I recently had the chance to chat with Ted Allen, host of Food Network’s cooking competition series Chopped. I’ve always liked Ted a lot and was jealous every time a “straight guy” had Ted in his kitchen serving up gourmet food!
I decided to use my time with Ted to pick his brain on go-to recipes and ingredients, something parents are always thinking about. While Ted and I are busy doing different things (he hosts a TV show while I am a working mom “hosting” three children at the dinner table each night) and we live in very different worlds (Ted in New York City, me in coastal California), we both value tasty, whole foods no matter how crazy life gets. Ted and I had a great chat and he offered some helpful tips and insight for parents looking to cook wholesome meals for their families.
What is your most favorite go-to meal or ingredient?
Chicken! Chicken is a versatile ingredient that can be used in many dishes, from soups to quesadillas and more!
How do you like to prepare your chicken?
I love to make roasted chicken at home. While buying rotisserie chickens at the store is very convenient and the meat can be used for many things, it can be pricey and you don’t know where the chicken came from. The chicken can obviously be used for many meals, and the leftover chicken pieces can make stock. Parents are so busy and cooking naturally can be a challenge, but a roasted chicken is a simple way to do that.
Do you have any tips for cooking roasted chicken?
- Use high heat, around 450 degrees F.
- Roast smaller birds, around 3 pounds. If you need more meat than that, cook more than one bird.
- Preheat the oven, rub the chicken with olive oil and generously sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add half a lemon and some garlic cloves to the cavity if you feel like it.
- Cook for about 1 hour. To check for doneness, look for loose legs and, when you tip the pan from the neck end, you should see clear juices inside.
- Practice, practice, practice! The best way to know when chicken is perfectly cooked is to get to know your oven well, and cook with the same type of chicken over and over again.
What’s the best way to cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts?
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are another great option. I always pound the chicken breasts so they are all about a half-inch thick. Cook on the stove over medium-high heat for 5 minutes per side, and you’re done!
How can I prime my kitchen to make those busier nights less stressful?
My biggest advice regarding go-to staples is to use your freezer. The freezer is a parent’s most important friend in terms of providing on-hand ingredients and meals. Here are some ways to use the freezer to your advantage:
- When you cook a meal, always cook extra and freeze half so you have another meal waiting in the freezer for a busy day. Use your oven to reheat frozen food to maintain the texture and taste of the food.
- Stews, soups, lasagna, cooked chicken breasts, roasted chicken chunks, chili, chopped ham steak – these are all great examples of go-to freezer ingredients that can help busy parents.
Any tips for cooking for kids?
Cooking for kids is hard! It’s great to give kids lots of taste options and encourage them to watch cooking shows to provoke their curiosity about food. When I cook for my nieces and nephews, I always serve them a variety of food and don’t cook separate meals for them so they can try lots of things. They may nor may not like the food, but that’s okay! That all said, having a pantry filled with pasta, rice and quick-cooking items that are still natural, whole foods is always helpful.
What’s the best way to get people in the kitchen who don’t cook or don’t cook often?
Get yourself a little know-how. I was inspired by a friend who was a great cook, as well as Martha Stewart’s first TV show. There is no shortage of cooking advice out there, whether it’s watching cooking shows like Rachael Ray’s that offer basic cooking instruction and quick recipes, spending time with a friend who is a good cook to learn their tricks, or just picking up a book. You have to want to cook and it does take a little time, but it is worth the effort, especially when you are feeding your children.
You can do it! It takes a little time but you can find the resources. You can totally do it!
What is a quick recipe you love?
Grab a few chunks of ham from your freezer, 2 eggs and salt and pepper. Spray oil on the inside of a ramekin and place the eggs, ham, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper in the ramekin. Be sure to break the yolks! Microwave on high for 2 minutes, add cheese and eat! A great option for breakfast or a quick dinner!