No one knows more about juggling schedules during the busy fall season than uber-busy chef, writer, environmentalist and dad, Michael Smith.
He wraps up each day at 4 pm to make dinner for the family. He really does. And he uses this time to prepare other meals at the same time. Like the 20 item salad his 11-year old, Gabe takes to school. He starts with a can of mixed beans and takes to the fridge in search of 19 more things to make a lunch out of it. Gabe makes a game of it at school with his friends... he gets them to guess what's in it today.
Michael says "don't confuse unfamiliar with difficult" and has other healthy meal planning tips to make weekdays go more smoothly right up until Christmas.
- Michael’s kids love to cook pancakes on the weekend. They make a whole grain batter and double the mix and use it the next day for waffles. Seasonal fruits and homemade compote make quick, healthy breakfasts.
- Make the decision that that the kitchen is fun, not work. Don't worry about the clean-up part. Have a system to make quick work of that too.
- Serve family style to please everyone and then the leftover components can be transformed into lunches.
- Cook outside as long as you can while the weather is good. Grill a bunch of chicken breasts or legs at the same time and use in salads.
- Have a shelf of fruit and veg ready for after school. Kids are hungry at this time and you have more of a chance to "hit the mark".
- While you’re cooking dinner, put an extra pot on the back burner with veggie ends, peels and bones. This makes a very nourishing soup, broth for rice or reduced, it can become a sauce.
- Make baby food out of what you have on the go. Mash, jar and freeze.
- Cook your basics in advance – quinoa, wild rice, beef, tomato sauce and the like do very well in the fridge.
- Have a neighborhood baking rally. Trade off muffins, biscuits, breads and loaves to get everyone in on the process and some great variety.
All in all, Chef Michael Smith believes to his very core that removing every impediment and fear of cooking is key to getting back to basics (which is the name of his new cookbook, by the way... go figure!)
The book is full of delicious, simple meals but one stands out as versatile, delicious and crazy easy. It’s a roast chicken that doesn't need carving. The meat is pulled from the bone with a fork and mixed in with root vegetables and apples roasted in the bottom of the pan. This baby will be a weekly in my house.
Let me know if you come up with any versions that have worked for you. I went with pears and curry powder this week.
About the Author:
Theresa Albert is an author and on call, private nutritionist in Toronto. She is @theresaalbert on twitter and found daily at www.myfriendinfood.com