From Scratch Fast Families: The Glasscoes
I’m so THRILLED (!) to be introducing a new series called From Scratch Fast Families, where every couple of weeks I’ll be featuring a family that’s dedicated to making from-scratch meals, even in the face of hectic schedules. Putting fresh, wholesome food on the table is one of the best things we can do for the health of our bodies and of our families, but, as we all know, it ain’t always easy. I’ve found that I’m constantly picking my friends’ brains for weeknight meal ideas. How do they manage the (often dizzying) dinnertime tango? What are their routines, strategies and struggles? My hope is that by sharing other family’s schedules, tips and challenges, as well as one or two of their favorite weekday recipes, we can get inspired, grow our recipe repertoires, and/or at least feel as though we’re not alone in what can often feel like a struggle to feed our families well. It’s a way to learn from (and laugh with!) others, without judgment. I hope you’ll enjoy!
I’m delighted to introduce the first family—the Glasscoes. Jessica and her husband Dustin live in Charlotte, VT with their two daughters (they also happen to be some of my dearest friends). They have very full lives, but they’re committed to cooking fresh food for their family. Thank you Jess and Dustin for helping me to kick this off!
Tell me a bit about you and your family.
I’m Jess, my hubby is Dustin, and we have two wonderful little girls, Eloise (6) and Ada (4). Dustin and I met in college out in Colorado, and at the time he was a chef at my favorite restaurant. From the beginning our lives have very much been centered around eating great food together. We live in Vermont, where I currently work in marketing at Seventh Generation. Dustin has been busy building a company from the ground up since moving up here 7 years ago, called Vermont Farm Table. We also have a dog Moose, who is a German Short-haired Pointer, and goes everywhere we go!
Are there any picky eaters or food restrictions in the house?
I guess my kids are pretty good eaters, but I have high expectations too, so I wish they were more adventurous! We are not at the point where I can always put the food Dustin and I would like to eat in front of them and expect them to eat it (spicy curry! Soft shell crab sandwiches!), so we try to walk a middle line of either given them the same components of what we’re eating, but not all mixed together, or just super simple meals we can all enjoy.
Do you have an overall food philosophy?
I definitely subscribe to the belief that local, organic, whole foods are best, and steer away from packaged stuff. We shop at the natural foods store locally, and in the summer as much as possible at the farmer’s market. Vermont is the best for local food!
How do you plan your meals for the week? Do you plan ahead, or fly by the seat of your pants?
We have such a crazy mix, because I like to make a plan, but then I love to break the plans. So on the weekend, we usually shop as a family—we try to hang together as much as possible since we’re scattered during the week. I’ll shop based on the idea of the meals we will make, and then usually wing it when I get home from work, because it’s always a rush to get dinner on the table! I’m usually too ambitious when I plan the weekly menu, so I need to get better about planning meals I know are realistic to make at 5:30 with two starving girls!
Describe a typical morning in your household. What’s for breakfast?
Despite waking up earlier and earlier, mornings are always a rush of activity, so we feed the girls breakfast at our counter while we pack lunches and bags for the day. They are on a rotation of cereal (they love cereal despite all my efforts to convert them to superfood porridge and the like!), eggs-in-a-hole, or a scramble. Oatmeal in the winter. And Ada, my youngest love smoothies – all kinds. Dustin and I are often having a smoothie, which we started doing after a cleanse last year, and still love. We also do raw porridges with yogurt and berries, and in general more adventurous morning fare than what the girls gravitate towards. I try to be flexible and allow them to choose at breakfast.
What about lunch? Bagged lunch(es) or take-out?
Eloise eats school lunch, and we’re lucky to have a great program where they source local foods and most things are made from scratch. We pack Ada’s lunch, and we are on a constant rotation including hard-boiled eggs, hummus, raw veggies, cheese, wraps, and fruit. Simple stuff but all wholesome and good. Dustin and I go through waves where we’re super good about packing a lunch – and then other times, not! We like to do salads, quinoa bowls, or sandwiches.
What’s your dinner routine?
Our routine is to come home, settle in and put away all-the-stuff (so much stuff!). One tip I heard from someone that works, and is so brilliant, is to put veggies in front of the kids before dinner before they dive into other snacks that will fill them up. So I’ll immediately cut up some cucumber, carrot, peppers, or pears, and they gobble them up!
We always sit down and eat together at the table, so either Dustin or I will cook and the other hangs with the girls. We take turns since we both love to cook. We don’t have a ton of “standards” because we are often improvising, but in general we do tons of Mexican, because I find that it lends itself to “build your own” really well. Like all small people, my girls love pasta, so it’s in heavy rotation. Also, breakfast for dinner is a HUGE hit in our house. I try not to rely on it too much, but a waffle for dinner with a fried egg on top is a beautiful thing! My girls are meat-eaters and really love it, so we eat more meat than Dustin and I would otherwise, but it’s all locally sourced and good quality, so we feel pretty good about it.
What are some of your biggest challenges in getting dinner on the table? How often do you eat-in verses go out or pick up take-out?
We almost never get take-out, except for pizza on occasion, because we find our food is just better! And because we live in an area where there are pretty much zero options for take-out. I’d say my biggest challenge is mental! I often feel conflicted about bending to my girls’ eating preferences, vs. challenging them to eat more adventurously. The last thing I want is for our dinner table to be a battleground, and I don’t want to spend the entire dinner telling them to “try a bite!”, so over time I’ve softened a bit, and just try to put something on the table that will please everyone, so that they just have a good feeling about family dinner.
Where do you find your meal inspiration? What are some of your favorite cookbooks, websites or blogs?
I love trying new recipes and getting inspiration from lots of different sources! I have a big cookbook collection, but also love scouring the web for inspiration. In particular I love Food52, and of course, From Scratch Fast! I also have always had great luck with Food & Wine recipes, and many of my “standards” come from F&W. And cookbooks I love include Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day, and two new ones I love are Sprouted Kitchen’s “Bowl + Spoon”, and Amy Chaplin’s “At Home in the Whole Food’s Kitchen”.
Tell me about one of your family’s favorite weekday meals.
This is a recipe [see below] that originally came from Food & Wine, and I turn to it again and again, because it’s pasta perfection, and so easy. It’s got sweetness from the raisins, lots of garlicky greens, crunch from the pine nuts, and buttery, meaty goodness from the prosciutto. And again, it lends itself to being broken into components for picky eaters. I’ve also played around with tons of substitutions. Everything from GF pasta or polenta to subbing roasted butternut squash for the prosciutto. I really love this dish!
Pasta with Prosciutto, Spinach, Pine Nuts & Raisins
- ½ cup raisins
- ½ cup olive oil
- 6 garlic cloves , minced
- Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
- 10 ounces baby spinach (you could also use Swiss chard or kale, stemmed and chopped)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound shaped pasta , such as rotini, rotelle or farfalle (regular or gluten-free)
- 3-4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto , coarsely chopped
- ½ cup toasted pine nuts
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Cover the raisins with hot tap water and let sit while you cook the spinach.
- Pour the olive oil in a large skillet and add the minced garlic. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the garlic is irresistibly fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes and the spinach. Season with salt and pepper. Stir until the greens are wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Drain the raisins and stir them in.
- Once the water is boiling, cook the pasta to al dente according to the package directions. Drain and add the pasta to the pan with the spinach mixture (or, if your skillet isn’t large enough, dump everything back into the pot), along with the prosciutto, toasted pine nuts and grated Parmesan cheese. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve warm or at room temperature.