It’s not you. It’s me. by Molly England & The perfect pasta sauce by Claire Handleman

Photo and Food By Claire Handleman
Photo and Food By Claire Handleman

Number one on my litany of excuses not to cook is the prospect that my kids won’t eat the food. The thought of slaving away over a hot stove, only to be met with disdain from my little people, is enough to put me over the edge. I often wonder if they genuinely dislike it. Are they picky or is my food inedible? The Dinner Dance blog series empowers moms with quick tips and easy meals. Equipped with simple recipes and new skills, I will rule out bad meals. What remains may be their unwillingness to try new food. This is a whole other kettle of fish.


A prideful conscious parent, I’ve researched food and family. The goal is to avoid issues around food, encouraging healthy relationships with healthy foods. Remember your parents or grandparents forcing you to devour every morsel on the plate? This war-era way is history. Gentle parenting nourishes gentle mealtimes. Renowned eating and feeding expert, Ellyn Satter, explains, “Parents are responsible for the what, when, and where of feeding; children are responsible for the how much and whether of eating.” In practice, this liberates parents’ need to control their children’s food consumption. Parents provide healthy delicious meals and children autonomously establish their healthy eating habits.


With my first attempt at “The Dinner Dance” recipe, I served Braised Chicken Thighs with Olives, Lemon, Potatoes and Garlic. My less skeptical kids tucked in and only came up for air. My discerning daughter, however, proceeded with caution. In my most convincing nonchalant tone, I suggested she try it. I waited and waited. Ignoring her quiet protests and pouty lip, I carried on eating. Eventually she tried it and against her better judgment, she enjoyed it. Score one for mommy. The domestic warrior in me cheered over this tiny victory. 


Many parents face the challenge of cooking with added obstacles. Allergies, malnourishment, underweight, overweight, or outright refusal to eat, to name a few. Tackling these issues can bring mealtimes to a boiling point. Satter (2000) explains that children learn and take responsibility for their eating when consistently offered well-balanced nutritious foods in a “no-pressure environment.” With every challenge comes a need for increased knowledge and skills. For example, parents of children with Celiac must learn Gluten-Free recipes. No matter the circumstances, moms share one mission: to cook simple, healthy recipes with carefree confidence. Lowering our expectations of how children respond to the healthy food served is the main ingredient to having peaceful mealtimes.


I know I’m not alone in my cooking challenges, so please join us on this exciting journey. We look forward to hearing your thoughts along the way! There’s power in accountability – please take photos of your meals and share them on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, be sure to hashtag #thedinnerdance. We’d love to hear what works, what you’d love to learn and more! Also stay tuned for our cooking tip of the week.

Satter, E. (2000). Child of mine: Feeding with love and good sense. Palo Alto, Calif: Bull Pub.


Claire’s created an impeccable recipe this week. This pasta sauce should be a staple in every mom’s kitchen. You can read Claire Handleman’s latest blog post on Passport to Eat.

Buon Appetito.


For Billionaires and Babes, The Perfect Pasta Sauce


Tomato Sauce


8-10 cloves garlic, sliced super thinly

2 (28.2 oz) cans whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes

olive oil


Pasta with Tomato Sauce, Capers and Olives


¼ cup halved Taggiasca olives (or olives of your liking)

2 tbs. capers

½ lb fettuccine noodles

2 tbs. butter

½ cup grated Parmigiano cheese, plus more for garnish

chopped parsley for garnish, optional



Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Keep on low heat until you’re ready to use it.


In another heavy bottomed pot, or saute pan with high sides, add 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil. Turn the heat to low and add in the sliced garlic. The idea is to cook the garlic slowly to infuse the oil with garlic. We are not looking for golden brown garlic here. Cook 4-6 minutes, or until the garlic is soft but not browned.



Photo and Food By Claire Handleman
Photo and Food By Claire Handleman

Bring the open cans of tomatoes over to the stove and carefully stick your hand into the container (please don’t cut yourself on the can!). Squish the tomatoes in the can, breaking them up while slowly pouring out the contents into the pan.


If you have children, this could be a great time to get them into the kitchen. Set them up with a bowl and have them do this on the counter, not over the stove.


Once the tomatoes are in, season the tomatoes with salt.


Bring the tomatoes up to a simmer and cook over low heat for 20-25 minutes. Tomato sauce is prone to burn, so be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan every 5 minutes or so.

Bring the water back up to a boil and season it with salt. The water should taste like the ocean, but don’t make it so salty that it tastes like a salt lick!

Cook the pasta according to the package’s instructions. If you like al dente pasta (or a bit of bite to your noodles), take the pasta out one minute earlier than the package says. Reserve about half a cup of pasta water in case you need to thin out the tomato sauce.

Add the pasta to the tomato sauce pan and add the olives and capers. Mix everything together thoroughly with a pair of tongs. If the sauce is too thick, add some of the reserved pasta water to thin it out. Keep the flame on low and add the butter and continuously stir the pasta until the butter is melted. This makes for a creamier sauce.

Photo and Food By Claire Handleman
Photo and Food By Claire Handleman



Add the grated cheese and turn off the heat. Mix in the cheese thoroughly.


Photo and Food By Claire Handleman
Photo and Food By Claire Handleman


Check the seasonings and add more salt, cheese or butter as you wish.


Plate the pasta and grate a bit of fresh cheese on top. Garnish with parsley if you want your plate to look fancy.

Claire Handleman has been a chef in New York for 10 years, working at some of the city’s best restaurants. She previously worked on ABC’s Emmy-award winning show The Chew as an assistant producer and participated in Food Network’s Chopped competition…and won.
Claire has been traveling the world for the past dozen years but focuses a majority of her time in South-East Asia. She has come to regard Thailand as a second home and spends many months each year learning Thai cuisine.
She is currently working on a book with the hopes of sharing the incredible cuisine her Thai friends have shared with her.
While she travels and works, she shares stories, recipes and travel tips on her blog Passport to Eat.

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