Cooking for family makes more than food

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Deconstruct and Declare Victory!!!

With three kids ages 19, 16 and 10; one finds that there's a wide variety of appetites and palettes.  It's virtually impossible to come up with meals to make all three happy.  As I continue to explore the possibilities for a solution, I've come upon an approach that works. 

 The basic idea behind this approach is you make a base food, usually a starch like rice, spaghetti, mashed potatoes and then make groups of foods from which your kids choose.  Often I'll make a deconstructed stir fry.  What this entails is making rice.  I then make a sautéed veggie blend of some onions and peppers with chicken broth which is thickened with corn starch in soy sauce which makes an Asian 'gravy'.  Lastly, I prep the protein, usually steak or chicken, sometimes pork.  Then it 'soup's up' time - the kids simply choose which 'topping' they want in their meal and job's done.  A variation on this is with spaghetti.

Also, the way you separate the prepped foods depends on what combinations your kids prefer.  If I were to describe what foods my kids like and don't like and how they intersect, I be tempted to draw a very complex Venn Diagram.  Suffice it to say that through the years, a parent knows darn well what food which kid likes and this system does cut down on the level of effort compared to making three separate meals.
Another approach which is closely related but does require a bit more effort is to make two of the usual components of dinner - a starch and vegetable that all three will agree upon and then prep different proteins.  This usually ends up as rice or linguine with peas, corn or broccoli and the girls getting the more adventurous food (fish, shrimp, etc...) and my picky boy getting some kind of chicken or beef entrée.
Again, this is not as streamlined as preparing just one meal for all three and some folks may suggest that I'm making unreasonable concessions to the demands of my 'spoiled' children.  I think otherwise and say that as long as the growth of their palettes of is on the upswing, and it is, I'm willing to accommodate them from time to time. I don't regard the dinner table as a place to make some kind of stand, rather its a place where we all can be nurtured and reconnected from the day's often fragmenting influences.  So if you're so inclined, deconstruct a meal or two and see if your kids end up enjoying  what would otherwise be a dinner disappointment as a supper surprise.