I used to love to cook. I relished the role of housewife before I had children. I would arrive home from work most nights ready to spend hours in my kitchen with a glass of wine, a good knife, a pile of random ingredients and my imagination. My husband (used to a life where tuna casserole and meatloaf were gourmet) rewarded me with endless praise and astonishment that, “food cooked in your own house could taste this good.” I stocked my kitchen with fancy tools and fresh herbs. It was lovely.
Then I had kids and thus began the hardest breakup of my life-the end of my love affair with cooking. Ironically, this happened around the same time that the Food Network made everyone else I knew aspiring chefs. I just couldn’t get behind Giada or Rachael or Paula Deen. There were too many ingredients, that took too much time. Even Ms. Ray who swears you can make her stuff in 30 minutes made me perpetually angry. Rachael, I do love a good sammy, but you’re full of it with your 30 minute meals.
When I did attempt to cook something, every meal from the blandest of the bland to the spiceiest concoction I could muster, was met with an endless string of “aaw gross” or simply just thrown back in my face. So I would go back, tail tucked between my legs, to the grocery aisles that housed nuggets and plain noodles and cucumbers to be dipped in ranch. Everyone was happy. Except me. I love food almost as much as I love cooking and I couldn’t handle tasteless slop for one more second. Not to mention my jeans could not contain one more nugget without bursting open to reveal what six years of eating crap will do to a person.
I am a big believer in children eating what their parents prepare for the whole family. I can not get behind making two different meals as I can barely find the time to make one. I tried those cookbooks that have you sneak puree into foods so kids are nourished even if they are eating sloppy joes. The problem is, my kids will eat vegetables. However, they often won’t eat sloppy joes or homemade mac and cheese so I was doubling my work for nothing. My husband noticed he had great color in his skin and was quite regular, but other than his rosy complexion and increased digestive health there was no benefit to me steaming, pureeing and freezing a dozen sweet potatoes every Sunday night.
My battle to find the perfect meals continued. Then I heard about Annabel Karmel’s Top 100 Finger Foods and I thought I might just have found my answer. My kids will eat most anything if it is small enough to pick up and stick in their mouths. They love crudite. They love cheese sticks. They love hot dogs eaten without a bun.
Annabel Karmel’s book contains recipes that I would love to eat as an adult. She just shrinks them down so kids can pick them up. Genius. And these are not just appetizers and finger sandwiches like the Cher character from Mermaids feeds her kids. There are wontons, that contain identifiable ingredients for mom and look like Chinese takeout for kids. There are mini-quiches (who doesn’t love a mini-quiche?), mini-meat loaves and chicken or turkey sliders. I am sure you are saying, “this doesn’t seem like rocket science”, but it never occurred to me to shrink my recipes and even if it did I am not sure I’d have the brain capacity to figure out how. Thank God Ms. Karmel did the math for me!
I am not sure if it is the novelty or if after some time these recipes will become King Family tried and true, but so far everyone is happy at the dinner table and I am back in love with my kitchen.
Thank you Annabel-and your tiny little foods!
*As a member of The SV Moms bookclub, I was given a complimentary copy of Annabel Karmel’s book Top 100 Finger Foods, 100 Recipes for a Healthy, Happy Child.
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