Cooking is one of the (many) things in my life that has changed since having a child. When we lived in Pennsylvania (remember that?!), I found it incredibly relaxing to come home after a long day of teaching and cook dinner. I thought nothing of trying new dishes, buying strange ingredients, and taking on meals that took upwards of an hour to prepare. Eating was really fun then—we were new vegetarians, and we really made a big effort to not just live off of a few staple meals, but rather to step out of our comfort zones and explore new dishes.
Honestly, the thought of cooking after a long day at school, or especially a long afternoon with Lila…it just feels exhausting. It’s so much more…involved now. I have to get Lila distracted with something—usually a Daniel Tiger—and even then, she’s in the kitchen every five minutes asking for more milk, or help putting on her Cinderella dress, or (the worst), she doesn’t come in at all, but instead just yells “UH OH!!!”, and waits for me to come in to see what the fallout is.
Cooking used to be something that relaxed me—I’d sip on a glass of wine and Ryan would hang out in the kitchen while I cooked, both of us sharing stories about our day. Now it’s something I do frantically most nights, pulling ingredients out of the refrigerator and pantry and trying to come up with some way to throw them together that will be halfway palatable. Of course, I still like to cook, and I think it’s important—I want Lila to grow up in a home where dinner is made, not unwrapped or delivered.
This is all to say that for us, right now, the best dinners are the ones that take about 15 minutes to make. Thirty minutes? Please, Rachel Ray.
I’m thinking about doing a series of 15 minute meals, to show you what WE get on the table in record time. I’d like to hear your speedy dinners as well.
Last night’s dinner was definitely a quick one. Of course, I had a sous chef helping me, so that speeds things along.
Lamb Pitas with Easy Tzatziki Sauce
1 package ground lamb (1 lb.)
1 onion, diced
4 tbsp. fresh oregano, minced
1 small cucumber, chopped
1 cup Greek yogurt (I use Fage 2%)
1 tbsp. lemon juice
store-bought pitas, feta cheese, chopped cherry tomatoes
In a skillet, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil. Add onion and cook for 10-15 minutes, until starting to brown. Add lamb and 2 tbsp. of oregano. Season with garlic salt and continue to cook, breaking up the lamb with the back of the spoon.
While lamb cooks, in a mixing bowl, combine cucumber, yogurt, the other 2 tbsp. of oregano, and lemon juice. Mix well and set aside.
Once lamb is cooked, transfer to a serving bowl.
Top pitas with lamb, sauce, and feta cheese and tomatoes.
This meal is Lila-approved.
Last night, I had a College of Liberal Arts party to go to, so yesterday afternoon, Lila and I put on our holiday baking hats.
We don’t really have baking hats. Though I wish we did.
I browsed a lot of different cookie recipes before settling on this one, from the current issue of Southern Living: Hidden Kiss Snow-mound cookies. I liked the name. Plus, the dough doesn’t have any eggs in it (it’s basically an almond shortbread), which meant that we could eat as much of it as we wanted. #winning
Lila was, as always, a great helper:
She helped to unwrap all of the kisses, and didn’t even try to sneak *too* many into her mouth.
I made the dough while she unwrapped the chocolate, and then we placed a kiss in each dough mound:
The mounds were then topped off with MORE dough, thus creating the complete snowmound.
How many times can I say “mound” in this post? Clearly we’re going to find out.
…and topped with “snow”:
These were delicious! Put them on your holiday “to-bake” list!
Greetings! Is it really December? I feel like it was *just* Halloween.
We spent Thanksgiving in the best way possible—basking in sunshine at the beach! I hope to get a recap post of our trip up soon.
Yesterday, we returned home from the beach and switched gears to winter mode. We went out this morning and picked out a tree at a local tree farm:
When we got home, we pulled out all of the decorations and I told Lila she could pick out the first ornament to hang on the tree. She took the responsibility very seriously.
It feels like the holiday season got here quickly, but I’m excited to take advantage of it and have a lot of holiday fun over the next month!
For dinner this afternoon, I got to work on a soup that tastes a lot more decadent that it is. The secret?
Yep, cauliflower. This potato soup depends on pureed cauliflower and potatoes for ALL its creaminess—no cream or milk at all! And yet it’s super creamy…
Loaded Potato Soup
1 head cauliflower, cored and chopped
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 baking potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 yukon gold potatoes, chopped
6 cups chicken stock
for garnish: cheddar cheese, green onions, bacon, greek yogurt
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Spread cauliflower evenly on a baking sheet and spray with olive oil cooking spray. Season generously with garlic salt. Place in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until starting to brown.
In a heavy-bottom soup pot, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil. Add onion and garlic and cook for 15 minutes, until starting to soften. Add baking potatoes (reserve yukon gold potatoes for later) and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer over medium heat.
When cauliflower is done roasting, add to soup pot. Bring to a boil again, using a wooden spoon to press the cauliflower down until submerged. Reduce to a simmer and cook for another 15 minutes.
When potatoes and cauliflower are soft, use a submerging blender to blend soup until totally smooth.
Add yukon gold potatoes to pureed soup and cook over low heat for another 20-30 minutes, until potatoes are soft. Adjust seasoning with additional salt if necessary (depending on sodium level of chicken stock).
Top with garnishes!
The cauliflower makes the soup really creamy and rich-tasting…but also keeps it pretty low-cal, so you can splurge on the toppings without feeling guilty.
I always enjoy reading “day in the life” posts, but the ones I read are often from the perspective of the stay-at-home or work-at-home mom. I was listening to a Fresh Air interview with Amy Poehler the other day, and she said something that really resonated with me when she discussed the pressures that come with being a working mother (she started on “Parks and Rec” only a few months after giving birth to her first son):
There’s not enough, in my opinion—not enough working mothers who talk about who they leaned on and how they got through that difficult time; there’s this thing where nobody likes to talk about how difficult things are; everybody likes to talk about how easy it is, or can be if you do x,y, and z. But it’s difficult to be away from your baby, and to be working hard and also want to be working.
This whole working mother thing is so tricky. I thought maybe it would get easier this year—Lila is in school five days a week, from 9 to 1. This corresponds well with my teaching schedule, but somehow I *still* feel so rushed on many days. It’s been a real challenge, especially during this first semester, to figure out the schedule balance—who’s dropping her off, who’s picking her up, my classes, Ryan’s classes, meetings that one or sometimes both of us have to attend…whew.
And I’m still terrified that I’m going to forget her at school one day:
It hasn’t happened yet, but I just know it’s coming.
Anyway, I figured I’d do a day-in-the-life post detailing what our days look like right now so that at least the other mothers and fathers who are out there dealing with the same kind of crazy days that we are won’t feel like they’re alone in the mayhem.
6:15—Lila wakes up. I know this because I can hear screams of “I LOVE GASTON! I LOVE KRISTOFF! I LOVE FLYNN RIDER, HE IS MY FRIEND!” over the monitor. I’m not even really sure why we use the monitor anymore. I know when Lila is awake. Anyone within a 100 foot radius of our house knows when Lila is awake.
I let Lila “talk” a little more (“I’M AWAKE! MOM, DAD, I’M AWAKE! I’M BEAUTIFUL!”), and go downstairs to make a cup of coffee:
(Oh, right, writing—I should probably do that again eventually…)
The whole world seems a little brighter. I go back upstairs and read with Lila until about 7, when we head downstairs for breakfast.
7:00—Ryan is awake now too, and makes breakfast for Lila (a waffle with peanut butter and a banana). He also makes her lunch while we’re waiting for the waffle. We’ve all become pretty good at multi-tasking.
I end up eating breakfast as well—the same exact thing, actually. Peanut butter waffle and banana. We talk about what Lila might do in school today (learn about turkeys). We talk about Frozen (apparently Kristoff and Lila are engaged to be married). Lila tells me she wants a dress and a necklace and a bracelet and a crown for Christmas. Good luck, kid.
Around 7:30, I take Ella and Emma out for a walk. Ryan and Lila (and Baxter) head upstairs for Lila’s bath.
I’m happy to get out with them. We walk for about a half hour. It’s always nice to get a walk in in the morning, especially because I don’t usually get a real workout in on days that I teach.
When I get home, Lila is still in the bathtub, playing. I pick out her outfit for the day and hop in the shower. Ryan and I are pretty good about sharing tasks and delegating, but choosing Lila’s outfit generally falls to me. I think we’re all still recovering a little from the time he took her to the farmer’s market in just a t-shirt and no pants. #neverforget
Ryan dresses Lila, I dress myself, and we’re out the door (me and Lila, that is), by 8:50.
9:05—I drop Lila off at school and head up to school myself. I get some more coffee and grade and answer e-mails in my office until 10:20, when my first class starts.
10:20-12: 30—I teach my composition classes. My students are still calling me Webdog, three months in. Good times.
12:30—I wolf down a microwave lunch: Annie’s tofu breakfast scramble. It was the only thing I could grab from our freezer on my way out the door.
It’s actually pretty tasty. Good not great, as Dwight would say.
12:45—I meet with a student I’m doing an independent study with. “You still haven’t turned in your pantoum!” I chastise. I tell him that the poems that are the hardest to write are the ones that are the most worth writing. I tell him that MFA programs are good for the soul. I have become some sort of creative writing instructor cliché.
Also at 12:45, Ryan leaves to pick Lila up from school.
When my meeting is over, I head home as well. It’s a good 25 minute drive from campus back to our house, but I don’t teach again until 5:30, and the thought of staying on campus ALL day and not seeing Lila again until 7:00 is just no good. So I drive home.
When I get home around 2, Lila is napping. This is good—naps have been a total crapshoot since she started school. I have a few hours to kill, so I read and comment on my students’ short stories, and then I close my eyes for a twenty minute power nap. It helps—I wake up feeling refreshed.
4:00—I’m heading out the door to go back up to campus when Lila finally wakes up. I get one extra-sweet cuddle out of her before I leave:
4:30—Back up at school. I answer more e-mails, grade, and putter around until my class starts at 5:30.
5:30-6:55—teaching. We workshop short stories, and I worry that we’re too harsh on one. I ask the student to stay after class to make sure that he feels okay with the way that workshop went. “Oh yeah, that was great!” he says without a hint of sarcasm. Sometimes the students are tougher than you think.
While I teach, Ryan sends me a picture to show me what he and Lila are up to. Apparently they’re trying to decide who looks better in a pink cape:
It might be a toss-up.
7:25—I get home again. Lila and Ryan are reading the Berenstein Bears trick-or-treating book, which she is still obsessed with despite Halloween being over. It’s time for bed, but she pulls the “ONE MORE BOOK!” trick, so I read it to her one more time while Ryan finishes dinner:
7:35—Lila goes to sleep. Ryan and I settle down for some chili, enjoyed while watching The League:
9:00—I’m beat. We head upstairs to read, and it’s probably only 9:20 before my eyes are closing. Good. Night.
So there it is—my day in a nutshell.
(Please tell me you get this joke.)
Tuesdays and Thursdays are usually more laid-back because I don’t teach on those days. Plus, I get to spend much more time with Lila on those days because Ryan teaches all afternoon and evening. So those days are more fun…and sometimes more stressful in a different way.
It’s not always easy, but we make it work. But only because Tim Gunn tells us to.
xx, Happy weekend!
Hey there! Hope you had a great Halloween! Our weekend was a fun one. We kicked off the Halloween festivities on Thursday night with a little pumpkin carving:
Lila loved them.
On Friday, Lila got to dress up for school. Can you guess what she decided to go as?
Was there ever any question, really?
The kids got to trick or treat around the school and then had a party.
After a long nap (thank God), we headed over to our friends’ house to do some trick or treating around the neighborhood.
The kids REALLY got into knocking on the door, and Lila loved yelling “Trick or Treat!” She kept saying “I do it ALL by myself!” Guess that independent streak has kicked in.
For the party, I brought a Halloween version of five layer dip with guac, black beans, salsa, greek yogurt (instead of sour cream), and cheese, topped off with a black olive jack o lantern face:
Aaaaaaand now I need to do a juice cleanse until Thanksgiving.
I kid, of course, but seriously—I’m trying to cut back until the next holiday rolls around. We’ve been indulging a bit too much lately—as in, so much that my jeans are tight. Anybody have any November health goals out there? I’ve been lacking in motivation lately…
Have a good Monday!
Hi friends! Happy Monday! I’m ready to get this week over with—I have papers to comment on and poetry portfolios to grade, and then this weekend, we’re headed up to North Carolina to see one of my very best friends get married! Hurry up, weekend!
We had a good weekend—unlike last weekend, our weather was beautiful all weekend long—sunny skies, crisp temps…perfect fall weather!
Friday night, we stayed in and watched a “scary” movie (Drag Me To Hell—meh). I made this super-easy lamb and butternut squash ragout that we both agreed was REALLY tasty. It was also super easy.
Lamb and Butternut Squash Ragout
1 lb. ground lamb
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 a butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp. garlic salt (you can use more or less depending on the sodium level of your stock)
1 tbsp. garam masala
1/2 cup golden raisins
4 cups chicken stock
Heat a tbsp. of oil in a deep pot. Add onion and cook until starting to brown. Add lamb and use the back of a wooden spoon to break up the lamb into small chunks as it browns. Cook for about 10 minutes. Add butternut squash, garlic salt, and garam masala. Stir well to combine. Add raisins and chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a high simmer and continue to simmer uncovered until the liquid has reduced and the ragout is thick, about thirty minutes.
Serve over couscous.
It was so delicious that even Tenny couldn’t resist trying to sneak a bite as I snapped a pic.
On Saturday, we had a Halloween party to go to—and we needed to pull together some costumes! Lila told us that she wanted to go as a cat…so we decided to ALL be cats!
Cat, Cat Stevens, and Katniss, that is. It was a pretty clever costume idea, if I do say so myself. Unfortunately, Lila had a breakdown at the party about not being there as Elsa. Costume remorse is real, y’all.
We brought some cookies to the party, which Lila helped me bake earlier in the day:
Pumpkin Spice White Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1.5 sticks softened butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chips
Heat oven to 325.
In a mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices.
In a standing mixing bowl, combine butter and sugars. Cream together until light and fluffy. Add egg vanilla and beat for another minute.
Slowly add dry ingredients to butter/egg mixture, beating to combine. Once fully mixed, turn off the mixer and add the white chocolate chips, mixing by hand until combined.
On a non-stick baking sheet, place cookie dough by tbsp., at least two inches apart. Bake at 325 for about 12 minutes. If you desire soft cookies (and I do!), take them out when they still look a little undercooked (about 11 minutes) and allow them to cook on the baking sheet for another minute or two before switching them over to a cooling rack.
Sadly, I didn’t get any pictures of the final cookie—but we did get a lot of pictures of us baking!
Lila’s favorite part was obviously eating the chips.
The party was a great time, and we spent Sunday relaxing and prepping for the week ahead. Lila helped me cook again—this time, we made some leek and white bean soup for dinner:
I really do think that helping me cook means that Lila is way more likely to actually eat the food. She kept saying, “We made this soup!” during dinner.
Off to shower and get ready for school—have a great day!