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The 6 Recipes This Cookbook Author Makes Her Kids When She Has No Time

This full-time working mother feels your pain, and has delicious solutions.

When I first started blogging about family food—an endeavor that started as a hobby after I had my first son, but ended up launching my (second) career as a food editor and cookbook author—I was a die-hard about pretty much everything parenting related, especially food. Every recipe on my site had organic listed before the ingredients. Even baking soda. (Yes, I’m embarrassed, and no, there is no such thing as organic baking soda.) Over time, though, things changed.

I was busy as a new mom with a blog on the side, but I got busier. Way busier. And it was the best education I could have asked for. See, food professionals create recipes and offer advice from a place of loving to cook—because we do! But that can get in the way of creating recipes and advice that truly help busy parents. It wasn’t until my own busy schedule left me feeling like cooking dinner for my family was a chore that I was able to tap into the kind of kitchen problem-solving working moms really need.

So when I just don’t have a lot of time to be in the kitchen, these recipes are fast and easy, and many of them use mostly pantry ingredients. They also lend themselves to on-the-go bulk cooking, which helps cut down on cooking time even further.

In other words, they are my lifesavers and maybe yours, too, now.

1. Vegetable Fajitas

Serves 4-6

For some reason, Mexican meals can be vegetarian and still make everyone happy—not easy in a house of omnivores. Thick, roasted wedges of sweet potato make sure that these fajitas satisfy, especially when paired with guacamole. When I don’t have time to make proper guacamole, I serve this with avocado that’s been quickly mashed with a squeeze of lime and heavy sprinkle of salt.

Also, when I have the foresight, I roast the veggies ahead of time—either on Sunday or in the morning before work—since these work at room temp or can tolerate a quick reheat at dinner time. And whether or not I roast the veggies ahead of time, I always make more than what’s called for in this recipe; the leftover veggies become a side dish on another night during the week.

- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled, halved, and cut into 1½-inch-thick wedges
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1½-inch-thick strips
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1½-inch-thick strips
- 1 red onion, peeled, trimmed and cut into 1-inch-thick wedges
- 4 tablespoons neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola
- 8 warmed flour tortillas
- Lime wedges, for serving (optional)
- Guacamole, store-bought or homemade, for serving (see note above)
- Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving (optional)

1. Heat the oven to 425F. In a small bowl, combine the cumin, oregano, paprika, chili powder and salt.
2. Place the vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with the spice mixture. Toss to coat the vegetables evenly. Roast in the oven until the potatoes are tender throughout and the edges of some of the onion and pepper are charred, 25 to 30 minutes. Season with more salt to taste, if desired. Serve immediately with warm flour tortillas, lime wedges, guacamole and cilantro.

2. Cold Soba Noodle Salad

. Working Mother

A great way to sneak in tons of veggies.

Naomi McColloch for Make It Easy

Serves 4

This is what I make when I need a dinner in 20 minutes or have nothing but raw “lunchbox” veggies in the fridge (carrots, peppers, cucumbers). Slice the veggies (or buy the carrots pre-shredded; we’ll use them again later this week), boil the soba noodles (which I always have in my pantry and cook faster than pasta), and toss with dressing. It’s that easy.

When I know I’ll be super short on time at dinner or we have a sitter for date night, I cook the soba while my boys eat breakfast. To do this, once rinsed and drained, toss the noodles with 1 teaspoon of oil before packing them up until dinnertime.

Also, since you’re slicing peppers and cucumbers anyway, prep a bunch extra. It hardly takes additional time and you’ll have them on hand for another meal this week and even school lunch.

- 1 pound soba noodles
- 4 scallions, trimmed and chopped
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 1 red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips
- 1 English cucumber, peeled, cut into 4-inch sections, and then 1/4-inch thick strips
- 1 cup Ginger Lime Vinaigrette (recipe below; you can substitute your favorite vinaigrette)

1. Cook the soba noodles according to the package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain some more before placing in a large serving bowl.
2. Add the scallions, carrots, pepper, cucumber and dressing to the noodles and, using tongs, toss well to combine and coat everything with the dressing. Serve immediately or store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Ginger Lime Vinaigrette
Makes 1 cup (though I like to double the recipe to have more on hand for the week)

- 1 teaspoon minced garlic (from about 1 clove)
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon lime zest (from about 1 lime)
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 1 lime)
- 1/2 cup neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola
- 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1½ teaspoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 3/4 teaspoon honey

1. If you have time, place the garlic in a jar, top with the vinegar, lime zest and lime juice, and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes. If you don’t have time, combine the garlic, vinegar, lime zest, and lime juice in a jar and skip to step 2.
2. Add the oil, soy sauce, ginger, mustard and honey to the vinegar mixture. Seal the jar and shake until the dressing emulsifies. Use immediately or store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

3. Pork Chops with Maple Buttered Apples

. Working Mother

This meal is bursting with flavor.

Naomi McColloch for Make It Easy

Serves 4

This recipe uses just a handful of ingredients, but they carefully balance sweet and tangy, savory and bright. If you make this frequently like I do (try it with peaches in summer!), you’ll get adept enough to improvise this pan sauce when cooking more affordable chicken cutlets too.

I serve this with the rest of the roasted vegetables I prepped for the Vegetarian Fajitas.

- 4 (1-inch-thick), bone-in pork chops (about ¾ pound each)
- ½ teaspoon salt, plus more to season the chops
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to season the chops
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup white wine, apple cider, or chicken or vegetable broth
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 4 medium-sized apples, peeled, cored, and cut into eighths
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1. Remove the pork chops from the refrigerator and, ideally, allow them to sit at room temperature for 10 to 20 minutes. Pat them dry on both sides with paper towels. Season very generously with salt and pepper.
2. Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork chops, being careful not to overcrowd them; you may need to work in batches. Cook, untouched, until browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and continue to cook for another 3 minutes, untouched, on the other side. Transfer the pork chops to a plate and allow them to rest 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Leave the pan over medium-high heat and add the wine to the pan, stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Lower the heat to medium-low and add the butter, syrup, apples and 1/2 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Cover and cook until the apples are tender, about 7 minutes.
4. Uncover and add the cider vinegar to the sauce; swirl to incorporate. Return the chops to the pan, and cook for 1 more minute, spooning the sauce over the meat. Serve immediately.

4. Breakfast-for-Dinner: Yogurt Chia Breakfast Pudding + Healthy Toasts

. Working Mother

Kids love taking breakfast to the dinner table.

Naomi McColloch for Make It Easy

Chia pudding is magic. You whisk together liquid and chia seeds, some sweetener and flavorings, if you want, and hours later you’ve got a pudding-like treat. You can make it as decadent as you want, but I tend to keep mine barely sweet. That way, I feel good serving it for breakfast—or for breakfast-for-dinner—and we can always add more sweetness if the kids eat it for dessert.

Yogurt Chia Breakfast Pudding

Serves 4

- 3/4 cup (6 ounces) plain Greek-style yogurt
- 1/4 cup milk of choice (I love using a combo of almond and coconut)
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1 tablespoon honey or pure maple syrup, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Place all the ingredients in a medium-size bowl and whisk until the honey has dissolved and the chia seeds, which tend to clump, are evenly distributed.
2. Cover and place in the refrigerator until the mixture takes on a pudding consistency, at least 3 hours and up to overnight. Serve or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

I use Greek-style yogurt to give this version a protein boost. And serve it with hearty slices of toast with healthy toppings: peanut butter and banana, mashed avocado and everything bagel seasoning, more Greek-yogurt or cream cheese with cinnamon and peaches or apple.

. Working Mother

Quick assembly, and delicious.

Naomi McColloch for Make It Easy

5. Thai Chicken Burgers with Quick-Pickled Carrots

. Working Mother

Picky eaters are less likely to be turned off by a burger.

Naomi McColloch for Make It Easy

Serves 4

I have a soft spot for recipes that gently introduce selective eaters to global flavors. They’re usually familiar in some way—burgers, meatballs, some form of noodle or pasta—and lightly flavored. They are just barely new, but with enough of a twist to make eaters curious for more. These burgers are like that.

If you bought pre-shredded carrots for the Soba Noodle Salad, you’ll use the rest for this recipe. Also, those extra cucumbers and peppers that you sliced, also while prepping the soba noodles, can be your super quick side veggie for this meal.

I top these burgers with Sriracha mayo and strongly suggest that you do the same. If you’re worried about spice, just add less Sriracha—but don’t skip it!

For the carrots:
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 1 juicy lime)
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
- Heavy sprinkle of salt
- 1½ cups shredded carrots

For the burgers:
- 1 lb ground chicken, dark meat preferable
- 1/4 cup chopped scallions
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 tablespoons Thai sweet chili sauce
- 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic (from about 1 clove)
- Burger buns, potato rolls preferable
- Mayonnaise, for topping (optional)
- Sriracha or other similar hot sauce, for topping (optional)

1. To prepare the carrots: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together all the ingredients, except the carrots, until the sugar and salt dissolve. Add the carrots, mixing to coat well, and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes (while you make the burgers) or as long as overnight. Drain the liquid before serving.
2. To make the burgers: heat a grill, grill pan or broiler. Place all the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and, using your hands, a silicone spatula or a wooden spoon, mix to combine well.
3. Portion the burgers—you can divide the meat into four quarter-pound burgers or make the grown up burgers slightly larger and the kid burgers slightly smaller—and cook over medium-high heat until cooked all the way through, 5 to 7 minutes per side, though the exact cooking time will vary depending on thickness. Serve on a roll with the quick-pickled carrots on top and mayonnaise mixed with Sriracha to taste.

6. Salmon Rice Bowls

. Working Mother

You can put your own twist with this simple base.

Naomi McColloch for Make It Easy

Serves 4

If you like to loosely follow a recipe, you’ll love this one. It’s really nothing more than a big bowl of rice topped with fish, some vegetables and a dressing. It’s very forgiving.

The point is to cook a big mess of rice (and don’t forget to make extra for another night down the line) and fill people’s bowl as full as they want. This is the main heft of the meal, so don’t skimp. Top with fish or flake it in. I use my Sesame Crusted Salmon, but salmon roasted with nothing more than salt, pepper and olive oil will do just as well.

- 2 cups uncooked rice
- 1/4 cup mirin (optional)
- Salt, to taste
- 4 fillets Sesame-Crusted Salmon (recipe below; you can substitute any -plain or Asian-flavored roasted salmon)
- 2 ripe avocados, halved, pitted and cut into ½-inch cubes or ½-inch thick slices
- 1 cup chopped watercress (from about 1 bunch), or baby arugula
- Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)
- Ginger-Lime Vinaigrette (recipe above)

1. Cook the rice according to the package instructions. While still hot, toss with mirin, if using, and season with salt to taste. If you’ve cooked the rice ahead of time, add the miring to the cold rice before reheating it and salt to taste once it’s hot.
2. Divide the seasoned rice among four large bowls. Top with the salmon fillets, one for each bowl. Alternatively, flake the fillets and mix into the riced.
3. Top with the avocado, watercress, and cilantro. Drizzle with dressing to taste and serve immediately.

Sesame-Crusted Salmon

Serves 4

- 4 6-ounce salmon fillets
- Salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ½ cup toasted sesame seeds
- All-natural cooking oil spray

1. Heat the oven to 425F. Lightly spray a baking sheet and set aside. Pat the salmon fillets dry with paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper.
2. Pour the sesame seeds onto a plate and press the salmon, flesh side down, onto them. Repeat as necessary to coat the entire surface of the fillet. Place, skin side down, on a baking sheet and lightly spray the sesame seed crust with cooking oil.
3. Roast the salmon for 13 to 15 minutes, depending on their thickness and your desired doneness. Serve immediately.

. Working Mother

Making it easy for working moms everywhere.

Naomi McColloch for Make It Easy

Written by Stacie Billis for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to