Monday, March 28, 2011

"Okay, fine. I'll learn how to cook..."

So, to be honest, I've made that statement many times.  My hubby is a good natural cook.  He can look at ingredients and have an idea if that combination might produce the desired result.  He can also look at what is available and make something that tastes pretty darn good most of the time (there have been a couple of occasions when we just had to throw it out).  My mother-in-law also cooks this way with no recipe needed.  I also have good friends who can 'throw a soup together' and it is wonderful.  I can, too.  Mine involve a can opener and way too much salt and little creativity.  I have used lots of excuses: "I didn't grow up with access to all these ingredients and spices." "I don't know what these different spices tast like.  How would I know how they'll taste together?" And my favorite, "I don't have time."  No more.

What I really wanted was a menu which built our families pallette while still being budget conscious(but not necessarily budget restricted), involved the whole family, and encouraged a balanced diet.  Currently we are using Sandi Richard's The Family Dinner Fix: Cooking for the Rushed book.  Apparently she's on the Food Network but I had never heard of her.  We happened on the book while Ally was looking at cookbooks at McKays.  She presents a practical, varied approach and addresses picky eating, caloric intake and planning/shopping.  After reading the instructional part in the first third of the book, I was hooked.

We started today.  I asked both kids to pick 2 of their favorite weeks of dinners(there are 10 total).  They didn't match up, dang it.  Of course not, that would have made it easy!  I asked which week we were going to do first and Ally volunteered to let Ryan go first.  I suggested Ryan let Ally pick the first meal and let her help me cook it.  The idea was who ever selected that week's meals would assist in the cooking.  The other would set the table, clear the table, and then help with dishes too.  Ryan was cool with that.  Yeah! Crisis averted.

We spent time going through cupboards seeing what ingredients we had on hand and added other misc items needed for other meals/snacks as well as household goods to the shopping list.  We then spent school time at the grocery store collecting the items on the list and finding out what English cucumber was... I didn't know so I had to ask. (It's long and skinny and has less seeds in case you didn't know either.)  For the other items for snacks and such, we used the NuVal rankings at Food City.  They worked perfectly.  The kids finally understood just how little nutritional value Lunchables give. (They score a 5 out of 100.)  They chose reduced-sugar strawberry milk powder, the healthiest granola bars, and ice cream.  Hey, they learned their assigned Mandarin Chinese words so they earned their reward.  I also had to make a trip to Kroger for the mango chutney and chipotle seasoning.  The checker at our small local Food City looked at me weird... "Chutney?  What's that?"

Tuna Tettrazzini
The kids helped unload the groceries and put them away.  Since we were home a little late, Ally and I got right to work on dinner.  We made Tuna Tettrazzini with Corn and Peas.  Ally was involved with everything.  The recipe was well laid out and explained clearly.  It was great.  It took us a little longer than the cookbook suggested but I was demonstrating things to her so it was worth it.  At dinner, each of us ranked the dinner.  It averaged to be a 8.125 on a scale of 1-10.  Ally really liked the dish, largely due to her involvement cooking it.  She wanted to rank it an 11.  She beamed the whole dinner.  Very cool.  Ryan did well helping clean up, something we haven't really asked them to do up to this point.  It went so much faster with an extra set of motivated hands... go figure!

On tap for tomorrow night: Chipotle Steak with Balsamic Reduction, Baby Potatoes and Italian Veggies.


  1. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's installment! We happen to be having roast beef out of the crock pot tonight. Maybe we'll have to try some of your recipes eventually.

  2. Roast beef crock pot is in the book and actually one thing I've had reasonable success with. I'll give you a heads-up if something really knocks our collective socks off.