Every working mom has a few tricks up her sleeve. Jennifer Aaronson happens to have a freezerful. The busy mother of two packs in a super-stuffed day -- creating healthy home-cooked meals, working as culinary director of the meal-delivery service Martha & Marley Spoon, and overseeing a new family business. How does this everyday wonder woman do it -- and still manage a regular date night (okay, date hour) with her husband? Planning, teamwork, make-ahead dishes, and a cappuccino just shy of 5 a.m.
While some of her neighbors wake up at dawn and go for a run, Jennifer Aaronson makes herself a cappuccino, puts on an apron, and begins. “I love the solitude and silence when everyone else in the house is asleep,” she says. “It’s when I get my best work done.” A professionally trained chef and a former food editor of Martha Stewart Living, Aaronson uses the time to make school lunches for Giorgio, 12, and Francesca, 7; and to prep dinner, which she stashes in the fridge for her husband to finish later. Depending on the day, she might bake, tend the family’s vegetable garden, catch up on emails, or experiment with dishes for Boro6, the European-style wine bar and restaurant she and her husband, Paul Molakides, recently opened in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. “Our lives haven’t always been this crazy,” says Aaronson, who switched careers two years ago, when she cofounded the meal-kit company Martha & Marley Spoon. “But opportunities come when you least expect them.” Molakides, who works late nights at the wine bar, rises closer to 7 a.m. and gets the kids up, fed, and off to school. Aaronson, meanwhile, departs for an early train to Manhattan.
Aaronson spends much of her day at Martha & Marley Spoon’s Chelsea offices, developing and tasting the goods. Chile-lime shrimp? Braised black-bean stew? Banh-mi turkey burgers? Yes, yes, and yes -- maybe all three in one day. “I don’t eat lunch,” she says. As culinary director of the company, she has her hand in everything from food procurement to budgets to photo shoots. She knows that her customers love entrees with big, bold flavors (“Asian dishes or barbecue”), and also classic steak and chicken-breast recipes. One-pot dinners get raves too, as “clean-up time is as important as cooking time,” Aaronson says. But it’s the teaching aspect of her job that she finds most meaningful: “I love the idea that we’re bringing new ingredients to people. And a lot of them tell me their kids have been learning to cook from our kits.” Martha & Marley Spoon's headquarters are practically a second home to Aaronson, because they adjoin her old stomping grounds: the test kitchens of Living. The expansive views of the Hudson River are “pretty hard to beat,” she says.
Easing into Evening
Running a wine bar in your own town has its perks. Between the lunch and dinner rushes, Molakides spends a few hours every day at home with Francesca and Giorgio after school. He oversees homework and gives the kids an early supper (whatever Aaronson prepped that morning) until a sitter arrives; then he heads back to Boro6. The chic watering hole serves inspired small plates and more than 40 wines by the glass -- and it’s where Aaronson heads straight from the train to check in at the restaurant and have a quiet drink with him. She also touches base with the chef de cuisine and adjusts the table settings or lighting. (“I call her our chief visual officer,” jokes Molakides.) By about seven o’clock, Aaronson’s home. If the kids didn’t have an early dinner with Dad, she might whip up a pantry dish or defrost something (rice, chicken cutlets, pesto) from her giant chest freezer in the garage. By 8:30, kids and Mom are upstairs for books and bed. “My friends know I’m fast asleep by 9:30,” she says. “Our schedule is weird, but it works.”
Other nights, it’s a quick pasta that Aaronson pulls together using a trusty -- and flavorful -- secret weapon or two. “We’re obsessed with the smoky bacon ends from Trader Joe’s,” she says. “They’re easy to chop up and add to a recipe.”