Before I had my son, I loved to cook.
I loved taking my time at the grocery store, testing vegetables, and inspecting cuts of beef for redness and fat marbling.
I made everything from scratch. I tried new and more complex recipes. I paired my meals with wines—and pored over wine scores and profiles to pick the perfect level of depth and plum notes that would compliment my buttery steak.
Now, I rarely make a meal that doesn’t pass my three staged mom-test.
1. How easy it really?
If it can’t be prepped in 5 minutes and cooked in 15, I just don’t have time for it. Cooking with a toddler is an Olympic sprint! Whatever activity I’m using to distract him (tv, legos, coloring, new toy…) will keep his attention for no more than 15 minutes (if I’m lucky). Of course the ideal is to wait until a partner or friend can watch your little one, but let’s real, when does the ideal ever happen in mamahood?
2. Will it make good leftovers?
If I cook, that meal better last me all damn week. I’m talking lunches, dinner, frozen portions, the whole sha-bam.
3. Will my kid eat it?
This is the most important stage of the test. I’ve thrown out more food since my son turned 1 than I like to admit. The problem is once it’s been thrown on the floor, or in his mouth and spit out, it can (rarely) be salvaged. I’ve given up on any and all recipes that he doesn’t eat after 5 unsuccessful tries.
Onto the goods. The first recipe that passes my test and is always a crowd-pleaser:
Dill & Maple Glazed Salmon
Step one: Pour three to four tablespoons of maple syrup over the salmon and the juice of half a lemon. Season your salmon with a ton of dried dill and half a teaspoon of salt.
*Mama tip* Don’t bother with fresh dill. Too much work, too expensive and then you won’t have time for the cooking part which is key for flavor and ensuring good leftovers.
Step two: Stick a quarter of an onion in a vitamix or Ninja blender. Or, use onion that’s already been diced. Don’t have one? Skip this step. Onion powder works too!
Step three: Cook the puréed onion in olive oil for 3 minutes.
Step four: Place the Salmon in the pan dill-side down, then cover it in more maple syrup, dill and lemon. (Don’t be afraid of it being too sweet. The lemon and salt balances the flavors.) Pop two tablespoons of butter on the salmon and cover and cook for 5 minutes.
Step five: Spoon the sauce over the salmon. Add more butter and lemon juice. Cook for 1-3 more minutes depending on your stove. You want the salmon to be medium-well (A touch of bright pink in the center but otherwise cooked through) and the seared side should be golden-brown. The onion will be blackened, not to worry, it adds crunch and tastes delicious.