How a Foodie Feeds Her Family: the Kitchen Must-Haves a Recipe Developer Swears By

As a recipe developer, food stylist and blogger, Joanna Keohane cooks for a living. And while she has sliced and sautéd in some of the most recognizable magazine test kitchens in the land, this busy mom of three kids faces her toughest culinary challenges at home.

“On a hectic weeknight we all know that feeling of staring into the fridge and waiting for inspiration to hit us," says Jo. “I get it and that’s why I try to create food which is not only delicious and nourishing, but above all, easily achievable. And I use every shortcut in the book.”

With families across America feeling the lockdown pressure, dinnertime has become even more fraught than usual. Grocery limitations, constant demands for snacks and having to start the next meal before cleaning up the last would test the patience of any parent. Joanna’s cooking approach is refreshingly simple - most of her recipes contain just a handful of ingredients and take under thirty minutes. Where meals take longer, she makes sure they’re uncomplicated, such as braises or stews.

“There are so many recipes available ---it can be hugely overwhelming to a busy parent before they even start cooking. I want to keep it relaxed and simple," Jo says.  "The trickiest thing is making one meal that everyone will eat – so I try to come up with dishes that are easily adaptable, where ingredients can be left out or added at the last minute, and strong flavors or spices can be dialed up or down.

“I also always focus on minimizing dirty dishes – so you’ll find a lot of one-pot wonders and sheet pan dinners on my menu.”

When time (and patience) may be running short, having a well-equipped kitchen is essential for churning out family favorites. We couldn’t resist asking Jo for some of her kitchen must-haves, as well as some of the recipes she Swears by to make family meal prep more enjoyable.

Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet

“This cast iron pan is a total work horse and will improve any kitchen set up. It’s perfect for searing proteins on the stove then finishing them in the oven and will have instagram-worthy one pan meals on the table in minutes. It also comes ready-seasoned, which means it’s non-stick and easy to clean, but without any of the harsh chemicals.” Jo’s Lemony Shrimp and Zoodles pairs perfectly with this pan.

Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Baker's Half Sheet

“Roasting an entire meal on one sheet pan makes weeknight cooking a breeze – and means a good quality pan just might be one of the best kitchen investments you can make. And no, not all sheet pans are created equal! Made of pure aluminium, Nordic never rust, they cook evenly and if you line them with parchment first the clean up is done in seconds (essential in my house). With so many variations you can find a sheet pan dinner that works for even the pickiest eater in your house. One of our favorites is this recipe for Greek Lemon Chicken.”

Photo credit: Alexandra Rowley

Maldon Sea Salt Flake

“You’ll be hard pressed to find a chef who doesn’t recommend Maldon – but I really believe proper seasoning is crucial in helping children fall in love with those veggies. I’m not into hiding vegetables from my kids – but I do try to make them taste good! We all know too much salt is bad for us – but because Maldon crystals are large you’re actually less likely to overseason. Plus Maldon doesn’t have any of the anti clumping chemicals you get in table salt.  And I can see from what gets left behind that steamed broccoli is never as popular as roasted broccoli with olive oil, lemon and an all important sprinkling of salt.”

Dufour Pastry Kitchens Classic Puff Pastry

“Everyone needs a little help now and then and a pack of frozen puff pastry is one of the most useful standbys you can stock. Use it to whip up an easy and family-friendly savory tart in minutes with whatever veggies, cheese or eggs you have lurking in the fridge. Super versatile – puff pastry can be eaten hot or cold – and used for packed lunches the next day. It’s also handy if you ever need to create a dessert in a hurry. Simple blueberry pie in 10 minutes flat, anyone? And although it’s ‘convenience food’ Dufour is the real deal – no trans fats or nasties – just flour and butter…and plenty of it.”

Instant Pot Duo 7-in-One

“You’ve seen the hype but the Instant Pot delivers on so many levels. It can do the impossible – comfort food in a hurry. The most useful feature is pressure cooking, which means you can have a family favorite like bolognese or chili cooked in under 20 minutes. Conversely it also slow cooks – great for people who like to stick dinner on and forget about it. Did I mention it’s also a perfect rice cooker? This is one gadget that justifies its counter space.” Jo’s tip: use it to speed up this classic beef stew recipe.

NutriBullet Blender

“I have a blender and food processor in my kitchen but they don’t get used half as much as the NutriBullet, which is switched on almost daily. It suits smaller amounts of food better and is so easy to clean. It’s also versatile. A nutribullet is not just for smoothies (although it does make a good smoothie). Great for making child friendly dips like hummus and tzatziki and quick and tasty sauces for dinner, like peanut satay or cashew cream, which really help my kids look forward to healthy eating. I also use it for pestos, soup blending and nut butters.” Tip: try Jo’s Easy Kale Pesto recipe.

Yumbox Leakproof Bento Lunch Box

“The compartment organization of these bento style lunch boxes really helps to inspire a more interesting lunch for kids and in my experience anything they find fun they are more likely to eat. Even if your food stocks feel low, they’re surprisingly easy to fill as you can make use of all your leftovers, fridge and store cupboard items – the idea is to offer a little bit of everything. We’re all homeschooling at the moment but I’m still trying to pack our bento lunches the night before – it helps add some routine and normality to our day and means I don’t have to stress about making lunch after a long morning.” Jo suggests stealing these bento box menu ideas.

Curious Chef Kid Safe 3-Piece Nylon Knife Set

“The best way to get kids to love food is to involve them in the cooking process. They’ll feel like rock star chefs with their own knife set but these knives are designed with an easy grip and a nylon blade which cuts fruits and veggies but thankfully not skin. These kits make a great birthday present, too.”

We think you deserve to buy only awesome things. We've asked the most discerning women out there to share what they honestly, truly swear by so you can get on with life and find your next favorite product, faster. What do you SwearBy?