Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Healthy Adventure: Family Cook Book

This past Sunday was the last day of our family using our 8WMP over an 8 week period of time. It was fun to see that I could actually follow the plan and that my kids and husband liked 99% of the food. During that 8 weeks, we did have a week-long vacation, which was easier to deal with than I thought it would be, but still took a little bit of adjusting. We have also occasionally gone out to restaurants as a family, to celebrate different cultures and our birthdays.

My hubby and I thought it would be fun to delve into international studies this year, focusing on different countries and their customs, famous people, and cuisine. We began with Russian and the surrounding countries in January. We had a fun time celebrating the Chinese New Year in February. We have thoroughly enjoyed learning about Tibet and India. I love the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, and Mother Teresa...it has been a real treat for me. This week, we are beginning to learn about Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia (and the other smaller countries in that general area). I have really enjoyed learning how to make international foods, and it has been nice having my 8WMP altered to meet the needs of our studies. I have continued having the kids help me with the preparation of our meals. Having extra hands does take more time sometimes and it can be frustrating. But, overall, it is nice to have them developing skills that they will all need to have, while having fun sharing recipes (old and new) and talking about life.

Family Cook Book
The past few weeks, I have been busy preparing a gift that I have always talked about giving our children...a Family Cook Book. It is going to take a bit more work, but once it is done, it will be easy to add to and to share with our kids. I know how frustrating it has been to have to hunt down recipes, creating and recreating meals throughout my adult years. I had no idea how to cook, when I was first married. It was embarrassing and difficult for me to learn, while I was trying to adjust to newly married life and then raising a family. I wish I would have had at least a handful of recipes or some cooking skills before I moved out on my own. It may not have solved all of my issues, but it certainly would have made it easier in so many ways.

I am excited to be able to give my own children a book full of all of our family's favorites, along with pictures of the kids preparing those meals with me. I know that they won't all love every meal that we eat as a family, and they may not appreciate it as much as I would have, but I will have given them something useful. Hopefully, someday, they will remember that I spent time with them, teaching them all I know, and enjoying the preparation of our sustenance. It has been quite fun, thus far. This next 8 weeks, I am still going to be taking photos and spending at least 4 days a week, preparing meals with my kids. I have been trying all sorts of vegetarian dishes and have even found a few that the family liked. I have given my hubby Sunday dinners to prepare, alternating with the kids (which I absolutely love, on so many different levels :).
Here are some suggestions for documenting meal preparations and recipes with your own kids:

1) Choose dishes that you are already familiar with to start out with. There is nothing like having a frustrating, rushed, or bad turn out...when you are trying to make family memories. Figure out which jobs your child(ren) can work on by themselves and spend time teaching them the other jobs, as they reach the appropriate age, so that they can help out and learn even more.

2) When you do attempt new recipes, especially more difficult ones, allow for more time and don't let your own expectations ruin the experience for everyone. Remember that it is not how the food turns out, as much as how your little ones turn out. Your Chinese dumplings may fall apart, the mashed potatoes may look more like sludge, but if you have a smile on your face, your children will remember the lessons learned and still feel loved. I know that I have had to learn this one through much trial and error. I am a perfectionist and detest failure. I am learning to let go of all of my expectations and allow my relationships to be nurtured, in the process. I vow to smile and laugh more at our mistakes, no matter how exhausted I am.

3) Explain EVERYTHING, even if you think they have already heard it before. Repetition is the greatest factor in learning kitchen skills. Explaining that the mashed potatoes shouldn't be stirred once they are boiled, until the water is drained, may seem redundant. But when you are drinking your mashed potatoes later, you will remember the reminder to constantly explain everything. ;)

4) Have your camera ready to take photos of every step of the process, with lots of shots with your kitchen helpers...they will appreciate this silly procedure someday. I promise. Be ready to have to wash your hands every few minutes, as you go from preparing food to taking a photo, back and forth, and back and forth. Also, I like to take a picture of the ingredients at the beginning (if I remember to). Then I take a picture of the final product on a plate/in a bowl, once it is ready to be eaten.

5) Splurge and get an expensive fruit or try an exotic recipe every now and then. Your kids will appreciate the fact that they can say that they tried it, even if it was only once or only happened once a year. Another reason to try as many things as possible, is that there is a lot of a people's history tied into their food. With our family eating more international foods lately, we have had many opportunities to talk about cultures while eating...which I love!

6) If it is your own recipe, which you have never actually written down before, take notes as you go. I like to make sure I type up my recipes within 24 hours, while it is still fresh in my mind. Nothing worse than trying to put photos in at a later date, and not having a clue what steps you are missing or how much of each ingredient you used. If the recipe is from the Internet, a friend, out of a book, or etc., make sure you give credit, where it is due, for the original recipe, even if you altered it. My general rule is, if I changed/added/omitted more than 5 items, it is now my own recipe. I don't know if it is kosher to do this, but I feel that it is fair to call it my own, especially if I found several recipes by different authors that are almost identical.

7) As always, take into consideration, each child's 1Food and, try to plan the meals that they are going to want to help you prepare. I let my older two boys help me choose which dishes they would like to prepare. Also, when trying new foods, remind family members of green eggs and ham. There have been quite a few dishes that I was worried about, but each one was devoured and loved. Occasionally my hubby does have some sarcastic remark about not having meat in our meals, but I know that he loves the idea that we are eating healthier and hope that he remembers that it is because of his high cholesterol and family's prevalent diabetes that I began on this adventure. ;)

I am excited to create this Family Cook Book. After much debate, I have decided to print out each individual page, created in office.org and slip these pages into sheet protectors, in a 3-ring binder. I will make one for our entire family, to use right now. Then I will just make a copy of the document for each child and bind it, when they prepare to leave our home. Between now and then, we will be adding new recipes, altering old recipes, and developing stronger relationships.....and documenting it all for later use.
Hope you are having a great time, on your own adventure!
~.~ the purple sprout

p.s. I will be sharing the final weeks of my Healthy Adventure, once I have my Family Cook Book completed. Can't wait to share them with you!

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