Sweet Potato says D.I.Y Dinner

Got a picky eater? Sweet Potato says try dinners that can be deconstructed, D.I.Y.-style, like this Salmon Salad Dinner.

By Ceri Marsh and Laura Keogh
Sweet Potato says D.I.Y Dinner

photo: Maya Visnyei

“This is not a restaurant!” If you were at my house for dinner (come on by, we eat at 6 pm sharp) you would almost certainly hear this from me. I don’t think my 2-year-old really knows what I mean by this except that the chances of me whipping up a batch of Cheesy Noodles after I’ve already made a chicken stir-fry is slim to none.  Still it doesn’t stop either of my kids from trying. But I’m a firm believer in family food over kids’ food. Once my kids were old enough to sit at the table and could make it to six o’clock (the earliest my husband and I can handle eating) I decided we should all be eating the same dinner. Sort of. Kinda.

If you’ve got a truly stubborn picky eater on your hands (I mentioned the 2-year old, right?) then meet your new best friend: the D.I.Y. Dinner. Think of meals that can be broken down into their elements and laid out on the table, allowing everyone to assemble their own plate as they wish.  Because you aren’t the one loading up their plates, it takes the pressure off and sometimes even a picky eater will reach for a new vegetable when it’s up to him.

Mexican meals are particularly great for this kind of dinner. Think of fajitas and all the little extras you could put out – chopped tomatoes, slices of avocado, cilantro sautéed peppers and onions, etc. But as the weather warms up, this Salmon Dinner Salad is one of my favourites. It’s hearty enough to be a real dinner but is full of summer flavour, and lots of options for everyone to choose from.

8 small red potatoes, washed and sliced in half 1 cup frozen corn, thawed 1 head of tender lettuce (Boston or butter), washed and chopped 1 avocado 6 or 7 plum tomatoes, washed, trimmed and sliced in half lengthwise 2 filets of salmon glug of olive oil 1/2 lemon’s worth of juice salt and pepper

Dressing 1/2 cup yogurt 1/4 cup fresh dill, washed, and finely chopped 1/2 lemon’s worth of juice 1 Tbsp honey

Method 1. Boil or steam potatoes until tender. Drain and put aside to cool.

2. Pour frozen corn into a bowl and allow to thaw as you’re working on other elements.


3. Wash, dry and chop the lettuce into ribbons.

4. Turn oven broiler onto 450 degrees.

5. Rinse fish and pat it dry with paper towel before coating in a light slick of olive oil and lemon juice, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Put fish on a baking sheet. Shake the corn around the salmon on the sheet. Place on the highest rack of the oven. Watch it fairly closely; it will only take between 5 and 10 minutes. The salmon flesh will be opaque and the corn will start to char. Pull the rack or sheet out of the oven and use a fork to break into the salmon to check that it’s cooked through. Allow to cool either to warm or room temperature.

6. Slice the avocado in half lengthwise and remove the pit. Score the flesh of the avocado into squares with a regular table knife and run it under the flesh to flick out all the squares.

7. Wash, trim and slice the tomatoes lengthwise.


8. Lay down a bed of the chopped lettuce on a large platter. Arrange the potatoes, avocado and tomatoes evenly across the lettuce.

9. Once the salmon has cooled at least a bit, gently peel off the skin. Break it into bite size pieces with your hands. Arrange on the salad. Shake the charred corn over top.

10. To make the dressing put all the ingredients into a jar and shake. Either dress the salad or just serve it on the side so everyone can do it themselves.

More D.I.Y Dinners on Not only are these Tilapia Tacos very D.I.Y friendly they are lightning fast. Need we say more?

Our twist on a classic – Cobb Salad has something for everyone.


Catch Ceri and Laura's monthly column in Today's Parent Magazine, on newsstands now.

This article was originally published on May 25, 2012

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