The goal of Cuizoo is to get parents back in the kitchen — and to do so in a way that makes families develop an appreciation for real food. I have always loved to cook, but my daughter’s serious food allergy diagnosis changed my level of cooking from “this is fun” to “this is necessary for her to survive.” When you have to make everything from scratch in order to feed your baby, you learn very quickly. And this is what I found out: Cooking isn’t hard. And cooking from scratch isn’t hard. Like anything, it just takes a desire to do it, some time, and some practice. And there is an easy motivator: good food. If you like good food, you are on the road to becoming a good cook.

What I have found over the years is that most people complain they don’t have time to cook. And I get it. I have worked full time with a family and it is hard. There are many nights now when I bail on a dinner plan and we go out or order in. You are human and there are some days when it is just not happening. But I’ve timed it many times myself and simple meals are usually faster than takeout. If you have a decent meal plan and ingredients on hand, you can have food on the table faster than it takes your kids to figure out what they want from the takeout menu. And much of it can be done while multi-tasking.

We also know that sitting down for a family meal offers many benefits. In general, meals cooked at home are healthier and cheaper. You consume fewer calories and less sodium when you cook at home because portion sizes are normal and you are using fewer additives. If your house likes organic or locally-farmed foods or is vegetarian/vegan, you can choose those dishes and ingredients at home much more easily than you can at a restaurant. But beyond the nutrition and financial reasons, food at home tastes better once you learn the basics.

So, the goal is this. Get into your kitchen. Plan 3-5 meals for the week and have those ingredients on hand. Keep the menus simple enough to be manageable during the week. When you have more time on your hands, create weekend and holiday food traditions that your family will look back on with warm and fuzzy feelings. Cook with your kids when they are young (and beyond). Teach them to appreciate unique flavors and textures from the earliest ages. Let them taste a farmer’s market tomato at the peak of ripeness in the summer. They will be less picky because of it. I can guarantee that, but you need to start early. If I had only ever tasted a rock-hard grocery store tomato, I would probably say that I hate them too. Feed them cooked or veggie sushi rolls when they are toddlers. Use seasonings and herbs and all types of vegetables. Make them understand that macaroni and cheese doesn’t have to come out of a box.

And here’s where I become a little annoying: feed your children the exact same thing that you are eating in almost all cases. Don’t fall into the trap that kids only eat chicken nuggets and french fries. Of course there are cases of very picky eaters and certainly food allergy kids who might need their own meals. But there is no reason kids have to eat from a kids menu and the majority can eat a varied diet with a little persistence. It doesn’t happen overnight. But they will never learn to appreciate more interesting flavors and textures if you don’t expose them from the time they are eating table food.

Cooking for a family can be stressful and chaotic, or it can be a cathartic and relaxing way to end the day. I choose the latter. Pour yourself a glass of wine and give it a try.  You are shaping a lifetime of eating habits for your children.

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