Browsing through “Prep + Rally,” a new cookbook that features an impressive repertoire of creative, family-friendly dishes — and a strategy for preparing them in the easiest way possible — I wish Dini Klein had written it there. years ago. I certainly could have used a guide like this when my adult children were young and – like so many moms and dads – I juggled between work, parenthood and the desire to put well-rounded dinners on the table, regardless of no matter how exhausted I am. could feel.
Until fairly recently, the struggle was real for Klein as well. After completing a two-month program at the Kosher Culinary Arts Center, she worked as a private chef for two families while raising her own little girls, who are now 6 and 8.
“I was coming home and I didn’t even want to see to eat, but my family was starving,” she told me. “I had to get creative and figure out how to cook for my own family as well. We were eating cereal!
Eventually, she figured out that if she placed one big grocery order a week and then spent about an hour on Sunday preparing a few substantial basics – a roast chicken (or two) and vegetables, for example, along with another protein, a cereal or two, and a variety of simple sauces and dressings, these staples could be turned during the workweek (that’s the “Rally” part) into any number of dishes quick and imaginative: tacos, salads, cereal bowls, sandwiches, scrambles and more.
“I was saving a ton of time, a ton of money, and it helped me get through the week stress-free,” Klein said. “My kids ate healthy and there was always something new they tried. I thought, ‘If it can work for me, it will work for other people.’ ”
Thus, the “Preparation + Rally » method was born. Klein created an online meal prep subscription service that provided members with weekly shopping lists, menus, recipes, and step-by-step instructions. She made Instagram live videos where she and her followers cooked the dishes together. (After a move to Los Angeles created a time zone issue, she began pre-recording and uploading the videos to YouTube.)
The book was the obvious next step. It contains 10 weekly kosher meal plans with names like “Spicy and Stew”, “One-Pan Heroes”, “Winter Cozies”, and “No Way It’s Veg”, each with a shopping list. Each comes with a shopping list, a group of “Prep” recipes to cook in about an hour one day a week, and “Rally” recipes that make quick and often inventive use of these staples.
There’s also a chapter called “Last Minute Scramble,” which has clever ways to turn eggs into a satisfying last-minute meal. Another is called “Sweets, Snacks and Everything Else” – it includes a recipe called “Dang good breakfast breadmade with an autumnal blend of carrots, applesauce and cinnamon — an obvious choice for the big holidays.
Intrigued by the “Prep + Rally” method and menus – although skeptical that some of them would only take an hour to prepare – I chose a meal plan called “Brekkie for Dinner” and I got to work.
In about an hour, I was supposed to make roast chicken with root vegetables, “hulk” green vegetable soup, cornbread, beef picadillo, soy brussels sprouts, pickled vegetables, the green goddess sauce and a mixture of eggs for the French toast. rally to produce later in the week with leftover cornbread.
I got all the ingredients and laid them out on trays – one for each of the “Prep” dishes – and set a timer to see how long the whole process took.
I think I may have chosen a particularly ambitious menu, especially since the chicken had to be sprinkled and I decided to slash it myself. (For spatchcock, it’s slicing the backbone off the chicken – i.e. fluttering it – so it lays flat on the roasting pan and therefore cooks faster than a regular whole chicken. I l ‘ve done several times before, but it still took eight minutes out of my precious hour.)
So how did it go?
After about an hour and a quarter I had a perfectly cooked and deliciously seasoned roast chicken and vegetables, a vibrant vegetable soup with lemon and dill, a tasty picadillo with capers and olives which I made with plant-based meat instead of beef, a lovely cornbread, and a dairy-free green goddess dressing that I want to brush on everything from now on.
I ran out of steam before I got to the Brussels sprouts, but they were easy enough to make during the week, as was the egg mixture for French toast. I already had homemade pickles in my fridge, so I skipped that recipe too.
There were lots of pots and pans and lots of food to keep in the fridge. I wish I had more counter space and a larger oven and refrigerator, but if I was still cooking regularly for a family of four, I probably would.
I had wondered if the directive to do everything in an hour would result in food that skimped on flavor, but everything tasted fantastic. Would I choose to cook my onions and garlic over low heat next time, to avoid burnt garlic? Yes. And I would definitely ask the butcher to prepare this chicken.
Even though prep recipes can take the average cook nearly an hour and a half to whip up on a Sunday, it’s so nice to have it all in the fridge, ready for a week of dinners. The root vegetable chicken with a side of Hulk soup was satisfying and cozy, and the chicken was excellent a few days later, turned into chicken salad at the green goddess corner.
The “beef” picadillo was terrific with the cornbread (the only thing I had to do that night was roast those soy Brussels sprouts), and the cornbread French toast with eggs and pickled vegetables was a fun and satisfying breakfast.
Leftover chicken could also be reused in several other “Rally” recipes from the book: Chicken and Broccoli Spring Rolls, Mexican-inspired Chicken Flautas, Ruffled Chicken Pita Pockets, California Chicken Salad, or Chicken and Rice.” Easy-Peasy”.
And while not every dish seems entirely kid-friendly, every menu is adaptable.
“I always vouch for a meal for the whole family, with little tweaks to make it work for everyone,” Klein said. “And DIY-style dinners – that’s a really good way to do it. You decide ‘it’s the taco toppings’, but you get to choose how you want to eat it. Kids think they’re the master words , but you dictated what’s for dinner, and they can choose how they enjoy it, they make those decisions but they eat your dinner.
Involving children in the preparation or assembly is a great way to build confident and happy eaters, she added.
And for readers who might lack confidence in the kitchen, Klein offered this approach: “The first time you do it, it might seem a little daunting and scary, so you might be doing two things rather than all of them. There are no rules. Our job is to keep tiny humans alive, to get through life and to do our best.
The goal, she added, is to get through the week as smoothly as possible. “So make those changes, make it work for you, and have fun in the process.”