Dinner can be stressful. Busy lives mean planning, shopping and preparing healthy meals is harder. Here's how to own dinner time, reconnect with cooking and have fun in the kitchen.
Einav Gefen is Unilever's corporate chef. Unilever is the world's largest consumer goods company and owns more than 400 familiar brands, from Ben & Jerry's to Knorr seasoning, Lipton teas and Magnum ice creams, to name a few.
Einav's job is to help America's home cooks put tasty meals on the table. In her Ted Talk, she talks about the daily challenge of preparing nutritious and pleasing family dinners as part of the modern, hectic life we all lead. Today, we've somehow lost our grandmothers' cooking skills. The paradox is that we want to get creative in the kitchen but it all looks too complicated and scary. The million dollar question is how to come up with healthy and sustainable solutions to that dreaded 'what's for dinner' dilemma.
It's tricky to step into Martha Stewart mode on weeknights, between juggling deadlines, household chores, play dates and after school or after work activities. By dinner time, we're exhausted and starving. Food delivery apps make it easier than ever to give up and order a takeaway. Children's obesity levels are at an all time high.
We believe that reconnecting with home cooking is important. Whether you're cooking for your family, partner or friends, there's something distinctly human and satisfying about it.
Yes, dinner is a necessity but there's so much more to it. Cooking is personal, cultural and rewarding. It anchors memories and makes space for quality time with our loved ones. It helps us connect to people, tradition, places, family. It's a simple but grounding experience. It's creative. Everyone can do it. It's all about fun and experimentation.
So why not use spices and herbs to teach your children healthy eating habits and get them excited about home cooking? Spices and herbs are plant-driven ingredients. They're packed with nutrients and beneficial properties such as anti-oxidants, essential vitamins and minerals. They add plenty of flavour but, more importantly, are good for you. By teaching your kids how to pick, smell, taste and use spices and herbs in everyday cooking you are introducing them to the magical world of global cuisines, opening their minds to new experiences and flavours and teaching valuable healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.
Here are a few ways to reignite your family's passion for cooking:
1. Go back to basics - grow some of what you consume daily on your windowsill, rooftop or in your garden (like herbs or vegetables). Take the kids to the local farmer's market on the weekend. Re-appreciate taste, flavour and good quality ingredients. Explore new flavours and cuisines. Involve the kids in picking fruit, vegetables, herbs and other ingredients from growers' stalls. Teach them about different herbs and spices, what they smell like and their different colours and flavours.
2. Utilise leftovers and pantry items - there are so many things you could do with leftovers - why not make a pizza with cool toppings using shredded lamb or chicken from a recent roast, or transform any vegetables, beans or lentils you have in your cupboard into a hearty soup, or make a delicious pasta sauce. Or baked eggs with left over veggies, cheese and olives. Then add spices and herbs to enhance flavours and aromas.
3. Learn a few basic cooking skills and try out new recipes - Great websites like Jamie Oliver's , Nigella Lawson's, Serious Eats, Bon Apetit, The Kitchn, Yotam Ottolenghi and, of course, our own Sprinkle website are all packed with easy recipes, videos, inspiration and cooking tips and ideas. Why not try one new recipe a week. Diversify your weeknight menu. Encourage the kids to try new dishes. Get them involved in cooking and flavouring.
Whatever path you choose, make it a tasty one!