5.07.2009

Pancakes and Hot Dogs for Dinner

The other night I was trying to figure out, as I was also trying to fall asleep, what I was going to make for dinner the next night. I'm still trying to keep dinner simple, to save money, to save time, to save my and my kids' sanity.

Why not zucchini pancakes? And don't we have some leftover natural hot dogs that need to be eaten? And aren't there a few odd cups of apple sauce lingering in the recesses of the pantry?

I've never seen Griffin so excited about his dinner. He spontaneously thanked me. He's four years old. The zucchini pancakes were so good, and you couldn't even really taste the zucchini. I just added shredded zucchini to my regular pancake recipe.

Zucchini Pancakes

pressed oats for oatmeal
sliced almonds
all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsps vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup finely grated zucchini

Fill a measuring cup to about 3/4 cup with the oats and put into a food processor. Add in about a fistful of sliced almonds. Grind them together to resemble flour. Pour them back into the measuring cup and top off the mixture with regular flour until you have 1 cup total.

Pour the "flour" into a large bowl and add the remaining dry ingredients. Mix lightly with a fork. Add the wet ingredients, including the zucchini, and mix with a spoon until it is generally worked through. Don't overmix or try to work out all the lumps. This is a foolproof batter, and if you overmix it your pancakes will be rubbery instead of fluffy like cake.

Drop the batter by spoonfuls onto a hot griddle. I don't add butter or oil to the pan because the oil in the batter keeps them from sticking, and I use a non-stick frying pan for my griddle (remember to toss those if the non-stick surface has cuts in it and only use a soft, non-metal spatula). The batter should make a soft sizzle as you drop the spoonfuls into the pan. Wait until you can see that the edges are no longer wet and are starting to cook and bubbles have risen in the center of the pancake and popped before you try to flip them. If the pancake is sticking or breaks apart when you try to slide the spatula under it, it isn't ready to flip yet. Don't worry - even the "mistakes" are delish.

Serve hot with butter/heart-healthy spread and maple syrup.

5.05.2009

Going back to full-time work

I'm interviewing. For various reasons, I think it may be time to go back to work on a regular schedule. I'm not worried about the work - that's the easy part. I'm worried about the impact on our lives, on our fabric as a family, on the kids' emotional well-being.

Lots of mama's work full-time. In fact, more mamas work than not, and the majority of those are working full-time. Even mamas with preschool-aged kids.

To prepare for the change, I'm working out what time I'll need to get up in the morning (6:00), how our morning routine will change (I'll shower and dress first, then get dad up with the kids at 6:45, get them dressed and breakfast made while dad showers and dresses, then I'll leave and dad cleans up from breakfast and takes the kids to daycare), how the afternoon will change (I'll be picking the kids up later, so I'll have healthy snacks with me in the car). I've started to scoot the kids' dinnertime to later, a little after 6 but will need to end up with dinner time around 6:30. I've also scooted Ada's bedtime to 8:00, which is appropriate for her age.

Other simplifying strategies: hire a house cleaner to do a few of the major chores once a week; stop making sit-down dinners until the kids are old enough to enjoy more complex foods like stews and quick spaghetti with garlic and olive oil and arugula and quick soups like creamy asparagus and potato-leek with aged cheddar, or a ceasar salad with bread and chicken for dinner. These are all fairly easy to make meals, but thus far the kids, ages 4 and 1, have turned their noses up at them. So they'll get zucchini pancakes and turkey dogs and macaroni and cheese and steamed brocoli for a while. And Kirby and I will eat...something.

Returning to work full-time will make it possible, if we remain relatively frugal in our expenses, for us to retire around 65, maybe even 60 if we really watch ourselves. Right now, it looks like we'll have to work full-time until we are simply unable to. That's a depressing prospect.