A longtime filmmaker and environmental activist (she produced the Academy Award–winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth), Laurie David is now on a crusade to change the way America eats. A lofty goal, for sure, but after revamping the way her own family approached food, she’s primed to share her practical yet sly spin on healthier home cooking (sample recipe: Roasted Cauliflower “Popcorn”). A few years back, she coauthored The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids One Meal at a Time, cookbook that combined recipes with advice on how to establish a regular and semi-sane dinner routine. She’s now followed that up with her new book, The Family Cooks: 100+ Recipes to Get Your Family Craving Food That’s Simple, Tasty, and Incredibly Good for You, out this week. David also tackles the issue of childhood obesity in her new documentary, Fed Up, co-produced with Katie Couric and slated for release on May 9th.
What are your favorite quick meals?
First of all, I think we need to ease up on what we think a “meal” needs to be. A great bowl of soup and a salad is a meal. Some scrambled eggs with a handful of kale thrown in is a meal. A sweet potato, salad and veggies with hummus is a meal. And when you do make a more involved dish, double or triple the recipe so that you have leftovers you can freeze and pull out another night.
What are some ways to make home cooking easier?
Once a week, on a day when you do have some time, prep a bunch of ingredients that you can use to create quick meals all week long. Peel and chop veggies. Wash salad greens. Cook a pot of quinoa and other grains. Hard boil a dozen eggs. Peel some garlic and onions. Make a jar of salad dressing. Also, don’t think you have to do it all yourself. Divvy up the shopping, prepping and cooking so that everyone in the household is involved and responsible for something.
What do you think the secret is to getting kids to eat — and enjoy — healthy food?
Get them involved and model healthy eating day after day. One of our primary jobs as parents is to teach our kids how to eat, and we’ve been outsourcing that job to corporations. Even little kids can help prepare meals — picking out colorful vegetables, ripping up parsley, stirring, setting the table. I am grateful that I figured this out in time to raise my kids this way. Now they crave healthy food. I feel good that I’ve armed my kids [who are now 18 and 20] to go into the world and pursue healthy eating.
What are the biggest misconceptions about cooking?
That it’s hard and that it takes too long. Neither is true, but we’ve been brainwashed for years by advertising to think that way.
Roasted Cauliflower Popcorn from The Family Cooks by Laurie David
Makes 4 servings
PREP TIME: 10 minutes ROASTING TIME: 30 minutes
A much healthier snack for movie night … or served on the side of weekday roasted chicken. Our advice: Double this recipe as it is likely to disappear before it makes it to the table.
1 large head cauliflower, cored and florets pulled apart into popcorn-size pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the baking sheet
1½ teaspoons salt
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. with the rack in the middle. Grease a rimmed baking sheet with a thin coat of olive oil.
Toss the cauliflower with the olive oil and salt in a large bowl, making sure that every “kernel” is evenly coated. Taste the raw cauliflower. It’s already pretty good isn’t it?
Dump the cauliflower onto the baking sheet. Roast, shaking the pan every 10 minutes, until the “kernels” are evenly browned, about 30 minutes. Taste (the cook gets all the crispy golden bits) and season with more salt if you need to.
When roasting anything, whether it is a vegetable or meat, a thin coating of oil conducts heat evenly, helping to brown and crisp, instead of shrink and wilt. It doesn’t take much, just an even coating. Roast a few cauliflower bites unoiled just so you can see the difference.
Play with it
* Before roasting, add a little chopped rosemary or parsley, or toss with grated Parmesan cheese.
* After roasting, for an Asian flair, toss with fish sauce, garlic, mint and lime juice.
Kids in charge
* Separate the cauliflower into “popcorn kernels.”
* Toss with olive oil and salt and any other additions.
* Be the official raw cauliflower cruncher.
Sally Wadyka is a Boulder, Colorado-based journalist who writes about nutrition, health and wellness.
Photos by Quentin Bacon