Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Meal prep by our family last weekend - 5 photos
It was our youngest's birthday - table setting by I, pasta by J, pasta sauce by SM, birthday cake by L, cake decoration by Z, potato by V, asparagus by L&C, cheesecake by Z&C, chicken and roast vegies by C.

"Today is Monday, Today is Monday,
  Monday is wash day
  Everybody happy?
  Well, I should say!

  Today is Tuesday, Today is Tuesday,
  Tuesday is ironing, Monday is wash day
  Everybody happy?
  Well, I should say!

  Today is Wednesday, Today is Wednesday,
  Wednesday is cleaning, Tuesday is ironing, 
   Monday is wash day
  Everybody happy?
  Well, I should say!

  Today is Thursday, Today is Thursday,
  Thursday is baking, Wednesday is cleaning, 
   Tuesday is ironing, Monday is wash day
  Everybody happy?
  Well, I should say!..."
"I am as keen as the next person to present my dinner guests with a frisky little entree, ultra fashionable main course and diva dessert. But my most discerning dinner guests are also my most frequent; they appear at the table three times a day expecting to be tantalised, nourished and satiated regardless of whether or not I feel like cooking.
...It is the relentlessness of feeding the family that makes it such a culinary challenge, whether the family is a couple dining at home, or a clan. If it were only about nutrition it would be simpler, but food is one of life's greatest pleasures and keeping it interesting, enjoyable and maintaining healthy approaches towards it add to the burden.
...With the need to fit meals around overtime, extra curricular activities and social engagements, it's little wonder many households have given up any attempt at a family mealtime, let alone a home-cooked meal.
Experts frequently tell us we should avoid eating on the run, consuming fast foods and snacking. The parenting professionals expound on the value of family mealtimes to strengthen the family unit, provide a forum for communication and create a feeling of belonging.
I'm with the experts on this one. Our family mealtimes have become more important as the kids have got older because often it is the only time of the day that we are all in the same place as the same time... And providing a meal every day that everyone will eat and enjoy remains a constant challenge. But I know without a doubt that food is more than fuel, and food thoughtfully and lovingly prepared nourishes more than just the body."
SOPHIE GRAY: "Destitute Gourmet. Everyday Smart Food For the Family"

To go to one of Sophie's cooking demonstration evenings is both an entertainment and education. The speed at which she can work, while simultaneously logically talking with dashes of humour, is fantastic. she's honest but stimulating, and here again in this quote, she nails the points that vie in cooking at home - constant meal production, the need to keep it interesting and healthy.
As a meal-maker it is common for us to get hooked on one of these points at the expense and loss of the others.
How are YOU doing at the moment in keeping a balance of these three points?   
1. Constant meal production.
Yes it's meant to be blurrred.
How can you get around the constant production of meals, especially with busy lives, changing schedules, special diets and individual likes and dislikes for certain foods? Well, to prevent drowning, you must ~
(A) be Stimulated and Inspired to keep going.
As in so many areas of life, if parents are excited, inspired and enjoying themselves, they excite, inspire and teach enjoyment to their kids. Our pleasure becomes theirs. This works in the food area too. Cook food which you are excited about and brings pleasure to you - possibly from your childhood or from a holiday in a place with great food memories. Your excitement in preparing, eating and sharing the food communicates infectious pleasure to the family.
(B) Take Short-Cuts.
I love to bake our own bread, but to survive at times I buy sliced bread. The same with Italian sauce, or a supermarket ready-made salad, a BBQ chicken even a frozen meal which only needs to be heated up.
(C) Cook Double the Volume.
Instead of just cooking for tonight, cook double the quantity and freeze half of it to eat next week. I really got into this system at one point. The kids were involved washing, peeling. cutting, stirring... There was a book around at the time called "The Once  Month Cook". My version was to choose 5 to 6 meals we loved and cook enough of each for 5 to 6 meals of each, totalling 25 to 36 meals, all popped into the freezer, ready for use. It did take a lot of time to prepare these meals, even though it was convenient to have the easy task to make dinner. But as our family grew in numbers, meal sizes also grew and it became ridiculously hard space-wise to fit this number of meals into the freezer. So I simply went back to  cooking double sized meals a couple of times each week and freezing them for the following week.
2. Interesting and enjoyable food.

How do you keep cooking interesting and enjoyable food at home? Most of us enjoy buying a new pair of shoes, article of clothing, tennis racquet or car. It makes life more interesting and enjoyable using the something new. We can justify the purchase because the old one has worn out. This is true too of the food we eat at home. It can become so familiar and mundane that it's like an old worn out pair of socks. It does the job of filling our stomach, but doesn't bring much joy.

You can find interesting ideas for cooking by swapping recipes with friends, neighbours, work colleagues, parents and grand parents. The TV is full of cooking programs, the internet and endless source of food information. Find out what other cultures eat for breakfast or how they cook chicken - and have a go yourself.
If you have good friends who are a different nationality to yourself, you could offer to cook them a meal from your tradition each month and swap it for one of theirs. The possibilities are endless - no excuses for boring food today!

3. Healthy eating.

In my once a month posts entitled "Healthy Eating in...", I am attempting to provide ongoing examples of how to include both uncommon healthy ingredients into meals and how to prepare and enjoy common ingredients in a different way.

Along with the need for meals to be healthy and interesting to eat, there is the need for cooking to fill the slot in your family's life that you want it to. For example, some of our friends have the approach to preparing a meal which makes the cooking a crucial part of the time together. When we visit, it's rather like a restaurant in action, where we all participate. It's slow, relaxed, warm and friendly. We may snack and drink as we work away cooking together, but there's room to eat the meal once made. To them, preparing the meal and eating the meal are equally important experiences. 
Then we have other friends, where with their busy lifestyles, a simply prepared meal is ready as soon as we arrive. We get straight into eating, tidy up the mess and then relax and talk talk talk.
As Sophie Gray says, "food is more than fuel", so think about how you as a family are experiencing food. If food is regularly on a tray in front of the TV - then turn it off, put a cloth on the table or floor, sit around it and learn to listen and talk to each other.
You may like to read some other posts on this topic - I'M CONFUSED WHAT IS HEALTHY EATING?  OR  FAMILY DINNER
There is also the area of baking - sweet and savoury treats for snacks, desserts and bread. Each of these are a huge world of their own, which most children, if shown, would find fascinating to explore. If you think your child would find no or little interest, turn on your TV and watch an episode of Junior Master Chef, and you will change your mind.
We are so privileged to live at a time when so much food information is very accessible. So we have no excuses!
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ as I have written before, kids can be a part of meal preparation. Starting with pre-schoolers, they can learn simple tasks from washing vegetables and fruit and arranging them on a platter, to cutting it into pieces. Older kids can learn cooking procedures, to begin with as your helper and increasingly independently cook the whole meal. Give them some freedom in recipe choices and they will be off.

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