Bloggers make sweet solutions out of cooking conundrums

By Kaylene Morrill Wheeler

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 2 2012 7:00 p.m. MDT

“There are a lot of our different recipes, like our soups or our salads, where you add all the ingredients on yourself,” she said. “That’s really great, I think, for families that have picky eaters because people can just add on the ingredients that they want.”

As Wells put it, sometimes when kids don’t want to eat “the slimy green thing” in their soup, a lot of the reason for it is the unknown. Her solution: Involve them in the cooking process. Sometimes Wells brings her kids with her to the garden to get herbs so they can see, touch and smell the herbs before she cooks with them.

“We do the same things with spices,” she said. “I always put a little pinch of the spices in their hands and let them smell it and feel it, and I tell them where it’s from. If we’re having Indian food I’ll say, ‘This is just like Aladdin — this is what Aladdin eats!’”

On another occasion, Wells made mango salsa on pork chops and called it “Captain Jack Sparrow food,” and she let her kids wear pirate hats to the dinner table. Not surprisingly, her kids didn’t mind at all.

“If (food) can be relatable and familiar to them, they’re much more likely to eat it. I think a lot of it’s just that unknown and they’re just confused and scared of it.”

One other thing Wells does is let her children make choices about what they’re going to eat.

“Sometimes I give my kids a choice between two good choices,” she said. “If I ask them, ‘Do you want vegetables on your pizza?’ they’ll say no. But if I say ‘OK, you guys get to pick, do you want red peppers or do you want olives on the pizza?’ they’ll pick one of them, usually.”

Another issue some have with cooking is that it can sometimes be time consuming.

Erica Walker said that because she and her sisters all have families of their own, they don’t have the luxury of having all day to cook. With limited time to cook, quick and easy meals are important to her, and utilizing things like the crockpot can be a lot easier than spending all day in the kitchen frying and sautéing.

Doing the dishes can also be harsh reality after spending time making dinner for you and your family, and it can take up more time than you might like.

“I try to do a lot of (meals) that don’t take a lot of dishes,” Erica Walker said. “I hate preparing meals that I have like five pots that I have to clean up afterwards. I really like the one-dish dinners.”

The index in “Savoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites” can also aid in planning meals ahead of time that will be easy to prepare when you are in a crunch. Included in the index are categories for freezer meals, slow cooker meals, and make-ahead meals.

“I know there are times when I am just going to have a crazy week, and I could look up what all the slow cooker recipes are,” Jones said. “Or if you’re getting ready to have a baby or you’re going to be out of town, and you don’t want to leave your family without food, then you can go to the freezer meal section and all of those can definitely help.”

Another recently released cookbook is “The America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook” (America's Test Kitchen, $34.95). Throughout the book are kitchen tips that can help save time and simplify the cooking process.

The book also includes a “knife school” and “prep school” section. These can help readers learn about different kinds of knives and how to use them properly so they can cut down on prep time. The book guarantees all the recipes in the book to be “on the table in 45 minutes or less.”

“Favorite Family Recipes” can be purchased at Seagull Book, Deseret Book and amazon.com, and Idaho and Utah Costco stores in the near future. “Savoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites” can be purchased at Walmart, Barnes and Noble, Deseret Book, amazon.com and select Costco and Sam’s Club stores. “The America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook” can be purchased at Barnes and Noble in addition to several online book sites.

CARAMEL APPLE FRENCH TOAST RECIPE

1 loaf French bread

6 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla

6 apples, peeled, cored and sliced

Cinnamon, nutmeg, granulated sugar, and brown sugar to taste

Cut bread into large slices (about 3 inches wide) and arrange in a 9 by 13 pan lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, beat eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla. Pour mixture over bread slices. Arrange apples on top of bread. Sprinkle cinnamon, nutmeg, granulated sugar and brown sugar over the apples (sprinkle the brown sugar the most generously).

Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning bake at 350 for 1 hour, until golden brown. Top with your favorite caramel topping.

To make your own caramel topping, combine 1 package wrapped caramels (unwrapped) and 2/3 cup whipping cream; melt in microwave.

— "Favorite Family Recipes," by Erica Walker, Emily Walker, Elise Donovan and Echo Blickenstaff (Covenant Communications)

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