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It’s summer! (And I have two kids.) How did that happen?

Looks like we’re all in need of a serious update over here! A lot has happened since my last post. Namely:

  • It became summer, not winter.
  • We added another kid to our family.

That second bullet point should probably explain my lack of frequent posts, as eager as I have been to share all the updates. As I’ve learned from so many other mothers, life happens in seasons — and this one is full in every sense of the word.

I got back from maternity leave this month and suddenly have a more than 12-pound 2-month-old. His name is Charlie. We’re big fans.

IMG_7264I’ll use this post to share the wonderful newborn & family photos we had taken by DaniPress Photography when he was a few days old — and as an excuse to pick your brains about how to do FOOD in this (or any) busy period of life.

But first, some photos…

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A huge thanks to Dani of DaniPressPhoto.com for these portraits. I would highly recommend her to those of you looking to capture a new season of life with some shots. I was such a zombie those early days, it’s nice to have photos of us all dressed and smiling to remember (instead of the, ahem, nighttime routine).

But we survived and are surviving, thanks in huge part to ALL THE MEALS people brought us (Thank you, thank you!). And now I get to cook again… only now it feels like I’m doing so with one arm, half a brain and two kids. As much as I loved the seasons during which I had an hour or more each evening to fiddle around with a new recipe from Bon Appetit or perfect my risotto, this is not that time. Those days are not gone forever, and perhaps they’ll return for a lazy Saturday or two when I get to linger over a batch of strawberry-rhubarb jam. But, for now, they’ve given way to what-can-I-feed-the-people-right-now and oh-crap-how-do-people-grocery-shop-with-a-baby-and-toddler.

So here’s five ways I’m surviving this new season (emphasis on surviving), and finding ways to enjoy it, too.

  1. Cook what you know. I made a list of 20 or so dishes I can cook without a recipe, and I plan to stick to that list for the foreseeable future. No venturing into some uncharted territory where a recipe that claimed to take 20 minutes takes an hour. Nope. There’s enough chaos at the pre-dinner hour without that added element of surprise. So I’ll cook chicken breasts in the instant pot to shred for tacos. And I’ll keep frozen haddock in the fridge and potatoes in the pantry for one-pan baked fish and chips. And, since it’s summer, I’ll ask my husband to fire up the grill a couple nights a week, even if that means we eat a late dinner with the fireflies.
  2. Get organized-ish. Not in a big Marie Kondo kind of way, but in the little ways. I’m keeping better track of those recipes I already know but might need to glance at through onetsp.com and stashing clippings of what works in a single drawer rather than throughout the kitchen. I’m keeping a marker board near the fridge where the family (OK, mostly me) can write what we need when we realize we need it. Used the last drop of olive oil? I try to write it down before I forget. Or, better yet, I type it straight into the list on my Wegman’s grocery app. I barely have time to go to the grocery store (again, how do people do this?), let alone wander it aimlessly.
  1. Take advantage of the season. It’s summer! Almost everything worth eating is in season and easy to pickup at a nearby farmers market. I find farmers market-ing way easier than a big schlep through the grocery store these days. I stop by one near our church on Sundays after service and, if my husband’s with me, he can drive sleepy kids around while I run through. So, for this summer, I’m making fewer “side dishes” and instead tossing salads with shredded carrots and clippings of whatever looks good from the back-porch garden. I’m making Greek salads once a week while the tomato-cucumber-pepper trio is in season (just make sure you have kalamata olives & feta on hand), and I love watching the toddler warm to raw vegetables, one by one (on good days).
  2. Engage the kids. Speaking of the toddler, I’m trying to include her in the pre-dinner hour, rather than considering her “in the way.” This is really hard. I know. Some days that natural toddler helpfulness kicks in and she’s a joy to have underfoot. She can help skewer pineapple chunks for kebabs (even if she eats every other one) or I often give her a butter knife to “help cut”/smash garlic cloves. She’s allowed to ask for “samples” of whatever I’m chopping, but not enough to spoil dinner. Sometimes all this helps stem the tide of toddler requests (they make an average of 3 demands per minute, I read in my new favorite book, How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids), and research also indicates that their helping makes it more likely they’ll eat what was made. Still, sometimes I throw in the towel and just queue up an episode of The Great British Baking Show (don’t tell her it’s not “kid TV”). For the baby, “engaging” him often means wearing him while I’m doing all this — although I’m also improving my chopping-with-one-hand technique during emergencies (ahem, on the not-so-rare occasion that they’re both crying and I just push through).
  3. Give yourself grace (a.k.a. order more pizza). Make that side salad, too, but by all means, this is not the season for from-scratch-or-else cooking. I am literally eating pizza right now that’s leftover from hosting a church group last night. It’s on the menu more than I’d like right now (OK, just kidding. Nursing moms LOVE pizza). We don’t have family that lives near us, so that means Grandma can’t stop by when the sky is falling. When something’s gotta give, it’s often dinner prep. Our version of calling in reinforcements is calling in takeout — and in that category we are very #blessed. Within ten minutes of our Northern Virginia home is Italian, Mexican, sushi and the best Afghan food in town (try the burger; Tom Sietsema even likes it). So I think we’ll survive.

And that’s what it feels like to put food on the table sometimes: what you do to survive. It turns out, I can survive on quite a small amount of sleep (although it’s been touch-and-go a few times), and quite a simple meal “plan” for the week. If you’ve survived this season, or are in it now, please do share in the comments how you manage the weekly dinner routine.

What are your survival methods? 

To that end, let me share a recipe that has earned a spot in the dinner rotation for its simplicity AND its ability to work a healthful and affordable bit of seafood into our diets. I wrote a lot about seafood right before maternity leave (check out one of them that ran in the Washington Post when Charlie was a few days old). I learned that the USDA recommends we eat it TWICE A WEEK, especially if pregnant or nursing, as part of a healthy diet. This recipe also calls for some smashing, which is a great “job” for a toddler in the kitchen.

File_000 (27)

Salmon Cakes
Adapted from The Arcadia Mobile Market Seasonal Cookbook

Canned fish is a great way to get more seafood and Omega 3s into your family’s diet by having it on hand at all times — and it’s cheap. I tinker with the herbs in this recipe based on what’s growing well on the back porch, and I’ve added two eggs to help the patties hold together. You can also keep hamburger buns in the freezer and, with a little mayo or tartar sauce, turn these into sandwiches.

Ingredients

  • 2 small cans tuna or 1 large can salmon, drained (I like Wild Planet brand)
  • 1  boiled potato, peeled and mashed (or 2 smaller farmers market potatoes)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or half as much if fresh)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (leave out if kids don’t like spice)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • High-heat oil for frying (I like safflower)
  • Lemon slices

Directions

In a large bowl, add the fish, mashed potato, eggs, bread crumbs, scallions, parsley, dill, salt, pepper, thyme and cayenne pepper. Mash everything together (with the help of a toddler, if available). Form mixture into patties.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Fry patties on each side until golden and crispy. Drain on paper towels or paper bags. Squeeze lemon juice over each patty and serve on buns and/or with a salad.File_000 (26)

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Comments
3 Responses to “It’s summer! (And I have two kids.) How did that happen?”
  1. amyreinink says:

    My tips for getting food on the table with a baby: Practice Tip No. 3. Repeat. Lots of forgiveness for serving the same meals each week; for getting take-out AGAIN; and for all the other things you’d be better about during calmer (but arguably less joyful) seasons of life (ordering almost everything from Amazon is high on my list). Enjoy that beautiful baby of yours—you all look so beautiful in the photos!

    • Thanks for the input Amy! And I love your blog post, too. Great ideas and a great encouragement to just get outside! I wish we had a parents class at the gym. Thanks for the shoutout over on your blog as well! (Folks, check it out; she’s an expert at making exercise fun;-) Miss you!

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  1. […] on the table during *any* busy season of life, check out my food-writer friend Whitney’s recent post on the topic—her recipe for nights when the sky is falling looks […]



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