Domestic life. I’m a super-newbie to it. I’ve been married nearly two years and my daughter is 6 months old. I didn’t grow up in the kitchen, and never saw my future self with a kid. But here I am; a stay at home mom who loves making food for her family. Today, I bring you a little something I’ve learned: five simple simple cooking tips for us new moms.
I’m not claiming to be any sort of connoisseur. My food knowledge is still pretty basic. However, I figure I cant be the only former “definitely never getting married or having kids, so who cares if can cook or not” lady out there. While my rockstar of a husband goes out in the world to bring home the bacon, I’ve learned easy and interesting ways to fry it up (not really, I gave up meat, but thats for another day). In this post, I’m sharing my two cents to keep meals healthier and efficient, and to help other newbies feel a little more confident in their kitchen.
Without further ado…
TIP #1 : VEGETABLES!
Arguably the most important of my simple cooking tips. This is the veggie haul I brought home from my weekly grocery trip (although to be honest, I’m often there more than once a week). I’ll use all these vegetables in the meals over the next five days. I’m a big fan of plants because they are so healthy for all three of us. Our doctor’s philosophy is “If it’s a plant, its great.” Or something along those lines. Anyway, one of the really great things about vegetables, is how quickly you can prepare them – it can take as little as 10 -15 minutes depending on your method.
- Above, I prepared steamed vegetables two ways: left are plain, washed and cut green beans and carrots (also peeled), and right: a couple lemon slices placed atop, and sprinkled dried oregano to change up the flavor. 2 minutes prep, 10 minutes active cooking time.
- Share your veggies with your baby once they are at the age to eat solids. You can purée or cook enough to soften for self feeding.
- Large salads are a fantastic way for mom and dad to up their vegetable intake, and are generally quick to prepare. Throw in some beans (we’re especially fond of garbanzo) or nuts for added protein, sans meat.
- Make sure your vegetable lot is colorful to ensure your whole family is consuming a variety of nutrients and vitamins!
TIP #2: CROCK POT/ONE POT MEALS
Crock pot Vegetarian Chili
One of the really great things about using a slow cooker, is how little effort you need to put in. As simple cooking tips go, nothing beats an easy meal that tastes great. With a crockpot, once you have all the fixings, you throw it in, and leave it. I can park my daughter in her high chair to hang with me in the kitchen, and usually the prep work takes about 15-20 minutes. This chili cooks at least 6 hours, but preferably 8 hours set on low, so all the flavors settle together. Above is this tasty chili I came across. I’ve changed a couple ingredients to suit it better to our tastes:
- I leave out the turkey, although when I first found this recipe we kept it in – yummy both ways!
- I soak the beans myself. This saves on cost and cuts down the added preservatives of beans in the can (eventually I’ll use fresh tomatoes for the base as well). With a slow cooker, theoretically you don’t need to soak the beans, you can throw them in dried; but I found the beans were still a little too firm.
- To take out some of the spice, because I’m breastfeeding, I replaced the chili powder with paprika and the jalapeño with 1 small can of mild green peppers.
- Add garlic powder. I also double down on the spices because I find recipes are always too modest with flavor.
Sidebar: I was in a hurry to take pictures of my prep while my daughter was sleeping, and didn’t pay close enough attention to the spices. I accidentally used cinnamon instead of cumin (lolzzz). I just added another doubling of the CORRECT spices and it tasted great. Maybe it will be my “secret” ingredient. Mistakes are learning experiences!
This one-pot butternut squash risotto has become a fan favorite in our house. Its a bit time consuming, so this is definitely a meal I cook when my husband is home so he can hang with the baby. Simple cooking tips aren’t always about total time/effort, but overall efficiency. What’s nice about larger dishes is using the uneaten amount as a side later in the week. More work one day, makes less work the next. Just reheat in the oven (at 250 degrees for about 45 minutes). Plus, with one pot meals, less clean up!
The recipe says it serves 4, but consider those liberal servings. One way to get ideas to tailor dishes to your taste, go through the comment section in online recipes. Then, trial and error. Figure out what you like about the meal, and what you don’t.
- Used olive oil instead of butter
- Added a medium sized yellow onion which I throw in same time as the squash.
- Let the squash cook about 10-15 minutes longer to soften it up more than original recipe calls for.
- Vegetable stock instead of chicken to make vegetarian friendly.
- Double the amount of sage.
TIP #3: MEAL PLAN
My simple cooking tips are designed to make life easier, and new moms love that (or at least, I do). When you’re a newbie, it may seem hard to meal plan. “What do I cook, when I’m not very experienced?” Start off with things you already love, and know how to make. Then, you can start building your personal recipe book. I try to prepare one new recipe a week, so I don’t exhaust meals in my rotation. This also teaches me new skills. Practice makes perfect, after all.
I’ve learned to use an ingredient one recipe calls for again in another meal. Utilize what you have. An easy way to do that is with garnishes, herbs, and spices (See TIP #4). On Monday, I made this delicious salmon (download the recipe card here). One of the sides prepared for this meal was the steamed vegetables from Tip #1; the extra lemon from topping the salmon, I added to the steaming pot. I used one bunch of sage from the butternut squash risotto on the salmon as well. This helped me use up more of the fresh herb and not let it go to waste. Since I knew I needed something specific for one meal in the week, I planned another meal to use the same ingredients. Meal planning for the win!
TIP #4: INVEST IN SPICES
Investing in a spice rack is the beginner’s best friend of simple cooking tips. Depending on what staples you start with, the upfront money shouldn’t be terribly expensive. What you spend first, you save later because dried herbs and spices will go a long way; they can be just as potent a year after opening (you can check freshness by how strongly they still smell). Reduced sodium is another benefit because you won’t need added salt to make your food pop.
- Off the bat, dried oregano is an herb to start using. I add it to pretty much everything.
- In place of chili powder, I use paprika and cumin for flavor. I miss spicy food (Sriracha forgive me), but its not great for my daughter’s sensitive stomach.
- Garlic powder is great when you don’t have the time to prepare garlic cloves.
- Usually, the ratio for dried herbs to fresh is 1:3 (1 teaspoon of dried herbs to 3 teaspoons of fresh).
- Add dried herbs toward the start of cooking to allow their flavor enough time to open up.
TIP #5: FIGURE OUT YOUR STAPLES
Everyone should get to know their pantry/fridge staples. In general, I’m not a huge fan of grocery shopping. So, when life gets too hectic, this is when simple cooking tips really come in handy. Having go-to items each grocery trip makes the event quick, with less stress. Then on nights I’m not sure what to make, or the day gets away from me, I can whip up a simple one-pot dish by throwing anything I have on hand together (recipe card bottom of post), or use a tried-and-true recipe I (now) know by heart. Usually I’m able to lightly experiment by using a different spice, vegetable, or whatever else I have at my disposal.
THE MORAL OF MY STORY
My simple cooking tips stem from “aha!” moments in the kitchen. For new moms venturing into cooking, the experience can seem daunting. Jump in, and you’ll soon realize just how easy it can be to learn. Now, I don’t have toddlers or a big family I cook for every night. That’s my eventual goal. Practicing now, ideally, will help me prepare for my first solo Thanksgiving or a random weeknight with many mouths to feed. Like I said at the top, I’m new to all this, but I’ve loved learning, and especially impressing my husband.
I am generally on my own with an infant while feeding myself during the day, so smoothies and yogurt bowls are a fast, tasty way to add nutrition. There are so many variations of flavors, so mix it up throughout your week. I like to add a handful of spinach to my smoothies for an extra boost of those leafy green vitamins.
Whether you’re new like me, or a veteran in the kitchen, preparing healthy meals to feed you and your family is necessary for positive energy, in both body and spirit. When we cut down on processed foods, and engage with what we eat, we’re more mindful of what we consume. Never quit eating pizza, eat an apple a day to keep the doctor away, and put love into everything you make.
What do you think? Are any of these tips helpful? What suggestions can you add to my simple cooking tips?