Last night I was reading an article on a popular parenting blog written by a mother who boasts about feeding her kids fast-food meals five days a week. She writes,” I don’t cook beyond microwaving and scrambling eggs. I could dish up a nutritious meal, if I knew how, so fruit salad and fries it is.” Reading her words made me both sad and mad. Trying to withhold judgement (and not doing a very good job at it), I wondered why this person never learned to cook, especially since there are so many great resources available today such as Stacie Billis’ new cookbook, “Make It Easy : 120 Mix-And-Match Recipes To Cook From Scratch with Smart, Store-Bought Shortcuts When You Need Them (DaCapo Life Long, May 2016).
Today she shares some timely advice for parents who are short on time but have the desire to cook for their families using practical short-cuts that will help families spend less time in the drive-thru and more time enjoying meals together.
Alice: In your newly released cookbook, you write about cooking from scratch on a tight schedule. In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle parents face when cooking for their families with limited time constraints?
Stacie: The combination of walking into a kitchen with only 15- to 30-minutes to spare, no plan, and a recipe chosen because it sounds good, as opposed to knowing that it can be executed quickly, is a recipe for stress. This book was largely inspired by the families I worked with in person; I found with my clients, over and over, that when they learned how to choose recipes strategically—which I go over in the book—and went into the kitchen knowing the plan, whether set days before or in the car on the ride home from work, things went surprisingly better. Music and a glass of wine or cup of tea help overcome obstacles in the kitchen, too!
Alice: I love how the recipes in your cookbook have suggested mix-and-match recipes to go along with each dish. It takes the guess work out of having to think about what dishes go well with others. Is it truly that easy?
Stacie: Even as a professional recipe developer and food editor, I’d be halfway through making dinner and think,”Oh my, what’s the vegetable tonight?” or “There’s no carb!” I wanted the book to be a one-stop shop for planning easy dinners. If you’re an advanced home cook, you can pick and choose as you please, but if making dinner night-after-night is a difficult chore for you, this mix-and-match element can help you figure out a whole meal even if you haven’t done meal planning.
Alice: Lastly, what is one tip you can share about incorporating store-bought shortcuts in meal planning?
Stacie: Honestly: To not feel guilty about doing so! I’m beyond thrilled that we’re starting to become more aware of where our food comes from and that some companies are responding to parents’ concerns by making their products better. While I hope that the trend continues and we eventually make a full shift to accommodate more time for good, healthy living—including more time to cook and be with family—busy parents today need help and it is possible to get it from the supermarket without sacrificing our and our children’s well-being. You just have to be a mindful and informed shopper who knows what to look for, which is why I was determined to include a supermarket buying guide in the book. It’s my favorite part.
Alice: Thank you Stacie for imparting practical tips families can use to help them in the kitchen today!
Today’s recipe for Panzanella Salad is from Stacie’s cookbook and republished by permission from DeCapo Lifelong.