Make the time.
::tonight's dinner, eggs with leftover roasted potatoes and chickpeas, sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese, and two slices of gluten-free girl's miracle bread with olive oil and salt. That's Throat Comfort tea in the background, as I'm getting something gross ....
I think it's always important to come home to a hot (generally) meal, no matter how tired you are. Having lived by myself for a long while now, I realize that making the time to cook and then plating the meal properly (I'm not talking fine china here, just food on a plate with a fork and napkin), with a pretty presentation, makes the transitions easier: from the work day to being home again, the most natural expression of "me."
Since I cook everything I eat from scratch, I don't have the literal convenience of "convenience foods" when I come home starving. So I do find that without a pretty well-thought-out meal plan, it becomes soooooo easy to just grab something from a local sandwich shop or restaurant on the way home because you are STARVING. The thought of nothing "easy" waiting in the fridge ... is just sad. The solution, especially when you live alone as I do (how often I lament "I WISH I had someone to cook a nice hot meal for me!"), is to HAVE something homemade there, like a large bowl of grain and fruit salad, or a pasta salad, or nuts, or pre-cut fruits and veggies, even if these exist merely to stave off the crazy awful hunger while you cook dinner ... or even to allow you to relax for a bit once you've come home from a long, energy-draining day (I work with preschool age children in a classroom, so I love my job but they do majorly deplete your mental/emotional/physical reserves) before getting down to the business of cooking dinner.
Knowing what will be cooked beforehand alleviates a lot of stress. For a long time, I cooked ALL my meals ahead for the week, simply having to reheat those meals (which I'd pre-portioned, too) on a pan in the stove (I don't own a microwave, that's a personal preference). But some nights ... because I love cooking so much, I think it's okay to save the cooking -- so long as the HUNGER is temporarily satiated -- as a transition to a diffferent, relaxing, element, of your day.
No matter what, I'm coming to firmly believe that sitting down to each meal, whether it's a snack or a big plate o'dinner, is integral to the calming of the mind, to enjoying and being grateful for the food you're eating rather than just sucking it down/inhaling. To slowing down, in general, and focusing, right here, right now, on what's most BASICally important in our lives.
::kitchen sink soup (lentil/vegetable), made for lunches this week
If you live alone, don't eat your dinner as you cook it, don't eat it out of the pan, and at least clean the table you're eating on if you don't yet have the energy to clean the house/kitchen. Light a candle, or keep flowers nearby. This is YOUR time, and you've earned it.
:: roasted Magda squash with homemade tomato sauce "stuffing" topped later with homemade pesto
Menu planning isn't difficult. At some point during the week before you know you'll be doing a food shop, sit down when you feel inspired with a cup of evening tea or hot chocolate. Flip through cookbooks, or browse the Internet to expand ideas you have. Try to eat seasonally, I think it tends to balance you just right when you eat that way. Warms you when you need warm, cools when you need cool. I usually write down a few recipes (some can be simple, veggie stir fry with rice), and sometimes decide what I'm having for lunch and dinner out of that pool for each specific day. Presto, all the thinking taken out of it. A time-and stress-saver. So that after-work time can be spent actually relaxing (and yes, I do think cooking is relaxing, but not running around to the shops mid-week for ingredients or trying to plan when you're starving and tired, oh NO ... trust me, doesn't work, and you'll waste tons of good, hard-earned money on too much restaurant eating, or you'll end up eating crappy PB sandwiches, not that I don't love my PBs and honey on occasion but let's face it that's more of a SNACK....), doing hobbies you enjoy, getting enough sleep, taking a long walk or going to a yoga class.
I said write down lunch and dinner because weekday breakfasts for those who work tend to be simpler/of less variety. And because I'm horrible at waking up to make it. (Again where i fail and get a bagel at the end of my street, grrr) But of course you could make a breakfast menu plan, too. I find that breakfast is hard to pre-make, unless you have baked goods and fruit. I'm actually starting to think that for weekdays, this is a better option for me -- non-breakfast foods -- because I don't like to eat when I've just woken up and I need to be at the school by 7 a.m. and need something portable I can eat at 7:30-45 and not need to reheat. If you have some ideas let me know them, please. Simple is just fine.
Be well out there.
:: my homemade basil-walnut pesto came out AMAZING!!!!
::I'm going to miss this place. I don't have the new place's keys yet, but went over and put my little gnome-man welcome mat out on the porch over there. The first carload of stuff is ready to go, hopefully tomorrow. Hopefully it stops raining. Pouring here.
I almost never post complete pictures of the kids I work with/babysit, because I just feel strange/squeamish about it for many reasons, but I have a feeling I'd be forgiven for this one, and I just couldn't resist the cuteness: enjoy the rarity.
oh ... yeah! here's that gluten-free bread recipe, which I believe come's from Shauna's blog (I am lazy to link here, just go to my gluten-free girl link). I'm not GF, but was looking for a bread that would stay SOFT, and this one delivers! I suggest a teaspoon or so of vanilla or almond extract, and baking for only 30 minutes, but here is the recipe as I found it:
GLUTEN-FREE MULTIGRAIN MIRACLE BREAD
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup amaranth flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup cornstarch or arrowroot starch
1/4 cup flax seed meal (ground flax seeds)
3 teaspoons xanthan gum
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2 additional egg whites
1 cup water, room temperature
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Preheat the oven to 200F.
Sift the flours, yeast and all other dry ingredients together into a medium bowl. Stir in flax meal and combine.
Combine the wet ingredients in a separate large bowl using a hand-mixer on low or medium speed. When fully combined, slowly add dry ingredient mixture and mix until fully blended, with no lumps. Scrape the sides regularly.
Grease a 9x5" bread pan, and pour the dough into the pan. Turn off the oven and immediately place the pan in it. Do not open the door again, if possible. Allow the dough to rise for 90 minutes. It should rise to the very top of the pan.
Increase heat to 350F and bake for approximately 40 minutes. The crust should be golden-brown. Allow to cool slightly before removing it from the pan to finish cooling. Do not slice until the bread is no longer hot.
This loaf does not need to be frozen, but if there are leftovers after a few days, place slices in airtight bags and freeze.