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Relatively New Mom Needs Suggestions

Eighteen months ago I had my first child. My life has been turned upside down in the most wonderful way, but due to the new responsibilities, lack of sleep and no family in the area or hired help, my diet and my waistline have gotten completely out of control. I used to spend down time at work lurking on Chow, but I'm ashamed to admit I haven't truly cooked a damn thing in 18 months. Any suggestions for relatively quick, fairly healthy entrees? We don't eat beef or much fish. Thanks in advance for the help.

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    1. Well, I'm in a very similar spot - but my daughter is 10 months! We do quite a bit of proteins and then a big ol' salad on the side. We also do a lot of soup and sandwiches and will yes, end up eating the same soup for a few days for lunch and/or dinner. I think things like soup, salads and sandwiches are quick and easy, but can be made exciting - you know? Like a fancy tuna salad sandwich, or chicken salad. One of our favorite chicken salads is BBQ chicken salad sandwiches w/ a touch of mayo, bbq sauce, red onion and cilantro and will pair that with a nice green salad OR I'll throw that mixture on top of a big bowl of lettuce and other veggies. Not sure if this approach will work for you - but I've had to let go of the idea of what a real dinner is, which was hard for me, but has been so much easier for me. I can throw together a salad during naps. One of my favorite homemade salad dressings is actually a super simple one from Martha Stewart http://www.marthastewart.com/317822/g... - I do a version with ginger and another version with lemon juice, I'll mix of the vinegar and spices.

      Hope that helps!

      1. I'm in the trenches with a 5 month old and a five year old. We eat a lot of eggs (poaching an egg or making an omelet takes no time). Another thing that I've found helpful is cooking in advance - on the weekends, when both parents are around (reinforcements). I'll roast a bunch of vegetables, make some dishes that will get us into the next week. Ths weekend I've already stocked my fridge with roasted cauliflower, broccoli and sprouts, and I'm going to make a meatloaf and some garlicky chicken to get us into the week.

        1. You need a system! It's hard to cook when they're young like that, but organizing yourself (if you want to) to home cook is a skill to lay down now . . . because life only gets busier and busier as they get older. Tools I've found helpful over the years (I have a 9-year-old): plan your meals for the week on the weekend and make up a shopping list for the ingredients you'll need. Do one big shop on Sat. or Sunday; Prep things ahead of time - big pot of lentils on a Sunday that you can use in multiple ways for lunch & dinner all week (see also: quinoa, brown rice, etc.); if you have issues w/your toddler getting fussy when you go to cook in the evening, try having a special box of toys that you *only* pull out when you're cooking - for my daughter, it was kid-safe cooking utensils that she could bang around with on the floor; when your child gets a little older (we started at 2), s/he can "help" prep - stirring is great fun and manageable. Also shredding lettuce; my number one favorite tool is the Crock-Pot - throw things in there at naptime or in the a.m. if you work and voila! Dinner is done - make up a salad/veg and you're good to go - also good for making things in quantity so you can eat/freeze leftovers.

          Hope this all helps - good luck!

          GG
          http://www.semisweetonline.com

          1. Hey there. I, too, am a relatively new mom, just a few months ahead of you motherhood-wise. I've been struggling with the same issues you have.

            I see blue room posted a link to a thread I started in August seeking suggestions for meal planning for parents with young children. I was so amazed and grateful for all of the smart, helpful suggestions in that thread. I made a summary of everyone's suggestions about halfway through the thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8637... though the thread has continued to evolve and there have been more ideas contributed even after my summary.

            What's helped me thus far (I'm still refining my system--I'm not complete there yet):

            - Rigorous meal planning. I try to plan my menu for the following week every Thurs or Fri, do my shopping and some prep over the weekend. Pepperplate.com is a free recipe organizer and meal planning site that has been super helpful in meal planning. One thing that is great is that you can look back at meal plans for previous weeks. Once you start to get several recipes under your belt and get a couple of weeks worth of meals and shopping lists that work for you, you can always refer back to those weeks and repeat them in a pinch.

            - Prepping some dishes ahead for the week. It's really great if you can cook a batch of grains and/or beans for the week and maybe roast a chicken and some vegetables. Here's a slow-cooker beans recipe I like: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/pa...

            (If it makes too much, you can freeze it...)

            Here's a fantastic and easy roast chicken recipe. I don't bother with the thyme, butter or mustard.I don't even truss. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

            - Trying to use my crock pot more, at least once a week (especially in winter). Here's a slow-cooker recipe I like:
            http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/slow-...

            - Planning one meal a week around roast chicken (if I have time to roast one on Sunday) or grocery store rotisserie chicken . I used to think using pre-prepped ingredients was a cheat. Now I've decided it's just practical, and it's better than eating take out. Here's a helpful thread for dishes you can make with rotisserie chicken: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/873929

            - Build an inventory of fast recipes I like. Again, Pepperplate has been fantastic for this.

            I think the first recipe I really cooked as a new mom was this Chicken, Zucchini and Prosciutto one from Real Simple: delicious, healthy, easy and fast:

            http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipe...

            This recipe "Proper Bloke's Sausage Fusilli" of Jamie Oliver's (recommended to me by several hounds) is one of my newest favorites. You can make it more healthful by using turkey sausage: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/pa... Add a bag of steamed peas to make it a one pot dish.

            You didn't ask for breakfast recipes, but I love this slow cooker pumpkin steel cut oats this time of year (again, if you make too much, easy-freezy):
            http://allrecipes.com/recipe/slow-coo...

            Hang in there!

            ~TDQ

            1 Reply
            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              I meant to add: let appliances do the work for you, often the cooking can be (relatively) unattended. Programmable coffee pot; rice cooker (you can use it for all kinds of grains, not just rice); pressure cooker; slow cooker; microwave for steaming vegetables; dishwasher (try not to buy kitchen tools that can't go through the dw. I've slowly swapped out my cutting boards for smaller ones that fit in the dw, etc.).

              ~TDQ

            2. OP here. Thanks so much for the wonderful suggestions. I just ordered a crockpot from Amazon and will check out the recipes and links you mentioned here. I try to cook a bit on weekends, but I work Sunday nights and rotating shifts 3 nights a week, in addition to taking care of our child, so I find it hard to get into a rhythm. I will just have to buckle down or I soon won't be able to buckle my pants! Thanks again.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Kauainut

                I find getting into a rhythm difficult, too. You just have to play around with the schedule a little to figure out what works for you.

                Here's our menu plan for this week. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8637...

                You can see we have two slow cooker recipes for our super busy nights (Tues and Weds) because I didn't get any cooking done this weekend due to having company... The roasted broccoli with shrimp is basically a pantry meal. You just have to remember to take the shrimp out of the freezer a day before and pop it into the fridge to defrost, or defrost in cold salted water the day of. (I say salted water because Grace Young recommended that in one of her books and it yields super plump, succulent shrimp).

                We double the catfish sloppy joe's recipe and use bottled bbq sauce (in his book Moonen has you prepare the sauce from scratch, but we skip that.) I also use frozen diced onions...

                ~TDQ

              2. How's it going with the new crock pot? Here is a thread that made me think of you--someone who needs super easy but healthful slow cooker recipes (for a different reason than you): Shamefully Easy Slow Cooker recipes http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8763... Also, "what's in your slow cooker today?" http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8643...

                ~TDQ

                1. Quesadillas are quick and easy. Top a tortilla with cheese, fold in half, and blister on both sides in a hot skillet, George Foreman grill, or panini maker. You can add any leftover chicken, beans, or vegetables you may have. There is no shame in serving them with bought salsa or guacamole.

                  Don't let perfect be the enemy of good! Take the shortcuts you need now to help your family be healthy and happy -- frozen vegetables in steamer bags, jarred pasta sauce, store rotisserie chickens.