If you follow me on Instagram, you will know that most of my stories consistent of me in the kitchen. I normally share the cooking process, along with the final product, and it is predominately dinner meals with some cookies, breads or cake on the side. It has lead to me receiving a lot of questions regarding my cooking such as “What are your favorite cookbooks and cooking websites?”, “Can you share how you meal plan?”, “Have you always loved cooking?”, “Do you kids eat what you make?”, etc.
With all the questions I receive I figured it might be nice to dedicate an entire post to my cooking and help answer all of these questions. Take from it what you will but I do hope that in some ways it inspires you to cook up something you have never tried before!
First and foremost, I have not always loved cooking. In fact, I didn’t like it at all. Loren was the one with all the cooking skills so I would happily sit to the side sipping wine while he cooked in our early days off marriage. I would think to myself, “I got a keeper! No need to learn now!”
A few years late we had kids and Loren was traveling and of course, I needed to figure something out. That was when I would focus all my cooking on recipes that involved 5 ingredients or less. Anything more than that, wasn’t happening. I would give it a go every now and then (really so I had a recipe to share on Juggling in Heels, not because I loved it…) but we also tended to eat out an average of 3 nights a week and also go over to my parents for dinner. I just simply avoided the kitchen whenever I could.
Then we moved to Santa Ynez. Here is what I quickly learned. Though the valley has some of the most incredible restaurants, unless I want to spend $200/night on food for my family, we were not going to be hitting up S.Y Kitchen or Sides on a Tuesday or Wednesday night. On top of that, there is no take out around our home and I am too lazy to drive the 6 miles to Buellton to grab the Habit or Chipotle. My only other option? Learning to really cook.
Slowly but surely I began making more complicated recipes, began trying new things, picked up some new cookbooks and began following different food accounts on Instagram. Today, I can say that I not only enjoy cooking but I have actually become obsessed with it.
So how do I meal plan with three kids and busy schedules? I tend to meal plan every 3-4 days. On Sunday I plan for Monday through Thursday and Then Thursday I plan for the weekend. This way, I do not over buy food. If we end up going out on a Wednesday night with friends last minute? No problem, that dinner moves to Friday and nothing was wasted. I know this requires going to the store two times in one week but it goes back to my post on waste. I HATE when we throw out food and going twice limits this tremendously.
On selecting what I am going to make each night, I look at our calendar to see what we have going on. For example, this week Monday was completely clear so I selected a more complicated dish. Tuesday night was back to school night so I did a slow cooker meal that the kids could eat while we were gone. Wednesday and Thursday one of us drives our Oldest to San Luis Obispo for basketball so I did quick meals that can be packed up to eat in the car. By selecting items that are balanced with our schedule, I never feel rushed when cooking and can still sneak in the fancier dishes I want to make when I know we get to be home.
So where do I find these recipes? Right now, I have some go to’s that I live by and love cooking from. I have used a number of recipes from either their cookbooks or websites and I continue to go back for more. They are…
Love & Lemons Cookbook – this cookbook was given to us as a housewarming gift and it is probably my favorite cookbook I use. It is a vegetarian cookbook but if Loren wants some additional protein, I will simply add a rotisserie chicken to the recipe. It is super simple to do. There were a lot of ingredients I didn’t have at first but after loading up on what the author uses most, I can now cook just about anything without having to buy a ton of things at the store.
Cravings by Chrissy Tiegen – this cookbook is the first cookbook that got me excited about cooking. The recipes are simple and every single thing in this book is delish. I know because I have made almost all of it.
The Malibu Farm Cookbook – this is a recent addition to my cookbook collection but it truly is California cuisine at its best. Light, fresh, and easy. An added bonus is that the book is beautiful and it would look just as good on my coffee table as it does in my kitchen. If you have been to Malibu Farm in Malibu, it is as if you took the restaurant home with you. They share everything they make there.
Loveandlemons.com – Yep, I basically stalk the author, Jeanine. She originally started off with her blog and so after loving her cookbook so much, I regularly check out her blog for dinner inspiration. Meatless Mondays are so much better these days.
Spoonforkbacon.com – I mean, there is the word BACON in the title. I normally visit this blog for those nights when I have a little more time and want to make something a little more fancy.
RealfoodbyDad.com – I was recently introduced to this blog and really love how kid-friendly and easy the recipes are. These are the perfect recipes for those nights when we are running around like Mad People, I mean, parents.
I am going to give a quick shoutout to the cookbook, Barefoot Contessa at Home . I do not cook from this book as much anymore but there are some recipes that I absolutely love and make every now and then.
Okay, this is getting long so let me wrap up with the final question. Do my kids alway eat what I make?
Answer: No, not all the time, but I don’t care. I want good food and if they don’t, that is their fault. No two dinners here. That being said, I do make adjustments while I am cooking. If I am making a detailed pasta sauce that they are not going to like, I still give them pasta but it is with marinara or butter and parm. Don’t want the chicken with the veggie mixture on top, no problem, you can have the chicken dry. They will still get a side of fruits and vegetables but it will sometimes be more plain than what I created. My pediatrician keeps telling me to just keep cooking and slowly they will continue to eat more and more. I have found that this is absolutely the case, though it is a slow moving road with some of them.
My plan going forward is each week on Instagram, I will post a set of photos with everything I have made that week with tags to where the recipe is from. Hopefully it will help inspire you to cook something new! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. Also, if you have a cookbook or website that you adore, please share! I always love new recommendations!