My Lunch as a Mommy

“Food” these days has taken on a new meaning. Thanks to breastfeeding, it’s an extension of the past 9+ months — what I eat affects the baby. I still haven’t figured out if certain food items (highly acidic, super spicy, etc) make Hadley act/feel differently, but I do know that the evening I decided to *gasp* drink a cup of coffee made for a looooong night. What’s equally as important with breastfeeding (or, really, for any new mom, in my opinion) is keeping up my caloric intake. Earlier, I felt my body’s energy draaaaiiiiin if I didn’t eat or drink enough; it’s better these days, but still need to keep on top of how much I eat. Oh, and sure I’ll occasionally grab a bowl of ice cream as one of my “snacks”, but for the most part I’m trying to keep those 4-5 meals a day healthy. See? Extension of the previous 9 months, generally speaking.

So, I thought I’d share a cucumber dip (loosely, a tzatziki sauce) that I recently whipped up. We had been sent home from my mom’s with leftover chicken and I thought this sauce would help us use it up in a healthy way. Plus, we had a buttload of cucumbers to use up. Unfortunately, I started mixing and chopping before I realized our plain Greek yogurt was expired. *wop wooooop* So, on a whim, I substituted cottage cheese, and whadya know? It worked just fine! Here’s what I did…

Cucumber Sauce/Dip (Tzatziki)

Dice or shred 1/2 a cucumber (more or less, up to you! It’s all relative, too, since homegrown cukes have been HUGE this summer), zest 1/2 a lemon, and mince a clove of garlic. Mix these together with ~ 1/2 cup cottage cheese (or plain yogurt), ~1/3 cup all-natural mayo, and (to taste) salt ‘n pepper, oregano, dill, and the juice of the 1/2 lemon. Enjoy! Here’s a look-see:

Sure, it doesn’t look like much, but it’s tasty. My favorite thing to do with it? Wraps!!! Whole wheat wraps up the nutrition factor, and there are things you can make with wraps that you couldn’t do with plain ol’ sandwich bread.
On  this particular day, the wrap was made with mesclun mix, all-natural deli turkey, shaved romano cheese and chopped apples. Oh, plus the cuke sauce and, of course, the whole wheat wrap…’cuz it ain’t  a wrap unless it gets wrapped!

But, a wrapped sandwich does not a full meal make. So, here’s the full Monty – wrap, small handful of pretzels (or, at least, I think it’s small ;-)), a sliced apple, some Nutella and peanut butter (y’know…for dippin’), and a glass each o’ water and juice. Yeah, I’m generally double-fistin’ it these days.

It ain’t good unless you’ve got a sweet, overweight kitty admiring your plate…and a stack of baby laundry to accompany the deliciousness.
I’ll be doing my best to keep up the healthy factor upon returning to school this week. Since Dave and I have both been fighting a virus (mine admittedly more bearable than his; I blame the healthy-ish eating and prenatal vitamins I’m still downing), this is wicked important to have the energy (both mental and physical!) to make it through the first  “not with the baby 24/7” days. Plus, I haven’t done the best job at stockpiling the ol’ boob juice, so I’m trying to see if there’s anything (food or otherwise) I can do to make pumping more successful. So far, I’m drinking Mother’s Milk tea and have just discovered that oatmeal helps (generally whole grains, depending on what you read).

By the way, I’m truly sorry I haven’t been posting more this summer. Seriously. I wouldn’t apologize if I didn’t feel badly about it — it’s not just guilt. Ideas for posts have popped up in my head (usually when I took a shower, strangely enough), and I’ve got a kazillion drafts of posts started. Truly, I’d like to try to post a touch more since a) it’s kinda therapeutic, b) I enjoy sharing my thoughts and experiences, c) hopefully folks get a kick out of what I write, and d) I can look back as Hads grows up to see the evolution of our family and remember the small, good times I may not otherwise recall. So, yes. I will try. 🙂

Meatless Monday Update

Howdy, all. It’s a drizzly, cold Monday here in our neck of the woods. I suppose it’s what one should expect from a late April day, but we’ve had such crazy weather patterns lately, we’ve had at least one day in the 80s…and folks just west of us are getting snow. So, yeah. It’s one of those days where everyone you talk to seems to need a nap as much as you do.

So, I thought it’d be a good night to check in about our meatless adventures. Of course, what am I making tonight? Pasta. Sooooo boring, Meg! Sheeshis. The first “Meatless Monday” post I ever wrote included a pasta night, too. Honestly, though, I haven’t had nearly as many pasta days since getting pregnant (acidic tomatoes = heartburn like crazy), so I’m actually looking forward to it.

I haven’t written a whole lot about our meatless meals, but I assure you, we’ve done an awesome job of having at least one “main” vegetarian meal per week. In all honesty, I’m not sure what our exact batting average is, but I’d say it’s an average of at least two dinners per week (and almost all breakfasts…and lots of lunches – hubs is better at this, though; his new nickname should really be Mr. Salad). And we don’t always observe Meatless Mondays. We ebb and flow like the tide; ya never know when dinner will be meatless, and it’s to the point where it’s a thought-free process.

Today, however, is a tad different. I’m cooking with tofu for the first time, well, ever. In usual Meg fashion, I’m combining a couple of recipes I found online (here and here) and throwing in my own twist. I pretty much used what I had on hand, sauteing in EVOO some onion, broccoli, carrots, sweet pepper, summer squash, garlic, mushrooms, extra firm tofu with dashes of Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper, and S&P (a tiny bit of salt – we’re watching Dave’s intake). Once these flavors had melded together, I actually took some out for some light lunches. At this point, I cooked some mushrooms into it (Dave doesn’t like ’em), threw in a splash of balsamic vinegar, cooked it down, and added jarred sauce.

Fast forward a few minutes and I was eating my rotini (was hoping for penne, but we appeared to be out) with veggies and tofu in sauce…sprinkled with some fresh parmesan, dipped with local Italian bread from Heidelberg bakery, and alongside some Byrne Dairy glass jar milk. Just had to be thorough. 😉 We’ll have this as a lunch (or dinner, again) option during the week, too.

Overall, it’s tasty. I’m sure you could do the meal with any veggies you have on hand – and way fewer than me, but I wanted to use some up (and since I’m not in the mood for a salad, I figured I needed to get the healthy stuff somehow).

Oh, and we’re still definitely what I’d call flexitarian. Recently, we decided that we’d also like to incorporate more Mediterranean cooking to our diets, mostly to provide Dave with the health benefits. But, honestly, we were eating a lot of what “they” eat, anyway. Very rarely do we eat red meat (and when we do, it’s locally grass-fed or at the very least hormone-free), Dave’s a huge seafood lover (usually grilled, occasionally with pasta or rice), and we’ve tried our best to eat more fruits, veg, and whole grains. The cool thing about Mediterranean is the idea of how many different cultures actually live ON the Mediterranean Sea. You’ve got French, Greek, Italian, Spanish…TONS (and don’t get me started on the Eastern side, but we’re not that adventurous). Think of the different flavors we can play with! 😉

So, what about you guys? Any vegetarian meals that you enjoy – even ones that you didn’t realize were vegetarian? Do tell!

Sloppy Joes

It was obviously one of those nights that I clearly didn’t consider my husband while planning dinner; he wouldn’t be home for it, anyway. For some strange reason, the thought of Sloppy Joes had crossed my mind, and in one of those serendipitous moments (especially for a pregnant lady with a craving), we had all the ingredients I’d need. Since Dave wasn’t home (and tends to dislike Sloppy Joes), it all seemed like the signs were too good to be true. Sloppy Joes, it is! Woo hoo!

I scoured the Internet looking for a homemade version, and came up with this variation (taken from a couple of other versions: namely, The Pioneer Woman and Rachael Ray)
Meg’s Sloppy Joes
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 lb. ground beef (most recipes call for 1 1/4 lbs, at least, but this is what I had on hand)
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 tsp. steak seasoning
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 onion, chopped/diced
1/2 red pepper (can be green), chopped/diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
Splash Worcestershire sauce
Splash red wine vinegar
1 can (approx. 15 oz) tomato sauce
A few squeezes of ketchup

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. Add the ground beef and start to brown. Add the sugar and spices, and continue to brown the meat, cooking for approximately 5 minutes. Next, add the onion, pepper, garlic, Wor. sauce, and vinegar. Allow these to simmer on medium for approx. 5 minutes more. Finally, add the tomato sauce and ketchup and continue to simmer until reduced.

Serve on toasted bun (can also add cheese to the top, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it) with appropriate sides; I had sweet potato chips and pickles (what else? ;-D)…and I didn’t actually toast the bun because I couldn’t be bothered. 30 Rock was calling my name. Literally. Liz’s ex-boyfriend, Dennis, was calling for his new wife, whose name just happens to be Megan. Add that to the fact that it was a St. Patrick’s Day episode and there was no way I was toastin’ any buns. No time, man, no time!

Just a heads-up that this ended up needing some definite simmering to become thick enough to eat, but it’s all good. Also, just gotta share that my ingredients helped make this. Everything was all-natural (yes, even the Worcestershire sauce and vinegar), and some were organic. The roll I used was fresh-baked at a local marketplace and the beef was locally-raised and grass fed…not that you could necessarily taste it, but it matters. 🙂

I must say that these will be a definite on the future “Mommy and Me” menu. Y’know that menu, don’t you? For when Daddy’s unavailable to join us for dinner…and Mommy wants to be the favorite. (Honestly, I’ll need all the help I can get; I’m definitely going to be the disciplinarian in this household.) And I only wish I could have found a sufficient Adam Sandler video clip for this post, but I’m sure anyone in the know can hum along (Slop- Joe, Slop-Sloppy Joooooes…anyone?).

One of My Favorites

I like sweet potato fries. Okay, let me rephrase that. I adore well-made sweet potato fries. I’m disappointed when I see “substitute sweet potato fries $.50” on a menu only to receive a tasteless cardboard substitute. *sigh* That’s happened a depressing amount of times, which leads me to think that I put too much merit into the most mundane of things. But, seriously, if you’ve had flavorful, slightly crispy ones (with an awesome dipping sauce, optional), you can see why I absolutely beam when I see that little menu substitution in the first place. My husband, and for that matter anyone else eating alongside me, generally get a kick out of it. Kind of like watching a kid on Christmas.

While homemade SP fries can’t seem to compare, texture-wise, to those you find in a restaurant, I still think they’re worth making. Firstly, you know that the only ingredient on its list is “sweet potato” (with the exception of the olive oil and seasonings you choose). The nutrient factor seems higher when you know you’ve cut an honest to goodness hunk of vegetable down to size. Secondly, you can control whether it’s fried or baked. Of course, in our household they’re always baked. a) I’ve got a husband with a leaning toward high cholesterol and b) I’m not big into frying stuff, mostly because I’m incredibly lazy and don’t want to deal with the disposal of the used oil. Thirdly, and finally, comes the flavor. Even when they come out soggy, it turns out to be a nicely seasoned roasted sweet potato wedge that can still be used as a tasty side to any meal. Even when it’s yucked up, it’s worth it.

So, I don’t have a tried-and-true way to make fool-proof sweet potato fries. Bummer. BUT, I’ve done enough Googling of a million or so recipes and found the common good in all of them. Here’s what I made tonight…

Sweet Potato Fries
One large sweet potato
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper
Chili powder
Cumin powder
(Optional: Mrs. Dash)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Yes, seriously, that hot.

Carefully cut the sweet potato into long slices (I cut mine in half so they weren’t as long), around 1/2″ thick. Toss in olive oil (enough to coat each side but not enough to “swim”) on a large, foil-lined baking sheet. Season with the above seasonings. (I did 2 versions – half of the sheet with the 4 seasonings, the other half with just pepper and low-sodium Mrs. Dash. Why don’t you guess who’s eating the Mrs. Dash side.) Bake for around 20 minutes (don’t open the door!), then flip each wedge before baking for another 15-20 minutes.

Allow to rest. Serve with ketchup, ranch dressing or the below dipping sauce.

Today, I took a cue from Giada and tried a mayo-based dipping sauce. Of course, I tweaked her recipe a bit.

Mayo Dipping Sauce
Large scoop of mayo (1/4 cup, or however much you’d like to make); I used organic mayo
One garlic clove, minced
Spritz of lemon
Seasonings (in this case, cumin & chili powder)

Mix all ingredients together. (I did this in a small mason jar.) Refrigerate a minimum of 30 minutes for flavors to meld. You may also just create a simple dip, leaving seasonings out – it’ll taste like a garlic aoili.

Now, go forth and enjoy like a cat writhing around and stretching out in all his cute glory. That is, if you’re into sweet potatoes…and who isn’t? 😉

Sunday Supper: Butternut Quinoa

We were supposed to have a double rehearsal for “Arsenic and Old Lace” this afternoon (running through the show twice), but luckily it went so well the first time, we got to go home. Woohoo! Score. It’s like going to class and having the professor not show up for >10 minutes.

I’m not sure what I would’ve made for dinner if we were getting out later, but it was nice to have some time to research a few recipes and make something healthy. Let’s just say I’m not sure what dinner will look like this week; not McDonald’s, at least, but I’m not sure WHAT.

So, what’d I make? This:

Butternut and Quinoa Pilaf

  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth, or vegetable broth
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups cubed peeled butternut squash, (3/4-inch cubes) (see Tip)
  • 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add broth, water, barley and squash; bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the barley and squash are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 45 minutes. Add parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper; mix gently.

It came out surprisingly well! Plus, it was borderline vegetarian (except for that darn chicken broth…free-range, organic, and low sodium, though). The recipe originated here (which also happens to be a magazine that I received as a Christmas gift and really like), but I switched out the barley for some quinoa. It upped the protein quotient…besides, I didn’t have any barley around. Dave really liked it, saying that he thought it was filling but light at the same time. I was pleased that the squash didn’t turn out to taste too…um…squashy. If you know what I mean. You’d think something with a name like “butternut” would taste sexy and smooth, but not s’much. In this case, however, it worked!

Now, what to do with my acorn squash….

Oh, and here’s a little irrelevant lovefest I thought I’d share. It’s rare for Beardslee to use the couch when we’re on it (plus, moments earlier he was kneading Dave’s belly…hasn’t done that in a long time). Awww, my boys.