“Feeding a Family, A Real-Life Plan for Making Dinner Work.” By Sarah Waldman. Roost Books. $29.95.

It’s the busy parent’s quandary, unfolding several times a week: Rule No. 1: Fix healthy meals for the kids. Reality No. 1: Amid kid chaos, it’s easier to just throw together stuff from the fridge or heat up something from the freezer.

This is how I’ve ended up with more than a few fish stick or omelet dinners and even peanut-butter waffle sandwiches (I’m not proud of that moment!) with a side of cucumber slices or corn. They aren’t the worst meals ever, but not exactly the kind of meal I want my kids to grow up on.

Sarah Waldman knows what I’m talking about. That’s why she penned a cookbook with a parent-friendly approach in “Feeding a Family, A Real-Life Plan for Making Dinner Work.”

She starts out with the premise that pulling together a home-cooked healthy family meals can be tough, so the cookbook is organized with suggested meals, broken down by seasons.

It’s a simple format – 10 “meals” per season with each meal having two main items and sometimes a suggested dessert. Each meal unfolds like a novella: a picture of the entire meal, beautifully plated; a description of why Waldman picked that recipe, the recipes themselves, each with helpful “for baby” and “tomorrow’s dinner” suggestions. “For baby” is a variation on the recipe that works for the youngest eaters, and while most simply suggest pureeing or dicing the food, it’s a great reminder for parents that they don’t have to overthink what to feed baby – just a less spicy, smoother/smaller version of what’s on mom and dad’s plate!

The “tomorrow’s dinner” is another great feature. I made a sesame noodle dish that was lovely the first day – and turned it into the base for a miso soba noodle soup the next day (adding fresh tofu), and it didn’t feel like leftovers – more like an entirely new dish.

As for organizing the meals around the seasons – this worked for me, particularly because our Maine seasons are quite pronounced. I want to hover over a stove in the winter, making a chicken tortilla soup, or a one-skillet chicken with barley, chard and mushrooms. But come summer, we’re rolling in from a day at the beach, a bit tired and still battling 90-degree temperatures in the house. No stoves for me! I’ll gladly decamp to the backyard, to grill pizza or zucchini, beef, and halloumi cheese skewers with chimichurri sauce and serve up berry-based desserts.

Another great feature in the cookbook is the “kids can” note on each recipe. It suggests how the kids can help prepare the meal, from smashing a fritter mixture with a potato masher to skewering tuna for the grill.

It should be obvious by now that I really liked this cookbook, which is clearly geared for the novice or someone looking for a practical, not a challenging cookbook. The cookbook itself is a pleasure to peruse, with an understated style. The layout and presentation of the recipes is unfussy and crisp, with lots of white space for notes and maybe a smear of blueberry from an eager helper eventually.

Yet it was a completely approachable elegance: I felt like I was flipping through a good home cook’s old-fashioned recipe box, with helpful handwritten notes off in the margins about possible substitutions or next-day uses. It has a forgiving tone – a recipe for grilled flatbread pizza notes that “yes, sometimes my kids just eat grilled pizza dough and pass on all the colorful vegetable additions, but such is life”– and a best-friend vibe that comes across in the introduction to a recipe for slow cooker gyros: “This is the dinner for your busiest night of the week ….”

I pulled together the sesame noodle and tuna dinner at the end of a long, lazy summer Sunday, urging two kids into showers, fixing a broken fishing pole and doing a load of laundry. Because that’s what a normal day looks like for a lot of us.

And the meal delivered – easy to put together, healthy, and a hit with the family. The leftovers delivered too, twice: as lunch for three kids headed off to day camp, and soup for dinner.

Now I have no excuse for not keeping the waffles in the freezer, even on a busy night.


Serves 4 to 6

Two (8.8-ounce) packages soba noodles

2 tablespoons canola oil, divided

2 bunches bok choy, trimmed and sliced into thin ribbons

1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, thinly sliced

¼ cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon honey

2 garlic cloves, shaved on a microplane

11/2-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and shaved on a microplane

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

4 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced

Toppings optional: sesame seeds, sriracha sauce

Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Boil the soba noodles for 5 minutes or until tender, then drain them and set aside.

While you wait for the water to boil, heat 1 tablespoon of the canola oil in a medium saute pan set over medium-high heat. Cook the bok choy and pepper, stirring constantly, until wilted and slightly charred, 5 to 7 minutes. Turn off the heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, honey, garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of canola oil. Add the warm noodles to the bowl and toss well. Top the noodles with the vegetables, sliced scallions and sesame seeds, if using. Serve with sriracha sauce and cilantro-lime grilled tuna.


If you’re not a big fan of cilantro, fresh basil works well, too.

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Juice of 2 limes

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1½ pounds sushi-grade tuna, cut into 1-inch cubes

4-6 wooden skewers, soaked in water for at least 10 minutes

In a shallow dish, whisk together the oil, cilantro, lime juice, a big pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.

Add in the tuna cubes and toss gently to coat the fish on all sides. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour. You don’t want to leave the tuna in the marinade too long, as the acid in the lime juice will start to “cook” the fish.

Skewer fish, tightly packing skewers. Reserve remaining marinade in the container.

Put the skewers on the grill and brush them with some of the reserved marinade. Grill the skewers for 2 minutes, then flip them, brush them with more marinade, and grill for another 2 minutes. The outside of the fish should have deep grill marks, while the inside should still be pink and rare.

Remove the skewers from the heat and brush them one last time with more of the reserved marinade, then serve.

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