Setting up for success

  Setting up for success, originally uploaded by Kate Chan.


So, I’ve been trying to find my way back in to the kitchen. I really miss baking and exploring what I can make with different things. However, having an active toddler roam – or rather – speed around makes it difficult to have sustained dedicated cooking or baking time. I’m learning a few tricks that have been working for me.

I can usually get things set up or baking while she naps – WHEN she naps. If she wakes earlier than I had thought, I plunk her in to her high chair for a snack of fresh fruit and rice crackers. However, there are many an afternoon when the nap just doesn’t happen like mama wants/hopes… or maybe even Mama is napping with Baby Lightening too. On those occasions, I’m finding that my organization is what is being put to the test. Here’s what helps *me* keep on top a bit better now that I have two whole months of Mommy-dom under my belt:

Turkey & Spinach Lavash Sandwich:  Gluten Free, of course!

  • Use small containers to keep ready-to-go mixes for everyday things like the GF Lavash/Sandwich wrap that we make for everything from pizza, sandwiches, toast, pita dips, pretzels, etc.
  • Have a plan. Okay, I tried my stab at Meal Planning. It works GREAT when I *have* to have a plan (like when 8 relatives were here for two weeks from Chicago with us!). However, since I’m not good at keeping up with meal planning on a weekly basis, I’ve decided that I’m a 2 or 3 day planner at max. I have on hand things that I can make in to a planned meal. That way, when I have some extra time, I can just prep something for dinner. (Our goal is to eat together as a family every night. So far, the Chicklet sometimes eats while we are prepping our dinner and then “sits” with us (read: sits on our laps) while we eat. I like it much better when we all eat together. I’m sure this will be easier when she is eating 100% of what we are eating, but so far, she eats about 65-70% of what we eat.)
  • Use the kitchen conveniences that I have! And use them wisely and when I can. For example: the rice cooker. If we are going to eat rice with dinner, I can easily start it at the end of her nap and have it stay warm until dinner time. This is definitely a HUGE convenience and time saver.  (And now I’m making quinoa in it for lunch salads.  Any leftovers are just eaten at dinner or lunch the next day.  Piece of cake!)
  • The crock pot: Well… it’s not getting the work out it should be. I definitely regretted not taking it out yesterday when our house reached 89F inside. I could have easily made our pasta dinner in it without heating up the house further. Let’s just say this: the crock pot is now out and ready to go.  And so are all of the fans (well barracaded so the imp doesn’t lose her fingers).  See here:

Bring on the fan/wind!  It's HOT!
Other things that we are doing are not necessarily related to cooking in the moment. But more about how we are spending the money to be more frugal and economical. By taking three months without pay, our life is definitely on the tight-budget until my next “real” paycheck after I return to work in September. This means that when it comes to gluten free eating, we are sticking to what we know works (fresh foods, on sale, homemade, etc) and buying those things that are just too time consuming to make with a new baby in the house.

Instead of making our own pastas, we are shopping at G.F. Joe’s to meet our needs.   Being lucky enough to live near a gluten-free market, I can find somethings that are really time consuming to make – like pasta.  While the dough is a no-brainer, extruding spaghetti is a tad more time than I have at the moment.  However, I am still making my own rice balls and pasta for wide noodle soups.  That’s easy.  It’s just been too stinking hot for me to think about eating soup!  (And a side note:  OH… I *love* Joe’s!   He even had gluten-free ice cream sandwiches the other day. And they are SO GOOD! All organic too… even the gluten eater in the house liked them. While not the same kind of cakey-sandwich I adored as a child, these were a great treat for all in the hot weather.  I’ll post more once I ummm..taste-test again and make sure they are available on a wider market.)

Now, dear readers… here comes my appeal: WHAT am I missing? What MORE can I do to ensure my family eating healthy, wholesome, gluten free goodies together while on a budget and with little or no time to prep?

Got an idea? I could sure use the inspiration! Please share in the comments section. I promise, while I might not be able to answer everyone’s comments or emails lately – I am still reading them!

Thanks for the tips!

At the Park

I’m going to head to the park to find some more ideas.  It’s just much more fun that sitting around a hot house, that’s for sure!  I have a little voice here that agrees with me on that vote too.  😀


  1. I love all the pictures of Zoe. She always looks so happy! One of the things I do to help in our busier times is to make two. If I’m making lasagna it is just as easy to make two pans as it is to make one. I make four pans of meat loaf and double every soup or casserole when I am cooking. Then I can freeze for a meal later. I do this with tons of stuff so that when we’re pressed for time or I’m just out of energy I can always go to the freezer for something homemade and healthy. Obviously you would need an extra freezer for this but I think it is well worth the investment. I also make single serving things so if we’re going somewhere that I can’t eat I can just grab something to bring along.

    It gets easier! I promise. Two of mine are now off in college but I remember days where I would wonder if we were all going to make it in one piece!

  2. Love these photos of Zoe! She is a precious little one.

    I almost always focus on simple meals. They are not only timesavers, they just seem so satisfying because you can really taste the food. Even now that my baby is 21 (LOL) and away at college, we thrive on simple meals. Tonight’s meal was marinated pork chops, which hubby grilled. Baked potatoes (white for hubby and sweet for me) cooked in the microwave and salads completed the meal. There are so many variations on eating like this and none of it takes a huge amount of time. Baked/grilled/broiled meat/fish/seafood, veggie, salad. I do like crockpot meals, too. Stephanie O’Dea at A Year of Crockpotting blog ( has some great gf crockpot recipes.

    Baking can be approached the same way. Go for the simplest recipes. Flourless cookies and desserts. Forgotten cookies (meringues) that you leave in the oven overnight. For other desserts ideas, simple fruit salads, some basic ice cream with chocolate sauce, and the like work just great.

    Each month you will develop more and more of your own rhythm, Kate. :-)


  3. haha, yea, the fans were a big concern of mine as well, not sure what kind of fan you have, but if you have those big box fans, a great trick I figured out is to buy a bit of screen wire and then take off the face plates and wrap them with it and return them onto the fan, that way you have a fine mesh that fingers cant fit through. if you use wire screen like I did, be sure to wrap the sharp parts underneath so they are inside the fan instead of out where they can scratch and cut fingers. this should also help let you put the fan in better locations too. you can put wire on the back too, but you’ll have to remember to leave a hole for the cord

  4. It’s been a long time since there was a little one around – what a challenge! We still cook extra for ‘planned-overs’ and prepare several days worth of green salad that can dressed up with toasted nuts, dry cranberris, cheese, leftover chicken, a lone leftover burger patty diced, or drained & rinsed kidney beans from a can. A big bowl of fruit salad can be dessert or topping for the green salad.

  5. I am right there with you on trying to keep up on everything, some days are better than others! I have two little ones and work full time so here are a few things that keep me on schedule. Each night before bed I lay out the kids’ clothes for the next day, make sure breakfast is planned and laid out (what can be) for the morning for all of us, and lunch is also planned and laid out for the day. This really helps me save time in the morning. I also plan my meals for the week making sure I have a couple fast meals to use on evenings we just don’t seem to have time.

  6. I guess I’m in the keep it simple camp and the planned-overs camp. I don’t have kids but I do have a busy life–who doesn’t?–so I try to reduce the prep and shopping time. In the winter, soup and bread works great. In the summer, salads and pasta with grilled or roasted fresh veggies works for me too. I almost always plan extras for lunch since for us gf eaters a quick sandwich isn’t an option.

    I eat a lot of pasta year round with many different sauces and toppings. I’ve discovered Trader Joe’s rice pasta tastes just as good as Tinkiyada (my former favorite) at half the price, and it’s organic too. So far they have three shapes (penne, rotini, and spaghetti). I’m hoping for lasagne noodles soon!

    Good luck with the little one, she’s adorable!

  7. Michelle says:

    I have six little ones (well one baby and five kids ranging in ages from 6 – 14) I have started taking one Sunday a month and cooking a ton of meals. It seems some nights that even rice in the rice cooker is too much effort. I now freeze my rice in ziploc baggies from a recipe I got on recipe zaar. Works like a charm..heck Trader Joe’s does it. I also take meat usually chops, or boneless ribs (to make your korean rib recipe) or chicken thighs and freeze them in ziploc bags along with the marinade. That way I just take it out of the freezer throw it in the fridge with a baggie of rice and whip up a salad and dinner is done. Now that the weather is nice grilling straight from the bag saves dishes as well. On that one Sunday I also precut all of my veggies and wash all of my fruit so that it is ready for the next couple of weeks. All of our snacks are portioned out into little baggies so that I can just grab a couple of bags when we need snacks and are heading out the door. I will also cook pasta for dinner one night and make a bit extra then the next night we will have a cold pasta salad.

    Love the pictures of little Zoe she is just a couple of months older than my youngest!

  8. I’m not sure whether this is appealing or not since some like to grind their flours up fresh, but…
    I like to make up my dry mixes ahead of time. I use canning jars just because I have them and make up for the month the mixes I need such as the dry ingredients for my quickbread, bisquits, your wraps:), pancakes, etc. I use a wide mouth funnel to help. There’s two ways to do this. You can just stick with one thing at a time like if you want to make up 4 dry mixes for pancakes you can just do that and then do your mixes for another item. Or, you can get your recipes out and go around the table and put into every jar how much rice flour you need, and then sorghum, or of a certain mix. I’m not sure if that makes sense. The advantage to the latter is that you are only pulling out the rice flour or a certain mix once and when you’ve added in every jar or container what you need for that dry mix you’re done with it. The disadvantage is that it is easier to leave something out since you’re dealing with multiple containers and recipes. It’s quite a mess (at least when I do it:)), but it is WONDERFUL when it comes time to make my quickbread, to add the wet ingredients, dump in what is already premeasured in the jar and mix. In the long run it keeps the kitchen a little cleaner because I’m not pulling out all those dry ingredients all the time. Well, that’s enough of my novel. I love your little sweetheart and I’m so glad for you:) Take care and just realize that some chaos with a little one is just normal!

  9. I’ve also tried Debbie’s plan of premixing the dry ingredients so muffins, etc are a quick mix when you need them. Love your granola bars for a quick breakfast. I make a double batch and put them in snack ziplocks in the frig for a quick meal on the run (meaning, every day!) I make pizza crusts and parbake them, then individually freeze them. Just top and bake! I love the frozen bagged veggies, rice and the crockpot. Easy and still healthy. I think your idea of having a few meal ideas with ingredients ready to go is the way to go – we always have fall back pasta, frozen gf pizza crusts, etc in the house in case nothing else appeals, or there is no time. I also skip the lettuce in salads – I buy cucumber, tomato, beans, nuts, etc to make the salad, but since the lettuce always went bad, now i just skip it and no one at our house misses it. This time of year, I love to mix up bean salads or rice salads to have on hand for lunch. They can be eaten as is, as a side at dinner, or in a wrap. That way, nothing goes to waste! I also try to plan ahead, so if we are having tacos, we might have sw pasta salad the next day with the leftovers. When there is time (weekends) I mix up turkey burgers or lowfat hamburgers with feta, olives, spinach, red peppers, etc and freeze the individual patties. Just a quick grill on the George Foreman or outdoor grill and dinner is on the table.

  10. I second the rec for a deep freezer, and we don’t even have kids yet! It’s so handy for freezing things that were on sale or for freezing leftovers (or planned leftovers).

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