Sorry this is a bit late. I have been slightly incapacitated this week as I sprained a joint in my back doing some gardening last weekend. But thanks to extra help from my husband and a wonderful Chiropractor I am back in full health and trying to get caught up on things.
Having my back out made it a lot harder to be a wife and mother. It is a terrible feeling not being able to pick up your baby when she is hurt and to not be able to cook or do anything for your husband. I am so grateful that I have such a supportive husband who made the whole week a much more bearable experience. So to honor him I want to talk about a very special gift he gave me and the meal that I was able to make him with. Interestingly enough the meal happened the day before I hurt myself so it was good he got a nice meal in his belly before he was forced to live off of take-away meals and his own cooking.
My birthday was earlier on this month, but we had talked about not really doing much in the way of gifts this year. We are planning a trip to Turkey at the end of the summer and I have asked if we can be in the US for Christmas, so funds are a little tight. But I should have known my husband wouldn’t stick to the rules. Instead of not buying me much he went out and bought me exactly what I wanted, a brand new BBQ, and a very fancy one I might add. I was so excited I couldn’t wait try it out. To me you can’t have summer without lots of BBQ’s and I always start as early as possible, so in spite of the rain I took it out for a test drive last Friday. There is something about the taste of meat cooked over charcoal that you just can’t mimic in the kitchen. And the best part is that it doesn’t take a lot of work to make it turn out perfect every time.
BBQ Lamb Loin
500g Lamb Loin
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
When I first made the decision to move from California to join my then fiancee in Texas I knew that it would be difficult. To try to get use to the Texas culture again and leave behind friends and a place that I loved was not easy. It was a hard three years but it really brought me and my husband closer. So when we then made the decision last year to move to the UK, which was even further away from California, you would think it would be even harder, but in truth it hasn’t been. Yes there are things that I really miss about California and I probably always will. But the life that my family is starting here is one that I am happy with. Recently I met up with some people that spend a long time complaining about the town that we live in, saying they wished they lived somewhere else. Listening to people complain about their situation reminded me about my time in Texas. I resisted that move more then any other, I struggled to build friendships and had a hard time seeing anything good about my situation. But now that I look back I do see a lot of good that came out of my time there. And even though I would never choose to live there again I have to say there are some wonderful things about Texas that I can only now see. But that is me looking through hindsight, at the time I as depressed, I was starting to gain weight and incredibly lonely. It was very hard for me during that time to see any of the good around me. So when I was listening to these ladies complain about their situation here it reminded me how about how easily we can all fall victim of thinking the grass is greener on the other side and spend our days hating our situation rather then make the best of it. I am not saying it is wrong to want to be somewhere else, just that if we spend our whole time wallowing in self-pity, like I did in Texas, we might miss some of the amazing things around us. There are pros and cons of every place you live in and we can either choose to focus on one or the other. Personally after living for years focusing on the negative and suffering the emotional and physical consequences I am trying to instead choose to focus on the positive. If there is something about my environment that I don’t like that I can change then I will change it, if not I will work at be okay with it.
One thing about my new home environment that makes me a little bit sad is the lack of variety in our restaurant choices, specifically when I am craving Mexican food. Now one of my future goals is to actually fix this by opening a restaurant of my own, but in the mean time I have been perfecting my Mexican cooking at home. Just like in Texas when I couldn’t find good Chinese food so I set about perfecting my Chinese cooking. My main influence these days has been going back to my sunny, beach days in California. Emphasizing on the simple, light dishes that remind me of summer days in the sun. I might not have the beach down the street from my house any more, nor do I have that little taco shack where I could get the best tacos for less then $5 but I can find a way to bring that back into my home. So put on some Beach Boys and dance away while you make these delicious and always easy, Prawn Quesadillas.
250g (1/2 lb) prawns (or shrimp), peeled and deveined
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 garlic clove, minced
small handful of coriander (cilantro), chopped
80g (1 c.) cheddar
At times I do find it hard to have a healthy balance between making sure I have quick and easy meals, plus make sure it is suitable for a baby, while still sticking to my diet and yet interesting enough to share here. It is a tall order and one that would be hard if this was my only job, which sadly it is not. Somehow I have started to take on the identity that I am this super human that some how can get everything I have ever wanted to get done finished in a day and at the end of the day I have to take a humility pill and realize that it isn’t possible. I can’t do the gardening, plus all of the washing, plus cook up elaborate meals, write up blog postings, get some work done for an video editing client plus and more importantly play with my daughter. It is impossible to get all of that done in one day, trust me I have tried. In the same way that I struggle trying to not put too much on my dinner plate I struggle putting too much on my daily plate. It is a constant battle, one that have have no simple answer to give you today. This is more of a reminder to everyone to not give yourself a laundry list of to-dos that is larger then the amount of time in your day. We only have this one life, and if we spend it all chasing our tails trying to get caught up we will miss out on the moments that make it all worth it. Like those extra cuddles from a baby, or that glass of wine with your significant other after a long day. It just isn’t worth missing.
This recipe was such a surprise and delight to me because it is half the weight watchers points of a lasagna and it was delicious enough that I didn’t miss the pasta. It did take a bit of prep work but I found that I could do each stage spaced out through my day so that when it came to dinner all I had to do was pop it in the oven, give the baby a bath and it was ready to serve. I might not be super mum but as long as I keep trying I am hoping to be a good one.
Grilled Aubergine and Courgette Bake
1 small aubergine
1 medium courgette
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
400g (28 oz) can tomatoes
2 tsp dried oregano leaves
4 garlic cloves, diced
1 onion minced
60g (3 Tbsp) breadcrumbs
15g (1 Tbsp) Parmesan, grated
During the week I keep my sanity by preparing both my husband and I’s lunches for the following day after I put the baby to bed. That way I don’t need to stress about it the next day when I am trying to juggle taking care of Morgan and getting other work done. It keeps my life simple. But come the weekend this neat, little schedule that I so easily keep during the week seem to go out the window. I never feel prepared come lunch time and more often then not am left scrambling when it comes to 12 o’clock and I am feeding Morgan her lunch and Chris looks at me and says, what do we have to eat? Now don’t get me wrong, my husband isn’t the type of person that thinks that cooking is a woman’s job and is more then capable of making his own meals. But I do all of the shopping so I am the one that knows what we have and don’t have. And I love him but Chris just can’t look in the fridge and think, oh I could combine this and this and make that. He looks in a fridge and if he doesn’t have any inspiration in a few seconds he announces that we have no food. On nights that he cooks he always insists on going to the store rather then looking at what I have and just making something with that. But I am okay with that, I know that isn’t his strong point and I am fine with our roles. But it is frustrating when I don’t plan properly and am left having to think of something on the spot. Which is why I love soup. Soup is one of those things that you can easily use what you have on hand and as long as you have a good base it is good every time. This particular recipe is an old staple of mine from my Sonoma Diet Cookbook. A almost always have everything on hand and just change what I top it off with depending on what is in the fridge. This time I used avocado, but I often top it off with a bit of grated Parmesan.
What is your easy default lunch idea for busy days?
Lentil and Brown Rice Soup
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium Onion
6 cloves Garlic, minced
1.8 liters (8 c.) reduced sodium vegetable stock
100g (1/2 c.) brown rice
2 cans of chopped tomatoes
150g (3/4 c.) dry brown lentils
2 large handfuls of spinach, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp dried thyme
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp pepper
1 avocados, diced
In a way having a baby has been the most humbling experience I have ever been through. I remember before I had Morgan I would see or hear about parents that hardly ever cooked and their kids grew up on a diet of frozen dinners or going out. I would think to myself what is wrong with people, why don’t they just cook dinner? It’s so much cheaper and a lot easier to make sure that your family eats healthy and well-balanced meals, so I didn’t understand why people didn’t make more of an effort. But that was before I had a baby, before I truly understood what they were going through.
I really thought I understood what it meant to be tired, I use to work too jobs while going to school. For a year of my life every Wednesday I would show up to work at one job at 5 in the morning, working until noon, and then getting to the next job at 1 and working until 9. Then somehow I had to make it to my 8am class on Thursday. I was exhausted. But the difference between then and now is that when I did get some free time I could relax, hang out with friends, drink beer or even watch a movie. These days I am exhausted but my job never has a break. I still have a 8 month old crawling all over me, not sure if she wants to be put down or held, screaming and twisting herself around when I do either. There is no such thing as this free moment and it is draining. When she does finally fall asleep I have to use that precious free time to catch up on everything I wasn’t able to do while she was awake. I feel humbled and guilty that I ever judged someone for eating out all the time, now I don’t blame them, in fact sometimes that is all I want to do too. But this house is on a strict food budget. We decided a long time ago that we would be wise with our family budget and not get back into debt and so far we are almost two years into our debt-free life and I wouldn’t trade that for all the take-away meals in the world. Instead I have had to try to make sure that I don’t get too carried away, like I often do, and make sure that I have simpler meals ideas for hectic days.
This particular marinate recipe comes from the crazy time in my life when I had two jobs. I worked at a restaurant that marinated its chicken this way, it’s hassle-free and tastes like you put a lot more effort into your meal then you actually did. Each chicken breast is only 5 weight watchers points so not only is it easy but it is also a healthy, low-fat dinner option.
Italian Dressing Marinated Chicken
4 Chicken Breasts
118mL (1/2 c.) Italian Dressing