Katie's style of cooking is forgiving, customizable, flexible, and resourceful. By planning ahead but being adaptable, making one meal for the whole family but being able to allow different versions to coexist, these dinner solutions make it possible to get dinner on the table every night.
1) Fork in the Road
You can make a recipe up to a single point and then separate it. Part of the recipe can get spiced up and more robustly flavored and part can stay simple and mild, or part can remain vegetarian while the rest gets added meat. The cook is still just making one recipe, so they don't feel like a short order cook, but different versions meet different people's needs. For example, Katie's chili base allows you to make a chicken vegetable chili and a vegetarian chili simultaneously.
2) Get Comfortable in the Kitchen
Many recipes have an element that kids can participate in, giving them ownership over dinner and getting kitchen skills along the way. When kids are involved in cooking, they're more inclined to try something because they can take pride in their work. Getting to participate in choices about dinner is empowering. Cooking and recipes also teach skills like math, reading, organization, and cooperation.
3) Prep Your Week
Take time Sunday afternoon to do things like mince onions, garlic, and shallots; juice and zest lemons; chop parsley, and more prep work that will serve you throughout the week. You'll save time when you really need it: at the end of a long day when it's challenging to get dinner on the table.
4) One-Dish Wonders
A stockpot, skillet, or sheet pan are all great tools to make dinner without filling the sink with dishes.
5) Don't Let Anything Stand Between You and Dinner
Most recipes are templates. Shortcuts and substitutions are OK! If you don't have time to make toasted tortilla strips for Katie's Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup, swap in tortilla chips. If you don't have broccoli for a pasta dish, try zucchini. Give yourself flexibility to make do, letting go of the factors that stand between you and making dinner. If a shortcut or substitution will allow you to make dinner instead or ordering takeout, celebrate that!
6) Make Ahead Holidays
When you're cooking for a crowd or entertaining, don't save too many tasks for the "last minute"—you only get one! Mince or chop garnishes and put them in the fridge ahead of time. Dishes like mashed potatoes and mashed potato casserole, butternut squash, and many vegetables can be made ahead and reheated. Don't stress too much about getting everything piping hot at the same time. By the time everyone fills their plates, everything will be warm and still delicious.
Check out Dinner Solved!: 100 Ingenious Recipes That Make the Whole Family Happy, Including You! for more of Katie's tips, tricks, and recipes. And we also have two bonus recipes from the cookbook: Stupid Easy Chicken and Broccoli Pasta and Mexican Tortilla Chicken Soup.
Photo courtesy of Todd Coleman.