I shared previously that I’ve been listening to the podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin. Usually I’m obsess over a blog or a book to get my inspiration or motivation fix, but I love the portability of a self-help podcast. It feels extra efficient! I also really like the sisterly banter between Gretchen and her sister, Hollywood writer/producer Elizabeth Craft. I think it can be very discouraging when you’re trying to work on yourself and the people you’re reading/listening to are preaching and make it seem like they have it all figured out, but Gretchen and Elizabeth don’t do that. In fact, they give themselves demerits and gold stars at the end of each episode, and I find that very relatable.
For the last five months we’ve been living with my parents and my mom and I have been splitting up cooking duties. I haven’t had the time to experiment too much, but here is a round up of my favorite fast causal style meals that I’ve been making lately.
This is a family favorite dish, and definitely toddler approved. It’s from my friend Cassie and I’ve linked it on my blog before (it’s just that good!). I think my favorite part is the dijon mustard and the fresh thyme. Sometimes I make this as a side to grilled meats, but it’s certainly hardy enough as a main if you eat giant bowlfuls like we do.
I’m in the season of life where I have the best intentions but things very rarely go to plan. I got home from an appointment this morning feeling like a total queen. I got up earlier than my husband and my kid, and showered! I had time to do my makeup and eat breakfast before heading out the door. On time! I did some much needed self-care (dermatology appointment I’d been putting off for ages), and ran two quick errands. I arrive home ten minutes before my promised time.
Rory seemed hungry and a little whiny, so I told him to hop in the high chair for a snack. Homemade banana walnut mini muffins. You heard me, I baked them myself. From scratch. I even used half whole wheat flour (fine, it was one-third). I filled up Rory’s water cup half way so he could practice sipping from it like a big boy, strapped on his bib with the plastic catch-all thingamabob, and let him independently snack away. I had pep in my step, everything was great at ten o’clock.
I asked Nick if he wanted a cup of tea. I thought I had enough time to make us some and I’d drink it leisurely while my kid snacked on a wholesome treat. I filled up the electric kettle and went to back to the table to stare fondly at my kiddo. When I got to the table it was just in time to see him stuff the entire mini muffin into his mouth. He said, “Mama,” and gesticulated wildly. We are still working on the signs for “more” and “all done.” I’m pretty sure he was demanding more muffin. So much for getting to sit and drink my tea and have a muffin with him.
I got up and poured water over the bags to steep and grabbed the bowl of grapes from the fridge and started doling them out two at a time in the hopes of getting the hungry little hippo before me to slow down. No such luck. He signed “more” repeatedly until he had stashes of grapes in the hollows of his cheeks. I fixed the tea and brought a mug to Nick who was working at his desk just a foot away from the snacking monster. I went to grab mine next, but in the moment I had my back turned Rory poured the contents of his water cup on his tray and was splashing away like it was bath time.
I’ve personally deforested an entire rain forest with my paper towel usage yesterday during The Great Cat Vomit Explosion, so I selected a kitchen towel and sopped up the mess. I thought Rory was done so I took off his bib, only to have him flail about and threaten to topple the high chair. More, he signed. So I gave him ten more grapes. I signed, all done, to which he replied, “Mama,” and threw up his hands.
I took the sticky little toddler to get dressed at 10:25, where a war ensued over his comb (he wouldn’t let it go to undress or get dressed), his toothbrush (he thinks he know how to brush his teeth, but the mess between them says otherwise), and his itchy eczema (he wants to scratch until he bleeds and I want to put topical ointment on it). Finally, I wrestled him down for a nap.
At 10:45 I found my tea right where I had left it. It was lukewarm. I updated my Instagram with a post I wrote over the weekend. I cleared off a spot to work at my desk. I typed as quickly as the story would come out. It’s 11:10 now and my tea is cold and I still have not eaten my muffin.
- 3 medium ripe bananas, mashed
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup milk
- 2 TBSP melted butter
- 2 TBSP canola oil
- 1 egg
- 1 cup unbleached flour
- ½ cup whole wheat flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ½ cup chopped walnuts (or walnut pieces for baking) plus more for topping
- turbinado sugar, for topping
- Heat oven to 425ºF. Line 24 mini-size muffin cups with a muffin liner. Spray the liners with cooking spray or brush on oil with a pastry or silicone baking brush.
- In large bowl, mix bananas, sugar, milk, butter, oil and egg with a spatula or wooden spoon. Gently mix in flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla just until flour is moistened. Fold nuts into batter. Do not over mix.
- Divide batter evenly among 24 muffin cups. I used about a cookie scoop of batter for each. Top with additional nuts and raw sugar.
- Bake 5 minutes at 425ºF then reduce heat to 375ºF for an additional 5 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick. Changing the temperature mid-way helped keep the dome shape to these muffins.
- Let cool in the pan for a minute or two and then transfer to a wire baking rack.
- I had enough batter left over for four regular sized muffins, but you could probably get about six to eight more mini muffins from this recipe.
This recipe was adapted from Butter with a Side of Bread.
I’ve really missed cooking these last several weeks while our house has been on the market. I still keep up my weekly meal planning, but the cooking we do is very simple, requires no recipes, and is often done in batches to reduce the amount of cleaning we have to do. The kind of cooking I miss is cooking from recipes with specific ingredients and measurements, but also the kind of cooking that is completely improvisational. I miss cooking on the fly—looking in my refrigerator and coming up with something that may or may not work out. I did both kinds of cooking a lot before my son was born.
Meal time back then could be a risk, an adventure of sorts, because the stakes were low. If something didn’t work out or I didn’t love a new recipe, oh well. Sometimes we didn’t even finish our leftovers. (Shh, don’t tell!) But now meal time is serious business. I want to get in and out of the kitchen quickly, I want a high yield, but I also want to not get so sick of leftovers that I feel the need to order a pizza. That’s asking a lot of myself as a cook, if I’m being really honest.
But I’ve been in a rut lately. We’ve subsisted on leftovers plus a rotisserie chicken all week. Yesterday I just felt tired and unmotivated. I had a pack of ground turkey and no ideas about how I could cook it that would make me excited to eat it. The menu plan called for turkey chili, but I also leaned towards turkey burgers since I had a handful of frozen buns. My mind kept wandering to a craving for meatballs, porcupine meatballs made with Rice-a-Roni, to be exact. I told myself all the reasons this was a bad idea: it’s not a quick meal to cook, I didn’t even have Rice-a-Roni, and the recipe makes a mess (or rather I do when I cook it).
I decided to go for it anyway and just make it up as I went along.