05 March 2014

Healthy Mom, Happy Family: Cooking Day to Day

My life is insane these days.  We are averaging 5 evenings at a baseball practice or game.  It leaves our family divided, out during regular dinner time, and it leaves me trying to find a way to fit vegetables in on another pizza-bought-by-the-snack-host-family night.  It's not working well, but I am committed to changing it.

Changing it includes eating better, but it also includes not worrying about it as much.  Giving into my limitations is hard for me, as I am sure it is for many moms who think they should be able to be supermom with the organic, locally grown meals, the hand-made birthday parties, and the spotless houses cleaned without harsh chemicals.  But let's get real-- most of the time, we are balancing the needs of our spouses, our children, our parents, our friends.  We are working, volunteering and hosting the neighborhood coffee.  We are FULL, and very little of it is going to our health and happiness. 

So I am taking the bold stand in my life to say that I am going to be mediocre at feeding my family, at least while we get through baseball season.  Mediocre means that I am not going to actively try to avoid all the bad foods, but just add some vegetables on top.  That means not ONLY pizza and McDonalds, but perhaps a grilled chicken sandwich with a side of carrots and ranch dressing instead of nuggets and fries.  Or cheese pizza with a large salad on the side and some fruit for dessert. 

At this point, mediocre is a serious win.

Here are four things that I am trying:

1.  Cook my vegetables early in the day as part of my lunch prep instead of squeezing it in when the kids get home.  Not as tasty as freshly steamed, but more tasty than frozen and FAR more likely to get done than if I wait until the homework/chase-down-the-uniform/find the gloves part of the day.

2.  Cook a large batch of roast veggies to last for a week.  These can last and incorporate into basic quick foods my kids will eat like scrambled eggs, fajitas or pasta.  If you still have left over at the end of the week, you can drop them in the blender or food processor with some canned veggie broth and make a great roast veggie soup.  Making them is a little time consuming (chopping the veggies), but then just toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at about 425 for a half hour and you have several meals worth of veggies.

3.  Make soup to last for a week.  My favorite way to buy an already-roasted chicken from the grocery store.  Take the meat off the bones to eat one night and while you are eating, boil the bones and skin and whatever that awesome juice is in the bottom of the plastic box in a pot of water for about an hour.  Straining out the bones and other stuff is the only challenging part of this because you really need 2 soup pots to do it easily.  If you have a big enough pot, I have been known to put the entire chicken and strainer in the pot to boil it and just take the strainer out with hot pads to avoid this.  But it's up to you how messy you want to get!

I then add some salt and pepper to taste (sometimes a bullion cube if it needs more flavor), and throw in any veggies I have on hand.  When I don't have time to chop veggies, I sometimes get peppers, onions, celery, carrots, etc. already chopped at the grocery store when I buy the chicken OR I just put the stuff in whole and cut it up as I eat it.  The second way is more of a pain, but I've been known to do either of these things when time is cut short.

Cook the raw veggies for about a half hour or until your hardest veggie is soft (usually the root veggies or cabbage), and you have soup.  Great, homemade, REALLY healthy vegetable soup.  Here's my soup from last week:

You can see that I threw everything in there, from broccoli (not too much, as it's a powerful flavor) to zucchini to spinach.  It was so pretty I wanted to eat it every day.  If you are worried about it going bad, this soup freezes beautifully.  I separate mine into single portions and pull it out for lunch or as an add to dinner regularly.  Lots of veggies the easy and yummy way.

4.  Chop romaine and iceberg lettuce and bag it.  Some people have better feelings about pre-bagged lettuce, but inevitably I don't end up eating it because it has a funny aftertaste.  I really like lovely butter lettuce and leafy green salads, but for this, we are sticking with romaine and iceberg because they last longer and are still crunchy after several days.  There is nothing worse than a mealy salad to make you not eat one for two weeks, and I just can't seem to keep the softer lettuces for more than a couple of days.  It takes less than 15 minutes to chop off the tops and bottoms of the 3-5 heads of romaine and just slice them the short way.  I tend to add canned veggies to my salad (beets, artichoke hearts, etc.), so I don't chop more than the lettuce up front.  I can always take 2 minutes to cut up a cucumber or add a tomato when I go to eat it.

So that's my list for the next couple of months.  Mediocre and loving it!!

Do you have ways you incorporate veggies into your or your family's diet that is easy to pre-prep?  Let me know!!

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