Stress-free meal planning for people in a rush

You can do under 500 calories, but don’t do under dressed if you want to get your family meals on track.

  • Jan. 25, 2011 5:00 a.m.

TV meal planner Sandi Richard was in town this week to show Kelowna how a good dinner is done.

You can do under 500 calories, but don’t do under dressed if you want to get your family meals on track.

This was the advice from Food Network Canada chef Sandi Richard as she stopped in at the Chapters in Kelowna this week.

“I am a big proponent of aprons,” said the nationally-renown author and chef as she explained her theory that staying in your work clothes before you prepare a weekday meal keeps one in the frame of mind to complete the job.

Richard said her crew have got special full-coverage aprons that ensure their butts are tucked neatly into a safety zone, should anyone feel the need to wipe a hand on his or her derrière.

Richard’s specialty is the cheap, nutritious and delicious kind of meal an everyday cook can create and she guarantees all of her dinners to be under 500 calories.

She still knows her way around a good high-end kitchen, though, and said the Okanagan plays home to one of her favourite rising stars of the culinary world.

Jeremy Luypen, formerly of the Hotel Eldorado and now of his own restaurant, Passa Tempo in Osoyoos, was on her list of people to track down after her signing.

“He knows how to combine and infuse food,” she said. “I mean he’s really good at it.”

Richard wants more people in the next generation to experience food as an important art. Her mission is to ensure children learn that the daily meals are not chores or a source of conflict, but experiences to celebrate and enjoy with the family.

The ticket to this success is preplanning the meals, she said. She uses a system which gets the whole family involved by having everyone contribute to writing down what they want to eat.

“We must involve the other people in the process, no matter how perfect a person is at it,” said Richard.

By planning meals ahead of time, it reduces a tremendous amount of stress thinking about what to eat at the end of the day. Research indicates that most people take an average of one hour of time to think through this “what’s for dinner?” question.

Planning and then shopping also saves families large amounts of money.

“Every time you go to the store for milk it’s $20,” Richard pointed out. “Not to mention the lost time grabbing the extras—‘Oh, I forgot the chickpeas for tomorrow.’ ‘Are we out of this?’”

Her system can also reduce fights as making the call near the end of the day to ask someone what they want for dinner can put a spouse on the hot seat to come up with something and intrinsically points out that the person making the call is being the responsible one—again.

With the rising cost of food hitting the national political agenda, Richard’s recommendations may, in fact, herald a trend toward getting the family back in the kitchen.

Richard’s new book, Cooking for the Rushed, is in stores now. Every photo in the book is a real dish she’s made, she said, noting she didn’t want to stage anything to polish it up.

“I want people to feel like they can do this,” she said.

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