Back to Work Food Prep

Wow! I have been away for a while and I’ve missed you!  It’s been a busy week, and I’ve successfully completed my first day away from Ezekiel.

In short, we all had a good day – I’ll expand on my thoughts/feelings/stresses later on. For now let’s focus on how I prepared last week.

Last week my parents came to visit before their departure to the US for the winter.  It was so so so fantastic to have them here, and Ezekiel was over the moon.  He is smitten with them and that makes my heart so happy.  It goes without saying that they are equally or even more so smitten with him.  So with them being here it was easy for me to keep my promise to myself.  I did very minimal things (but I did learn how to hem pants thanks to my mom!), but the day they left I went into full fledged preparation/stress mode.

Honestly, preparing and organizing three people is like a full time job in itself! I spent the weekend doing laundry, cleaning the house, organizing meals, prepping Ezekiel’s food (in another post I’ll explain this), getting bottles ready, preparing my work bag and Ezekiel’s dayhome bag.  I thought I’d share the food portion of my organizing.

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I’ve been using my Erin Condren Life Planner to plan our suppers (this week looks like a huge mess!) we are just finishing up our last bulk order of meat so it’s been hard to plan original meals! Anyways on the days I’m working I’ve planned to use our freezer meals.

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After planning our suppers I decided I needed to plan mine and Ezekiel’s full days of meals, that way I don’t have to think about food on the days I’m working.  Since I work 12 hour days I have to plan every meal from breakfast to supper.  We’ve had to start pureeing Ezekiel’s food again so I’ve left his blank for this week as I get used to it.  For my dinners I’ll just eat what I’ve already planned for suppers at home.  Snacks at work are essential to save me money and calories, otherwise I’ll be wandering to the coffee shop on my breaks and spending too much money on unnecessary things.

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Although I didn’t plan specifics for Ezekiel’s meals I did spend Saturday morning prepping all this food for him.  I mix and match for his lunches and suppers.  So far he’s enjoyed each of my concoctions. It’s been great to be able to just grab the containers, and throw some stuff into the blender.

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I reorganized our fridge to help with the planning.  The top left shelf is all of Ezekiel’s food.  the top right is beverages and dairy.  The middle left is yogurt and fruit.  Middle right is leftovers and miscellaneous.  The bottom shelf I’ve placed our planned food.

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The left is a bin for my lunches. All previously frozen into individual portions, I just pull them out of the freezer and put them in the bin.  The middle is a bin for snacks I’ve prepared and frozen (granola bars/scones etc.) again I just have to pull them out of the freezer and place them in the bin.  On the right is the meats I’ll be using for the week when I’m not working.  I take them out of the freezer and put them in the bowl to thaw.

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Behind the bowl I put the freezer meals that Carlos can grab and heat for suppers when I’m working.

I’ve only been back to work for a day but so far I’m loving this planning and prepping.  It’s taken a lot of stress off of going back to work.

My Food Journey

Tea and Peaches

I thought I’d write a bit about food and my evolving philosophy and relationship with it.

I love food.  Always have. Always will.

I grew up in a meat and potatoes household.  Being the daughter of a farmer and a nurse I always had good food on the table.  We never had many treats in the house, and always had our fill of fresh food.  As I got older and when I graduated and was responsible for feeding myself it was clear I still had a lot to learn.  At my heaviest I was around 220 lbs and I knew that I needed to change something so I began tracking everything I was eating and making sure that I wasn’t exceeding my calorie goal but that was the extent of it. I didn’t focus on nutrition, just on calories.  It was a few years of trying and failing, and then right before I got pregnant I got serious about it, I lost about 40 lbs.

Then I got pregnant and gained that 40 lbs back.  After having Ezekiel I dropped 30 lbs in the first 6 weeks, and then Ezekiel was having some digestive issues and in a desperate attempt to fix it, I began the elimination diet.  Basically I eliminated anything that could possibly be causing him problems, which left me with very, very few options for food.  For 2 weeks I basically ate vegetables, fruit, and chicken.  Slowly I reintroduced each item I had eliminated to see if I could figure out what was bothering Ezekiel.  It ended up being gluten, so I went gluten free and at this point I was still tracking calories.  Ironically I was tracking the calories to make sure that I was eating enough to sustain myself and Ezekiel.  At this point I also became very interested in nutrition and how best to fuel my body and provide good nutrition for Ezekiel.  From January to June the weight just melted off, I wasn’t actively trying to lose weight, but I was actively pursuing the best way to fuel my body.  My goal was to feel good, and eating well was helping me to feel good.  I hit my all time goal weight in June and I’ve held that weight since.

I’ve dabbled a bit in every corner of the nutrition world.  Gluten free, dairy free, vegan, vegetarian, vegan before six, protein powders, raw food – you name it I’ve probably tried it for a couple days or more.  Today I’m more interested in fueling my body with real, unprocessed food than I am with the calories I am consuming.  About 6 weeks ago, right around the time I started this blog, I stopped tracking calories and deleted my calorie counting app to simplify my life a bit more, also to unchain me from my phone.  I began a journey of letting go of the control of counting calories and freeing myself to eat how I wanted.  I also wanted to make sure I was still fueling my body with food that was going to make me feel good.  Once you stop tracking each morsel it can be a dangerous spiral downwards if you are not careful.  It’s easy to stop paying attention to the food you are putting in your mouth if you aren’t writing it all down.

There’s been ups and downs and a lot of learning but I’m still enjoying this process.  I’m learning a lot about what my body needs and wants.  I guess this way of eating is called Intuitive Eating but I didn’t know that was an actual thing until a few days ago.  You can learn more about it here.  For me it’s not only about feeding myself, but feeding my family and it’s definitely a journey that isn’t even close to being done.  We are always tweaking our diets here and there but I’m thankful my husband is pretty open minded.  He takes a while to arrive at a conclusion about certain foods (white sugar is his latest – he’s switched entirely to organic coconut sugar) but once there he believes wholeheartedly and changes his diet.

When it comes down to it we are both passionate about nurturing Ezekiel.  We want our diets to reflect how we want Ezekiel to eat.  We want to teach him how to eat well, and why he should eat well.  We want him to understand why he should choose the banana over the chocolate bar.  We want him to love fruits and vegetables and understand that a treat is a treat and not a daily part of his life.  We want him to eat good wholesome food and so we also want to eat good wholesome food.

Since starting this intuitive eating process I have learned that gluten definitely does not agree with my body, that white sugar wreaks havoc on my body and that one cup of coffee is my limit (but I still drink more).  I’m learning that stress and exhaustion go hand in hand with terrible eating and I’m learning strategies to combat that.  I’m filling my freezer with baking that is gluten free and refine sugar free so that when I’m wanting that bit of comfort I can have it without feeling terrible afterwards.

I’m learning that eating enough fruits and vegetables in a day will make the next day much better.  I’m learning that if I don’t drink water I will have a huge headache the next day.  I’m learning that if I eat brown instead of white (rice/bread/pasta) I won’t feel as sluggish.  I’m learning that I don’t need huge helpings or seconds or thirds.  I’m learning that just because it tastes fantastic does not mean I need to over indulge, I just need to enjoy that moment fully.

This life is a journey, and we are all life long learners.  This is just a small excerpt in my journey but I’m fully enjoying it.

Roasted Tomato Spaghetti Sauce

Roasted Tomato SauceI’m excited to say I finally got to use my garden tomatoes! I was waiting until I had a large amount so that I could try a roasted tomato spaghetti sauce.  Last week I got my wish, and even better we loved the tomato sauce!

It was so simple to make.  All I did was quarter the tomatoes and 2 onions and threw them together with some oil, salt, and a head of garlic cloves.  I put the mixture on two cookie sheets and roasted at 350 for an hour and a half.  When everything was nicely roasted I put it all in my blender and pureed it.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

I browned some beef, then added the tomato sauce with some Oxo and a bit of water.  We ate it with black bean spaghetti from Costco, if you haven’t already you need to try it! So incredibly nutritious and way healthier than regular pasta and it paired very well with this spaghetti sauce.  Add a bit of cheese and you have yourself a super simple yet incredibly delicious and nutritious meal.

Back To Work Meal Prep: Planning

Back To Work Meal Prep

With my impending return to work my mind is a whirlwind of thoughts.  The main thought being: How will I balance life while working full time?

I know that it’s going to take time.  I realize that it’s going to be difficult, on everyone, but I am determined to make one small (or large to us) part a little more simple.

Food.

Food is a passion for myself and my husband.  We LOVE food.  We are very particular about our food as well, eating mostly fresh produce with grain fed and finished meat that has been ethically butchered (if you believe in such a thing).  My goal when I go back to work is to have a freezer full of food.

Frozen breakfasts that are convenient to grab and go as we run out the door.

Frozen lunches that will be simple for me to pull out of the freezer and pack for all of us the night before.

Frozen meals that will be simple to pull out, defrost, and bake, or cook accordingly so that when my husband picks up Ezekiel from daycare and comes home, it’s a simple and quick way for them to eat before Ezekiel goes to bed.

Frozen baked goods so that I’m not tempted to spend money at the coffee shop at work.

One thing I’m aiming for is making food that both my husband and I enjoy, and that we are ok with feeding to Ezekiel.  For the baked goods that means making them all refined sugar free and also gluten free.

I’ve been brainstorming and list making for a few weeks.  This week I started on the actual making food process and it has been so therapeutic.  If I’m stressed or worried put me in the kitchen to cook, or give me some cleaning supplies and all my problems seem to melt away.  I’ll be documenting my process in parts for the next 6 weeks and then updating on how it’s going and what could be improved once we’ve implemented it.

So here’s the first step: Planning!

In the picture at the top of this post you’ll see my “Kitchen Book.” I’ve recently implemented it to document all things food for us.  I’m famous in my house for making an incredible meal, not writing down the recipe and not remembering how I made it.  It drives my husband crazy so I’m hoping this resolves the problem! I now jot down the recipes that I make and that we like, and add notes each time I make it if I’ve tweaked anything in the recipe.  I am also using this book for all my back to work meal prepping.

Back To Work Meal Prep

To start I’ve made a freezer inventory that I’ll add to as I stockpile the freezer, as well as cross off items once they’ve been used.  You’ll notice that our meat selection is pretty slim, but all that ground meat is going to be great for some freezer meals! We order bulk from an incredible ranch that has won awards for the ethical treatment of animals, and if we want something else before another bulk order we just buy specifics at the Farmers Market.  I’m trying to stretch out our meat until I return to work and can afford to place another bulk order.  Anyways, let’s get on to the next list.

Back To Work Meal Prep

This is my brainstorming list of meals that can be easily frozen.  Most of these we’ve tried and enjoy, but I’m adding more and more to the list that we haven’t tried.  If there’s a recipe we’ve never tried, I’ll be testing it first before making it for the freezer.  The breakfast sandwiches and burritos will be for us to grab on our way out the door in the morning.  My goal is to have at least a months worth of meals frozen (that means a month of my work days-so 14), hopefully more but I’ll aim for a month to start with and see where we go from there.

Back To Work Meal Prep

This is my list of baking that I want to make and freeze.  I’ve already crossed quite a few off of this list!  The problem with that is, I’m already dipping into my stash!

So there you have it.  My back to work meal prep AKA my back to work stress relief.

Any advice for a first time momma going back to work full time?  I listened to a Podcast this week from Elise Blaha called Elise Gets Crafty: Finding A Happy Balance that was all about a full time working momma.  It was really encouraging for me and put my heart at ease, so if you find yourself in the same boat as me I suggest giving it a listen!

Gluten and Refined Sugar Free Banana Bread

Gluten Free Banana Bread

I’m slowly obtaining recipes to freeze to make my transition back to work smooth, stress free, and organized.  I’m fairly certain this is an ideal I have and that it’s actually going to be very difficult, but anything I can do to make it a little less difficult I’m going to try out.  I had a large ziploc bag full of frozen bananas, and quite a few strays in the freezer to use up so I figured it was a perfect time to test out some Banana Bread recipes, I tried two and settled on this one as the winner. Overall we got 5 loaves of banana bread out of my stash!  I had a really yummy recipe that I always made for Carlos but it’s laden with oil and sugar and I’m really trying to cut back on the sugar intake in this house.  Not to mention I’m on a mission to limit Ezekiel to no refined sugar at all (there’s another ideal).  So my mission for this recipe was to make a bread that would please my husband (I’ll eat healthy anything but he’s a little harder to convince) and that I would be able to give to Ezekiel without compromising my ideal.  Enter this gluten free banana bread.  The recipe is adapted from one I found on The Minimalist Baker.

Gluten Free Banana Bread

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1.5 cups mashed banana (about 3 bananas)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt **
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 3.5 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup milk of choice
  • 1 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 1 1/4 cup gluten free flour blend (you may need to add xantham gum depending on which blend you use.)
  • 1 1/4 cup oats

** I made one loaf with coconut oil and the rest with yogurt, the loaves with yogurt were A LOT heavier than with the oil but still really good.  If you don’t mind oil you could substitute this for 3 tbsp melted coconut oil.

Here’s what you do:

Gluten Free Banana Bread

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a loaf pan, or line it with parchment paper.
  3. Dump all ingredients into a bowl and mix.
  4. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, when it’s done it will be firm in the center, be golden brown and have cracks on the top.
  5. Let cool completely before cutting so that it holds it’s form.

Gluten Free Banana Bread Gluten Free Banana Bread

Let me know if you make this and how it turned out!

 

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Syrup

Pumpkin Spice Syrup

I wasn’t planning on having so many recipes up on the blog this week, but I have been in the kitchen creating non-stop.

Pumpkin season is in full swing since Starbucks released their coveted PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte) early this year.  I’ll admit, I’m a big sucker for a Starbucks PSL but I’m finding this year that it’s just not as great as I thought it was.  I still love pumpkin spice anything, but I’m finding the PSL to be way too sweet.  Also, a friend of mine recently mentioned how terrible the ingredients in Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Syrup were.  At the time I brushed it off, because no one was going to get in the way of me and my PSL.  Now I’m seeing the wisdom in her words.

The last few weeks have been rough around the edges in our house with teething in full swing and sleep a distant memory.  It’s been hard for me to resist grabbing a PSL anytime I’m out of the house, and let me just say that Starbucks drive-thrus make it way to convenient to spend an obscene amount of money.  In a way to save money and make life that much more simple I first deleted my beloved Starbucks App and then set out to create a better Pumpkin Spice Syrup at home.  I’m so happy to say I’ve succeeded! It’s super easy and quick to whip up and will keep in the fridge for at least a couple weeks! I think it would be a great gift for a friend as well.

If you want to save some money, and treat your body just a little bit better then you should make this!

Pumpkin Spice Syrup

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp pumpkin spice

What you do:

  • Place all the ingredients in a small sauce pan and whisk to combine.
  • Bring it all to a boil and let boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool for 30-40 minutes.
  • Place cheesecloth folded several times in a fine mesh sieve over top of a bowl.  Pour mixture into sieve and let the liquid strain through. Towards the end you’ll need to squeeze the cheesecloth to get all the liquid out.
  • Pour it into a container and store in the fridge.

I used 2 Tbsp for my latte but you might like more or less, try it out!

Toasted Maple Pecan Oats

Toasted Maple Pecan Oats

Yesterday morning I woke up to a massive amount of snow.  Yep. You read that right, LOTS of snow on September 9, and it just kept snowing.  While I don’t mind the snow, I’m hoping that Autumn comes back to join us because it’s definitely my favorite season.  As well, my tomato plants are still planted (and covered) with about 35 green tomatoes.  I’m taking a huge risk by leaving them there, but I’ve been assured that if it doesn’t freeze and they are covered that they will survive and be well.  I’ll let you know next week how that turns out.

Live and learn.

I figured that with all the snow on the ground, I’d make a warm toasty, reminiscent of winter, breakfast.

Enter Toasted Maple Pecan Oats.

Heavenly.

Make.This.Now.

Toasted Maple Pecan OatsTo make two hearty servings you will need:

  • 1 Cup Steel Cut Oats
  • 3 Cups Water
  • 1/4 Cup Pecans
  • 1/4 Cup Maple Syrup (+1/4 Cup Water)
  • 1 Tsp Cinnamon

Here’s what you do:

  1. Place oats in a medium sauce pan over high heat.  Stir them constantly for 4-5 minutes until they turn slightly brown and smell nutty.
  2. Add in the water and turn heat to medium low. Stir occasionally until all the liquid is absorbed, this should take 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat once liquid is absorbed.
  3. Place pecans in small frying pan over high heat.  Toast them by either stirring or shaking the pan frequently to ensure nothing burns.  Once you can smell the toasty”ness” add the syrup + water and cinnamon.  Stir constantly until thickened but it should still have a bit of liquid.
  4. Serve hot, with a cup of well brewed coffee.

I really hope you are enjoying nicer weather than me and that you don’t have the urge to make this yumminess for many weeks still.  BUT if you do happen to make it, let me know how you enjoyed it!