I’m not a chef but for the kids, I cook with love anyway…
So, disclaimer from the top. I am not a Chef. I am not a cook, swing cook, line cook, or even a Junior cook. A quick culinary google search gave me all these titles in the kitchen that I do not fulfill the requirements for. Yet for about the last 9 years I have been trying my hand in the kitchen anyway with varying degrees of success and after reading, you might be able to take away a thing or two. Or not. But for all of you, especially novice Dad cooks, you may see similarities in my struggles with some of your own.
I mean as a kid, my mom was amazing in the kitchen and I was totally spoiled. My favorite food whipped up from scratch in less than 15 minutes. Dishes that could span Lasagna and Pineapple Chicken to my favorite “unda kofta shorba” (meatball with cooked eggs in a korma sauce). She did it effortlessly. I ate up all of her cooking with zeal. As an adult and a Dad, I have slowly learned my way around the kitchen. With Z and Z we will watch cooking shows like “Masterchef Junior”, “Somebody Feed Phil” or “The Great Canadian Baking Show” and there are few genres of television that bond the three of us than watching a good cooking or baking show. And when you’re thrown into the deep end of the pool, you either sink or swim, so here I am keeping my head above water (barely) as I continuously cook for my not so small kiddos. When you spend any kind of time with your children you will know the foods that they gravitate to that you can make fairly easily and well that are mostly nutritious. That is the magic venn diagram: Foods they like, foods you can make, and meals that for the most part healthy.
I must admit my favorite food to prepare is Breakfast time. It seems like there are a multitude of options in our house in this category. The griddle comes into great use preparing the world famous Sayed Protein Pancakes (mix with protein powder) or some fresh French toast (my kiddos like Cob Bakery Bread prepped in the morning dipped in beaten eggs with a splash of vanilla extract. Once prepared (it takes only a few minutes) they cook on the griddle in less than 5 minutes. Alongside a cut bowl of fruits like apples, grapes, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries, it is tasty if not reasonably nutritious. Eggs (scrambled, boiled, or sunny side up) with turkey bacon, oatmeal, waffles (home made or pre made) smoked salmon on bagel with cream cheese, and smoothies are some of the other mainstays of our morning breakfasts that I prepare. My favorite time is when little Z is in the kitchen providing some company to me as I prep breakfast and we talk about the previous night’s sports and we both eat our breakfast together harmoniously before getting ready for the school day.
School day lunches are a blog post unto themselves and by no means an expert on them but as an apprentice dad cook, it is often an assortment of sandwiches and sandwiches. And even more sandwiches. I know, I know I should do better and as this school year winds down that is my new school year resolution to be a more creative school lunch maker.
For lunches and dinners, over the years we (it is now a team effort) we have a wide array of different dishes that span pasta, stir fry, homemade burgers, oven baked chicken, dinner salads, fish, and veggies. Admittedly one of the more interesting creations that I enjoy is cut bell peppers, and onions that are stir-fried with pasta sauce. The kids give me an odd look with that one but they happily eat different kinds of salads that are either inspired by the grocery store or tv. Dinner time is full of peril. I know that as a teacher. Often my students tell me that they will eat out more than a few times a week at both lunch and dinner and there is no mom and dad that I know that constantly want to spend extra money on not so nutritious options from eating out yet it is appealing for the time and hassle it saves the family. I am the last person to judge dining out but in our house, I still do stress the value and goodness of a home cooked meal even though I am still learning as a cook. When I get in the kitchen I do have a purpose to prepare food with love and care for the kids and I know whether it’s french toast or special garlic toast, whether it’s my dinner sized salads, or nachos, or pasta with veggies, the kids appreciate what I prepare for them as it is done with love. I think that is the biggest lesson. Start where you are. Don’t get down if you are at the beginning and do your best and have the kids help you find the foods they like and will eat, that won’t take forever to prepare, and that are nutritious.
As we grow this column I would love to hear feedback from you about the 10 minute delicious and healthy breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack ideas you have out there as would Z and Z so that good ol’ Dad has more ideas to come up with.