menu planning now that we’re mostly vegetarian

#bigdinnerlittledinner

Since I’m home alone on a rainy day luxuriously planning meals and making my grocery list while my husband has the kids at the science museum, I thought I’d follow up my post about our recent diet change with a post about how this has affected our meal planning and eating.

Spoiler alert: it actually hasn’t affected it all that much. You may remember from my “meal planning for the easily bored” post that I rely heavily on hyper-organized Pinterest boards to plan our meals. When we decided to commit to being mostly vegetarian (really, we’re pescatarian), I went through my pinboards and micro-organized them further. Instead of just a pasta board, I now have a vegetarian pasta board, and it’s up top. I did the same with soups and stews, Tex/Mex/Tacos, and veg+grain meals. Now all the boards that are compliant with how we’re eating are right up top and easy to find.

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Today, I checked out what we already have on hand and what’s on sale at our local store and then opened up Pinterest. I picked out one vegetarian pasta, one vegetarian soup, one vegetarian tacos, one veggie+grain, and one seafood recipe. I mostly eat leftovers for lunch, and the kids eat sandwiches/soups/cheese and crackers/fruit, so I really only plan dinner recipes and keep basics on hand for breakfasts and lunches: bread, yogurt, eggs, fruit, cheese, peanut butter, jelly, etc. Planning dinners is really the bulk of my menu-planning.

If you’re curious about what we’re having for dinner this week, here’s what’s on deck:

In other family food news, Jon and I went on a marriage retreat over the weekend, and one thing we discussed was having him cook more. I happily do most of the cooking because, if you haven’t guessed, I love cooking and see it as a creative outlet. He usually takes the kids to the park in the afternoons, so I really enjoy my me-time in the kitchen, listening to podcasts and making good food. However. we’ve realized that our girls may not realize that I cook because I love it, and might get the idea that cooking is a woman’s job. Since he has a flexible schedule that often has him home in the evenings, he could totally cook– I just haven’t offered him the opportunity. We want the girls to see that their dad is also competent in the kitchen, and that it is reasonable for them to expect a partner who shares cooking duties. Since I kind of usurped the kitchen years ago, I will likely at first set him up for success by doing some of the prep work, almost like a Blue Apron sort of thing, but I am going to try to stay out of his hair and let him do his thing.

You can often check out our meals on Instagram, where I often use the hashtag #bigdinnerlittledinner to document what we’re eating. I’ll let you know when a meal was prepared by my better half, too!

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How do you plan your meals? Would it be helpful if I start sharing our weekly meal plans on a regular basis?

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my ‘mommy problem’ problem

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You probably saw it in one of your social media feeds in the last week– a New York Times opinion piece by Heather Havrilesky called Our ‘Mommy’ Problem. Most of the piece was stuff I head-bobbingly agree with. One of the things I most feared prior to motherhood, and one of the things that most annoys me about it now that I actually have children, is the way women with children are reduced to “mommies” and mommies alone, not allowed or not able to have an identity outside of their relationship to their children.

I also kind of always hated the word “mommy” in general. It sounded infantilizing to me. I was determined that my children would always call me “mama” or “mom,” never “mommy.” But the entire world refers to me to and in front of my children as “mommy,” and so they have started calling me “mommy,” too. Sometimes I’m “mama.” Sometimes I’m “mommy.” Sometimes lately, I’m “Sawah,” as they’ve noticed that their dad and I call each other names other than “mama” and “daddy” and they’re trying to figure out how we can be people with names and also their parents. (One day, when they’re grown ups, they’ll realize we’re people, full stop.) And in my children’s sweet, small voices, just about anything they call me sounds sweet and lovely, at least the first 5 times in a row that they say it. This, I loved:

Why does this word irritate me when the wrong person says it? When my kids call me “Mommy,” I feel a surge of pride and happiness. “Mommy” is also my mother’s name, thanks to the fact that my older sister shamed me when I tried to switch to “Mom” in my teens. But the “Mommy” I say to my mother or hear from my children is a private word, a word that defines the relationship between me and my mother, or me and my kids. It’s like the word “sweetheart” or “lover,” but arguably even more intimate.

But the essay lost me when it started blaming social media, our filtered window into each other’s home lives, for making mothers into something they don’t want to be:

We are besieged by Facebook images of sun-kissed children canning homegrown peaches and building tiny replicas of the Eiffel Tower out of toothpicks and being home-schooled on organic dairy farms in Wisconsin. We know far too much about other people’s lives these days, and the more we know, the clearer it becomes that we are doomed to lag behind the pack in this increasingly high-stakes game.

I know I’ve been one to defend the filtered world of Instagram, but I immediately thought of a quote widely attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt:

Image via Etsy, click to go buy this seller’s lovely print.

I mean, what do the homeschooling dairy farmers really have to do with you, you know?

I have lofty aspirations of being a Crafty Mom. But I have 2.5 year olds, two of them, actually, and I have realized that doing crafts with them is just not worth it, to me, at this time, most of the time. Because it takes me an hour of internet surfing to get the idea, and then I have to gather supplies, and then the actual project requires me to first get them occupied with something else for 20 minutes while I set it up, and then they spend 5 minutes on it and make a massive mess, and then I have to bathe them and then occupy them so I can clean up the mess, and then I need a nap. Maybe we’ll do crafts one day when it’s easier. Maybe I’ll just get over my urge to be That Kind of Mom. But in the meantime, it’s not like the moms out there with toddlers, crafting, are actively crafting to make me, way over here in Arkansas, feel bad. They’re just dancing to the beat of their own drummer. (And I mean, maybe they are trying to make me feel inferior, in which case, they’re assholes, and who cares what assholes think about anything?)

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I get that Slacker Mom is a really popular internet genre. There are like, two kinds of moms online and they are either the ones writing super detailed Pinterest tutorials or the ones writing hilarious f-bomb laden tell-offs to the Pinterest moms:

My sister-in-law told me about a mom at her kid’s elementary school who took the basic school T-shirt that everyone got and painstakingly created a beaded fringe at the bottom, replete with cinched waist and perfectly cuffed sleeves. All of the other little girls gathered around, screeching variations of “I want the same thing!” Incredibly enough, instead of laughing in their unrealistic faces the way our parents might have, all the adults started mumbling, “Yes, O.K., we can do that, sure, I’ll learn a challenging new craft, no problem. Tonight, of course. We’ll do it tonight.” This made my sister-in-law, who was already late for work, want to teach a few people the artisanal craft of rearranging someone’s face using only your bare hands. We are outclassed at every turn. We are outspent and out-helicoptered and outnumbered. It used to be good enough just to keep your house from being coated in a thin layer of dog hair and human feces. No longer.

I mean, for sure, no one can make you bedazzle a tee shirt without your consent. You seriously, really, for real do not have to do it. Sure, on some vulnerable day, you may see some lovely Anthropologie-model of a mom post a picture of her doing some insanely enriching and hippie-tastic nature-related gross-motor-skill-developing spiritually-affirming whatever in her backyard, all with perfect hair and kids who have on like, matching clothes, and you may like, actively hate her for all the ways she’s making you feel. And on those days, maybe close Instagram and walk away and have a cookie and hug your kid and watch some cartoons and tell both of you that things are all gonna be OK.

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Just being my best impersonation of one of those Anthropologie moms being all educational-nature-tastic while also basking in the ray of sunshine that follows me wherever I go. You can’t see my kids, but they are impeccably dressed, wherever they are, off camera, I assure you.

But on a good day? On a good day there is just no reason for you to take that shit personally. Because she’s not backyard Montessori fine motor skill meditating TO YOU. She’s just doing her thing. You see your dance space? It’s over there, and it’s got nothing to do with hers, so just go on with your bad self over to your dance space and you do you. And maybe unfollow people who bring you down. And maybe talk nicely to yourself and let yourself know that you are the mother your children need, and they don’t need you to be anyone else but you.

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And then maybe if we can stop constantly seeing other mothers as the problem, we’ll all have some energy left over to pursue our own self-care and interests and hobbies and careers and righteously tell off the strangers in public who insist on calling us “Mommy” instead of…oh…anything else.

how my nerdy childhood prepared me for motherhood in the age of pinterest

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As I sat on the floor during naptime, muffin tin full of paint by my side, sponge brush in hand, Pinterest open on the laptop beside me, painting a replica of the exterior of It’s a Small World on a sheet, it hit me: 1) I might be insane, and 2) I was perfectly prepared for such a 2nd birthday party-planning moment as this by my deeply nerdy childhood. Specifically, by my involvement with Odyssey of the Mind, aka OM.

Did you do OM? Have you even heard of it? It’s an international creative problem-solving competition for kids. Picture TED Talks, if TED talks were actually entertaining, by which I mean, presentations that solve the world’s big problems, but enacted as short skits by kids wearing costumes they made themselves in front of sets they designed themselves, while speaking lines they wrote themselves. (I mean, maybe TED presenters should have to wear handmade costumes, and then I’d be interested.)

The year my team went to WORLD COMPETITION (in the metropolis of Ames, IA), our skit was about the dangers of substance abuse, and had to involve the work of an impressionist artist. So, our skit was about Toulouse Lautrec, hopeless alcoholic, in love with a can can dancer he could never have, and her efforts to convince him to stop drinking. Our set, like Lautrec’s work, was pastel on cardboard. I remember hand-dying a lace thrift-store dress to just the right shade for my can can dancer costume. And, though I was only a fifth-grader, I wrote our whole skit in rhyme, incorporating and interpreting the works of Edgar Allen Poe. Our team was comprised of 7 girls, and our girliest, blondest member dressed in drag to play Lautrec. Basically, when Moulin Rouge came out a few years later, I was certain Baz Lurhman ripped us off.

Another year, our problem was something historical, and our skit interpreted the French Revolution. Instead of seeking world domination, our Napoleon was trying to market a new energy snack, Power Balls, which were shot out of a small working cannon, and his enemy and arch-rival Wellington was trying to rip him off. I had some super techy boys on my team that year, so there was a Steve Jobs vs. Bill Gates vibe to the rivalry. I played Josephine, a hapless secretary. There was a mime in the style of Marcel Marceau. And the whole thing, again, was in rhyme.

After this kind of extra-curricular, throwing my kids an elaborate yet homemade birthday party almost seems too easy. Sure, I can make It’s a Small World setpieces and sew custom dresses, but don’t I also need to work in a moral lesson and maybe some rhyming? Will there be a spontaneous round where I just brainstorm creative solutions to weird problems? And is there a medal at the end? Can I go to World Competition in some small town in the midwest, maybe?

Instead, there are no medals. I’m just in the throes of birthday party planning for my almost two year olds, and I’ve gotta admit, I’m loving it. In an age of Pinterest overload and crazy party-planning moms, it turns out, I might be in my element.

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Bufflogal Style: Carter’s vs Boden Mini

One of the most common questions I get about having twins is, “Do you dress them alike?” And the answer is no. Because I promised my Papa, a twin, that I wouldn’t. So I don’t.

I do like them to coordinate, though, and I have to admit that the clothes are a big perk to little girls times two. People often ask me where I get Etta and Claire’s clothes, and the answer for 99% of it its Carter’s, with a smattering of Old Navy, Target, Baby Gap, and deals I find on Zulily. Still, most of it is Carter’s, because if you’re choosy, they’ve got some great stuff amid the “I’M CUTE” glitter teeshirts, and because they have insane sales and lots of coupons on top of that, so you can get a lot for a little.

This post is not sponsored a bit, but was born of the fact that this week, I got a Boden Mini and a Carter’s catalog on the same day, which turned out to be unfortunate for Boden. I flipped through their catalog first, drooling over adorable British children in cute outfits, wishing I could afford to dress my girls in their stuff. But then I flipped through the Carter’s catalog and discovered that they have some very similar looks for far cheaper, and they even included a 25% off coupon, on top of the fact that they’re currently having a sale. So I put together some comparison boards, thinking they might help some other girl moms looking for Back to School style inspiration. Perhaps my fashion blogging sister is rubbing off!

Winter coats, Carter's vs. Boden Mini, $43 vs $92

Cute raincoats. Carter's vs. Boden Mini, $25.50 vs $60.

Carter's vs. Boden Mini, $13 vs. $38

Carter's vs. Boden Mini, $22.60/outfit vs. $60/outfit

Carters vs. Boden Mini, $12/outfit vs. $58/outfit

Carter's vs. Boden Mini, $16.60/outfit vs. $62/outfit

Are you as surprised as I am that a brand as ubiquitous as Carter’s has stuff as cute as pricey, pretty Boden Mini? Where do you like to shop for your kids’ clothes?

MMMMonday

To all the folks who may be new around here thanks to yesterday’s Freshly Pressed feature: welcome! You may notice I’m writing about food today and not current events: that happens a lot. Day to day you might find food, parenting, DIY, current events, pop culture, feminism, politics, literature…something for almost everyone, I guess!

Now back to your regularly scheduled MMMMonday, a weekly roundup of all things tasty in my world.

LIES.
LIES.

Can I start by admitting a Pinterest FAIL? Have you seen all those “never grow green onions again!” pins that advise just putting the root ends in a glass of water and letting them regrow? WASTE OF TIME. I tried it. I mean, I grow veggies and herbs. We used to run an urban garden. I put my green onions in a glass of water on my windowsill. Two weeks of my kitchen smelling vaguely of onions and swamp water (that water got FUNKY), and only two of the bunch had grown at all. I think I’ll just keep spending the 75 cents for green onions when I need them.

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I wanted a roasted chicken but didn’t want to heat up my kitchen. Enter: slow cooker. I filled the bottom with red potatoes and a few cloves of garlic, put a chicken on top, sprinkled with salt, pepper, and Cavender’s, added a few lemon slices, and created deliciousness that didn’t require a 400 degree oven. The Pinterest component is the side dish. I used oregano instead of basil, because my basil has died/fried, but the oregano is still kicking. Really tasty!

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I did not expect to love this dish like I did. It’s basically an Asian noodle bowl, but the “noodles” are spaghetti squash. It’s also full of kale and broccoli, so it’s super healthy. The one thing I did differently was use peanut oil instead of grapeseed oil in the spicy peanut sauce, because I don’t keep grapeseed oil on hand.

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I sometimes joke that my Colorado-native hubby had to marry a Southern girl just for the okra, which is one of his favorite foods. This recipe was different than my usual fried okra, because they’re sliced sorta like fries, and are just fried in the oil solo, no batter or cornmeal or anything. They’ve got an Indian sort of spice thanks to garam masala, and I really liked it for a change of pace. I might experiment with the same flavor profile in an oven-roasted version.

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I’m a pickle fanatic, and I definitely prefer the ones you can only get in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. These come as close to those as any homemade version I’ve tried, and since they’re a refrigerator version, you don’t have to worry about canning or sealing or botulism or anything. So good!

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This recipe isn’t a new one, but it’s a fave. Tarts seem fancy to me for some reason, but this one isn’t too complicated, I swear. The interesting details: you spread a layer of dijon mustard before layering in the tomatoes, goat cheese, herbs, and a drizzle of honey. The flavors are amazing together. You should try it!

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OK, no recipe for this one. I basically just made a mint julep, and since I had some strawberries on the verge of going bad, I muddled some in along with the mint. A nice combo!

So: what’s cookin’ for you this week?

MMMMonday (on a Tuesday)

Welcome to MMMMonday…on a Tuesday.

You see, what had happened was… Claire was sick yesterday, and while hanging out in the ER (no worries, just an infection, she’ll be ok), I tried to post my MMMMonday post from my WordPress phone app. And somehow all the pictures posted, but none of the text. What follows is my recreation of that text, though surely it was better the first time.

I didn’t actually cook much “new” stuff this week because I couldn’t be arsed to go to the grocery store. Which means I did a lot of pantry-staple cooking. My pantry stocking borders on Doomsday Prepper. I feel antsy if I don’t have plenty of dried pasta, rice, canned beans, canned tomatoes, coconut milk, onions, garlic, butter, and olive oil. Those ingredients plus odds and end vegetables can be combined to create veggie fried rice, pasta with simple red sauce, and black beans with coconut rice, all of which made an appearance on our table this week.

Eventually I made it to the Farmer’s Market and restocked us a bit, and I still managed to try a few new things I had pinned. Check it out:

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These lime bars from the A Beautiful Mess blog were delicious. Can’t wait to try the grapefruit version.
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I make a lot of hummus, but after finding some beautiful eggplants at the farmer’s market, I decided to try my hand at baba ghanouj. It’s a little more labor intensive than hummus, because you have to roast the eggplant, but it’s very tasty. I made homemade pitas to go with it, and even Etta was a big fan.
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I used some of the aforementioned farmer’s market eggplants along with local squash and zucchini to make a gorgeous layered ratatouille, which I served over whole wheat pearl couscous alongside some leftover local hanger steak from a cookout with friends. A very tasty way to eat some of the summer’s best veggies. Would be delicious with a poached egg or some goat cheese on top.
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I wanted something special to serve with my odds-and-ends veggie fried rice, and was inspired by this salmon recipe. For my version, I just brushed some thawed frozen salmon with a beaten egg, sprinkled with salt and pepper, covered in black sesame seeds, and baked for about 15 minutes at 400. It was flavorful and had a nice crunch!

What about you? Tried any recipes (or other projects) from Pinterest lately? Have any pantry-staple recipes you use when you need to grocery shop to share? What ARE your pantry staples?