Friday, November 8th, 2013
“When my daughter wakes up, she opens her eyes and asks ‘What’s for dinner?’”
“I wish I was kidding,” Alex Guarnaschelli laughs. ”By the time she’s eating breakfast, I better have an answer for her.”
Like moms everywhere, this Food Network star faces The Dinner Question. (And thus, trips to the market and food storage tasks.)
Alex, the author of Old-School Comfort Food and mother to a 6-year-old, is the executive chef at Butter in New York City. Last year, she became one of Food Network’s Iron Chefs, and she is a regular judge on Chopped.
Every morning Alex goes to the kitchen to plan her entire day—breakfast, lunch, and dinner included.
Making a plan of attack on your groceries will save time, money, and cut back on waste, she says, which is why she partnered with Glad for the Save It Sunday campaign. The movement, which encourages participants to protect and preserve food, centers on the Sunday ritual of grocery shopping.
“It’s the one day of the week when you can commit to setting aside time: for shopping, cooking ahead meals, and storing other items—it’s about starting the week on the right foot,” she says.
Alex does a lot of her cooking on Sunday, which is why the pledge really speaks to her. But it also goes a step further.
“Ironically, the last thing I want to do when I get home is cook—because I’m doing it all day everyday and by mid-week I’m fried,” she says. “Taking that time on Sunday, and getting joy from it, is wonderful.”
A proponent of reducing waste, Alex is extremely conscious of the issue both at work and at home.
“When I talk to my team about how to prep and store 100 pounds of beans for the restaurant, the same thing applies when I go home and make braised short ribs for my daughter,” she says. “You have to be very proactive.”
According to a 2012 study by the National Resources Defense Council, the average American household throws out 25 percent of the food purchased—roughly $1,500 worth each year.
Try Alex’s tips for saving time, money, and reducing food waste:
• Make a meal plan.
“Figure out what you are going to do with everything you buy,” she says. “It’s a pleasure to have an agenda—you’ll feel like you’re pulling a fast one on everybody because it’s so easy!”
Read the Parents meal-plan guide to get started.
• Stop thinking about leftovers as, well, leftovers.
“Instead of looking at packaging as something that lets you recycle and throw back in the scraps no one ate, think about it as a new beginning,” she says. “And, by making a plan, you’re actually ensuring there aren’t any leftovers.”
Plus, “leftovers” can be better than the first time around: “Growing up my mom would make a big batch of meatballs and sauce and, to me, the sauce tasted better two days later,” she says. “It’s not a leftover—it’s something you created that got better with age or other ingredients.”
• Don’t be hard on yourself.
“Some weeks, I don’t have my act together,” she says. “As a busy working mom, there are nights when I have to say, ‘Guess what kid, it’s fried eggs tonight.’ And that’s okay.”
• Reorganize your fridge.
“The crisper can be the kiss of death. Don’t put your fruits and veggies in there,” she says. “Instead, fill it with club soda and put your produce on display. My favorite thing to do is put herbs in a jar of water on the top shelf, or sometimes right on the kitchen table.”
• Buy different ingredients.
“Challenge yourself to use new items—like a bunch of thyme or mint—by taking one little step each day for a week. In order to use it up, you’ll find creative ways to add the ingredient to dishes.”
To join the #SaveItSunday movement, visit glad.com. If you pledge, you’ll be entered to win a meal prepared by a personal chef.
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Friday, May 10th, 2013
I am lucky not to have any food allergies, but I still want to make so many of the delicious-sounding recipes in Elizabeth Gordon’s new book, Simply Allergy-Free: Quick and Tasty Recipes for Every Night of the Week. Just looking at the gorgeous photos in the book, you’d never know that ever recipe is free of gluten, dairy, soy, eggs and nuts. Author of the blog My Allergy Free Life and owner of the online allergen-free bakery Betsy & Claude Baking Company, this busy mom of two girls has multiple food allergies. She says, “I like to think of these recipes as the little black dress of my pantry—simple and economical fare that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion.”
She shows you how to use (and where to buy!) key ingredients like xanthan gum, agave nectar, superfine rice flour, powdered vanilla rice milk, and sorghum flour, which can make gluten-free and allergen-free foods taste like “the real thing.” The recipes I can’t wait to try include chicken tikka burgers, chickpea French fries, beef tostadas, corn quinoa salad, herbed biscuits, and chocolate pretzel pie. Yum!
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Friday, August 10th, 2012
Like many Jewish families, we usher in Shabbat, the Sabbath, by lighting candles, saying the blessings over the wine and challah bread, and blessing our children. Or at least we try to. Our older one has tried various forms of resistance over the past few months and seems to see her weekly blessing as some sort of, well, curse–or, at least, a babyish practice that she should have grown out of.
The blessing itself takes all of 10 seconds. My wife and I place our hands on each child’s head one at a time and recite in Hebrew the traditional blessing for girls: “May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah”–the Jewish matriarchs–followed by three short verses from the Bible. (Numbers 6:24-26, in case you were curious.) To me, it is a beautiful and moving custom, one that is deeply meaningful and makes me feel a special connection to my children every week.
Adira, who’s 5, begs to differ. A few months ago, she started running away from us when it came time for her blessing. We’d follow her into her playroom or elsewhere in the house, hands reaching out to bless her as quickly as we could, often on the move while we did so. We didn’t want to push her too hard and turn what’s usually a beautiful moment into a weekly power struggle. (Lord knows we have enough of those already.) We later started insisting she be at the dinner table for these few moments, but as a concession in the lengthy negotiations that followed, agreed to bless her without touching our hands to her head.
I can live with that.
Recently, however, she’s been asking when she will be old enough not to be blessed, throwing out suggested ages when she feels this weekly torture should surely be past her. I proudly and emphatically tell her that at no point in her life will I stop blessing her. I usually launch into an explanation of the blessing and why it’s so meaningful, but by then she’s running off to play, after a quick pause to help us bless her younger sister.
We recently did agree that if she becomes taller than me–and it’s a toss-up at this point whether my very-short daughter will catch up to my very-short self–I will agree to let her forgo this bit of tradition, if she still wants to at that point. I’m betting that by then she’ll have come around and enjoy her weekly moment, or will have forgotten this agreement altogether. If not, somehow I think I will renege on this promise and find a way to keep offering her her blessing.
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