This week has been fairly easy as far as cooking dinner goes and that totally excites me. I’ve even made a completely different dish every night, almost winging it the entire time! We started out Monday with a roast chicken and butternut squash risotto. Tuesday, we used some of the leftovers for roast chicken with Ultimate creamy mashed potatoes and gravy. Wednesday (Halloween!), we spiced it up, using the remaining leftovers for a rum and honey glazed chicken over spiced coconut rice. And of course, today…we started the leftovers routine all over again with a lemon beer glazed chicken with leftover mashed potatoes and spicy carrots. Chicken every night sounds a bit horrifyingly redundant, but even just changing up the sauce can help a repeated main dish do a 180. Of course, ideally, we’d have a range of main dishes, but this is as far as I could get myself to go this week. Baby steps! I can’t even tell you the last time we had this much variation, so chicken every night is fine by me!
There’s a reason we’ve been eating like this anyway; it simply makes life easier! I’ve felt so relaxed and at ease in the evenings, which is something that I never seem to feel. It started with G.’s goûter (“goo-tay”). Yes, I am using a foreign word to describe my kid’s late afternoon snack. So sue me 🙂 The entire reason I even thought to start doing this is because I’ve read about the French tradition a few times now, and, of course I’ve just made a little habit of using the word, though it really is just a sweet, late afternoon snack. It’s like a Godsend to me, though. See, I’m against snacking…I just don’t want to have a child who’s hungry at any given time, in which case I need to constantly be prepared, lugging around little snack containers, “just in case.” It seems a bit silly to me that parents should be toting around so many things to occupy their children rather than teaching them to contain themselves. That’s a different topic, though…the point is, I try not to allow G. to snack.
I obviously have many, many opinions about food consumption…and on the point of snacking, my issue is that 1) I don’t want to have to tote around “just in case” snacks, 2) I don’t want my child to end up full by dinner, 3) I want my child to learn to deal with hunger and wait until the appropriate time to eat, 4) I don’t want my child to learn to regard food as a reward or a soothing device–that’s when people start to get themselves in trouble! I remember the first time I used food as a soothing device…I was having some love trouble, having found out heartbreaking news, and was suddenly consumed with the need to bake a chocolate cake and devour the entire thing. A box mix chocolate cake with jarred frosting off the shelf. Woo! Anyway, I’m usually the type to starve my emotions, but something different overcame me and I went nuts baking this cake and eating it in all its delicious, chocolate glory. That’s what officially got me started on my love affair with food. Before that point, I was perfectly content cooking nothing, baking nothing, and eating buttered noodles or plain chicken with mashed potatoes every…single…night. I was insanely picky too. Surprise! 😉
Back to the point…I ate my emotions for the first time and continued to do so afterward. I couldn’t stop baking and eating, baking and eating…so I went from 120/125 lbs to 140 over the next few years. Sure, some of it may have been my metabolism slowing, some of it my change in diet…but the point is, if someone learns to self-soothe with food, they can end up with a great love-hate relationship and find themselves in a position of unhealthiness, weight gain, and guilt when eating should be nothing short of pleasurable at all times. So, one of the last things I want is for my daughter to get upset or bored (worse yet!) and think “I have an odd craving for milk and cookies…I think they’ll save the day!” The same goes for shopping. What could be worse than putting yourself in debt because buying clothes is the only thing that makes you happy when you’re upset? Better pray you are NEVER upset!
Anyway…I’m always going off on tangents. The bottom line is, I don’t want G. to get used to snacking. Of course, this is America, not France, so snacking is inevitable and I’ll deal with that by teaching her to crave nutritious foods like fruit, vegetables, nuts, and the like. However, for the time being, I’m in control of everything my daughter eats and I say she’s not getting a snack unless truly necessary…or unless it’s 4 o’clock and time for her goûter 🙂 Which first happened Monday…I can’t even quite recall what made me think to do it at that moment, but we’d gotten home from my parents’ house and I just thought, “Let me toast an English muffin and spread a little hazelnut butter on top to tide her over until dinner,” and it worked! She sat in her high chair, blissfully gnawing on little slices of English muffin, getting warm, gooey hazelnut butter all over her face, hands, and clothes. It was so cute…and so convenient. I got a lot of cleaning done in the kitchen! And even got a slight head start on dinner before B. got home and was able to take care of G. from there while I got the meal truly going.
I’ve been doing this every day since then and it works like a charm each time. So, my latest plan to organize our time is to continue with this practice…allowing G. a late afternoon snack once she’s gotten up from her nap, in which case I can take my time getting dinner together, ensuring that we only eat by 7 rather than frantically trying to get something finished by 5. It’s world’s easier. And, as such…I was able to make an amazing Monday night dinner with what felt like minimal effort.
First, I roasted a chicken in my new Le Creuset French oven (it’s really a Dutch oven, but the company labels them as “French”) and, honestly, I can almost think of nothing easier than roasting a chicken. It feels like people make it out to be some big to-do, roasting anything, but it’s beyond simple and effective. So, I put a chicken in the French oven along with some softened onions, herbs, garlic, and cubed butternut squash, threw it in the oven, and then sat on my butt for the next hour. When the chicken was finished, I started the risotto–it had the perfect timing because a roasted chicken needs about a 20-minute resting period, which is about the exact amount of time it takes to cook risotto (which you have to serve immediately!). So, I stood at the stove for 20 minutes, leisurely stirring my butternut squash risotto (instant roasted squash since I had it cooking alongside the chicken) and, once that was finished, I only had to dice up a couple pieces of chicken and throw them on top! The end 😉 Did I mention this was a one-pot meal? While the chicken rested on a cutting board, I used the French oven to cook the risotto! Though, I guess technically I used two pots because I needed a very small pot of chicken stock kept warm on the stove for the risotto. So much more to clean….. 😉
So, that was Monday and you know the rest from there…I diced up some chicken so it was ready to go for B. and I at our next meals (all I had to do was make sauces and warm up the pieces in the sauce before serving) and I shredded one little container’s worth for G. I love having my main course ready-to-go 🙂