Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New Mom Friendly Meal Ideas

I'm back from Austin! Well, as you're reading this, I'm back in South Carolina, but I'm writing this somewhere in the air between Texas and Atlanta. It was a quick trip, but I had such a great time with my two best friends from Virginia and the newest addition to our group, Miss Anastasia Lucille! With a newborn on board, it was a laid back trip, but I did get to see a bit of Austin, enough to get me planning a trip to explore the city and surrounding hill country next year!

Being thirty, some of my friends have started to have kids, and as the dietitian of the group, I'm frequently asked for healthy, make-ahead meals. After spending 3 days with a newborn, I totally get the challenge! Even with the four of us (mom, dad and the godmothers!), it still felt like we could use an extra hand!

Ask and you shall receive - here are my favorite new mom friendly meals!

1. Overnight oats are one of my all time favorite breakfasts. I can't believe I've never posted a recipe! That will be remedied soon. Until then, simply mix 1/2 cup oats with 3/4 cup of yogurt, almond milk or coconut milk and a teaspoon of honey or pure maple syrup in a mason jar and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. Make a batch Sunday to last through the week. In the morning, add your choice of toppings - berries, nut butter, granola, and all fruit jam, or another scoop of yogurt will all do. Here's a great post for inspiration from Kath Eats Real Food!

2. Grain and bean based salads are a fantastic choice because they're much heartier than leafy green salads and they hold up through the week. Simply toss a cooked whole grain or bean with a protein and plenty of veggies. Make a quick dressing and if you're keeping it longer than a few days, store it separate to keep the vegetables from getting watery. Try my lentil and brown rice salad with lemon tahini dressing, just don't judge my second blog post photography. Another one from the blog - roasted eggplant with wheat berries, chickpeas and feta.

3. I have a love-hate relationship with the slow cooker (mostly hate), but I totally get the appeal for new moms. Unfortunately, most slow cooker recipes call for processed ingredients, like condensed soups and packets of powdered ranch dressing, and few are vegetarian friendly. I was thrilled when I stumbled across this list of 50 vegetarian slow cooker recipes from Oh She Glows. You could also make my Saigon hoppin' John, giant limas with spinach and tomatoes, and quinoa chili in the slow cooker.

4. One of the first things (of many) things I saw on pinterest that made me say "well, why didn't I think of that?" was the mason jar salad. The principle is simple - layer the ingredients in a mason jar so the dressing doesn't touch the greens, then shake it all up when you're ready to eat. This allows you to make a big batch of salads that will last about 5 days. Here's a good how-to from The Kitchn. The only thing I would add is avoid using raw onion, as it's smell permeates everthing in the mason jar. Try this with my endlessly adaptable chopped salad.

5. Frittatas are another great option that goes from breakfast to lunch. Simply saute vegetables in olive oil, add beaten eggs, cook until it's mostly set. Finish off with a minute under the broiler and enjoy warm or straight out of the fridge. Have a slice of frittata with fruit salad for breakfast or a simple arugula salad for lunch. Make it a heartier meal with the addition of thinly sliced potatoes, like this one from 101 Cookbooks.

6. Peanut butter and jelly is a classic, but also kinda boring. Just because you have kids doesn't mean you have to eat like one. Upgrade it with sliced banana, honey, cinnamon, blueberries, or just really good jam, like those by Emily G or Sallie's Greatest. And since this is a healthy eating blog, do make sure you pick out a healthy bread, okay??

7. With a little advance planning, you can stretch leftover side dishes into a balanced lunch. Simply toss leftover vegetables with your cooked grain and a can of beans then drizzle with a simple dressing, like my lemon-tahini dressing or soy-miso sauce or keep it simple with hot sauce or a little lemon juice and olive oil. This is how I came up with my roasted broccoli, brown rice and chickpea bowl, which despite it's simplicity, is one of my favorites on the blog.

8. Keep a grab and go stash in your refrigerator. Lunch doesn't necessarily have to resemble a "real meal." If you keep foods like cut raw vegetables, fresh fruit, whole grain crackers, avocado, plain yogurt (for drizzling with honey), cheese, nuts, hummus and hard boiled eggs, you can grab a few for a nutritious meal or snack.

9. Keep all the ingredients you need to make a smoothie frozen together in a tupperware container except for your liquid. Add-ins like chia seeds, nuts, avocado, nut butters, and even spinach are perfectly fine in the freezer. When you're ready for a smoothie, just pop in into the blender and add enough liquid to make a smoothie.  Check out my formula for a perfect smoothie!

10. Soup is perfect, because you can make as much as your biggest pot will handle and the only extra time is chopping a few more vegetables. Freeze in individual containers if you don't feel like eating the same soup for a month. Try my favorite tortilla soup or simple white bean soup.

To my amazing friend and new mom, Miriam, thank you for being such a wonderful host this weekend! You have truly found your calling as a mother. I was literally blown away by all the parenting skills you and Mikey have gained in just a few months. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of Anastasia's life!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Grilled Zucchini, Green Onion and Ricotta Pita Pizza

Quickie post today as I explore Austin, TX with two of my besties! 

After the longest winter ever, how excited are you about grilling season? For a wedding present, my grandpa gave us a really nice grill, so when it’s warm enough, we like to use it as often as possible. Actually, this time of year is my favorite time to grill, because Columbia’s infamous mosquitos aren’t out yet. 

I love a good homemade pizza dough, goodness knows I’ve talked about it enough on the blog. Although I've found ways to make it easier, sometimes I’m still too lazy to get my act together and make dough.  

That’s where the pita pizza comes in. No, it’s not a crispy, chewy, homemade crust, but it’s easy and delicious. So I like it. 

Normally, this dish could be thrown together in 30 minutes or less. However, I started watching 20 Feet From Stardom on Netflix, winner of Best Documentary at this years Academy Awards, and was completed transfixed (and distracted). Thank goodness my husband was out of town because I was simultaneously crying and singing loudly singing to myself as I cooked. So really, while this should have been a 30 minute meal, it took me a good hour and 15 minutes. Do yourself a favor. Make this pizza. Watch that movie. Eat dinner at 8:30. 

Grilled Zucchini, Green Onion and Ricotta Pita Pizza

Serves 4

1 lb zucchini, halved, sliced lenthwise into 1/4-inch slices
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
4 large green onions, ends trimmed
1 jalapeno
2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
4 100% whole grain pita breads
1 lime, cut into wedges

Spray grill with oil and heat to medium. 

Toss zucchini with olive oil, cumin and season with salt and pepper. Place zucchini, green onion and jalapeno on the grill. Grill the zucchini and green onion about 2 minutes per side. Grill the jalapeno about 2 minutes on all four sides. Set aside on a plate while you prepare the pizzas.

Mix ricotta cheese, cilantro and crushed red pepper in a medium bowl. Season with a little salt. 

Cut the green onions in quarters, lengthwise. Cut the stem off the jalapeno, cut in half lengthwise and scrape out and discard the seeds. Cut into thin strips lengthwise. 

Spread 1/2 cup of the ricotta mixture on each pita. Top with jalapeno, scallions and grilled zucchini. Top with feta cheese. 

Place the pita pizza back on the grill for about 3 minutes to crisp, or place it in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes. Serve with lime wedges.