Our goal is to provide information, ideas and support for working women who are also full-time mothers.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Working Mom's Cooking Guide: Weekend Cooking

Aside from take-and-bake pizza, I try to cook as little as possible on the weekends. However, here are two of my favorite weekend recipes, especially for the winter. They're still very easy but will make people think you've been slaving in the kitchen.

The Great Vegetarian Chili
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-4.5 ounce can of chopped green chiles, undrained
  • 1-14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. dried leaf oregano
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 2-1/2 tsp. chili powder (to start--you will probably want to add more to taste)
  • 3 cans of kidney beans (I usually use one can of chili beans, one can of light red kidney beans and one can of dark red chili bans), drained and rinsed
  • 2 cans low-sodium tomato juice
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice

Throw everything in your crockpot and cook it all day! Can add additional chili powder or tobasco to spice it up. Serve with crackers and corn bread. Great when you're having guests but would rather visit than cook.

Split Pea Soup
  • 1 16-oz package dried split peas, rinsed
  • 2 cups diced ham
  • 3 carrots, pealed and sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2-3 potatoes, cubed
  • 2 stalks celery plus leaves, chopped (I leave this out)
  • 3 –4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon seasoned salt (I use Mrs. Dash Garlic & Herb)
  • ½ teaspoon fresh pepper
  • 1-1/2 quarts hot water
  • I also added a bit of thyme and some cayenne pepper later in the day (just sprinkle and taste it until it seems right)

Layer ingredients in crockpot. Pour in water, so don’t stir. Cover and cook on high 4-5 hours or on low for 8-10 hours. Remove bay leaf. I cook this on low and don’t stir it for the first 6 hours or so. Then I stir and season to taste.

The Working Mom's Cooking Guide: Rotate Your Favorites

Here are some of my family's favorites that I make on a regular basis. Notice how many of them have "Easy" in the title!

Easy Taco Bake
  • 1 lb ground beef or turkey
  • 1 can (10-3/4 oz) Cambell's Condensed Tomato Soup
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 6-8 tortillas cut into approx. 1-inch pieces (I use whole wheat)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (can use reduced fat or fat-free)
  1. Brown meat and drain any fat. Put into 2-quart baking dish.
  2. Add the soup, salsa, milk, tortillas and HALF the cheese. Mix well. COVER.
  3. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. (I'll often add extra salsa or other toppings at this point)

Easy Cheesy Turkey Burritos
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 packet burrito seasoning
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1 can of corn (or, better yet, corn salsa)
  • 1 10-count package of tortillas
  • Shredded low-fat cheese (I like the Mexican blend)
  • Salsa
  1. Brown the turkey and add the seasoning according to directions.
  2. On the stovetop, add the refried beans and corn. Blend and heat until warm.
  3. Spoon the mixture into a tortilla with a bit of shredded cheese and wrap. Should make 10 big burritos (leftovers are great re-heated in the microwave at work for lunch the next day).
  4. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Serve with salsa and enjoy!

Pizza Casserole
  • 1 lb box of your favorite noodles (spiral works the best). I use organic whole wheat noodles.
  • 2 jars of pizza sauce
  • 1 package of pepperoni. I use turkey pepperoni. Healthier and no one will know the difference.
  • 1 packs of mozzarella cheese (can be low fat)
  • Any other pizza toppings you care to add (we usually do mushrooms and black olives)
  1. Cook noodles according to package.
  2. Layer 1/2 of the noodles in the bottom of the dish, cover with 1 jar of pizza sauce. Make sure to coat noodles thoroughly.
  3. Add pepperoni (and other toppings) as desired.
  4. Sprinkle on 1 pkg of cheese.
  5. Repeat layering process for a 2nd layer.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Easy Crockpot Chicken Stroganoff
  • 1 lb frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 can fat-free cream of mushroom soup
  • 16 ounces fat free sour cream
  • 1 envelope dry onion soup mix
  1. Put frozen chicken in bottom of crockpot.
  2. Mix soup, sour cream and onion soup mix. Pour over chicken.
  3. Cook on low for seven or more hours.
  4. Serve over rice or noodles.

Crockpot Beef and Potato Soup
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 16-oz bag frozen, Southern style hash browns
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound eye of round beef, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 4-ounce cans mushrooms stems and pieces, NOT drained
  • 1 envelope dry onion soup mix
  • 1 16-ounce jar chunky salsa
  • I also added 1-2 tbsp of cooking sherry
  1. Spray crockpot with nonfat cooking spray.
  2. Put everything into the crockpot and stir until well mixed.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours. Low in fat!

D's Easy Salsa Chicken (Crockpot)
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, frozen
  • 1 big jar of chunky salsa
  1. Put frozen chicken breasts in crockpot and cover with salsa.
  2. Cook on low all day (8 hours or so).
  3. Serve with tortillas, cheese, sour cream if desired. (I will often shred them and mix them with low-fat cream cheese to make enchiladas.)

Don't let its simplicity fool you--it's delicious!

The Working Mom's Cooking Guide: Explore the Web

There are a lot of great websites out there and I'm sure you can find some on your own. I wanted to share some of the sites I go to on a regular basis to find recipes.

I LOVE this site. You can filter out recipes by ingredient, course, time it takes to make, equipment used to make, diet restrictions, etc. For example, if I go there and plug in Main Dish/Main ingredient = chicken/Less than 30 minutes to make/Kid Pleaser, it will come up with 276 recipes. I could further narrow it down by plugging in low fat or Kosher, crockpot or microwave, 5 or less ingredients or 3 or less steps.

They have a special section called "Quick and Easy Recipes." Click on the link above and it will take you there.

Not all the recipes here are quick and easy. However, I like to check it out because a lot of them contain ingredients I have around the house.

It's not as easy to navigate as some of the others. But if you have time to explore, there's some great recipes. Click the above link to take you directly to the "Quick and Easy" section.

It's not a bad little site. A lot of the recipes are pretty easy. They utilize Campbell's soup of course. The site lets you search by ingredients you have on hand and store recipes that you like.

How can I not include this? See the "Recipe Box" in the Bulletin Boards for recipes real working moms have shared.

And there's a lot more--this is just what I have in MY favorites.

The Working Mom's Cooking Guide: Embrace Your Crockpot

My mom rarely used a crockpot when I was growing up. We got one for our wedding but I only used it once or twice a year. Then I became a working mom. And the crockpot became my savior! I use it once or twice a week, sometimes more. There are a lot of great recipes out there and you can throw them together in the morning in less than 10 minutes, and come home to a house smelling of a delicious dinner. Don't have a crockpot? Get one! I suggest a 4- or 5-quart size with a removeable ceramic bowl. Then you might one to invest in at least one good crockpot cookbook to get started. I got Dawn Hall's "Busy People's Slow Cooker Cookbook." It's pretty good. All recipes are 7 ingredients or less and low in fat. She also teaches you to prepare "pocket pouches" so you can cook vegetables in the crockpot separately from your main dish. The downside of this book is that a lot of delicious-sounding recipes include Muellers brand pasta which is the only pasta, according to Hall, aside from no-yolk noodles, that will hold up in the crockpot over a day. Still, this cookbook--and others--are a great start.

Some tricks I have learned:
  • Always cook on low when you're leaving it for the day.
  • Start with frozen meat if possible, it will prevent the dish from cooking too fast and drying out while you're at work.
  • Pull unrefrigerated ingredients out the night before so all you have to do in the morning before work is throw it all together.
  • If you have a recipe that calls for browned ground beef, you have two options--brown it the night before and keep it in the fridge, or use a frozen meat substitute, such as Morningstar's Meal Starters "meat" crumbles.
  • The frozen or boxed crockpot meals that you can get now aren't great. But they will do in a pinch. I usually keep a frozen one on hand. They include all ingredients and are VERY easy.
Check out our Recipe Box in realworkingmom.com's Bulletin Board section for some great crockpot recipes: http://realworkingmom.proboards106.com/index.cgi?board=crockpot

The Working Mom's Cooking Guide

I hate to cook. With a passion. I never cooked before I was a mom. My husband cooked, especially early in our dating years when he was trying to impress me. But in college I'd eat soup or tuna straight out of the can. I'd make instant mashed potatoes and mix in a can of corn. Disgusting, I know. But that's how much I hate to cook. Of course I can't hand my 2-1/2 year old a can of tomato soup and a can opener. She has to eat. Real food. So, I've learned to like that I hate to cook. My husband and I switch off when we can, but because of his schedule, it's often up to me.

As we all know, being a working mom creates all sorts of new challenges in the kitchen. There's great meals my mom used to make but I simply don't have the time. It's hard to find time to even bake cookies for Christmas. Or a homemade cake for our kids' birthdays. Yet we want to do it for them. I hate the thought of my kids missing out on anything because I'm working. So this week I want to share some things I've learned over the last couple years to make dinner less of a daunting task:
  • Embrace your crockpot. Don't have one? Get one. It's a working mom's best friend.
  • Explore the web. There are some wonderful websites out there to help us find quick and easy recipes. You can even jump on during your lunch break, plug in the ingredients you have on hand, and get a recipe for dinner.
  • Rotate your favorites. Find what recipes work and don't be afraid to use them 2-3 times a month. It's fun to try something new too, but don't feel like you have to be Emeril. WAY too much pressure.
  • Weekend cooking: save the more complex dishes for the weekends. Even then, don't do too much--unless you love to cook!
  • Don't forget the old stand-bys. There's nothing wrong with BLTs, sloppy joes, or quesadillas. All easy.
  • Substitue to make it healthier. Easy doesn't have to be entirely bad for you. Substitute whole grains when you can. Reduce sugar and sodium when possible. Throw in some vegetables. I've recently discovered the new microwavable frozen veggies by Bird's Eye. They are WONDERFUL! In five minutes you can steam your veggies right in the microwave and they're delicious.
  • Share the wealth! Want to find a new recipe or share a great one you've discovered? Check out realworkingmom.com's message boards and click on "Recipe Box," or just click here: http://realworkingmom.proboards106.com/index.cgi?board=recipes

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Mom's Without Mom's

I had been thinking about my Mom a lot since writing my post - one of the things that I think everyone should do, whether they still have their Mom with them or not, is to try to carry on many of the traditions of your family. Some of my favorites are Friday night dinners out, my Grandma's christmas cookie recipe, and my Mom's Lasagna from scratch. I cook with my 2 year old now, and I hope many of the things she has taught me, I will be able to pass on to him

Monday, June 05, 2006

Mom's without Mom's

I lost my Mom to emphasemia in 2001. She smoked for most of her life, and eventually it got the best of her. I remember when they did the anti-smoking campaigns at elementary school and I would beg her not to smoke anymore, but she didn't quit - I so wish she had listened to me then and I had her a little longer.

But, I am so thankful for every day I had with her. Although we lived on opposite sides of the country, I spoke to her every day and she was my rock - the person I got advice from on every topic from work problems, to how to cook just about everything.

I am thankful that she knew my husband before she died and knew I married well and she loved him (and he loved her too). I really wish every day that she had seen me as a mother. I know she would have been proud of me and the way I am raising my kids. Like me, she was a working Mom (and unlike me, also single). Even though she was doing it on her own, she was at every single athletic event, and we ate dinner together, which she cooked, every single night. She helped me with my homework and was involved in my life. And I think I turned out pretty good because of it.

I am sad that I don't have her there for advice. My Dad never remembers anything, so there is a lot of questions that I have - like when did I cut baby teeth and when did I walk, that will never be answered and I will never be able to compare. I would have loved for her to see my kids and them to love her.

It's funny, because when my 2 1/2 year old prays at night, sometimes he says "God Bless Grandma - and God Bless Other Grandma"... but I never talk about that he has another Grandma or talk about my Mom. So I really believe that she is looking over my kids and is their guardian angel.

Moms without moms

This week contains two anniversaries for me. The first will be on Tuesday and will celebrate my 8th wedding anniversary. The other will be on Saturday and it will mark 4 years since my mother passed away. I really can't believe either one. It seems like yesterday that I met my husband and it seems like a bad dream that my mom isn't here. Six months after my mom died I found out I was pregnant. I remember that first day that I found out I was so happy. We had been trying for four years and it was just such a wonderful day. The next day was a different story. I was out of my mind scared about how I would go through a pregnancy without my mother. I worried so much while I was pregnant and questioned my every decision. I just wanted to be able to ask her all the crazy little questions you have while your pregnant. When Carson arrived though I just couldn't believe how much I loved him. I knew that my mom must have loved me like that. Isn't it amazing how much you love your kids? It really is true that you can't understand it until you have your own kids. I just wish my mom was here to see my kids. I wish she could hold them and love on them. I want to call her when they are sick and ask her what I'm supposed to do. I want my kids to hear her voice and smell her perfume. I don't even know where to start to describe what it's like to be a mom without a mom. I'm barely making it through posting this so I think that will be it for today. I've got some links for support groups that I'll post later.


Returning to Work Update

Well I have been back for almost two weeks now. It is getting better. We have our morning routine down (although there's not a lot of flex time in there so when something happens out of order, look out!) The girls are both very happy. The hardest part, at least today, is honestly the lack of sleep. Having to get up at 5:30 after being up a couple times during the night with my infant is tough. But other than that, I'm back in the swing of things. I've refamiliarized myself with all my super easy recipes, etc. I just want any moms who are dreading going back to work that it does get better!