Then we looked at how our time would be divided up & our overall quality of life.
Rue still wakes up in the middle of the night at least once, usually between 2-4 AM. Then I would have to prep a slowcooker meal before work in the morning, so I would have to be up by 5 AM. Then I would have to leave almost an hour earlier than I used to so I could drive in the opposite direction to drop off Rue all day. Then I would go to work, where I would require 3 pumping breaks in the day to maintain supply & keep my freezer stocked with enough milk to keep Rue on breast milk exclusively at daycare. At night, Rue can fight sleep until midnight, & often does, leaving next to NO sleep for Mama. Basically, it was a big, expensive, exhaustive hassle. And we wouldn't necessarily know who Rue was with all day, or what she was learning, or how much time was really spent with her.
Rue's face here says everything that needs to be said about how we felt about the situation:
So we decided to have me stay home. But I am not giving up on bringing some income home! I am working really hard on the photo business, & you can expect to see more client work popping up on here, as well as special offers & tutorials! I am also taking my homemaker status very seriously. While Ted is off bringing home the bacon (quite literally, we love bacon here), I am home cooking it. And running endless loads of laundry. And vacuuming. And taking copious amounts of photos of my baby.
I have always had serious anxiety about cooking. In my mind, I light a burner (& I mean light; we have a gas range) & my brain instantly begins to babble about fire hazards, singed eyebrows, & fume inhalation. Electric stoves were not much better, with the ever-present possibility of a rodent gnawing through the wires JUST enough to expose the metal bits... & POOF! There goes the insulation in the wall, & there goes the kitchen. Microwaves leak radiation & refrigerators leak freon. Common sense tells me I am being ridiculous. Anxiety tells me these threats are not only very real, but are guaranteed to happen to me, specifically. It's a real problem. It was paralyzing sometimes.
Then I had your more average fears: I will burn dinner/ it will taste terrible/ I will start a meal & forget it. I am happy to report that that has not happened.
I started by using Pinterest as a recipe generator. It is incredible how useful that site is. And sometimes not so much. But mostly, pretty helpful! But I almost always read recipes incorrectly & have to improvise... which has actually turned out pretty okay!
We had balsamic BBQ chicken breasts with green beans & salt & vinegar potatoes one night. I never thought I would meet a potato I didn't like, but I learned that there is definitely such a thing as too much vinegar. Ick. We also had a steak dinner in a slow-cooker one night. I substituted frozen baby carrots for the corn on the cob & used a roast cut of beef & as much A1 as we had in the house (which was 1/4 a tiny bottle brushed over the meat to create an even coat). We also had a couple slices of Sunny Sourdough bread c/o Amber of SuperNaturale & Manna Organics! It was delicious & I was incredibly proud! We have breakfast for dinner at least once a week, & often have some sprouted breads with those! We loved the Banana Walnut Hemp bread. So delicious.
Ted suggested meatballs for dinner some night, & I knew I wanted some of those sweet & tangy meatballs that people make with jelly. Notice the jelly jar in the above photo? Yeah, I wanted to use that!
So I looked around online for recipes, & they all call for two ingredients: grape jelly & chili sauce. Or ketchup as a base, jelly, & various spices. Here's the thing: I cannot eat tomatoes. I can have trace amount of tomato in things, like A1, or dipping sauces, when you use a small amount of that thing in proportion to a large amount of meat or whatever. I haven't had a tomato in years (I really miss cherry & grape tomatoes... a lot). When I eat one, my tongue gets itchy, which is a warning. I have no idea what would happen beyond that; frankly, I am too chicken to play with fire. Or at least food allergies. Yikes.
Long story short, I would not be marinating my meal in tomatoes all day (or, as some friends like to call it, "Mary death-fruits". I have the best, most serious friends!). I found a recipe in our crock pot recipe book (the kind that is really more brochure than book & comes with the crock pot when you buy it. Ours is the "WalMart edition" crock pot. Fancy!). It was the kind that calls for a ketchup base. I looked it over, said "that's what you think!" & set to work. Making my own recipe. I know, I know, pretty heavy stuff for a gal who is still getting over fear of common kitchen appliances. But making dinner is now my job, & I always put 150% into my work. Cooking not excluded.
Some of these ingredients are hard to come by, so I am including alternatives in parentheses. Especially the jam I used, which we made ourselves using the fruit from the fig tree in our back yard. I will post about canning some other time. :)
SRIRACHA TERIYAKI MAPLE FIG MEATBALLS
(or Teriyaki Maple Jam Meatballs)
(or 2 really hungry people, or 1 person who really likes leftovers)
* 1/2 cup brown spicy mustard
* 1/3 cup Sriracha Teriyaki Sauce (or plain Teriyaki sauce)
* 1 cup soy sauce
* 3 TBSP fig jelly (or jelly of choice)
* 1 cup maple syrup
* 1 1/2 TSP ground allspice
* 1 TBSP minced garlic (optional or to taste)
* 1 pack frozen pre-cooked meatballs (22 oz)
* Combine ingredients sans meatballs in slow cooker. Stir until well mixed.
* Turn on HIGH until obviously warm (the lid should fog up).
* Add in meatballs, stirring into sauce mixture. Make sure each meatball is coated in sauce, & keep meatballs in a single layer in the mixture.
* Keep cooker on HIGH for 30 minutes.
* Stir & cook on LOW for 5-6 hours, covered.
* Stir before serving!
These come out of the cooker really soft & marinated through. We enjoyed our over a bed of fluffy white rice with green beans & carrots on the side. I also modified the recipe a bit; I originally used 1/2 cup of Sriracha Teriyaki sauce & 1/2 cup soy sauce, but found the mix a bit too intense for my taste.
Let me know if you try it! I hope you like it!