Transcript: Tips To Making Fun and Healthy Meals Kids Will Love

I often reminisce back to my childhood where we always spent our dinners together as a family, free of distractions such as the television, internet and social media.

Dinnertime was a fun and precious time and we all enjoyed mum’s cooking. I was brought up on a farm in a remote part of Scotland so there was no golden arches, KFC or other fast food available.

In this episode, I talk with Linda Lederman, a kitchen confidence coach and owner of Balaboosta’s Secret. Linda helps busy moms with meal planning, prep and cooking lessons and you’ll learn some great ideas from her how to take the pressures of cooking away so you can sit down with your family and enjoy the time together without feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.

Helen Thompson: High Linda and welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat. It’s a real pleasure to have you here. I’ve been looking forward to this podcast because I love food and I love eating and I love being around my family when I’m eating and I know that that’s something that you are passionate about. So can we start by just asking you what you’re passionate about and what your business is all about.

Linda Lederman: Absolutely Helen, I’m thrilled to be here and let me give you a little bit of background about me. I started off as a really terrible cook, loved to eat, but I was a really terrible cook.

And when I was in high school, I told my mother, she was the most boring cook on the planet. And she said, okay, smarty pants, you cook. And she bought me a book called the joy of cooking. And she said, once a week, you have to pick out a recipe and tell me what the ingredients are. I’ll buy the ingredients, you cook the meal. Well, I was allowed to do this for three weeks in a row and each one of the meals I made was worse than the one before. And she said, forget it, we’re banning you forever cooking in this house. And that’s how my cooking career started. But I’m not one to take no for an answer, and I took it as a challenge.

And then I proceeded to take cooking classes, cooking lessons. I’m now the owner of a thousand cookbooks, many recipes that I don’t follow and I am a kitchen confidence coach because there are plenty of moms out there who either had a mother who was an equally bad cook as my mother. And we laugh about it.

She doesn’t take offense to that concept, or there are plenty of women who know how to cook, but don’t know how to manage the time and they don’t know how to make meals quick and easy and fun for their family. And the reason why I’m passionate about it is because I have two kids. And when they were very, very young and we’d be having mommy and me groups or little sports groups after school, I would see the parents giving them a pre-bought sandwich for dinner and they’d be eating in the car as they go to the next activity. And to me, this was such an alien concept because I’m a firm believer in the importance of family mealtime, and the studies prove me out.

The studies show. If we have a sit down family meal, your children are going to do better in school, they’re less likely to abuse illegal substances, they have better communication skills, better social skills. The list goes on and I’m thinking to myself, well, why wouldn’t you want that for you and your family?

I mean, it’s such a precious time, both for nourishment and for, fun and learning about your family and relaxing and when my children had friends come over for dinner and we’d sit at the dinner table and we’d be playing games while they were eating, they would say, well, my mother never makes a meal like this, and we never have games at the dinner table.

We never talked like this, can you teach my mom how to do it? That started me on my quest to be a balaboosta.

Helen Thompson: That’s amazing. I was brought up that way as well, that we always sit down for meals and we actually sit down with the family and discuss things. My mother wasn’t a great cook either, but I learned how to cook because my mother wasn’t such a great cook.

So, I’m thinking, why do they find preparing meals so difficult? What is it about it that they find it so difficult? They’re always busy, they’re always sort of feeling distraught because they’ve got to cook a meal? I mean, sometimes kids at breakfast time, they say, “oh mom, what are we having for dinner?” And they feel stressed.

Linda Lederman: Absolutely. I think a lot of moms put pressure on themselves thinking that everybody’s got every meal has gotta be a gourmet feast, and it doesn’t, you can make some really quick, easy meals if you know what you’re doing, and there are so many tricks to this. And I work with moms all the time. Moms with very young kids, moms with Elementary school kids, all the way up through high school and including high school, because there’s different needs sometimes at different stages of the game.

But the first thing you need to do is chunk it down into small pieces. And it’s the same thing that you would do with any challenge you have to things. Break it down into small pieces. So if you know that your children are running circles around you, and you’re not going to have time to do a lot of things, start with a list of easy recipes you can work with.

And there’s so many of them, you know, you could do a sheet pan dinner, and that, what that means is one sheet pan you have your cut vegetables, you have your proteins. So let’s say you’re cooking roasted chicken and you have cut up chicken pieces. So you season your chicken, you put it on a sheet pan, you bake it for, let’s say 20 minutes, and then 20 minutes into the baking, add your vegetables.

And then you’re going to have roasted vegetables with your chicken. You only have one pan that you have to clean up and dinner’s done. So there are many, many quick and easy things you can do without having a million pots and pans that you have to clean up afterwards. And I think that’s part of sometimes a young moms issues that they have so many pots and pans, they don’t know how to streamline the process and not only are they exhausted trying to prepare it, make it, the cleanup afterwards is just a nightmare. So when it comes time to sitting down at the table and really relaxing and enjoying with your children, you’re exhausted and it shouldn’t be that way. It doesn’t have to be that way because you really need to spend your energy and good family time.

So knowing some of the shortcuts when you cook, that’s one thing you can do. You can do things like making things in quantity and what you don’t eat you can freeze. So on a super, super busy day, you can defrost it. I make huge quantities of soups and stews and I put them in family size containers, and I labeled them with the date and what’s inside because trust me, once it’s frozen, it’s not going to look like what you think it is.

Hm, what’s that my fish soup or is that my beef stew? And it’s a rude awakening when you thinking you’re defrosting one thing and it’s something else. So always label things, when you freeze it, put it in quantity sizes that you can use that make it easy. When I make meatballs for my family, I actually bake my meatballs cause I don’t like to splatter all over my backsplash in my kitchen. So I bake meatballs and I make them in quantities and the leftover ones I freeze and it’s going to take you 10 minutes to make fresh pasta, maybe 12, if you’re using dry pasta and you already have the meatballs to put on them and I make all kinds of meatballs, I make Asian meatballs. So I could put that on a rice noodle and a rice noodle takes two minutes to make. You just take the noodle, pour boiling water over it. Boom, it’s done. So if you learn those tricks and those quick recipes, it’s a nice way to reduce some of the stress that a lot of young moms feel.

Helen Thompson: And I guess it’s also having preparation time and knowing what you need and having it in the pantry and not just thinking to yourself, right, help. I’m cooking these meatballs, I need turmeric or I need oregano and you can’t find it because, you know, you bought it and you know, it’s somewhere in the pantry, but you just cannot find it because your pantry is so cluttered with so many different things in it and you’re thinking help.

Linda Lederman: Absolutely, good point. I always like to tell people a good place to start is know what you have, know where it is, know how to use it and know when to use it and know what the substitute, if you can’t find it. So it’s always nice to have a list of pantry staples, refrigerator staples, and freezer staples. And that’s going to differ, you know, by your food preferences, but there’s some staples that everybody can have.

And if you have a well-stocked pantry, let’s say. You know, you want to keep pastas in your pantry. You know, you want to have some grains rice in your pantry. You want to have some beans in your pantry, some basic seasonings in your pantry. If you have those, it makes it easier to cook on the fly.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, cause I try and keep my pantry very clean myself, because if I can’t find anything, I just get, get in a panic and I just don’t don’t cook very well. So yeah, I can totally get that one.

Linda Lederman: You know, there’s, there’s another thing you can do if you do have a bunch of spices and I’m guilty of this, I’ve been guilty of buying more than one minced garlic when I’ve had one and couldn’t find it. So one way for pantry organization, so you’re not having that cluttered mess all the time and taking everything out to find the one thing in the back of your pantry, you can buy loose side bins and you can put your, your seasonings in that.

So instead of taking one, seasoning out one by one to find something, you just lift up the bin and look at it and everything’s right in front of you. Another thing you can do in terms of pantry organization is to put like used seasonings together. So if you know you’re going to make taco Tuesdays every Tuesday, whether they’d be meat or shrimp or fish or chicken, keep those seasonings together.

Or you can take those seasonings and make your own taco blend. Then all you have to do is reach for the taco blend. You’re not taking out four or five different seasonings for the dish you want to make. So when I go shopping, here’s another quick organization tip. If I buy, let’s say chicken breasts and I put them in the freezer, I’ll put them in separate bags, so they don’t all stick together. And then I have too many stuck together and I can’t defrost them and I’ll put them in my loose side bin for chicken. So I’m not taking out 50 different things in my freezer when I’m looking for where’s the chicken. Well, they’re right in the bin where it’s supposed to be. You can do the same thing in your refrigerator, put your condiments in one of those bins. And when you need to use a condiment, take the bin out, everything’s right there. You’re not taking 50 million things out of your refrigerator. Just one bin to get the thing you need out of it.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I think it’s good to be prepared when you’re cooking, because if you’re prepared, you’re more relaxed and it’s easier for you to prepare a really nice meal, as you’re saying, and have fun with your kids at the table. Cause that’s something that I know you’re very passionate about is having fun and communicating and playing games with your kids while you’re at table. So what kind of games do you do?

Linda Lederman: Well, games can be done at every age and I will just say, my kids are teenagers now. And when they have friends over for dinner, I say to them, “did you tell your friends, we play games at the table” and they say yes, and we still play games now.

So it can be done from very little cause there are a lot of fun, but if you have little, little kids there’s some really easy games you can do. And we have a game called headbands in the states, but you can make this game yourself, you don’t need to buy it. You take little index cards and you put a picture on it.

So the pictures for very young kids. You could put a picture of an apple or a car or a puppy and that person takes the card without looking at it and puts it on their forehead with a picture showing so everybody else can see it.

And the object is for the person holding the card up to guess what the picture is. And so they’ll say, is it alive, is it bigger than a house and it’s a great, great game to play with very little children because it teaches them really deductive reasoning and logic and thinking. But it’s also very fun.

They can guess colors, they can guess sizes, do we own one? So it’s called headbands and you can buy it as a box game or make it up yourself. As your kids grow, you can make it more complex. You can do something other than a noun on the picture. They could do famous places to get them aware of places in the world. So that’s a really quick one to play with little kids.

Helen Thompson: When you say little kids, what about kids who are just beginning to talk, but haven’t got good communication skills. They’re just beginning to talk, they’re just beginning to understand.

Linda Lederman: That same game is a great way to teach them vocabulary because instead of doing it as a guessing game, you could just hold up the card and say, oh, look, this is a picture of and you say the name and they could say the name and you could say, do we have any of this in the house? And they can start learning to recognize pictures and names.

And that’s a really, really easy one to do with little kids. You could do really simple things like heads, shoulders, knees. And you may not think it’s appropriate to be doing that at a dinner table, but it gets your kids thinking and speaking and moving. And it’s a great distraction if your child is a picky eater and they don’t want to eat what’s in front of them, instead of having a power struggle with your child, if you engage them in either some kind of conversation or some kind of game, it’s almost a distraction and they’re more likely to try to eat what’s in front of them because they’re not just focusing on, I hate this food ,I’m not going to eat it. They’re participating in other things at the table.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I come from a childcare background. So with me, I tend to play a lot of games with little kids at table, when they’re not eating, I imagine I’ve put something on the spoon and I make it like a little aeroplane and I say to them, right, you know, this is an airplane, you know, dad’s on this plane, you’ve got to open your mouth to get ready for the runway, you know, cause the plane is going to land somewhere. So I say right, he’s landing and he’s just about to come in, but you need to open your mouth and that works because they get really intrigued about where dad is and what you’re doing. So when you actually put the food in their mouth, they think, oh, something’s in my mouth and then they enjoy it.

Linda Lederman: I have to say, my mother did that to me and I’ve used that same trick with my kids.

Helen Thompson: Oh, I think it’s a great trick that one.

Linda Lederman: I think it’s fantastic. You know, another thing you can do that it’s not really a game, but you can do round Robin stories. If it’s more than just you and one child, let’s say your spouse or your partner, or a friend is at the table with you, you can do a round Robin story and as your kids get older, they can participate and contribute to the story.

But what you do is you start a story, it could be once upon a time, there was a, and you make up your story. You say about a paragraphs worth, and then the next person has to add to the story. So the story goes into whatever direction the person who’s adding to the story is speaking about. And it’s a fascinating way to number one, communicate and build an idea and watch a story grow and see the different directions it goes. But it’s something that it also gets your child thinking like wow, when it’s my turn, where can I take this? And again, that may not be for a one or two year-olds, but you can make your stories at whatever level your child is at.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, that sounds good. If you had a baby who was, say, six months old and you had a toddler who was, say three, and obviously the baby isn’t eating solids. What are your views on supporting moms who have got babies who are just going onto solids? Have you got any tips on that?

Linda Lederman: I would say try variety. You know, don’t give up but you have to try many different times and don’t drive yourself nuts, trying to cook too many dishes. You could steam broccoli, let’s say and cut it up small for your little one, who’s just learning to eat. You could even puree it and then just don’t puree the rest of it and season it, for whoever else is going to be eating it.

So you can use the same ingredients, just stop your preparation at different points and modify it for your little one.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I don’t agree with going into a supermarket and buying lots of pureed food for babies because I don’t know what’s in it. You don’t know how much sugar content is in it, you don’t know if it’s actually saying on the tin what it is. And I think it’s much better from what you’re saying to, to give them, in small doses, what you’re having. Cut it and make it smaller to what you’re having so that you’re giving them all that flavor. You’re giving them all those tastes and they’re getting the natural flavors rather than too much sugar.

Linda Lederman: I a hundred percent agree with you and I also never liked going into a restaurant and somebody giving my kids the kid’s menu, because it’s usually garbage that they put on the kid’s menu and it’s not what I’m going there for. You know, I’d rather get my child an appetizer, which might be the right size portion for my child, an appetizer from the adult menu than something that’s just on the child’s menu that I know is no good for them.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, you can give them a small bit, you can give them a bit of broccoli or you can give them a bit of the chicken as long as you cut it up and you’re careful. They’ve got to learn how to chew and obviously, you’re not going to give them something really thick when they’re just beginning. It’s going to be something small that they can suck on.

Linda Lederman: They get used to other flavors and they get used to real flavors and hopefully quality flavors. You know, your food is much better if you serve it, let’s say if it’s fruit, if you’re serving it, when it’s ripe and in season., It’s horrible to get one of those melons and then you cut it up and it tastes like a potato, like, ah, not a way for your kids to learn to like fruit, you know? So you have to buy smart and cook smart.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, well, that’s right and you’ve got to know how to tell if the food’s good quality or not, as well, because you can tell by the smell because if I go and buy fruit and I smell it, you can always tell by the smell of how good it is.

Linda Lederman: Right, the smell and how heavy it is relative to its size, relative to other things, there’s a lot of grocery tricks that you can do.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, if you’ve got any, good grocery tips for a mom before we close.

Linda Lederman: Sure, alright, so melon, you want it to be heavy. You want the ends to be a little soft and you want it to smell like a melon. Unfortunately, most of the melons in the grocery store are not that way. So what you can do is plan to leave it on your counter for a couple of days and it will ripen to some extent, not all fruits will do that, but a melon can ripe into a better consistency and better flavor if you leave it out.If you have peaches and they don’t have a little bit of give to them and they’re hard as rocks, a great trick for getting your peaches right, is to take a piece of towel paper, wrap the peach in towel paper and leave it on your counter for a couple of days, a day or two. And then all of a sudden it will become soft and delicious.

You have to do that trick with tomatoes. Here’s something that you should know though. So certain fruits and vegetables give off something called ethylene gas and it’s a ripening agent. So you have to be aware of what fruits and vegetables do that. I have a big bowl, a beautiful ceramic metal bowl that I have on my counter and I put different fruits and vegetables that need ripening or don’t need to be refrigerated in. But if I put apples near some of those things, they’ll get over ripe quickly because of the gas of some of the vegetables.

So if you really want to ripen something fast, put an apple in a brown bag with what you want to ripen and crinkle it up and that gas will make it ripen faster.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, there’s something to do with onions as well. People say that they don’t put onions in the fridge.

Linda Lederman: Don’t put tomatoes in the refrigerator, if they’re not cut, do not put your tomatoes in the refrigerator, or they turn mealy.

Helen Thompson: Oh really, do you mean when they’re not cut when they’re whole tomatoes.

Linda Lederman: When they’re whole, leave them on your counter.

They get more potatoey they don’t get nice and juicy and a wonderful bite when you have it. They lose some of their flavor.

Helen Thompson: Oh, okay, I didn’t know that, I’ve always put tomatoes in the fridge and they taste fine, but maybe that’s because our climate is so hot.

I might try that one. Yeah, I’ll definitely try that. So to find out more about your fantastic recipes and your fantastic cooking ideas, how would they go about doing it.

Linda Lederman: Several ways. I have a website called, I have a Facebook group Balaboostas Secret. I have a Facebook group called Easy Weeknight Dinners For Busy Moms. I also have a PDF, a free document that I’m happy to give your readers called Quick Dinner Time, Sanity Saving Tips.

Helen Thompson: Oh, that sounds amazing, so that moms can get a lot of good tips on that, because I think some moms need to have these little tips to help them get going.

Linda Lederman: And I’ve worked with moms one-on-one I work remotely with them. So, you know and I work with people where they are, on their cooking skills, what their food habits are, what they like to eat, what they don’t. Cause I don’t think, when it comes to food, one size fits all, and that’s true for your food tastes, your ability to preplan, everybody’s lifestyles and time constraints are different.

Helen Thompson: Can they do classes on Zoom ?

Linda Lederman: Absolutely. We work remotely. I do Zoom classes with my clients all the time.

Okay, thank you so much. I I’d love to sit and chat to you for ages about food because it’s a passion of mine too. I guess I’ve been brought up to eat well and I enjoy sitting down and having fun. I’m going to start doing some of those games so thank you for that Linda, it’s been a pleasure talking to you.

Oh, it’s been a pleasure talking to you and feel free if any of your audience has any questions, reach out to me. I’m happy to help you and, and make your life a little easier and fun. My goal is to have you do stress free dinners done with speed, ease, yum, and a whole lot of fun.

I really enjoyed talking with Linda and our conversation really took me back to my own childhood. Technology is really eroding our family interactions and we need to be reminded from time to time about what’s really important, don’t you think! I’ve included links in the episode show notes to Linda’s website, her Facebook group and Instagram page so please check out what she has to offer and value that all important family time.

The show notes can be accessed at