Moving on from faith life to food in my “Imperfectly Domestic” series. However, if you want to know more about how I make things work with our family faith, let me know! I’ll post about it later on.
They always want to eat, don’t they? No matter if you have just a husband, or one child, or eight children, someone always needs to eat. Ok, it’s a stretch to say “always” because no one really needs to be eating constantly (but my toddler might disagree).
Three times a day in the kitchen…wow. It’s a job in itself. I haven’t always been much of a cook, and even now I’d personally rate myself as “average” for a home cook, perhaps slightly above average since we do less prepared things than it seems the average American eats…but I digress. Stats like that aren’t my thing. Trying to feed my family healthy food they will eat and enjoy *is* my thing.
How to make feeding the family less of a chore? Here a few simple ways I have made feeding my family more enjoyable work.
Start with what you know. When we got married 11 years ago, I could cook chicken breasts (wouldn’t go near any other cut of chicken), pasta, and bake chocolate chip cookies. Add in a few other things like tuna sandwiches and pancakes, and that was about it. Honestly. So, that’s how I started. My poor steak-loving husband ate a lot of chicken breast and pasta.
Prepare what is easy, interesting, and tasty. Easy food is a no-brainer, right? I mean, who in their right mind would try to prepare a complicated dish with more than 5 ingredients when they only know a few simple recipes? Don’t get discouraged that you can’t make a crepe cake when you’re used to a box mix. When you have a family, getting a meal to the table requires simple and easy. We all know that kids get cranky between 4 and 6pm, and none of want or need to prepping an elaborate meal then. (Or, if you are like me many days, you might get HANGRY, too…and ain’t no one got time for fancy food when they’re hangry).
Start simple with easy recipes when you want something new. Likewise, if a dish sounds boring and bland, skip it. It probably won’t be worth your time and boring, bland food is no fun to prepare or to eat. My mother-in-law is Korean, so some of my first “new” dishes were things like egg rolls or bulgoggie, using recipes she shared with me AND after she helped me the first time or two. Keep it tasty. Don’t be afraid to add some extra salt, or chile pepper flakes, or more of whatever seasoning your recipe calls for. I have found that, for some reason, many recipes do not actually use enough seasoning, and I don’t just mean salt. In tacos and chili, we always add extra chili powder for greater flavor. We also really enjoy the flavor of garlic, so when a recipe calls for two cloves, I use four. Tasty and interesting go hand in hand, in my book. We like “interesting” food a lot here, because we have some ethnic dishes we LOVE (my mother-in-law is Korean, so we enjoy some great Korean food!)
Watch cooking shows. Oh yes, I mean it. The Food Network is one of the reasons I started cooking more than chicken and pasta. Some of the shows, like Alton Brown’s (back in the day), are very informative and helpful to novice and more experienced cooks. Other shows can inspire some creativity or curiosity, and help you broaden your culinary horizons.
Include the family. My hubby and I sometimes cook together. Lately, though, I’ve been purposefully planning meals with each of my kids age 4 and up, and they help prepare and cook the meal they plan. When they are older and more helpful, my goal is to have each of them help at least once a week. Right now, I have one kid help once a week. That means in the course of a month, each child helps to plan, prep, and cook one meal. My nearly 10-yr old really should be helping more…but that’s for another post. Yes, it can be trying on the patience at the end of the day to have a child helping in the kitchen, but also it is so rewarding. My crew is learning to chop, stir, season, and use the stove. We usually have a really nice time together, especially when we are one on one.
I could go on and on…but I’ll save more about kids in the kitchen and simplifying meal plans for other posts. What are you best tricks? I promise you, I am always improving in this area. Some weeks are better than others. I love learning new tips to help me in the kitchen, so please do share!