By Michelle Levine
New York Family Magazine
December 22, 2010
What’s for dinner? It’s the dreaded question, but it’s not even my husband and children who ask it. Why should they, when I prepare separate meals for each of them on many nights? Wanting to stop the short-order-cook syndrome, I resolved to plan weekday meals ahead of time and insist that whatever I make is what’s for dinner.
So I sought the advice of Jenna Helwig, the chef, culinary instructor and visionary behind Rosaberry (rosaberry.com), who came to my kitchen and set me on a path to simplifying my family’s dinners. After describing a typical evening meal in my home, we discussed food preferences and dietary restrictions. A few days before our meeting, Jenna suggested three recipes and gave me a shopping list.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had most ingredients on hand, which is one of the best tips Jenna has—keep a well-stocked pantry and freezer. Having a recipe repertoire and knowing what items you use frequently allows you to shop efficiently and be prepared. Another useful idea: find at least one half-hour during the week to focus on upcoming meals. Plan for weeks or days at a time—the goal is to broaden everyone’s culinary horizons while incorporating foods everyone will eat into each dinner.
One strategy I was particularly interested in implementing was the make-ahead meal. Jenna’s Crowd-Pleasing Chili was the perfect solution. She assured me that the chili froze well and wouldn’t be too intimidating for me to prepare. Jenna’s flavorful recipe immediately put my doubts to rest, and her encouragement inspired me to make another batch the day after her visit. A perfect wintertime meal, the chili is finally something all four of us can agree on for dinner.
Photo: Michelle Levine and chef Jenna Helwig
Photo by Nancy James