What’s for Dinner? What this busy mom does…not always mom approved, but it works!

16 Jan

When I think about when I grew up, my mom stayed at home.  Sure she babysat kids during the day, but she was always there before school and after school.  She was always there to help with homework, she always made dinner…which we all had together and it seems like she always managed to have us bathed and into bed by 7:00(pm) and the house was clean no later.  Oh yes, and we didn’t have money for a gym membership back then – and honestly I am wondering if many people went to gyms back then.  In any event, my mom was up just before 6(am) in her leotard and tights, exercising to Joannie Greggins (remember her, I do as I started doing this with my mom too).  My mom was a tough act to follow, she was sweet, nurturing, loving and one of the most loved people I knew.  She wasn’t June Cleaver, but she was top notch.
Fast forward to 2012 and I am not that kind of mom.  Sometimes I wish I could be, but other times I know that I am wired differently and would not be a good stay at home mom.  How am I completely different?  I work – A LOT – too much – and I commute TOO long (for me, some people are okay with commuting, for me, I don’t like wasting the day getting from one place to the next).  I do my best with meals, homework, play dates, etc.  Our house is not always spotless and the laundry is often only half put away.  I love things to be clean all of the time, but I am not around often enough to get them done.  I was going seriously go nuts, so I had to create a short list of what I needed to have cleaned each week: 
– Kitchen
– Living Room
– Main Bathroom
– All floors mopped
– All laundry washed, folded and put away (this is a lofty goal in our house)
Doesn’t seem too bad right?   It seems like I do the above 4 times over the weekend.  Because time is tight and we have to get two kids from two separate cities in the evening (I will have to share the reasoning for that another day), so all grocery shopping is usually done on Saturdays.  If I can, I try to bring along one of the kids or both of them to give my husband a break because he takes them to karate and has them in the morning while I teach.  You working moms know that when you are carving out time, how important it is to try and balance things out with your husband so neither of you grows resentful.  Honestly – it still happens, each parent feels like they are doing so much more than the other.  I get it – it’s what busy working parents do.  So I am constantly trying to remind myself that no matter how busy I think things are for me, they are often just as busy for my husband.  His strengths are different from mine, but equally important to our family.
What’s for dinner is usually stuff that I toss together from food prepped on the weekends.  I have picky kids, which means there is only a portion of what we eat that the kids will also eat.  I have one kid who will only eat brown rice with black beans and another who hates beans and only eats brown rice with chicken…so brown rice becomes a staple for the meal.  Here are some food preps that I do on Sundays for the week:
(1) Big pot of brown rice, I brown onions and garlic in coconut oil, add rice, turmeric, paprika, 2 Tbsp fresh chopped tomatoes, chili powder & salt/pepper to taste.  I cook in chicken broth.  It is the same as cooking regular rice – 1 cup rice to 2 cups broth.  I cook on low so that the brown rice is tender.
(2) Baked Chicken – marinate the chicken for several hours in the refrigerator with olive oil, minced garlic, salt& pepper.  I take it out of the marinade, brush with melted coconut oil and bake @ 375 until cooked all the way through.  It is really tender.  This adds well to lettuce tacos, chopped in quesadillas for the kids (rice tortillas as we are gluten free), chopped on salad, etc – this is a staple in our house as myself and the kids don’t eat red meat or seafood (don’t ask).
(3) Roasted vegetables – I make these as they pair well with most meals and are also flavorful to add to veggie scrambles.  When not doing the sugar detox, I usually roast beets, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, shallots, broccoli, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes and asparagus.  Right now I am just doing shallots, broccoli, zucchini, squash and tomatoes.
(4) Shredded Fresh Vegetables – I used my small food processor to shred vegetables: squash, zucchini, celery, carrots all to add to salad. 
(5) Raw Kale Salad – this is the season for kale and I love raw kale salad.  Here is the dressing that I make: 1 T Sesame Oil, 1/8 C Olive Oil, 1/8 C + 1T Rice Vinegar, 1 T Sesame Seeds, 1 T Raw Honey, fresh cracked pepper and a pinch of Celtic sea salt.  Mix the dressing, pour over and let it sit for about an hour.  The kale salad is the curly green leaves, shredded purple cabbage and shredded carrots.   Sometimes for lunch I take this and add a liberal amount of mixed greens, raw vegetables and chicken to make a big salad that is really filling.
(6) Coconut Almond Chocolate Chip balls/Cookies – So I make these each week and freeze them.  I give some to our neighbor and our kids have them for dessert in the evenings.  Here is the current recipe, which I have been testing for a really long time:  WET Ingredients (mix together): 1/4 C melted grassfed butter, 1/4 C melted coconut oil, 1 regular egg, 2 egg whites, 1 T vanilla, 1/3 C palm sugar.  DRY Ingredients (mix together): 1 C coconut flour, 1/3 C almond meal, 1/4 tsp Celtic sea salt, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 2 T chia seeds.  Mix dry and wet ingredients and then I add 1/2 bag dark chocolate chips (70% or higher).  Coconut flour is crumbly so you need to make small balls with the dough (not too tight).  I don’t make these very big as coconut flour is dense.  Bake @ 375 for about 10 minutes until just brown on the top of the cookies (if you take these out too soon, they will be doughy inside).  This makes about 2 dozen or so cookies and my picky kids love them.
(7) Pre-made Grilled Cheese and Quesadillas – I usually pre-make a few of these and add them to lunches.  My daughter’s school can heat up lunches which is great.  I usually warm my son’s and put it into his thermos to stay warm.  Since we are gluten free, we use rice tortillas and bread.
(8) Cheesy Pasta – this is a staple for our kids.  I use quinoa pasta, one cooked, I add in 1T grass-fed butter & liberal olive oil and mix.  Then I add cheese and cook on low heat.  When my son was little, he used to love the Mac & Cheese from Rigolo in San Francisco and one day I asked the chef how it was made: butter, olive oil & Gruyere cheese – simple, yet super tasty.
(9) Bacon – I put the entire pack on a tray and broil, then chop for later use for salads, romaine lettuce tacos, for my husband to add to chili (he does a mean, spicy turkey chili).  I also save the bacon fat which he uses as it adds a really smokey, flavorful taste to food.
(10) Wash, cut & portion out fruit – I make sure that all fruit is cut and in small containers for easy grab and go for kids lunches.
(11) Turkey or Chicken rolled around Mozzarella Sticks – it’s really hard to get my son to eat enough food during the day, which then often leads to a very unsuccessful 2nd half of the school day.  I try to keep it simple and sometimes he eats, sometimes he doesn’t.  I get presliced Applegate roasted turkey or chicken and wrap it around a mozzarella stick for his lunch.  He will usually eat these and they pack a protein punch. 
(12) Chia Seed French Toast – I bake french toast for the week for the kids and freeze.  We take out slices in the morning, heat and serve with grade B pure maple syrup.  The french toast is just a mix of eggs, milk, vanilla and cinnamon.  I top with ground flax seeds and chia seeds and bake @ 375 – you have to test this out as I don’t watch the clock exactly, but maybe around 12-15 minutes, I turn it over and bake for another 10 minutes.  The kids have this and yogurt in the morning – so we know that they are getting a decent breakfast before they head to school.
For my personal food success, I have to prep all my food for the week and portion size everything so I don’t eat when I am hungry and am pulling together the meals for the kids in the evenings.  So in addition to the above, I do all of the following for just me on the weekend:
(13) Veggie Scramble – Egg yolks are on my food sensitivity, so I only use the whites: Coconut oil to heat and cook chopped zucchini, yellow squash and minced garlic, add a liberal amount of spinach, chopped tomatoes, green chillies, Spanish olives.  Once all are cooked to where the spinach is soft, I add in about 4 egg whites and cook.  I repeat this 5 times (or if you have lots of pans, you can do bigger batches) for morning breakfasts.
(14) Baked Apple, Blueberry Crepe – I tend to love a breakfast sweeter food in the evening, so this I love in the evenings after have the scramble and large salad in the morning.  The crepe mix is simply egg whites, unsweetened almond milk, vanilla, cinnamon and added coconut flour.  The mix isn’t too thick so not a lot of coconut flour.  For the apples, I baked them until soft with added vanilla and cinnamon – best aroma in the house.  I make the crepe and add in the baked apples and about 8 fresh blueberries and fold it over.  This is sweet enough from the apple and blueberries, so you don’t need to add anything else.  BTW – I use coconut oil for cooking.
Hope the above is helpful and while it is a lot of work, it makes the craziness of the weekdays a lot easier.  I usually cut and wash all fruit on Saturday evening during movie night and then do a lot of the cooking early morning Sunday and afternoon post-run (while food is cooking, I do laundry, sweep, clean bathroom – basic mommy multi-tasking). 
~ Amy

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