Get to Know Melissa d’Arabian

Melissa

Years ago, you posted a tutorial video for homemade yogurt. Did you ever think it would eventually lead to your own television show?

 After having four daughters in three years, I changed paths from working in corporate strategy and finance to focus on being a stay-at-home mom. Living in Texas at the time with four babies, I quickly realized I was hardwired to streamline my family’s expenses (just like my mom had to do when I was growing up). I began sharing my tips and ideas with local groups of moms, and the homemade yogurt I made in my hot Texas garage – a strategy that saved us over $1,000 a year at the time – was a clear favorite. I decided to make the video in order to share the technique with more people. I then submitted it online for “The Next Food Network Star” season 5 auditions (in 2008). It’s been a true joy to share my recipes, strategies and tips with Food Network and Cooking Channel viewers.  (And as for the yogurt recipe…it now appears in my Ten Dollar Dinners cookbook  and was also the subject of a Food Network Magazine feature.)

With four children, how do you find ways to prepare meals that everyone in your family can enjoy?

With a big family, we have a variety of tastes and preferences.  Still, I serve one meal for dinner (always including two vegetables so the girls have a choice – “Would you like the spinach or carrots, or both?”) that deliver on being both delicious and nutritious for the whole family. My husband and I both love spicy food, so we may adjust certain spices or seasonings especially when serving ethnic cuisines. We use our meals as a time to have the girls be part of the food conversation and develop a healthy understanding of what different ingredients offer us – each night one daughter presents the meal by sharing in simple terms what each dish is, its main ingredients and the functions of those ingredients (e.g., chicken is a protein and helps build muscle).  Also, I always serve at least one healthy food that I know the kids like, sort of my insurance policy against picky eaters.  For instance, I can always put out a basket of whole grain rolls and know that if someone eats only rolls and milk, she will be fine for one meal.  Lastly, dinner is about more than just the food for us.  It’s about sharing and connecting with the family, and hearing about the day’s highs and lows for everyone.  So even if we do a quickie dinner, such as an omelet and salad, we still sit down as we would for any dinner and connect.

Where are your favorite places to shop for food? (ie. farmer’s markets, grocery stores, specialty food shops, etc…)

I do the majority of my shopping at grocery stores and also at warehouse clubs where I can implement the many savings strategies I share on my show and in my book – everything from making smart splurges in the produce aisle, using the bulk aisle in surprising ways for both large and small quantities, stocking up on (and then freezing) the loss leaders (proteins on sale for 50-75% off to get shoppers in the door), taking advantage of manager’s specials especially on dairy and bread.  Farmer’s markets are wonderful for fresh and local produce, and I just love when we go as a family; it’s a fun, relaxed and educational outing (and much cheaper than going to the movies as a family these days!).

Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 12.03.41 PM

Describe a typical dinner at the d’Arabian household.

If it’s a rushed Tuesday night, I will likely be the one in charge of getting dinner on the table. On nights when we have more time (or just as a separate activity altogether), the girls love to help in various ways (making salad, measuring out ingredients, cracking eggs, breading, etc.). You would find us eating the very same recipes I share on my show and in my book, or perhaps some new recipes I am testing for upcoming projects – my family has become my focus group of official taste testers. One of the girls presents the meal (as I mentioned above) and we enjoy being together. I think just simply being around the table together as a family is so important. Whether you ordered in pizza or cooked a lavish meal, sharing the time together at the table is beneficial for myriad reasons.

What’s your favorite part of preparing meals for your family?

It’s simple: Creating positive and happy memories for my girls to look back on while nourishing and respecting our bodies with satisfying delicious food.

Any tips for parents who struggle to get their kids to eat healthy?

I have four girls (8, 7, 5 and 5) and I believe in developing their palettes while also laying the groundwork for them to have an overall healthy relationship with food. So, I have lots of tips – ranging from how to get them involved, how to encourage them to try new ingredients, and beyond. Here’s a recent write up I did on Cooking Channel’s Devour blog that highlights some of my favorites.

Do you have any guilty pleasures when it comes to food? (It’s okay, you can tell us…)

Of course, I love to indulge in sweet treats here and there (enter the entire dessert chapter of my book!). I will say that I just love a piece of super dark chocolate with an espresso – my favorite combination. When it comes to savory and comforting, I can’t resist my famous Potato Bacon Torte.

I hope you and your readers will stay in touch with me through Facebook (www.facebook.com/darabianmelissa), Twitter (@melissadarabian), and my website www.melissadarabian.net

4 Ways to Chambray

Chambray is a fashion staple these days; you can pair it with just about anything. Taking a cue from this fashion trend, I thought I would try to style our chambray sheets in 4 different ways. Naturally a more masculine fabric, it seemed more challenging to try it for girl’s rooms.

Crisp & Clean

I love the elegance and simplicity of this outfit with the pop of yellow and hints of white and gold.

Yellow

Inspiration, Sheets, Storage Bin, Bed, Lamp

Soft & Dreamy

These neutral colors mix well with voluminous and feminine pieces, for an ethereal and magical feel.

Fluffy

Inspiration, Sheets, Pillow, Duvet, Poster

Graphic Floral

For a little more pow, these graphic patterns have a slightly bohemian quality.

Floral

Inspiration, Sheets, Pendant, Pillow, Zebra

Casual Luxe

Laid back with a modern edge, these pieces contrast between soft and hard.

Sweatshirt

Inspiration, Sheets, Blanket, Lamp, Pillow

Which is your favorite look?

By Anna Passadori

Anna develops and designs exclusive product for The Land of Nod. She hails from the west coast and has traveled the world to source product. She loves anything Marc Jacobs, Sofia Coppola or stripes! (So, if anyone can get a photo of Sofia Coppola wearing a striped outfit by Marc Jacobs, please send it along.

Candy Bracelets

Here's a little Valentine's Day project for you to do with your kiddos – friendship bracelets made from AirHeads candy

C1

I bet you didn't know you could braid AirHeads candy! The candy actually makes for a really cool crafting material that you can cut out shapes from, bend, stretch, you name it. This friendship bracelet would be a fun Valentine's gift to make for friends. The one I made for my 3 year old was a big hit, although it didn't last long on her wrist before it was gobbled up!

C2

Making them is really simple – all you need are some AirHeads candies, kitchen shears, and some cute tags. I was able to make two bracelets out of the 3 AirHeads below (I used a cherry, white mystery, and pink lemonade):

C3

How to Make Candy Bracelets

C4

1. Wash your hands! Then unwrap the AirHeads and stretch them out slightly (like pulling taffy) to make each of the three pieces fairly even in their thickness and length.

2. Using kitchen shears, cut each AirHead into four pieces (you will need two pieces of each color to make one bracelet).

3. Take two pieces of the same color and press their ends together to make one long piece. The pressure from your fingers will be enough to soften the AirHeads and make them stick to each other without needing any other type of adhesive! See below:

C5

4. Now for the best part! Once you have your 3 long pieces, you can start to braid. First take your 3 long pieces and press them together at the top. Similar to the last step, they will easily hold together just from the pressure of your fingers:

C6

Braid the pieces together, folding the top piece over as you braid. If you know how to do a simple braid, you can do this easy peasy!

C7

Finally, tie on a cute little note and package it up in an airtight plastic bag. I wouldn't make these more than a day before you plan on giving them to friends, so they stay at their freshest.

C8

P.S. I made these bracelets to enter an AirHead's Valentine's Day contest. They were one of the great sponsors at Alt Summit. You can check out (and vote!) for my entry and all the others on their Facebook page!

Post by Haeley : Design Improvised

Simple Shrimp Tacos

Audreys-shrimp-tacos

Shrimp Tacos are a staple at our house – a fast weekday dinner that is sure to please even the picky eaters. I always have a bag of frozen shrimp in the freezer and a pack of tortillas. We quickly fry up the shrimp with some oil, garlic and cumin – maybe a dash of chilli if we want a little extra spice.

I then season some sour cream or plain yogurt with cumin and lime juice. A little shredded cabbage for some crunch, coriander and avocado if you like, and a squeeze of lime – you’re set. The best part of this meal is that we assemble everything at the table – the kids love adding all the things they love to their tortilla – sometimes even a bit of shredded cheese will sneak into their serving.

PS: I find the store bought tortillas taste best if I warm them up straight on the gas burner flame – just enough so they blister.

Post by Giulia Doyle : Audrey's