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In case you’re a novice (like Honorée), here are some helpful tips to get you started.
You know that dinner is needed, well, pretty much every night. Sundays are a good day to look at your and your kids’ schedules, figure out what days are going to be more jam-packed than others, and plan accordingly. Try to plan a tentative nightly menu and stick to as much as possible (we know, just because you write down "tuna melts" for Wednesday doesn't mean you'll have a taste for it that night), and stick it on the fridge. Glance at the list the night before or in the morning to see if you have to take anything out to defrost, or if you need to stop by the store on the way home to pick something up. Sunday is also a great day to make a big meal of a dish that can last throughout the week that can be warmed up in a pinch when there's no time/energy left to get dinner on the table.
Which leads us to:
Leftovers are your friend!
There's bound to be a night where you have to succumb to take out for dinner. Opt for healthy, balanced dishes, rather than something calorically empty like pizza or fried chicken or fast food. These are foods that are likely to be eaten all in one sitting, are high in fat and low in nutrition. For example, Asian leftovers can be reheated easily, and made into a brand new stir fry with the addition of frozen vegetables and leftover rice is transformed into fried rice (extra points for ordering brown rice instead of steamed rice!). Always be thinking of ways you can incorporate/transform leftovers into something for the next night
On your big grocery shopping days, always make sure you have the staples on hand: whole wheat pastas, tortillas (can be frozen separately and thawed when needed), cans of whole peeled tomatoes, frozen vegetables that can go into anything, such as peas, carrots, pearl onions, and corn. If you buy larger packages of chicken or other meats, separate and freeze them into manageable portions when you get home.
Don't be afraid of day-of grocery shopping.
We know, ten minutes in a grocery store can seem like an hour, but stopping in to get a few fresh ingredients will give your meal that more home-cooked feel and flavor. I like to buy bunches of green onions to chop and use as garnish on a lot of my dishes, and its flavor goes a long way! Have a hankering for a dish that night? Write a very specific grocery list of things you need for the meal, go to the store and STICK TO THE LIST. Plus, if you've completely forgotten to take that frozen chicken or beef out of the freezer, those items are there, ready and waiting to be taken home and cooked.
Kids can cook, too!
They might not be ready to wield a knife, but they can stir pots, or rinse and strain vegetables. Getting them involved also takes a bit of pressure off of you to get everything done, and it turns what can sometimes seem like a task into quality time spent together. The sooner you get them to help you with the small tasks, the more useful... er, we mean, interested they will become in cooking as they get older.
A well-rounded meal.
We won't get into the whole carb vs. no carb argument but growing kids need a well-balanced diet. And that includes proteins, vegetables AND carbohydrates. Incorporating these three elements into every tasty meal at home means they won't be scared by vegetables out at restaurants or at other kids' houses (where you hope and pray they are serving vegetables as well!).
Make it your own.
Following a recipe to a T ensures that the dish will taste the way the recipe-writer intended. But that doesn't mean YOU may like it that exact way. Think the dish could benefit from a little garlic? Add some chopped garlic at the beginning or garlic powder at the end. Not into spice? Omit the jalapeno peppers or chili powder, but make sure you compensate for flavor with a favorite spice or herbs of your own. Add in extra vegetables to make amp up the nutritional value. Unless the recipe writer is sitting down with you to dinner, this is your meal, make it how you want.
Make sure it tastes good.
Yes, we all want to sit down to a quick and healthy meal, but it's all for naught if it doesn't make you and the kids say "mmmmmm!" Taste the dish throughout the cooking process, after you've added some seasoning or spices, make sure it's to your liking. Make it something that you want to eat again and again, and a favorite on your child's dinner roster. You have to eat every day, you might as well enjoy it, right?
>>>>>>><<<<<<<Honorée turns service providers into rainmakers, average producers into rock-stars, and dreams into reality. For more information on how she can specifically help you or your organization, click here. You can read all about her here.