Friday, April 18, 2014

So You're Cooking Dinner For Your Mother-In-Law: Dos and Don'ts and Recipe Ideas

The other day I was talking to my friend who is living with her in-laws for a few weeks while she waits for her apartment to be renovated. I asked her how it was going and she said she had been working hard to cook for them every night but could tell that her mother-in-law didn't like anything she made.

That's something I think everyone can relate to. It's a high pressure situation, cooking for someone who spent 18 years making homemade bread for their precious son to whom you are now feeding frozen pizzas. Last time I cooked for my mother-in-law she told me she liked how "simple" all my meals were. I think that was probably the nicest thing she could find to say about my cooking.

So I came up with a fabulous idea to collect recipes that are sure to impress someone that's a much better cook than you are, but are secretly very easy to make. I've also included a few dos and don'ts for cooking for your mother-in-law to help the process go a little smoother.

Depending on who you're cooking for and how many pounds of red meat they're used to consuming daily you could switch it up and add less tortellini and throw some sausage in there instead. Hide your crockpot and pretend you slaved all day over this delicious soup. Leave your pasta maker on the counter for her to see and silently wonder if you made your own tortellinis.

Don't go vegetarian. This is of course subjective to the particular party but in my general experience, in-laws, especially fathers-in-law, don't appreciate going from red meat to tofu wraps and a side of kale chips.

Another recipe to hide your crockpot for.  The turkey comes out so juicy, tender, and flavorful, your mother-in-law will think you started a marinade the night before. Go ahead and let her think it.

Do keep calm and collected like the Barefoot Contessa at all times. You don't want your mother in law hearing you curse from the kitchen while you try to whisk egg whites.

Italian Chicken, Potatoes, and Green Beans

This one can be tricky.  If your mother-in-law is an avid pinterest-er she may have seen this recipe floating around and your cover will be blown. Spend the hour that this dish bakes in the kitchen clanging around pots and pans and shouting stuff like, "Just de-boning this free range, organic chicken!" and "Tenderizing meat is hard work!" The end result will taste so good, she'll believe everything you were saying in there.

This one doesn't have a link but is really not much of a recipe, just throw 4 raw chicken breasts, raw cubed red potatoes and green beans in a 9x13 dish. Sprinkle with a packet of Italian Seasoning and top with a melted stick of butter. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for one hour.

Don't serve ethnic food. Maybe some mothers-in-law out there love ethnic food but, in my experience, their generation didn't cook a lot of ethnic food. Plus, there's nothing more humiliating than watching your mother-in-law sweat over a spicy tikka masala that you probably shouldn't have served but she's too polite not to finish.

It's nice to go with a classic staple meal that has a bit of a twist that makes it not so ordinary. You can say lofty, superior things like, "We don't make spaghetti for our kids. Everyone eats spaghetti. We eat bowtie lasagna."

Do pull your husband into the bathroom before dinner and threaten him into lavishly complimenting your cooking during the entire meal. If necessary, make him a list of acceptable compliments to read out every five minutes. Example: "Wow, I didn't know my wife could be talented at everything but I guess she is!"

This would go well with any of the meals listed above and is one step above garlic bread so you can't be faulted with preparing boring side dishes. Also it's smothered in cheese so you really can't go wrong. Everyone loves cheese.

Do remember to prepare side dishes and a dessert. This way your mother-in-law might be fooled into thinking this is something you regularly do for your family. Instruct children not to question the presence of extra dishes and pretend you roast asparagus as a side dish for them every night.

This is my favorite cake recipe because it's just a cake mix from the store with a few extra things thrown in but it tastes so good. Bury the cake mix box deep in the garbage and no will ever know the difference.

Don't try out a recipe for the first time when cooking for your mother-in-law. Last time I tried this, my dessert exploded in her oven.

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