Easy Eggs Benny with Garlic Chive Toast

 

Many people are afraid to make eggs benedict at home because it is perceived as a highly technical dish. You must cook the eggs in a way to not break them, and the Hollandaise sauce is especially revered.

But I’m here to tell you, if I can make it in a 1-bedroom apartment kitchen, so can you!

I can share with you two tricks to make this breakfast a snap. It still does take more than a few minutes, but honestly is so simply you could make this on a typical weekday morning. This is a recipe for one, but can easily be scaled up.

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You will need:

  • A sauce pot to boil water
  • A coffee cup or two
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 slices of bread
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Garlic salt
  • Chives or green onion, about 1 tbsp
  • Paprika, optional garnish

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Trick number one: to make a perfect egg, use a coffee cup. Just place the cup inside a pot, and fill with water. Obviously you should make sure you are using a ceramic cup, or one which otherwise can withstand boiling.

Then, once the water is at a rolling boil, crack the egg into the cup. Gravity pulls it down, but since it is safe inside the container it can’t get rolled about by the boiling bubbles, and stays together to cook into a perfect little package. Boil it for 5 minutes for a still-runny interior, or longer if you want it cooked through.

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Trick number two: use a blender to make the easiest  Hollandaise sauce ever!

Melt 1/2 stick of butter, not to boiling just enough to become liquid. Add to the blender, along with one whole egg, lemon juice, and a dash of salt or cayenne if you like. Blitz, and you’re done!

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Schmear some toast with some butter, sprinkle on garlic salt and chives, top with your egg and drizzle liberally with sauce! Sprinkle with some paprika if you fancy like that. Enjoy!

Weekly Eating – Jan 25 – Feb 7

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

 

Well, sorry about not posting for a week, there’s kind of a bit going on right now… We bought a(nother) house!

The Triangle real estate market is completely out of control right now, houses are on the market for literally a few hours and already contingent. So when the totally perfect gem came along, we had to act fast. I’ll tell that story some other time, but for now just know the next few months are gonna be HECTIC, so, apologies in advance if I slow down and/or disappear for a little while.

Anyways, 2 weekends ago was chill, just grocery shopping and chores around the house. Kiddo had a bit of a hard day with fussing, and also four outfit changes… at least we know he is well hydrated! And then on Sunday, I went for a long hike with my bestie. It is so very good to get outdoors into nature, get some nice workout time in, and spend time just talking about life with people you love.

Sunday night, sister-in-law’s boyfriend was in town so they came over for a few hours to play games and hang out. He works with patients, so he got his vaccine, second one in a few days. This is so so exciting to me, as someone who loves people, to know there’s a light at the end of this year long, lonely tunnel.

And I made a penne bake that was amaaaaazing and actually pretty healthy! The “meat” sauce was tempeh, mushrooms, and onion, but I did cover it in cheese. What can you do with two Italian loving men, ya know?

The following weekend was so great for my soul, because I got a lot of friend time. I went to Costco with some friends to mooch off their membership! We are doing a card churn with Citi to get bonus miles and need to hit a minimum spend. But, to my dismay, I found out in the checkout line that they no longer take American Express, only Visa! Tragic.

I still saved on things we would have bought anyways, but it was a bummer. Bestie also works in healthcare and has both vaccines now, so she was able to come over and play with the baby! It was the first time a non-family person was in the house in… like a year. Which is insane.

And finally, we had a distanced outdoor bonfire with another set of friends who had a baby boy just a few months after us. So it was cool to get to see how big he had gotten, and compare notes. Oh and then we bought a house.

So, anyways, here are 2 weeks worth of meals in review! (Also side note blog is not allowing photos to upload right now… sorry you can’t peek at all the deliciousness, but I’ll figure it out)

Monday:

Breakfast – banana bread with honey butter, then a ham egg and cheese breakfast bagel

Lunch – giant salad, 1 taco and a southwest salad

Snack – roasted chickpeas, and apple/peanut butter

Dinner – creamy mushroom & potato soup, and a homemade burger & fries with grilled mushrooms/onions and bleu cheese, yum!

Tuesday:

Breakfast – breakfast skillet bowl with potatoes, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and tofu sausage, and peanut butter toast + banana

Lunch – grain bowl with barley, roasted veggies, tofu, and hummus, and roasted veggies salad

Snack – popcorn and nuts

Dinner – leftover pasta bake and garlic bread, and chickpea curry with rice

Wednesday:

Breakfast – peaches & cream oatmeal, and peanut butter toast with fresh blueberries and raspberries

Lunch – giant bagged southwest salad and blueberries, and leftover burger/fries plus steamed broccoli & carrots

Snack – tea & shortbread cookies, and popcorn

Dinner – tofu & chickpea tikka masala, and salmon with roasted root veggies

Thursday:

Breakfast – potato and egg burrito

Today was NC’s first snow, and kiddo’s first snow ever! He was mostly not impressed haha

Snack – shortbread, a clementine, and tea

Lunch – giant salad

Dinner – leftovers

I also got my first Produce Box in a while, they had some great deals on root veggies so now I’ve got beets, sweet potato, carrots, kale, and more.

Friday:

Breakfast – peanut butter toast and a banana, and a green smoothie

Lunch – giant salad with strawberry vinaigrette, and a giant salad with salmon, roasted veggies, and edamame

Snack – kind bar, and apples and crackers

Dinner – burrito bowl with turkey, rice, roasted veggies, salsa, guac, and mushroom soup

The Weekend

Whooo boy, so basically all free time is now thinking about moving, and preparing for moving. I need to find a mountain of boxes, cause we have been burning ours in bonfires (oops) since we had no plans to move so soon. We will have about a 3 week overlap, and hope to have our current house rented out by April 1, wish us luck!

Also having another bonfire with different friends. It’s so great to finally be seeing people again regularly. And so many updates. Marriages, houses, babies, adopting dogs… good to know life is still going on out there. Oh, and the Super Bowl. But it starts at 6:30, we are not about that late night life, so I’ll just find out on the news on Monday who won. #Iwasagrandmabeforebecomingamom

Food Total: $162 + 206

Yikes… and this is without adding the amount spent on wine and formula… A bottle for baby, a bottle for mommy! lol Plus the Costco stockup trip where I got berries, spinach, salad, a pillow sized bag of broccoli, assorted spices, chicken, salmon, and pork chops, and so much more.

Kiddo eats real food, I still feed him 3-4 times per day, and he takes 2-3 bottles as well. We were lucky enough to have a friend gift us several boxes of formula their kid just went cold turkey and stopped drinking, but now that supply is gone. I also lucked out that there was a brand that must be discontinuing soon because it was on clearance, and was a ‘breastfeeding supplement’ anyways, so we are going to try that one and see how he likes it.

There were also just a lot of staples on sale that I took advantage of to restock some supplies. We got canned beans, tomatoes, corn, pasta, sauce, tortillas, granola, oatmeal, bagels, granola bars… along with lots of produce markdowns like $3 off bagged salad mixes and pints of mushrooms for 0.29! Of course now that we are moving in like a month I am kind of regretting the full pantry…

 

Lessons Learned

Opportunity truly is where patience meets action. We have been talking about what we want in our long term house forever, basically since we first moved here almost 5 years ago. We have been stalking the market all along, with alerts set for certain criteria.

A few tempting ones had come along over the years, but none that checked basically every single box like this one. So, when it’s right it’s right! And we gotta just go for it so we don’t miss our chance.

 

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Cincinnati Sweet Chili Pasta

 

For those of you who know what Cincinnati chili is, you don’t need me to tell you how great it can be! But it is also a pretty polarizing food, like cilantro, you either love it or hate it. Basically, you plop chili on top of cooked spaghetti, and then add a handful of cheese.

This all started back in the 1920s, when some Macedonian immigrants wanted to sell more food to people who were wary of ethnic cuisine. They developed a Mediterranean spiced tomato based mixture that they then put on hot dogs, which they called “coneys”.

This sauce then was added to alter Greek style pasta dishes, to make what he at first just called chili spaghetti. It was all cooked together, until customers began requesting it as just a topping. Then cheddar cheese got involved, beans were added, chopped onions, and now there are many “ways” to have a coney or Cinci chili.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 box spaghetti noodles (any shape will do)
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

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Step 1: Ideally, make the chili first, and let it simmer for a while. Simple mix the beans, tomatoes, chili powder and sugar together. You can do this on the stove, crock pot, or pressure cooker.

Step 2: Boil and drain the pasta noodles. Serve the sauce on top! You can alternately cook the noodles right in the chili, by adding an extra cup of water or so while simmering.

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The ingredients are super cheap, easy to find, and you probably have it in your pantry right now! If the thought of sweet pasta is weird to you, simply leave the brown sugar out of it, no problem.

This is a quick, tasty, very filling meal you can have on the table in 15 minutes flat! If you have the room in your budget, you can also top it with a mound of fresh grated cheddar.

 

Piled Higher and Deeper: The PhD Degree

 

Ahhh, the PhD Degree.

The prestige of being called “Doctor” without the pressure of potentially killing someone every day at work.

It is a lofty and worthy intellectual goal dreamed of and pursued by many thousands of students each year.

And abandoned by many thousands as well.

Myself included.

It’s a long story, for another time, of why I left a PhD program. But suffice it to say that it is not for the faint of heart.

You must be very driven and good at school from the get go. You need decent grades, and a solid undergrad under your belt to apply. The application process takes forever, is quite expensive, and you must be quick thinking on your feet to answer the many personal and academic questions.

Then once you get into a school, you must come up with a way to pay for all this nonsense, and study your butt off for at least a year, before being tossed into the wilderness of projects, experiments, grants, abstracts and paper writing.

“But universities have discovered that PhD students are cheap, highly motivated and disposable labour. With more PhD students they can do more research, and in some countries more teaching, with less money. A graduate assistant at Yale might earn $20,000 a year for nine months of teaching. The average pay of full professors in America was $109,000 in 2009—higher than the average for judges and magistrates.” (https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2017/nsf17306/static/report/nsf17306.pdf)

And so universities need people to continue to pursue a higher degree, so that they can continue to have droves of doctoral students and post-docs to pay far below the wages for actual professional employees.

This begs the eternal question:

But is it worth it?

Many people have had discussions like these, especially in the current changing graduate and post-graduate educational landscape. The Financial Diet has a good interview on their blog of a PhD candidate in the humanities and the financial ramifications thereof.

The tragedy is in the great divide between the intellectually rewarding ivory tower of academia and the well-paid but soul-sucking work in industry, and never the twain shall meet. This divide seems to be growing rather than both sides joining together to the benefit of all.

I think people are very interested in what getting a PhD is like, what life after is like, and if it is worth it in the long run. Obviously it is personal to each student, based on interests and career goals and chosen field.

So I decided to interview a friend of mine, who did successfully complete a PhD program.

B began a PhD in Human Medical Genetics & Genomics in the 20-teens, and finished in a total of 5 1/2 years. I knew B from back in the day when I was pursuing a PhD as well, though they completed the program whereas I did not.

We’ve kept in touch over the years, and they agreed to digitally sit down and answer a few burning questions for us all to enjoy. Questions in grey, with answers in red.

How did you decide you wanted to do a PhD/what topic to study?

When I started undergrad I really had no idea what a PhD really was… I started doing research in a couple labs thinking that I would start in industry right after I got my bachelors degree but one of my mentors nominated me for a summer internship program doing research in Milwaukee.

After that I decided I would try to get into a program. I had always loved genetics, I actually took all of the genetics courses that my university offered, so it was an easy decision what I wanted to focus on. I applied to mostly human genetics programs but also some broad genetics programs but decided that I was more interested in human phenotypes than plant or bacteria so I ultimately chose a human focused program. 

Did you have a long term career plan at the time?

When I started the PhD program, like most people when they start, I wanted to stay in academic research and have a lab of my own at a university. 

Did you have to take on any loans? 

I didn’t take out any loans for grad school.

(BE aside: the sciences have a distinct advantage here, in that we do not typically pay for a PhD, and in fact usually get paid a small stipend. To someone with a “real job” 30K is perhaps laughably small to live on, but to a liberal arts PhD paying 30K per year plus living expenses, science PhDs are #blessed.)

What do you think your career/salary would’ve looked like if you didn’t do the PhD? 

Without the excuse of the PhD I probably wouldn’t have gone so far from home. I probably would have ended up in a small biotech or hospital lab and probably making more than I currently am as a postdoc… the unfortunate truth of higher education is that it doesn’t always result in higher pay. 

How long did the PhD take to complete vs what you expected before you started? 

I took just under 5.5 years, which is the average for the type of program I was in, so it took just about as much time as I expected. 

How difficult was finding work after (postdoc)? 

I was really lucky and had an advisor (well he wasn’t my official advisor but certainly my mentor) that looked out for my future and set up an opportunity to meet with someone who was doing the kind of research I was interested in. I contacted her within a week had set up an interviewed, even before I had finished my PhD. This is not a common experience…

What does the career path look like now? 

I’m in the 3rd year of my postdoc and I’m still a little torn on where to head. I’ve been working towards an academic career but recently been exploring alternative paths. Being 30 and not having roots is hard for me. 

What are your options if you want to leave academia, and does having done the PhD help or hurt? 

Outside of academia, I’m considering industry and medical genetics careers. Having a PhD puts me in higher positions at both of this places but can be limiting if you don’t want the more managerial type position.

If I wanted to focus more on bench work, I think it would be more difficult to find a position, most established companies have a degree based pay scale and aren’t interested in paying someone more money for something that can be done by someone without a PhD.

What would you say to anyone considering pursuing a PhD now? 

Really think about what you want to do and where you want to be in 5-10 years and whether you need a PhD to get there. Prepare yourself for the emotional roller coaster that is grad school, it can be very draining and it’s important to have a support system. 

Would you make any different decisions if you knew 10 years ago what you know now? 

I would make the same choice, I’ve enjoyed the journey and still have my love and passion for science, with new found interests in mentorship and management. 

 

And there you have it, straight from the source of someone who made it through and is living the Doctor life. I’m happy that B is doing so well, and in a position they enjoy.

 

 

Weekly Eating – Jan 17, MLK week

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

 

Over the weekend I made a big batch of falafel patties with chickpeas, fresh turmeric root, flax, and barley. These are a great thing to have for quick sandwiches and wraps. I also made a big batch of roasted chickpeas for snacking, and buffalo cauliflower. And of course a batch of carrot cake muffins!

Oh, and I got the boy hooked on the “tortilla hack” now, he is really good at it! Basically you cut halfway across a tortilla. Put fillings on each quarter, and use cheese or a dip on one end to “seal” it. Fold a quarter up, then over, then over again to create a triangle with all the fillings inside, and fry on both sides until warm and crispy.

Monday:

Breakfast – carrot cake muffins

Lunch – leftover falafel in a wrap with veggies and cashew cream

Snack – roasted chickpeas

Dinner – baked potato with chili and guac and tofu sour cream

Tuesday:

Breakfast – carrot cake muffins & a matcha latte

Lunch – leftover falafel in a wrap with veggies and cashew cream

Snack – choc chip Clif bar

Dinner – oyster mushroom risotto

Snack – popcorn of course, since it was national popcorn day!

Wednesday:

Kiddo had to have a procedure reeeeeeal early, so today was expected to be a sleepy day. I had breakfast sandwiches ready to go so we would have something at least and not have to order food there or on the way.

Breakfast – ham and egg bagels

Lunch – we ended up ordering from a local Italian place. Neither of us had energy to cook and we like to support local. We got the biggest Hawaiian pizza they had, and a veggie calzone for me.

Dinner – while we were ordering anyways we just got both lunch and dinner, so philly sandwiches from the same place

Thursday:

Breakfast – carrot cake muffins

Snack – smoothie with frozen berries, flaxseed, and turmeric

Lunch – beans and rice with salsa

Dinner – leftover veggie calzone

Friday:

Breakfast – a vegan skillet with potatoes, peppers, onions, and these amazing sausage tofu crumbles! It tastes like the real deal.

Lunch – leftover risotto and a salad

Snack – roasted chickpeas

Dinner – haluski, which is noodles and cabbage. It is a Slovak dish, that my family has made and loved for generations. Kiddo was a big fan!

The Weekend

This weekend will be chill, just hanging out at home. A hike on Sunday, and maybe some game time with the sister in law.

Food Total: $79.68

This weekend I journeyed to Li Ming’s global market, my very favorite asian grocery store in the area. Asian diets are extremely healthy, even with the excess of white rice and sodium, because of their focus on fresh veggies, lots of greens, and soy. Which in turn means little or no meats, dairy, and extremely processed junk.

Asian markets are the best place for tons of fresh produce, much of which you cannot find, or if present is very expensive in other supermarkets. For example, I got beets that were almost as big as my head for $2 each, but at Harris Teeter I’d pay $5 for three that together didn’t even weigh as much as one of these monsters.

Staples $22.02 Fruit/Veg $44.11
Chili fermented hot sauce 2.99 turmeric root 4.61
can jackfruit 3 5.37 cabbage 2.17
relax tea 3.99 mushrooms 3.5
silken tofu 2 3.38 cauliflower 2.49
huge pack firm tofu 6.29 napa cabbage 3.38
oysters 2 7.41
bok choi 1.81
edamame 1.99
mini oysters 4
garlic 5 1.99
beets (GIANT) 2 3.59
red onion 1 1.27
purple yam 2.39
sweet potato 2 2.2
zucchini 2 1.31

 

Lessons Learned

It definitely pays to shop around. And it is definitely worth checking out ethnic markets. You never know what delicacies they may have, that are dirt cheap in their home country but way overpriced at your local superstore. Speaking of, it might be about time for a trip to the Indian spice store I love… I’m nearly out of sesame seeds and ginger paste.

 

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Faux-fil-a chicken tenders

 

This recipe happened right after I had just said “I don’t know what I want and I don’t feel like cooking tonight”. But then I looked in the refrigerator, and realized I had thawed some chicken tenders. I looked in the pantry and realized I had an open half bag of chips.

And I really wanted to get some fried chicken fast food, but knew it isn’t good for me. Eureka! I will make my own!

Whether it’s Sunday and you just want chick-fil-A, or anytime, these tenders are tasty. And while they bake, you can whip up a honey mustard dipping sauce that will impress the pants off whoever is lucky enough to be sharing with you. And if you’re eating it all yourself, more power to you.

For the chicken:

  • 2 pounds chicken, either tenders or breasts cut into chunks/strips
  • 1 cup flour
  • ~1 tsp each: garlic powder, salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne (optional)
  • 2 eggs + 1/4 cup pickle juice (optional)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup crushed potato chips

Step 1: If you have breasts, cut them into strips or chunks. Put the flour and spices on one plate, scramble the eggs with the pickle juice in a bowl, and mix the breadcrumbs with the chips on a third plate. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Step 2: One piece of chicken at a time, roll it in the flour and spices, then dip into the egg/pickle mixture, and then roll to coat with the breadcrumbs/chips mixture. Place them on a baking sheet.

Step 3: Bake at 350 for ~20 minutes, or until no longer pink in the center.

Meanwhile, for the honey mustard:

  • 3 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 2 tbsp whole grain or spicy mustard
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup mayo or plain Greek yogurt
  • Splash of lemon juice

Mix all the ingredients together for the honey mustard. You may need to heat the honey briefly to get it liquidy enough, I put it in the microwave for 22 seconds. Then dip and enjoy!

Weekly Eating – Jan 10, 2021

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Well, seems like everyone saying “2020 will be over and 2021 will be so great!” made 2021 go, “hold my beer!”

Wed. January 6th, armed Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building, apparently to stop the affirmation of Biden as the next President. It’s on Wikipedia already, so there you go. We are living through some pretty historic times. And it seems we’re not done yet.

I don’t have any answers. I’m just getting through one day at a time just like all of you guys. Still processing, still coping, still trying to hold onto hope. All I can say is, keep doing what you need to do to keep you and your loved ones as safe and sane as possible.

Anywhoooo… let’s talk about food!

I had a long stint of not feeling very inspired to cook, I’m sure caused by many factors. Hormones post-partum are no joke people, but that’s a long a$s story for another day. Now I’m finally feeling a little more hopeful, a little more myself, which means a lot more obsessed with food and cooking.

I re-read How Not To Die again, which always reminds me of the million little things I can be doing/eating to be in even better health. My favorite point is ‘eating is a zero sum game’ meaning every thing you put in your mouth, you are choosing not to eat any other of the million things out there. So make the majority of choices good ones.

Oh, we are also on a good workout kick so far! The boy has decided this is the year to focus really hard on optimizing overall health. That means mental and physical, in every way. We are cutting down on caffeine, basically cold turkey stopped alcohol, and doing a veganish couple weeks. Plus workouts every other day. This is always a goal of mine but boy is it a hundred million times easier with a partner on board!

 

Monday:

Breakfast – I made a big batch of hummus over the weekend, and had a crazy idea to put it on toast. So I had toast with hummus and pickled onions, and avocado toast with some strawberries. Pretty great actually. Savory for breakfast works.

Lunch – leftovers from the weekend

Dinner – was planning to make a white bean pasta, but the boy requested the fanciest of dinners… boxed mac n cheese. I can’t say no to that! At least we both had a salad with it.

Snack – yeah, so then I had ice cream. With pecans and caramel sauce, cause go big or go home.

Tuesday:

Breakfast – avocado toast, like a good milennial, with hummus too (basically combined both yesterday’s into one)

Lunch – leftover mac n cheese, a veggie dog, leftover mashed potatoes and green beans

Snack – a peanut Clif bar

Dinner – a fanTAStic curry! I basically simmered 2 diced sweet potatoes, half a head of cauliflower, 1 can chickpeas, 1 can diced tomatoes, and 1 diced onion with turmeric, 1 tbsp garlic paste, and ginger for about an hour. Then I added some cayenne and 1/4 cup of coconut concentrate, and served over rice.

2 walks and 2 HIIT sessions! Boy were my glutes mad about all the squats health people love to do so much.

Wednesday:

Breakfast – super fail… y’all I’m gonna throw myself under the bus here, I tried to make a delicious egg scramble with mushrooms, peppers, and potato… but I saw a can of diced potatoes in the pantry. Figured I should use it. Didn’t check the date.

Guys. It expired in 2017 💀  So… um… that tasted weird, and we threw it out. I had peanut butter toast.

Lunch – leftover curry yum yum

Snack – an apple & orange

Dinner –a bomb Mexi casserole that I posted about on Instagram. Basically bake quinoa and a boatload of beans and veggies, then top with salsa, guac, and vegan queso and sour cream. Mmmmmm

Did a short 15 minute walking video. Leslie is my girl, but Get Fit With Rick is my new favorite to mix it up.

Thursday:

Breakfast – berry oatmeal! I microwaved a handful of mixed berries, some oats, and almond milk. Added some flaxseed and cinnamon, and YUM

Lunch – leftover curry

Dinner – terikayi tempeh stir fry. I used this recipe for the sauce and wow, do not use a full cup of soy sauce! It was salty, even for me, which is saying a lot, and wayyyy too wet.

Snack – I was good in the morning and had homemade hummus with bell peppers, but then in the afternoon the sweet tooth attacked, and I may have allegedly eaten some frozen cookie dough… and also some leftover mac n cheese… hey, I’m still breastfeeding!

More HIIT, because we are gluttons for punishment.

Friday:

Breakfast – everything bagel with cashew cream cheese and cherry butter, yum yum!

Lunch – more leftovers and a salad

Snack – hummus with chips and peppers

Dinner – vegan chili over baked potatoes, with tofu sour cream and avocado! this was super quick and easy in the instant pot.

The Weekend

This is a long weekend thanks to Martin Luther King day on Monday. I didn’t realize until halfway through the week that it was a holiday, so that was a nice little surprise. We will spend the weekend relaxing and catching up on chores.

We are lucky to have an auntie nearby who LOVES kids and is willing to watch the little guy. So he is going to go hang out there while we get stuff done. I’m going to do a big batch cooking day, plus lots of laundry, organizing, finishing the bathroom remodel, and probably taking down Christmas decor (sad face).

Food Total: $88

Did a Harris Teeter run last weekend to re-stock produce and pick up a bunch of necessities for Veganuary like tofu and tempeh. I got some salad, frozen berries, whole grain bread, and lots of flour for my homemade bread and rolls since I was OUT after the holidays. Plus some deli meat in case of emergency for the boy.

Lessons Learned

We are definitely creatures of habit and convenience. In order to make healthy eating as easy as possible, I need to have food ready to go. If it requires much more than put bowl in microwave and heat, there is not a big chance it will happen. Good thing my cooking mojo is back! It definitely makes more and more sense why people eat so much takeout and pre-prepared foods though. Especially with kids, good grief.

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

New parent humor

 

Having a kid is a lotta work, there’s no denying that. And it is a lot of unpleasant things. But any parent will tell you “it’s all worth it”. I’m not sure about that just yet, but hey, we are only a few months in! Just kidding, it definitely is worth it.

But you know what helps when you’re covered in spit up and poo and the baby has been crying for an hour and it’s 3am and you’re not sure what your name is anymore? Laughter!

So I came up with a list of funny things I’ve heard or said, or stories I’ve been told about things new parents do, say, and think. Feel free to add your own in the comments!

You know you’re a new parent when…
  • You have no idea what day it is, or even what month usually
  • You’re pretty sure you showered, on Tuesday… of last week…
  • You discover a new thing you can do with only one hand every day
  • You drop food on your baby’s head, and just wipe it off, or eat it
  • You’ve worn or carried your kid while peeing, and felt guilty
  • You now look at your diaper stash, which previously you thought would surely last until kindergarten, and think, “maybe I should buy a few more cases while they’re on sale…”
  • You wake in the night to make a bottle or breastfeed and think “I cannot wait until they can eat solid food!”
  • You look at the floor, baby, walls, and think, “why did I let them start eating solid food??”
  • Your baby takes a longer than normal nap, and you have to check a few times just to make sure they’re still breathing
  • You’ve invented approximately 14567 new baby songs, and can’t remember any of them
  • If you’ve never been good at napping, suddenly you have that ability, because your body just shuts off anytime it can
  • You realize you now talk to everyone, including your spouse, parents, and the dog, in a high pitched silly baby voice
  • Everything now ends in “ies” and rhymes whenever possible “changies”, “milkies”, “burpies”…
  • You’re already out of the house and think “huh, I hope I have pants on / my shirt isn’t covered in milk / my underwear aren’t inside out”
  • People ask how you’re doing and you say “fine, great!” while thinking “HAAAAAAAALP! I haven’t left the house in 2 weeks or slept since October, I have no idea where any of my socks are and we’re running low on frozen pizzas!”
  • Someone brings you food, or does your dishes, and you just want to hug them until they can’t breathe
  • You find some old food in your bra… and probably eat it

And more input from the amazing folks of Twitter (there are some significant trends…):

  • “When sleep and time for yourself is one of life’s greatest luxuries” – Dr. McFrugal
  • “Lunch is at 10:30” – Kirk
  • “It’s 9:30pm and you’re upset you’re not in bed” – Mr. Burrito Bowl
  • “When baby finally sleeps through the night and you run to check the crib in the morning” –Steve
  • “I’ll try to remember to come back to this when I have a spare minute…” – Dillon @ Dollar Revolution

 

If you’re a parent, anything to add? I’d love to hear your funny moments below!

Weekly Eating – December 2020

 

Mid-December, and I’m going through periods where it feels very Christmasy because so many people are going big on decorations this year, and periods where I’m still kind of in denial/limbo with time; what even is it, you know? Between a 6 month old baby and all *waves hands helplessly* THIS stuff… who knows what day it is.

We continue to count our blessings in a big way. I am in a stable job, with a team I love, where I can work from home. We have a home. We were able to get a folding table so I could move my work station upstairs and be warm for the winter. Now my commute is literally 1 foot from my bed, which is both good and bad in ways.

Baby is growing and learning and becoming more and more delightful by the day. He is settling into a more predictable pattern of feeding and naps, and sleeps through the night a little more than half the time. This is *peak* baby cuteness, and I am so thankful for this time to fully enjoy and savor it. He will be crawling and walking and terrorizing us and the dogs in no time!

Anyways, we are also blessed with steady income, which means a stable grocery budget. Our budget has definitely gone up, as food prices keep inching upwards and now I’m eating a bit more from breastfeeding, as well as kiddo is trying solids too.

So we shoot for $400-500 a month now, between groceries and takeout. We are trying to order once a week from local independent restaurants since this all happened.

Going into December, we had a fair stock of meats from the most recent Butcher Box, but were down to nearly no fresh produce as I am shopping only every other week now. So I shop less often, but bigger when I do. I try to rotate between canned goods, pantry staples like flour/rice/tortillas, frozen items, and pick up the fresh stuff each time.

A run to ALDI restocked the dairy, oodles of fresh produce to last 2 weeks, and some more meats that I could individually package for the boy, as Veganuary is coming up soon!

Hubs will eat some of the same things, but I do not expect him to be fully on board for a whole month. Therefore, I put chicken quarters and 1/2 pounds of meat in the freezer, so he can add to whatever we are having or whip up some burritos anytime.

ALDI – 12/10/2020 $132.34
Meats $36.94 Dairy $28.35 Staples $31.09 Fruit/Veg $28.27 Extras $7.69
meatless sausages 4 2.89 greek yogurts mixins 4 3.56 guacamole 2 5.98 frozen broccoli 4 3.4
1lb deli ham 2.95 blueberry rasp yogurt 12 3.84 almond milk 2 3.58 spring mix 3.59 quart bags 1.89
salmon side 13.46 cottage cheese 2 3.18 baby teething rusks 1.79 brussels sprouts 1.49 oreos 2* 3.1
3lb ground beef 7.95 plain greek yogurt 3.29 baby blueberry puffs 1.15 spinach 1.19
whole chicken 4.65 unsalted butter 2 3.58 baby pouch prune 0.79 romaine 2.19
chicken quarters 5.04 eggz 3 dozen 1.74 mayo 1.79 grape tomato 1.79 tax 2.7
shredded cheese 2 5.58 pita chips 2.29 3 bell peppers 2.69
sliced cheese 2 3.58 pumpkin seeds 2.05 cauliflower 2.29
mild salsa 1.9 zucchini 3 1.67lb 1.99
pinto beans 4lb 2.99 yellow squash 3 1.65lb 1.96
potato 10lb 3.89 broccoli crowns 1.63lb 2.36
red potato 5lb 2.89 avocado 5 2.19
bananas 5 1.14

 

*I think ALDI brand Oreos are far superior, sorry Nabisco. They are more chocolatey and crunchy, which I love. They have become my absolute favorite indulgence. Too bad the Bitches Get Riches team didn’t have an ALDI to include them in their ranked chocolate cookie taste test! ALDI would have won for sure.

I also got some baby puffs and teething biscuits to try out. I’m so excited to have him try avocado for the first time! Snacks will include hard boiled eggs, bananas and apples, and homemade hummus with peppers and pita chips.

The meal plan includes lots of salads and fresh veggie sides. We will have salmon, crock pot lasagna, and some sort of mexi dish for sure. I will probably also make beans and rice, some sort of soup, and lots of potato dishes. Half of the salmon I will use to make my own lox! It is super easy, and way cheaper than buying it.

Then the week before Christmas, I did another stock up run to Harris Teeter to get things we would need for Christmas. Our parents both drove in from out of town, to spend kiddo’s first Christmas together!

We planned for at least 1 big fancy dinner and several smaller meals plus some takeout. I had been watching the Great British Bakeoff, and was inspired to make a super fancy sausage wreath! It was my first time working with puff pastry, and I think I cooked it slightly too long, but overall I was quite pleased.

It was definitely a holiday that no one expected, but we still got to spend time together and that is what is most important.

I also made some more sweets, because you must. I did a big batch of chocolate peanut butter Buckeyes, which I shared with some neighbors, and also made a big batch of Cracker Cookies with mom while she was here.

Dairy $20.44 Staples $38.93 Fruit/Veg $51.20 Extras $98.86
chobani 4pk x2 3.99 HT Peanut butter x2 3.98 can whole plums 0.99 fizzy water cans 2
yogurts 10 4 wheat cheerios 1.49 can mandarin oranges 1.98 frozen choc chip cookies x2 3.98
half and half 1.69 dry chickpeas 3lb 3.87 markdown produce 4.77 pecan pie 4.99
sliced cheddar 24 4.99 canned beans x6 2.94 bananas 2.07 puff pastry 5.49
block cheddar 1.49 simmer sauces x2 4 carrots 10lb 5.99 popcorn 1.5
block colby jack 1.49 granola cereal 2.99 sweet potatoes 1.43 ice breakers 7.98
vanilla ice cream 2.79 maple syrup 4.99 canned peaches 3.75 choc chips x3 6
gerber splashers x2 5.68 broccoli/carrot mix x2 5 lara bar x3 3
tortillas 5.99 beets 2.99
rice x2 3 baby carrots 0.99
kalamata olives x2 7
less sugar wild 3.99
brussels sprouts x2 5 tax 7.49
red cabbage 2.8
jicama 1.65
turnips 0.8

 

We had a wonderful holiday, with lots of presents, looking at lights, walks outside, and baby giggles. My mom taught me another type of crochet stitch, and brought me some super soft yarn. So now I have a scarf project, ETA 2025.  😀

We also celebrated another birthday season, with more presents, more sweets, and some lovely alone time for me! Once you have a kid, it’s amazing how hard it is to find any time to do literally anything that requires two hands, and/or some amount of focus.

Moving into January, we have tons of leftovers still from the holidays. We have several containers of dirt cake, shredded meats from the boy’s request for “the ultimate burrito” on his birthday, lots of cookies still, etc. So we are eating up those things, and then will attempt a more vegan-ish rest of January!

 

Hope you all had a restful holiday season!

Making your own baby food: Is it worth it?

 

I’ve spent thirty-some years thinking about feeding myself, almost a decade thinking about feeding one growing boy (hubs), and now am starting a journey of thinking about feeding another small human! It is super fun for me, but I recognize not everyone thinks so.

There are so many decisions to be made when feeding baby, the first of which is breastfeeding, formula feeding, or a combination. There is no wrong answer here, fed is best! Not everyone can breastfeed, and not everyone wants to. These are all valid reasons. We ended up doing a combo, with mostly breastfeeding and supplementation with formula, and it worked for us.

Of course, the next step is solids!

And this changes everything. Not to get too graphic, but the daily presents in the diaper change drastically. It can also change baby’s sleeping patterns, and if you are breastfeeding it tips off another round of emotional and hormonal readjustment for mom.

But boy is it fun!

Now baby can eat at the table or high chair, just like you. Well, sort of. Baby needs to start slow before they gnaw on their first ribeye or caesar salad. They start out with very well cooked and finely mashed or pureed foods. Typically, rice cereal or oatmeal.

“How do you know if your child is ready for foods other than breast milk or infant formula? You can look for these signs that your child is developmentally ready:

  • Your child can sit with little or no support.
  • Your child has good head control.
  • Your child opens his or her mouth and leans forward when food is offered.” (CDC.gov)

But the good news is, that doesn’t have to be baby’s first food, or only food. Babies can eat almost everything we can! It just needs to be the proper texture based on their age and ability. Sometime between 4 months and 6 months of age, you can start down the food-splatter-lined road of solids.

*Disclaimer: I AM NOT A DOCTOR. Please talk to your pediatrician about what, how, and when to feed your baby.*

The first thing you feed your baby can be pretty much anything, as long as it is well cooked, and pureed. If you want to also strain it, to remove any chunks, you can do so. We did not, I think we went with cooked brown rice that was put through a blender. But we quickly moved on to sweet potatoes, black beans, broccoli, and more.

Basically, whatever I was cooking for dinner or for the week, I kept a little extra aside and cooked it a little longer. For example, steamed sweet potatoes, I’d let an extra one boil just a bit longer, or remove our broccoli when still a little crisp but leave a few florets to steam. Then I’d toss the extra-soft stuff in the food processor, or use my immersion blender if it was cooked in the instant pot/crockpot.

I had gotten some used silicone ice cube molds which turned out to be perfect for the occasion, but any ice cube tray would do. You could even use old egg cartons if you’re feeling ridiculously thrifty!

I started doing this around 2 months of age, and then put the food cubes into labelled baggies in the freezer. That way, by the time he was about 4 1/2 months, we had quite a variety of foods in stock. And I just continue to do this, adding to my stash here and there as I find sales or notice a particular food type/color is running low.

I try to make sure he gets at least 1 green veggie (zucchini and broccoli are favorites), at least 1 orange veggie like carrots or pumpkin, at least 1 protein (beef, chicken, beans), and some rice cereal for the iron. He usually gets some kind of fruit for dessert, banana, pears, applesauce, blueberries…

As he was first trying new foods, I gave him one cube, once a day, for 3 days in a row. This is to make sure if he has a reaction, we know what it is he is allergic to. Once foods were given with no reaction, then I could start mixing them.

His appetite also started picking up, where by month 5 he ate 2-3 cubes twice a day, and by 6 months at least 3 cubes 3 x a day, usually more like 4 plus a little bit of whatever I was eating.

Sweet potatoes and squashes are a steal year round, but around the holidays they go even lower, so he has had sweet potatoes or pumpkin almost every day. We were given a big bag of pureed pumpkin by a neighbor, so that huge volume will last a long time and was free for us!

Bag of frozen berries, 8.99 for 10 cups. 1/2 cup made 12 cubes, so each cube = 0.037 or roughly 4 cents. And berries are among the more expensive things he eats. Broccoli is usually on sale 0.99/lb, and one pound of florets makes 20 or so cubes, so about 5 cents. But I can also use frozen broccoli, which is even cheaper per pound and has the same amount of nutrients.

And now that he has tried many foods with no problems, I can mix them together as well. For example, I mixed a cup of frozen cherries, a can of sliced beets, and spinach together into a sweet, bright red puree. He LOVES it! And gets a crazy amount of nutrition from one ounce of food.

Let’s say homemade baby food ranges from 0.01 – 0.10 per cube, with an average of 4 cents.

Month 4 = 1 cube per day x 30 days = $1.20
Month 5 = 5 cubes per day x 30 days = $6.00
Month 6 = 10 cubes per day x 30 days = $12.00

So, three months worth of baby food for only $19.20! That’s not a bad deal at all.

Now, this is as far as we’ve gotten, but I assume his appetite will only increase. However, he can now eat finger foods, and more chunky textures. So I will no longer need to puree and freeze things, merely set his portion of dinner aside before adding any salt or sugar (spices are totally fine).

Let’s assume he adds just about ten bucks per month to our usual grocery budget, at least for a year or two. By then all babies are eating regular food (hopefully) and no longer needing the jarred variety. And I’m sure the food costs are just exponential from there, if his love of bouncing is any indicator of how active he will be!

In contrast, the baby food at the grocery store near me has a range of prices, based on brand, volume, and whether or not it is organic. But the lowest priced baby jar I saw was 0.99 for about an ounce.

So let’s say baby eats one per day Month 4, two per day Month 5, and 3-4 per day Month 6, plus the occasional puff, squeeze pouch, or cheerios. Those add another $5 per week.

Month 4 = 0.99 x 30 =$29.70
Month 5 = 0.99 x2 x 30 = $59.40
Month 6 = 0.99 x 3 x 30 + (5×4) = $109.10

In just three months you have spent $198.20 on baby food! 

Not to mention the dozens of glass and plastic pouches, containers, squeezes, lids, labels etc.

By making our own baby food, we saved approximately $179 in the first three months of solids!

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with store bought. I am not out to shame anyone. There is a huge convenience factor here. When you need to feed baby on the go, you need a container. And sometimes you just don’t want to cook. Or you want baby to try something new. These are all fine reasons to go for the gerber.

We have some pouches and containers at the ready in the pantry, because sometimes baby wants food NOW and he cannot possibly wait the 33 seconds for the cubes to be heated up. Or I want to add juuuust a little something more, so a splash of pear sauce will round out the meal. Or I just want to keep him quiet for a second with store brand cheerios. THAT IS OKAY TOO.

But, it is not just about the money.

I also care deeply about what we put into our bodies and how it impacts lifelong health. A large part of why I wanted to make my own baby’s food is that I try to also make all the adult’s food too, and make it the healthiest possible option.

Baby food is something I would trust more than adult food in general, as we usually care more for infant health (sad but true). And most baby foods are carefully regulated to not contain many of the dyes, pesticides, chemicals, etc that can be found in “regular” processed foods like sauces, pizzas, bread, cereal, and more.

But even on one-ingredient baby foods, I find myself wondering how it was processed, was there high heat and pressure? Did they deplete nutrients? Where did the carrots come from originally?

When I make it myself I no longer have to wonder.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has an interactive timeline on reported feeding habits of babies in their first year. Unfortunately it reports some discouraging trends, like a drop off around 7-9 months in fruits and vegetable consumption as non-nutritive finger foods are introduced (puffs, rice snacks, crackers, etc) and an increase in TV watching/ mobile device exposure.

“The recent Institute of Medicine Report Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Policies highlights what pediatricians know and have been struggling to address. The obesity epidemic is reaching our nation’s youngest children.

  • Almost 10 percent of infants and toddlers have high weights for length.
  • Slightly over 20 percent of children aged 2 to 5 are overweight or obese.
  • Approximately one in five children is already carrying excess weight as he or she enters kindergarten.
  • Children who are obese at age six have been found to have a greater than 50% chance of being obese as adults, regardless of parental obesity status.
Additional literature suggests that the acceleration of the obesity problem occurs in the first years of life as lifelong dietary intake patterns, eating habits, sleep routines, and food preferences are established.”

So, whether you feed baby homemade foods or not, you should try to err on the side of variety. Make sure your baby (and you!) has a wide variety of colors throughout the day and the week. Every food has a different palette of vitamins and minerals, and you need balance over time to make sure you get them all.

Aim for 4-5 different fruits and vegetables every day, and as many as you can handle! No upper limit. And try to fit some movement into your day, whether that is doing “baby-ups” to work your arms and entertain baby, sit ups to play peek a boo, or a relaxing walk with the stroller or baby carrier. You will both feel great!

 

 

The fusion of food, fun, frugality, and curiosity.