7 Tips For Easily Building Traditional Food Meals
7 Tips For Easily Building Traditional Food Meals
Meal-building is a lost art. We live in a culture of recipes, of formulas, of long lists of instructions.
There’s a place for recipes, of course. Laurie and I both have favorite recipes posted on our cupboards that we turn to every week.
But those recipes, beloved as they are, are merely accents, because we’ve learned that putting food on the table can be a far, far simpler process than the Food Channel would have us believe. You don’t need a recipe. And you don’t always need a plan.
As long as you have good ingredients ready and waiting, you can put good food in front of your family. It’s really not hard. It just takes a little creativity, a little bravery, and a willingness to laugh along the way. (If you’ve watched the video above, you’ve gotten a pretty good example of what we mean.)
For those of you who are new to this concept, though, we recognize that this change of mindset can be quite a shift.
So here are our best tips for building meals with the kitchen magnet.
Jamie’s Tips for Building Traditional Food Meals
1) Focus on your pantry first.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but this is the heart of everything. Start with the magnet. Fill your fridge and pantry with good ingredients.
What you have in your house is what your family will eat (unless you’ve given your five year old grocery shopping privileges).
Plus, as with so many other good ventures in life, getting started is much more than half the battle. The very act of filling your kitchen with good, life-giving foods, of taking the first step, builds momentum for your whole project.
2) Serve what your family already likes…with real food ingredients.
The ease of your table transformation is directly connected to your family’s enjoyment at the table. While a period of transition is expected and natural, you’ll find a lot more enthusiasm from those you love if you recognize your family’s likes and shamelessly cater to them. A husband who is hopelessly devoted to pizza will find it difficult to smile when Flax Seed and Chicken Foot Quiche suddenly appears on the dinner table, no matter how loving he is.
(Don’t worry. That’s not a real recipe.)
Instead, cook up a quick batch of rice in bone broth, throw on the best tomato sauce you can find, add seasoned meat, raw milk cheese, and any other pizza toppings he loves. Sprinkle on some oregano, basil, and parsley. Quick pizza rice. No recipe needed.
If your family loves tacos, those can be easily created with magnet ingredients. Fry up some of the best ground beef you can find with chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Throw it on rice (as above) or non-GMO corn chips or high quality tortillas. Top with other magnet ingredients. If you’re feeling adventurous, Google up “enchilada sauce broth” to find directions to make a delicious topping sauce out of…bone broth.
3) Keep things simple.
Modern culture has made a religion out of complexity. The more complex the toy, the better the birthday gift. The fancier the phone, the greater the happiness. The more difficult the meal is to prepare, the more you love your family.
All of these statements are false. And the idea behind them has been sold to you by advertisers, who are more interested in your wallet than your well-being.
The truth is that a simple, delicious meal with a few ingredients which your family loves is nothing to be ashamed of.
Serving your children the same three lunches in alternation is nothing to be ashamed of. (Ask yourself: when do children get upset? When you give them food that they know and love or when they receive food that is brand new and strange?)
Don’t be afraid of simplicity.
4) Use broth as a base.
A very practical tip: broth is the first building block we teach in our Table Transformation Course for a reason. It’s the basis of everything. It aids digestion, provides vital nutrients and minerals, and heals the body.
Luckily, as chefs and food writers will tell you, it’s also long been the foundation of culinary excellence.
So make broth your base. Use broth as your cooking fluid for rice, beans, and grains. Make it into gravies and cream soups. Add splashes of it to your favorite casseroles for a burst of both flavor and minerals.
In a pinch? Just heat broth up, throw in an egg and a quality soy sauce for egg drop soup.
In short, if you’re stuck, start with broth. Then add some other magnet ingredients and see what happens.
5) Experiment boldly.
Making a healing table for your family is not difficult. But it’s also not for the faint of heart, and the fear of making mistakes can paralyze even the hardiest of kitchen adventurers.
So banish that fear.
Recognize that, in learning this new skill of magnet meal building, you’re bound to go down some inedible (and probably hilarious) rabbit trails. In my house, we call such experiments “field food” and, believe me, I have fed many a wild animal with my attempts gone wrong.
As Thomas Edison wittily commented upon his umpteenth non-functioning lightbulb, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Don’t worry about “failed attempts.” Just laugh, take a deep breath, and learn from the experience. Keep trying ways that won’t work, and eventually you’ll find something that does. And then you’ll find another something that does.
6) Repeat what works.
Once you find something that works, something that your family loves, don’t be afraid to do that something over and over again.
Years ago, I finally perfected my method for making refried beans. My family scraped their plates and the angels sang.
I’ve made those refried beans over and over and over again. I’ve served them several days in a row and in several meals in a row. I’ve served refried beans every possible way one can eat refried beans.
The number of times I’ve changed the recipe: 0
The number of times my family has complained: 0
Moral of the story? Just as you shouldn’t be scared of experimenting, there’s also no shame in repetition.
If you find something that makes everyone in your family smile, hold on to that! It is a treasure. And if you serve those special family-approved pancakes every Saturday, that doesn’t mean you’re a boring cook. It means you’re creating a beautiful tradition for your family.
7) Aim to find 3-5 traditional food meals for your staple healing foods.
It’s easy to feel like being a “traditional cook” is an insurmountably high mountain, but the truth is…it’s much easier than you think.
All you need is a few meals for each food. And this will happen pretty much automatically!
As you experiment with magnet meal building and repeat your successes, you’ll start to collect a number of “home runs”: healing, delicious, traditional food meals that please everyone in your family and that you feel good about putting on the table.
As your successes accumulate, you can do what I’ve done: just collect about three recipes for each healing food. Three recipes for yogurt, five ways to serve chicken, four of your uses for broth…you get the idea.
Once you get your list together…that’s really all you need. Sure, on days when you have more time and energy, you can always try something new! But as soon as you have your list of favorite meals, you know that you can feed your family well with any food that you have in your pantry.
I don’t know about you, but to me, that doesn’t feel like boring…that feels like freedom.
As you begin your journey into magnet meal building, remember that every family is different. Your goal is not to copy us, but to create a peaceful, healing table where your family gathers to feel warm, welcome, and loved.
So take whatever tips help you, and leave the rest. Your table is going to look different from mine. It’s going to look different from your neighbour’s. It may look different from how you envision it now. And that is more than okay — that is a beautiful thing.
Enjoy the journey,