Cooking simple, healthy, yummy meals for and with your kids, that’s what Catherine McCord’s blog Weelicious.com is all about. And as a fan, I was excited to learn that this month, she’s putting out a cookbook! Weelicious: One Family, One Meal is full of reader favorites, brand new recipes and tips—and you don’t have to worry about keeping it splatter free. I chatted with this inspiring mama to son Kenya, 5, and daughter Chloe, 3, to find out more about her new project, her sanity-saving kitchen tricks, and exactly how she gets her own littles to eat (almost) anything.
What’s been your favorite part about putting the cookbook together?
Testing and coming up with the recipes. Instead of hiring outside testers we had over a hundred moms try the recipes. We got their feedback like, “My kids love this. My husband loves this. I wanted to change this.” It was fun to take things beyond just my kitchen.
What are some of the main ideas behind the cookbook?
The big one is one meal, one family, making healthy, balanced food that everyone wants to eat. But it’s also about making kids great eaters from day one while making a mom’s life in the kitchen easier, and combatting sneaky and picky eating. Instead of moms being like, “Oh gosh [with a big sigh] another meal and my kid won’t eat,” this is coming at mealtimes from a much more exciting, positive perspective: “This is cool! We’re going to learn together, we can do this as a family!”
You mentioned picky eating. Can we talk veggies for a second? So many parents I know have a hard time getting their kids to eat them. What’s your strategy?
There are tons of ways. Get a little garden, even if it’s just a little pot. But growing something together, nurturing it, then cooking something with it so kids see the process from beginning to end, that’s wonderful. And then shopping together…. Create a game where you’re like, “Ok, let’s go find a vegetable. What do you think it tastes like? What do you think it smells like?” So you’re making food and meals an interactive experience. And then cooking together. Both my kids are active participants in almost every meal we make from shaking something to stirring something to squeezing something. And I don’t push or stress out on them about food. If they want to eat, great. If they don’t, great. We have an edible garden and last night, I pulled out the basket and the scissors and I was like, “All right, garden detectives, let’s go!” And we go outside and pick a bunch of things, and then they’ll eat those things because they helped find them, they helped grow them.
Is there anything your kids won’t eat?
There’s always something, believe me. Like right now my daughter’s the one who will be like, “No!” It’s her new game. “No, I’m not eating it!” And I’ll be, “Ok, fine.” And then Kenya will say, “This is great!” And instantly, Chloe’s like, “I want some!” I always say with kids and food so much of it is about control. We tell kids what to wear, when to get dressed, where they’ll go to school and so food is the one thing that they can control.
What is one of the biggest misconceptions that you think parents have when it comes to cooking for their kids?
If they don’t like something, then their kids won’t like it. For example, I was not a big olive eater so I never gave my kids olives. But my father-in-law loves olives and brought some over one night and my daughter ate the whole pint. I’m not kidding. She was 2. So it was a great wake-up call for me to remember that we all have different palates. My daughter also loves calamari. I’ve had her at restaurants and she’s like [yells], “More calamari!” I mean, who would have thought that a 3-year-old would be into calamari? So yeah, we don’t give our kids enough credit. My daughter loves grilled cheese, but she also loves calamari.
Obviously your kids are at home in the kitchen. How about your husband?
No! He’s a disaster! He makes my life miserable whenever he tries. He’s like, “I’m going to make a chocolate cheesecake.” I’m like, “No, please. This means I’m going to be making a chocolate cheesecake for three hours!” [Laughs]
Common mom scenario: You’ve been running around for 95% of your day and come dinnertime, you’re exhausted. What’s one of your go-to dinners that you can whip up in 10 minutes or less?
That was me last night! I’m all about simple. Sometimes the fewer ingredients you use the better; the flavors come through. Broiling, grilling, I keep pesto in the refrigerator at all times ‘cause everything tastes better with pesto. People try to overthink it, but there’s nothing wrong with a baked potato or some rice with edamame and shrimp or whatever simple thing you like.
Besides pesto, what are a few of your other must-have pantry or fridge staples?
Almond or peanut butter, cream cheese, simple homemade tomato sauce. And I freeze everything; usually when I bake something I make two. I always keep raw cookie dough in the freezer; I make it into balls and put it into zipper bags so I can just make four or five cookies. You don’t want to have to bake fourteen dozen—and then eat them. Because you know how it is as the mom: The kids have two, you have 10.
This fall marks your fifth anniversary of weelicious.com. Did you ever imagine your blog would lead to where it has?
I still don’t know how we’ve gotten here! I didn’t know how to use a computer five years ago. It’s all been really exciting and fun.
So lastly, but very importantly: What’s your guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
Cookies and cream ice cream. That answer didn’t take anything more than two seconds. [Laughs] And popcorn. And I’m old school—I love a good old pb&j.
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