Once upon a time, I used to cook. I spent luxurious hours perusing cookbooks and signing up for cooking challenges and using every pot in my kitchen to create meals on a regular basis. All creative and challenging and locally sourced. Cooking and experimenting and writing about cooking and experimenting definitely energized me. Fast-forward to life with a toddler and an infant and a full-time job with an hour commute. We have a brief window between when I get off the train and when the two-kid bedtime shuffle begins. Little Bear is usually ravenous and Little Bird is exhausted. My little guy is in such a rush when we get home. A rush to destroy the house. A rush to pull out every toy and to climb on his sister and to eat everything in sight. And his sister just wants to inhale some nutrition and sleep. Me too, baby girl, me too.
I once dreamed of sitting down together every night to a healthy home cooked meal. In the madness of our current life, it seemed like only television could get me the breathing room to pull dinner together for our family. I worried that the dream would never be realized. At least not until I could get my kids to finishing school and win the lottery (personal chef? hiring myself as a personal chef? A girl can dream.)
One evening, Little Bear pulled himself up to the kitchen island while I was trying to pull together dinner. He snacked his way through the ingredients and some leftovers. Once fed, he slowed down. Out come the trucks or the books and he'll hang out quietly until bedtime. We don't always need to turn on the tube for that quiet space .
And so my dream of dinner at the dining table has morphed into family picnics (we actually call them picnics) at the kitchen island. We open whatever leftovers we have and start the most kid-friendly items. If I have energy and time, I'll prep fresh vegetables.
Now I'm cooking a few things on the weekend and loading up the fridge with containers. I'm starting to hint at getting excited about food prep again.
This weekend, we're having family over to barbecue in the backyard. I'm loading up on prep so that we have some food ready-made for picnics throughout the week. This week we'll be eating:
- Grilled chicken with peaches and arugula
- Hawaiian turkey burgers with mango pineapple salsa
- Slow cooker pork tenderloin with cranberry sauce (I've stashed several of these in the freezer and make a slow cooker meal on my work-from-home day mid-week)
I'm doing this meal planning (and making grocery lists!) with Gathered Table. No connection, just true love.
We keep some easy kid-friendly meal options available for Little Bear too, just in case. My plan is to only cook one meal for all of us down the road, but have one simple back up like pb&j. For now, I'm willing to throw something in the microwave if it means getting Little Bear to eat. My favorites include:
- Macaroni and cheese or pasta with tomato sauce (if we eat it over the weekend, I just make tons)
- Organic chicken nuggets (Applegate Naturals are fast and good and he loves them)
- Avocados, carrots, cucumbers, frozen peas
- Berries and bananas
What are you eating this week? What helps you through the craziness?