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The Unnatural Cook

a chronicle of weekly meal plans from someone who can't just throw a meal together

Tag Archives: Acquiring Taste

So I managed to convince three people who said they didn’t like squash that they did. It was my brother-in-law’s doing. I tried a recipe of his, Oven Baked Risotto with bacon & butternut squash. He is a fantastic chef and this is one of his family’s staples. He makes a double batch and uses the leftovers to make rice balls later in the week. I should have realized how much food I was making when the recipe called for 10 cups of stock but I sort of pretended that it would all be fine and that when he said lasagna pan he meant the 9 x 13 pan I use for brownies. He didn’t. He meant a giant casserole which is not something I have.

4 cups of stock into the recipe I realized I’d made an error. I ended up having to pour all the ingredients, rice, bacon, shallots, squash & stock into the biggest bowl I had and then distribute the mixture between two 9 x 13 pans. My nine year old daughter directed me and I was pretty sure once I’d put it in the oven that we’d be ordering pizza for dinner. But I should have had more faith; four cups of rice does absorb ten cups of liquid. Who knew? Well, my brother-in-law Dan knew but he’s the definition of a natural cook. I’m sure it caused him a certain amount of pain even to be forced to write the recipe down for me. But I’m sincerely grateful he did.

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Couchiflower Pasta. This is the name we gave the pasta dish I made up the day after we got our new couch. It has cauliflower in it and cauliflower became couchiflower and it took. We were very excited about our new couch at the time.

This was a great food for teaching the kids to mix flavors. The ingredients: pasta, olive oil, roasted cauliflower, sausage, sauteed onions, toasted pine nuts and parmesan are all prepared separately and thrown together. When they were younger we all mixed and matched as we pleased. Over time everyone has come to like everything and it’s become a one dish dinner. The recipe hasn’t changed at all through the years and I wish I could say the same for the couch; it’s covered in stains now, but we still love it.

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Try New Things. It’s one of the core values at my kids school. When they started in kindergarten they applied it mostly to food and we were grateful. But this year they are in third grade and their taste buds are truly expanding. It makes cooking a lot more rewarding. Tonight was our very first salad as a meal! Up until now they’ve pretty much ignored lettuce as a viable food. But recently they’ve been trying different kinds of lettuce from our plate and they agreed to try a salad for dinner. It involved steak of course; I’m no fool. The recipe was for Asian Steak Salad from Real Simple. They listed it as a weeknight meal with a 30 minute prep time; very ambitious. We had two people in the kitchen and it took much longer than that. Of course, I complicated things by deciding I was so hungry that salad was not going to be enough and at the last minute I decided to make Sesame Noodles. The sesame noodles come from a great recipe that I found in, of all places, Family Fun, Disney’s surprisingly good DIY crafts and cooking magazine. The meal was a huge hit. “It’s my new favorite dinner,” was Finn’s review. And even the sesame noodles fell under tonight’s try new things theme. Clementine came to the table thinking she didn’t like them and left a fan.

I read somewhere (when it was already too late to matter) that babies can be exposed to a new food ten times before they decide they like it. I never gave them that much of a chance because it was exhausting to prepare food that nobody ate. Even if it was just cutting up cheese cubes. If I’d known that it can take so long to acquire a taste for something, and that taste could be acquired so young, I’d have done it differently. Once I read that though, I did apply it to the way I cooked for the family. When the kids said, “I don’t like that,” I replied, “You just haven’t acquired a taste for it yet.” I left the door open. When I started meal planning, I had to adjust the dinners to fit everyone’s taste. Often the cooked vegetable would be just for John and I and the kids would get carrots or cucumber on the side. Sometimes the sauce, or parts of the sauce stayed out of the kids pasta. But the longer I’m at it, the more developed their palate has become and now I rarely have to make different versions. I think the corollary to ‘try new things,’ should be ‘over and over.’ Once is not always enough.

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