When Ketchup Becomes a Food Group

You’d think after 18 years as a professional chef preparing all kinds of food for thousands of people in countless settings, I’d find cooking for my family of four a breeze. Not so much. It’s hard to get inspired to cook dinner when a major criterion is that it has to taste good with ketchup. It can be daunting making meals three times every day that satisfy all of our taste buds and have nutritional value.

As long as my children start to melt down at five o’clock and spill every single beverage poured for them, I’ve decided not to prepare meals from scratch at dinnertime–it’s just too stressful. Instead, I cook dishes when everyone is happier and then serve them later on. In the morning, my kids sit at the cooking table and help prepare (and eat) the ingredients.

In an hour or two, I can make several plain dishes that will be dressed up quickly before a meal like:

  • Rice, pasta, and grains
  • Green salad
  • Steamed, saute ©ed, or roasted veggies
  • Baked yams and potatoes
  • Baked, grilled, or saute ©ed chicken or fish; lamb, beef, or turkey burgers; and fried seiten, tempeh, or tofu

At dinnertime, I’ll warm up a yummy sauce to pour over the pre-made food or to use as a dip–very popular with the little people. These two sauces are great for eaters of any age.

Soy Butter Glaze

Saute © two tablespoons chopped garlic with two sticks of butter in a small saucepan for three minutes. Stir in the juice from one lemon, 1/3 cup tamari, and two heaping tablespoons nutritional yeast (found in a health food store). Great on green veggies, grains, noodles, and protein.

Roasted Nut Sauce

Puree in a blender: two cups unsalted and roasted almonds, pecans, cashews, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds with one cup washed and chopped fresh parsley, the juice of one lemon, 1/3 cup tamari, ¼ tsp cayenne, and as much water as is needed to make the sauce pourable. This is crazy good on steamed, saute ©ed, roasted, or stuffed veggies, grains, fish, meatballs, and burgers.

Sometimes I think about writing a cookbook for people with young kids, so challenging is it to continue to eat well at home as a parent (even when one of us is a professional chef!). I think I’ll call it “When Ketchup Becomes a Food Group.”