Kitchen Inspiration: Advice from the Pros

We received an overwhelming response to our last blog, Why Cooking & Eating Together is the BEST New Year’s Resolution. Many of you have been in touch to let us know you're intent on prioritizing family meals in your homes in 2012 and we want to help! So we're following up with some inspiration and advice to help support you in achieving this important goal. Here, we reach out to some of our favorite local experts and get the low down on what these pros do to stay enthusiastic about cooking for their families. Enjoy!

First stop: The Dirty Apron where one of our favorite local chefs David Robertson can be found most days. David is a busy parent who happens to cook for a living, which makes him the perfect source on what to do when burnout strikes. His advice? Crowdsource; to the family, that is:

“I believe in making food-related decisions as a family, especially when you have kids. Why not let them choose a cookbook once in a while? (Maybe hide the ones you really don't want to use!) Let them be part of the cooking process. I have found that children who are involved in the creative process of picking a meal they'd like to try as well as its preparation in the kitchen are more likely to eat the food that ends up on the table. Picky eaters also are more enticed into trying new things if they have been allowed to 'play' with it during dinner prep.”

Great advice, David! Indeed, involving the kids in the cooking process is a great way to disarm a picky eater and getting the whole family involved makes for a fun evening for everyone.

Next we reached out to Flo Sheppard, Population Health Dietitian, for Northern Health. Her words of wisdom: Simplicity = longevity.

“People assume family meals have to be dinner. But a family meal can actually be breakfast, or even sitting down for a snack. One of our favorite meals in my home is the oatmeal buffet. I’ll cook oatmeal, and put out little containers of things like raisins, apricots, cranberries, nuts, peanut butter, milk, whatever extra little things are in my cabinet…. Kids love meals that they can build themselves at the table- tacos, fajitas, build your own sandwich.. the list goes on!”

Build-your-own meals are a great way to keep things simple, participatory and fun. Thanks Flo! Next up: iconic Canadian Chef and Restauranteur, John Bishop, owner of Bishops in Kitsilano. He offers us this practical advice:

“The trick is to plan ahead. Sit down on Sunday night and roughly plan a menu for the week. i.e. Monday: pasta, Tuesday: chicken, Wednesday: BBQ. just a rough plan so you can follow that. If you’re making things like tomato sauce or chicken stew, make double and stick half in the freezer. For myself, I get inspired by ingredients. I’ll go to the store and see what is there to get inspired. I’m most inspired by local, seasonal food.”

Great advice. Having a plan in advance is the best way to make the daily meals more seamless and less stressful. Finally, we leave you with some fun, creative food for thought c/o Kia Robertson, Founder of Today I Ate a Rainbow. She recommends mixing things up and being creative:

“Have breakfast for dinner, spread a blanket out and have a picnic in the living room, get the entire family in the kitchen preparing a meal together or have a Friday Family Fun night where each week a member of the family gets to pick their favorite meal, movie and board game. Keeping things fresh and fun will help keep your family out of the boring routine. Another idea is to do weekly theme nights from around the world. Parents.com just shared a bunch of fantastic international recipe ideasBy being creative it helps the whole family get excited about sharing a meal together. I firmly believe that cooking for your kids will last a mealtime - cooking with your kids and sharing meals with them will give them skills and memories that will last a lifetime!

What more can we say? We hope you find these tips helpful. And, of course, we want to know what YOU do to keep meals fun in your home. Please share your thoughts with us. Join the conversation here!

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