Meal Prep for Baby

Baby hands are the sweetest!

In the last few weeks of this pregnancy I made and froze a bunch of food to have after baby (who needs a blog name…) was born. My strategy was to mostly just make double or triple batches of meals we were already eating in order to not create more work for myself. However, I also made some things that were really for me to eat instead of family meals, and those I made separately. I remembered being Very Hungry in the first few weeks after TD was born and wanted to have some single portions of things that Randy doesn’t eat to pull out of the freezer (i.e. non-vegan foods). Overall it has worked pretty well. Everything froze/thawed just fine without weird textures or tastes, which was a relief for the pastitio and spanakopita in particular as I’d never frozen them. It’s been nice to have things to pull out of the freezer and just reheat without generating lots of dishes. Even though Randy has amazing paternity leave coverage, it is still REALLY nice to have meals that require little effort making or cleaning, for either of us. For future babies, God willing, I’d plan freeze a few more meals – we ran out of freezer space because one of our freezers was still being used for bedbug treatment purposes when all this food was being frozen.

Meals/sides for the whole family:

Heavenly Carrot Soup (two meals worth)

Golden Coconut Curry Lentils (2 meals)

Romanian vegetable soup (1-2 meals)

Vegan pastitio (one huge pan that lasted for several days)

Vegan spanakopita (huge pan that lasted for 3ish meals)

Tagine (2 meals)

Chickpea patties (2 meals)

blueberry muffins (24)

chocolate muffins (24)

Also prepped A TON of beans for the freezer

Meals for just me:

Mac ‘n cheese (4 individual servings)

Beef stew/mashed potatoes/vegetables (8 individual servings)

Egg breakfast sandwiches (6 servings)

Books Read 2021

Mid-March is definitely an appropriate time to talk about the books read the previous year, right? I set myself a goal of reading 24 or 25 books (can’t remember exactly) and I read 37. Having recently found my old homeschool records and thus remembering that I used to read 80+ books a school year for fun, this seems pretty measly, but then I recall that I was working full-time outside the home for 1/3 of the year, was a full-time mom to a toddler for all of 2021, moved, got pregnant etc, and suddenly 37 books seems not too shabby. This year there was a pretty decent mix of fiction and non-fiction, serious books and lighter reads. The best books were definitely the classics (Austen and Tolkien). I read them shortly after binge reading on books by John Grisham and Rhys Bowen, and while those books were fun and enjoyable, my brain was really glad to read some higher-level, richer language. I use Goodreads to track my books and typically write a short review for each one when I log it, and while it would be too much to include all my reviews here, I am putting some below. I’m not including the reviews I wrote for the classics nor for the books by Bowen and Grisham as they are either going to say something like “This is the Xth time I’ve read it and it still has more to offer.” or “A delightful fluffy read. Good escapism.”

Educated: This book was difficult to read in many parts, not because of the writing style, but due to the content. However, it certainly kept me engaged. I’ve read about the controversy surrounding it and would advise anyone who’s read it to look into that as well for deeper context, and to remember that memoirs always are from people’s memories, and memories aren’t perfect. [For the record, I think that it’s all written to be true to Tara’s memories, but the reader should be aware that some of her older siblings have conflicting memories about certain events.]

Three Little Words: As a parent, this book was really hard to read in a lot of places, thinking about how so many adults in her early life failed Ashley. However, it’s ultimately an inspiring book.

Three More Words: Like her first book, Three More Words covers some important and very difficult issues about foster care, adoption, and life after foster care/adoption. I’m glad to have read this book difficult as it was at times due to the subject matter.

In This House of Brede: I don’t usually cry reading books, but I did in parts of this one. Beautifully written with lovely character development.

How to Raise and Elephant: So, I used to LOVE the No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books, but this one, like most of the recent ones, fell flat for me. There simply is very little plot and it felt like far too much of various people thinking to themselves and going on in-their-own-mind tangents.

Fulfillment: On the one hand, this book got me to FINALLY pull the plug on buying from Amazon. On the other hand, it felt like it was billed as book about Amazon and its impact on the US but Amazon was only tangentially related to significant sections of the book. Still, a good book, but if you are looking for an exposé of Amazon, this isn’t really it. [Addition to my GoodReads review – I didn’t end up totally pulling the plug on Amazon especially after we moved because there have been some things that were unfortunately only available there. I’d also add that because we lived in Dayton, OH and the book talks a lot about the impact of Amazon in OH, it was also quite interesting for me from a local interest perspective.]

100 Days of Real Food: Eh. I knew most of the info. I found there to be a lot of lazy use of scare tactics (i.e. “If you can’t pronounce it is obviously bad!!!!” etc) and tons of repetition from chapter to chapter.

Practically Green: A bunch of typos/sentences with phrases doubled (at least in the ebook). 95% of the info I already knew.

The Secret Life of Groceries: When I started reading this, I thought I would hate it. It seemed at first like it would be one of those books where the author uses tons of crude language as a lazy writing style. But, the preface/intro must have been less edited than the rest of the book, because the actual book itself was well-written and thought-provoking.

Jeeves and the King of Clubs: Not quite exactly P.G. Wodehouse but close enough. If you go into it expecting it to be exactly as good as the master’s work you might be initially disappointed. But, once you come to just enjoy it for what it is, it’s a pretty good book.

The Frozen Bean Solution

So, we eat a lot of beans all told. This summer I finally figured out something that was always bothering me – how to balance the convenience of canned beans with the cost-savings of dried beans. It felt like we would have a bunch of dried beans in our pantry but then I’d never be organized enough to actually soak/cook them ahead of time and would end up turning to the “emergency” stock of canned beans. Then the emergency stock would be depleted and I’d restock it and just enable myself to use it again. There is/was nothing wrong with using canned beans but… when you can get a bag of dried beans that will make the equivalent of 4-6 cans of beans for only 1.5 times the cost of a single can of beans and your family eats a lot of beans, you start brainstorming.

My solution is to bulk cook the beans and freeze in 2 cup portions (the equivalent of one can of beans). It seems stupidly simple and like I should have figured it out sooner because… it is and I should have. Basically I cook about 2-3 lbs of a given bean type which gives the equivalent of roughly 6-8 cans of beans, drain them, put 2 cup portions into freezer bags or reusable silicone bags, lay them flat for easy stacking in the freezer, label, and freeze. Takes about an extra 10 minutes to package and label, and generates the dirty pot and uses the electricity once instead of 6-8 times. Usually I cook all of our typical bean types (chickpea, red beans, black beans, white beans, pinto beans) across 2-3 days when I do a restock and it lasts about 2 months depending on what we’re eating.

The frozen beans work just like canned in recipes with one potential exception. Some recipes call for using the bean liquid in the recipe. I don’t freeze the beans in the liquid. However, you can adjust up the amount of liquid called for in the recipe by 1/2 -1 C, and it should be fine.

Bedbug Joy

So, when I last posted in August, we were waiting for our household goods to arrive in Canada after a 14 week transit from the USA. That seems so long ago and like such old news! Our things actually ended up coming about a week after I posted and we entered a festival of unpacking and realizing what things we’d packed that we should have left behind. (We should have purged much much more before we moved!) 

The Bay of Fundy on a very cold morning. When the air temperature is close to 0 F, the cold air going over the “warm” water causes mist to rise.

Throughout the summer we’d been casually looking at houses and deciding if we wanted to buy soon or wait until the spring, get a sense of what houses in our budget were like etc. To make a long story short, we bought a house in early October. It needed to have the electrical completely redone and between that and having had a 2.5 week trip back to the USA for TD and I already planned for the second half of October, we moved in early November. 

Surely this local move would be much simpler than the international move in May was, we thought. It was not. Two days after we closed on the house we discovered that our apartment had come preloaded with… Bed bugs. Oh my. We now know much more about bed bugs than we ever wanted to know. In order to not transfer the critters from the apartment to the house we had to wash and dry every single textile, box up and freeze in a deep freezer for 4-7 days anything else that couldn’t be washed/dried and wasn’t furniture, and did a heat treatment on our furniture. It was a humbling experience. If you want to realize you have Too Much Stuff, treat it for bed bugs. We purged things then, because it does force you to look at e.v.e.r.y. s.i.n.g.l.e. thing you own, but (foreshadowing) another purge was yet to come. 

You’re considered in the clear of bed bugs if you go two months without bed bug evidence. We were a few days shy of that on January 2, when Randy found two in our bed. We’d tried so so hard to avoid the chemical treatment because TD is a toddler and I’m pregnant but we waved the white flag of surrender and decided to do the chemical treatment. Guess what else we got to do again? Wash and dry all textiles. Box everything else up etc. We only skipped the hear treatment of the furniture because that was going to be covered by the chemical treatment. The chemical treatment requires two applications about 2 weeks apart and the fewer things you have brought back into the treated areas (i.e. the house) the less you have to wash/dry etc for the second chemical treatment. Hence, we had another two weeks of minimalist living. 

Sunset View

Honestly, it was kind of nice. Randy really enjoyed it. I enjoyed it less because I kept seeing the things in the basement that needed to be dealt with and my pregnancy only progressing towards birth at a seemingly increasing speed. (My thoughts tended to be along the lines of: “And if we don’t get everything put back before we have a newborn it’ll never get done!! And we’ve been in some sort of living out of boxes since April, APRIL of 2021. And what about my plans for a quiet restful January to prepare for Baby 2?!?!?”)

But why is this called Bedbug Joy, if so far all I’ve done is complain about the situation? Because thanks be to God, I’ve slowly and painfully recognized that Bedbugs Round 1 and Bedbugs Round 2 have been a huge blessing. There are numerous reasons, but the biggest is that it’s done a lot to break my attachment to stuff. Sorting through Too Much Stuff has let me FINALLY learn to let go of things that were moved from place to place for nearly a decade. It was incredibly freeing to get rid of literally boxes of random papers from my childhood. My parents had saved those things for me (and done the same for my siblings) in a loving attempt to be sure that we got to choose what childhood mementos we kept. But … it was a lot, and mostly old school papers. I had had a lot of guilt before over the thought of getting rid of those things because (a) my parents had saved those for me so they must have thought it would be important and (b) fear of losing memories and connections to the past. Thank God that through this bedbug saga I’ve finally been able to let go of the need to cling tightly to  all the physical momentos. I’ve kept some select things – a few drawings I did, a couple of essays I was especially pleased with etc, but probably 95% of that stuff is now gone. I prioritized keeping letters and postcards from my grandparents and my parents. All my grandparents are gone and the sweetness of being able to read a letter from my grandma to 5 year old me about how she was enjoying their trip but she missed me, is worth saving. Before they were lost in the jumble of other stuff, but now I know when I open that box (singular! not boxes!) what greets me is tangible reminders of the love that I will always carry instead of a mountain of overwhelm and guilt over too much stuff and needing to deal with it. And that, is worth bedbugs.

Minimalist Kitchen or 14 Weeks Without a Full Kitchen

“1-6 weeks and you’ll have your household goods,” so said the moving company. That was 14+ weeks ago, and our goods are somewhere between here and there still with no arrival date, still. In many ways it has been a really nice lesson in minimalism and what household items do we really need and what things are just baggage. (Hint, far more than I’d like to admit is probably just baggage.) Personally, I really want the dryer back and to cook in a well-stocked kitchen again. (We broke down and got a cheap secondhand washer about 4 weeks ago. It’ll be resold when ours arrives. Line drying has been the name of the game here, which would be much easier if it was not 80-99% humidity and/or cloudy/rainy/foggy much of the time.)

That being said, with a fairly limited set of kitchen gear we have been making and eating almost everything we usually do. Currently we have:

a 3 qt pot

a 3 cup pot

an 8 inch skillet

a 2 qt pot that was supposed to be for camping only and doesn’t really have a handle

various supposed to be disposable but we’ve been reusing them aluminum pans

utensils including a ladle, one spatula, a set of measuring spoons and cups, one wooden mixing spoon, a couple knives, flatware etc

2 midsized glass mixing bowls

Honestly, typing it all out it doesn’t feel that minimal, but it sure can while cooking! I tend to find that one of the biggest challenges is reheating things/keeping multiple dishes hot until it’s time to eat. We also don’t have a microwave any longer because in our old apartment it was built in and there wasn’t a built in one here and we decided to not waste the limited counter space on it. Mostly it’s not missed though occasionally it would make things MUCH easier with keeping things at the right temperature. While it’s been a challenge at times to cook with what we have, it IS quite doable, and I also would never have been brave enough to ditch most of our kitchen goods to experiment with minimalism to this extent, so thanks, World’s Worst Moving Company for helping me grow!

Corn Chowder

(So originally, Randy and I decided I would just post recipes with zero background or info, but sometimes I find that I really just want to say something about the recipe. So, while you won’t find gushing tales of things unrelated to the recipe, I will start saying what I want about the recipe at the beginning.

This soup is me trying to recreate a childhood classic – my grandmother’s dump corn chowder. I’ll never achieve it regardless of it being a vegan version or not because it will never quite have that little something that hers did, but I’ll try!)

Saute in 1/4 c oil, 1 diced onion, 1/3 green pepper, 2 cloves garlic, and 2 diced potatoes until the onion is softened. Add 1/2 c flour and cook for 3 minutes. Add in 1/2 c diced tomatoes, 1 can corn, 3 c veg broth, 2 c unsweetened soymilk, 1 t thyme, 1/2 t paprika, 1/4 t black pepper and salt to taste. Cook stirring occasionally until potatoes are done – adjust salt and pepper as needed.

Red Lentil Soup ala Pasha

Heat 1/3 c olive oil in a large soup pot, and saute 3 cloves finely minced garlic. Add in 1 T cumin, 1/2 t paprika, 3 T tomato paste, and 2 c red lentils and saute 2 minutes. Add 6-9 C veg broth (depending on if you want a stew or soup) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 min-2 h ( really you are just doing it at least until the lentils are very soft but doing it longer will make the soup even better). Adjust salt and pepper to taste, then blend most or all of the soup in the blender (depending on how smooth you want the soup to be) then serve with lemon wedges as a dash of lemon really elevates the soup, but the amount of lemon preferred can be quite personal!

It’s been pretty wild of late…

It’s been pretty wild around here of late. On May 13, we loaded up Old Bess (aka the new to us Outback) and left Ohio for good. Randy graduated with his PhD in late April and took a job in…… Canada! (He’s a Canadian citizen.) It was quite a frenzy as my last day of work was April 30 and the moving truck came May 12. Moving is always an intense process but throw in an international component, visa application, and ever shifting c*vid rules and restrictions and it was a hoot and a half.  Thankfully it all came together somehow. (Thank God, thank my parents for watching TD and helping pack, and thank many friends for their help and moral support.)

And so May 13 found us saying bye to the only place we’d lived together and where TD came home to at 2 days old. We had to stop back in upstate NY in the town where we’d met during grad school to drop off library books at the University (they won’t let one graduate with outstanding library loans, understandably), pick up a few things of Randy’s from his office there, and most importantly see old friends there. We got to spend time (though never enough!) with TD’s godparents, see Randy’s godson and his wife, numerous others who are dear to us, and take TD to liturgy at the church where her parents met and where our wedding was. 

Not a bad spot for a picnic in upstate NY

Next we headed further north and east to Boston. Not only was that a convenient stopping point, but we had three dear friends there. We enjoyed Boston and were blessed to see our friends there and introduce TD to more important people in our lives. 

We’d initially planned to go through Maine pretty quickly but with importing Old Bess and needing c*vid tests to enter Canada it became apparent we’d need to spend more time in Maine. Not that that was a hardship in the least! We started in Portland, enjoyed a long walk around the city, saw the most photographed lighthouse in the US, and introduced TD to the Atlantic. She was a surprisingly big fan given how cold it was! 

Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park – well worth the visit!

We then headed up to the greater Bangor/Bar Harbor area and visited the city of Bangor forest and bog. HIGHLY recommend visiting if you’re ever in the area. Ohio gave us an appreciation for bogs as there were quite a few nice ones in our area, and we now seek them out when we go places. We made Ellsworth our home base for the next few days and greatly enjoyed our time there.

A sideways view of the bog in Bangor

May 21, late in the evening we entered Canada, spent 2ish hours at the border importing Old Bess, importing *Randy’s* things and getting me a 12 month visitor record. (I’ve applied for permanent residency but it is a long process, so it hadn’t come through by then. However, so long as the border guard could honestly believe that *I* wasn’t moving to Canada, just visiting, it was supposed to be straightforward – Randy (and as it turned out TD) were returning citizens and I was a visitor. Hence all the paperwork for the stuff being imported had to be in his name only, etc. We weren’t sure if TD would be let in as an American or Canadian, but she was let in as a Canadian on the basis of having proof of a Canadian parent. Despite an awful lot of worrying about everything that could go wrong at the border, it DID all go smoothly, thank God, and I got the 12 month visitor visa instead of the standard 6 month one, without even having to ask, which was a major answer to prayer.) Anyway, after shlepping through all that paperwork at 10 pm, we drove the hour to our new home and began our mandatory 14-day self-isolation.

We did a lot of things like painting during isolation
We were VERY glad to have a deck during isolation so we cold at least get fresh air.

A 14-day self-isolation with a 1 year old was quite an event. Thankfully TD is a patient and happy girl and we all survived it, but boy were we glad when it was over and we were free to explore our new town. We’re in a coastal city and loving all the beaches. TD has discovered a very deep love of the water. Very deep.

Nighttime view of our new town
We keep looking at each other and saying “We LIVE here! I can’t believe it!” It is really, truly breathtakingly beautiful here.
TD in her natural habitat

Now we’re as settled in as one can be when the vast majority of one’s possessions are Somewhere Between Here and There with no known arrival date. (I REALLY want the washer and dryer back – a yeast infection for TD while needing to stay in cloth diapers to avoid becoming yet more irritated by disposables really sapped any novelty out of washing in the bathtub or the laundromat…) We’re making friends, finding our bearings, and developing new routines slowly but surely.

Tofu Tikka Marsala

One of my favorite meals, ever.

Drain and press one 15 oz block firm or extra firm tofu then cut in 1/4-1/2 inch cubes. Whisk together 1/2 C full fat coconut milk (just get a can of coconut milk and use 1/2 c here and the rest will be used in the sauce, 1 T oil, 1 T vinegar, 1/2 t salt, 1 t chili powder, 1 t turmeric, and 1 t garam marsala. Pour into a seal-able container, add tofu and toss to coat. The recipe is best if you can let this sit for 30 min -4 h in the frig. If you can’t, it still is delicious. Put tofu chunks on baking sheet (highly recommend lining with foil) and bake at 400 F for 25-35 minutes.* Reserve any liquid left to put in the sauce.

* (Yes, this is a wide range but it will depend on your personal preference for how crunchy or soft you want the tofu.)

While tofu is baking, heat 1 T oil in a saucepan, add 1 t paprika and 1 t garlic powder and cook for 1 minute, then add 1-28 oz canned crushed tomatoes and 1 .5 C full fat coconut milk (i.e. the remains of the can after you used a 1/2 C of it for the marinade) and any of the marinade that didn’t soak into the tofu. Heat for about 10-15 minutes, add the tofu and adjust salt to taste. Serve with rice.

Vegan Blueberry Muffins

Makes 2 doz

Preheat oven to 400 F, and grease or line 24 muffin cups. Whisk together 1 c almond flour, 2 c flour, 1/2 c sugar, 1 T baking powder, and 1.5 t salt. Whisk together separately 1.5 C soy milk and 2/3 c oil then stir into dry ingredients mixing until just mixed. Fold in 1-1.5 C blueberries fresh or frozen, and divide batter equally between tins. Bake 400 15-25 min (seems to depend on how thawed the blueberries are if they were frozen).

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