I Cook Multiple Meals for My Toddler Every Day, and These 7 Tools Save My Sanity
Jun 15, 2023
Trust me, you need the 1-quart pot.
Elisabeth Sherman is a writer, editor, and fact-checker in the food, culture, and entertainment spaces. She has been working professionally at national magazines since 2015.
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Food & Wine / Tyler Roeland
Even before my daughter was born in September 2021, I dreaded the amount of cooking that I knew would come along with adding a child to my family. Not because I don’t love to cook, but because I knew instinctively that preparing three meals a day for a hungry, demanding kid would eventually become a momentous grind — and I was right.
My daughter has never met a dish she didn’t love. Andouille sausage and bruschetta? More please. Chicken Francese I have meticulously cut into tiny cubes? Hand it over. Her seemingly unstoppable appetite and adventurous palette are parenting triumphs, but cooking for her gets exhausting. I need kitchen tools and cookware that are easy to clean, heat up quickly, or cook food thoroughly and fast, preferably, all three.
Below, I’ve rounded up the seven kitchen products that I use every day. These have saved my sanity when I need to cook on those early mornings and evenings after a long day at work and chasing around a toddler.
To buy: $14 at amazon.com
This set of three Cuisinart mini spatulas is always right at my fingertips when I’m cooking. They are labeled as baking implements, but they come in handy for a surprisingly wide range of tasks. I use the long green one for omelets. For scrambled eggs and mixing together mashed potatoes and stirring pasta, the blue scoop spatula is my go-to. These nimble little spatulas don’t take up a lot of space, fit in tight spaces like jars of peanut butter, and are easy to wipe clean.
To buy: from $6 (originally $7) at amazon.com
My daughter consumes an astonishing amount of fruit for breakfast, lunch, and dinner — strawberries, clementines, raspberries, kiwis, and bananas — and it all needs to be cut up into small pieces. I use a plastic cutting board very similar to this one from Farberware (ours is from Ikea), at least three times a day. A plastic cutting board can handle daily cuts and slices from a knife, wipes clean with just the swipe of a sponge, and is thin enough to fit in any drawer for easy access. It’s also inexpensive enough that you don’t care if it gets marked up or stained.
This Farberware version checks all those boxes. One reviewer who uses this cutting board whenever they’re at their sister’s house wrote, “I liked her damn cutting board so much I bought three for my kitchen after she caught me trying to ‘borrow’ her’s twice.”
To buy: $22 at amazon.com
This pot might look small, but trust me, it is mighty. Frozen vegetables are a big part of our dinner routine. I dump a couple cups of frozen broccoli and water in this Cuisinart nonstick saucepan, and wait for the vegetables to boil. I’ve also thrown sliced russet or sweet potatoes in this pot to boil them, drained the water, then used the same pot to mash them up into a puree.
The water heats up quickly, and the pot itself lives up to its nonstick name. When I’m done, I wipe out any leftover residue, of which there is typically very little, out with a sponge.
To buy: $80 at amazon.com
This frying pan is such a beautiful piece of cookware. Not only does it look stunning on my stove, but it is made from the most durable, mess-resistant, and easy-to-clean material I have ever encountered. We have both the Zwilling nonstick frying pan and wok at our house, I prefer the latter because the high sides prevent messes. Meals for adults like penne vodka and babi kecap (Indonesian braised pork marinated in sweet soy sauce) have of course been cooked in this pan. However, I use it on a daily basis to heat up chicken nuggets and leftover everything.
Such is the versatility of these elegant Zwilling pans: They can prepare an elaborate dinner or step in to heat up the most humble toddler food with the same efficiency each time, making it well-worth the investment.
To buy: $105 (originally $110) at amazon.com
Yes, this is the kettle that I use in my daily tea routine, but it’s also indispensable at breakfast and lunch time. My daughter loves instant oatmeal and instant mac and cheese. We don’t own a microwave, so instead, I heat the required water in the Bonavita kettle. It takes less than three minutes to get the water to 135° Fahrenheit, hot enough to cook the oats or noodles, but not so hot that it burns her tongue.
Sometimes when I'm using the aforementioned Cuisinart 1-quart pot to cook vegetables, I don’t even wait for the water to boil. I use the electric kettle, and pour the already boiling water into the pot, and then turn on the burner so that the vegetables keep cooking.
To buy: $16 (originally $23) at amazon.com
My humble rice cooker: No fancy settings, no complicated to interpret buttons. Just flip a switch when you’re ready to cook the rice. An orange light turns on when the rice is done. The Imusa cooks rice in about 10 minutes, and the pot is nonstick. I usually just need to soak it for a few minutes in the sink before I rinse it out. This type of easy-to-use appliance is a blessing on those days that mealtime is extra rushed or you’re just too tired to cook an elaborate meal.
To buy: $39 at amazon.com
There are currently at least three 0.5-cup and 1.25-cup Rubbermaid food storage containers stacked up my fridge. We try hard to not waste too much unfinished food, so leftover broccoli, scrambled eggs, and cubes of grilled chicken all go in these containers for lunch or dinner the next day.
We also use them for meal prep: Single servings of pre-sliced fruit and mashed potatoes often get stored in these containers, which are easily dumped on her high chair tray when meal time arrives. This 60-piece set comes with those mini sizes, as well as larger containers which are useful for bigger batches of meal-prepped dinners, from shredded rotisserie chicken to pre-cooked peas and carrots.To buy:To buy: To buy: To buy: To buy: To buy: To buy