Help for the picky eater problem

Katie WorkmanKatie Workman was a kid who loved to cook, and a kid who loved cookbooks. She grew up teaching herself how to cook from The Silver Palate Cookbook, making bumpy homemade pasta following Marcella's Hazan's instructions in The Essentials of Italian Cooking to the letter, and asking for the entire Moosewood trilogy for holidays. She went on to pursue a career in cookbook publishing before helping to launch in 2008. There she established the popular Cookstr weekly newsletter, and she has written for many websites and publications including The Huffington Post. Katie recently published her second cookbook, Dinner Solved! (Enter our contest for your chance to win a copy of the book). Katie answered our questions about her new book:

Your first cookbook, The Mom 100 Cookbook, helped busy moms solve the most common dilemmas they face - getting the kids fed in the mornings, making school lunches, healthy snacks, moving "white food only" kids in a new direction and more.  Is the new book just focused on the evening meal?

Dinner Solved! contains recipes for breakfast, lunch, sides, snacks, desserts….but since "dinner" is the hot button for most of us, the meal that we often feel the most pressure about, I wanted to make it the focus.  There are also recipe solutions for all of the other times in the day!

How do you address the issue of serving one meal for a family with different needs - allergies, dislikes, vegetarians, etc?

Each recipe has an element called "The Fork in the Road." This is the idea that you can make a recipe up to a certain point, then separate out part of it, and make it two ways.  You can keep some of it plain and simple while you make the rest more robust (like the Simple One Skillet Chicken Alfredo Pasta), or some of the dish might be mild, while some ends up spicier (like the Fried Chicken), or maybe you want to make chicken chili, but you have a couple of vegetarians at the table (Chicken and White Bean Chili).  You are making one recipe, but everyone at the table will be happy with their version, and you won't feel like a short order cook.

Are the recipes quick and easy for weeknights or are some recipes for weekends when there is more time?

Definitely!  There are tons of 30 minute and less recipes, and some recipes that call for some low and slow cooking.  While experienced cooks should find plenty to entice them, the recipes are all very simply written , with clear instructions.  A ton of lists on detail which recipes are quick and easy, which are Italian-inspired, which are good for winter, which are geared towards picky eaters, which are good for entertaining, and so on.

What are your personal solutions for dealing with picky eaters?

Deep breaths, really.  And trying not to get embroiled in a battle.  Research shows that sometimes a food has to be introduced 8 or 10 or more times before it is accepted.  Don't give up!  Don't. Give. Up.  But don't make it a power struggle either.   Shrug, say thanks for trying (and do try and make them try), and move on.  Offer the food again in a month. Also serve small portions - start with two broccoli florets, and a ramekin of soup.  Don't introduce more than one new food at a time if you have a really picky eater.

Many moms find themselves serving the same meals over and over. How do you help them break out of that rut?

I write books!  Seriously, it's easy to get in a rut - we all do it.  Give a cookbook or magazine to your kid and ask them to pick out dinner for Thursday night.  Another thing I like to do is buy whatever is on sale at the market, not just to save money but because it gets me thinking - "what should I do with this pork loin?"  "I've never made skirt steak before, let's give it a go."  "What is broccoflower and how should I make it?"

What tips do you have for planning ahead so the weeknight panic to get dinner on the table is reduced?

I like to take 20 minutes or so on a Sunday - or whenever I can find 20 minutes - and chop up some onions or shallots, mince some garlic, zest and juice some lemons  peel and mince some ginger - I put it all into little containers in the fridge and have them there for a leg up on dunner all week long.  Also, I love repurposing leftovers.  Leftover roasted chicken becomes chicken enchiladas, or soup, or chicken salad.  Leftover rice becomes stir fried rice.

Presumably your own family are your test eaters. What are their favorite recipes in the book?  

They love the taco chapter, Fried Chicken, One-Skillet Beefy Enchilada Noodle Casserole, and the Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup, and of course the Big Chewy Brownie cookies

Following the "pick your battles" mantra, have you had to give up on any foods with your kids?

So far, Charlie will not eat scallops.  Even the smell of them cooking turns him off.  And Jack and Gary (my husband) are both cilantro haters, which is a common thing.  

How much do your kids help you cook and do you feel kids are more likely to try something new if they were involved in preparing it?

They really do help - I just asked Jack to mix up some taco mix for our dinner tonight   They like the inventive part of cooking.  And when kids not only have a part in the cooking, but also sharing in the decision making ("how much chili pepper should we add?"  "The olives are optional - should we put them in or not?") means that they feel invested in the meal, they have pride of ownership.  It's nice to give back some of the control to your kids rather than plunking a plate of food down in front of them.  There won't be time or interest every night, but there are definite advantages to making space for your kids in the kitchen.

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