It seems that most of my day revolves around food, which is nothing new. I come from a long line of people who talk about lunch at breakfast, dinner at lunch time, and what you ate for lunch at dinner time. I was raised on family dinners, which I hated at the time but now I totally get and am thankful for that time together. I remember doing silly things at the dinner table when I was little like stuffing my entire cloth napkin into my mouth. Even though Orion isn’t even 14 months old yet, we sit down to a family dinner 99% of the time. This usually means I am feeding Orion or breaking up his food while my food gets cold but not always.
Sometimes it is hard to find the time to cook or even to eat. Breakfast used to be a part of my daily routine but now I often forget all about it. I always remember to make coffee as it is the first thing on my agenda once I am up and the baby is changed and has nursed up his fill. Then a few hours will go by and I remember that I should eat breakfast. I put the baby in his high chair and pour him out some toasted oat cereal (generic cherrios) and fix myself a bowl of Puffins. I used to enjoy oatmeal or smoothies but often have waited too long for breakfast and must eat now and quick.
It is nice always having a lunch date even if they do poop their pants and don’t know how to hold a spoon. Orion will usually eat whatever I am eating or I give him yogurt which I do not like at all. I have tried to eat yogurt a million times and a hundred different ways but I just don’t like it. I was shocked when Orion liked yogurt but not cheddar cheese. I was all like how can we be related.
I wanted to make a list of quick and easy foods that I enjoy and some that Orion usually enjoys too.
Barbara’s Puffins – I get the cinnamon flavor in an 18 oz. box at Trader Joe’s for $3.99. Side note, buy your coffee at Trader Joe’s because it is cheaper for the fair trade and organic good stuff.
Beef Tamales – They come in a pack of 2 for $2.29 also from Trader Joe’s. Orion will eat these with such gusto employing both hands.
Shepherd’s Pie – Also from Trader Joe’s but I can’t remember the price. These take 10 minutes in the microwave, take forever to cool to eating temperature, will make a mess of the microwave so nuke on a microwave safe plate, but are delicious and only 6 grams of fat in the whole thing. Sometimes I share but am usually feeding Orion while waiting for this to cook.
Toasted Sliced Almonds – TJ’s $2.49, they can be added to salads, pancakes, green beans, or eaten by the handful.
Dried Montmorency Cherries – TJ’s $3.69 and are so nice and tart. I like to make a quick and easy salad with almonds, cherries, and chèvre. Then I whip up a dressing of olive oil, balsamic, Dijon, and bitters. Making your own dressing seems so fancy but is so easy.
Organic steam in bag Peas – I pick these up at Wegman’s and sometimes spice them up with goat cheese and paprika. It is safe to assume that I put cheese on everything. My husband puts Hungarian paprika on everything.
Perogies - Delicious pockets filled with goodness the whole family can love. Follow the directions on the box and soak them in warm water for 4 minutes then pat dry and pan fry. Serve with meat in tube form, fish, or more perogies.
Eggs – I love eggs and will eat them for any meal and am glad for the million ways you can cook them. Scrambled, omelets, egg salad, hard boiled with salt, deviled, or toad in the hole are always a quick and easy meal option. I was raised on the incredible edible egg campaign and think that they truly are. And I love duck eggs in the spring with asparagus. I used to buy crack and snacks from Wawa and call it lunch but I also used to eat tuna fish plain out of the can and call that lunch.
Pasta – This is self-explanatory, open box, boil, open jar, heat, and sprinkle on cheese. Great additions are chick peas, cannellini beans, steamed veggies, even raw spinach. Patrick makes a great smoked trout with kale and cannellini beans.
Coconut milk – Add it to pancakes for wonderful flavor and healthy fat or add to mashed sweet potato with a bit of lime. There is so much you can do with its delicious creamy goodness you should always have a can on hand.
Canned tuna and salmon – I make sure to buy them both sustainably fished and only buy wild salmon. Orion loves fish and will enjoy salmon salad with me but I like to add a bit of extra fennel pollen to mine.
Couscous – We all enjoy it and it takes 5 minutes and has a bunch of delicious flavors. And never underestimate the power of rice and beans, they are cheap and easy with endless possibilities.
Grilled Cheese – Orion really enjoyed his first grilled cheese a few weeks ago. Any sandwich falls into this category, where would most American be without the sandwich, sub, hero, hoagie, wrap, or Panini. I thought it was silly when my aunt gave us a Panini press for our wedding shower until I used it as it is awesome. I do eat a lot of PB&J’s and hope Orion doesn’t end up in a peanut free school.
Really, I know I should cut out gluten like I did before getting pregnant but glutinous things are so yummy and so easy. I also do not like substitute foods. If I want bread I would rather eat wheat bread than gluten free bread made from water, tapioca starch, brown rice flour, potato starch, canola oil, egg whites, sugar, yeast, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder (sodium bicarbonate, cornstarch, calcium sulfate, monocalcium phosphate), cultured dextrose, ascorbic acid (ascorbic acid, microcrystalline cellulose, corn starch), and enzymes*.
We try to make something big on Sunday to last the week but that doesn’t always happen. We often have soup or stock in the freezer which we can thaw and enjoy or use to make risotto. Risotto can be intimidating but it really isn’t hard and you can use almost any liquid, it just takes a lot of stirring. (Learn from the mistakes of my father in law, coffee does not make yummy risotto) We also have a bone garden in the freezer which we use to make stock once we have depleted our supply.
Sometimes, I don’t even know how I make dinner. Patrick comes home, everyone is tired, I have been wrestling the baby all day and I just want to take a nap. Yet, I am drawn to the kitchen whipping something together while Patrick plays with the boy. Not every night is a dinner masterpiece but it beats the hell out of drive through. I have successfully avoided the drive thru for years (ok I did get a coconut donut from the Dunkin Donuts drive through a few months ago with a dollar I found on the ground but does that really count). How do I avoid fast food? Do not let it be an option under any circumstance. Think about what it is made of, who might be making it, and the conditions they are working under. I worked at McDonalds and know way too much to eat there. The only time we eat fast food is when we are on a road trip and stuck on a highway or turnpike. If you are heading out, plan ahead and try to bring a snack for yourself like nuts, an apple, or a PB&J and always bring a bottle of water. Sometimes I forgot to bring my own but always manage to fill one for Orion and he does not like to share his sippy with me.
Keep dinner simple. You really do not need a recipe with 20 ingredients and a shopping list the size of a newborn baby. I was not much of cook when Patrick and I got together (tuna out of the can for lunch!). Patrick was a great cook and I was great at washing the dishes. There were a few occasions where I wanted to cook for him like the time I made pasta with broccoli and lemon chicken after he rode the MS
150 75. When we moved to Virginia, he had a job and I didn't which left me to get dinner on the table. It isn't always a delicious success but it is always a learning experience. But sometimes you do need to call out for pizza or we grab a Peruvian chicken from up the road with a few sides like plantains and yucca.
When I do get caught out and need to eat I prefer to eat at independently owned restaurants or Chipotle. I love places that are transparent about where their food, especially meat, comes from, how it was raised, and what is in it. I only allow myself 60$ a month for eating out and we budget 200$ for us to eat dinner out together. Since we only allow a certain amount of money to be spent eating out, I want to make sure that every meal and every dollar matters. How much money do you spend eating out?