How To Get Dinner On The Table With Ease with Chef Ashley Shep

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3 Powerful Steps To Rock Your Routines and Become A Stress Free Mama
Looking to make dinnertime easier? In this week's episode of the Routine and Things Podcast, I chat with Chef Ashley Shep about cooking routines and how to make meal time a breeze (or at least less frustrating). We talk meal planning, freezing meals, and a whole bunch of cooking tips and tricks. You will definitely walk away learning a new way to dive into your cooking routines and make them your own!
Episode Mentions
Word For Word
Ashley Brown 0:00
[Intro] Routines, my absolute favorite word, but you either love them or you hate them. And either way, I strongly believe that routines can be a springboard for improving your home, yourself and your life. I'm Ashley Brown. And this is the Routine and Things Podcast. In each episode, we'll dive into a specific routine or point of view that will move you closer to enjoying life more and more each day. Trust me, you're gonna want to keep listening, because you're well on your way to getting and staying happy.

Ashley Brown 0:28
Hey, and welcome back. So I'm so excited to be able to talk to you this week, because last week was an encore episode, and it's been much that has taken place in the past few weeks. 2020 just continues to just amaze me, I don't even know, I don't even know what to say it's just been a whirlwind with 2020. And although I feel like I have grown so much in this year, and I'm ready for a fresh start. I really am. I don't know about you, but I'm ready for 2021. I think that we all are going to be amazed in 2021 to just see the shifts that happen with us all and with this world. So super excited for that. In today's episode, brand new episode, I get to chat with Chef Ashley Shep. So she is a chef, she loves cooking. She's a wife and also a mom of one baby boy, when he's actually turned into a toddler now, so I get to chat with her all about cooking routines. So let's get into cooking routines, right.

Ashley Brown 1:52
So she's gonna help us by sharing tips and tricks for cooking for making dinner easier, quicker, more delicious, which I feel like that's what I'm most concerned about. Is my food good?! So that's what we're gonna be diving into today. Make sure you take out pen and paper because you are going to want to take notes. She's going to be sharing a bunch with us. And we also get into conversation about some real mom stuff as well in this episode. So I hope that you enjoy. Let's get into it.

Ashley Brown 2:25
Hey, Ashley, I'm so happy to have you on the podcast. So just to start us off, if you could tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do. I would love that.

Chef Ashley Shep 2:37
Well, first of all, thank you for having me. It's always getting we get to reconnect. So for those that are listening, my name is Chef Ashley Shep, and I help busy moms get dinner done faster, with easy, quick and tasty meals. And so that includes things like masterclasses. I have a grocery shopping and meal planning service that I do for moms and then other little goodies here and there.

Ashley Brown 3:04
Okay, so what about your family life? I know you have a baby boy.

Chef Ashley Shep 3:10
Yes. So by the time this airs, he will be one. And so I'm in the process of planning a carona style virtual birthday party. And he's just his name's William, and he's a delight and enjoy. So if you check out my Instagram or Facebook, he's all over that. But he is like the calmest most relaxed baby I could have ever wished or hoped for. And then I am married to have a husband named Marshall. And he's a super awesome support system. And he's a true partner. Not just like when people say, Oh, my husband's babysitting the kid. No, he's his dad. They're spending quality time together. And so he definitely helps out a ton and does is equal parts.

Ashley Brown 4:00
Yes, I love that. So your name is Chef Ashley Shep. First of all, I love that. I love that anytime people put chef, I'm like, yes, teach me a little bit of something. And so I would love to know, because I don't think I know this background story. We have been connected for quite a bit of time. But I would love to know how did you get into cooking? Like, when did you know you enjoy cooking and how did you really get into it?

Chef Ashley Shep 4:29
For me, I've always just liked to cook. So as soon as I was allowed to use the stove, and things like that, I had an Easy Bake Oven, which as an adult now there's not real cooking but as a kid that was real cooking for me. And so just baking and doing things like that and just being in the kitchen whenever my mom or my aunt and grandma which was just always fun for me. I'm from the south and so we like to eat. And yeah, so it is something that it's such an , it's not an official love language, but it is a love language for folks. And just being able to feel people with something that like, warms their soul or something that keeps them here longer since I focus on healthy recipes is just something that you can't really replace. And I think the reason why I chose to focus on moms is because I feel like they kind of get neglected when it comes to quick, healthy, easy meals.

Chef Ashley Shep 5:25
And they're the ones that needed the most were overworked, were working. And if you're listening to this during time of Corona, we're working from home, we got the kids that are doing digital learning or they're at school, and then we have the whole decontamination sanitation process once they get home. And it's just like a heavy weight that's on us and, but your family wants to eat dinner every day, and they want to eat lunch every day. So it's something that doesn't go away. And that's kind of what drew me to focusing on moms is because it is not to say and I mean, it's not to say not to sound sexist, but generally moms are the ones who are in charge of cooking. There are times where a dads do that as well. But for the most part, usually it's the mom in the household who has that responsibility.

Chef Ashley Shep 6:11
And coming from a time where the moms might not have been working outside of the home. And then they were able to maybe do things a little bit more elaborately. Like you're making Sunday dinner on Tuesday, because you have more time. And we just don't have that anymore. And so that's kind of where my focus has become on on doing a quicker meals because we still want to eat healthy. We still want to feed our family. We do like the drive thru, but we know that that's not what's best, most days.

Ashley Brown 6:42
Mm hmm. I totally agree. Um, I know for me personally, yeah. Like, it's like so much drive thru and takeout you can eat too. You're like, okay, and I've had enough of this. Yeah, yeah, I need to like, we really need to get in some more veggies. And we need to get back on track. So I definitely, I definitely get that. And like you said, like, I feel like, I know, for me, personally, I do the cooking in our home. And so it is that thing that is constantly coming around day after day after day. And I remember before I started meal planning it was so just stressful. As I don't know what to try to figure out what I'm going to cook day after day. And so for women out here and like moms specifically, who are feeling like the stress of dinner time, because I feel like that's when it comes up, especially when it comes to kids. Having children, I don't know for you, Ashley, but I would love to know has cooking changed at all for you after having a child? Do you think so or no, not yet?

Chef Ashley Shep 7:57
For me, not yet. I think it's because he is so young. And also because I had routine setup before like I was doing the freezer meals, I was making sure that we had kind of a loose plan. I don't like to do too rigid of a plan, which I'll talk about later. But it hasn't just because it's already had things in place. And so like you always talk about once you have a routine, like it's easy to follow, you don't have to you make adjustments, of course when your life changes. But it wasn't something that it isn't something that's become like an added stress just because he's here because at this point, he's trying to eat everything that we're eating. And so I just have to be a little bit creative since during the stage of when you're trying to figure out what they're allergic to. So I would do like for example, when he was trying salmon because fish is a high allergy food. I would season salmon for us and then I would just do plain or just with olive oil for him just to make sure he wasn't allergic to it, but I would do it in the same pan. So it's not like it's causing extra stress for me but I think for a lot of parents it does because you have all these allergies. You have "I don't like this" and "I don't want that" and...

Chef Ashley Shep 9:04
Do me to kind of want me to delve into that or ...

Ashley Brown 9:07
Yeah, we can definitely.

Chef Ashley Shep 9:09
I know that's not what you asked me.

Ashley Brown 9:11
But no, no, but that's good. I think that's good. We can definitely delve into that because that's what I'm going through right now. Both of my daughters want to act a hot mess right now with vegetables. I'm like y'all need to stop. And my younger one. She did really good with veggies to a certain point and then now it's just like, not trying to do no veggies today. She ate beans and I had some corn mixed in there. She would eat the beans spit the corn right out. I'm like, Okay, all right. So definitely share with us some ways that maybe we can help to shift some things with our kids if possible.

Chef Ashley Shep 9:53
Okay, yeah. There are definitely things you can do. And I'm a teacher by trade. I've taught for 10 years and so a lot of times with kids, it's, it's control. And when you kind of get into that battle of where you're going to eat this, or you're not going to get up from the table, then that's kind of the danger zone. That just to give a tangent, like, I'm from Charleston, and my mom would draw faces on my grits with ketchup. And one time, I know that sounds weird, but, I remember she would do like a little girl with a bow and a smiley face and stuff. And so then I went to my dad's house one weekend, and he didn't have any ketchup. And he made grits. And I just sat there and didn't say anything, I was probably like four or five. And my sister was like, Oh, you don't have any ketchup. And I don't know, who didn't tell him that I needed to have that with my meal. But he was like, well, you're gonna sit there and eat that. And I think I sat there for like an hour, and I didn't eat it. But needless to say, you don't want to create those kind of habits.

Chef Ashley Shep 10:52
For your kids, you don't ever want it to be where you have to finish everything on your plate. You don't want it to be where you have to eat a certain food, or there's a consequence or a punishment or whatever. There could be a logical consequence, just like you're not getting something else, or you're not going to be allowed to have dessert with the rest of the family. But you don't want it to be a power struggle in the sense where food becomes a tool, where they're not able to kind of self regulate, because especially myself, that's kind of something that pushes like, okay, well make a happy plate, eat all your food. And that creates obesity that creates uncertainty of am I really full, am I still hungry? And so if you're doing that, let's try to kind of pull away from that.

Chef Ashley Shep 11:32
So basically, when you present foods, there's a couple different things, it could be that your kid really doesn't like it. As an adult, there's foods we don't like like I don't like mushrooms, I'm not going to eat mushrooms, if you put them on my plate, I'm going to push them off to the side. And I think parents sometimes forget that kids are little people. And there's going to be food they don't like. Also consider the presentation of food. If your kids big on textures, maybe presenting it in a different texture. So like maybe like butternut squash, so maybe putting it in a little cube, so it looks like a toy, or maybe purifying it so it looks like mashed potatoes. So presenting it in different format for them. So that way, you're not triggering them, because it's the same thing. But you're giving them a variety of opportunities to see what it looks like.

Chef Ashley Shep 12:19
Maybe doing where it's all mixed together. So doing like a scrambled sheet pan scramble. And this also works if you have kids that are allergic, so you could separate things they're allergic to on one side with some foil, or just put it on a different side, if you have a case where maybe somebody pescatarian the rest of the families not same thing would work there. You can do their fish separately in the pan and then do like chicken sausage or something on the other side of the pan with a veggie. But yeah, so presenting it in different ways.

Chef Ashley Shep 12:50
And then also considering things like smoothies, those are usually pretty much winners with kids because they can't see what's in it. And they're usually bright colors. And so that's attractive to them as well. So yeah, and honestly, even for toddlers, and even for babies, it takes eight to 12 times for them to try a food for them to kind of decide whether or not they like it. So don't feel like Oh, they didn't like it the first or second time, I'm never gonna offer to add it to them again, our tastebuds generally change every three to seven years. So maybe your kid doesn't like it. And then now they like it. Or when they told you they didn't like it, they just don't want to eat it. So it could be a lot of different things. And I know that's not really specific. But I'm just making a healthy habit for the family just saying okay, well, this is what we're eating. If this is not what you want, then I'm not making anything else this is this is what we're having for dinner. Yeah. And don't make it like a... don't say that with like anger. Don't say that with like, alright, this is what we eating. Like it just this is what it is like the sky is blue. The ocean is blue and green. Like this is what it is.

Chef Ashley Shep 13:54
And one of the things that I see is people will make like the box macaroni and cheese or the chicken tenders. And they'll be like, Oh, well, my kid is so picky, and they don't eat the stuff. And a lot of times they'll do that because they know that they have an option. They know that you're gonna make the other thing. Maybe they say they don't want to eat whatever you made. And, and that's pretty much what it is like kids are very smart. And they know okay, well if I say I don't want that mommy's not gonna let me to quote unquote starve, and they're not going to starve. They'll be fine.

Ashley Brown 14:26
Right? This is really good, because I feel like that's what I've come to. It's just like, today I'm like, "No, we you're having beans, and mashed potatoes and broccoli." And I said, I'm not making nothing else. Like you're just going to start eating what we put right here and if you don't want to eat it then you don't want to eat it. I'm not going to and yeah, that's fine. That's fine. So I definitely love that.

Chef Ashley Shep 14:54
Yeah, and I mean your pediatrician will also tell you they're not going to starve. Like once the kids hungry. They're gonna eat.

Ashley Brown 14:59
Exactly. I always say that I think they'll get hungry enough and want to eat. This is perfectly fine. I love that. Okay, so I know that before you talked about freezer meals, I would love like, what does your cooking routines look like? Because you did mention freezer meals, how is that a routine for you?

Chef Ashley Shep 15:22
Okay, so the actual cooking starts before the actual cooking. So really the planning, and I'm sure it's a part you're going to love because of the routine. And so if you are waiting to figure out what to eat at five or six o'clock on the day, you're going to eat, and you are already creating stress and panic for yourself. Um, but if that does happen, I do have strategies for that. But that's not that's not something you want to be your default. So the way that freezer meals help out with that is the fact that, for example, before my son was born, I made 22 different freezer meals. And so each of those meals, it was for like tubes for lunch, different things for dinner. So like chicken teriyaki or tomato, basil, garlic, shrimp, just different options. So we have a variety, and each of those meals was four servings. So we were actually able to not have to eat out the first two months of my son's life, which was a huge saver. A huge time saver, huge money saver, we saved about $400.

Chef Ashley Shep 16:28
And it was also something that because it was a routine that I had, it helped lessen stress that I had, because I dealt with some postpartum anxiety, I had an unplanned c section, had trouble breastfeeding. And if I had to figure out what to eat on top of that, then that would have been, like, probably, maybe not a breaking point. But I've probably been close to it. And so I was very thankful for that. Because then my husband could make things in the instant pot because it was already pretty much prepped. So the beauty of freezer meals is that you can chop these and clean your meats and all that stuff. And seal everything up. And I use a vacuum sealer, which is basically what grocery stores and food producers use so it stays fresh. And they'll say, if you use a vacuum sealer, it'll stay good in the freezer for up to a year depending upon what it is. Some stuff up to three years, obviously doesn't last that long in our house and we eat it. But you have that flexibility to be able to just go in your freezer and say, okay, tonight we're gonna have this, or I'm gonna have that for lunch.

Chef Ashley Shep 17:31
And using things like the instant pot, you don't have to fully defrost the items because it's a pressure cooker. And so it cooks it faster. So like because it's already cleaned and seasoned, all things like that, I can put it in the pressure cooker. And it can be ready in like 25 minutes from frozen, depending upon what it is.

Chef Ashley Shep 17:53
Yeah, and if you don't have a pressure cooker, you use your crock pot, you just want to make sure it's fully defrosted. But the benefit of that is, I have things planned if I have a crazy night, or a crazy day. And then I also have things where my husband can go pick something out, if you have kids, they can be like, Oh, I want to have this for dinner tonight. And so it takes the pressure off of you to have to figure everything out because you kind of already have a catalogue of things. And then I do those and I'll make usually at any given point in time, I'll have probably 10 to 12 meals in my freezer, I did 22 just because everybody says having a baby is so much and so I just wanted to be prepared.

Chef Ashley Shep 18:34
And I wouldn't suggest doing that many your first round, even if it's just like four and you could do it where you have two different recipes and you just double the recipe. If you're doing teriyaki chicken, get two pounds of chicken and four pounds of chicken however much your family eats, add your sauces. Feel it up. And I have two different nights of meals and you could have leftovers depending on how much of your family's eating.

Ashley Brown 18:56
Yeah. Oh, that's so good. I love that. I know that I did that recently. It was because of you honestly, because I have a vacuum sealer too. And it was because of you. Someone was giving it away. And I was like, oh, Ashley uses one of these, let me get that. And so one day I made like a double batch of something. Why didn't I make a double batch? I just made it and I had a lot left over and I'm like what am I gonna do with this? I'm not eating all of this because my kids don't eat it. It's like a curry cauliflower type soup. And my husband doesn't eat it. So I was like okay, so what am I gonna do with all of this? I was like, oh, I have that FoodSaver and so I took it out. I vacuum sealed that, put it in the freezer and just this week, I took it out to defrost it and then I put it in the pot. And I was like oh my gosh, that was so easy.

Ashley Brown 19:51
So like, please listen to Ashley when she's saying like, giving you these tips about Instant Pot, crockpot, freezer meals. Like this is the way to go if you want to save time and save some stress right and lessen your stress, because like she said, having this routine really helped her to not get to that tipping point because you know sometimes we can get to tipping points when life just shows up and things happen. But when you have routines that can really help keep things kind of constant and keep things like you know, on even keel and like you still being able to do the you know the basic things in your day that can really help you when things come up. You just have in these routines and especially a cooking routine because you always got to eat, your family's have to eat, we always have to every day.

Chef Ashley Shep 20:46
And they're always looking at you like you're the only one that know's how to cook food.

Ashley Brown 20:50
Right girl, I be like your father over ther, why yall coming to me?! It's so hilarious. So but yeah, so this is some real, these are some really good tips. So I know that you share tips about like how you know instant pot to get things done quicker and also freezer meals to to get things done quicker and dinner on the table faster. Are there any other tips that you can share with us to make dinner time and meal time less stressful?

Chef Ashley Shep 21:21
Yes, so maybe you're like I don't, I don't have time right now. Maybe you're listening to this at five o'clock and you need, you just need something quick. So that suggestion I would say is, what I do also do which ends up being some of my best meals is just throw something together. So around the end of the month is a great time to do this or the end of the week before trash day before you throw out all those random things in your fridge that you never use like that bag salad that never got open. Like those veggies that are on their last leg, all that kind of stuff. That's an excellent time to just do either like a leftover day. So there's been times where I will eat three different types of leftovers because we have it and I don't want throw it away. Or I'll make a stir fry. So any pretty much any veggie for the most part without I wouldn't put less than stir fry but pretty much any veggie that you have, you could toss in a pan with some soy sauce, ginger, some garlic, onion powder, garlic powder, if you have white pepper that's been in there too. And then you have a really quick dish.

Chef Ashley Shep 22:23
If you have, if you have certain foods that are just ready and available, those are really easy to put together. So I will always be things like potatoes, sweet potatoes, I will keep bell peppers, onion beans, like you mentioned earlier, I'll always keep like chicken sausage or turkey sausage like the rope sausage, I guess. And if you're vegan, you could do the choices, your veggie sausage. And then some kind of fresh vegetables like broccoli, kale, or even frozen spinach does does really well also, and just a combination of a veggie protein and a starch and throw them in a skillet or throw it on a sheet pan and season it with whatever your favorite all purpose seasoning is. And then you have dinner and that can come together in less than 30 minutes less than 20 minutes sometimes, like I'll do frozen shrimp is another good one as well. The shrimp cooked on like five minutes. So I'll do like lemon pepper shrimp. So shrimp with garlic, some lemon juice, it can be concentrating fresh stuff, whichever onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, and then add some broccoli. So I'll cook the shrimp in the pan and as it's cooking I'll chop the broccoli and put the broccoli on top and close the pan. And then it'll steam all together. So that's less dirty dishes that you have. You could do some rice in a rice cooker, you could add some potatoes, whatever kind of thing you want to do.

Chef Ashley Shep 23:47
And just having things like that just available. So when you add them to your grocery shopping list, you just know you have them so that way if something happens, or if you just need a really quick meal, you have it and you don't have to stress out about it. And one of my favorite or my favorite all purpose seasonings is by Addy Daddy, which is a black owned business based out of Texas. And I like them because they do low sodium options. So for example, they use sea salt or pink Himalayan sea salt. And the benefit of that is it actually tastes saltier than salt so you don't have to use as much of it to get that same salt. Mmm, yeah. And you can read all their ingredients on the back that's something I'm a big proponent of of being able to pronounce the stuff on the back not because we're not intelligent, but because the more likely you are to be able to pronounce it the more likely it is to be healthier or to not have weird chemicals in it. And so they have lots of options on there. So they have everything seasoning which is good on everything. It's like a good replacement for Lawry's or like Adobo. Then they have Taco Loco which is another favorite of mine which is about perfect replacement for those taco packets by like El Paso. That have all those added chemicals and all that salt, that's a perfect replacement for that. They have Asian Soul which is a good one, Honey Chipotle. So for them I really just like them because I don't have to... If I'm really pressed for time, I don't have to combine my own seasonings, which I normally do. And I know for moms, and people I've suggested it to, they've loved it. The Chili Packet, all kinds of stuff that they have as options.

Ashley Brown 25:28
Yeah, I love that. I mean, and really, when I'm hearing you say, with all of this is just like get creative sometimes, like get creative. Don't be, you know, many of us can put a lot of pressure on ourselves when it comes to cooking. That's fine. You know, oh, it needs to be like this and or it needs to be like really thoughtful or thought out. And it's like, elaborate, right? Just throw some stuff in a pan and add some seasoning. And let's get dinner on the table. Like it does not have to be so much. And many times when we do things like that our family really likes the meals.

Chef Ashley Shep 26:07
Yeah, like there's one I've done. That was just sweet potatoes, broccoli, and chicken sausage. And I posted that everybody's like, Oh my god, this is so good. Like, okay, I'm glad you like it. But yeah, it doesn't have to look like Pinterest. This is not chopped, or master chef, this is dinner on Tuesday. So it doesn't matter.

Ashley Brown 26:25
Yeah, it does not matter at all, I know that, I've had to stress that to my bestie like, girl,make some real simple meals, like simple and it's gonna still be tasty, you know, put some season in there. But it can still be tasty. But don't, don't stress yourself out by trying to create like elaborate dinners and things like that, especially if you know, you don't have the time, or even have the energy. So I think that's really, that's really beautiful for you to just share that, as well. But can we talk about, a little bit about meal planning, because I talk about the meal planning routine being a part of the cooking routine. And I know that you are all for meal planning. What do you feel like makes meal planning a bit simpler, because I feel like even sometimes people will start to meal plan and then they will start to lose momentum. And I feel like because they are not meal planning in a way that is sustainable. Like they're always constantly looking up different recipes like every single time. So like, share with us your thoughts about that?

Chef Ashley Shep 27:38
Yeah, so I think that's, that's super important. Because I people assume that I cook every day, they assume that I have like this elaborate meal plan worked out and like my beautiful planner, which you have beautiful planner, but I don't have it worked out months and months in advance. Like I have, I have a catalogue of meal plans, because I offer that to my clients. But for me personally, I like to have the flexibility. Because I know that life happens. And I know that it's unrealistic to think that every single time I plan something is going to get cooked or that it is something that I'm going to either feel like making like if you if you get sick, just things happen. And so you want to have some flexibility in it, you are exactly right of not being so rigid in your meal plan. So that's the first thing to be flexible. And so doing those things like the freezer meals, it gives you that flexibility because you have options like oh, I'm going to get a freezer meal out today or I'm going to order Uber Eats, but I have the option. Like I know what I'm doing, but I know I have the different I have it there and then incorporating those quick meals. So having those ingredients on hand so that way if you need a last minute meal, because you're like I'm gonna save my fees, and I'm not tipping tonight, then have that.

Chef Ashley Shep 28:57
I'm also having kind of a loose structure. So you could do things like meal cycling, which means where you rotate through different kinds of meals. So you're exactly right when people are like they say okay, I'm gonna meal plan I'm gonna make seven different meals this week. And I tell them how about we just start with one or two that are new because that's the thing they'll pick like four or five new recipes and all the ones on Pinterest. They have this long story at the beginning of how this person picked herbs from their garden and how they went down the hill. And no one's reading that, I mean people reading it but not my people are not reading it.

Chef Ashley Shep 29:37
So meal cycling, so basically what that means is you are creating different themes for each day of the week. And that doesn't mean you have to cook each day of the week. It just means that's kind of your go to for what you're going to have. So maybe you do seafood Saturday. Maybe you have fish fry Fridays. I have a family meal plan for and they like to have pizza and wings on Fridays because they eat pretty healthy during the week. And then on Friday, their like, we don't want to do that. Taco Tuesday is a pretty common one that everybody likes. But that doesn't mean you have to eat tacos every Tuesday. Even though I love tacos, so I, I follow that. But it could mean quesadillas, it can mean enchiladas. It doesn't have to be. It can be burrito bowls, it doesn't have to be just tacos.

Chef Ashley Shep 30:22
Maybe you do Italian different days, Asian, Mexican, whatever. So having a kind like a folder that that day fits into that it's like, okay, it's Wednesday, we make Italian. Alright, well, I'm gonna do this. And it prevents you from having things too often. If you have a different theme for each day, but that also prevents you from having to memorize 75 recipes.

Ashley Brown 30:46
I love that. Yeah, having the theme I think that can be really, really, really helpful. Like, you know, just going based upon that theme. So thank you for that. Thank you for it. First of all, thank you for all of the wisdom and cooking knowledge that you've been sharing, because I know that I have some of you are listening right now. And you're probably like, this is helping me so much.

Ashley Brown 31:12
Because many of us do struggle, especially as moms are like, Oh my gosh, like constantly, this food is coming up. But like, please take the tips that if you have to go back and re-listen, please do. to write down the tips that Ashley shared because they will save you time, they will save you money, they will save you energy, right, they will help you keep your sanity. So it's important for you to like. if you need to go back and rewind, like write down these tips and start to implement at least one of them, you know, start there, so that you can start making your dinner time and mealtime easier. And so it's not causing you stress.

Chef Ashley Shep 31:58
I think the key thing is to not set yourself up for failure, as well. So if you know you have a really busy Wednesday, or you have really busy, whatever day of the week, don't, don't even lie to yourself and tell yourself that you're gonna cook something that night. And I say this with love. Don't even don't even do that. Like if you know your kid has like karate practice, whatever. Make that a night you have leftovers or make that a night, you know, you're already going to eat out because what ends up happening is in a perfect world, or meal planning, and we're all Pinterest, and we're going down the rabbit hole. Oh, okay, I'm gonna do this, this and this and this. And then you get to it and you're like, I'm tired. This was not a good idea. I didn't order this stuff. And so create... and that's what you focus on is routine is making it a habit to know when this is going to work. And when it's not going to work. Know yourself. I'm not saying don't be aspirational. But what's within reason. So once again, don't feel like you need to make five different recipes off Pinterest a week. That's not an attainable goal when you have a family and your a wife and you have a job and things like that.

Ashley Brown 33:03
Exactly. Yeah. Please listen to this. Please don't put pressure on yourself. I know I talk about this all the time. Do not put pressure on yourself. Like she said, That's why I meal plan when I am planning for my week, because I'm like, what's going on that day. Oh, not doing a bunch of cooking, not cooking at all! I'm not doing it because I'm not about to set myself up to say I'm going to cook. Because you know when we say we're going to do stuff, we need to do it. No, I'm not doing it. I ain't planning for it, so please be realistic with when you're going to cook or when you're going to make elaborate meals versus when you're going to keep it simplistic. You know, really think about it before you just actually say go down to Pinterest rabbit hole. And then you'll see here like, Oh, I want to make all of these recipes. Like I was on there the other day like I want cinnamon rolls, chili, I want everything.

Chef Ashley Shep 33:54
It'll make you feel like you are a short order cook which some of yall already feel like, I can do this. Just pick one.

Ashley Brown 34:05
I love this Ashley, first of all, just thank you so much for giving, you know, just being here and being able to share with us, you know what you do and like, all the knowledge that you have. So to wrap things up, I would love to know, what is a current routine that you are either trying to improve or that you are enjoying right now in your life.

Chef Ashley Shep 34:31
Okay, so I will pick improving because I feel like when people see me and hear me they're like, oh my gosh, like she does all these things great. And there's nothing wrong. I'm like, No, there's a lot that is happening behind the scenes that I need to work on. And so for me, mine is going to be self care. And I know this is I was looking at your stories today actually with you and your daughter and I thought it was a good point. She said that self care isn't just, you don't have to be alone for yourself care. And I think that was like a big revelation for me because I have a newborn. And it's like the time is like, I don't have time to be by myself all the time and like, I get joy out of spending time with him. And so then it's like, okay, do I feel guilty because I need to go be by myself. But it's like, do I need to be by myself. So I'm trying to find that balance.

Chef Ashley Shep 35:19
And I think also with that, it's important to like to not feel guilty about taking the time to be by yourself. Because especially young moms, I'm in my 30s, my young moms, but especially when you are a new mom, which is actually something that came out of, or something that helps me to write my book that I just wrote, is to think about what you actually need to function and what you actually need to kind of manage what you're doing, because so much of your energy gets drained. And so much of you just gets exhausted, just taking care of the baby and doing life and being a wife being a mom and working and stuff like that. And so that is actually also why I wrote the book to help new moms do that, because not having that as a routine, it definitely can just throw you off kilter. Which is something that I found out when my son was earlier on, and that's basically me finding out that I needed a routine. It was basically why the book got written because I didn't have one.

Ashley Brown 36:32
I think that is good that you are, you know, self aware, and like understanding, like, you know, I need to improve a self care routine. I think that's something that we all continue to work on that we continue to, you know, invest and try to, like, you know, bring about in our lives. I feel like that's always the one is like self care is really the one that I really need to do more of, but I know you're going to get there and you have the book. What is the book? Because Ashley came out with a beautiful journal for new moms. So please share about that.

Chef Ashley Shep 37:07
Yes. So the book is called New Mom Thoughts. Real questions for moms with real feelings. And it was written during the very beginning of the pandemic. And so things were kind of, like, uneasy and like, okay, where, where is this going? What's happening, I realized that I had gone back to work too soon. And my son was probably three or four, he was three months when I went back. And then probably about a month later, I was like, realizing like, okay, I should not be here just yet. But at that point, you're like, All right, I'm already back. Like, I can't be like I'm gone again. And so I realized that I didn't really have enough time to kind of like heal physically, physically I was okay, I had recovered from the C section, but like, emotionally, I just wasn't my old self. And I think there was just like this pressure from myself to become my old self. And you're not really ever your old self after you have kids.

Chef Ashley Shep 38:08
And so at the very beginning of a pandemic I just started writing. And so I came up with 52 questions to takea mom from week one to year one with your baby. And part of the reason why I did that is because I was looking for resources for myself to be able to kind of heal and I didn't really find any the ones that I found for new moms always focused on the baby. Or they were very sarcastic and very like brass, and like, oh, like it was all these curse words and stuff like that. And that's not, that's not me. And so, I didn't really see anything that was just like a safe space for moms, or like a place to just like, get all of these thoughts, and feelings and emotions out of your head. Because you have so many of those as, as a mom in general, but especially as a new mom, you're like, are you eating enough? Or are you doing whatever? Am I crazy, like just all these things that you're having? And you're like texting your friends, or I was texting my friends who were moms and they're like, validating you, like, no, you're not crazy. It's just the hormones like, you'll be fine. And I thought about like the woman that might not have it as a safe space or the ones that might not feel comfortable texting that to somebody.

Chef Ashley Shep 39:17
And just think about the whole postpartum experience, like they do ask you when you go to the doctor and check in and stuff. But you really only have two doctor's visits after you have a baby, which to me is crazy. And they're spaced so far apart. They're about five weeks apart. And so you're kind of just as a new mom, you're kind of just left out to the wolves almost. You're just left to figure it out. And all the focus shifts from you to the baby and I had heard that before. And I think I thought that was more of a baby so cute type thing and that is what it is. But like when you're pregnant people are like lifting up cars to move out your way. Like they're doing all this stuff to bend over backwards like oh, should you be walking right now? Like they're doing all this stuff to make sure that you're okay.

Chef Ashley Shep 40:01
And then after that, I had good friends and I had a good support system. So they were checking in, but for the most part, people don't really check on new moms, they don't check on their mental state, they don't check on the stability and things like that. And so that's why, that's why the journal came about. And so like I said, it's 52 questions, and it helps the mom kind of process her thoughts and feelings. I also have included a bonus website for anybody that purchases the book, and it has different mental health resources. It has feeding resources to feed you to feed the baby. I'm adding in some sleep training resources as well. And also other little goodies along the way. And so it is available on Amazon. And there are two cover versions. And so one's kind of like the glitzy mamas. It's got some gold foil on it, and it's black and purple. And then there's one that's more colorful, whimsical that's got kind of like a, I don't wanna say rainbow, but it's, it's more like springy instead.

Ashley Brown 40:59
Yeah, yeah. No, they're pretty I bought one. And I'm giving it to my friend. She actually just had her baby. I'm shipping it to her tomorrow, actually, and so I can't wait. I can't wait for her to get that because it's so needed. So needed! Postpartum is a really hard time. It's a really challenging time because of the hormones and everything trying to settle back out. And so you're not getting any sleep, you're not getting hardly any sleep. So it's a really hard time. So I really think that this is needed for new moms. So please go check out Ashley and you know, check out the journal that she has, New Mom Thoughts. I think this is super beautiful.

Ashley Brown 41:42
So share with us where we can learn more from you and stay connected with you.

Chef Ashley Shep 41:46
Yeah, so I am Chef Ashley Shep on all social media platforms, website, same thing, And I do want to offer a freebie to your listeners get their food life together. And so the since we're talking about seasonings earlier, which I think is definitely needed during this time, because we need some variety, like you said, at some point you're going to get tired of eating Uber Eats or Doordash. And you're going to get tired of making the same things. And so I've put together my Season Til You're Satisfied Guide. And it includes my top 12 favorite seasonings, and spices. But it's just bit.liy/seasoningguide. And you just sign up and it'll send it to you right away. And that way you can get your food life together and get some new seasonings.

Ashley Brown 42:43
Yes, I love that. I love that. I think I actually have that, which I think I've read over it before. And it's really good. So yes, thank you. Thank you so much, y'all please go I'll make sure I link it in the show notes. So please, go grab that seasoning guide. Like she said, we need some variety. You know, we always up in our house, especially many of us now. We need some variety, as far as our food to spice up some stuff. So thank you. Thank you so much, Ashley, I really appreciate you It was beautiful having you. So thank you.

Chef Ashley Shep 43:16
No problem. Thank you for having me. I'm happy to be here. And I would love to do this again.

Ashley Brown 43:21
Wasn't that such a good conversation? Like I said before we got into some real mom stuff. But we also chatted a lot about cooking routines, and she's shared some really amazing resources. So anything that she mentioned in this episode will be linked in the show notes for you to grab. I have some of her freebies and resources. And I'm telling you, they are amazing. And we also chatted about her new journal, New Mom Thoughts, which I have actually bought for one of my friends that recently had a baby. And I have another friend that's having a baby soon and I will be getting that for her too. It's a really, really nice journal. And I really wish that I had this when I was pregnant with my daughters, and after I had them because it would have been really, really great for my mental health. So if you know a mom who needs a journal because she just had a baby and she's in postpartum, or you know someone who's about to have a baby, go grab that journal because it's nothing on the market like it.

Ashley Brown 44:24
Alright, well that's it for this episode. If you enjoy today's episode, let me know. Share today's episode tagging me @routineandthings on Instagram. I would love to know that you are listening. So I hope today's episode really helped you to get your cooking routines to a point where now you know how to get dinner done quicker, easier, smoother as well. And before I wrap up today's episode, I want to just let you know to like soak up this time like fall is here and it's about to be winter soon. Take a deep breath soak up the moment that you are in right now because you want get it back and know that I'm here to support you and to help you in your journey. I am so happy that you are a part of this community and I so so appreciate you. If you could do me a huge favor that I would absolutely love. That is to leave a review of the podcast because it really helps to support the show. So rate the podcast five stars for good karma and also write a review of the show. Let me know what you are learning and what you love about this show. Alright, girl. Well that's it for today. I hope that you continue to enjoy wherever you are and whatever you're doing, and I will talk to you next week.

Ashley Brown 45:36
[Outro] Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed today's episode, could you do me a huge favor and take a screenshot and share it on social and for more routine goodness be sure to visit, here's to staying happy!
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