Mak­ing meal prepa­ra­tion eas­ier for fam­i­lies

Sim­ple strate­gies will have you feed­ing your fam­ily in style ... and help save your san­ity

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FRONT PAGE - LAURA BREHAUT

Laura Keogh and Ceri Marsh are the first to ad­mit that meal plan­ning is “wildly un­sexy.” But it’s also the sin­gle most im­pact­ful thing you can do to ease the stress of feed­ing a fam­ily, the founders of Sweet Potato Chron­i­cles say. It saves money and time, and en­gages ev­ery­one in the food that fills lunch boxes and hits the din­ner ta­ble.

“It’s not only what we think peo­ple should do, it’s what we do to sur­vive,” Marsh says. “You have your best shot at get­ting healthy food into you and your fam­ily if you ap­proach it this way, rather than wing­ing it.”

In their latest vol­ume, The School Year Sur­vival Cook­book, Keogh and Marsh break down not just what to cook dur­ing the school year, but the al­limpor­tant how.

“As par­ents, there’s a lot of prep that you can do to make your life eas­ier. You send the kids off with all the tools; you need the tools too to get through the year,” Keogh says. “Without them, it can re­ally swallow you up.”

While on tour with their first cook­book, How to Feed a Fam­ily, the authors en­coun­tered the same ques­tion from par­ents: “These are all great recipes and ideas but … how?” Keogh says.

From tips on pre­par­ing your pantry for the up­com­ing year — in­clud­ing mixes for pan­cakes, waf­fles and muffins — to il­lus­trat­ing meal plan­ning, the book is a time-sav­ing guide to fun and health­ful food.

“For our own san­ity and sur­vival, we’ve re­al­ized: You have to think ahead. You have to plan. It’s lovely to walk in the kitchen and just think about what in­spires you at that mo­ment but that’s go­ing to be an­other time of life,” Marsh says with a laugh.

There are 110 recipes in the book, in­clud­ing por­ta­ble, veg­e­tar­ian and quick op­tions for break­fast, lunch, din­ner, snacks and treats. The authors also in­cor­po­rated an ex­tra layer of in­struc­tion into some of their recipes — Get Ahead — which draws out the steps that can be com­pleted when you have a spare mo­ment.

Lunch, a source of stress for many par­ents, is in­ten­tion­ally the briefest chap­ter in the book. In­stead of re­ly­ing on sand­wich af­ter sand­wich to get you through the week, Keogh and Marsh de­signed each of the din­ner recipes with left­overs in mind. (Many are re­heat­able or can be eaten cold.)

A high­light of the book is what Keogh and Marsh call Trans­form­ers: in­ten­tional left­overs that are played out over three dis­tinct meal op­tions. For ex­am­ple, spicy beef can be­come tacos with roasted sweet pota­toes, easy beef and black bean en­chi­ladas or cous­cous stuffed pep­pers.

“We wanted to show peo­ple, just be­cause you have left­overs doesn’t mean you have to warm it up and serve it in the same way again. You can ac­tu­ally trans­form it into an en­tirely new din­ner with just a little bit more cooking,” Marsh says.

“This is go­ing to help you max­i­mize your time in the kitchen. And it’s go­ing to help you with meal plan­ning be­cause ev­ery­one strug­gles for ex­tra ideas ev­ery week,” Keogh adds.

The authors stress that meal plan­ning and prepa­ra­tion are tasks for the whole fam­ily: Kids can and should get in­volved.

“A lot of par­ent­ing in­for­ma­tion is tar­geted at women, at moms. Even though we hap­pen to be moth­ers, we re­ally push back against that. These are fam­ily chores,” Marsh says.

Recipes ex­cerpted from The School Year Sur­vival Cook­book: Healthy Recipes and San­ity-Sav­ing Strate­gies for Ev­ery Fam­ily and Ev­ery Meal (Even Snacks) by Laura Keogh and Ceri Marsh. Pub­lished by Ap­petite by Ran­dom House.

PHO­TOS: 2017 MAYA VISNYEI PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

With plan­ning, left­overs can be trans­formed into de­li­cious din­ners.

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