Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Assembly Required

Ever notice how the cooking segments on TV always make the preparation of the dish look effortless?  Fresh food is perfectly prepared for the camera in neat little glass bowls.  With the ingredients ready ahead of time, the host can casually take a pinch of this and a pinch of that. A gourmet dish appears misleadingly simple, easily prepared while casually making small talk with a studio audience on national television.

Now try that at home.  I can't make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without at least one of the dogs and one of the kids trying to get in on the action.  We are fortunate enough to have breathtakingly amazing help with the kids (Vanessa deserves her own post, coming soon), but we also have a lot therapists and other people in and out all day.  There is rarely a quiet moment to concentrate on regular cooking, much less weighing out food to the gram.

But the morning shows have got it right: the airtime should be dedicated for the cooking, the prep should be done whenever, off camera.  For me, meal time is essentially "showtime," with a small window of opportunity to get the food on the table before the kids fall apart, the food falls on the floor and we're all off schedule.  

I decided to save meals that needed to be formally "cooked" for special occasions.  For the Everyday, we're all about assembly.  I steal some time after the kids go to bed, or Vanessa and I do the steaming and chopping whenever one of us has two hands free- while the baby is napping, Sebastian is in school or a therapist is here.

Everything for Sebastian is stored in containers labeled with blue painter's tape (it comes off easily in the sink or dishwasher, but stays on in the fridge).  It's not that this food is off-limits to everyone else.  But anything not marked with blue tape is off-limits for Sebastian's meals.  This is his dedicated shelf in our fridge:

We simply check what we have, choose a meal, pull what we need, weigh, and season.  Voil√†.

Knowing how much to steam and how to prepare the food ahead of time is just about knowing your recipes and practice.  Vanessa and I know what the meals we've created look like, so we'll dice and julienne red pepper, but cucumbers and celery are always cubed.  Apples and avocados are prepared on the spot or they brown.  There aren't a ton of green beans in our recipes, usually about 15g per meal.  We'll only steam about 75g every week, assuming we might use green beans in about five or six meals over that period.  We might steam more if we plan to use some for Sebastian's little sister, Alexandra.

Since Sebastian also has significant feeding issues, we have to balance foods that are easy enough for him to eat (so he doesn't run out of stamina...it happens) with foods that are crunchy and challenging, forcing him to practice different chewing motions.  We spend a good amount of time changing and refining recipes based on how the eating process goes.

Anyone who can read a recipe and use the food scale can make Sebastian's dinner.  I can be a little bit of a control freak about his diet (Steven would challenge that as an understatement), but the system works for us.  When he's home, Steven often makes Sebastian's meals, and he likes to set out all the ingredient containers before starting, much like they do on television.  I think it secretly makes him feel like Matt Lauer.

No comments:

Post a Comment