• Interview with John Donohue on cooking for your family for Mint.com


    John Donohue would love to see more dads like him spending time in the kitchen.

    The author of "Man with a Pan: Culinary Adventures of Fathers who Cook for their Families" and editor and cartoonist for the New Yorker, says that dads who cook provide for their families in nearly instantaneous and completely gratifying ways.

    "Cooking at home is good for one's health (if you pay attention to what you are putting on the plate, you'll pay attention to what you are putting in your mouth) and it is good for one's wallet," he says. "Take out and eating out becomes very expensive. You can save a lot of money by cooking at home."

    Here, here shares advice and recipes for other dads and their families hoping to gather around the table for a home-cooked meal.

    Tell us about Stay at Stove Dad; when and why did you start your site?

    I started Stay at Stove Dad when I was working on my book. Publishing moves very slowly, and I wanted to experiment with food writing in a more immediate way. I was blogging mostly for fun, when it was picked up by Gwyneth Paltrow's GOOP, and suddenly I had 10,000 hits. I continued with the site as I worked on my book, and it gave me a chance to play around with recipes and stories.

    Who should be reading it?

    Anyone who is interested in what it's like to feed a family. Or who wants to cook for themselves.

    Tell us about your book "Man with a Pan"; what inspired you to write it?

    I was inspired to write "Man with a Pan" after the birth of my first child. When she was born, I found myself in the kitchen more than ever before. I love to cook, and cooking for a growing family became a central part of my life. I was interested in what other dads were doing in the kitchen, and I asked my friends. Because most of my friends happen to be writers, I realized in talking with them that I had the makings of a book.

    The book is an anthology of recipes and essays with contributions from Mario Batali, Mark Bittman, Jim Harrison, Stephen King, and many other writers. It was published in 2011, and became a New York Times best seller.

    Why do you think it is that fathers often end up not taking the role of cook? What made you want to take up the spatula?

    Actually, more and more fathers these days are taking up the role of cook in their households. Especially younger dads. For men of a younger generation (I'm 45), it is more normal for them to be the cooks. They might not have grown up with the expectation that the woman in their lives should cook for them. As women moved from the home and into the workforce over the past 40 years, a generation of knowledge about what to do in the kitchen has been lost. What happens in too many households (despite the popularity of fancy kitchen equipment and TV food shows) is that no one is cooking. Men have a chance to change that.

    What advice can you offer on saving money on healthy food for the family?

    Use your freezer. If you make things ahead of time (such as a stew, a soup, a pasta sauce), you can do it in bigger quantities, and then freeze things in meal-sized portions. That way, when you come home from work and need a quick dinner, instead of spending $15 on takeout, you can pull something from the freezer.

    What have been some of your family's favorite budget-friendly recipes?

    Anything that we can make in bulk. The single most cost-effective recipe is my black beans one. Buying dried beans in bulk also saves money. Find a health-food or other store that will sell you dried beans. Don't use the ones in the can. That makes a cheap dish more expensive.

    Also, my Bolognese is a good deal. It's a way to get meat into your diet without breaking the bank.

    What are your go-to, easy dinners to whip up after a long day at work?

    Bolognese from the freezer. All the work has been done ahead of time.
    Sautéed boneless chicken thighs (a cut that delivers more flavor for less money than chicken breasts), served with black beans and rice.

    Tagine from the freezer (if you make this recipe, you'll have enough for six to eight meals). And it will be ready in about 15 minutes (the time it takes to make couscous and warm the tagine).

    What's your advice on handling a veggie-averse child?

    The best advice I can give is don't make a big deal about it. Look at the child's diet in terms of a whole day. Is he or she getting some vegetables earlier in the day? Then it's okay if dinner is skipped.

    Also, serve veggies with a vinaigrette. A balsamic vinegar is actually quite sweet, and the kids can dip their broccoli heads in it. It's delicious, too!