The first week of the New Year is officially at an end. I feel both drained and triumphant; I’ve devoted myself to some small things this week at home that are going well, for which I’ll pat myself on the back (cleaner kitchen and more organized mail area, thank you very much!), but as always, I find that the first week back to routine after a little time off comes with an extra dose of exhaustion by Friday.
However, in the spirit of my post on New Year’s resolutions, in which I vowed to do only one thing — be accountable for the food goings-on in our house — I’ve decided to round out this first week of 2011 with a little check-in. First, I have to identify an ongoing challenge that has cropped up more and more often as this blog has progressed: the lack of options in our fridge and pantry when Friday Fend Night actually comes around on the meal plan. Once again this morning, as J. and I drove to work, I confessed to him that I wasn’t sure there was enough for us all to make a real meal of this evening. I don’t know if I’m shopping and cooking more carefully (possible) or if we’re eating more of what I’ve made (likely — especially as L. becomes more adventurous and finishes off more portions of things like vegetables and soups), but it seems that at least once or twice a month these days, “fend” night becomes more like “scramble” night. This is not a good development for someone who relies on the consistency of a meal plan like I do, so I’m going to have to start implementing some kind of solution. I’m considering two options currently: 1) Purchasing the ingredients for two or three pantry-staple dishes that don’t show up often on our meal plan, and keeping them in an “emergency stash” area; and 2) Devoting time once or twice a month to making a few extra meal options that I can pop in the freezer for emergencies. You’d think these would be things I’m already doing, but sadly, they’re not. I’ll have to make a more concerted effort, I guess.
Secondly, small triumphs. It’s always good to acknowledge, I think, the little things that are going well from day to day; sometimes we (especially me) get hung up on what we need to do better, without taking a second to appreciate what doesn’t need fixing. One small triumph this week, which was not a big surprise, was the fact that L. ate a full serving of vegetables every single night at dinner, with almost no discussion. Ordinarily he’ll at least try the vegetables, and usually he’ll eat a good bit of them, but it may require some extra encouragement from me and J. (depending on the veggie in question). But this week, he finished 75% or more of his serving every evening, and did so with relative good cheer.
The other small triumph, which was more of a surprise: P. has been eating at least some of his dinner again. Oh, I know, I’ve said before that he was eating, but in the grand tradition of toddler food jags, he’d been off his dinners again for quite some time, barring the occasional evening here or there. This week, he’s sat down at the table with us, surveyed his plate, and instead of immediately fussing or beginning to dump the contents onto the table and/or floor in protest, he has actually chosen at least one item and eaten it. Yes, it’s generally been the carbohydrate portion of his meal, but it’s a step, and it’s certainly made our dinners more civilized. And last night, confronted with a plate of pork, couscous, and roasted broccoli, he nearly rioted — but after several firm “This is your dinner” reminders, he changed his mind and ATE HIS MEAT. This is huge, folks, for a child who eats very little meat of any kind, and even more impressive was the fact that he then NICELY asked for more. He not only ate the pork, but tried the broccoli, and stayed at the table for a good twenty minutes without a tantrum. I almost took his temperature to be sure he was well.
And finally, the confession. Nutella. I love the stuff. J. loves the stuff. Our kids, unsurprisingly, love the stuff. I know, I know — many very conscious eaters would frown upon this revelation, because it’s sugary and contains (at least in the U.S.) palm oil, which is not a great thing to consume. But I look at Nutella as being really no worse for us than the commercial, run of the mill peanut butter I ate as a kid, and although I certainly prefer to feed my family natural peanut butter these days, that parallel convinces me that occasional moderate consumption of Nutella isn’t going to do any of us any harm. We’re not slathering it all over everything we eat, for certain, and we usually view it more as a treat than as a nutritious food item.
However, every once in a while, I use it as an ingredient to help grease the wheels a bit with the kids — I told you this was a confession. And this morning, L.’s breakfast was a perfect example. The other night, as I made the pumpkin-oatmeal pancakes for his lunchbox (and P.’s subsequent two breakfasts), I was left with about 3/4 cup of organic canned pumpkin. Rather than waste it, or put it in the fridge (where I knew it would get shoved around for a few days, forgotten about, and finally chucked in a week or two when I discovered its less-than-fresh presence in the course of a clean-out), I cast around for a quick and easy thing to do with it. Blending it up with a ripe banana and four tablespoons or so of Nutella yielded a sweet, tasty, creamy concoction that I figured could be smeared on toast or used as the base for smoothies; but this morning, seeing that time in the fridge had set it up quite nicely, I spooned some into a bowl and offered it to L. as “breakfast pudding.”
He not only downed it, but asked for seconds. In the spirit of full disclosure, I decided I ought to tell him what was in it. “Chocolate,” he guessed, and I nodded. “Pumpkin, too,” I told him. “You like pumpkin, right?” He grinned. “And Mommy,” he told me, “there were bananas in it.”
I was surprised — L.’s been firmly against bananas in any form lately — but of course he was right, and I should have known that he’d be able to pick out their flavor. “That’s right,” I confirmed, nervously. “Did you like it?”
“It was yummy,” he said. And then, gleefully, leaning close in to me and lowering his voice: “Mommy. Guess what I had for breakfast today?”
A gleam came into his eyes. He paused breathlessly. “DESSERT.”
Well, yes, I guess he was probably right. And I don’t care. He also went off to school with a belly full of pumpkin and bananas, and a nice glass of milk. Better than a bowl of sweetened cereal, I say, and it made him a lot happier. It’s a compromise I’m willing to make.