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Productive Mama’s Kitchen Helpers (and list of her real food cheats!)

tomatoes-1476093_1280Whether you work full time outside of the home, stay home full time with your children, or do a combination of both, I would wager that NO mom is a woman of leisure. I am confident we are ALL busy, none of us sitting down for a leisurely snack of bon bons midway through the day (ongoing joke with The Captain).  Even when I have lulls in one area of my life, I am in the kitchen most days cooking a meal or taking advantage of seasonal abundance and stocking up.  I almost always have some project going that helps me at a future meal:  stock simmering, beans soaking, or bread rising.  Over time, I’ve accumulated some tools to make my kitchen more efficient.  I would suspect we all have a handy tool or two that we would claim we just cannot be without and that each of our lists would be different. Here is my list.

1.  Crockpot.  I’ve written extensively about my love affair with my crockpot.  It helps me return home after a busy day to a fully prepared meal.  It helps me make huge batches of beans and baked potatoes. It scents my home overnight with delicious breakfast smells and greets me with a hot breakfast, even if I’m still groggy.  It makes homemade broth a nourishing and easy staple.  It WORKS hard for me, easing my ongoing work load.  I cannot be without it.
2.  Rice cooker.  I know one could make a very strong and convincing argument that this appliance is NOT a necessary one. But for me, rice is not done right unless it’s done in a rice cooker.  Lest you think a rice cooker is JUST for rice, let me share!  First, many rice cookers can be used to reheat leftovers on the Warm setting.  I’ll often take leftover rice and add broth to make soup.  Or a cheesy sauce and beans or veggies for a casserole.  When cooking a fresh batch of rice, throw on some sausages as the rice finishes cooking.  All rice cookers, even the most basic, can handle other grains, as well.  With a timer or a warm setting, you can wake up to warm oats.  Some rice cookers can handle stews, roasts and can steam vegetables.There are many cookers now that are made with stainless steel and even clay.
3.  Immersion blender.  While I do NOT want to live without my blender and food processor, I have managed in the past.  I’ve gotten used to their speed and enjoy the luxury of extra time they provide. But I would hold on to my immersion blender with all my might!  It’s possible to make smoothies or protein shakes with one, grind seeds , blend batters and, blend and puree soups, which is most useful to me.
4.  Cast Iron Skillet.  Safe, sturdy, non stick.  I can cook anything in one of these.  Eggs, bacon, pancakes, quiche, roasts, burgers, veggies, even cakes and granola.  I keep my skillet out at all times on my stove top, ready to go.
5.  French press.  I’m not even a coffee drinker!  I occasionally indulge, but I use the press for other nourishment.  It’s great for making traditional black or green tea, especially in larger amounts for my family.  This is often turned into iced tea or kombucha.  I also use it for herbal tisanes:  hibiscus, chamomile, peppermint, or lemon balm.  These are great for every day health and refreshment, warm or cold.  But when the family is struggling with a cold or virus, it’s great to make a batch of an herbal remedy to give to everyone.  French presses are also great for brewed chocolate, dandelion and chicory blends.
6.  Freezer.  An extra chest freezer allows for financial savings by helping me to take advantage of bulk purchases at a discount or bring home surprising produce finds.  It allows for time savings by providing me a way to prepare meals in advance and cook them later when time is at a premium.  It also allows me to enjoy the occasional off-season treat when the mood strikes me.  It is one of the major ways I maximize my food budget.
7.  Cheaters.  Every mom needs cheaters, hidden away in her kitchen.  Cheaters allow you to be human.  They allow for illness with a bit less stress.  They allow for sudden schedule changes and unexpected playdates.  They allow for a lapse in planning.  Every family’s cheaters are different.  They may include jarred pasta sauce, cans of soup, frozen pizza or tortilla chips for impromptu nachos.  Here’s my list:
  • You will rarely find my cupboard without at least one box of macaroni and cheese!  I actually like to have Wildtree’s Kidz Cheese blend around. I can make mac and cheese (or now, the kids can make it) from any pasta I have at home.  I can also sprinkle it on popcorn, which is so yum.
  • Good quality hot dogs (stored in the freezer) also help me out in a tight spot.
  • Homemade broth isn’t really a cheat.  ‘Cause it’s broth.  Made from bones.  At home.  BUT I always have a stash on hand because one of my go-to lunches (remember I’m feeding people three times a day) is putting leftovers in a pot and adding broth.  Voila!  Soup!  Not just soup, but extremely nourishing soup.
  • Wasa crackers.  Wasa crackers are rye and water.  NO PUFA/Vegetable oils!  Melt cheese on them.  PB&J.  Hummas. Tuna.  Whatever.  Much quicker than baking a loaf of bread, right.  Tortillas could work here, but unless they’re homemade, they’ve got the oils I’m trying to avoid.
  • Wildtree spice blends.  They help me add some variety to the quick soups I make.    Taco blend is a fave.
8.  The internet.  Yep.  As much as I’d like to think I appreciate the old fashioned ways and can grind my flour or cook up some curd, I’m a modern gal.  I like knowing I can grab three bags of some obscure discounted vegetable and look up how to prepare and process it, a world of information at my fingertips. Or post a question about said veggie on FaceBook and receive a variety of replies from which to choose.  I like learning how to spot treat or tincture or repair or just read how another mom handles her best and worst parent moments.
9. The kids. For real.  They should be substantial helpers in the kitchen.  Yes, when they’re young, they’ll slow you down.  And make a mess.  Just a warning, they’ll still make a mess when they’re older. BUT if children-664069_1280you invest some time into teaching them how to make that mac n’ cheese, chop those veggies or make muffins, it pays off sooooooo much later.  And for the love of Productivity, teach them to do the dishes!  My productivity has increased since being able to put the kids in charge of lunch, at least some of the time, and turning over dishes to them.  Whereas before I was super busy leading up to a meal and for a good chunk of time after a meal, I am now doing things like typing this blog article for you.  Finally, I honestly feel you do your kids a disservice by never teaching them these life-long skills.  If you’d like help in this area, I recommend Katie’s Cooking with Kids course.

 

10. (Finally, I’ve added it!)  The Instant Pot. I love mine. It has revolutionized my time in the kitchen.  Just go read how I use it.  And if you’ve still got one in the box, go unbox it and sign up for Electric Pressure Cooker 101 so YOUR time in the kitchen can be revolutionized, too.

 

Again, your MUST list may include very different items.  Honorable mentions that might be on your list:
Dehydrator, yogurt maker, plastic storage bags (c’mon – you know they’re handy for some things!), mason jars, silicone spatulas, or stoneware.  I suppose Refrigerator could be on these lists, but for our lucky selves, that’s a given and not a luxury. We are extremely lucky to live in an age of readily available food and mechanized processing. I’m fully aware many people get by with none of  these.

 

Whether you are a mom, a dad, a grandparent, an aunt or uncle or anyone running a home of any size, you’re bound to get caught up in the drudgery of daily tasks.  So just remember all of our handy tools and when even those can’t help us get dinner on the table on time, remember the blessing of the Co-op’s deli and carry-out!
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