Seeking Sanity

Up until this point in my parenting path, I think I’ve had a fairly reasonable approach to the unattainable notion of perfection. Recently, though, as E barrels toward a milestone at which he’ll likely only consume actual food for his nutrients, I’ve experienced mounting pressure to make sure I’m introducing him to a wide variety of nutritious solid foods.

As a working mom with husband who commutes a long distance to work, I don’t have all of the resources I need to be able to successfully pull off nutritious and varied dinners every single week night. I am lucky in that E can often play fairly independently for decent stretches of time, but while I’m trying to throw something together for dinner, E inevitably needs my attention. The time I have between getting home from daycare pickup and getting E to bed feels so short, and we try to squeeze in a bath for E every other night, too.  All of these factors have recently combined in a shitstorm of guilt and feelings of failure.

Last weekend, we didn’t have anything on our calendar, so I made the decision to spend the bulk of the time in the kitchen preparing and freezing meals. We have a chest freezer in the basement, which we purchased before E was born with the intention of having easy meals at our fingertips, and I wanted to fill it with yummy things that I could easily assemble throughout the week.

I prepared by accumulating recipes for the meals I wanted to make. I then listed out the amount of each ingredient I needed for each recipe, most of which was doubled or tripled. Finally, I created a shopping list of the ingredients needed for all recipes so that I would purchase the necessary quantities of the items.

I tried to organize my workload in a logical and efficient way, chopping all veggies for the recipes first, and always looking one or two steps ahead so that I could allow time for items to cool, bake, etc.

Delicious quinoa cakes and red pepper - NOT served on Turkey Day.

Delicious quinoa cakes and red pepper – NOT served on Turkey Day.

Here’s what I made/froze:

  • A gluten free version of Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf (double batch made into smaller sized loaves)
  • Black bean taco soup – K’s favorite so far. I made a double batch and froze into half-size batches)
  • A triple batch of my favorite Quinoa Cakes. I make them with gluten free breadcrumbs and, while I’ve had them with the recommended poached egg, our favorite way of serving them is with goat cheese and sautéed red peppers on top.
  • A quadruple batch of homemade taco seasoning.
  • A double batch of this homemade ranch dressing/seasoning mix.
  • A double batch of muffin-sized broccoli cheddar rice bakes, which uses the ranch seasoning.
  • A double batch of twice-baked potatoes, which loosely uses this recipe. I used 8 large baked Russet potatoes, 1 stick melted salted butter, about 1 c plain Greek yogurt (could use sour cream), 2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese, 1/2 c milk, 1 c. chopped green onions, 1 tsp of sea salt, and 3 tsp of the homemade ranch seasoning. I froze them and can bake from freezing at 350 F for about 55 minutes or thaw and bake for about 15 minutes.
  • A gluten free powdered mix alternative to “cream of” canned soups.
  • A double batch of my friend Dan’s Mexican shredded chicken. 4 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, two 16-oz jars of salsa, and 4 Tbsp of the homemade taco seasoning listed above, cooked on low in my crock pot for about 8 hours. I shredded the chicken in my KitchenAid mixer by using the paddle attachment for about twenty seconds, then mixed the shredded chicken breast back in with the sauce in which it cooked. I froze this in sandwich sized freezer bags to use as taco filling, to top nachos, or in a Mexican-inspired rice bowl.
  • A double batch of my mom’s top-secret white chicken chili, frozen into quart size freezer bags.

Since I had purchased two very large packages of chicken breasts, I had some leftover from the above recipes. I bagged and froze 1.5 lb quantities into freezer bags with marinade so they would marinate as they thawed in the refrigerator.

I completed the bulk of this work on Saturday, then wrapped up by around noon on Sunday, taking breaks to rest and spend time with K and E. It felt like a monumental task, but truly made for much easier meal prep throughout the week. As the week concludes, I am proud to say that we had a delicious, nutrient-dense, homemade meal every single night with very little weeknight effort. I have enough in our freezer to likely last about six weeks, too!

I have a feeling that this periodic meal preparation strategy will become part of our family’s organized way to stay sane, save money and feel successful and nourished.

10 Months Young

E 9 month photo

Technically his 9-month photo

Whoa. I can’t believe how long it has been since our last post. So sorry about that, y’all.

On Saturday, K and I officially became parents of a thriving, happy, TEN MONTH OLD. I can’t even believe how quickly the time has flown, and how rapidly we seem to be closing in on that looming one year mark.

Here are a few stats on our growing guy:

Weight: ~21 lbs

Length: ~28 inches

Clothing size: Mostly 12-18 months for tops because of his long torso and mostly 12 month bottoms, as long as they’re stretchy to accommodate the fluffy cloth diaper butt.

breakfast with daddy

Breakfast with Daddy

Favorite food(s): Pretty much anything Daddy is eating! E has turned into quite the little foodie and will literally try anything we put in front of him. Even things he previously rejected like scrambled eggs and any variation of potatoes are now fair game. He gets really excited when we give him super flavorful food like the quinoa risotto I make that has garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, lemon juice and zest, and goat cheese in it. Like Daddy, he’s a big fan of fruit. He seems to be eating us out of house and home, though, and is now waking in the middle of the night because he’s hungry for an extra bottle!

Favorite activities: Standing and cruising against furniture. E has also recently started doing this hilarious thing where he scoot-hops forward while on his butt and without using his hands. Bath time is also a popular activity, as E tends to melt down when we take him out of the bath before he feels like he’s done with the fun.

Favorite toys: Cups of any variety and any sort of musical instrument.

Health: Doing so much better with his ears. He’s had his first ear infection since getting tubes, and it’s kind of gross to see the drainage come out, even though I know it means his ears don’t have that painful pressure. Treating ear infections is so much easier with tubes, too, and only involves ear drops twice a day. He’s fully stopped his reflux meds without incident. He’s had a random cold once since getting tubes, but it’s been minor.

keepin' it classy at Costco

Keepin’ it classy at Costco

Number of teeth: He has the two middle teeth on the bottom, has three of the top middle teeth and one more top middle tooth is currently peeking through. That would make for SIX!

Sleep: When he’s not sick and/or teething, E seems to do pretty well with sleep. Up until his recent increase in hunger and food consumption, he was reliably sleeping through the night. He doesn’t nap very well at daycare, mostly because he has what our dear friend calls FOMA, which stands for “Fear of Missing Anything.” He also doesn’t nap very well for us at home, unless we all take a family nap in our bed, and then he’ll sleep for 2-3 hours without hesitation.

Mommy and Daddy’s humble brags: We hit the baby lottery. E is almost always so happy and curious. This child is a total joy and we absolutely love seeing him explore the world.

Mommy and Daddy’s current gripes: POOP! With the recent increase in food consumption comes a VERY large increase in poop production. Let’s also just say that cloth diapers + solid foods = things that can never been unseen.

Future plans: I really want to enroll E in a swimming class. In a state where bodies of water are so prevalent, it’s important both for safety and enjoyment that E has a good grasp of what to do in the water. It’s also my dream to enroll him in a baby music class, but all of the local ones seem to take place during weekday hours to accommodate stay at home parents.