Cooking One HandedThu 22 Mar 2012
Story by Sarah Gurung
Being a new parent presents a barrage of challenges and joys, so much so that it is nearly impossible not to be swept up in the moments. The barrage often means moms (and dads) have to become superheroes, capable of showering in the time it takes to get through a cycle in the bouncer, juggling large (and precious) cargo, and devising new ways of completing old tricks. Committing your family to healthy eating, while paramount to living a long and robust life, can seem too time-consuming and complicated to accomplish when you barely have time for a bathroom break, much less time to butterfly a chicken breast. But giving your expanded family the best at mealtimes, while not simple, is possible with a few tricks.
Prep What You Can When You Can (AKA Naptime Is Your Friend)
My daughter was not much of a napper, but when I could catch a few moments, I set up my cutting board, sharpened my chef's knife, and prepped everything I could. This usually meant chopping vegetables, processing proteins, and setting out my pots and pans.
In the afternoons, my countertop was loaded down with bowls, and my stove was cluttered with a wok and saucepans. All of this allowed me to “cook one-handed” in the evening when the baby required attention (and a lot of bouncing on my hip) and to avoid opening a pre-packaged, easy-to-make meal full of preservatives and unwanted chemicals. Naturally, I put the baby down in order to quickly sauté my veg and throw whole wheat pasta into boiling water, but saving myself the work of wielding a knife while monitoring a baby put me one step ahead in my quest to build healthful meals.
It's All About Technique
We all have a repertoire of dishes at the ready when it comes to making dinner, but we don't all toss in one important ingredient: creativity. Taking the techniques you have perfected over time and adding a little creativity, you can multiply your recipe box without taxing your sleep-deprived brain.
When I discovered how hands-off a chicken fryer full of lentils, vegetables, and spices could be, I started to experiment with flavors from all over the globe. For an Italian palate, I used thyme, garlic, oregano, and lots of luscious tomatoes. For my Indian husband, I tossed in turmeric, ginger, cumin seeds, and garam masala. If I felt the tug of the Chinese buffet, I opted for a low-sodium soy sauce, ginger, honey, and garlic combination. With one technique and a cupboard full of international flavor, I was able to keep our meals lively and nutritious.
Low And Slow
The benefits of a slow cooker have long been extolled, and when the first two tips combine, this handy kitchen appliance can be a life-saver. A slower cooker requires almost zero maintenance (truly zero, if you are out and about), and you can feel confident that, with a little a.m. elbow grease, your family can be noshing on healthy eats when the sun sets. Beans (rinsed out of a can or fresh left to soak the night before) are a great addition to any meal in the slow cooker because they can stand the exercise of low-and-slow cooking, and they are a nutritional powerhouse. Vegetables require a lot less time in the slower cooker, but tossing in a bag of frozen veg can make life even easier.
Little Hands Can Be A BIG Help
My daughter is only six-months-old, so the extent of her help in the kitchen is to giggle happily in the exer-saucer I've set up so I can have her near me while I work. But I am excited to prop her up next to me when she's older. Little hands can be a big help when it comes to simple tasks like tossing chicken breast chunks in a storage bag for homemade chicken nuggets or getting little fingers dirty mixing shaved cabbage and carrots with a low fat plain yogurt and spices. The trick is to think about the components of a meal and then to devise a way to involve the whole family. Studies also show that kids who are involved in the kitchen are more likely to eat what's placed in front of them. And we all know how tough it can be to get little ones to eat the good stuff.
With these tips, healthy home cooked meals are just within reach-- even when our hands (and heads) are full.
About the Author: Sarah Gurung is an English teacher currently spending her days chasing around her tiny crawler/stander/walker, Katherine.
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