I’ve stopped actually saying these words out loud, “this is going to be the best school year ever”, but I still secretly think them. And every year I start planning for making it the best school year ever by looking at books from the library that will help me to better organize our home or cook the perfect meals and snacks that will help to tamp down the chaos. This year we will have two kids in high school so you would think that I have either pulled my act together by now or raised the white flag and given up. I have not. Every July I begin again with fresh enthusiasm and new books – I just don’t say the words aloud any longer as I have teens at home and they make fun of me.
Although I didn’t use this book for planning for the new school year it did turn out to be a real treat to have at home over the summer. When the kids were just hanging around it was nice to have this one on the kitchen counter for them to flip through. They never did grab a cutting board and try any of the more ambitious chicken recipes but the ones that involved ingredients we have in the pantry or fridge were popular, like DIY Hummus (so much less expensive and delicious than the one from the grocery store) and the variations on plain cheese quesadillas. It also inspired them to request a few trips to the store for meals that we hadn’t tried before which is what I always ache for – someone please suggest something new for dinner. This kind of inspiration for a quick and easy meal can come in handy during the busy school season. A book like this looks like it is made for kids but it can be a perfect choice for anyone. Give it a try. We loved it – maybe your kids will use it too. Or just look at it for a few minutes and give you some moments of peace while you are cooking.
Some years I have become too caught up in making a system out of the back-to-school planning and that has been my downfall. Well, one of the things that led to my downfall. There are several problems in trying to make it the best school year ever and one is taking the fun out of it. In times of trouble like this it is always a good idea to turn to Jenny Rosenstratch, blogger and author of three lovely books about food and life. Her most recent book, How to celebrate everything, reminds us that there are little moments to treasure in the busy days of getting meals on the table, even on Thanksgiving. She also gives great tips on how to cope with all of the regular events that come at you in a school year – bake sales, Halloween, sleepovers, birthday parties and making the perfect celebration cake. Jenny’s book will give you the inspiration to cook beautifully when you can manage it, love your family, enjoy your home and sneak in a few treats once in a while. And, she reminds everyone to give yourself a break during the school year so you can rest easy with less pangs about what might have been. Good-bye guilt! Oh, and if you are having trouble sleeping any night, just turn down the brightness on your device and spend some time with Jenny on her site right here – http://www.dinneralovestory.com
Speaking of great sites you might want to puruse here is a sensational Canadian one to love. The Sweet Potato Chronicles authors (former magazine editors) have spectacular images and recipes on their site and came out with a cookbook in 2013 that just rocked my world. I can’t keep track of the times I have checked out this cute cookbook with the image of a little plastic giraffe toy on the cover. Well, just in time for the 2017-2018 school year they have given us their version of a best school year ever cheat sheet. It is a little thin on the planning side of things but it more than makes up for it in valuable recipe suggestions broken into sections that work for most families – breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and treats. Within those sections they have been sensible enough to know that every family has challenges in a busy week so they include make-ahead meals. Snacks are broken into two sections – one that can be enjoyed at school another for those that need to be enjoyed at home where food allergens are not a concern. However, their Chocolate snack balls are incredible, look like Timbits but are filled with pumpkin seeds, dried apricots, sunflower seeds, oh my. Not a nut in sight so eat them at home and at school. It’s a colourful cookbook with practical suggestions that are relevant to the Canadian market. I just love it. They might be a little impractical in suggesting that we will all clean out our pantries and replace the containers with lovely matching jars but they are magazine editors so we can forgive them for thinking that we might ever find that possible. I am trying to get through a school year here, I don’t have time to find matching jars.
One simply gorgeous book I found when I was trying to streamline our planning for the ‘new year’ is this 2017 release from a former recipe tester from Saveur magazine. Personally, I would like to be a taster at Saveur, but I don’t think that is a real job and I looked very carefully at their web site just to be sure. In any case she has put her skills to good use in One pan and done : hassle-free meals from the oven to your table and the title does not lie. She provides some of the best instructions I have ever seen and, something I rarely see in cookbooks, she does this with a fantastic sense of humour. The recipes are diverse, from cozy classics to things you would see in a hipster café, but she admits that some of the things she has included weren’t popular with her family at first or that she had to tweak them as she went to make them more family-friendly. This sounds familiar. We have made several of the meals in this book – including the cover recipe – and, they looked nothing like the pictures but were so popular at our house that I have actually written them onto recipe cards so that I can make them again. Just imagine. This doesn’t have the cachet of being a book marketed to families – there are no toys displayed on the cover – but it will make the cook in the family happy and save you time. That makes everyone happier, I think.
Okay, I’ve changed my mind. I’ve read some fantastic books, I’ve made some good plans, sourced some new ingredients, tried many great recipes and I have the weight of hundreds more on the shelves to back me up. I’m saying it – this is going to be the “best school year ever”.