Dear Diary,

I moved into my apartment building because of my neighbors. Not the nice old lady living across the hall, rather the Thai, Italian, Irish and American families (eh, hem restaurants) around the corner. Yesterday, my daughter and I took a stroll to the coffee shop to buy brownies. The day before, we took a trip to Thailand, well the little piece of the Asian country transplanted here in Pittsburgh. My daughter has dined at most restaurants in town and even has a few favorites. She loves the one with French fries on the menu!

At first, I felt bad for not cooking for her at home on a regular basis. I felt worse when I served prepackaged meals. So, when I met a fellow mom I admired, Top Chef Carla, I thought I would walk away from our interview with my head down in shame. Surprisingly, we had more in common than I thought!

Cooking Tips for Busy Moms

Heather: Hi Carla. I love watching you whip up delicious dishes on TV, but in real life, I am an undomestic diva. I sometimes turn to prepackaged meals when I don’t have time to cook for my daughter. Can you help moms like me?

Carla: Yes! There are a lot of people who are busy, who are moms and who may have limited skills in the kitchen. It’s about starting with something that you know you can do. Like a soup, a pureed soup. Something like that. You can turn it into a sauce or just serve it as a soup. But just get some technique, and then grow from there. I think a lot of times people are overwhelmed about making food for other people. Or, you really don’t want to do it, so the food is not good. Just say, ‘You know what. I’m going to spend  thirty minutes in the kitchen.’ Even if you have to go to the grocery store, and get everything cut up, which you think is cheating.

Heather: That’s me! My sister says I shouldn’t spend more money on precut foods, but it saves time.

Carla: Exactly! Get that and throw it into a pot. Try different seasonings. Have it on some broiled chicken. And it really can be easy and fun. So if you start small, you’ll say, ‘Oh, wow! I’m doing this!’ And then your kids like that, it’s a little victory. You have to create little victories for yourself.

Cooking With Kids

Heather:  When I do cook, I want it to be easy and fun, like you said, especially since my daughter’s new favorite thing is her kid kitchen. She enjoys mimicking mommy and is learning a lot. Do you think kids belong in the kitchen? Both boys and girls?

Carla: You should buy your son and your daughter a kitchen. Everyone needs to learn how valuable it is–not only for the skill of cooking. You practice math and the ability to bring in all these other disciplines to help people take information and turn it into something else. So, you’re giving your kids so many other things besides making meals.

Carla’s Kitchen

Heather: I’m curious to know what happens inside your home. Can you dish about what goes on in your kitchen? I’m a little intimidated. You probably make five-course meals on a daily basis.

Carla: No, that’s not what happens. That’s not what happens at all.

Heather: Really? So, what’s a typical night look like?

Carla: (After she stops laughing) The typical (laughs again) thing that happens at home is that my husband  cooks. My husband does the cooking. My husband does the dishes, does the cleaning up and handles finances.  What do I do? (laughs) I make the food for special holidays. I tell him that I cook at the office, so I don’t want to cook at home. I’m in your boat! But funny enough, when I am at home with Noah, my stepson, I do try to teach him little things that he can use when he leaves the house. Because every time he goes to the microwave, he asks me how long. I tell him until it’s hot! So, I want to give him those skills. We start with something simple in the oven that he can actually come home and make.

Hey DFTM Fam–What quick meals have you mastered? How do you balance a healthy diet and time to prepare it?


About The Author

Vlog Mom/DFTM Creator

Not long ago, Heather Hopson hosted a television show in the Cayman Islands. Today, she's back home writing a different kind of story as a new mom. In her 15 years working as a professional journalist, this by far is her best assignment! Growing up, she dreamed of becoming Oprah Winfrey. She was the features editor for her school’s newspaper and a teen talk show host for her city’s most popular radio station. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. After graduation, she worked as a television producer and reporter at CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates throughout the U.S. Instead of heading to Chicago to join Ms. Winfrey on her set, she bought a plane ticket to the Cayman Islands instead. She arrived five days before a category five hurricane! She lived in paradise for seven years, hosted an award-winning television show and traveled the globe with a government delegation. She also served on the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters and spearheaded a Send a Kid to Camp campaign. Then, she relocated to Washington, D.C. to obtain a teaching certification and instruct 8th grade reading at a high needs middle school. She later returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA to raise her daughter Caitlynn, now 4-years-old. During her 10-month-stint as a stay-at-home mom, Caitlynn inspired her to create this blog, and Diary of a First Time Mom was born on Mother’s Day 2012. Two years later, she expanded the family to include 20+ writers. Currently, Heather serves as the communications director at Allies for Children. In addition, she is the owner of Motor Mouth Multimedia, which ranked #49 in Startup Nation’s Home-Based 100 Competition sponsored by Discover Card and Sam’s Club. Recently, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments selected Heather to receive an Emerging Black Artist award to develop Diary of a First Time Mom.

6 Responses

  1. Janeane Davis

    This was a nice article. I rooted for her on Top Chef. I like how at home she is a regular mom with a family and gave ideas here that everyone, even those without cooking talent can use.

  2. Arelis Cintron

    Top Chef is one of Danny’s favorite shows. I am not a mom yet but I do try and make a yummy healthy meal for me and my boyfriend on date night. I think the extra money you spend on getting precut items is worth it when it saves you time. When I come home from work and I didn’t have those shortcuts in my toolbox then we’d have dinner three to four hours later. A hungry man is not a happy man! LOL Carla is awesome!

  3. Brandi

    The quick meal that I have mastered is chicken “nuggets” with roasted broccoli and rice. I realized that if I cut chicken into pieces, it bakes a lot faster. I can whip that out in half an hour!

  4. pammypam

    when i was a single mother it was a rare treat to eat meat. now that i’m remarried, i hate to cook. i’ve created picky eaters.


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