Top Kitchen Tips for Working Parents

Top Kitchen Tips for Working Parents | www.kiwiandbean.com

The hardest part about being a working parent is the cooking. I could handle the commute and the nylons, the office politics and the food court sandwiches if it weren’t for that gargantuan task (a second job, basically) that awaits me each night in the kitchen. And yes I “love” to cook, but after a long tiring day at the office, even *I* would rather collapse in front of the TV than roast broccoli, make pasta sauce, and (the worst part) clean it all up. Are you with me?

So today, instead of sharing a recipe, I’m counting down some top kitchen tips from and for working parents. Some of these are my own tricks but many of them come from the Kiwi & Bean readers who answered my desperate Facebook call-out. If nothing else, it’s reassuring to know that I’m not the only one toiling in the post-workday meal-making trenches.

Top Kitchen Tips for Working Parents | www.kiwiandbean.com

Here they are—the TOP 10 KITCHEN TIPS FROM WORKING PARENTS. If you’ve got other tips, please please share them in the comments.

1.   WINE. None of the readers mentioned this one, which means I’m apparently the only one unashamed enough to admit that I could not survive parenthood without New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Drinking while cooking not only takes the edge off of a long day; it also makes the daily cooking task something I actually sometimes look forward to.

2.   TELEVISION. I like to do my cooking and food-prep after the kids have gone to bed and while watching episodes of on-demand daytime television. It’s a guilty (and embarrassing?) pleasure maybe, but hey I deserve it. And so do you! If you don’t have a TV in viewing distance of your kitchen counter, load Netflix onto a laptop or tablet, or listen to podcasts on your phone. (This is one of my gut-splitting favourite ones.)

3.   STOCK YOUR FREEZER. I (sadly) often have nightmares about a power-outage destroying the contents of my freezer. Not only would that be a very expensive tragedy, I would be without the staples I rely on to fuel my family: frozen berries for morning smoothies and pancake-toppers, individually wrapped salmon filets, vacuum packed chicken parts (your butcher will do this for you!) and sausages, edamame and peas, among lots of other things.

Turn your freezer staples into: Weekday Weenie Bake, Peanut Noodles with Broccoli and Edamame or One Pot Chicken Adobo with Coconut Rice

Top Kitchen Tips for Working Parents | www.kiwiandbean.com

4.   STOCK YOUR PANTRY TOO. In a pinch, a can of refried beans and some cooked quinoa or rice can be turned into a pretty darn good dinner. I make sure that I’ve always got a good quantity of basics like these on hand: quinoa, rice, canned or tetra pack beans, salsa, coconut milk, canned tuna, pasta, canned tomatoes (whole and crushed), and jarred tomato pasta sauce.

Turn your pantry staples into: Pantry Pasta with Kale, Chickpeas and Sun Dried Tomatoes, One Skillet Peanut Chicken or Quinoa Fried “Rice”

5.   BATCH COOK. This was a popular one amongst the readers who responded to my Facebook call-out. At least once a week, make a big (and by big I mean double or triple recipe) batch of stew, chili, braised meat, soup, meatballs or shepherd’s pie, and freeze a family-sized portion for a future dinner. There is nothing more satisfying than popping a ready-made meal into the microwave. (For the record, I still do wine AND crappy daytime TV, even on those nights.)

Cook and freeze: Big Batch Pulled Chicken Chili, Quick Moroccan Chicken ThighsCrouching Turkey Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce or Blueberry Oatmeal Chia Muffins

Top Kitchen Tips for Working Parents | www.kiwiandbean.com

6.   USE YOUR SLOW COOKER. A couple of readers mentioned this one too. If you are the sole cook in the family, think of a slow cooker as the closest you will ever come to walking in the door to a home-cooked dinner. I’ve got a couple of great slow cooker recipes to share with you before the winter is out, so stay tuned!

Top Kitchen Tips for Working Parents | www.kiwiandbean.com

7.   PREP IN ADVANCE. One reader—and I want to HUG her for this—recommended mincing or crushing a bunch of garlic at the beginning of the week and storing it in the fridge with a little olive oil, so that you don’t have to whip out the garlic press every night. I LOVE this idea. Because it’s little things like peeling and mincing garlic that make cooking feel like a chore, right? This principle can be applied to lots of other thankless kitchen tasks too: why chop part of a broccoli bunch when you can chop the entire thing, store it in the fridge, and then use it throughout the week? If you can find the time once a week (and television and wine might help with this) to wash and tear your greens, chop up broccoli and cauliflower, peel carrots, mince garlic, and make some bean dip, granola or quinoa, your daily meal prep grind will be much less painful. Even taking a couple of minutes to fill up the pasta pot with water before you leave for work in the morning will make a surprising difference.

Top Kitchen Tips for Working Parents | www.kiwiandbean.com

8.   COOK ONCE, EAT TWICE (OR 3 TIMES). This should probably be #1. My loyal reader and dear dear lifelong friend Papouli (a pseudonym she earned in the 1990s), also a trained chef and mom of 2 kidlets, is all about the roast chicken. She makes it weekly, saves some of the meat for a second dinner, and throws the bones into the slow cooker for an overnight swim. One chicken, three dinners. You can do the same with a big roast beef or lamb shoulder, too.

Make this: Foolproof Roast Chicken on day 1 and save the leftovers to make these Easy Chicken, Kale & Goat Cheese Enchiladas on day 2.

Foolproof Roast Chicken | www.kiwiandbean.com

Foolproof Roast Chicken | www.kiwiandbean.com

9.   MEAL PLAN. The holy grail. Honestly. Making a weekly or monthly meal plan means you won’t ever experience that ghastly 2 p.m. “OMG what the hell am I going to cook for dinner?” panic. You will likely also eat healthier and spend less grocery money. Win win win.

Check out: 6 Meals in 6 Minutes Meal Planning

10.   GROCERY SHOP ONLINE. This is a bit of a controversial one. I use our local online grocery delivery service so much that I might *actually* be their best customer. But I have lots of friends who cannot fathom the idea of a stranger selecting their avocados. Each to his own. All I know is that the last thing I want to do with precious Sunday hours is stroll through a fluorescent-lit warehouse searching for paper towels. Even if you “like” grocery shopping, get the weekly staples delivered to your door and scratch your shopping itch at farmer’s markets and specialty stores when you feel the need.

Top Kitchen Tips for Working Parents | www.kiwiandbean.com

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One Pot Chicken Adobo with Coconut Rice

One Pot Chicken Adobo with Coconut Rice | www.kiwiandbean.com

I’ve been on a bit of a chicken quest this past month. I feel like we eat a lot of chicken around here, and I am getting bored with cooking (and eating) the usual standbys.

I do wonder if it’s maybe less of a chicken thing than a winter thing. You know how you greet October by roasting and stewing and slow-cooking and braising the heck out of everything in sight, and then by January you would be happy if you never looked at another stew for the rest of your life? Stew fatigue. It’s a thing. Continue Reading →

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Quick and Creamy Rotini with Broccoli and Mushrooms

Creamy Boursin Rotini with Broccoli & Mushrooms | www.kiwiandbean.com

Once you try this recipe, you will never ever again take another sideways glance at that boxed mac ‘n cheese stuff.

Oh c’mon and admit that when you stroll down the pasta aisle at the grocery store, the boxed stuff calls out to you in a little teeny tiny “buy me” kinda voice. Or is that just me? I grew up on that day-glo orange un-elbowed macaroni delight (before the days of all the spelt and white cheddar and organic and cauliflower pasta blasphemy) and I am not ashamed to admit that every once in awhile I JUST WANT A BITE. To be transported back to a simpler time when Brenda dated Dylan, the Blue Jays dominated at baseball, and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese was totally healthy as long as you made it with margarine and fat-free milk.

But when noodle nostalgia threatens to get the better of me, I put my head down and push my grocery cart on to the chia-seed aisle, remembering that (1) powdered cheese gives me a stomachache, and (2) I can make a just-as-easy, yet healthier and more delicious version from scratch. Continue Reading →

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Top 10 Recipes from 2014

Top 10 Recipes from 2014 | www.kiwiandbean.com

I remember long ago my mom lamenting the “stress” of the holiday season. As a kid, I could never understand how something so magical and fun and full of parties and new shiny toys could possibly be “stressful”. Of course all these years later I understand exactly how my mom felt. Creating magic and memories at Christmas is a full time job. And today I’m retiring. I’m sitting on the couch with a cup of tea, my laptop and a couple of magazines. My cooking projects are on hold (until next week) while I refuel and reflect on the year that just flew right by.

It’s trite, I realize, to talk about time flying and all that. But holy cow, where did the year go?! A year ago today I was hugely pregnant, awaiting the birth of my newborn baby. And today that newborn is greeting me with “HI” when I go into his bedroom in the morning; crawling up and down the stairs; and laughing hysterically at his big sister’s antics. In less than a year he’s become a full-blown person and a member of our family. (And I have the grocery bills to prove it!)

It was a big year in the K&B kitchen, too. We made roast chicken and gingerbread cake, pasta and more pasta, oatmeal, burgers, salmon and raspberry bars, among many other tasty treats. I was also introduced to a whole new world of “allergen-free” cooking, when my little guy was diagnosed with allergies to several staple foods (wheat, eggs and nuts among them). And while cooking “allergen free” doesn’t sound particularly sexy, it’s been eye-opening for me. I’ve discovered grains and seeds and foods that I didn’t even know existed, and in an ironic twist our diet is more varied now than it was before the food restrictions came along.

I’ve got lots of great stuff on the blog horizon for 2015, including some new weeknight-saving recipes, a month long meal plan for the new year, and a new cookbook review column. If you’d like to follow along and/or join the conversation (I’d love that), you can subscribe by email, or follow on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter.

But before we get to 2015, I’m rounding up the top 10 recipes on (Cooking for) Kiwi & Bean from 2014. These are the most visited K&B recipes from the past year. From anchovy-laced noodles to cheesy enchiladas to crispy whole-grain waffles, all of these most-trafficked recipes are kid-friendly, wholesome, simple fare that the whole family will love. I promise.

From my hungry family to yours: Happy New Year! I look forward to cooking with you in 2015.

xoxo,

Sarah

1. No-Cook Sicilian-Style Tomato Pasta Sauce

No-Cook Tomato Pasta Sauce | www.kiwiandbean.com

2. Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa

Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa by KiwiandBean.com

3. Whole Grain Banana Oatmeal Waffles

Banana Oatmeal Waffles | www.kiwiandbean.com

4. Blueberry Oatmeal Chia Muffins

Blueberry Oatmeal Chia Muffins | KiwiandBean.com

5. Kale Salad with Apple, Avocado, Parmesan & Honey Dijon Vinaigrette

Kale, Apple, Avocado, Parm Salad | www.kiwiandbean.com

6. New Year’s Resolution Brownies

Dark Chocolate Brownies, free of grains, refined sugar and dairy | www.kiwiandbean.com

7. Easy Chicken, Kale & Goat Cheese Enchiladas

Easy Chicken, Kale & Goat Cheese Enchiladas | www.kiwiandbean.com

8. Oven-Baked Crispy Chicken Breasts

KidFriendlyMealCloseUp

9. Black Bean Sweet Potato Chocolate Fudge Bars

Black Bean Sweet Potato Chocolate Fudge Bars | www.kiwiandbean.com

10. Pumpkin Pie Buckwheat Pancakes

Pumpkin Pie Buckwheat Pancakes | (Cooking for) Kiwi & Bean

 

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The Ultimate Make-Ahead Turkey Dinner

The Ultimate Make-Ahead Turkey Dinner | www.kiwiandbean.comT minus 6 days until my Christmas guests arrive for a big roasted turkey and all the trimmings. This is only the second time ever that I will be hosting and cooking a Christmas dinner. I am very lucky to have some highly competent Christmas dinner cookers in my family (Mom, Irene, Susan and Mary I’m talkin’ about YOU!) and for most of my adulthood I have let them do the cooking while I eat spinach dip and play charades. But this year, it’s all me.

Now here’s the thing about all this: while I’m happy to do the planning, cooking and shopping for the big meal, I still want to eat spinach dip and play charades, darn it! I want to sit by the fire with a glass of champagne and some jingle bells. I do NOT want to be madly whisking lumps out of the gravy while everyone else is kissing under the mistletoe. Continue Reading →

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20 Healthy Holiday Treats (and some news!)

20 Healthy Holiday Treats

Ok, so before I get into the cookies and stuff, can I just drop all humility for a moment and share with you some really amazing, totally overwhelming news? The 2014 Canadian Weblog Awards announced their winners last night, and…WE WON! This seems like the perfect time for a big fat OMG! That’s right, (Cooking for) Kiwi & Bean took first prize in the Food & Drink category and second prize in the Family & Parenting category. Holy wow.

Guys, I started this blog a couple of years ago having no idea how to design and build a blog or take a food photo (like honestly, my photography skills were cringe-worthy at best). I started it as a creative outlet from my long lawyering days and  to spare my poor friends the daily “Guess What I Made for Dinner!!” emails. There have been (many) days when I’ve asked myself whether it’s REALLY worth the time and soul-baring embarrassment, when I’ve shed a few (or lots) of tears over 759 spam comments, hacked files, recipe fails and accidentally-deleted photos, and when I’ve considered just packing it all in and taking up stamp-collecting.

But today is definitely not one of those days. I am honoured, chuffed and totally thrilled that two years in, I can call this (mostly) happy little corner of cyberspace my *award-winning* food blog. Squee!

And now onto the stuff you actually came here to read:  Continue Reading →

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Good-for-Ya Gingerbread Chocolate Chip Cake

Gingerbread craving? Satisfy it with this good-for-ya (and gluten-free and vegan!) Gingerbread Chocolate Chip Cake. It’s moist, sweet, gingery and studded with dark chocolate, but secretly healthy and nutrient dense, thanks to the sweet potatoes, buckwheat flour, flaxseed, olive oil and blackstrap molasses.

Vegan Gluten-Free Gingerbread Chocolate Chip Cake

I have finally—albeit reluctantly—made peace with December-dom. I could have sworn that labour day was, um, last week. And I refuse to put my flip flops away for the season, despite Kiwi’s frustrated pleas. But there are flashing lights on my house and a gargantuan Christmas tree in my living room. So ya, December—it’s officially on. Continue Reading →

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What’s Cooking on the Web (November edition)

Miami | www.kiwiandbean.com

I considered titling this post “How to Get Drunk in 12 Minutes” or “Sleeping in until 8:30 a.m. for Beginners” or maybe “The Joy of Peeing Without an Audience”. Kiwi and I took a well-deserved little mini-break down to Miami Beach last weekend, and temporarily reconnected with our pre-children selves.

Miami | www.kiwiandbean.com

I wish I could say that the highlight of the trip was strolling hand in hand on the white sand or sipping cold drinks next to the pool, but honestly I couldn’t get past the sleeping and solo bathrooming. Oh, and the plane ride. The PLANE RIDE. If you’ve ever flown across the country on your own with two small children one of whom inevitably has to pee as soon as the other one falls asleep (and I happen to have done this *six* times since April), you will appreciate how blissful it is to get on a plane BY. YOURSELF. With a small purse, a cappuccino and a copy of In Touch magazine. Bliss. Continue Reading →

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Jackson Pollock Popcorn, and a Butter Baked Goods Giveaway

I’m taking a little break from all the kale and beans and sweet potatoes this week to bring you this dark-chocolate-drizzled caramel popcorn.

Jackson Pollock Popcorn | www.kiwiandbean.com

Let me be clear—there is nothing healthy about this popcorn. No hidden veggies or pureed legumes or anything of the sort. But that didn’t stop me and my ecstatic three year old from shoving the whole darn batch down our sugar-deprived pie-holes. (Which is an awfully graphic and unpleasant image, I realize. Sorry.) Continue Reading →

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Black Bean Sweet Potato Chocolate Fudge Bars

These  dense, creamy, fudgy brownie bars are vegan, gluten-free and refined-sugar free, and packed with the goodness of sweet potato and black beans. Healthy never tasted so good, my friends.

Black Bean Sweet Potato Chocolate Fudge Bars | www.kiwiandbean.com

If there is one thing I have learned in my three years of cooking for a small person: no matter how much you push the healthy food and no matter how delicious you make it taste and appetizing you make it look, your kids will want chocolate. You can tell them that too much chocolate will give them tummy aches or torrent diarrhea; you can talk up the “sugar bugs” that will take up residence in their teeth; and you can hide mommy’s dark chocolate stash on the top pantry shelf behind the millet crackers. But all this will very likely make them want the chocolate even more desperately. It’s just one of those hair-pulling immutable parenting truths. Continue Reading →

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