Dinner - New Parent Style

A few years ago we made some fairly significant changes to the way and things that we ate.  We started buying more fresh vegetables (instead of frozen) and steaming them, and ate a lot of fresh vegetables straight from our garden, particularly tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, and chard, just to name a few.  We also made every effort to eliminate partially hydrogenated oils from our food.  I started experimenting with recipes and tried to make healthier, more natural versions of everything.  It was usually more work, but I was frequently so impressed by what I could make!

For example, we always used to buy these frozen bags of pasta and vegetables that had some sort of cream sauce of them.  I found a great recipe for a garlic butter cream sauce, made it myself, and loved the result!  We also used to make creamy pesto sauces from seasoning packets, but then I started making my own pesto and easily converted that to a cream sauce.  I also found fabulous recipes for some of our favorite asian dishes, such as sesame chicken and chicken lo mein.  They took a lot of time and effort, but they were so delicious.

But now we have EH, and everything has changed.  Time is of the essence.  There is no time for experimenting with cooking.  And as for fresh vegetables from the garden? Well do you remember any posts about my summer 2011 garden? Me either.  That's because my garden was a big fat fail. 

We moved on from fancy dishes like the wonderful "Sausage Pasta with Diablo Sauce" and have simplified our eating in major ways.  Instead of experimenting we get by on the same thing pretty much every day.

For DH - An apple or bagel and coffee for breakfast, granola and yogurt for lunch, an apple or salad for a snack and whatever I make for dinner.

For me - A granola bar for breakfast one, coffee and oatmeal for breakfast two (yes, I usually eat two breakfasts, both really small though), a turkey sandwich or Lean Cuisine meal for lunch, and then whatever I make for dinner.

So what are we eating for dinner?  Again, simple is the key, and here are some changes that we've made since EH arrived into our lives.

- Frozen vegetables (in the steamer bags)
- More meat-free dishes (meat takes too much time)
- Pasta, pasta, pasta
- Sauces from jars or made from packets instead of homemade
- Sandwiches or tacos for meals when we need to be really quick
- Slow-cooker meals IF I can find the time to do the prep
- Chipotle burritos (when cooking just isn't going to happen)

In some ways we're eating considerably less healthy because really good, healthy food takes time.  But in other ways I think we're actually consuming less calories because our focus isn't on creating gourmet meals, it's about eating for function so that we can move on to the next thing that we need to do. And from what I've what, frozen vegetables are nearly as healthy - if not just as healthy - as fresh ones.

Oh, and I also feel like I should mention that take-out isn't really an option for us.  Many new parents told us about how they relied on take-out from restaurants to survive those early days of parenthood.  But when you live in the suburban wilderness and the closest restaurant that has a take-out menu is a 15 drive, there's little chance that I'm going to make that kind of drive.

It's probably for the better anyway.  Our simpler eating habits mean we're spending less money on food, wasting less, and we have more quality time to spend with EH, which is really important to me, given how little time I get to spend with him during the work week.  Once we start him on solid foods we plan on making our own baby food, so our cooking habits might change once again.  I also recognize that as EH gets older, he'll get into a more predictable routine which may give me some additional time in my evening to put towards cooking.  But for now this new, simpler system works for us, and for that I am thankful.


Kate said...

Chiptole is delicious. I want to eat it all the time.

Suzi said...

OMG the slow cooker needs to become your best friend. And really, no prep is needed -- other than thawing the meat.

The best thing for the slow cooker, I think, is a pork loin. Generally, a pork loin is about 1.5 lbs. This is just enough (for us) for 1 meal and 1 work-lunch for each of us. This is ideal: cook once, eat twice. Further, you can buy a lot of pork loin's already flavored. So, dump the thing in your crock pot, add some water, maybe some broth, and when you get home you'll have something edible. :) (Of course you can always do a major spice-dump in the crockpot as well, and then you'll have something enjoyable edible. :) )

One of my fav pork-loin-in-the-slow-cooker concoction is this: unflavored pork loin, some of those mandarin orange already in the syrup that you buy in the store (the whole 16 oz jar), and honey. ...maybe some brown sugar. YUM. Easy. I'd recommend having this with rice and one of your steamer bags of veggies.

Seriously, the prep work in the AM (assuming you have an un-frozen pork loin) is like 5 minutes. My step by step process for the slow-cooker is: (1) dump shit in, (2) turn it on. :)

Lastly, pork loin is pretty cost effective, and the loin is the best kind of pork. ...if you ask me. It stays pretty tender.

Oh, another tip: invest in those pre-grilled frozen chicken strips. They're the perfect final addition to a rice-and-veggies meal, and most of the time you just heat those by throwing them in a Pam-sprayed frying pan for about 5 min. :)

Good luck!

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