The Munchkins

Life with identical twins

Monthly Meal Planning

First, a Delaney update. Her fever was 101 all Monday and I started to get worried.   The doctor confirmed it was a virus, nothing bacterial to be treated, so I took her to our chiropractor for an adjustment. Her fever stayed below 100 all day Tuesday, so barring a crazy spike this morning, she’s off to school today! I’m sure I just jinxed myself.

Meal planning! I have been meal planning since the girls started eating. At first I just wrote out their meals, since I barely cooked for myself. It helped me prep ahead, and helped the nanny know what to feed them. That morphed into weekly meal planning for our family once we started eating the same dinner. I have a very love/hate relationship with meal planning. As a planner and someone who is not a spontaneous cook, I NEED IT. Without it our meals end up being pancakes and eggs and the occasional protein based meal. But I am so terribly burnt out on it as well. Once dairy went out the window for me, I felt like so many fun meals went out the window as well. It’s been hard to find any joy in meal planning when I felt like it was the same thing over and over.

I’d been toying with the idea of meal planning for an entire month for a little while. I honestly don’t have the time or energy to do it weekly, why not take 30 minutes and do it for the whole month? Thinking about it, I assumed it would be overwhelming. How would I find enough meals for the whole month when I can’t find enough for a week? But it turns out it’s easier to do it for the whole month because I don’t have to filter down to just 5-7 meals.

When I planned for January I took some time and printed out a bunch of recipes from my pinterest boards that I wanted to try. I paired those with recipes I had and liked, and started plotting out my month. I added in staple meals – roast chicken, sausage and veggies, fried rice – as well as new things. I was also mindful of my proteins and not repeating the same thing over and over. It came together incredibly quickly.


For February, I planned similarly but this time I just wrote down the recipes I wanted to try. To be honest, I didn’t like this. One of the things I liked about January was that I had everything printed out and in a folder. When it was time for dinner, I didn’t have to wonder if I’d printed out the recipe or not. It was there. I need to do that for the rest of February and keep that in mind for the future.

What happens if I don’t feel like a meal that night? I move it. To another week, or later in the week, it’s easy to swap because I can see the entire month at a glance and can see where it will fit in. This has happened a few times on weekends where I suddenly realize I don’t have the three plus hours needed to make that beef stew, so I swap it with the shrimp and grits I have scheduled the next week.

Another weird bonus? The kids are eating what I cook every night. Before this they’d ask what we were having and then reply “I don’t want that, I’ll have a bowl of cereal.” Talk about crushing my cooking mojo. But there has not been a single bowl of cereal for dinner in the last month! And the girls have been trying even the new recipes! Could just be a new phase with them too, who knows.

We have gone out for dinner most Friday nights for the past few years. It’s always my sanity saver at the end of a long week. But with No Spend January, there was no going out for dinner. I thought it would stress me out more, but I was so wrong. I made sure to plan an easy meal for Fridays that we would all like, which made coming home to cook it an easy task. Also? It was nice not to drag everyone back out in the cold to go to a restaurant and pay money for a meal my girls barely touched. Bonus win.

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Chicken/Bacon/Pineapple Skewers

We go grocery shopping on Saturday mornings, so my menu planning generally runs Saturday – Friday. I decided late on Friday to make this recipe Saturday evening. It was *so* good, I couldn’t let it go undocumented. This recipe fit all three of my criteria:

1) I liked it.
2) The girls liked it.
3) The girls legitimately helped make this in the kitchen.

They not only put whatever I cut up into the bowls, but they also seriously helped with the skewering. I thought they would tell me what to put on and I would do it, but they both went rogue when I turned my back, grabbed skewers and got to it!

Honestly, I should not have liked this recipe. I don’t like savory with sweet, and I don’t like barbecue sauce, but I LOVED this.

Unfortunately, the original website where I got the recipe from is down(ish) right now (my antivirus is banning it), so I’ll have to type it out. I’ll link up later, but we pared it down quite a bit so if you’re feeding a smaller crew, this will work for you anyway.

Chicken/Bacon/Pineapple Skewers
To serve 1 adult and 2 kids, you’ll need:
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 package of bacon
1 can pineapple chunks, or fresh pineapple
1 medium size onion
barbecue sauze
rice

Soak your wooden skewers.

Cut the chicken into 1″ cubes and put them in a bowl.
Cut the bacon into pieces (I cut them in half, the recipe said 2″ pieces). Put in bowl.
Cut the onion into chunks and put them in a bowl.
Dump the pineapple chunks into a bowl.

Steam your rice.

Skewer everything up! We started and ended with an onion. For the most part, we wrapped the bacon pieces around the chicken, then skewered them but, we had a lot of chicken and not as much bacon, so I stacked the unwrapped chicken on top of a bacon wrapped chicken.

Throw the skewers on a preheated grill, for about 6 minutes per side.

While everything is grilling, mix together ~ 1/2 cup of pineapple preserves and somewhere around 1/4 cup of barbecue sauce in a pot on the stove. Mix together and let everything get nice and warm and happy. When the skewers are almost done grilling, brush them with the sauce. Put the remaining sauce on the table and drizzle it over everything.

We served these over the rice and everyone loved them. Both of my girls loved the sauce and not only dipped in it, but put it over their rice.

One more picture because this cracks me up. Check out Caden photo bombing Laney, who is clearly telling me all about her skewering philosophy. I’m pretty sure it’s almost all pineapple on there!

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2012

I’m not much for resolutions, or for starting anything on January 1, but I do love goals. Goals are good. And they help me focus myself and keep things on track. The girls and I have been talking about what changes we want to make in 2012, and what things we want to do. Here’s our list so far:

1. Spend less on things, travel more. My girls have a lot of clothes, clothes that will last next winter too and yet, I keep buying. Why? Why?! They don’t need any more, I don’t need any more, but our travel fund could always use more cash. And so my goal this year is to be happy with what we have, and instead funnel that cash to my savings account. There are so many places I want to take the girls, why not save up for that instead?

2. Try a new vegetable every week. When the girls were younger I made them every vegetable known to man. Now we mostly eat corn. We talked about this last night at dinner and the girls have agreed to it. We will try a new vegetable every week and everyone has to take at least one bite of it. If possible, I’ll try to prepare it a few different ways so we can find a way that everyone likes (or most of us). I firmly believe that if I could get more fiber in Laney’s diet, I can get her off the miralax.

3. Sneak more vegetables in. I know! Just read the one above and yet, that may take awhile. Until then, I’m going sneaky style and sneaking vegetables in where I can. Thank you, Jessica Seinfeld.

4. Keeping with the theme – fill up on fruits, vegetables and lean protein. Going gluten free has certainly helped my previously white flour based diet, but I’ve just subbed in polenta and risotto where there used to be pasta. No good! I really want to eat a lot more healthy this year and that means cutting out the grains and the cheese and the sweets.

5. Keep pushing my photography. I want to take more photos, and finally learn how to edit them.

6. Finally figure out bedtime. I’m tired of waging a battle at bedtime. The girls have been told that as of last night, every time they get out I will silently walk them back to their room. Please let me keep that promise!

7. Get to work early so I can leave early. Our evenings go so much better when we’re home before 5:30, but lately I’ve been working later and later. Why? Who knows! But I do know that I feel better about leaving at 4:30 when I get in earlier, so that’s what we need to do.

8. I know I need one about going out with friends and dating and all of that, but it can probably be summed up by saying “Keep having a life outside my kids.” I do okay with that most of the time, but it’s always good to keep that in the forefront.

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The Food Dilemma

Dinner is constantly evolving in our house. For a while it was strictly food for the girls and I ate later, then I made things we could all eat, then I just made stuff for me because they only ate yogurt anyway. Which brings us to the present dilemma. Now they’re actually hungry at dinner time.

For anyone who has gone through the picky toddler phase, it’s like entering a sunny room from the depths of blackness. You cleared your plate? And are asking for more? And more milk too? It surprises me every night, since I’m constantly expecting it to be over as quick as it started.

So my dilemma. If I make something that they don’t like, it means I have to feed them later because they’ll be hungry before bed. The problem lies in the “food they don’t like” part of the program. Their two favorite meals are 1) Roast chicken, buttered noodles or rice, and corn or 2) Deli turkey, blueberries, yogurt. Notice how it’s a single food each time? No crazy vegetables, nothing mixed together. Last night I made whole wheat spaghetti with tiny chopped broccoli and parmesan cheese. No go. Caden asked for and ate two portions of rice and chicken before bed. Sunday was curried quinoa with chicken. Wouldn’t touch it.

As I wrote my menu plan for next week I slotted in tacos and a new recipe for macaroni and cheese I found. I know they’ll eat both meals. Is this a cop out? Am I doing them a disservice by giving them simple foods I know they’ll like? Maybe, but I also want them to eat what I serve. In the past I’ve relied on buttered pasta or yogurt to fill in for whatever they didn’t want to eat, but I don’t think that is helping them either. So a few nights will be staple meals, and a few nights will be more adventurous food. And let’s be honest, one night will probably be Pizza Luce.

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Food again

As we roll ever closer to the first birthday, changes are a happening in the Munchkin household. Delaney is almost completely switched over to whole milk. Tomorrow, her bedtime bottle will be replaced with a bedtime sippy cup. Their “milk” is warmed a little less each day, in the hopes that someday soon it will skip the microwave completely.

Caden is still drinking almost all formula. Our intention had been to keep her on formula until 15 months, but both girls are excellent eaters. They get a wide variety of food every day, so I’m thinking maybe the formula isn’t necessary. The formula covers all of the nutrients as well as extra calories and since Caden is on the small side, we wanted to keep her on the formula to give her that extra boost. We’ll see what she weighs in at at their one year checkup. I think she can switch over to milk sooner than 15 months. Which hopefully means that I can return the formula I just bought today!

I’m trying to find more and more recipes that both the girls and I can eat. It would be nice to make one dinner each night instead of two. Tonight we all tried pasta with asparagus, peas, avocado and pesto. It was tasty! And nice to have a green dinner instead of our normal orange dinners.
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The girls don’t generally love anything the first time (except cinnamon rolls), so with a new texture and a new taste, I knew this dinner would be pushing it. They did okay. We’ll try it again in a few days!
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My dainty eater. Clearly she had only eaten crackers at this point.
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Snack Time

It seemed to be a little long between their 3:30ish bottle and 5:15 dinner, so we threw a snack in the middle.  It kind of makes the afternoon a little crazy, but I like to switch things up to keep the nanny on her toes.  We do finger foods only for snack, so it can be interesting.  Sometimes it goes well, sometimes not much gets eaten.

Snack on Saturday was sweet potato fries, buttered toast and cheese.  Delaney was in heaven!  She was double fisted with a fry in one hand and toast in the other, shoveling it in as fast as she could!  That’s my little eater.

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Caden is my dainty eater.

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Bottle time

On the food front, tonight was the last night of beets.  I love beets and had hoped the girls would too, but it turns out beets are messy and I’m tired of soaking every piece of clothing in OxyClean.  Tomorrow is cantaloupe.  Much less messy.  The girls also started lunch today!  Very exciting.  The nanny reported that Delaney was very into it, Caden not so much.  

I have a super cute video of the girls chatting away, but it will have to wait until tomorrow.  Caden needed a little sleep assistance and it’s getting too late to upload it.  Instead, a picture of what feedings at our house look like.  Delaney is holding her bottle in this pic, but that has been a recent development.  Caden will occasionally hold hers as well which is helpful, but the girls have added extreme squirming to their list of bottle time activities, so I need all the hands I can get to wrangle them.

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Uh oh

This one is for Grammy, who says their faces are always covered in green.  Can you guess which new food we’re trying this week?  Delaney is not a fan of beets.  Caden loved them, but Delaney not so much.  She ate them, but her hands were everywhere and she kept playing shy, putting her hands up by her eyes.  At least I was smart this time and took her links away from her.  If she gets those in the food and bangs them, the tray is covered as well.

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