Kristine: Low-Stress Cooking for 4
In this Kitchen Hero feature, Kristine shares how to meal plan for a family of 4, and how she’s used Cook Smarts meal planning service to make cooking less stressful.
Kristine first discovered the joy of cooking when she went to college — but it was stressful to manage her time in the kitchen, especially while making complicated or time-intensive meals. Now, as a married mother of 2 and a part-time nurse, she’s not only learned how to scale up her meals and make them kid-friendly, but has also found ways to fit meal prep into a busy schedule. Here she shares with us her favorite tips and tricks for meal prep and cooking, plus the Cook Smarts recipes she’s most enjoyed.
Name: Kristine Chieh
City, State: San Diego, CA
I cook for: self, spouse, two girls ages 2 and 4
Outside of the kitchen I: work as an inpatient nurse, part time.
If I could only eat one food for the rest of my life, it would be: deli sandwiches.
I cook because: it’s the main chore I committed to in our family, since I have the most flexible schedule. I want us to eat homemade meals instead of eating out or making frozen food, and since starting Cook Smarts over a year ago I actually look forward to cooking.
Favorite Cook Smarts meal so far: Arroz con Pollo and Sesame Ginger Chicken Lo Mein were the ones I made over and over early on. Recent favorites include Char Siu Pork and the Mongolian Beef Noodles.
How did you learn to cook?
It wasn’t until I went away for college and lived on my own that I started to figure some stuff out. It was exciting but stressful. I didn’t really have a good handle on it then either. It took getting married and having children to push me to really think about what I was cooking and how to do that well for others.
What’s been your biggest cooking challenge?
Managing time. Even with the help of Cook Smarts, sometimes I don’t realize how long something is going to take and then I get all stressed out trying to do a complicated, long recipe and chase the kids around at the same time. I started to make notations on recipes if they are quick or long to make.
What is your top meal prep / cooking “trick” that you like to implement in the kitchen? (For example, weekend prep, ingredient shortcuts, etc.)
Shortcuts like using frozen crushed ginger, frozen pre-peeled garlic cloves and frozen lemon zest have been essential. Also having a kitchen scale and an immersion blender is a HUGE help. I stopped doing weekend meal prep because I found it fit me better to do prep during my kids’ nap times instead.
“Since starting Cook Smarts over a year ago, I actually look forward to cooking!”
What strategies have you used to raise healthy eaters?
I use an immersion blender to hide vegetables like bell peppers and spinach in sauces and just constantly offer food to them over and over even if they won’t take it. Just keep trying!
What’s been the biggest change in your family’s cooking / eating routine since starting Cook Smarts?
Besides having super tasty food on a regular basis now I am so much less stressed about food and meals. I used to stress all day until dinnertime, and be almost in tears at times when I couldn’t get it together for meal planning. My family gets a much happier mom and wife now.
What have you learned since starting Cook Smarts’ meal plans?
How to shop without wasting time and money. Also how to sub foods into almost any recipe. It’s become very natural to step into the kitchen instead of it being this momentous scary task.
Tell us about your proudest kitchen moment.
Cooking Asian food! I am so proud to have learned how to make Asian dishes in our home, since my husband is Chinese American. He loves most of the recipes and has even commented that some of them taste like what his mom makes.
What are your tips for health and success in the kitchen?
Try the vegetarian recipes. I have been happily surprised by the meals I’ve made. We like subbing firm or extra-firm tofu for meats in dishes like curry. Another fave is the Lentil-Walnut Veggie Burgers; those are amazing.
Kristine, thank you for sharing with us a glimpse into your family dinners! We’re so happy that we’ve been able to help you reduce cooking stress, and are flattered that some of the Asian recipes get a “tastes like mom’s” from your husband. We wish you continued success in the kitchen as you continue introducing new foods to your kids!