Wednesday, January 8th, 2014
Ellie Krieger may be a Food Network star, but she’s also a busy mom trying to get a healthy dinner on the table every night. In her new book, Weeknight Wonders, she shares recipes for her family’s favorite healthy, delicious everyday meals. Recently she revealed her secrets for cooking on a budget, feeding choosy kids, and her all-time favorite indulgence.
Some parents want to cook from scratch more, but find the idea overwhelming. What are some baby steps people can take?
You don’t have to dive in headfirst! Choose one or two recipes to try each week that look inspiring and do-able to you, and build from there.
What are your hands-down three favorite recipes in Weeknight Wonders?
OK, not a fair question because they are all sort of my “babies.” But if I have to choose I’d say the Peach Chicken with Crispy Bread Crumbs, the Warm Bulgur Salad with Grapes and Feta, and the Penne with Grape Tomatoes, Spinach and Toasted Garlic.
And your daughter’s favorite recipe?
She loves the Meatballs with Simple Marinara. I can never go wrong with those meatballs in my house!
What is your best advice for parents cooking on a budget?
One way to get the most out of your dollar when it comes to feeding your family is to shop for and use produce strategically to cut down on waste. Buy only a few tender vegetables and fruits each week like lettuces and fresh berries and eat them first. Then move on to hearty longer-life produce like carrots and apples later in the week. Also keep economical frozen fruits and vegetables (no sauces or sugars added) on hand as well as low-sodium canned produce like tomatoes and pineapple.
Are there some quick ingredient swaps cooks can use to make meals healthier?
I love to find ways to incorporate vegetables whenever possible. One great swap is to use sautéed mushrooms to replace half the beef in a recipe. They go so well together and both have a wonderful meaty taste. Also, try swapping out refined grains with whole grains. It takes no extra time or effort to use whole grain pizza doughs and other breads and whole grain pasta, for example.
What are your favorite indulgences?
I pretty much always have some dark chocolate around. And OMG…the Chocolate Soup with Cookie “Croutons” in the book is divine and a healthier indulgence. But the one food I just cannot resist is really good hand-cut French fries.
How do you make sure your daughter eats a well-balanced dinner? Does she eat the same foods you do?
First thing is I don’t let her snack for at least 90 minutes before dinner. I love the saying “hunger is the best gravy.” If she is overly famished right before dinner though I will offer her some of the veggies I am cutting up for the meal.
I make a nice dinner with a variety of foods and we all sit down to the same meal, but I don’t micro-manage her plate. I allow her to take and eat what she wants at the table. (Also, after dinner snacks are limited to fruit and milk, so she knows that’s it.) Sometimes she might not have a perfectly balanced dinner. She might just eat the broccoli and rice, but have 2 bites of her chicken, for example. But I don’t stress about it–over time I can see it works out.
How can other parents encourage their kids to try new foods?
I think the way I manage dinner encourages her to try new foods because there is no separate “kid-food.” Also, I encourage tasting, but I never force. I try to create an environment of joy and discovery around food. We talk about sampling, and exploring tastes, textures and aromas of different foods for the fun of it, with the idea that you don’t have to like everything you try the first time, but also with the notion that your tastes may change over time so you might enjoy it the next time you try it.
Weeknight Wonders is your fifth book! Where does the inspiration come from?
I feel like I am constantly inspired—by new ingredients I see at the farmer’s market, the foods I try at restaurants and the foodies I follow on Instagram and Pinterest. I am also inspired by all the wonderful viewers/readers/followers on Facebook and Twitter who tell me what they like best and what they would like to see me develop.
Also, as a busy mom with a demanding job outside the home I am inspired to make recipes that work for my own life and family. The solutions that work for me, work for other moms that simply want the best meals for their families but need to juggle a lot of other demands. I am happy to help people with tools to make that happen.
Interview has been edited and condensed.
Images reprinted with permission from the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, from Weeknight Wonders by Ellie Krieger. Photography by Quentin Bacon. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.
Last image courtesy of Nigel Barker.Add a Comment