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Please help a new mom who's new to cooking too

Just had a baby two weeks ago and moved to the suburbs at the same time - so no more take-out! I'm looking for any dinner ideas that require only a few ingredients (grocery shopping can't take forever and I don't have a lot in the house). Ideas on which types of meat are easiest to cook (and how) would be great - I'm really clueless. Thank you so much in advance.

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  1. Congrats on your new baby! My first recommendation would be to invest in a crockpot - minimum prep time, and it does all the cooking for you. (Keep in mind that newer crockpots cook at a higher temperature than the older ones do, so recipes that call for cooking something for 9-11 hours probably is done in 5-7, depending on the meat.)

    Burgundy Beef Stew; French Onion Soup, Braised Short Ribs, Chicken Cacciatore, Pulled Pork, Pot Roast, Beef Brisket, BBQ Crockpot Chicken - all of this can be done in the crockpot and other than the initial prep time and fixing the side dishes, the cooking part is off your To Do list!

    Think of marinating things to give it lots of flavor and then baking or grilling. A quickly made marinade of a 1/3 cup of maple syrup, a 1/4 cup of Dijon mustard, and a couple of Tbsp. each of apple cider vinegar and molasses will give pork or chicken lots of flavor - cooking time in the oven is maybe 30-45 minutes or so at 350 degrees (depending on if you have Frankenchicken breasts, as they all seem to be!) Grilling is even faster - you can have the meat marinating, your DH can deal with the grilling when he gets home!

    Chicken and pork are also quick to cook in a stir-fry - slice/chop up your favorite veggies (broccoli florets, sliced carrots, onions, mushrooms are quick to prep - or buy already-sliced veggies - most supermarkets have already-prepped veggie paks to buy) and stir-fry in hot oil, adding chicken towards the end (keeping veggies crisp-tender and chicken fully cooked). Add some orange juice, grated ginger root, and a bit of cornstarch for thickening, and serve over basmati rice, and it's a complete meal. (Definitely look up a recipe - I'm just thinking off the top of my head so no idea on quantities or cooking times).

    HTH - I've linked a couple of recipes below that should start you off - I'm sure you'll get lots more responses!

    http://www.recipecircus.com/recipes/N... (This is SERIOUSLY good stew from Mabel Hoffman's "Crockery Cookery" cookbook - definitely get this cookbook and Rick Rodgers' "Ready & Waiting" cookbooks for some great ideas


    Other Crockpot recipes: http://southernfood.about.com/library...

    1 Reply
    1. re: LindaWhit

      I really can't thank you enough for taking the time to post. I'm going to order a crockpot online now!

    2. I think Linda's got a good thing going with the crockpot idea. (You can also use it for chili or red beans and sausage... mmm...) I can't recommend any in particular, but I would guess that any Betty Crocker or Better Homes & Gardens cookbook that advertises easy/fast/cheap/etc slow cooker recipes would be a good investment.

      Also, I would keep any eye out for any reputable cookbook brand that goes for a small number of ingredients, like this Better Homes & Gardens Five Ingredient cookbook: http://www.amazon.com/Five-Ingredient... I've looked through it a bit while shopping for a friend, and it seemed pretty helpful.

      As far as cooking technique, there's usually a YouTube video tutorial for almost anything you'd ever want to cook; I learned how to fry an egg properly from watching YouTube videos. :D

      Finally, since you don't want to spend forever in the grocery store, I would recommend a few things:

      First, buy a decent selection of basic dried herbs/spices that you like as well as some highly flavorful ingredients (the Dijon mustard, maple, and cider vinegar as listed below, or stuff like soy sauce, BBQ sauce, lemon juice, etc). Then you can always spice up even the blandest meal without running to the store.

      Second, keep a few easy staples around the house. Dried pasta and jarred sauce basically never go bad, and you can keep some ground beef or frozen meatballs in the freezer for probably 6 months or so, and then you've always got a tasty, basically healthy meal ready to go in like 15 minutes. (If you live near a Trader Joe's, they have an excellent selection of frozen prepared meals that are almost all delicious.


      Third, depending on how you and the people you cook for feel about leftovers, I find it much easier to cook a large amount of something and then either eat it for lunch the next day (and dinner a day or two later, or whatever) or freeze some of it, if possible. Basically, for a little bit more work up front, you can have 2-3 meals out of one trip to the kitchen. Suggestions here include lasagna (or any baked pasta), baked chicken breasts in something easy to pair with other food or make sandwiches out of (like BBQ sauce), or most of the slow cooker suggestions.

      Congrats, and I hope this helps! :D

      4 Replies
      1. re: nickblesch

        Basic spices and herbs - YES. Forgot this. And also forgot the "have the easy staples" in the pantry....both are completely second nature to me (I'd be lost without my spices & herbs and pantry must-haves!) that I just don't think about that anymore - very good recommendations, nick.

        And making a LOT of something and freezing it for later...that's another "duh!" moment - again, I do this all the time. It's just me in my house (the kitties don't count!) so I rarely make just a single meal - a lasagna, for instance, is made in a 9x9 pan, so it gives me several meals (usually dinner for a couple of nights, and the rest is frozen for work lunches).

        1. re: LindaWhit

          So many good, practical ideas here - I just wanted to toss out a word of caution. Don't know how you're feeding that lil' peanut of yours, but if you're breastfeeding, be wary of garlic, bell peppers, cucumbers and onions. Not only can they lend flavor to the milk that most babes find disagreeable, but can also cause gastric upset; colicky-like symptoms. Not all babies; just some.
          I haven't plowed my way through the rest of this yet, so I may already be seconding someone, but I thought this was worth a mention. My other best advice is to develop a small repertoire that you can vary with different herbs and seasonings: boneless breasts can be teriyaki'd and served w/ steamed rice, or lemon-peppered and served with orzo, or tomato-sauced (jarred is fine, we like Newman's Bombolina) and served w/ pasta for cacciatore, or put together as a potpie with cream of something soup and veggies and either frozen puff pastry or a ready-made pieshell. Stewed beef can be the basis for classic beef stew, shepard's pie, shredded into enchilada sauce for a quick layered tortilla casserole. When you have the time : ), make two casseroles instead of one, and freeze for future use; it will take no longer in the short run and save a ton of time in the long run. Much joy, and enjoy this time with your newborn; these are precious times.

          1. re: mamachef

            the lil' peanut is now almost 3yo, mamachef. :-) This was allyad's one and only post back in Dec. 2008.

            But the thread is still pertinent to others who might be (or are soon to be) in her then situation!

        2. re: nickblesch

          the silver palate cookbook has a great list of pantry and equipment basics from which to start but the crockpot should be #1

        3. Hi Allyad! Congratulations on your baby! Cooking can be daunting at first but thankfully, there are many delicious recipes that require very little effort and once you are used to some techniques and flavour combinations, you can improvise in minutes and rustle up a decent, nutritious yet yummy meal. I would second the recommendation of video tutorials. An excellent site for this is www.videojug.com where you will find all sorts of recipes explained in such a way that even the most reluctant of cooks feels encouraged!
          In terms og easy, quick dishes to start with, certainly stir-fries and pastas are some of the best. If you can get some arborio or carnaroli rice, risotto is a fantastic choice as it is all cooked in one same pot and you can add to it whatever ingredients you have: any type of veg (please note that root veg need to be roasted in the oven first before adding it to the risotto at the last minute), herbs, tomatoes, cheese and spices.
          Bulgar wheat and couscous are excellent choices as the former only takes about 5 minutes to cook and for the latter, all you need to do is add some boiling water (2 cups for 1 of cous cous), cover for 5 minutes and separate the grains with a fork adding some veg, olive oil and spices afterwards.

          Salmon steaks are really quick to cook on a griddle pan and delicious; they take about 5 minutes each side and you can serve them wirh tice, salad or veg.

          Good luck and don't hesitate to ask for help when you need it!

          1. Congratulations! All the advice you've gotten so far is great - not much to add. I did throw together something just last night that was super easy and would fit your criteria well - it was a shortcut pasta fagole. I used a large (28 oz.) can of diced tomatoes, a 15 oz. can of cannellini beans, some crushed garlic (Trader Joe's has some great shortcut staples if you have one nearby, but your regular grocer probably has this), some fresh sage leaves, and some small pasta - whatever shape you like.

            Put your pasta water on to boil. Put approx. 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a saucepan (med. sized), saute up the garlic and sage for a minute or so - until the garlic gets a little brown and fragrant. Add in the tomatoes and the beans (don't even bother draining or rinsing the beans). Heat it all up until the liquid reduces a little. Your pasta should be done now, or pretty soon, depending on what kind you chose. Spoon up some pasta into bowls, throw the fagole on top. Voila! Cheap, quick, hearty & hot.

            I think the Martha Stewart Everyday Food Magazine might be good for you - it's little in format, and everything is relatively quick to make and not very complicated. There aren't a lot of ingredients in most of the recipes, and it's not fussy - good pictures and good techniques. Every month a seasonal ingredient is featured, along w/recipes w/the ingredient, so it might help you branch out . . . .

            Have fun - now is a great time to ramp up your cooking - before that peanut becomes a toddler and the going gets REALLY crazy!

            2 Replies
            1. re: gansu girl

              Congrats on the baby!! Everyday Food magazine is great, and so is the cookbook. A crockpot is a great idea, and I think you should definitely try that out.

              A friend of mine used to hire a babysitter one Sunday a month to watch her kids (she had two 11 months apart!) so she could go grocery shopping and spend the day cooking. She would make double or triple meals to last a few weeks and freeze them. When she didn't want to pull out a frozen meal, the dinner was simple- stir fry, steak, or grilled tofu, with brown rice and steamed vegetables.

              Definitely take the time to learn how to make the basics- like a hearty soup- and you'll find yourself scrounging up meals in no time. A tip that helped me when I started working while in school was to keep a running list of grocery items that I needed on the fridge. If I only had one more can of tomato sauce, that went on the list.

              Good luck!

              1. re: cheesecake17

                i second the rec for the Everyday Food magazine and cookbook. The recipes are easy enough and the ingredients are usually things I either have on hand or things I would usually buy when food shopping anyway.

            2. When I had a newborn, the first thing I bought was a crockpot. I thought it would be easy to pop in all the ingredients and let it cook. After a few meals, everthing tasted the same and somewhat mushy so I put it away and didn't use it for a long time. The past couple of years, I started doing braises and stews in it. But, if you don't sear the meat first (I usually dredge it in seasoned flour first) and sautee the vegetables, you get that bland mushy taste. I love my crockpot but it's no faster or easier than cooking in the oven or on the stove. But, it lets you cook when you have time. I do know people who don't mind the taste and love to throw in all the ingredients with a can of cream of mushroom soup or whatever soup and are happy with it. As with everything, it's a personal thing.

              As easy food goes, meatloaf goes in the oven in minutes. Fish takes little time to cook and prep. Go with smaller cuts of meat that can be quickly stir fried, as with vegetables. You can add that to pasta w/ either tomato sauce, or just olive oil and garlic. Sautee chopped vegetables (onions, garlic, celery, carrots, ...), add a couple of cans of tomatoes, seasonings (bay leaves, oregano, parsley,...), let it summer and you have a good tomato sauce. While overwhelming, the newborn phase passes so quickly so enjoy!

              1. I think this is an excellent time to learn to cook. Your baby will be mostly sleeping for a few months so you'll have more time in the kitchen than I bet you anticipate for a good while. You can learn to cook a lot by the time your baby gets more demanding and needs more of your time. By then, you'll have a repertoire to build on.

                First of all, what do you like to eat? What kind of food do you want your baby to be eating? What cookbooks do your favorite cooks rely on? Choose one book and start working your way through it.

                You'll want to know how to do some basics like a white sauce, also known as bechamel. Use that to make some mac and cheese with some great cheese or a mixture of cheeses with real character. After all, all moms need to know how to make mac & cheese, no? Now that you've mastered a white sauce, you also know how to do gravy -- with meat drippings instead of butter -- and a cheese sauce too by grating cheese into your hot sauce. You'll also know how to substitute chicken broth for the milk and make a velouté sauce that you can pour over shredded roisserie chicken and steamed veggies in a casserole. Add a "crust" of pastry, biscuit or sheets of filo and you've made a chicken pot pie that will beat the socks off Swansons.

                Next step might be a roasted chicken. Here's Sara Moulton's recipe and nothing's easier. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sa... If you roast two you can serve one at dinner and shred and cube up the second one for quesadillas, chicken salad and more. And this would be a good time to learn to make a stock from the carcasses for soups.

                Next thing I'd go to work on is a braise or meat cooked slowly at a low temperature in a small amount of liquid. This will give you entry to things like stews and pot roast. Make sure you've got a nice enameled cast iron casserole and most of that long cooking time can take place in your oven while you're taking care of baby.

                Finally, I'd get myself a baby food mill http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00006G9LI?s... so the baby can start eating all the good and natural things you'll be cooking when he or she is ready to start eating solid foods.

                3 Replies
                1. re: rainey

                  At least, you hope the baby will be mostly sleeping for the first few months.

                  I feel so lucky that microwaves came along before our first child. Cooking with a baby can be hard. My recommendation is that when you cook, you make enough for several meals!

                  1. re: rainey

                    "The baby will mostly be sleeping for a few months"

                    What planet are YOU from? And I think a full-blown "learn to cook" while adjusting to having a child as part of your life is a tad..... chow-centric.

                    1. re: rainey

                      Are you kidding? My babies are 12 and 10, and I've yet to find the time to master all this, "whilst they sleep." I know the bread is old, but it's most important to figure out what you like and start simple. If you don't like fish, the easiest recipes in the wold won't help. Also, allrecipes.com is a Welty of cooking help to the new chef

                    2. If you are breastfeeding, best to stay away from very spicy foods and foods heavy on bell peppers and cucumbers until she is getting a bit of solid food as well. Although all the women in my family say they sure don't mind if you have a little beer!

                      roasted meats are great for easy cooking. All you need is a working oven, a chart (in any basic cookbook) that gives a rough idea of cut/size/cooking time and a good temperature probe. You can roast some veggies alongside or steam something up to accompany it the first night. With the leftovers, you can make sandwiches for a couple of days, or do up a stir fry, etc.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: weezycom

                        Great point, weezycom, about what not to eat. Stay away from things in the cabbage family, too -- they give baby gas. And stay away from chocolate, unfortunately, for the same reason! Not forever, just for a few months, and then try to introduce them again (to yourself) and see what happens to baby.
                        The days are long, but the years are short, so enjoy, enjoy, enjoy your beautiful baby!

                        1. re: rememberme

                          It totally depends on your baby's sensitivity. I ate an incredibly varied diet, including spicy foods, when I was nursing full time, and my daughter never had any issues with it or tummy upset. Now (at 18 months) she definitely likes some spicy foods.

                          1. re: Amuse Bouches

                            I too ate spicy foods and nearly everything else, but the cabbage-y things did not go well. And I hadn't known about chocolate sensitivity except that my mother was visitng and brought me a box of chocolate, and baby cried and didn't stop for a few days until I figured out the chocolate connection. I guess it's trial and error, but if baby seems unhappy think about what mom has been eating.

                            1. re: Amuse Bouches

                              I wholeheartedly agree, Amuse! I pretty much ate all the things I normally ate through pregnancy and nursing, spicy or otherwise, no prob. My daughter LOVES all types of food including broccoli rabe. She can't get enough!

                        2. Wow, a Baby and a New House in a New Town, your world is changing fast.

                          I would suggest learning how to make a great roast chicken, Sarah moulton's recipe was suggested and it is a good place to start. add a salad, and a starch, and dinner is done, as are lunches for a few days.

                          More important than any particular recipe is learning how to shop and keep the pantry stocked so that you can whip up dinner without fuss.

                          I live 30 minutes from the nearest big super market so running to the market for something is out of the question most days.

                          Spices - all of them
                          vinegars- cider, red wine, balsamic, and maybe a sherry, or white wine vinegar
                          oils - olive, extra virgin and pomace or light, canola or other vegetable oil
                          Mustards - dijon, brown, etc
                          canned tomato products, sauce, paste, chopped, whole, etc
                          dried pastas
                          dried beans, or canned beans, (fast chili, bean soups, etc)
                          canned stock or broth, low sodium, chicken, and beef, and vegetable - unless you start using left over bones to make your own.
                          some prepared salad dressings, - they can stand in for a marinade when you really have no time

                          for your freezer
                          a few whole chickens
                          chicken parts
                          some beef - pot roasts, a steak or two, etc
                          pork if you eat it, chops, roast, tenderloins, etc
                          frozen shrimp, either peeled and deveined, or shell on, raw
                          frozen veg - pearl onions, peas, corn, green beans
                          a package of puff pastry or phyllo - very quick desserts, or a simple pot pie, etc

                          I also like to keep on hand
                          onions, garlic, shallots

                          And pick up a cook book or two, as suggested, any of the crock pot cook books works, but a larger comprehensive cookbook such as the JOY of COOKING can answer questions. I also have a little cookbook from Blue Collar Catering in NYC called blue collar cooking and it had a few dozen recipes that can be put together fast and simple.

                          and lastly, learn to use sites like this one, FoodTV, epicurious, etc to find recipes.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: gardencub

                            I also found the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook verry easy to navigate with section dividers, measuring definitions and substitutions on back inside cover... great index; classic recipes, pictures of butcher cuts, with times and methods of cooking suggested; an important basic tool in my kitchen

                          2. I found that the stir-fry type recipes required too much prep/active cooking when my kids were babies. my first was a crier and when i had my second, he was a good baby but i wanted to spend time with my older one when he was sleeping.

                            my biggest cooking tip for a stay at home mom of young kids is to cook early in the day. late afternoon/evening is often the witching hour for babies and then when they get to be preschoolers/school aged you'll want to be playing outside of whatever at that point in the day.

                            so i often would make a big part of dinner or do the prep first thing in hte morning. later on i'd do it during afternoon nap. even now that i have a 3 YO and 6 YO, i cook dinner before school bus pick up at 3. then i re-heat plates at dinner time. not very chowish but it works for our life.

                            I prefer things i can put in the oven and leave for a bit as opposed to standing over and fussing with. so i make a lot of roasted whole chicken, or chicken breasts, or meat loaf, or pot roast. pair with rice, couscous or roasted potatoes and a salad and dinner is done.

                            if you are interested in crock pot cooking, check out the blog 'a year of crock potting'

                            1. Just a few tips:

                              --When sauteing a one pan meal (which is dinner most nights at my house) onions first, then garlic, then meat, then veg. Unless the veg is thick, like carrots, in which case they can go in before the meat. Then acid (lemon juice or vinegar or wine or tomatoes) then stock. Finally, cream or butter if you want to reconstitute your sauce. Serve over quinoa, rice, barley, or favorite grain/carb. You can also stuff Boston lettuce leaves for a healthy burrito.
                              --Tomatoes in re-sealable containers, look in the soup section of the market, are a wonderful staple. So are pre-made, unsalted or low sodium stocks and broths.
                              --A rice cooker is also a good investment idea. Throw everything in there and forget about it until ready to serve. You can also add crushed cardamon pods for Indian flare. Make too much? No problem. Throw the rest into a rice pudding, or save till tomorrow and make fried rice.
                              --Soups are the easiest things on the planet. For example- cut up a bunch of broccoli, put it and a leftover rind of hard cheese in a pot with a little salt, cover with water and cook for 20 minutes. Put the soup through a blender, food mill, cuisinart, or best yet use a stick blender and you have soup.
                              --Burro y pomodoro sauce: 1 can crushed tomatoes. 1 peeled onion, cut in half. 1 stick of butter. Cook all in a lidded saute pan and in 30 minutes, you have rich tomato sauce for pasta or chicken or shrimp or veg.
                              --Sausage is a great way to get a flavorful meat, without a long cooking time. If it's uncooked, split open the casing and squeeze the meat out.
                              --Learn how to roast a chicken. The meat can be transformed into three meals!
                              --Keep nuts, olives, capers, good parmesan, anchovy, and canned artichoke hearts on hand. They keep forever, and dress up everything.

                              1. Hi Allyad

                                YES to the crockpot. I have two: a 6 qt model that has served me well for 10 years, and a 1 1/2 qt model. Neither have a built in timer, so I bought a timer that is used for automatically turning on lights when you are on vacation, and plug my crockpot into it.

                                *Never cook less than 1 pound of pasta at a time. When it's about halfway cooked, I scoop out about half using a spider, then refrigerate it for a meal later in the week.

                                *Make large batches in the 6 qt. model then divide and freeze leftovers.

                                *I use the 1 1/2 qt model reheating meals so I don't need to watch the stove on busy nights. This model cooks very quickly, so it only takes about 2 hours from refrigerator to ready to eat.

                                *I use the 1 1/2 qt model to make porridge overnight. 1 C steel cut oats, rice or mixed grains, 3 C water, 1 C milk, 1/4 raisins or other dried fruit, pinch of salt.

                                *Chicken in the pot: put chunks of celery, carrots and onions in the crock. set a whole chicken sprinkled with salt, pepper and herbs (or stuff herbs and lemon in the cavity on top cover and set on high.

                                *Prep everything the when you have time. I've had success browning onions and meat for stew, cooking and putting in the freezer to use at a later date.

                                *I find crockpot365 blog helpful

                                *There are many gourmet recipes now available. This is wonderful, and I do like to make more involved recipes when I have time. For everyday use, these are two of my standbys.

                                All Day Macaroni and Cheese.
                                1/2 lb short cut macaroni, cooked al dente
                                1 lb grated cheddar
                                12 oz can of evaporated milk
                                1 1/2 C (use the milk can to measure) fresh milk
                                2 eggs
                                1 tsp salt
                                1/2 tsp pepper
                                1/2 tsp paprika
                                1 tsp mustard (Coleman's)
                                grated onion (optional)

                                mix everything but one C of cheese, together and pour into a lightly buttered (or sprayed) crockpot.. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Set on low, and let cook for 6-8 hrs. To start it in the morning, set the timer to turn on 3 hours after you leave for work.

                                Sheet on a Shingle
                                Chuck roast, envelope of onion soup mix, can of cream of mushroom soup
                                put in crockpot on low until meat is tender and easily shredded with a fork. Serve on toast or noodles with a salad or vegetable.

                                Upgrade: Steak on a Raft
                                Chuck steak
                                Large onion sliced
                                1 C Dry shiitake mushrooms soaked in boiling water to cover
                                Beef bouillion or Knorr cream of mushroom soup dry mix
                                1/2 C sour cream or to taste
                                Sourdough or other good bread, toasted and rubbed with cut side of garlic clove

                                Brown steak on all sides, and brown onions then put in crockpot. Combine mushrooms, soaking liquid, bouillion or soup mix and pour over meat and onions. Let cook until it shreds. Stir in sour cream and serve over garlic toast

                                1. Congratulations and best of luck to you! Hope you're loving mommyhood and your new digs! I'm 3 weeks away from my due date myself, so I'm trying to stock up now with all my staples before my own little bundle arrives - completely understand where you're coming from!! Here are some of the recipes that will keep the hubby and me nourished in the coming weeks! Hope they help you too! Best wishes!

                                  AVGOLEMONO (Greek lemon soup)

                                  3 cans of College Inn Chicken Broth
                                  1/4 cup long grain rice
                                  2 eggs
                                  1/3 to 1/2 lemon or lime juice (depending
                                  on how much you like your lemon!)

                                  In a large pot, boil the chicken broth. Pour in the
                                  rice. Bring to a good boil again. As the rice is
                                  cooking, whisk the eggs and lemon juice together in a
                                  bowl until mixture is nice and frothy. Test the rice
                                  and see if it's tender (makes sure it's not too soft!)
                                  When the rice is al dente, and the broth is still
                                  boiling, ladle about 1 and 1/2 cups of the hot broth &
                                  rice into the lemon-egg mixture. Whisk with a fork.
                                  Then, slowly pour the whole lemon-egg-broth mixture
                                  back into the pot, stirring constantly. Lower the
                                  heat. The hot broth cooks the eggs. You should see a
                                  cloudy white-yellow soup. Continue stirring for a few
                                  more minutes until soup is hot and steamy. Do not let
                                  it reach a boil. Stir in a pinch of salt & pepper.
                                  Serve with hot pita bread. Enjoy!!
                                  (Makes 1 quart o' soup!)

                                  Chicken is my favorite of all the meats. A whole chicken cut up into pieces is great, but thighs are also tasty (and very inexpensive too!). Here's a good recipe that you can double - it freezes well too.

                                  ARROZ CON POLLO (Chicken with Rice)

                                  1 large fryer
                                  1 cup salad oil
                                  1 medium onion, chopped
                                  2 cloves garlic, chopped
                                  6-ounce can tomatoes (drained, but save juice)
                                  1-1/2 quarts water
                                  1 bay leaf
                                  2 tablespoons salt
                                  Pinch of saffron
                                  1/2 medium-sized bell pepper, sliced
                                  1-3/4 cups long grain rice
                                  6-ounce can peas
                                  1 small jar Spanish olives with pimentos

                                  TO PREPARE:

                                  Cut chicken into quarters and fry in salad oil. When chicken is well browned, add onion, garlic, and drained tomatoes. Use the liquid from the tomatoes to make up the 1-1/2 quarts water. Add the water, bay leaf, salt, saffron, and green pepper. Stir thoroughly and let cook slowly for 20 minutes.
                                  Place chicken in a covered baking pan, add liquid and rice, and cook in 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Heat peas and serve over rice. Garnish with sliced olives.

                                  SERVES: 4

                                  1. I agree with most about a crockpot. I make chili in it all the time. We like to buy a roast of some kind for Sunday dinner and then use the leftovers for at least 2 more meals in the week such as bbq sandwiches and burritos or nachos. It makes for 2 extra easy meals during the week. (I freeze the meat if it is going to be more than 3 days before using the leftovers)

                                    1. Congrats! Remember that meat is not the only source of protein. Consider things like black beans, garbanzos, pintos, lentils, hummus, etc as easy proteins. Looks like others like the crockpot, we couldn't live without our pressure cooker.

                                      1. I agree with the idea to subscribe to a magazine like Everyday Food or Cooking Light - then you will keep learning new techniques and ideas.

                                        Some small tips from a busy cook (not a mom - yet - but a busy lawyer married to a busy lawyer):
                                        -Chicken or turkey sausages are healthy, keep well in the freezer, defrost in minutes and can be turned into a variety of meals. Turns pasta and jarred sauce into a meal, or make tuscan white beans with sausages, or cajun red beans with sausages, or quesadillas with chicken chorizo.
                                        -Canned beans are an essential pantry stable. See beans and sausages, above, or make a healthy salad of white beans and good canned tuna, or fresh hummus, or tacos/quesadillas with black or refried beans.
                                        -Buy twice as many chicken breasts as you need for dinner and grill or poach the extras for later in the week - chicken salad, chicken soup, tacos or burritos, etc.
                                        -Finally, store-bought chicken broth is another pantry staple, for crock pot soups, stews or chilis, or adding flavor to rice or veggies.

                                        Most of all, have fun!

                                        1. Already cooked whole chickens from the deli section, bags of lettuce (already cleaned), and veggies that can be steamed in the bag..in the microwave....same with rice and veggies. You can make all kinds of meals with those cooked whole chickens!

                                          1. I am so happy to see new people learn to cook!!!!! I recommend a great cookbook that will help you now and will still be a treasure when you have learned to cook: "The Way to Cook" by Julia Child. This is my go-to source for almost anything I have a question about.. There are lots of pictures and recipes that are easy and directions about how to do almost anything.

                                            1. Many congratulations Allyad; the best advice I can give you in my 25 years or more of cooking dinner is always decide the day before what you are going to have for dinner the next day. IF you change your mind or want something different - most meat will last another day in the refrigerator but the harmony of the decision that you know what dinner will be is an enormous relief. We just had an enormous Chinese lunch in the Montebello section of Los Angeles and will just eat a salad for a snack tonight but the meat that I had in the freezer last night for tonight's dinner will be OK for tomorrow.
                                              Chicken thighs skinned as well as chicken breasts marinated are always a quick dinner. I can also recommend the Oxy "Chopper" which you can buy from Amazon for $25 with free two day shipping; big bowls with a metal chopper which makes the most wonderful chopped salads - lettuce and throw in anything you have - just delicious. We always say "Wow this is a $12.95 salad at least".

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                                              1. re: ZoeZ

                                                Consider subscribing to a food magazine like Good Food. I bought a subscription for nephew and it is helping him to cook simple meals without processed ingredients. I think the show is helpful as well.

                                              2. Congrats on your new baby Mom! In the nice weather, grilling on a gas grill (while it isn't my favorite taste wise) is a great way to make yummy and easy meals - marinated chicken (watch for onions though if you're breast feeeding), veggies, foil wrapped potatoes and fish......lots of things, baby on your hip, are easy peasy ....

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                                                1. re: EmoryJ

                                                  I have to say that I'd never grill with a baby on my hip -- they're too much of reachers (or at least, toddlers are), sadly.

                                                  As a busy mom, things that can be made either very very quickly or ahead of time are your friend. Crockpots and stews are things I definitely rely on.


                                                2. Hi allyad,

                                                  There's already lots of great advice, but I thought I'd come along and add my 2cents.

                                                  First, I'm with chowser on the crockpot. I do have one and use it occasionally (esp. in cold weather), but sometimes I get bored with the muted flavors. So, in addition to the aforementioned crockpot ideas, another thing to get acquainted with is your oven/broiler. There's a lot you can do in there with about 5 minutes of prep. I love to toss some vegetables with a little olive oil and salt, spread them out on a baking sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes at 400. You can also rub chicken breasts with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and place them right on the baking sheet too. This is a great meal when your baby gets a little older too, because you can just run it through the blender or food mill and feed it to him/her.

                                                  Another idea is find a local butcher (or perhaps even your supermarket) and look for the lightly "prepared" meat items like chicken cordon bleu, stuffed chicken breasts or stuffed pork chops, etc. These are really easy to pop in the oven with some veggies spread around them and roast in just one pan.

                                                  As for cooking skills, do you have cable? I learned how to cook from the Food Network. Seriously...that's where I got the majority of my skills. So, while feeding or whatever, turn it on to get some ideas of HOW to do things. You don't necessarily need to follow the recipes, but you'll get an idea of common things to do in the kitchen, and eventually that will allow your confidence and skill to grow.

                                                  Good luck and enjoy your baby!!

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                                                  1. re: RosemaryHoney

                                                    some seafood depts of some markets will cook your fish, lobster, shrimp,etc. for you while you do the rest of your shopping...

                                                  2. Congratulations! A crock-pot yes, and I hope you have or you'll buy a seperate freezer - it will save your life. I have always tripled or more recipes we love that freeze well, usually end up with 4 or 5 entrees to choose from there. For when I don't want to cook at all, I keep Bortolli frozen pasta meals and Tyson fajita kit in the freezer as well. You may want to subscribe to cooksillustrated.com - it's a great teacher and the recipes are foolproof.
                                                    Maybe buy The Joy of Cooking, it's a cook's "bible". Good luck, and let us know how you're doing!

                                                    1. One tip: whatever you cook, make enough for another night. Rotate the leftovers so that the next night, you might have rice again. The night after that, you might have the leftover chicken and make a new side dish...

                                                      1. I agree about the crockpot but don't forget your oven. You can do utterly simple meals by just putting things in the oven at the same time. Chicken breasts (split breasts with the skin still on), boneless skinless chicken breasts with bacon slices over the top so they don't dry out, one huge turkey leg with skin on, or big thick pork chops or a small pork roast, or a smallish whole frying chicken, all take about an hour at 350*. Line the pan well with foil so you minimize your cleanup. At the same time, put in an Idaho baking potato apiece, or a whole sweet potato apiece (bust these open and fill with butter and brown sugar). You can do a couple of baked apples at the same time, or a pan of gingerbread made from a mix, or halves of acorn squash filled with butter and salt and pepper or butter and brown sugar and nutmeg. All of this bakes at the same time. For the last ten minutes you can bake some of those biscuits that come in a refrigerated can. Throw together a salad or zap one of those packages of steamable green peas and you've got dinner, total prep time about five minutes.

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                                                        1. re: Querencia

                                                          I think all the ideas are great. None of them mentioned having a hushand that wants to be a good support and helper in the kitchen, so I guess this is the best we can do.

                                                        2. Me again, thought of more stuff for you: 1) Couscous that you just add to boiling water and let set for 5 minutes, I think brand is Near East, something like that. 2) Boil-in-the-bag rice. 3) An English dinner of fish & chips (fish sticks and frozen French fries). 4) Sliced roast beef from the supermarket deli counter with a can of beef gravy; have this with a baked potato. 5) Cheese omelet with frozen French fries. 6) Stovetop Stuffing. 7) Gravy that comes in cans or jars. 8) A can of cream-style corn with 2 beaten eggs and a cup of milk, bake this, makes corn pudding. 9) Quiche using a frozen pie crust---just whip up 3 eggs with 1 cup of milk and add some shredded cheese and anything else: sauteed onions or mushrooms, cooked spinach, bits of leftover ham or sausage or bacon. 10) Picadillo: saute ground beef with onion, a green pepper too if you have one; add an 8-oz can tomato sauce, and a can or two of water, season with salt and cumin (essential), add a handful of raisins and some stuffed olives (also essential); have this with rice.

                                                          1. Hi and congrats! I didn't know how to cook much of anything until I was at home with my newborns. I started with soups, which is a good way to learn some knife skills. Once you get good with chopping, dicing, and mincing, cooking isn't such a chore. I bought Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything and highly recommend it. It's huge and not every recipe is a hit, but if you've got ingredients in your pantry/fridge you're trying to figure out what to do with, he's likely got several recipes for you. He goes by ingredient and then gives multiple recipes and variations.
                                                            Quick easy dinners: fish fillets topped with dijon mustard, or olive oil, salt and pepper, or dipped in milk and coated in bread crumbs then drizzled with butter, in the oven at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes. When you can stick a fork through it without it springing back at you, it's done. Or top with tomato slice and fresh herbs, drizzle olive oil, wrap in foil and bake. Shrimp- saute on stove top with minced garlic and halved grape tomatoes.
                                                            Bone in chicken pieces- saute diced onions, sliced carrots, minced garlic until softened, add chicken pieces, season all with salt and pepper and whatever other dried or fresh herbs or spices you like (thyme is good), add chicken broth or canned diced tomatoes with juices, cover for 20-30 minutes on a simmer.
                                                            Get a Foreman grill and make salmon and lamb burgers. Chop up raw salmon fillets by hand or in food processor with mayo or tartar sauce and dill, s and p, form into patties and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, put on foreman greased foreman grill on level 5. Combine ground lamb and oregano, s and p, grill patties on foreman grill, top with feta cheese and sliced tomato.
                                                            I also think you'd love Everyday Food. Hope this helps...

                                                            1. I didn't read all of the replies so sorry if any ideas have already been posted.

                                                              1. Fish is very quick and easy to cook. A one pound piece of salmon will take 10-25 min. depending on how you like it cooked. Buy some lemon pepper seasoning to sprinkle on top, or you can make this: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/he...

                                                              2. Steak salad is easy. Buy a bag a salad, cut up some red onions, mushrooms, canned sliced beets, any veggies really, croutons, and cook a nice sirloin steak. Steak should take about 6 min. per side for around med. if it's a one pound sirloin. Slice up the steak, top with some cheese, add your favorite dressing.

                                                              3. Tacos/burritos are easy. I know you're pressed for time, so just buy a packet of taco seasoning, some lean ground meat (I use the 92% lean), then some taco or burrito shells. The taco seasoning packet will have directions on it. Buy a bag of pre shredded lettuce, some salsa, cheese and you're good to go.

                                                              4. Hamburgers are easy, I really like to use ground buffalo, but otherwise I use 92% lean ground meat. I don't use a recipe, but I'm sure there are plenty online.

                                                              5. Steak and baked potatoes are an easy dinner.

                                                              None of it is gourmet, but I don't think you'll be disappointed.

                                                              Just noticed this post is over a year old, oh well.

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                                                              1. re: Rick

                                                                Hey - I'm not the original poster - but I'm also a new mom (when I first posted on this thread, my little boy was in-utero - now he's 10 months - how time flies!) and I can always use new cooking ideas that save time! These are all great - thanks very much!

                                                              2. I'm not sure if anyone posted this website but it's a blog of a woman who used her crockpot every day for an entire year.

                                                                The website consists of her recipes as well as the verdict on the recipe.


                                                                Congrats on the addition to your family!

                                                                1. Congratulations!! I hope you enjoy cooking and not viewing it as a chore but an expression of love for your family. Here are some recipes that are very easy to make.

                                                                  Slow-cooker beef & black bean chili (I have not tried this yet, but looks great and oh so easy)

                                                                  Last-minute Lasagna

                                                                  BBQ ribs (super simple and wonderful!

                                                                  Salsa chicken (2 ingredients-use meat for tacos, quesadillas, salads, sandwiches

                                                                  Best of luck to you!

                                                                  1. Hi! Congratulations on your baby. Boy, are you in for the ride of your life!

                                                                    You've come to the right place for advice. These people are awesome. I can offer you two sources I really believe in: Lidia Bastianich and Jacques Pepin. You can find their cookbooks at the local library (people rarely part with used copies, I've noticed) or you can watch them on PBS online or on Saturday mornings. They offer good, healthy food with a minimum of ingredients.

                                                                    If you have room, learn to garden You can grow herbs for the portion of the cost of buying in the stores. Farmers markets in the summer, perfect for taking your baby out..

                                                                    Cultivate your child's tastes. Teach them to eat good food, and they won't want McDonald's. (Well, mostly. LOL.) I've raised four kids in the burbs, money was tight, but now they're all great cooks, and they don't care for junk. My last hold-out, my daughter ironically enough, actually asked for a rice-cooker for Christmas, and she's making rice balls for her supper.

                                                                    Off topic, perhaps, but if you're looking for stuff, such as food appliances, etc., check out Yahoo's Freecycle for your area. It's for people who want to get rid of their stuff, and for people who want stuff. Free. I furnished my apartment AND got myself a computer that way. And I've never met a rude Freecycler. It recycles! What could be cooler?

                                                                    Wow. You're at the beginning. My best wishes to you.

                                                                    1. Hi and congratulations! the one thing I didn't see in scanning the terrific posts was soup. A big pot of hearty soup can provide a meal or two then the leftovers can go in the freezer for when you don't really feel like cooking. Soups are also dead easy and make the house smell so good. You can actually start with bought stock or even water or V-8 juice. I like to use organic free range chicken broth which is now available in most grocery stores. Start in a heavy pot by browning in olive oil diced onions, garlic (use only a little garlic if the baby reacts negatively to it), diced carrots. If you want to add meat then also brown some ground meat (turkey, beef chicken, pork will all work). When the vegetables are getting soft and a tiny bit brown on the edges add broth, juice or water. If you have an end of parmigiana cheese you can throw that in. Then add other vegetables(potatoes, turnips, sweet potatoes, green beans etc) cook until mostly done then add some canned tomatoes and canned beans. You can also add some sliced up greens like kale, chard or spinach. I like to add a handful of frozen peas in at the end to add some fresh taste. Herbs can be anything that you like - dill, oregano, marjoram, basil - really any herb that you find pleasant. with a salad and good bread you can have a healthy, comforting meal with lots left to freeze. Pea soups and bean soups are also very easy and inexpensive.
                                                                      I realize my directions are sort of basic and general but I think of soup as being made of what you have on hand and how it comes together is based on personal preference.

                                                                      My daughter recently had her first child and she has been relying either crock pot or top of the stove braised chicken. She makes a batch of rice in her rice cooker and simply reheats the rice in the microwave each night. She mostly uses chicken thighs since they have more flavor than breasts.
                                                                      Finally - try to have some sort of dark green vegetable in each dinner, either cooked in with everything else or as a side. They pack a wallop of nutrition that is especially good for a tired new mom and for the baby.

                                                                      1. Now that I'm a new mom myself, I can answer this post more intelligently.

                                                                        Slow cooker. Slow cooker. Slow cooker.

                                                                        Get the kind with the stove top insert (it's worth the investment to always have one less pot to scrub). You can put up a meal in the AM and have it ready for dinner, and you don't have to make your cuts too small and pretty so it takes a lot less time. Or you can put on oatmeal before bed and it's ready for breakfast.

                                                                        Also invest in a lot of BPA free plastic containers to freeze half of what you make. That way, you are not eating chili for three or four nights in one week.

                                                                        1. Yes, I know this is an OLD thread, but the topic is forever. While I am all for learning how to cook while learning how to be a parent, there will be days when even the slow-cooker or a roast chicken is one thing too much to manage (trust me-been there...).

                                                                          So right after all the above advice and recipes, and purchasing the Slow Cooker, do this. Call everyone you know and tell them when they visit (and they will!) do not bring a 'onesie', a receiving blanket or a stuffed dog, BRING FOOD! Food for the freezer, preferably.

                                                                          If you ask nicely, they won't mind.

                                                                          I am a brand new Nana and hope to repeat this experience as it is so much fun. I just spent the day with my daughter and new grandson...we took turns cooking up a big batch of the Joy of Cooking Cauliflower and Potato Curry (with green peas) for her pal who is due home from hospital with her newborn.

                                                                          My daughter is a 'pro' now as her son is 6 months old and she maintains her best baby gifts were all edible.

                                                                          Every time I visit (weekly-lucky me!) I bring frozen chili,beef stews, Morrocan Chicken and Prunes, marinara sauce, pea and any other hearty soup (small containers-new Mom's need to eat lunch, too!)

                                                                          Again, congratulations and enjoy-babies are the gift that keeps on giving!

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: LJS


                                                                            My MIL and mom come over with shepard's pie, chicken pot pie, mac and cheese...anything that can be shoved in the microwave when DH and I get home.

                                                                          2. I see that this is old but revived so for the sake of searchers...

                                                                            Found this on Pinterest:


                                                                            Prepping & freezing slow cooker meal ingredients allows you to pull out a bag (or container), empty it into the slow cooker, and go.