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The Little Big Cookbook for Moms150 of the Best Family Recipes
Welcome BooksISBN: 9781599621098
T he most frequently asked question in my family is “What’s for dinner?” While my girls—ages nine, thirteen, and fifteen—might feel otherwise at times, they are very, very lucky in the eating department. Both my husband and I cook a wide repertoire of foods influenced by personal taste and cultural upbringing, and the fact that we work on cookbooks and test recipes means that the girls are exposed to a worldly array of dishes. I can just imagine the stories they’ll tell when they are older: “Remember the time Mom was testing recipes for that butcher cookbook and we had strange meats for dinner for months?” “And what about that time when Dad was testing mac ’n’ cheese and used the baba ganoush Mom made instead of the cheese? We had mac a’noush for dinner!”
Between stints of recipe testing, my husband and I make the tried and true at home. My tastes lean toward the simple and clean dishes I grew up with. My childhood meals were often vegetable stir-fries with a bit of meat or steamed fish, lightly blanched greens, and fresh fruit. I still prefer unfussy dishes where the main ingredients are allowed to shine. My favorite recipes in this book are the Broiled Salmon, Chicken with Garlic and Shallots, Quinoa with Fennel, and practically all the vegetable dishes. I love vegetables. My girls know they are lucky, because Dad cooks—and their favorite meals are from him! Clark loves saucier dishes with an explosion of flavors. Unlike me, he is not put off by alonger list of ingredients. Turkey Meatballs with Linguine, Southwestern Chicken Tacos, and Vegetable Lasagna are his trusty dinner favorites.
But as all moms know, dinners are only part of the story. Kids can eat A LOT! No sooner is lunch off the table on weekends than they are scrounging around for a snack, and on weekdays they come home ravenous after school or sports. Snacks are huge in a growing kid’s life, and over the years I’ve learned to be prepared. Stocking the cupboards and refrigerator with prepackaged, somewhat-healthy snacks takes a huge chunk out of a food budget, however. Making and freezing little bites like empanadas, quiches, and frittatas to reheat, or having beans, hard-boiled eggs, avocados, and salsa handy to make salads or dips is much cheaper. Paying almost $6.00 for a small bag of granola at the health food store makes no sense, when I can easily make 4 quarts of the stuff at a fraction of the cost, by tossing rolled oats, nuts, and dried fruits into the oven.
Feeding a family is expensive, especially if you want to buy organic as often as possible, which I do. Luckily, many of the warehouse clubs are stocking more organics nowadays, and it’s easier than ever to find, for example, a 3-pack of organic chicken or a 5-pound bag of frozen organic vegetables at a decent price. For economy, nutrition, and taste, dried beans are a must-have for every family’s pantry—along with a slow cooker to make life easier. Rice and Beans, Tuscan Bean Soup, and Quick Bean Salad are regulars at my table. The chart on page 266 is a great guide for testing bean varieties.
Smart-shopping Moms (and Dads) know when to economize and when to spend a little more on the freshest, most delicious local produce. Nothing beats the seasonal apples, sugar snap peas, and asparagus we get at the farmers’ market. On Saturday mornings, my husband loves taking my youngest daughter, Phoebe, to our market at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. Besides fresh produce, we indulge in fresh fish from local waters. (When the fish is fresh, the simplest preparation is best, as in our favorites Steamed Whole Fish or Pan-Fried Fish.) Farmers’ markets are a wondrous thing in big cities: not only a way to keep in touch with the earth through growing and picking seasons, but also a way to get the kids interested in all the wonderful, colorful vegetables available. If you live near a vegetable farm, that’s even better . . . there is something so satisfying about harvesting your own vegetables for dinner.
Recently, we spent an early fall weekend with Natasha at her mom Lena’s place on Long Island and visited a CSA farm. Natasha’s little boy just turned two and my girls chased him around the rows of vegetables and fruits. We picked squash, okra, and lettuces, searched for late-season berries, and dug for potatoes. At one point, Natasha’s son was toddling around chewing on a big piece of raw green pepper Phoebe had picked for him. He flashed a big green grin. That evening, Lena made her simply delicious Pan-Fried Fish with lemon-caper sauce, I made Quinoa and Fennel, and Natasha tossed together a salad of greens and roasted some veggies. We sat outside with the 4 kids, ages 2 to 15, who ate as heartily as the adults. It was divine. I wish you and your family many as happy and healthy a meal. —A.W.
I’ve always been a baker. I am the one who never missed the chance to volunteer dessert for the dinner party or cupcakes for the office party. I even made my own wedding cake! But I won’t claim to be a great cook. Which is why, when my son hit 8 months and started eating solids, I felt a bit challenged. The ironic part is, making my own baby food was easy. Steam and purée—even I could do it. It got a LOT harder when we got past the purées. He’s not a bad eater, but he’s a discerning one, and unlike my husband, he’s not wild about my simple cooking. Or at least, he’s not wild about trying it. Hard to know if he’d like it if he tasted it, but I keep telling him he will. So, in an effort to move beyond mac ‘n’ cheese, fish sticks, and spinach shapes (all organic, but still!) I’ve decided to branch out. Alice’s kids were eating sushi at a year old, so why shouldn’t mine?
We started with all things eggs: scrambled, in quiche, in fritattas (yes, he’ll actually eat vegetables this way). Then stews and casseroles, and finally, I even made my first risotto! It wasn’t nearly as hard as I had feared: in fact, as my little one gets older it will be a good dish to make with him, since he can take over all the stirring. And both he and my husband loved it. Once I’d tackled that, vegetables were simple. I discovered that roasted veggies are ridiculously easy and delicious. The Sautéed Cabbage and the Quick Cabbage Slaw are both very popular in my house.
What I’ve learned is that cooking healthy, yummy food for my family isn’t hard (phew) as long as I’m not a perfectionist, but that cooking for little ones who are learning, exploring, and testing what they can control can be. The trick is to keep trying new things and old ones, because sooner or later they just might decide they like it, not just yesterday, but always. Eating meals with family and friends, especially with older kids, help a lot as well. Little ones will be curious and excited to eat what the big kids eat.
There is so much to learn as a parent, and my first two years with my son has been a breathtaking and satisfying journey. He can walk down the street now, holding my hand. I tell him how nice it is and he brings my hand up to rub against his cheek in response. Of course my heart melts, and, of course, I want the best of everything for him. I look forward to real conversations, reading all the childhood classics together, and him starting school . . . but most of all I want to watch him grow up healthy and strong. Cooking well and trying out new foods requires some thought and a lot of patience, but that’s part of it all. I’m a mom now!
Excerpted from The Little Big Cookbook for Moms by . Excerpted by permission of Welcome Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
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