Guest article by Zoey Siow
Cooking was never my forte before I had children. I’d rather eat out than cook a meal at home.
When I gave birth to my first child, I was determined and compelled as a first-time mum to give the best to him, and that included giving him home-cooked meals, with no artificial seasoning.
I was what people would call an “obsessed” mum, who would only allow home-cooked food into my child’s tummy before the age of 3. I was the mum who would give a death stare to anyone who tries to give a candy to my child.
Now, I have 3 children of my own and as an “obsessed” mum, I cook almost every meal to ensure that the food that goes into their mouths is nutritious and fresh.
Having said that, I have very limited time in the kitchen as my children are still very young (ages 6, 3 and 2 months), and I don’t have a helper at home. My newborn is like a baby koala bear that sticks to the mummy koala.
To ensure that I can produce something in the kitchen, a lot planning and upfront preparation is required to be able to cook quickly, I have some well-tested methods and routines that I follow.
Here are a few tips that always works for me. 1. Planning and shopping
A rigid meal planner doesn’t work for me as I prefer to be creative in terms of what I am cooking. I plan based on the type of food. Here’s what I use as a guideline on a weekly basis:
DAY LUNCH DINNER
Monday Pasta Stew meat with rice
Tuesday Porridge Fried noodles/ rice with soup
Wednesday Muffin Bake/ grilled (western)
Thursday One pot rice One pot rice
Friday Fried noodles/rice Eat out
What I’ll stock up when I go shopping is what my boys love to eat. Here is a simple list of the items I often buy :
Broccoli and cauliflower
Pumpkin, carrot, sweet potatoes & potatoes
Spinach and some green leafy vegetables
Various types of mushroom
Meat in different cuts:
Bones for soup
Chicken thigh (deboned)
These ingredients are versatile and I can adapt recipes according to these ingredients. They allow me to use my creativity and be flexible when comes to cooking. I can quickly decide on what to cook in the morning and prepare based on the ingredients I have in my fridge.
I also stock up a few things for emergencies like frozen corn, frozen chapatti and homemade sausages and bacon.
2. Freezing and storing
I prepare all the meat and vegetables as much as I can before storing or freezing them.
All the vegetables are soaked, washed and placed in containers.
As for meat, I’ll portion out all the different cuts into different containers. To save time, I’ll also marinate the fillets and chicken thighs before freezing it. Fillet to be portioned out after marinating.
By dividing the meat into portion size, it’s so much easier to defrost and cook. These definitely help me cook faster and efficiently.
3. Cooking in big portions
Whenever I make pasta sauce, I’ll cook a large amount and freeze some of it for future use.
My boys and I love bolognese sauce the most, which is so versatile. I can use it as a sauce base for pasta or pizza. Another versatile ingredient is soup stock. Whenever I cook soup, I’ll freeze a portion of it to use as an ingredient for other dishes.
Here are a few dishes that I make from frozen pasta sauce and soup:
Pizza - add the sauce on wrap (or chapatti), add cheese, chicken cube (optional), any choice of vege (optional). Bake in the oven for 10-15 mins @ 170 deg C
Pasta meal - cook pasta of your choice. Add in the sauce and the meal can be ready in 15 mins.
Noddles - cook noodles and mix the sauce onto the cooked noodles. Add some vege if you want. I’ll normally use broccoli as that’s my boys’ favourite!
Porridge - use soup stock instead of water and the porridge is absolutely tasty and no additional seasoning is needed.
Noodle soup - cook the noodles separately and drain it. Pour in the soup stock for 3-5 mins and add in vegetables and meat.
One pot rice - use the soup stock to cook rice instead of water.
With the frozen sauce and soup, I can easily cook a meal that is fast, delicious and nutritious for my boys and all the above recipes can be done under an hour if it is planned ahead.
4. One-pot meals
I love one-pot meals!
Since I’ve already washed and kept the ingredients in the fridge, I can easily pull out the meat (that is portioned out) and vegetables to prepare a one pot meal.
These are a few one pot meal that I normally make:
chicken cube rice
Long bean rice
I can rotate these 5 types of one pot meals for 5 weeks and my boys absolutely love them.
5. Use simple gadgets
There are a few affordable kitchen gadgets that can help simplify meal preparation. These always come in handy in my daily cooking.
Instant pot (pressure cooker)
This is my favourite gadget and I use it almost everyday to make soup, stir fry noodles and pan fry meat. It is so versatile. With this, I do not need to constantly remind myself that the stove is turned on.
In order to save time, I will normally bake chicken or pork in the oven instead of cooking it on the stove. It frees me from standing at the stove the whole time.
I will use this to chop onion, garlic, carrot and other various vegetables. It’s fast, convenient and a time saver.
With just a little bit of planning, I can cook three meals a day, stress-free, freeing up my time for my three boys. Babywearing my newborn while cooking is possible because all I need to do is retrieve the prepared ingredients from the fridge and do simple cooking.
--------- Zoey Siow is a parent-child connection expert and mum of 2 active boys. Taking a huge career leap this year, Zoey let go of her high-paying corporate 9-5 job to be full-time with her boys. Now, she’s working on her passion to help parents who want to unleash their children’s full potential but have no idea where and how to start. She’s determined to empower parents to connect and bond with their children in a fun, engaging and non-time consuming way. Get connected with Zoey now via www.zoeysiow.com