Monday, 23 July 2007

The Dinner Fix - Sandi Richard

I detest making dinner. It stresses me out; is a thankless job and there is so much cleaning up afterwards and what one seems to appreciate the effort I go through each night.

As many of you know, I have two kids, 4 and 3 years old. For me, and countless other parents (I am sure) dinner is a fiasco largely considered with dread. I slave over a hot stove, in the largely futile attempt to create some healthy, balanced meal that will ensure the future well being of my children and sustenance for their day to come. What I get in return is mostly turned up noses, and nasally whines of "I don't like that", to which I protest, "but you haven't even tried it. How do you know if you have NEVER tried it?...TRY IT!"

Torture is a closer word for dinner in my house - both from the kids AND for me. Dinner is also the time when Ashley returns home from work - not a pleasant home-coming for him; frustrated wife and defiant, tired kids. I had indeed resigned myself to this disgruntled over dinner fate, hoping with time, this phase would pass, and my kids would one day become enlightened to the benefits of the vitamins and other nourishing details of foods other than Dora the Explorer tinned spaghetti.

Me, I was never really into meat, although not exactly a vegetarian, I tend not to go for meat - fish and chicken.... yeah, but red meat...not so much. I have always enjoyed vegetables and salads, and living out in whoop whoop, we never had fast food or take out - a meat pie or a pastie at the footy on Saturday was about as crazy as it ever got. McDonald's was a treat we only ever indulged in on the way home from Adelaide - which occurred only once in a blue moon - and then, believe it or not, I always ordered the garden salad with french dressing (oh and a sundae with hot caramel sauce).

Don't get me wrong, I am not professing to be a health nut, but I do appreciate and enjoy eating vegetables. But my frustration is not simply about my kids eating more vegetables. Rather, I would like them to eat more balanced meals and be open to trying new things - healthy things.

Anyway, when in Calgary, my friend, who like many of us, suffers similarly with the dinner dread, stumbled upon a Sandi Richard cook book. She is on telly and all , but her thing is meal planning, as opposed to cooking, but what is the difference?

I don't know about you, but at about 5pm I go to my pantry, unconscious and clueless about what I am going to make for dinner; already resigned about the predictably balked at outcome and protests of "yuck", all the while muttering to myself about why I bloody bother anyway. Then I scan the uninspiring ingredients lurking moodily upon my balsamic vinegar ringed shelves and the stress and pressure of what to make, begins.

Sandi Richard books are more than cook books - sure, they are filled with great recipes, but they also tell you how long each recipe will take to cook - from pantry shelf to dinner table, and there are shopping lists in the back, based on a weeks worth of recipes, according to how the book is set out.

i.e Week One of "The Dinner Fix" book, includes these recipes: Mexican Hamburgers, Spinach and Cheese Ravioli in a tomato tapenade with green beans, Asparagus stuffed Chicken with hollandaise and Greek salad, Red snapper with pineapple salsa Pecan wild rice and asparagus, Asian Meatball soup with baby carrots and dinner rolls. Then on page 161 the book lists all the ingredients you will need to make all of these recipes. Ont he back there is even room to adjust the list.

The beauty of the meal planning idea is that you can confidently choose something to make for dinner (in the morning even), knowing that all the ingredients are there in the cupboard waiting to be used. On top of that, all the recipes are sooOoo easy and quick to make.

So far I have made the Spinach and Cheese Ravioli in a tomato tapenade with green beans and Asparagus stuffed Chicken with hollandaise and Greek salad. Both recipes were very well received and eaten. I demanded that the kids try each one, despite the protests and assurances of "not liking it". Mister didn't care for beans in the ravioli dish, but he liked the rest of the meal. He requested that I make it again with a different side veggie, and I will certainly take that feedback on board for next time. The chicken was soooOOOooo good. I will certainly be making that one again, and I am looking forward to making the snapper dish next time. I believe there is hope concerning dinner after all.

If you are interested, you can check out Sandi Richard and her "cooking for the rushed", yourself.

*My only quibble about Sandi's writing is that she uses an excessive number of exclamation marks. I was exclaiming a few things myself at each glimpse of all those unnecessary vertical distractors. Enough with the exclamations marks!


Tracey said...

Wow, I think you've done well. My kids eat reasonably well compared to others, but I can't imagine them those.. I certainly couldn't mention the ingredients...

Scotty said...

There's an easy fix for that. Every night for a week (or maybe even two for up-sized emphasis)) the kids get served exactly the same thing by Dad. That same thing could be baked beans/spaghetti on toast or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich; the point is that Dad will serve it and it will be exactly the same for the specified time.

At the end of that time, the kids should love and appreciate you even more than usual, and with a bit of luck, so will hubby, lol.


jeanie said...

I remember the breakthrough I had when I found a book at an op shop called "3 Meals in 1" which basically had nice recipes with variations kids enjoyed.

Ah, to cook something I enjoyed rather than just placating daughter's palate was wonderful.

Kindra said...

It's really interesting to read about your dinner time woes. I love to cook and get freakishly excited to meal plan and pick out my recipes for the week. Every week I have at least 3 or 4 new recipes...but I also only have a husband and a one-year old who isn't a picky eater yet, so I really can't complain! Anyways, I do love Sandi Richard for her meal planning ideas and a lot of the recipes I have tried have been great. It's really hard to find reviews of her recipes, so I appreciate your opinions on the two you've tried. I just added the Asparagus-Stuffed Chicken with Hollandaise to my meal plan for next week! Have you tried any other of her recipes since you wrote this post?