As my kids get older, I find myself focusing even more on meal planning. I want my kids to try a wide variety of foods. I don’t expect them to like everything I cook, but I want home cooked, healthy meals to be second-nature to them. Growing up, my mom was (and still is) a great cook. She was always trying new recipes, and now I’ve become just like her. My husband commented the other day that “you never know what we’re going to be having for dinner” because I’m constantly mixing things up. Granted, I’m just like my mom in that I don’t deviate from recipes. Someday I’d love to learn to really cook, where I can throw together a bunch of random ingredients in my refrigerator to create a delicious meal. But I’m not at that point yet.
I try to choose recipes based on a number of factors: the number of ingredients involved (if there are a bunch of items I’d have to get at the store or I’ve never heard of some of them, I’ll probably stay away from that one), time to prepare (with little kids it’s got to be something I can put together quickly), how healthy it is (I stay away from dishes with lots of creamy sauce, fried foods, etc.) and whether or not I think my kids will actually eat it. I try to plan my meals a week at a time, and then grocery shop for the ingredients all at once. It’s quite a production to get all three of my kids in and out of car seats and walking around a grocery store, so I don’t want to have to do all of that just to pick up some spices for tonight’s dinner.
Recently I read a review of a new book called “An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace” by Tamar Adler. Her premise is that cooking does not have to be complicated, and with a few basics (like a pot of boiling water, some fresh vegetables and a chicken) you can create good food. She encourages people to spend less time stressing out about how to cook food, and more time enjoying it. For instance, she suggests buying a large amount of fresh vegetables that are in season, preparing them all at once, and then using those as ingredients in dishes throughout the week. This helps avoid wasting vegetables that turn brown in your refrigerator before you have a chance to use them. She suggests that cooking shows on T.V. are one example of how the average person has been intimidated into thinking that cooking has to be complicated.
I like the idea that cooking can be simple. My preference at this point is to choose simple recipes instead of trying to create dishes from scratch. But either way, I’m still creating healthy meals for my family to enjoy.
Are you interested in learning to cook healthy dishes without spending all day in the kitchen? Check out SparkPeople’s Healthy Cooking Challenge, 10 Easy Ways to Lighten Up Any Recipe, and SparkRecipes, where you can search for recipes based on a variety of factors, including preparation time.
Do you cook a lot at home? Why or why not? Do you have any tips for those just starting out?