(BPT) - Increasingly hectic lives make at-home meal preparation more challenging than ever, but it's still important. If you feel like your family life has never been busier, you're not alone. According to a recent survey, 58 percent of parents say their life is more hectic than a year ago, and having a long to-do list can cut into their mealtime.
Jenny Rosenstrach is a working mother of two and the author of 'Dinner: A Love Story.' Through her blog of the same name, she hears about mealtime barriers from thousands of time-strapped parents a month. Now, Rosenstrach has partnered with Barilla to offer tips on how to put a quick, home-cooked and crowd-pleasing dinner on the table, even on the busiest of nights.
Make a plan, stock your pantry
A fully stocked pantry is the best way to ensure you have plenty of options come meal time. In fact, 59 percent of people say having ingredients on-hand is the most important. Make a list of essential ingredients - box of pasta, jar of pasta sauce, extra virgin olive oil, fresh vegetables and a good hunk of real Parmigiano-Reggiano - then hit the store. There's no better strategy for making dinner happen than to be armed with everything you need.
Please everyone at the table
It's important not to get discouraged if you have a picky eater. Rosenstrach suggests bringing the kids grocery shopping and letting them help select things for dinner. 'They'll be more invested when it's time to sit down and eat,' she says. Also, as often as possible, she tries to expose her daughters to something new - calling this 'flexing their adventure muscles.'
A delicious home-cooked meal is a spaghetti strand away
There is no such thing as too many pasta shapes when you have kids. From ziti to farfalle (or bowties) to shells, ditalini, rigatoni and penne, the pasta possibilities are endless. Have some fun and let your kids choose a different shape each week. It's a task her 9-year-old takes very seriously.
Be a multitasking master
When making pasta add your fresh or frozen vegetables during the last few minutes the pasta is boiling and there you have it, one less pot to clean. While cleaning up, always make sure the leftovers go right into the lunchbox. That way, one more thing on the to-do list is taken care of and you don't have to think about it in the morning.
Visit www.Barilla.com/modernfamilycookbook to download your free copy of the cookbook filled with extra recipes and tips from Jenny, and view the results from the survey.
Barilla Lemon Spaghetti
Serves: 4 to 6
1 pound Barilla Spaghetti
2 fresh lemons
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped
Grate lemon peels and place lemon zest in a small bowl. Juice the lemons into a separate small bowl. Whisk the oil, lemon juice, cheese, salt and pepper in a large bowl and blend. Set the lemon sauce aside.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook, stirring occasionally until tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the spaghetti to the lemon sauce, and toss with the basil and lemon zest. Toss the pasta with enough reserved cooking liquid, 1/4 cup at a time, to moisten. Season the pasta with more salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to bowls and serve.