Cooking Corner: My Interview with Culinary Dietitian Michelle Dudash
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As parents, we’re all overstretched and time crunched–not just during hectic holiday time, but year-round. For many of us–even those who have nutrition degrees!–feeding ourselves and our families in a healthful way sometimes takes a back burner to more pressing things, like going to basketball practice, getting to dance class, or doing something as simple as taking a shower! Fortunately, we don’t have to sacrifice all to get nutritious food on the table–all it takes is a little bit of planning and some help from the pros.
To the rescue is culinary dietitian Michelle Dudash. In her terrific new book, Clean Eating for Busy Families, Dudash helps families whip meal times–and tasty meals–into shape with practical, time-saving ideas. Here are some highlights from our conversation.
EZ: As a mom, what do you see as the biggest challenge parents face when trying to get meals on the table for their families?
MD: I think the biggest challenge parents face when it comes to family meals is trying to fit everything in during the mad early evening rush. The kids need to get picked up or dropped off. Little ones need bathing. Parents want to squeeze in their workout. That’s why it’s so important to be prepared for mealtime by having a stocked pantry and fridge with the staples and simple go-to recipes that produce excellent results with minimal clean up and prep time.
EZ: What do you personally find to be the biggest challenge when feeding your family?
MD: The number one challenge I face is getting dinner on the table at a reasonable time. I try squeezing in a few workouts during the week at the end of the workday, and also pick Scarlet up from school. The smoothest sailing, relaxing nights are those that include meals made in the slow cooker (like my Slow Cooker Beef & Vegetable Tacos), ready to pop into the oven (like my Skinny Chicken Parmesan with Spinach), or the delicious leftovers from the night before (Sizzling Sesame Noodles with Pork, Cabbage & Scallions).
EZ: What advice–or first steps–do you recommend to overextended parents who don’t think they have enough time to prepare healthy meals for their families?
MD: My advice for busy parents is to take three simple steps:
1. Properly stock your kitchen. In the time that you would call in your takeout order, drive in traffic, wait in line and pay, get in and out of your car and back home, you could have prepared a fresh meal at home, provided that you had the needed supplies standing by. My book Clean Eating for Busy Families offers weekly, monthly and quarterly shopping lists, breaking grocery shopping down into manageable pieces to provide healthy meals. I also recommend always having a piece of paper stuck to the fridge where family members can jot down things they need from the store. It’s a running list that is ready when you are.
2. Plan meals ahead and have a go-to recipe arsenal. Planning ahead can be as detailed as writing out a monthly or weekly calendar of dinner menus, or as free-spirited as simply having three fresh proteins and vegetables on hand for the week for dinnertime. So, plan your meals out Saturday, do all of your shopping on Sunday and as soon as you get home, you’ll be ready to get dinner going.
3. Make one-dish or make-ahead whenever possible. One-dish meals that contain a vegetable, protein and starch (complex carbohydrate) are lifesavers..and dish savers! Recipes that you can make ahead in the slow cooker or have ready to just pop in the oven open up space during the mad evening rush.
EZ:Which recipe (or recipes) in your book are your favorites and why?
MD: While I love all of the recipes in the book, my favorites are those that are my husband’s and 3-year-old’s favorites! Scarlet’s favorite recipe is Pecan-Crusted Chicken Tenders with Dill Dip (we call chicken nuggets), which tastes even better than deep-fried versions. She also loves the Scarlet-Approved Lemon Cilantro Edamame Hummus. When I gave her a taste, she said, “I want more” and ate it by the spoonful. She also loves the Turkey, Vegetable & Oat Mini Meatloaves with Marinara Sauce (we call them meatballs, since I cut them up for her). When she tried the Toasted Sesame Salmon Nuggets with Sweet-Savory Scallion Sauce, she thought they were chicken nuggets, so of course, she devoured those.
EZ: How does your daughter like to help you in the kitchen? How can families involve their kids in the cooking/prepping process and what do you think the benefits of involving kids in the kitchen are?
MD: Scarlet absolutely loves to help me in the kitchen. She asks, “Can I help?” I let her break eggs (a bit of a mess), stir ingredients, flip pancakes and quesadillas (with my hand over her hand, being very careful), sprinkling cheese and spreading almond butter on toast. Scarlet is now 3 years old. She is better at stirring and aiming ingredients into the bowl. She wants to be so independent and wants to do everything.
I really think kids can be a great help in the kitchen and can save you time, too. Little ones can wash and spin vegetables and set the table. Scarlet recently set the table for the first time—yes! Older kids can chop, clean up, and cook things. When kids help in the kitchen, they feel empowered and are excited to eat things that they make. They love to be helpful and it builds their confidence.
Where can people find your book?
Visit my website www.michelledudash.com for direct links to online stores where you can purchase now, or find the store nearest you like Barnes and Noble, Whole Foods, and independent book stores.
So what are you waiting for? Dudash’s book makes a great holiday, birthday, or hostess gift–or gift for yourself! Check it out!
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