for which s/he doesn't care. That includes OP no less than it does the PILs.

            2. re: Normandie

              Just a thought: I, for one, would be a little hurt if my hosts made separate food for themselves. I think it is a little insulting.

              1. re: mirage

                I would think it was nice they went to the effort to accommodate me, and I'd especially feel comfortable doing it with family. One way to do it discretely would be to say, "We have two sauces (or meatloaves, or whatever) here. Would you prefer the marinara or the Arrabiata?"

                I just still really have that problem with anybody, guest or host, having to eat something that is distasteful to them, when any potential problems could be addressed relatively easily by thinking ahead. But this is just my own opinion, mirage. I understand that, and you could certainly be right about this and I could be offbase. (Even so, if you came to my house, I'd want you to have exactly what you want :-), even if it's not something I eat.)

                1. re: Normandie

                  It's a wonderful solution if the host offers both to the guest and is happy to eat whichever meatloaf the guest does not choose. The guest might surprise the host and decide to try the Arrabiata, leaving the host to eat something "distasteful" to them after all!

                  And, no fears Normandie if you invite me to your home: I eat everything ;-D

            3. Good Luck! Sounds like Boston Market take-out served on your prettiest dishes to me. Seriously, you will not make them converts to your food with that attitude (fancy cooking = pasta = LOL!). Strongly suggest you run, not walk, to your local library and check out copies of the Betty Crocker, Fannie Farmer and Joy of Cooking cookbooks.

              Bite the bullet, stock up on some Campbell's condensed soup and make green bean casserole, pot roast, roast chicken, etc. The good news is that "plain" cooking is pretty simple and easy and shouldn't give you a big work out. Have fun!

              1. How about Chicken Mirabella - easy to pick out the olives and other "offensive" ingredients but the taste is delicious and not too exotic. Added bonus: easy to do ahead of time.

                1. How about some nice stews or soups with a green salad and a nice crusty bread or home made biscuit ( pillsberry Frozen) Like a beef stew or chicken soup or even chile and corn bread. Also Pot pies are easy to do with the salad and bread.

                  1. Hi!

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                    I promise - this is so easy and impeccable. Everyone will be so happy and completely satisfied.

                    This orzo recipe has 95% success out of 185 reviewers: Ultra easy and yummy! It would be terrific with the roast chicken. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                    For dessert: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo... or http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/rec... Neither hard and completely divine

                    For one-dish meals: http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/rec... or http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ra... Both are just heavenly - and actually taste a little better the day or two afterwards, so you can make them in advance.

                    You'll be a rock star!

                    1. One more thought. I just seems as though ham is quintessentially southern. Check out Southern Living magazine's recipes at: http://search.myrecipes.com/search.ht... (I already put in search term of "ham" for you).

                      1. My in-laws are real "meat and potato" folks too (the only veg eaten are potatoes (mashed) and corn (boiled)) but when I visit I cook for them and they love it. Turns out that altho they talk about the standard food, they really are nice people and are too polite to turn things down, and when they try it they like it. Now I don't go wild, make a nice pasta, or dress up a roast guinea hen, etc., and I wouldn't attempt raw fish or something like that, but assuming they raised a wonderful son that is willing to eat your cooking suggests they may be more open than you think. I am not afraid anymore of the consequences of my cooking with them. Dad even loved soy sauce in the turkey soup (for umami notes! - you should have heard him explaining that one to his friends!).

                        1. Here's my old standby meatloaf that gets great raves. You can make a meal easy enough by adding baked potatoes in the oven beside the meatloaf while it bakes.
                          A green salad and voila a simple, yet good night's meal.

                          My Favorite Meatloaf Serves 4-6

                          1 ½ pounds ground chuck
                          ½ pound ground pork
                          1 onion, chopped
                          1 egg, beaten
                          ¾ cup chili sauce, (I use Heinz)
                          1 cup water
                          2 teaspoons vinegar
                          1 cup plain bread crumbs
                          1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
                          ¼ teaspoon pepper
                          1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
                          2 teaspoons brown sugar

                          Mix beef, pork, onions, egg, half of chili sauce, ¾ cup bread crumbs, salt, and pepper. Form into a loaf and place in a baking dish. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Combine the rest of the chili sauce, water, vinegar mustard, and brown sugar. Stir until smooth and pour over the meat in the oven. Continue baking for 1 hour. Basting occasionally.

                          Another couple of meals:

                          I also buy nice big chicken breasts, with skin and bone in. Let them marinate in milk overnight. Take out of fridge an hour before baking. Pat dry, add salt and pepper all over. Slice up a couple of lemons and slide under skin. Roast at 375 for an 50-60 minutes, uncovered. Take out of oven, let rest for ten minutes, remove slices of lemon.
                          Saute sliced, fresh zucchini with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Serve with basmati rice and parsley.

                          I am not a lover of ham, but when I do make it, I just buy a fully cooked one, Corrando I think. Bake as directed, serve with baked potatoes and roasated carrots. These can be done all in the oven, easy, peasy.

                          Good luck, it's easy to make "meat and potatoes" for dinner.

                          You could do a spaghetti dinner, with a baguette and green salad. Who doesn't like that?

                          Have fun. Enjoy your family time!

                          1. It's that they aren't used to the different tastes and just like things mildly flavored-you can do this, I know you want to cook to make them happy, so put away the lemongrass and cilantro and think basic-
                            Simple steaks on the grill, baked sweet or white potatoes, gussied up green beans?
                            Baked mac and cheese with pork chops, happy veggies on the side?
                            Whole Roasted chicken with buttery egg noodles, peas-carrot-mushrooms-
                            just cruise the menu ideas on Taste of Home or All Recipes for inspiration. I would have said pasta but I guess that's out?!
                            Good luck & make sure you get your MIL in the kitchen to show you her tricks!