I don’t have kids. I’m not really sure how to deal with them, and I find them a little confusing, unless they’re the two tutu-wearing, pop culture-loving British kids who (rightfully) get lots of screen time from Ellen DeGeneres. However, I know a few moms-to-be, new moms, and moms who are on their way to their second or third little munchkin while their toddler(s) grow bigger and more rambunctious every day—and when they ask me about strategies for feeding themselves and their kids without losing it on a daily basis, I don’t have the answers.
But my friend Debbie Koenig does. And as it turns out, the lessons she gives in her brand new book Parents Need to Eat Too are surprisingly applicable for feeding the childless but frazzled among us as well.
Debbie’s been writing about food since before her son, Harry (admittedly adorable and smart, just like his mom!), was born and the world is all the better for her organizational foresight. Not only has she been posting her path to nutritious, satisfying, and gourmet eating online since 2004, but Debbie teaches this stuff to moms—sometimes at Greenpoint’s Caribou Baby, sometimes in her Brooklyn kitchen, no less!—so she knows of what she speaks.
How can I possibly recommend this book if I’m not a mom? Listen, I read this book cover to cover (well, I skipped the chapter on foods that help new moms lactate for obvious reasons) and even I learned a few things. I don’t pretend to speak for the singular kind of exhaustion that comes from adjusting to life with a newborn, but I do believe this book is going to save many lives. Every single recipe has testimonials and tips from actual moms who tested the recipes, as well as recommendations on how to turn the meal into baby food, noting ingredients you should omit or adapt to make the dish baby-friendly.
Looking back on my years commuting between New Jersey and Manhattan, I have honestly no clue how I managed to get full dinners on the table almost every night—and I was only cooking for two people. Though there’s a whole chapter with recipes geared toward WOHMs (that’s Work Outside the Home Moms, for those of us who don’t frequent mom message boards), almost any recipe in the book works for those who work long hours in or outside the home and have little time to spare for cooking. Multi-stage instructions—chop and/or assemble in the morning, heat in the evening—come standard with many of the dishes in Parents Need to Eat Too, and are comprised of fresh but easy-to-find ingredients. The introductory chapter on stocking a pantry should be required reading for every time-starved human who’s just starting to cook on his or her own.
I could hear Debbie’s voice in my head as I read, narrating confidently and sharing generously. Her quick fixes and shortcuts are all rooted in simple common sense, but seeing them on paper (especially when you’re bone-tired and pulled in five million different directions) makes you look at meal planning and prep in a new, manageable light. Why make one big meatloaf when six mini meatloaves cook faster—and give you pre-portioned leftovers to send to work with your husband when he needs an easily reheatable meal? Just don’t tell any fungus-averse family members about the secret ingredient: quickly reconstituted dried mushrooms. They’ll just think it tastes extra meaty.
Husband has no idea how to make anything beyond grilled cheese sandwiches? Even the most clueless partners can pitch in and make Debbie’s ravioli lasagna or gazpacho with honeydew and peppadew (see? gourmet!). I’m itching to try the 30-minute recipe for mac and cheese in a cast iron skillet with a reverse roux method I’ve never seen before. Told you even I learned a few tricks.
Oh, and speaking of generous, Debbie also includes her world-famous recipe for the best homemade chocolate chip cookies in the entire world, but after trying the flourless honey-roasted peanut butter chocolate chip cookies on the following page, I’m starting to wonder if a coup needs to be staged. Those suckers are sweet, salty, soft and crunchy, and are one of those recipes where you wonder if you might just eat the bowl of dough before it makes it to cookie form. Freaking dangerous, Debbie.
Obviously I think you should buy many, many copies of Parents Need to Eat Too—for yourself, for your family, for anyone you know who needs a crash course in making cooking work for their schedule—but I’ll make it easier by giving you a chance to win a copy of the book.
** UPDATE: THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. Congrats to winner Laura M, and thanks to all who entered!**