10 Minutes with Cheryl Collett / Local food blogger and mom on cooking for a busy family

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Ciera Velarde
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Courtesy of Erin Blinn Photography
UPDATED
August 28, 2013
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Family schedules are usually packed in the fall, from dropping your kids off at school to carting them to football practice to making sure homework is done. Squeezing in time to have a healthy, enjoyable family dinner sometimes goes at the end of your to-do list. So we talked to local mom Cheryl Collett of IttyBittyFoodies, a blog about the culinary adventures she and her three boys take everyday, to find out how she cooks for a busy family. She dished on making your fall full of lovely meals with great ingredients – even if you only have 30 minutes to spare. 

Since you have three boys, how do you make healthy meals for a family that’s always on the go – especially during the school year?
Organization and planning is key. There is always cut fresh fruit, whole grain bread, granola and yogurt in the fridge that we can pull out in a jiffy. In terms of cooking dinner, I have a 30-minute rule where my prep time has to be done within 30 minutes. I like to do slow roasting of meat or fish or grilling which is quick and healthy. While the dish is on the stove, I’ll prepare vegetables and sides.
 
Do you have a go-to dish when life is extremely hectic?
One of our favorite dishes is a slow roasted duck leg. It’s so easy that one of my sons has been making it since he was 2 years old. It has very simple spices (just salt and green or pink peppercorns) and then I slow roast it at a low temperature just before I pick them up from school. A couple of hours later, it’s done to perfection and ready at dinnertime. The skin is crisp, the fat is rendered and the meat is fork tender. The best thing is that it only takes two minutes in prep time. I call the recipe “My Two Year Old Cooks Duck.”
 
What are some tips for making a meal that the kids and the adults will both love?
I like having the kids participate in cooking as it gives them ‘ownership’ of the dish. They seem more likely to eat it when they’ve helped make it. It’s also important that our kids see that things don’t magically appear on the table and someone has thoughtfully worked to create something nice for dinner. 
 
What role does cooking and food play in your family?
Food is sustenance for the body and for the soul. We always eat dinner together as a family and we don’t have a separate kid’s meal for them. I’m on a mission to expand our children’s palates by encouraging them to try everything. They don’t have to like everything we serve, but they do have to try it. We have something we call a “no, thank you” bite. If something is new, they have to take a bite and if they don’t like it, they can politely say, “No, thank you.” However, if they do like it, well … it’s success!
 
Food also gathers us at the table and it’s a time for us to share about our day. We each take turns to talk about our joys, triumphs and even concerns from the day. Sharing a meal with my loved ones is my favorite time of day!

Published September 2013
SIDEBAR

Festive Fall Salad


Here’s a family-friendly fall recipe from Cheryl that you and your children can prepare together:

Festive Fall Salad
Serves 4

Ingredients:
  • 1 small butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 box (0.5 oz) of salad leaves like baby spinach or mixed salad.
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup pistachios, shelled and toasted
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Dressing:
  • 2 tablespoons apple juice
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • ½ teaspoon honey
  • 4 tablespoons J. LeBlanc Huile de Pistache (pistachio oil)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Cube butternut squash and drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil until coated. Place butternut squash in one layer on a flat sheet and roast till soft, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  • Whisk apple juice, apple cider vinegar, shallots and honey. Gradually add pistachio oil. In a salad bowl, toss salad greens, cranberries, pistachios and dressing. Add butternut squash and lightly toss. Serve immediately.
Visit ittybittyfoodies.wordpress.com for more recipes.


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