Tips on how to make five meals per week, from scratch!

October 8th, 2013 by Live Well Omaha Kids

Guest blog by Justin Wiley. Justin lives in Omaha with two children ages 3 ½ and 1 ½ years old. Justin and his family recently took the Live Well Omaha Kids Family Dining Pledge.

Our family enjoys cooking and trying new recipes and we pledged to make five dinners per week from scratch. With two young children it is much easier and affordable to eat at home. Also, the kids enjoy helping with the cooking by stirring, cracking eggs, and washing produce. We also allow them to be taste testers; they usually sit on the counter and test the items as I cut them.

The biggest challenge has been picking the kids up late from Grandmas house. By the time we get home I don’t want to spend an hour cooking dinner. Often times it leads to “boxed” dinners or picking something up. In order to overcome this challenge, I try to plan ahead as much as possible. If I know I might be late picking up the kids the next day, I will cook extra food from previous days to use as leftovers or turn them into a new dish. I’ve also tried to come up with recipes that involve little hands-on preparation, but are still from scratch such as pasta with grilled proteins.

I’ve been unexpectedly surprised by the foods that the kids are willing to try. I have noticed the dinners they help me prepare, they tend to eat better versus when they are not helping. I won’t force them to eat anything they don’t like, but do ask that they at least try it. This has led them to be more willing to try whatever I put in front of them.

To keep the conversation going at the table, we always ask the kids about their day. What games did you play? Did you go anywhere? If they are quiet with what they did, then I try to think of something that happened at work that they may relate to.

When trying to increase meals prepared at home, I suggest starting with one day per week and work your way up. Don’t be afraid to alter recipes that look complicated.  Make the recipe work for you; food is forgiving if you make a mistake. The best dishes can be created using only 3 or 4 ingredients. I would recommend checking out the “The Flavor Bible,” it is not a cookbook, but a dictionary that shows what foods pair well together. You can create many great recipes using this book as a resource.

One of our favorite dishes is spaghetti with chicken cooked in a red picatta sauce. This is an easy recipe that only takes 20 minutes! I cook spaghetti according to package directions. In a sauté pan, lightly sear Italian seasoned chicken breasts. Then add red onion and garlic cooking for another minute. Then add red sauce, capers, cherry tomatoes, and a light chicken stock. (Surprisingly the kids didn’t mind the capers in the sauce.) Cooking loosely covered until chicken is done. Cornstarch slurry can be added at the end if sauce seems thin. Depending on the thickness of the chicken breasts this can be done at the same time the paste is done cooking.

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