MY FULL PLATE

Food truly has enormous power. It feeds both the body and the soul. It’s a vessel for communication, love, and happiness, and sets the foundation for beautiful, strong relationships of all kinds.

When I began writing my first cookbook, The Seasoned Life, life was so different. I was a mom of two girls, I’d truly just begun my career, and I was 26 years old. I was never sleepy, never had too much to do, and always had the flexibility to cook whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, without time constraints.

Mealtime to us these days definitely still looks like pouring a generous glass of wine while I cook, but the logistics are slightly different. I mean, we blinked and suddenly there were three children! That’s six legs, six arms, three heads, sixty fingers and toes (by the grace of God), and three very different personalities (who Stephen and I both love equally).

I also began my journey as an entrepreneur, started my business Sweet July, and opened three International Smoke restaurant locations in two years! Needless to say, chaos did ensue. But it’s the beautiful kind of chaos that—if you replayed it in slow motion and put a string quartet behind it—could have the gravitas to coerce all people into having three bambinos.

In the midst of all of that, I still have this desire to nurture my family through food. That precious time together is not something I ever want to fall to the bottom of life’s to-do list. But these days, I need recipes that are still full of life and flavor but take a fraction of the time to make. I’ve tried to give you that throughout this book. You’ll notice some dishes take 10 minutes, while others take 30—and nothing is ever longer than an hour (major key). I want to be able to make a delicious meal for my family with enough time to actually enjoy sitting around the dinner table together.

The world was my oyster the first time around. This time, there are no pearls—or horseradish to slurp down, for that matter (ha!). Just an innate need and desire to feed my family delicious, fresh food as often as I can.

Realistically, this means focusing on dinner most days, along with a nice stiff drink for the hubs and me. I honestly don’t have a ton of hacks for getting elaborate breakfasts on the table in no time. With our lives these days, that just doesn’t happen—and I want to keep it real with you all. But when dinner rolls around, I can drop a few gems on how to get the meal on the table quickly while keeping it all interesting and delicious for when you do get those magical moments to gather.

My hope is that these recipes inspire you to cook with your spouse, friends, children, and loved ones more often. The kitchen is a space for infinite possibilities and a creative outlet that doesn’t require too much outsourcing. I hope that through this you create gorgeous memories and moments, and that your relationships grow and grow.

Cheers to a world of possibility and a kitchen packed with flavor. We all have full plates, but these recipes will make mealtime feel worthwhile.

Let’s get cooking!

—Ayesha

The Full Plate: Flavor-Filled, Easy Recipes for Families with No Time and a Lot to Do