The Great! Easy! Healthy! Tasty! Dinner Kit
O, The Oprah Magazine | From the January 2007 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
The Challenge: "Cooking for my boys is a real test," says Marie Powell, who is expecting her fourth child in February. "My 4-year-old, Travis, doesn't eat vegetables or certain fruits. He often takes one look at the dinner I'm cooking and says, 'Pee-yew!' My husband, Craig, isn't much better. He can have pizza every day and doesn't do fruits or vegetables, either." Fortunately, Zachary, her 2-year-old, "will eat anything that isn't moving." Marie also has an adventurous palate: "I am originally from Haiti and came to the States when I was 5. I grew up eating all types of rice and bean dishes and meat that was marinated to perfection," she says. But her family's demands have taken their toll. Marie often finds herself making multiple dishes to please everyone. Worse still, she says, "I used to love to cook, but now, with such picky eaters, my interest in food and the desire to cook have disappeared."
The Strategy: As tough as it sounds, Marie needs to stop cooking separate meals and gently coax her husband and kids to expand their range. Incorporating some of their favorite things—like noodles—is a start. A nice presentation also helps: "My children love food that is colorful and attractively arranged. I think it actually entices them to eat more," Marie says. A one-dish supper like sautéed chicken with cherry tomatoes over spinach angel hair pasta is extremely bright, incorporates vegetables, and involves only a short amount of cooking time, much of it unattended. Barbecued chicken breasts and chopped leeks over noodles made crispy in the broiler is an alternative. And by experimenting with different types of noodles—tomato linguine, soba (Japanese buckwheat), rice sticks—Marie can expose the kids to new tastes. Pizza can stay on the menu as long as it's homemade; using time-saving premade dough from the supermarket, the kids can help assemble pies with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and toppings like grilled peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, and shredded carrots. "My husband eats too much red meat," says Marie, calling the chicken in the dishes below a "healthier choice." "And the children love pasta—the noodle dishes are the icing on the cake."
Sautéed Chicken with Cherry Tomatoes over Spinach Pasta
Crispy Noodle Cake with Barbecued Chicken