As with anything, being organized takes half of the effort out of cooking for your little one. Below are simple suggestions for turning your kitchen into an efficient food preparation center.
Nothing deflates the motivation to cook more quickly than a trip to the supermarket. To prevent last-minute trips to the market, be prepared by having some staples on hand in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer.
Pantry (unperishable items)
Pasta (spaghetti and fun shapes)
Brown and white rice
Whole wheat flour
Bread crumbs (or crackers to crush)
Spices, especially cinnamon and sweet paprika
Salt and pepper
Refrigerator (perishables, to buy every other trip to the market)
Shredded Cheddar cheese
Ground beef, chicken, and turkey
One of my pet peeves is cleaning kitchen equipment. I'm not a big fan of fancy gadgets that have complex assembly or cleaning requirements, and you can quickly lose your enthusiasm for a recipe if it requires you to have a certain piece of equipment. There are some very basic things you should have in the kitchen to make cooking easier and more efficient. You probably have most of these items already.
- Sharp knives. I can't say enough about how much easier and safer it is to use sharp knives. They needn't be expensive, as long as the handle is sturdy and you keep the blade honed. A dull blade will make slicing and chopping a much harder task, so sharpen your knives frequently.
- Measuring cups and spoons. For baking these are a must because of the precise chemistry involved in raising a cake, for example, or browning cookies.
- Nonstick skillet. You'll use less oil and cleanup is easier. In fact, many nonstick pan manufacturers recommend just wiping the pan with a damp sponge.
- Parchment paper. I use this quite a lot to line baking sheets. Food won't stick, and you can just throw the parchment paper away after use.
- Baking sheets and pans. You'll use these for baking and roasting. I find a good basic set consists of one baking sheet, at least one or two cake pans, and then a large baking pan for cakes or roasting. Look for nonstick.
- Whisk. Good for making whipped cream but also a good tool for creating lots of volume in icings and frostings.
- Rubber spatula. I have two or three on hand. They can cleanly scrape out every last bit of food from bowls, blenders, and pots.
- Wooden spoons. Your child has probably already put these to good use playing percussion on the kitchen floor. They are indispensable for mixing and cooking over heat.
- Ice cube trays. These are indispensable for freezing and consistently hold about 2 ounces of food per cube.
- Plastic storage containers. I buy the cheaper, disposable kind at our warehouse club. The smaller ones are perfect for freezing small portions and the larger ones are good for refrigerating a week's worth of food.
- Plastic food storage bags. For packing snacks and for freezing foods like veggie burgers and cooked vegetables.
- Oil spray can. It did look like a gimmicky gadget at first, but I use ours quite a lot for a minimal spray of oil on frying pans or to very lightly coat food with oil.
More on: Family Recipes
Reprinted from The Baby Bistro Cookbook: Healthy, Delicious Cuisine for Babies, Toddlers, and You by Joohee Muromcew. Copyright © 2003 by Joohee Muromcew. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098. Available wherever books are sold or directly from the publisher by calling (800) 848-4735 or visit their website at www.rodalestore.com.