By Katie Workman
Suzy Chase: Welcome to the Cookery by the Book podcast with me, Suzy Chase.
Katie Workman: Hi, my name is Katie Workman, and my new cookbook just out is called Dinner Solved!
Suzy Chase: Your new cookbook, Dinner Solved, is filled with 100+ recipes designed to be doable, crowd-pleasing, comforting, flavorful, and family friendly. All of your recipes are super flexible. Can you talk a little about your fork in the road method?
Katie Workman: Sure. The fork in the road method is designed for each recipe, so that you can make a recipe up to a certain point, and then separate some of it out and go in one direction, and take the rest of it, and go in a different direction. So for instance, maybe you have somebody in your family who's not in love with spicy food. You can make a dish, take some of it out, leave it plain and simple, and then keep going and spice up the rest. So for instance, dredging fried chicken in a bowl of flour, some of which has been seasoned with just a little salt and pepper, maybe the rest of it's been seasoned with cayenne, and paprika, and dry mustard, so you're making two batches of fried chicken, but it's the same recipe. Maybe there's a chili, and you have a vegetarian in your family, you could make a vegetable chili and separate part of it out, leave it vegetarian, and keep going and add chicken to the other pot. That way you have a vegetarian chili and a chicken vegetable chili.
Suzy Chase: I've heard you say it may take 10 tries to familiarize picky eaters with new foods. What advice do you have for parents of picky eaters?
Katie Workman: I definitely recommend serving new foods in small portions. A big slab of fish on a plate for instance, is very intimidating. A couple little pieces of shrimp or fish on a plate, much less intimidating. If you're serving soup for instance, put it in a little ramekin. Kids love cute little, individualized containers. Try not to engage in that battle of control, and that battle of the wills, because that's when dinners become a real sort of clicking time bomb in peoples' houses, and everyone sort of feels like, "Oh my gosh." I mean, we grew up and there was a lot of, "You're gonna sit at that table until you finish every last pea on your plate." Most of us as parents, really don't want to be that kind of parent, but we also don't want to just be constantly reaching for the chicken nuggets, because our kids aren't going to try something. So that's why it just takes persistence, because you sort of say, "I'm asking you to take a taste. You need to try this," and then if they take a bite and they don't like it, you say, "Okay, we'll try it again another time." But you have to serve it another time. So that means that you can't just serve your kid broccoli once or twice and say, "My kid doesn't like broccoli." It's kind of on you to put the broccoli on the table every month or so, and give it another shot. And one day, one day, they just might eat that broccoli.
Suzy Chase: So as the mom of a nine year old, for some reason, I have this idea stuck in my head that seafood is too sophisticated to make for dinner, and I love that you have five seafood recipes that are kid-tested.
Katie Workman: Absolutely. Yes, there's actually more than five because there's five in the fish and seafood chapters, but there's some others sprinkled throughout. People do think, "My kids won't like this," and sometimes we even have fallen into that trap of saying to our kids, "I don't think you're gonna like this, but do you want to try my salmon?" That becomes of course a self-fulfilling prophecy. The truth is there's plenty of mild fish out there that ... Kids sort of don't know they're not supposed to like fish, and often it can be the smell of fish that's especially fishy that turns them off, so stick with cod, stick with tilapia, stick with salmon as you're starting, and use seasonings that they really like. My older son just loves the flavor of balsamic vinegar, he always has, so the first time when he was young and I was making salmon, I would marinate it in a balsamic vinaigrette, and the balsamic vinegar, that nice, rich, slightly sweet flavor really cut through any perceived fishiness of the salmon, and it's one of his favorites. Recently I did the same thing, but using Caesar salad dressing. I made sort of Caesar blend, and used that as a spread for the fish. You just keep it simple, and serve sauces on the side when you can, and start with a real mild fish, and make sure it's super fresh.
Suzy Chase: On the sidebar of every recipe, you have two tips. What kids can do, and make ahead.
Katie Workman: Well what the kids can do, somewhat self-explanatory, but it just really sort of breaks down the parts of the recipes where kids can get really involved. Every kid is different. I've seen seven year olds who can wield a chef's knife, and I've seen twelve year olds who have never opened a can of tuna fish. Only you know where your kid is comfort-wish in the kitchen. Of course, supervise, supervise, supervise, especially when there's heat and knives involved. But you know, pulling the leaves off of herbs is something even really little kids can do, and then older kids can start measuring, and then as they get older they can start using the knife and the cutting board. So there's just different ideas. Juicing limes, and spreading on marinades, and working the food processor with supervision, there's just different thoughts about how kids can get engaged in the recipe. In terms of the make ahead, whenever there's anything to be made ahead, I am all for pulling that out and letting people know because so much of the dinnertime pressure revolves around that 6:00 scramble, and whatever you can do for yourself the night before or even in the morning, if you can find five minutes, you are gonna be thanking yourself so hard when you get home at night.
Suzy Chase: Moving on to bacon, you bake it. Why not fry it?
Katie Workman: To bake it, all you have to do is, if you put a wire cooling rack inside of a rimmed baking sheet, and you put the bacon strips across the cooling rack, bake it at about 375 for 15, 20 minutes until it's as crispy as you like, you can A, get more, get quite a number of strips going in one baking sheet. The strips come out beautifully, straight and gorgeous, if you care about that for any reason. And there's less splattering. You don't have to have your hands-on time at the stove, you can be doing something else while you're bacon's busy crisping up in the oven. You don't have to clean up such a splattery mess, and the fat drips off right into the pan.
Suzy Chase: Breakfast, the most important and the most rushed time of the day. Tell us about breakfast wraps, the choose your own adventure breakfast.
Katie Workman: You warm up some tortillas, flour or corn tortillas, whatever you like. Scramble up some eggs, and then basically while you're scrambling up eggs, you're just putting out different things on the table. Salsa, chopped up scallions, maybe some black beans, maybe if you have some shredded pork from the night before, maybe some slivered up bell peppers, or if you have some cooked broccoli from the night before. And you can either put it on the table, or you could just pull out these containers, sprinkle some cheese onto the scrambled eggs, maybe sprinkle ... If you baked some bacon the day before, crumble that up, throw it on, and just add whatever you like, roll it up, it's a little tiny breakfast burrito.
Suzy Chase: Do your kids have a favorite recipe in this cookbook?
Katie Workman: I get asked this so often, and then I end up saying like 15 things because they have a lot of favorite recipes. They love the Mexican tortilla soup, the chicken soup. They love that and the Udon soup, they really love those. They love the Asian spareribs, they love the lo mein, and of course they love the buffalo chicken wings, and burgers, crab cakes they actually love, I was sort of surprised by that one a little bit. And then of course the chocolate cookies, I mean the big chewy brownie cookies, that is a very exciting moment when those come out of the oven.
Suzy Chase: So last night for dinner, I made your recipe for southwestern vegetarian black bean burgers.
Katie Workman: Oh, yes!
Suzy Chase: On page 166. I followed your make ahead tip, and I made the patties the night before last, and I used the fork in the road tip and I made the avocado crema. They were great.
Katie Workman: Oh, good. I'm so glad. I have to say I was on a little bit of a mission to come up with a really good vegetarian burger. My sister's a vegetarian, she's raising her daughters as vegetarians, and my mother's a vegetarian. I have watched them ingest numerous, numerous, numerous vegetable burgers in restaurants across the country, and I have watched them be not quite so happy with most of them. So I was sort of trying to come up with something I could send their way.
Suzy Chase: This was really moist, usually veggie burgers are dry, and I'm not a vegetarian.
Katie Workman: I'm so glad, I'm so glad to hear that. Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web?
Katie Workman: My website is themom100.com, themom, the number 100, dotcom. That's where I blog, and I'm sprinkled around the web, but that's where my site is.
Suzy Chase: Thanks for coming on Cookery by the Book podcast.
Katie Workman: Thank you for having me.