As any working mother who often has to rush from the office to school pickup to home knows, putting a healthy dinner on the table every night can be more than a little challenging.
That's why the Los Angeles-based writer-producer — and mom of two — launched From Office to Table, a website that offers recipes, tips and tricks for making dinner easier when time is beyond limited. Not only that, but the former ICM literary agent reveals how parents can make two plates — an adults' version and a kids' version of a meal that uses many of the same ingredients but presents it in a much more accessible way. (You know what that means: the green beans aren't inching hideously close to the rice. Yeah, we've been there.)
Lubliner chatted with mom.me about the cooking tips she's learned the hard way, how she balances work and motherhood, and how she gets her children — 9-year-old Andrew and 5-year-old Molly — to help out in the kitchen.
I realized that you really need to be prepared. You need to have the things in the house, because I would be at work. I can't go to the store for an hour. I can't look through the aisles; I need to be ready.
Did you grow up cooking at home?
It's so funny. When I was an agent, I
could not cook. My mom always worked, and I grew up in a house where we ordered
people grew up sitting in kitchens watching their mothers cook and by osmosis
they learned how to cook — that was not me. I didn't have that childhood, so
I just didn't know how to do it. And I was very frustrated being a working
woman at the time — not even a mom, just a working woman — and not only not
knowing how to cook but not even how to feel comfortable in the kitchen.
What finally got you cooking?
When it was Valentine's Day and I wanted to make dinner, I would read all these crazy recipes and not even be able to follow the recipes. My husband (David) would literally be at CVS buying Drano because I would have — true story — clogged the sink because I would have tried to make this chicken marsala. I was like, "This doesn't look right, so I'm just going to add more." I didn't have a feel for any of it, and so I'm like, I can fix this. I can do this.
I realized that you really need to be prepared. You need to have the things in the house, because I would be at work. I can't go to the store for an hour. I can't look through the aisles; I need to be ready. And so I realized what worked for me. What I needed to keep in the house, in the fridge and in the pantry and in the freezer, and that's what I turned into to my Gold Star Staples — what you need to have in the house.
What inspired you to create From Office to Table?
The way that the site started was that I would, in this day and age, send friends pictures of dinners or post a picture of my kid helping me cook, and they would say, "How are you doing this? How are your kids eating a plate of lamb chops or a plate of lemon dill halibut?" But I'm telling you, it's so easy, and then I would email friends the recipes, so then I would see a mom on the baseball field, and she would be like, "Oh my god, we tried the shrimp. My kids have never eaten shrimp, but they loved it." So that was exhausting, so I needed one site where everyone could go.
So I enlisted
my sister (Lisa Rosenfelt), who is five years younger than me, but she basically grew up on a
computer, and she was like, "You need to start a blog. You need to start
something. You can't email everybody. Start something so everyone can go to a
page to see what you're doing because you seem to have become a life coach for
What do you find parents are most concerned about when it comes to cooking and kids?
One of the complaints that I hear more and
more is that people feel like they're cooking for their
kids and not themselves. Or they feel like they're just eating chicken nuggets
because that's what they're feeding their kids. Or spaghetti or mac 'n' cheese,
and it doesn't have to be that way. You can eat like a grown-up and also feed
What are the differences
between the adult version and the kid version of your meals?
Usually what it is, is very simply the way I place the food. So if I make shrimp and asparagus and penne pasta, then what I'll do is for the
kid plate, I'll have the shrimp and the penne and asparagus separate on a
plate. And then for the grownups, I'll mix it all together so it'll look like a
mixed pasta, and I'll put a little cheese and maybe a little truffle oil. The
grownup plate will look more like an actual mixed pasta, and the kids will be a
little bit separate because usually kids don't like things all mixed together.
How do you balance
your day job, the website and motherhood?
How does anyone balance it? Like anyone, it's a tough
balance. Some days, at the end
of the day, you feel like you deserve a medal, and other days you feel like you
need someone to cart you away. I think everyone is doing their best and
everyone struggles with what they struggle with. At this point, in all that I've done, it feels like this is what I'm supposed
to be doing, so I have to be grateful for that. I hope it just continues to catch on and
continues to inspire other people. I, at least now, have the ability to be with
my kids and hopefully inspire other people to be cooking.
What are your must-see cooking shows?
I love the Barefoot Contessa, I love Martha Stewart, of course, though I think most of her stuff is very difficult. I love Rachael Ray. I think a lot of her stuff is easy in that she's pretty down-to-earth with the recipes she uses. I love Giada (De Laurentiis). I take and borrow and steal from everybody. The difference is I'm focused on making the two plates as much as I can.
I saw on your site
that you have "Make Your Life Easy" tips. Which one of those did you have to
learn the hard way?
Probably all of them. Really the one I had to learn the hard
way was "Only Buy What You Need" because when I first got married, and then when I had my first child, I
would go to the grocery store and I would buy the entire store, thinking that I
was going to make everything. And then by the end of the week you're throwing
everything away. You really have to visualize and prep what you think you're
going to be making. You have to have your gold-star staples at home. We're so
lucky because there are so many stores and so many farmers' markets and so much
fresh produce. Nobody needs to go and do those big [trips to the grocery store] that people used to do
in the 1950s, but that's how I shopped. That was a very expensive lesson.
Who's been your most
important mentor in your career?
My mom is a good inspiration. My mom has a ton of energy,
and I feel like she's very supportive, which is always good. I feel like you
need that. My sister has been an incredible supporter/mentor also because she
is the one who has helped me get this blog really up and running, which is
great. My husband really is also very supportive, and in terms of the business
he's a great mentor to have because he's been doing it a lot longer than I have. But this is definitely a learning curve. This food world
is definitely new to me, so you have to lean on the ones that you know will
always be there for you and then pave the road yourself a little bit.