Hi Friends! Iā€™m Natalie Mason. I live in Charleston, SC and I am mom to Sterling 12 , Frances Moon 8 and our mini golden doodle Dolly.



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Mealtime How I Do It + Favorite Easy Meals

Jan 24, 2014

One of the number one questions I get is, how do you have the time to cook for your family and does Sterling eat what you cook. Here is the low down. 

Cooking is my passion, it makes me happy, so I make time for it in my life.  I most certainly do not cook every night but I would say 2-3 nights a week I try and whip up something tasty.  On the weekends we usually order pizza one night and then Matt helps cook something the other night, usually grilling out etc.   My happy place is in the kitchen whipping up something delicious and sipping a glass of wine.  Its how I unwind plus it gives me sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when I create a really awesome meal.


 I am lucky because Sterling is in school everyday from 9:45-12:45.  Usually after I drop him off I take Frances and we head to the grocery store.  I still have not mastered the whole meal planning thing and truth be told I actually enjoy going to the grocery store.  It gets me out of the house and I love browsing.  We go almost everyday depending on what I need for our meal that night.  This week I actually cooked all four nights, but that was rare.   Usually I don’t cook that many nights in a row but I was bringing a friend food who had a baby so I doubled it for us.

On the menu this week:
Monday- Gwyneth’s Siriachia Lime Salmon + Quinoa, Mushrooms and Arugula + Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas
Tuesday- Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken Meatballs + Arugula Salad
Wednesday- Ground Beef Tacos
Thursday- Simple Baked Lasagna + Arugula Salad

You may wonder about leftovers.  If there is any type of meat leftovers Matt takes them for his lunch the next day. He eats lunch in his office everyday and welcomes the leftovers.  The salad stuff I eat, for example I had the quinoa and roasted cauliflower the next two days for lunch.  I also usually always make a batch of Tuscan Kale Salads for my lunch during the week.  If you need a quick easy salad we just toss arugula with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.  Then we add fresh Parmesan.  It is a simple light salad we make often.

As for Sterling, I do not cook him separate meals any more,  and yes he is a picky eater.  That being said on the nights I don’t cook sometimes he will eat chicken nuggets, cereal, or whatever I have in the freezer.  We try every night to sit down together as a family.  This is hard because Matt doesn’t get home til about 7 or later most nights. We usually wait and eat with him unless he is going to be later than 7:30.  I think family meals are are so incredibly important.   It is a time where we all sit down with no interruptions and I think as Sterling and Frances get older these dinners will be even more important.  Sterling must take one bite of everything on his plate,  after that if he doesn’t like it he doesn’t have to eat it,  but he is not getting anything different to eat.  If he eats well he gets to choose a dessert.  There are many nights he takes two bites of something tells us he hates it and goes to bed hungry.  Eating is a struggle but I do feel like slowly this approach is working as he is starting to eat more things than he used to.  I give him a multi-vitamin and probiotic everyday to help with nutrients.

I wish Matt had one of those jobs where he got home at 5-5:30 and could help with the kids while I cook but that is not the case.  I am in charge of dinner and bath which can be tricky (not to mention exhausting).  I usually try and make meals that can be prepped early and then just popped into the oven or stove.  Luckily for me Sterling still naps most days and if he doesn’t he still has to sit in his room quietly and play with the ipad or read.  Most of the time nap time is when I get down to business.  I do laundry, get our meal started, straighten the house, and work on my blog.  I cram alot into 2-3 hours.  The morning time when he is at school is usually spent running errands and hopefully soon working out again!   While Sterling naps I will get dinner at least started and do most of the prep work so when he wakes I can spend some time with him,    Around 6 I will start to finish up our meal.  This is when I allow Sterling to turn on the TV and watch a show or two while I finish up dinner (and drink a big ole glass of wine). I usually put Frances in her swing during this time.  While dinner is cooking we will go do a quick bath although lately Sterling has been showering in the mornings with one of us which opens up some time in the evening.  This way since Matt gets home later, when he gets home dinner is ready so we can sit down and eat and the kids are ready for bed.

I wanted to highlight a few of our favorite go to meals.  They are all relatively easy to prepare in advance or quickly.   I try and make at least one new recipe a week for blog purposes and because I love testing new things but these are tried and true favorites!

You can precook your rice and have all the toppings pre-diced so all you have to do at dinner is cook the meat or you can go totally vegetarian and leave off the meat.

You can assemble this whole dish pretty quickly since nothing has to be cooked.  I assemble at nap time then just pop in oven to cook.

All you have to do for this is pre- make the relish, it is better the longer it sits anyways.  Then just cook your salmon.  Under a 20 min meal.  Sterling loves salmon or as he calls it pink fish- although we serve his without the relish.

Such a quick easy salad and the shrimp only take 5 mins to cook.

You can pre-chop all the veggies and then just assemble at dinner time.  Sterling loves this pizza, it is one of the only ways I can get him to eat broccoli and cauliflower.

These really only take 30 mins max to whip together,  best sloppy joes ever.  We serve with box mac and cheese for an easy weeknight dinner.

I actually just made this this week for my friend who had the baby.  As far as lasagnas go it is fairly quick to whip together because you use no bake noodles and only make one sauce and it is so good.  This can be made at nap time and just popped in the oven.

Another easy salad you can per-assemble and put in fridge like this and then just toss together and add meat at dinner time.

I love any variation of a quiche they are always a quick dinner and one that Sterling will eat too.

I would love to know any favorite weeknight meals you have!
Have a fabulous weekend.

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Leave a Reply

  1. caycee says:

    You are simply amazing girl! So lucky to call you my bestie, such an inspiration! Love you!Now teach me your cooking ways so Todd will kepp me around šŸ˜‰

  2. What a detailed post girl! This must have taken you forever to compose. Thanks for all of your hard work in order to share you tasty recipes! I love to cook also and cook about 4 times a week. We have the same philosophy about kids. Eat what's put in front of you or go hungry. I'm not a Waffle House short order chef! I think it teaches kids a very valuable lesson! I'm dying to make that lasagna!

  3. I love posts like this because even though I don't have kids yet I love seeing how mothers do it all. Gives me ideas for when I do have kids. You make some good meals! I've gotta try the lasagne and that quiche!!

  4. SO glad you did this post! I am inspired by your dedication in the kitchen. It can be a struggle to get the kiddies to eat what is on their plates, but I agree that making them separate meals is not the way to go. Thanks for taking the time to put together your favorite recipes. xox

  5. Liz Drew says:

    Thank you so much for this post! My husband also gets home at 7:30 and I feel overwhelmed with cooking, bath time, bed, etc so these quick dinners are much appreciated!!

  6. Sara says:

    What an awesome post!
    I'm impressed by everything you accomplish in one day! haha!
    All of the meals mentioned here look delicious and I want to try them all!
    Life with Baby Sophia

  7. This is probably one of my favorite posts of yours. Its so helpful! I need to make more of an effort to eat together as a family.

  8. Ashley says:

    Such a great post! I'm with Ally, I don't have kids yet but I love seeing how moms balance everything and make it all work. You have some seriously great time management! Love all your recipes!

  9. Lucy says:

    It all looks so good! I used to love salmon, it was a weekly staple in our house too. After I got pregnant, I couldn't stand the taste of it- so weird!

  10. Nat says:

    Love this post! You seriously rock- I can't get my shit together with only baby let alone a new baby and 3 yr old. I really need to start utilizing naptimes better and prep dinner then instead of trying to throw it together before my husband gets home. Thanks for sharing your favorite recipes- I'm going to need to try them.

  11. Caroline says:

    Super mom!! Thanks for sharing your tips and all of those tasty recipes. I will be implementing that eating rule with my son now. He is the pickiest eater and I always swore I would never make separate meals for my children. I'm with you though – being in the kitchen is my way of unwinding and I love making a good meal for my family and having us all together. My parents did the same and those are some of my fondest memories. Happy Friday!!!

  12. Amanda says:

    Wow, This is one of my favorite post you've ever done!. As a stay at home mom that juggles the same sort of things, I love seeing how someone else does it. Love the meal ideas too. Love the blog! (I like the fashion stuff too.)

  13. Good ideas! Thanks for posting!

  14. These recipes look great! I love your blog, you are so consistent and I always look forward to what you have to share!

  15. I am drooling right now! All of your faves look so delicious.

  16. Great post! I'm always looking for new ideas for easy weeknight dinners.

  17. Alicia xoxxo says:

    Great post! I love all of the recipes! Your cooking schedule sounds almost just like mine. I always cook and have a glass of wine too. I recently added chicken enchiladas verde to our must have meals. If I have a busy day and hubs is running late, I use my croc pot a lot. I am def going to make your black bean enchiladas and your salads. Yummy! I have a picky eater too. I try not not make another meal for him and most nights I don't. So sometimes he goes to bed without eating any dinner.

  18. Morgan S. says:

    I love that you don't give into Sterling's picky-ness. I am the same way with my kids. I see too many parents letting their kids get their way at dinnertime and it really is a disservice to them {and others}. They have to at least try to eat it. If I'm making something pretty spicy, then I usually make something else for them, but that's it. Good for you – stick to your guns. He won't starve šŸ™‚ Going to try some of your recipes!


  19. Seriously, you are awesome! I have a baby on the way (due in April) and love to cook for my husband and I. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to keep up once the baby was here — you are an inspiration!

  20. I love seeing your recipes and honestly I imagine you in a gorgeous kitchen that is never dirty (very unlike my laminate countertops that seem to always have some form of flour or peanut butter on them). I used to love cooking and then it became a chore because I had to do it. Slowly I'm starting to enjoy it again, but my kids are older and entertain themselves (makes me nervous to have another little one in the house, but you inspire me). We meal plan for the week and I cook nightly (some nights it's tomato soup and grilled cheese though). I cannot wait to try more of your recipes, especially the kale salad. Thanks for sharing this – it was a great read and a great inspiration.

  21. kate says:

    Absolutley LOVED this post! I am so impressed at how much you get done during the day with that sweet baby girl:)
    You have totally inspired me to up my cooking game!

  22. Loved reading this post. It's so great Sterling has to try everything – hope I can be as 'strong' when we have little ones!

  23. You are my cooking hero. I seriously just can't get it together in this area, I find it so hard and frustrating.I need to get better at it because I love good food. I like to have both my kids in bed by 7:00 so we have to feed them around 5:30. What time do you put the kids down?

  24. thanks for all the tips and meal suggestions. my husband does almost of all the cooking but that'll change in a few months so i need to start practicing! xo

  25. Brooke says:

    Can you please share the meatball recipe?? I saw it on your IG and it looked divine!

  26. Lauren Gibbs says:

    All of these dinners look & sound delicious. I will definitely be pinning a lot of them šŸ™‚ Thank you for this post!

  27. I am bookmarking this post for future reference. All your recipes are amazing. I love your philosophy with Sterling and eating. I can't tell you how many of my patients parents(usually of overweight kids) tell me their kids "won't eat what they make them" and the "only thing they will eat is Mcdonalds chicken nuggets"…they will eat what you make and if not…tough… I know it is so hard to be strong like that but major props! I am making that quiche as soon as possible!

  28. KatiePerk says:

    Girl! You know I make most of your recipes. That quiche is still one of my most faves ever!! You rock.xx

  29. lvmoon says:

    I love your blog so much. Thank you thank you!!!

  30. You are awesome and super woman!!! I am definitely bookmarking your go to recipes!! Come back to Charlotte and visit ASAP!!

  31. Sounds like you have it down to a pretty good science!

    Thanks for sharing so many of your favorites!

    We are doing better about meal planning and have been trying to stock the pantry and freezer with some easy quick meals for the nights when we may not be prepared or have the energy to really cook. Bryce and I both love cooking, but I have to remind myself that every meal I cook doesn't have to be elaborate or gourmet!

  32. So very glad I found your blog! Our days sound very similar, although right now I only have one kiddo and am a baby blogger. I too, love cooking and grocery shopping, and enjoy making our meals and was just telling someone today that I am so excited to try your recipes. Keep it up, you're an inspiration!

  33. blants says:

    I love this post! I feel like we are kindred spirits. I too am the mean mom who makes my children eat what is served šŸ˜‰ once or twice a week they get a reprieve from 'exotic' foods. This week I made a stir fry with tofu and shrimp that they thought was poison, I swear. But they ate a REALLY good breakfast the next day, haha.

    My favorite, easy go-to meal is Martha Stewart's version of chicken chilaquiles. I add some black beans and give the kids some of the chicken before I add a ton of spice. But I still put some sauce on their plates. Sometimes I toss on an avocado to cut the heat, too. Try it — pairs great with margaritas, which I can't wait to enjoy after baby arrives!

    Love the blog. All the fashion and recipe posts are awesome. I hope I look as good as you do post baby!

  34. Fancy Mims says:

    suoer love this post. more "how i do it" posts please!

  35. Jodi says:

    Great post! Love these recipe ideas!

  36. HI!! I absolutely adore your blog! I am new to the blogging world and am so excited to join such an awesome community šŸ™‚ I have really enjoyed following your blog and your instagram–your lil babes are so precious and your recipes are a.maz.ing. Can't wait to keep reading…happy weekend :)! Xx.

  37. Lori Phung says:

    all your recipes looks so delish! am definitey whippin' up those enchiladas, like manana!

    what are some meals that sterling really loves? i have a picky eater too, and it drives me nuts! somedays all he'll eat is string cheese and cheerios!

  38. These are really great recipe ideas for quick weeknight meals! My husband doesn't get home until around 8 so I can relate to this!

  39. Allison says:

    I know I am way late on this, but this is a great post. We don't have #2 yet (similar story there) so I often wonder how people do it. My husband also works a million hours a week. Thank you for the recipes and letting the clueless ones know how you do it!