Dinner time can be stressful. But it doesn’t have to be. According to The Gastrokid Cookbook, you don’t have to cook down to your kids or cook special meals. Here are authors Hugh Garvey and Matthew Yeomans’ tips for creating adventurous eaters, and a little peace and quiet for yourself.
Reclaiming the Family Dinner Table:
1. Find your Inner Gastrokid. Get in touch with the wonder of food. Get curious about where food comes from: who grows it, where it’s from, what its best season is.
2. Never Call a Kid a Picky Eater. If you do, you’re only giving them an excuse to refuse everything you offer them.
3. Don’t Cook Down to your Kids. If you do, you might be keeping them from their new favorite food. Offer them a taste of everything. And if they refuse to taste, that’s fine too. Never add conflict to the table.
4. Don’t Take it Personally that your Kids Despise your Cooking. Taste changes on a dime and has nothing to do with your food. Don’t give up.
5. There’s No Such Thing as Kids’ Food. Do you want butternut squash risotto with sage and pancetta for dinner? Then make it for everyone.
6. When in Doubt, add Salt, Fat and Acid. A tiny pinch of salt turns on the flavors of food, suppressing bitterness and making it taste sweeter. A tiny bit of butter adds sweetness. Good fat like olive oil can add richness and complexity. The slightest spritz of lemon juice balances food and gives it another bit of contrast.
7. Caramelize it. Browner is better so often when it comes to food. A good sear on a steak. A piece of bread that’s been toasted. A roasted red pepper. So toast it. Sear it. Roast it.
8. Love the Leftovers. Make a habit of taking the week’s sad produce and making a quick vegetable stock. (In a big pot, add enough water to cover the vegetables; simmer for an hour. Strain and freeze in ice cube trays. Use in sauces, soups and so on). If you’ve cooked more meat than you need for one meal, save it and use it in a stir-fry or pasta sauce.
9. Get your Kids Cooking. This isn’t always easy, but one little task can both satisfy their urge to help and invest them in the final dish.
10. Eat Seasonally and Locally. Find a farmers’ market near you and shop there.
—Photo, tips and recipe reprinted with permission from The Gastrokid Cookbook by Hugh Garvey and Matthew Yeomans. Wiley, 2009.