Tag Archives: Cooking

Menu Monday 

I can’t promise that every Monday here will have to do with food, but food is on my mind today. We had a neighborhood cookout yesterday that we didn’t get to go to because of bad nap timing. I was going to bring coleslaw, so we’ve got the ingredients for that. So, I’ve stuck a pork loin in the crockpot with BBQ sauce and we’re having pulled pork , baked potatoes and coleslaw for dinner – a great Memorial Day meal.

Meanwhile, there is still lunch to sort out. Baby Girl had two breakfasts (first with me , and then with daddy) and a snack so she didn’t want lunch before her nap. That just left the grownups.

I decided to make tostadas with leftovers from last week’s tacos, so head on over to Butter and Whisky for the directions!

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Flashback Friday: Meal Prep

Hello out there! I am going to make an effort on Fridays to talk about some of the things that I feel we’ve missed by me jumping into this blogging business when my daughter is already one and half! Flashback Fridays will cover topics about pregnancy and those first few months trying to juggle a newborn and a career.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, the timing was not great. She was due in September, so I was back at work for the Fall semester for about three weeks before she was born. I didn’t want to use any of my precious maternity leave before she was born (despite people asking me, repeatedly.) So, I was juggling the back-to-school frenzy (orientations, faculty meetings, etc) and the hormones and nervousness of impending motherhood.

Plus I was nesting like crazy and had not yet moved into my new house. I hadn’t even signed the paperwork yet. Another long story for some other Flashback Friday.

To work on all this nervous energy, I decided to organize a big meal prep weekend. I did it alone, and I was pretty well exhausted after I did it, but it ended up being the best thing I did to prepare for my daughter.

I made 14 meals, all of which had at least 6 servings (servings + second helpings + lunch the next day for myself and my husband.) I didn’t track how much it cost, because this blog was not anywhere near my mind when I did it – but I would estimate it cost about $100, and I didn’t have to cook for more than two weeks. That was especially nice when I ended up having to recover from an emergency c-section.

I put everything in my freezer – I have a normal sized side-by-side refrigerator/freezer, and it all fit comfortably with room for other things like my smoothie packs and ice cream. I had a fairly healthy mix of re-heat/cook in the oven and dump-prep for the crock pot. I tried to limit the need for sides, but I did buy a bunch of rice to make with some of the recipes ; I have a rice cooker so it was not a big extra step to add that to the meal. Other additions included pasta or hamburger buns. The biggest problem I had (because it was a side-by-side) is that I had to measure the width of my shelves – 9 x 13 pans would fit, but my round 9 inch pans wouldn’t, because of the extra space needed for the rim. Luckily I figured this out before I finished cooking and was able to use 8-inch round pans instead.

If you have a friend or two who want to help, the process can go even faster. And, if you have a deep-freeze, you don’t have to worry about the room issue!

I had such a good time and was so relieved to have the meals that a set of meals ended up being my baby shower girt when a coworker had a baby a few months later – yes, I did meal prep with a six month old!

These are the meals I made for my Baby Meal Prep:

  1. Easy Lasagna from The Shabby Creek Cottage
  2. Chicken Parmesan Casserole from Thriving Home
  3. Broccoli Cheddar Chicken Pasta Bake from The Shabby Creek Cottage
  4. Hawaiian Chicken  (combined from Saving You Dinero and The Girl Who Ate Everything)
  5. Chicken Fajitas from Saving You Dinero
  6. Chicken Cacciatore from Six Sister’s Stuff
  7. Freezer Chicken Pot Pie from FreezerDinner.com
  8. Chicken and Dressing from The Shabby Creek Cottage
  9.  Chicken, Veggie and Potato Pan from Just a Pinch
  10. BBQ Pork Loin (My Own Recipe)
  11. Creamy Baked Pasta from Graceful Little Honey Bee
  12. Goulash from Joyful Momma’s Kitchen
  13. Curry Chicken from New Leaf Wellness
  14. Chicken Enchiladas (My Own Recipe, adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine)

This meal prep idea is also really useful if you know you’re going to have to work late for a project or a schedule change! I did another mini-prep last semester when I had schedule conflicts and had to stay at work until 8pm on Thursdays!

Working Wednesday: CoWorker Cupcake Marathon!

… Or should that be triathalon? I mean, it’s the same thing (making cupcakes) but it is three different recipes.

I’m not going to lie, Monday night was a little rough. Baby girl did not want to go to sleep, but I was exhausted; she had been up earlier than normal and did not want to nap until right before I left for work at 9:45. When I finally got her down to sleep for the night, cupcakes were the last thing on my mind, but promises are promises, and besides I was a little excited for this recipe (when awake enough to appreciate it, anyway).

I made butterbeer cupcakes! For those of you not in the know, butterbeer is a fictional drink from Harry Potter, come to life at Universal Studios’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter. My husband I drank so much of the stuff while we were there on our honeymoon, and Makayla, my employee who turned 22 Tuesday, is a huge fan of both butterbeer and Harry Potter in general.

I did not do anything particularly different to these, so I won’t be making a separate post at Butter and Whisky.

Instead, we will be talking a little bit about cleaning. It’s the entire reason I was able to make cupcakes last night when I desperately wanted to go to bed. I have been following an incredibly simplified version of Flylady, and am slowly modifying that already simplified routine to better suit my needs.

I started where she preaches the most: the kitchen sink. After working entirely too hard to get through a mound of dishes, I “reset” my thinking about dishes. It used to be that I would wait until I was finished creating dirty dishes to start cleaning. Now, when I make something, I plan time in the process to wash dishes, and I do not, under any circumstances leave any dishes in the sink when I go out of the house or go to sleep for the night. Just that change has made a world of difference, and I spend less time doing dishes over all (at least partially because I don’t have to scrub so hard.)

That also meant that Monday night,  I came home to a mostly clean sink (my husband had dirtied some silverware and not had time to wash it.) I made dinner, washing dishes as I went along, and then I cleaned up the last of the dishes while Baby Girl was finishing her meal. The sink was pristine and beautiful when I set in to make cupcakes at 10:30 at night! I powered through, washing dishes as I went, and was able to wipe down the kitchen while I waited for the cupcakes to finish baking.

Frosting happened Tuesday morning, and I finished cleaning up while I started breakfast.

Take a look at FlyLady if you’re having a hard time keeping your house clean. Or, stick around here and listen to my adventures with it instead! I started with the shiny sink habit, and have been trying to add habits weekly – we’ll talk more about it in future posts!

Time to… Thursday: Time to Make Time, Pt. 1

Following up on yesterday’s post, I am here today to tell you how I have managed to make cupcakes for my coworkers over the past 10 months. That is fourteen batches of cupcakes. There are still six batches to go.

The first step is one of those simple-but-complicated things. You know, the ones that are easy to say but not necessarily easy to do.

You have to want to do it.

I know what they say:  “If everything’s important, then nothing is important.” And that is absolutely true. There have been things that are not so important to me now that used to be important to me before. That’s pretty standard with any life change – oh, if only I had a blog when I started this job! – but that doesn’t mean that nothing is allowed to be important. That would be just as equally ridiculous.

Therefore, you need to set a goal. Mine was pretty ambitious – making cupcakes can be somewhat time consuming, especially when you consider clean up, and there were definitely days where dishes were left in the sink until dinner the next day, and I was cussing myself (we’ll get into how I conquered that!)

Yours may be slightly less ambitious. Maybe you want to treat all your coworkers once a month, instead of having it set to a birthday schedule. I did “cheat” on my cupcakes for the people who were born over the Christmas holiday – I brought one batch of cupcakes in to the holiday party for the two birthday ladies (three, if you count me!) – because our building literally would not be open from the time finals ended until the day after New Year’s.

You could make or buy cards. That one would be pretty simple – buying a cache of inexpensive cards that you could keep organized. You could even keep them in your office. Things are easier when they’re non-perishable!

Once you have your goal set, I suggest getting a calendar and writing down all the birthdays. You could set reminders in your phone, if you’re more technologically oriented. The goal is to make sure that you will be reminded, so make note of the  birthdays wherever you will actually look. That’s where Drew’s birthday was almost forgotten – I had tucked my calendar away in a binder, and it ended up behind some other papers.

Then ask your coworkers when their birthdays are. Just catch them in the break room, or the hallway, or wherever, and say, “Hi ____! I’m trying not to miss anyone’s birthdays this next (fiscal,/school/calendar) year, and I’m not sure I’ve got yours right. When is it?” If, for some reason, they ask further questions (we have pranksters here, so my coworkers have a right to be suspicious), tell them, “Well, I’m not making any promises, but I’d like to do something to make you and everyone else feel appreciated.”

I will confess, this one was done for me, because the office assistant keeps track on  her big calendar, and she gave me a list – but I actually had to cull the list a bit, which brings me to step four: set limits. There are 55 birthdays on the office assistant’s list, plus my two employees who started after the list was made. Some of them are instructors (who are only here one or two nights a week). Some of them are administrative people who don’t actually work at this campus. So I limited the cupcakes to the staff I work with regularly. This is the “core” of our group – the administrative staff downstairs – plus the BSAs, the part-time evening person, the bookstore clerk, the writing tutor, and my two employees in the library.

That still gave me 20 batches of cupcakes, so what do I do to get them made?

First, I split the two halves of the job: the cupcakes get made the evening before, and the frosting gets made and piped the morning of.  I usually make the cupcakes after Ana has gone to bed (hence the occasional sink full of dishes). They take, on average, about 35 minutes. Usually that small sacrifice of sleep is worth it, because it gives me a chance to wind down and I sleep better. Plus, the cupcakes can cool fully before frosting.

Then, either I frost the cupcakes before she gets up or while she is having breakfast in her high chair. Frosting cupcakes always seems like a bigger  job than it actually is, but it only takes about 15 minutes if the butter has been thawed, and if you use store bought, it’ll take even less.

Ana was already big enough to be eating semi-solid food when I started this, so she was used to being in the high chair, and loves to be in the kitchen with me. I’ll put on some music and dance around and play with her while I’m working. And then it’s quality mommy-baby time, too! Our high chair did have an infant setting though – we just didn’t get it until after she was sitting up on her own. Other options might be a playpen or a bouncer, depending on how big your kitchen is.

I’ve titled this post Part 1 for a reason. It’s something we’ll be coming back to often. The ability to make time, and the best ways to do it will change as your child grows.

Working Wednesday: Co-Workers…

If I am going to be honest with you, I first must be honest with myself. I have mixed feelings about my co-workers. I think, at some point in our lives, we all do.

My biggest problem, I think, is that the culture here is different than at the main campus. Four years in, and I’m still not always sure where I stand. But I have to work with these people, and after my year-long growing pains and pity party (again, I’m trying to be honest) I decided that maybe I should do something to make myself a better coworker.

Yes, I do my work. Yes, I volunteer to do things that are technically out of the scope of my responsibilities. Yes, I help my coworkers grow in their respective fields by giving them advice and constructive criticism. But I am an introvert at heart, and a very private person, besides.

These people are not private. We’ll get in to that later.

Back to the problem: I’m an introvert and therefore it makes me look like I’m not interested in other peoples’ lives. So this year, starting on the fiscal year (because it was convenient and because it aligned better with the school year) I decided to keep track of everyone’s birthdays and make them cupcakes. We are rapidly approaching the year mark, and the only person I have missed is the graduate assistant who was hired after my list was made. (Oops.)

We will get into how I managed to do that with a baby in tomorrow’s post. Today, I want to share with you the recipe I made Monday night/Tuesday morning, for Drew’s birthday. Head over to my cooking blog Butter and Whisky to see The Chocolate Chip Cookie Cupcake.