Sunday, August 24, 2014

Quick Easy Meals + Happy Babies = Success

Parents of littles know the title of this post is not a joking matter.
If dinner is being made and the babies are happy SIMULTANEOUSLY, that is a serious success all around. Maybe some of you have children who don't get cranky at 5:00, but that is prime whiny time over at our house and it also happens to be dinner-making time. Survival was the name of the game for a couple months after Emma was born. Meaning, burgers, tacos, taco salad, grilled cheese, spaghetti, etc... #eatinglikea5yearold

But, I'm trying to get back into cooking more "real" food.

Easy is still a must. No gourmet cooking over here. But we've upgraded from spaghetti to...

1. Pork lettuce wraps. I usually serve steamed broccoli and fruit on the side.

2. We bought a cheap teeny tiny gas grill & I LOVE having it! Ben often grills when he gets home. 5-10 minutes of prep for me (marinade/ seasoning) and 5-10 minutes of grilling and out comes something tasty. I've been experimenting with these marinade ideas. Seriously, I do this 2 or 3 times a week. Easy, healthy, fun.

3. Pesto. I've been wanting to attempt growing basil for a while. I couldn't stand to pay $3 per package for the fresh stuff at the store anymore. I am no gardener, but this wasn't that hard.
Pot + dirt + basil plant = $10.
Fresh basil all year long? Priceless.
Okay, not priceless. But it's much cheaper, and more convenient. Step out to back porch, pick a few basil leaves, throw in food processor with walnuts (cheaper than pine nuts), parmesan, garlic, and olive oil. Voila!
We like this skinny chicken pesto bake. I have Ben grill the chicken so that it's halfway cooked, then I put it in a baking dish, add the pesto, mozzarella, and tomato & put it in oven for 10 minutes (ish) at 375 (ish). It's very forgiving.
I also do the following copy-cat recipe of Noodles & Company's Pesto Cavatappi.
Pasta + homemade pesto + grilled chicken seasoned with salt and pepper + sauteed mushrooms and tomatoes. Top with shredded parmesan. I could eat that every day.
But I don't.
But I want to.

I do like to cook. [Side note: My mom was in town for a few days. One evening during meal-prep time, she took Addie outside to play, and Emma was sleeping. I was making dinner. And it was silent. And then the heavens opened, and angels began singing the Hallelujah chorus. Okay, that part was in my head. But, I had forgotten how much I like to cook until I was by myself and it was silent. I wouldn't trade in my chaotic children-filled evenings for silence every night, but for one night, it was really nice. God's grace to me in the mundane. Anyway, I turned on some great music, and chopped, stirred, and sauteed away. It was so fun.]

On most days, though it's the aforementioned slightly chaotic, child-filled meal prep time. We try to avoid meltdowns at this happy hour of sorts with the following strategies...

Addie helps me "wash" dishes. She would play at the sink all day long if I let her. So this is our #1 go-to.

Sometimes we put on a movie. (Which Addie refers to as "vee-vee.") 

These reusable stickers are super fun. It's from this Melissa and Doug sticker pad. It was an impulse buy when she first was into stickers - little did I know what a hit it would be. There are 5 animal habitat pages (farm, jungle, dessert, etc...) and then 5 matching sticker sheets. The stickers are like window clings so you can peel them and move them repeatedly. I actually like it better than stickers, not only because she can use them over and over, but also because they're easier for her to peel by herself. She can't quite get stickers off a sticker sheet yet. They end up all over our house. Or all over Emma. But as those of you with toddlers know, anything they can do by themselves for longer than 2 minutes is a WIN! 

As far as Emma goes, she is basically either eating, sleeping, crying, or swinging during this hour. She also enjoys being read to by her big sister ;)

Right now, Ben gets home around 6. If I'm really on it, we eat right when he gets home. This seems to happen once every 10 days. Most days, we eat around 6:30. So, I try to feed Emma at 4 ish and then give her a 'snack' either right before I start meal prep around 5:/5:15, or right after I finish and before Ben gets home around 5:55/6. If she's full, she's generally happy. If she's super crabby, I swaddle her up, lay her down, and tolerate the background music titled, "baby cries herself to sleep."

Some day, perhaps, I will cook in silence every day.
Perhaps I'll sip wine and try new, gourmet recipes.
I might think back on these somewhat chaotic evenings
evenings that were full of crying and whining and a child clinging to my legs.
but also full of singing & laughing
evenings with my kitchen helper who loved to stir and wash.
evenings where we turned whiny-leg-clinging into a sweet snuggly leg-hugging game.
And I might miss them.

(or not. i might happily sip my wine in silence, and eat a gourmet dinner with my husband and enjoy adult conversation. who knows!?)