Overcoming the Dinnertime Drama

overcoming dinnertime drama

mochadad porkchop salsa sweet potato

Dinnertime at my house is often comical. My kids should get an Academy Award for “Best Dramatic Performance in a Suburban Kitchen.”

My 5-year old son begins his dinner surveillance early in the evening. While we’re playing or doing homework, he will casually ask, “What are we eating tonight?” If the selection is not to his liking, he will shift into thespian mode.

“My tummy hurts,” he says placing both hand on his stomach and bending over ever so slightly for dramatic effect. If that doesn’t work, he will begin his next act. He’ll yawn, grab his blanket and stretch out on the couch.

“I’m sooooooo sleepy,” he says as he places his arm across his forehead. “Maybe I should go to bed early tonight.”

My wife and I look at each other, rise, and give him a standing ovation.

“Bravo!” I say. “That was an incredible performance, but it didn’t work. You’re still eating dinner.”

My other two children have their own Oscar-worthy dinner avoidance techniques, but they’ve chosen to try different tactics.

“Is tonight a dessert night?” They ask to determine if they actually have to eat all of the detestable gruel we have prepared. We have dessert three nights out of the week and my kids have decided that they will only clean their plates on those nights. This behavior has forced me to keep changing the dessert night and only reveal it after dinner is over.

All of this dinner time drama makes me want to pull out my hair (in fact, I may have already done it). I want my children to develop a palette that is a little more sophisticated and healthy than chicken nuggets, pizza, and hot dogs. But getting them to try new things is sometimes an exercise in futility (the funny thing is that they always try new things and clean their plates at their grandparents’ houses).

When I’m preparing meals, I try to incorporate foods and flavors that my kids have enjoyed in the past. Sometimes I hit a home run. Other times, I strike out. However, I know that it is my responsibility to teach them to enjoy a variety of foods. Therefore, I keep experimenting.

Some of my favorite cuisines are Texas inspired dishes, Mexican, and Caribbean. I decided to create a meal that combined all of these flavors. Here are the recipes. My family’s reactions are below.


*Note: I’m terrible at measuring ingredients for recipes. Please adjust to suit your tastes.

Texas-Caribbean Marinated Pork Chops

mochadad porkchops recipe

This recipe was inspired by two of my favorites – Texas BBQ and jerk chicken. The pork chops are the perfect complement to the caribbean spices and bold, sweet tomato sauce. I combined these flavors because they also remind my kids of one of their favorite dishes – Sloppy Joes.

  • 5 Pork Chops
  • 3 tablespoon Soy Sauce
  • 1 can of Manwich Bold (divided into two bowls)
  • 1 tablespoon Brown Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Allspice
  • 1 tablespoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 tablespoon Chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon Oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Dry mustard

Combine the dry and wet ingredients in separate bowls. Wash pork chops and place in a gallon size plastic zipper bag. Add the dry ingredients and shake to cover pork chops. Add the wet ingredients and shake to cover. Marinate for at least 1 hour. Preheat oven to broil. Cover a large cookie sheet with foil and place pork chops on cookie sheet. Place pork chops in oven for 7 minutes. Reduce heat to 200 and roast for 20 minutes. Allow pork chops to rest for 5 minutes.

Pour remaining Manwich sauce in saucepan. Add red wine vinegar, allspice, dry mustard, and chili powder. Simmer for 5 minutes. Drizzle sauce over pork chops and serve.

Chili Sweet Potato Fries

mochadad sweet potato fries recipe

When I was doing The Daniel Fast, I ate these fries everyday. They are healthy, filling, and loaded with flavor. I enjoy the contrast of sweet and spicy.

  • 2 Large Sweet Potatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Chili Powder

Cut sweet potatoes into strips and place in plastic bag. Add chili powder and shake to cover. Add olive oil and shake to cover. Place on cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 350.

Southwest Salad

mochadad southwest salad recipe

This is my version of hearty Pico de Gallo. The flavors of Mexico come alive and add some nice color to the plate.

  • 3 Large Tomatoes
  • 1 can of Corn
  • 1 small Red Onion
  • 2 Avocados
  • Juice from one Lemon
  • Cilantro
  • Cumin
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Dice tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, and onions. Place in a large bowl. Drain corn and add to bowl. Add lemon juice, cumin, salt and pepper to taste and toss. Chill for at least 1 hour.


This dinner turned out to be fairly successful. Although everyone didn’t like every dish, my family was mostly satisfied with the results.

  • Pork chops – Kids (3-Yes), Adults (2-Yes), Total (5-Yes) – A winner!
  • Sweet Potato Fries – (3-Yes), Adults (2-Yes), Total (3-Yes, 2-No) – The kids needed ketchup to make it a yes.
  • Salad – Kids (1-Yes, 2-No), Adults (1-Yes, 1-No), Total (2-Yes, 3-No) – My wife thought the onion flavor was overpowering. She would have preferred more avocados. My 5-year old, however, wished there were fewer avocados.

Best of all, my kids didn’t have to use any of their Shakespearean acting skills.

Stay Strong,

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Questions: What tactics do you use to get your kids to try new foods? What are some of your successful dinnertime meals?

Disclaimer: This post is part of Manwich’s “A Case of the Mandays” campaign.

P.S. – If you try these recipes, let me know how your family likes them.


About author

Frederick J. Goodall

Frederick J. Goodall is the founder of Mocha Dad - a parenting website focused on fatherhood. He is passionate about parenting and helping men to be great dads, husbands, and role models. You can contact him at fjgoodall@mochadad.com or on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/mochadad