The Plan to Eat Podcast

#19: Feeding Teens and Older Children with Debbie Brosnan

June 15, 2022 Plan to Eat Season 1 Episode 19
The Plan to Eat Podcast
#19: Feeding Teens and Older Children with Debbie Brosnan
Show Notes Transcript

We are so excited to be joined again by Debbie Brosnan of The Effortless Kitchen! We originally talked with Debbie in Episode #9 about her virtual cooking class business. Today we have her back to talk about how she manages to feed and parent three teenagers. Spoiler Alert: it's not easy! We hope this conversation with Debbie gives you tips to try with your older children and some comfort knowing you're not the only one going through the hard phases of parenting! 

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I'm Riley and I'm Roni. And this is the plan to eat podcast, where we have conversations about meal planning, food, and wellness. To help you answer the question what's for dinner.

Riley: Today, we got to talk to Debbie Brosnan and we've talked to her on the podcast before, but we're so excited to bring you another episode with Debbie.

Roni: We got to talk to Debbie about having children who are a little bit older. Debbie has three kids who are all teens and early twenties. So she has been through the gamut of having to feed kids at different ages. And that's basically what we talked to her about today is how she managed, um, meal planning for different kids at different ages.

Kids who got older and decided they didn't want to eat the food that she was cooking anymore. So we hope that if you have kids or a little bit older, you will feel comforted and get some good tips from Debbie. in this episode. 

Well hello, Debbie. Thank you for joining us again on the plan to eat [00:01:00] podcast. 

Debbie: Hello guys. I'm so excited to be here. Thanks for having me back. You know, I love to talk about all things, food. 

Roni: Yeah. So we had you, this is going to be episode 19 we had you on episode nine. we're 10 episodes away from when we had your originally. So in case anybody hasn't listened to your first episode, we obviously encourage you to go listen to it now, but 

Debbie: Yeah. 

Roni: maybe just give us a little bit of your bio so people can get caught up really quick on what you do for a living. 

Debbie: Okay. So I teach virtual cooking classes. My business is called the effortless kitchen and, um, my philosophy around food is that it should be simple and easy to prepare that you wanna. Cook in the kitchen. And I also feel like everyone can cook. So even those people who are saying I can't cook, I'm a terrible cook.

I'm, helping those people out, making them feel confident and empowered in the kitchen. So I have classes that are live. Um, I have recorded classes. I do corporate events for [00:02:00] team building for nonprofit fundraising and for client appreciation. And I just finished a culinary retreat in Napa. Um, so I'm adding on culinary travel this year and I just launched my trip to Italy for November.

So if you like to eat and drink, if you're a foodie like me, come join us. Cause we're all going to be foodies on the trip. And just non-stop talking about all the amazing stuff we're eating

Riley: We interviewed you last time I went to your website and saw the one that you just finished in Napa. 

Debbie: Napa. 

Riley: still open. 

Debbie: Yeah. 

Riley: told Roni, I was like, well, you should go. But, um, this next one, 

Roni: it. Maybe we can make Italy. I would be really pleased if we could make it a business expense. 

Debbie: I think so. I think so. Why not? You're doing research.

Riley: It research. I love this. I love where you're going with this. 

Roni: agree. 

Riley: Okay. We'll talk, we'll talk. After the podcast,

Debbie: Oh yeah. Oh yeah.

Riley: it would feel so natural to be there with you in person, because it feels so natural to be [00:03:00] talking to you on this zoom call. So,

Debbie: Yes. Well that's because when you're around, like-minded people, it just flows. Right. And so that's what the group is going to be.

Riley: Awesome. 

Debbie: Yeah. 

Riley: last time we talked to you, um, we had a few questions come in about older children, specifically about teens and the kitchen and how, you know, either to get them involved or to get them excited about, you know, nutrition and food and their diet and thinking, you know, like what they're consuming.

Um, we thought you'd be a great person to talk to about this since you do have older kids. Um, so full disclosure, Roni and I don't have children. Are in the teenage age bracket. We are looking to you as a 

Roni: Okay. 

Riley: of all the knowledge in this department.

Debbie: Okay. Well, I do have three. I have, I have a 17 year old. I have a 19 year old and a now 21 year old. So I'd say fairly well versed in the teenage years of their, their dietary habits. And let's call them preferences. I won't call them restrictions because there seem to be a [00:04:00] lot of them. Um, I found a, I don't know if it was or whatever it was, but like whoever thought that having children would mean you were inviting a food critic to the table every night.

Like, I feel like that's what they are even the younger ones, but like, as they get older, it gets worse and they just. This is terrible. Oh my gosh, you're the worst cook. And it's like, they can beat you down. So stay strong because that's just their job.

Riley: We interviewed a lady named Katie Kimble on the podcast, and in that episode, she mentions that it takes like 18 times of interacting with a food before, a young child will be excited about it or will, will actually eat it.

And so that's the thing I hold on to. When I serve my two year old, something that she does not want to eat like 18 times one 


Debbie: That is a commitment. Like sales is like seven times. Like why, why are toddlers 18 times? 

Roni: They're the hardest people to sell to. That's why. [00:05:00] 

Debbie: They

Riley: Yeah, they haven't been conditioned by marketing and the rest of the world yet.

Debbie: right there. Like, I know I don't like this. I just know. I don't like


Riley: know it. I think it, I think it's more than just consuming. I think it's actually like looking at it, comfortable with it, like, oh, this looks familiar. Maybe touching it, like before they even eat it. I think it's all of those interactions. It's not just eating it or being put in 

Debbie: Right, 

Riley: them 18 times.

Debbie: right. 

Riley: So what age did you start getting your kids involved in the kitchen?

Debbie: Well, there were many attempts. Um, but I think probably, I would say the middle school years were probably for me when they actually started coming in the kitchen. I wish I had started sooner because my, my niece is 16 months. She is in the kitchen with my brother and, she loves being in there. She loves helping stir things.

So like just any kind of action they can do in the kitchen. There's a lot of parents out there that. I don't, [00:06:00] um, want, uh, there to be a mess or to, uh, let your kids like touch kitchen utensils, but we're go near the stove top with it might be dangerous, but there's ways to make it safe. And so, I think I was probably that mom that was like, it's just easier to do it myself than to let them come in. And. Ruined the whole process. And I kind of wish, like I had done it earlier. I feel like any little influence that they can have in the kitchen at a really young age is going to keep that level of interest going and just expand on it. So start young, start as young as you can, like 18, 16 months. So she's 16 months, 16 months is young and she's in the kitchen. 

Riley: Started about that age with my daughter, probably right around there. I think that the real, you know, like the honest answer is that sometimes by that point in the day, you just want something to not be a mess or not be hard. 

Debbie: Yeah, 

Riley: you're like, I want to do this alone, but [00:07:00] it really, like my daughter loves to stir just like your niece does. She wants to taste everything when she's cooking it. Um, And I mean, that, that is also raw eggs. It's like dry oatmeal, you know, like it's like, I'm, there's some things I'm having to, like, let's not taste this yet.

Um, but she, you know, she's very interested in it. She loves to stir. She wants to see what I'm doing.

So I think that overcoming the mess and just in, like in, once you start to see the like, oh, they're like wanting to be involved in this, um, it does kind of make it feel worth it.

Debbie: Yeah. And so the fact that she wants to taste things is so important because the involvement and the interaction, and then like decision-making when they get older and probably get into this, but like having a child decide what they're making for a meal time and having them take ownership over it makes them want to eat food versus here's what, here's, what I'm cooking here is what you're eating tonight.

Every single night.

Roni: right?

Riley: Yeah. 

Roni: [00:08:00] Yeah. So when you started to get your kids in the kitchen, you weren't teaching cooking classes yet at that point. So, so did you kind of, um, develop some of your skills, your teaching skills in that 

Debbie: teaching skills. Um, I would say I am super patient in my class. Really patient. Um, I get some really oddball questions and I am just like very casually answering them, like no big deal, because I'm like, not everybody knows what I know in the kitchen, but when it comes to my kids or my husband, I am super impatient.

So, um, I don't think I did a great job, but like, I. I didn't make it the most enjoyable experience there also, they really gravitate towards baking and like dabbling in that versus cooking on the savory side, because that's what I do. So when I did notice it, kind of middle school aged, we did, there were two things.

One is my kids' birthday parties that would, they, they wanted [00:09:00] to do food parties. And the other one is, uh, Kind of like mealtime for like my birthday or something. My daughter would get in the kitchen and make an entire meal from start to finish that. And I had to let her and not worry about the mess and not worry if she was cross contaminating, with chicken, or eggs or whatever it was.

And it was amazing. She made a full meal, like in middle school. I was so proud of her. So I think watching help them absorb some of it for my younger two, my older one. Not at all. She's a good, good at reheating. She just didn't really took very little interest in the kitchen.

Roni: Hm. 

Riley: It would be fair. Everyone's personality is different.

Debbie: right. That is true. And I, you know, you can't force it. So there's three of us in my family and two of us cook and my sister does not, 

Riley: Yeah, 

Debbie: had no interest. She, were around the same stuff, but she just had no interest. So.

Riley: I would love to hear more about what a food party is or what that meant to

your children. 

Debbie: [00:10:00] my goodness. So we watch a lot of food network, so it was really like food competition. 

Riley: Oh, 

Debbie: normally a, we hired somebody to do this, although this is a great business model and I could do it myself, but I don't really feel like that's. I love the virtual classes, but I hired a woman to come in with all the ingredients and all of the utensils, everything she had in multiplied by however many kids we had.

And, um, she normally would just do like, oh, let's, let's do some cake decorating or whatever else. My daughter's like, no, it's a competition. So, I mean, she's a three, three season athlete. Like she's always about the competition. So she, one year she did a chopped competition. The other one, I forget what it was, but, yeah, so she had like a mystery basket.

Where, like I knew what was in it. So I kind of like, we kind of like worked on something that was be doable and not totally disgusting, but they all got into it. Like, I, even some of the girls who were here who [00:11:00] didn't cook before, like totally got into it. So it was super fun, but like definitely we had two or three years in a row of food competition, themed birthday parties for her.

Riley: That sounds so fun. 

Roni: Yeah, I love that idea.

Riley: Yeah, it sounds like a really, um, I don't really interactive way to get people excited about the food they're cooking and eating, you know, 

Debbie: Yeah. 

Riley: especially like, you know, you mentioned that your daughter's an athlete, like that's such a, what a great avenue, like looking at your kid and her personality and saying like, this is the way I'm going to encourage her to be excited about this kind of thing.

Cause it fits her and who she

Debbie: Right. That's a good point. And that is how a parent could get their kid in the kitchen. They make it a competition. If they have a kid who really likes, and maybe there's a prize, not for eating food, I don't like that. You know, the reward for eating, but for like getting involved in the kitchen, like making a meal, there could be a reward for that.

Roni: Yeah. 

Debbie: Yeah. 

Riley: not the same. Exactly. But, um, my dad, [00:12:00] of my summers home from college, I didn't have a job and my job was, to shop and cook for my family that summer. and so it was kind of like, oh, I'm earning room and board.

Debbie: That's cute.

Riley: So not a reward in this, you know, in the sense of like I earned some 

Debbie: Yeah,

Riley: At my parents' house, without any bills.

Debbie: yeah. Yeah.

Riley: And that actually turned out to be a really great experience for me. I eventually started being a personal chef for somebody and felt very confident in that role, though I had no formal culinary training, Because I had done that for my family for a long time. That summer was kind of like the, you, you got to do this kind of summer.


Debbie: right? 

Riley: maybe that could work for somebody else. Just kind of like giving somebody that responsibility. 

Debbie: Yeah. It all depends on, it depends on the age, right? Well, apparently it was a necessity thing, right. They needed a meal. And whereas like I was a stay-at-home mom, so I was like always around. So like I [00:13:00] could just cook it, but not gotta let it go. They'll let them do it. Um, so yeah, getting kids involved early, I think is really helpful.

And getting them involved in the process of maybe they're not even cooking, but they're deciding the decision-making and all of that because there's kids are picky. And I think we may have touched on this last time. Like I was in the, I fell into the full on kid food trap, just because at a certain age, when they're a toddler, they just start refusing everything.

So I didn't have the tolerance for 18 times. So I said, well, if they're not going to eat that they must be hungry. So I have to feed them something. And which is also not true. They won't starve themselves. So then it was just easier to make the chicken nuggets and the pasta. And although like the pale. Brownish foods and not the nutritious stuff for them or not what we were eating. So then I was, then I was making two dinners and that's not fun. 

Roni: Yeah. So what do you think in, in [00:14:00] hindsight would have been the way to navigate that situation? A little better? 

Debbie: um, I think kids eat when they're hungry 

and I think there's a lot of snacking goes. Like afterschool. And I feel like, um, you know, kind of having the snacking be different types of food would have been helpful instead of snack food. It could have been, you know, carrots and celery with a fun dip or something like that.

Something that it, you know, provided some nutrition and sustenance and fiber and vitamins so that if they're sitting down at the table and they take a couple bites and they're done, or they don't want to eat anything, I won't feel like they haven't eaten anything good for the day.

Riley: Yeah, snacks can definitely be a sustaining. And you don't realize it is if your kid eats a lot of snacks or if they're asking for snacks a lot, and then they don't eat dinner, you're like, why are they not eating dinner? It's like, well, they had 10 snacks before dinner. So that's a great, 

Debbie: Okay. 

Riley: great tip.

Either. Make it super nutritious or just cut off snack time at a certain time, maybe in.

Debbie: Our make snack time and [00:15:00] actual meal, where there was a family from Germany who is in our elementary school. And those kids went home and ate a full hot meal when they got home from school. So, and then dinner was later. So, granted, it was a family of boys, but like they actually ate a meal instead of having a bunch of junky snacks.

So that's another, another thing. If you wanted to maybe move up dinner. Do you have snacks later on? Who knows? 

Roni: Hmm. 

Debbie: You never know what's going to work

Riley: Yeah. I was actually just about to say that, like, just looking at even other cultures are just like, you don't have to do it like the way we've been conditioned to do it. Like you can eat in different formats. Um, so I, I love that idea. Just have dinner early and then maybe a snack later. If you have teenage boys, maybe two dinners.

Roni: Getting back a little bit to the like maybe cooking and preparation side of thing. At your kids were already in middle school when you started incorporating them into the [00:16:00] kitchen. But what were some of the skills that you started with? Like, I know people are a little hesitant to get their kids working with like knives or something at like a younger age.

But since your kids were maybe already like pre teenage, what were some of the skills you started

Debbie: Yeah. So they were cutting things like asparagus, um, like nothing that is like, there was not a lot, there was no onion shopping. I feel like that's, you know, way more. Um, then like just chopping the ends off of them and asparagus, or, they were like doing my breading of chicken cutlets or a steak ready to grill.

Actually, I think my daughter was grilling the steak too. So kind of more and not anything that was too technical. I feel like that. Well, what they ended up doing. I also think that that's where they were comfortable. they don't like onions. So even though a lot of dishes start with onions, they don't necessarily realize so that like they're in the sauce there and everything.

Um, so there wasn't like, my [00:17:00] kids don't know how to cut onions, even though I teach that in every single class that I do. 

Roni: that makes a lot of sense though. When I was a kid, I was, uh, like I remember even being in middle school and being like, do not put onion in my food, do. not put black pepper in my food, 

Debbie: Right. 

Roni: how, like, even though if I would have been helping prepare it, I was like, no, we're not putting this in dinner, mom.

Like we're 

Debbie: Sure. 

Roni: thing and dinner. So it's kind of like you maybe have to like do it behind the scenes. If that's like, we know we don't like this. 

Debbie: Right. It's in there. You have no idea. So, um, like I make a marinara sauce and has onions in it and it's got garlic in it and I will sometimes fish the garlic out, but oftentimes I'll take my immersion blender and just hit the whole thing, make it nice and smooth. So everything's in there, but nobody knows like that really.

Roni: Yeah. 

Debbie: Because then there's no complaints about, you know, maybe I didn't dice my onion really finely. So they're going to notice the onion pieces and then I'm going to hear about it later on, like my two-part I need to hear I'm like, cause what else are you going to put in [00:18:00] there? You need the onion, you need the garlic. That's what makes the sauce flavorful.

It's not just a bunch of tomatoes. Yeah. 

Riley: idea of an immersion blender. Um, I kind of, I like the idea of like hiding vegetables in things like, like baking in spinach into like, um, breakfast, or something like that. It's like it's in there. It's a little bit less. This green thing on the plate, they have to eat like hidden, but the immersion blenders, another great idea for parents, particularly ones who are to like maybe integrate foods, their kids don't like, because then you never know what's there.

Debbie: Right. Right. And there's two sides of that though. There was two thoughts, like why should you be hiding it? Because they should know what they're eating. And they shouldn't say they don't like something when they're actually eating it. But on the other side, there's the, they keep resisting. And for so long, I'm just going to blend it in and they won't even notice.

And that phase doesn't have, doesn't have to last for very long. Right. It could just be temporary until. Their pallet changes again, and then you're [00:19:00] like, I'm starting fresh because I have no idea what they're eating.

Riley: Yeah, that's really what my mind mine, my thought was about that is just like, there's a phase where they're going to rebel against this thing, because for whatever reason, they don't like it and they liked it yesterday. 

Debbie: Yup. 

Riley: that's the time when you use that tool. So 

Debbie: Yeah. Yeah. Yep. And we've stocked up on things that they're like, they're in love with up on it. And all of a sudden, two days later they don't like it and it just sits and sits really put and you just ate it and you loved it. And you asked me to buy more. I don't like it anymore.

Riley: Tell me, what do you do about that? Because I've had a lot of wasted money on things like that, where it, my top will I have a toddler though? I don't have a teenager, but I've toddler who is easy to reason with. 14 year old, maybe, maybe. Um, I'm what you just had this, and I bought all these because you love them.

And now many brown bananas can I put in the freezer? Because we used to love bananas and now we don't.

Debbie: Yeah. I mean, we try not to have food waste and a lot of times what I'm talking about is like kind of more snack food. So I [00:20:00] can easily either return it to the store or donate to the food pantry, um, or eat it myself depending upon what it is. Uh, but yeah, like there is, I don't know what, the way around that I'm not going to threaten my kids.

I'm not going to force them to eat something, you know, maybe make them financially responsible, but it keeps happening over and over again. I don't know. Sometimes they're buying their own snacks. Like I think that was one of your questions about the independence of teenagers and what they choose to eat.

And it is horrifying. My daughter is like off having dinner out. Like if I know I'm not cooking and I'll let her know because she is night wants to go out with a friend somewhere and usually it's Chick-fil-A and I'm like, that's so gross. What are you eating? Um, It's really hard to control because they have the freedom.

So even if you have a kid walking to a bus stop and there's a convenience store and you think they have no money, they have money in there. They're buying chips and candy [00:21:00] bars or whatever else after school, it's just happening. And it's really hard to, to manage that. And you can have conversations all you want about healthier eating and healthy choices.

And, but, um, teenagers are the worst. I remember, I mean, I was doing the same thing. My mother cooked very healthy food and I was eating junk after school because I could, 

Roni: It's that lack of prefrontal cortex, 

Debbie: and It all tastes good. 

Roni: bad decision making skills. 

Debbie: Yes. 

Roni: The, I think the place where this question originally came from was we interviewed a food blogger who has, I think at least one teenager. And she mentioned that where she was like, well, now my kid has a driver's license and they can just go wherever they want.

And if they're dissatisfied with the food that I'm cooking, know, they can, know, theoretically get whatever they want at lunchtime. They could stop someplace before they go to school. They can stop places when they're on the way home, you know? So do you have any tips for. Um, that or is that just like, you have to let your kid run through that [00:22:00] phase of their life? 

Debbie: I think it's going to happen no matter what you try or do I feel like, um, we try to have meal time when we can evening meals together. Cause it's a time to talk and talk about the day. Cause we don't see her and we have one at home now because the other two are in college, so we don't see her. And I try to make food that I know she'll kind of eat.

Like, maybe she's not eating everything, but she'll eat something. Or she says she doesn't like it, but I've seen her eating before. So I know she'll eat it. Because I, at least I know she's having one nutritious meal. You know, maybe for four nights during the week or something like that, you know, I, I try my best, but you can't control the teenagers. You can't, they're just going to eat what they want to eat.

Riley: I feel like I'm trying to figure how to phrase my question. So, you know, the whole thing about having a driver's license and getting to like eat something outside of the home that you chose. And that is kind of teaching them to like, make their own choices.[00:23:00] 

you know, your, our goal as parents is to like help them. Make good choices and teach them how to make good choices. Um, but I think that exploration ways, man, I might kick myself in 10 years for saying this, but like,

Debbie: And it's recorded.

Riley: I know, 

Debbie: It's going to live forever.

Riley: I, now I know that's why I'm really struggling to like put together this question way that I want to ask it. but is that teaching like making no cause. You chose to eat this, and now you feel like garbage. Like now you can learn that the association is that when you eat these kinds of things, when you make this choices, those kinds of choices you feel this way, or, 

maybe this food causes acne or like, you know, whatever it is. Um, Do you think that like those kinds of choices there, like helping them become a decision maker you think that. Like the kitchen is also this place of teaching them to be a decision maker or are they both necessary in like training your child?

Does this question make any sense? Um, we can cut this whole [00:24:00] section out if we need to. I don't really know how to phrase what I'm trying to say, but like, Phase of life where 10 teenagers are exploring, making their own choices and choosing food that maybe you would never have fed them or didn't want them to consume.

And they're making those choices and they're exploring this independence. Um, like how do you navigate that as like a, this is a natural part of them becoming an independent human who makes good choices 

Debbie: I think that, um, every, every kid is like individual in terms of how they feel about food and how they feel about food as fuel versus food. As I just want something that tastes salty and crunchy and sweet or whatever. And so there's some kids who realize it earlier on that food is fuel and I'm not going to put junk into my body because I'm already into taking care of my body and I'm exercising at a younger age.

Whereas, um, I find that like college, maybe early twenties, of kids start to figure out like, [00:25:00] oh, I have, I have time on my hands versus like high school where you're just like going, going, going, and then maybe you're playing a sport. And that's your, that's your active time for your body? A lot.

There's a lot of sedentary time in college. And I think kids realize whether it's the influence of other kids around them who are exercising, they just make the decision on their own where they start to realize, wait a minute, I'm putting this work in, and now I'm putting this junk in. And that junk doesn't make me feel good, physically, that process takes a long time.

But I think, I think people get there, not everybody does, you know, cause we have. We can talk about this another time, but we have a fast food obesity pandemic in the country. You know, at some point, I think it's like a teenage phase that they grow out of also, they start to become independent and have to support themselves, and that happens at different times for different.

So post-college, [00:26:00] let's say the kids being supported through college by their parents, then all of a sudden they're out and they're like, wait a minute. I can't support this habit. Even though fast food is not very expensive. still can't support this habit and so they start making different choices based on that. 

Roni: Yeah. Actually thinking back to own teenage years, I don't remember about as fuel in any sort of a way. And like when I was in high school, I don't remember having that type. Mindful interaction of like I ate junk and now I feel like junk, you know, it really wasn't until I got into college and Riley and I have talked about this on the podcast before about like both of us had this realization when we got into college of like, oh, there are better ways to feed your body.

And know, like the exercise that I'm doing can like the food can compliment the exercise and vice versa, you know? Um, and even though. Very active kid when I was in high school. That's just not whether it just wasn't fostered within my household or I just decided to ignore it, whatever it was. I do not [00:27:00] remember having that type of, um, like mind food connection.

Debbie: Yeah. And so it, it could happen. I think it depends on the level of athlete you are too in high school. Like I think it's the kids maybe who are going off to play in college possibly. I don't know. They're just like super into their bodies and taking care of it versus, you know, as a teenager. And if you're in a sport, you're basically just exercising and you don't even have to think about food as whatever, because.

You're just eating. Right. So it definitely changes and it shifts, but I don't think everybody catches on and everybody catches on in a certain, you know, when they're ready kind of thing. My daughter's noticed though, like, she's like, uh, I just kinda like junk now when I eat, when I eat that doesn't stop her from doing it again because it's a social thing too.

Like it's just. What they do together. So she's like, oh, I'm going to Chick-fil-A but I'm not. Cause I'm like, I'm making dinner. I'm going to go to [00:28:00] Chick-fil-A. I'm not eating anything and I'll come home and eat dinner. And then she's like, I have a shake. I'm like,

Roni: she, didn't eat she just drank a 

Debbie: she drank a shake. Yes.

Riley: Well, thank you both for, um, graciously answering a very confusing question. Um, yeah. About teenager independence. So thank you.

Debbie: Yeah. You just kind of have to let it go. I mean, it's you think about, you were a teenager. We were all teenagers at some point, like putting those restrictions on the, they're gonna figure out a way to get what they want. No matter what you say as a parent. So, and you can try, but, um, I think another thing that's important and this could be a different conversation, or maybe if you ever have like, depending on the person's philosophy, like a food nutritionist on, but like, Having the kids make the choices about what they're eating is really important.

Um, and, uh, not restricting all foods, you know, food shouldn't be bad. Foods are good foods. [00:29:00] And I did a really, my kids are listening to this. I did a really poor job of that because I felt like, oh, well, if I don't have the chips in the house, then they can't eat them. And I can't eat them either. So I'm not going to have the chips in the house, then that creates a monster of like, I need to have chips because they're not in my house.

And so for the kid who has food restrictions in their house, they go crazy when they're out of the house. Whereas if it's a normal thing and there's chips and there's candy and can just eat it, like, you know, here and there they go to someone else's house. They're not like gorging on those snacks. If you're a parent of younger children, uh, deaf, that's like, uh, that's a bad pitfall that I fell into, that I wish I didn't. It creates bad relationships with food as a, you know, as a child into adulthood. So that need to be broken.

Riley: I feel like that your choice was one that was made [00:30:00] with their best interests in mind. You didn't see that it had a double, like that it was double-sided right.

Roni: Yeah. 

Debbie: right. 

Riley: that phrase is. was no way to know that. So I mean, while that's great encouragement to like, not try to fall into that pitfall that you did, but your goal was like, your, your end game was so good.


Debbie: Right. 

Riley: like rightly placed, you know, 

Debbie: Thank you. 

Riley: It's like recognizing that it's about balance because of the, kind of the side effect of not having it. Um, we were a no soda household. We've never, never. I'm from the south, it's all called Coke. Like we did not drink that. was very, very rare. But I had friends whose houses, like that was all they drank.

And it definitely was that kind of situation where I was like, oh my gosh, we never have this. And, but that's all they drank. So it was this weird situation of like having that at every meal at a friend's house. Because that was what they did, but it was like, he felt guilty. I always felt guilty cause like I'm not supposed to have the thing and we did.

it does kind of create a really weird kind of tension. 

Debbie: Yeah. Yeah, that was [00:31:00] Kraft Mac and cheese. For me, that would never show up in my house, but it was at my friend's house at every meal. I was like, I'm coming over for dinner every night.

Roni: Well, so this idea of like giving choices, Riley and I were actually having a conversation about this, like a week ago. So Riley, if you can, you can elaborate on this if you want. But, um, so you were saying that somebody had told you. A kid who's like going into their toddler years, that it's really helpful to give them a choice when they're, know, like they don't necessarily want to do something or like, we're going to leave the house.

Do you want to wear your blue shoes or your red shoes? And like, you know, there's parameters within the choices, but you're still giving them choices. I feel like maybe that's an, like with food, that's an area where you could like, try doing that kind of thing too. You know, where it's like. You're going to have two healthy or healthy-ish options, you know, but like, you're kind of like giving the kids the reigns to be like, do you want the carrot sticks or do you want the snap peas? I don't know. 

Riley: My friend gave me parenting advice and that in his advice was like giving your [00:32:00] child the illusion of choice. But they get to choose the shoes, but the shoes is the choice. Like, um, so I, yeah, you can speak to that. You have.

Debbie: Yeah. Well, and then at what point is no, not the option because you're going to get, I don't want either. Um, I like the idea of it, because I think, uh, having a kid make their own choices makes them feel. You know, it's theirs and then they might continue choosing that over and over again. So like having an assortment of things out, like, know, uh, my mother-in-law used to do this when her kids were younger, have carrots and celery and something else out for them to choose to snack on before dinner.

And some would come in and eat it. And some wouldn't and somebody just the carrots and somebody just celery, you know, it was like, It wasn't like, here's your pilot carrots that you must eat. think they're all about [00:33:00] being able to make their own decisions. Those little toddler tyrants. They are, they run by households. Sorry. It, it, it gets easier and then it gets harder. 

Riley: We're in a bit of a, we're gonna, we're in a bit of a hard phase, which is where the parenting advice came from.

Roni: But I feel like that's, I feel like that's the kindest, most honest parenting advice is like it's hard and then It gets easy and then it gets hard again.

Debbie: does. I mean, they, when they're little, they've got little problems and when they're big, they've got bigger problems and then you look back and you, cause every phase is not easy and every phase is new to a parent. So you're like, oh, that was impossible. That was so hard. And then you look back and I'm like, oh my gosh, You know, dealing with, cause my kids are close in age, so toddlers and a baby and it was so challenging and then they become teenagers and you're like, oh, I would take that any day over the teenagers because you can't [00:34:00] have you can't reason with the toddler. You certainly can't reason with a teenager and their problems become bigger. So 

But it, they, they, they give you time. Right. They don't just turn 16 immediately and you have a lot of time and there's like a sweet spot of those years of like kindergarten and first grade. And they're so sweet and innocent and yeah.

Riley: I have a friend who puts it really well. always, they like there's joys of every season of your child's life and there's hard of every season of your It's just, every season brings its own 

Debbie: Yeah. 

Riley: think, you think that the last season's hard was hard and then this season's hard is harder.

and yeah, but there's really good things about every season too. And I think that that's important to, you know, lean into also.

Debbie: The joys of parenting. 



Riley: sometimes you have to look for them, 

Debbie: No, there are. Yeah. Yeah. I wouldn't, I wouldn't change it, but I don't know if, and I don't know having you hear, this is going to prepare you [00:35:00] for teenage years. Right. Cause you're in a different phase. If someone said to me, oh, you have no idea what you're in for. I'm like, look what I'm dealing with now.

They're crazy. Like little, little bosses all around me. And um, so, you know, also, you know, kids driving, like when I was. Three-year-olds. I was like, there's, my kids are not going to drive. And then all of a sudden they go off and they drive and you're like, oh, okay. I made it through that. they give you time.

Riley: Um,

Debbie: They get you ready.

Riley: All right. Let's jump back into some questions. Um, let's see. So were you an adventurous cook when you were a full-time accountant or is that something you've grown into and that your kids have grown with? or is that, you know, have you, you know, just talk to us about that kind of growing up phase for

Debbie: So when I was a full-time accountant, I didn't have kids. I stopped working when my oldest was born. Um, so I would say probably less so adventurous because of the time factor. [00:36:00] Um, and I was just feeding myself and my husband, so, and he was a less adventurous eater than he is now. Uh, he grew up in a very basic meat, potato, vegetable households.

think that I grew into it, I think in much in the same way that my mother did when I was growing up, it was really kind of gross, basic food that would go in rotation. And because I'm the oldest and then. Uh, and my parents didn't have a lot of money when I was young, but then they started making more money, working multiple jobs and investing in real estate.

And then all of a sudden things started opening up, travel, changed things and restaurants where we weren't eating out before going into restaurants. And I let grew up in Brooklyn, New York. So like the ethnicity of what's available is very different. Um, in every neighborhood. So we started exploring different types of foods.

And I think that changed the way my mother cooked and all of a sudden she got adventurous. So it was a huge transformation of, from when I was younger to like [00:37:00] middle school, high school, um, which had a huge influence on how I cook. But it's easy to get into that kind of rut rotation grandmother used to make the same meal every Monday, every Tuesday, every Wednesday was the same, you know? So you knew exactly what was going on in the house every day of the week. I feel like for me, there was like a handful of like eight to 10 recipes that I would rotate through, but it wouldn't expand beyond that just because it was like the easy go-to thing.

And I think a lot of people fall into this, which is why my classes are helpful. It's the food rut. Right. You're just like, I could make other things, but. I'm too lazy to figure it out. So I'm just going to go with these. And then all of a sudden everybody's complaining in the house because I'm sick of this dish.

We had this last week, blah, blah, blah. So, um, I think out of necessity, I got more adventurous, um, in terms of adding things. And then when I became personal chef, when I started this business, I expanded my repertoire even [00:38:00] more because there were requests from my clients. Um, you know, there were things that we tried early on that didn't work that were too bland or boring for their palette because I was used to cooking for my family because I'm not a trained chef.

So, um, it's definitely interesting learning, growing experience through all of the. But I'm like what happened in my childhood with the food changes, I think has also happened in my house less dramatically. So, but, my mother made me liver and onions like that just ruined me. Poor flog. Raw never gets a chance because of liver and onions from when I was younger, like I just, I, I got that. I just associated it all and I'm missing out. 

Riley: Where did that confidence come from for you? Is it that people like we're requesting these kinds of things? We just get. You know, we hear from customers sometimes that they just, um, they don't feel confident in the kitchen and it's because they've never cooked something or maybe their mom didn't cook.

And so then they, you know, they come to the, to the, [00:39:00] phase of life where meal planning is a necessity they don't know what to do because they don't have this like tool belt, you know, if like their mom cooked and then they cook and they taught her how or 

Debbie: Yeah. 

Riley: Um, where did your confidence come from?

And like building your repertoire of cooking and exploring these different things.

Debbie: I think it was from cooking early on, like from, from any, even though we were cooking the same things, you know, I made the chicken cutlets and it was a lot of Italian based food. I just knew from the, the base set of skills that I had learned that I could. Try to make anything, you know, follow a recipe and see where it ends up.

And that's kind of what I try to teach people is to take that fear out of it, because what's the worst that can happen. That it's just not great this time, but you can fix it and make it great next time. And so we talk a lot about seasoning your food and what, what, you know, salt and acid and, and, um, you know, sweet and heat does to, to a dish and how to adapt it for your palette.

I think it's really just [00:40:00] jumping in and like not, not resting behind that, that story of, well, I can't, because I don't know how, or I've never made that before. I'm making things that I've never made before, but I'm curious, like, I think there's definitely a curiosity cause I really love food. I watch a lot of cooking shows.

I eat out a lot and try different foods and then I'm like, Ooh, I wonder what that would be like. Or, How I can make that. So I ended up with chicken larb on my class menu because I was watching a food network show and I was like, oh, that looks amazing. How can I make that? Which I had never had it before. I hadn't even heard of it before. So that's one of my more popular, popular dishes for my private events too.

Roni: Oh, wow. Yeah. It's not a recipe that I've ever heard of actually.

Debbie: It's amazing. And it's very simple. 

Chicken. Larb LHRB, it's actually the original dishes made with ground pork. So, um, I just like to lighten up things and making them a little bit less greasy, more healthy. [00:41:00] Um, so it's from Laos and it's, uh, ground meat and it's, there's some heat in there, but there's also some sweet because we know Asian dishes have a lot of that balance between sweet and heat.

So that. All of that punch of flavor. There's some lots of fresh herbs on top and I do it over a coconut lime rice, which is amazing. And then people are like, I'm never making rice plain again.

Riley: That sounds incredible. 

Roni: really good. That sounds like I want to make some of that right now. 

Debbie: Yeah. 

Riley: I love that. I love hearing about your story and confidence, and I hope that I hope other people feel like they can just like dive in. I think it's a really important reason to get your kids in the kitchen too, so that they don't fall into that same, you know, fear around cooking and cause they just, this is not a thing to be afraid of. Cause I just am comfortable here. 

Debbie: Yeah, and feel like the younger, you try it, the easier it'll be for them growing up and getting older, it's kind of like driving, right? If you don't feed it, [00:42:00] learn to drive younger. There's a huge fear factor. In terms of learning later. So it's the same thing. If you've never been in the kitchen, never tried anything in the new, try it later, you feel like, well, I haven't done it all this time.

How can I possibly do it now? It's going to be so hard. It's going to be a disaster and all of that. I mean, I have it written on my website. Everyone can cook. I really, really believe that. And you start small and you start easy and you try different things. And then pretty soon you'll be mastering and moving on to other things, nothing complex though.

Like, it's not like you're opening up some crazy cookbook with a thousand ingredients and steps after step. Like you want it to be easy and good tastes good too. So my recommendation for that for people, and I don't know if we talked about this last time is. You know, asking friends, like, what are you making for dinner during the week?

What's your favorite weeknight dish? You guys are a great resource for that, but I mean, even if you want to Google that, like what's a good weeknight meal. I just find it's like, not every recipe on the internet is a good [00:43:00] recipe. And so if you're not familiar, like you can just find one, try. I feel like it's a failure because it's not a great recipe to begin with and then not knowing what to do to fix it. you say you're a bad cook. None of that's true.

Roni: that's just condensed that information Right, there because that's like the, some of the best, uh, just like meal planning, cooking advice ever is like Riley and I have really. We've, we've used each other for recipe inspiration for the last couple of years already, but we've really tried to like push into that on the podcast.

And I feel like the way that you just explained that is the exact reason, why is I, I don't think I've ever actually been able to articulate why it's so great to get a recipe from your friends, but it's, it's so true. Like I've tried plenty of recipes on the internet that I was like, that looks amazing.

You know, they have like a professional photographer taking the pictures of it or something and you try it. Sometimes you're like, okay, this took an hour and a half to make dinner and I didn't have time for that. you're like, this isn't actually very good. Or maybe I don't like these [00:44:00] flavors. And so, yeah, like having a real life recommendation from somebody is the best place to start. If you're like, I have no idea what to cook.

Debbie: Right, but it's got to be someone you trust, right? Not everybody has good advice is why I don't love. TripAdvisor for restaurant recommendations, right? Who are the people who are reviewing it? I don't know them like, and not just kind of like, that's your base level. Like, you know, I go to like eater for the better, the better recommendation for like a restaurant.

And even those aren't always great, but, same thing, but with a friend that you trust and something easy, but you have to remember that everybody's palette is different. So like even when I teach in my classes, How do we adjust it at the end because we're going to taste it and tell me if you like it.

If it's too salty, let's add a little bit of water. If its not salty enough, obviously add some salt or acid, but like that's obviously for me, it's not obvious for everybody else. So like they've tasted the dish they've made following my recipe and then they go, I don't really like it. [00:45:00] Well, we need to fix it for you.

Um, and then you need to write that down. So, you know, for next time I needed to add whatever.

Riley: This is why I've been, you need to take your classes because you can give them a vocabulary for what it is about it that they don't like or do like. Um, so then when they are cooking on their own, they can say, Debbie told me. You know, okay. I needed to add some acid and that made me like it.

So in this recipe, maybe that's what I need to do here you can give them, instead of being like, oh man, I'm a horrible cook. This doesn't taste good. It's like, well, I don't like it, but I 

Debbie: Yeah. 

Riley: it better by 

Debbie: Yeah. 

Riley: And it, that just confidence too, when you can communicate about it.

Debbie: Right, right. Like, I am not, I am not sitting there robotically, going through a recipe and just putting ingredients in and telling you like, like anybody could do that. Right. You could follow a recipe at home. So like you're getting in my classes, you're getting all of that. Exactly. Like what to do to adjust.

And, you know, we talked about kitchen tools last time and like all of those things, but I [00:46:00] find like the seasoning and tastes. Is the biggest skill on teaching because it, that goes beyond just this recipe that goes for everything that you're doing. And just because you don't like it right when you finish doesn't mean that it's not going to be an amazing dish.

You just need to fix it and know how to. 

Roni: Yeah. Okay. Well, I know that we could talk to you for a really long time and you have so much to say about food and we love it, but we don't want to take up all of your day talking about this. So.

Debbie: I don't think anybody was once to listen to a really, really long podcasts anyway. So. 

Roni: Yeah, but we just were wondering if you maybe had like a couple quick, like tips or hacks, um, to like circle back around to parents, for their kids, uh, whether they're things that you personally experienced were really effective or just ones that you have heard from other people that were effective. if you have a couple to throw at us, that'd be helpful. 

Debbie: I think, um, taking the kid, taking your child to the grocery store, being careful about it though, because you know what happens in the grocery store that [00:47:00] they just gonna want everything that looks really fun and, and, and ends up being junkie. But like in the produce section taken into the section and see what, like what looks good to them.

Maybe it's something crazy. Like they want to like it out and go get it. you've never seen it before either, but I would say try that because that's really going to, like, once they start making those decisions, For food choices, then they're going to be curious. I think I told you the last time, maybe that I chose to do a CSA very early on a community supported agriculture share, um, locally.

And so you go to the farm every week and I thought, well, I'm going to bring my kids here. Same thing as going to the produce section of the grocery store. They're going to see. Vegetables grow and they're going to eat more. That didn't really work for me, but I think it could work for other people. So, um, or maybe I didn't do it 18 times in a row that may have been my problem.

I probably gave up after a while. Um, then there's like also the bees, the bees in the farm, right. The bees belong there, but my daughter doesn't like bees. [00:48:00] Um, that didn't, that didn't work and getting them involved early on in the kitchen. And I really like, you know, they're eating when they're hungry, uh, and maybe switching up the snack time to something that's more of a meal.

Maybe they have a sandwich after school or, or something. That's not just a bag of snacks that can all help. 

Roni: Yeah, 

Debbie: Yeah, I'm trying to think of one. I'm trying to think of one of those things that actually worked for me. And I'm not sure that any did I have some really great ideas. I tried a lot of things. Um, kids are kids, and so don't be frustrated.

They're doing their job. There's, you know, not listening to what you want them to do.

Riley: Well equally, our job is to try to guide and direct. So like, your ideas are super helpful. And like you said, like they might not have worked for you, but they might work for somebody else. And it's about building, building that basis. So 

Roni: Yeah. 

Riley: you did good. 

Debbie: Thank 


Roni: Yeah. Well, and we were all, um, you know, sometimes terrible teenagers as well, and like we all turned into [00:49:00] productive people in society. So, you know, 

Debbie: Yes. Yes, exactly. 

Roni: Well, we appreciate you coming back on the podcast with us. We love talking to you. And, um, if you want to just throw out another time where people can connect with you online so that if they, know, love the listening to you again, they're reminded. 

Debbie: Okay. Sure. Well, first of all, thank you for having me because I always love talking to you guys and, and food and just an easy flowy conversation, which, and it can go on forever and ever. Um, but you guys can find me at and I teach classes typically on Saturdays at one, or there's recorded classes on my website.

So if there's something that is inspiring to you on my website, Sign up for the class, but there's also a contact me section on there. And so if you have questions maybe from this podcast or the previous one, or, you know, you're curious about meal planning or whatever, you know, I'm happy to answer questions.

Um, you know, I do more than just teaching classes, [00:50:00] so, and of course join me in Italy because we love to eat and drink and cook and do all the fun things, food related. 

Everything's on my website.

Roni: Yeah. I think if nothing else, people should get, um, on your email newsletter, because I'm on your email newsletter and you send out, know, like you're up the menu that's upcoming. So if people are maybe just like unsure as to whether or not these classes would be a good. fit for them, like get on the email newsletter so that you can see the kinds of recipes that Debbie's creating, because they look delicious that chicken piccata that you 

Debbie: So good. 

Roni: love chicken piccata 

Debbie: It was so good. And I feel like so silly, but like was done with the class and I was by myself in the house and I sat down for lunch and out loud. I'm like, this is so good as I was eating it. Like, it was one of those things for us. Like, you know, like, yeah, I'm a good cook. Did anybody hear that?

Like, So crazy, but yes. Um, and also when I'm really good about my emails, I also share tips and tricks. So like the video that I share initially, the, [00:51:00] how tos, like I'll do like a, to cut an onion video or whatever, and those come through occasionally, or my, or mind you, I would do write blog posts. I have been really bad about it this year, but you know, those, you get more, more information than just come join me for a class for sure. 

Roni: All right. Well, thank you again. And we enjoyed this and we'd love you. 

Debbie: Thank you. I can't wait to hear it live. Those are already so fun. Then I get to share it around. My mother's like, oh my God, you're famous.

Riley: Too funny.

Roni: We hope you enjoyed this episode. And if you did, please share it with someone and subscribe to our podcast. Wherever you listen to your podcasts.