Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Healthy Homemade Chicken Nuggets with Hidden Veggies

I had a super insightful conversation with a good friend of mine earlier this week about the challenges of raising children.  

I love my children to death.  But there are days when I would give anything to be back at work.  Monday was one of those days...

After Chloé's birth, I had initially been keeping Logan home from daycare every other day.  Within a few weeks, I came to the realization that he was happier in daycare.  Between a new baby and the associated sleep deprivation that that entails, I just couldn't give him the same amount of attention and stimulation that he was used to.  He was just plain miserable being at home with me and it was making me equally miserable.  Since he loves daycare so much, I decided that it was in both of our best interests for me to send him full-time for awhile instead of every other day.

But I thought that this would only be temporary.  I also thought that it was the lack of structure and activities at home that made the day challenging for the two of us.  So I signed us up for a mommy and me circle time class at the West Island Women's Centre.  I thought that having this special time for just the two of us (they offer free daycare for siblings) would lead to enjoyable at-home days with the kids.

Our first class was this past Monday.  And wow! The day did not turn out as I had anticipated.  

I guess I hadn't really thought through the logistics of taking two kids under 20 months out to a 45 minute class in the middle of winter... strollers don't fit in the centre... trying to carry in a screaming 20 month old, a car seat with baby and a diaper bag, all at the same time.  From super far because there are millions of people swarming everywhere and no parking to be found.  And nowhere to sit while breastfeeding Chloé before dropping her off at daycare - while Logan races through the centre screaming, me struggling to follow him through the massive sea of exasperated moms, dressing their children in ten layers for the minus 20 degree weather.  What was I thinking???

As we packed up the kids to leave, Logan screaming that he wanted milk (I had none - are you kidding me?? how could I carry in milk too??), throwing himself on the floor in a tantrum, while Chloé screamed her brains out as well, I looked at another mom from our class and said to her "I should have taken knitting".  She just laughed, but deep down, I really meant it.  What I was trying to say was, what I really need right now is some time to myself, not a massive headache of a morning to take my son to a 45 minute class.

It was only 10:45 a.m. and I was already done for the day.

We got home just in time for lunch, with a starving, screaming Logan, desperate for some food and a nap.  When he was finally asleep (having left Chloé screaming in the swing to feed him and get him to sleep), I plopped down on the couch, exhausted, with Chloé in my arms.  And I didn't move a muscle, or even bat an eyelash, until Logan woke up 40 minutes later (yes, only 40 minutes... my batteries were not quite yet recharged...).

The rest of the day continued on in a similar vein... Bundling both of them up again to go out for a walk in the bitter cold (gotta do something with them to make the day go by).  Logan screeching every two steps home from the grocery store that he wanted more cereal.  I think I started counting the minutes until Jerome's return home at maybe 3pm, even though he doesn't get home until at least 5:30.  

All the while debating whether or not I should truly switch into the knitting class and just send Logan to daycare on Mondays too from now on.  A constant debate playing out in my head.  Over such a silly decision!  Being embarrassed to take him back to daycare and admit that I was giving up (at least for the time being) on trying to keep him home one day a week.  But desperately wanting to avoid having another such day the following week. 

By the end of the day, my patience was at a minimum and I found myself yelling at poor little Logan for the first time in his life.  I couldn't handle the constant whining and screaming any longer and looked at him and yelled "That's enough! You need to stop!".  He stopped on the spot, looked up at me with those beautiful brown eyes of his and burst into tears.  And I felt like crap, knowing that he hadn't deserved to be yelled at. 

The next morning, I was mulling over the day with my friend, both of us chatting about how difficult it can be to remain patient with our kids.  We both know that the key to doing so is taking care of ourselves.  I know that.  She knows that.  We would both immediately recommend to any mom that she needs to make time for herself in order to be a good mom.

Why is it so easy to recommend this to other women but so hard to make a decision to do so for ourselves??

We came to the conclusion that society teaches us that putting our own needs ahead of our children's needs is selfish. That sending Logan to daycare on Mondays is perceived as failure. That it is admitting that we can't "handle" our own kids.  That it makes you a bad mom to choose to take a knitting class over taking a circle time class to stimulate and entertain your child. 

Rationally, we both know that taking care of yourself makes you a better mom.  It's part of why I went back to yoga when Logan was only 6 weeks old.  And why I'm doing zumba now, with Chloé in tow, since she won't take a bottle.  It's why I've signed up for the cake decorating club I mentioned the other day.  Why I try to always make it to girls' night.  And maybe I don't feel guilty about those things because they are part of my routine.  Or perhaps it is because they are mostly all in the evening, so it is time that I wouldn't be spending with my kids anyway???

So the more I thought about my day on Monday, the more I realized that I needed to make this decision for both me and for my kids.  I'll admit that, most days, it is too much for me right now to have them both home with me alone.  Logan is still young and needs more attention than I am able to give him with another baby at home.  Sending him to daycare, where he gets to play happily with other kids his age, is probably the best thing that I can do for the both of us.  And taking the knitting class, where I will get two hours of entirely child-free time every single week is probably the best thing that I can do for all of us.  Hopefully, it means that it will be quite awhile before I yell at him again.

Someone once told me the proverb "happy wife, happy life".  Nothing could be closer to the truth.  And I am going to continue to do what I need to do for myself, even if society views it as selfish, since I've evolved to know better than that.  In the end, it will make me enjoy my time with my children that much more. 

Whew... those are my deep thoughts of the week, lol.

And on to today's recipe, which comes from the wonderful cookbook Deceptively Delicious.  I say wonderful, having so far only made this one recipe from it.  But I love the premise of the cookbook, which is to hide vegetables in all sorts of unexpected dishes - even desserts!  We'll get Logan eating vegetables whether he likes it or not!

I tried this recipe, thinking that healthy, homemade chicken nuggets might be a way to get Logan to start eating a bit of meat (another food group he tends to avoid). No go.  But Jerome and I enjoyed them.  And they're a great healthy alternative for kids.

I used broccoli purée in this, as I happened to already have some steamed broccoli in our freezer, that I had stuffed away for soufflés (that recipe to come one day).  The purée is super easy to make.  You just steam the broccoli - either in a veggie steamer, or in a microwaveable bowl, with some water in the bowl and a plate over top.  Steam it until it can be crushed with a fork.  Then purée in a blender, adding water as necessary, until you obtain a thick purée. 

The recipe says to fry the nuggets in a pan, in a bit of olive oil.  Lacking time, I figured that I would just cook them in the oven instead.  But the result was soggy (though yummy tasting) chicken nuggets.  The next night, I reheated the leftovers in the olive oil and they were much better.  So best not to skip that step.

1 C whole-wheat, white or panko (Japanese) breadcrumbs
1/2 C flaxseed meal
1 tbsp. grated Parmesan
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 C broccoli or spinach or sweet potato or beet purée
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast or chicken tenders, rinsed, dried, and cut into small chunks
1/2 tsp. salt
nonstick cooking spray
1 tbsp. olive oil

1.  In a bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, flaxseed meal, Parmesan, paprika, garlic and onion powder on foil, and mix well with your fingers.

2.  In a shallow bowl, mix the vegetable purée and egg with a fork and set the bowl next to the breadcrumb mixture.

3.  Sprinkle the chicken chunks with the salt.  Dip the chunks into the egg mixture and then toss them in the breadcrumbs until completely coated.

4.  Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and set over medium-high heat.  When the skillet is hot, add the oil.  Place the chicken nuggets in the skillet in a single layer, being careful not to crowd the pan, and cook until crisp and golden on one side, 3 to 4 minutes.  Then turn and cook until the chicken is cooked through, golden brown and crisp all over, 4 to 5 minutes longer. (Cut into a piece to check that it's cooked through.) Serve warm.

Serves 4. 

Difficulty level: easy to moderate


Karen said...

Excellent post Linds! Well said and let them judge! Who cares what people think! What ever works best for your family is always the right way. I was a mess when Reese was born and Aiden was 2.5 years old. I can't even imagine the energy you must expend in a day!

Kris said...

Someone at work has a son Logan's age and another son due in a week or two. Her older son is going to day care part time and she said it would have been full time if they could afford it. I'm sure many moms would take advantage of it if the costs were cheaper here!

Food for Thought Linds said...

Thanks Karen :) I've indeed come to the realization that every person needs different things to make them happy and that you have to do what you have to do to be happy. I just wish I could make these decisions without thinking about them quite so much, or feeling badly about them... the curse of being a woman??

Karen said...

I thought I could handle the two kids on my own but a week after having Reese and all the help left, we had one day where it was just the three of us and about 3 hours into the morning I decided to send him to daycare the rest of the week. Trying to breastfeed a newborn and changing a poopy toddler diaper at the same time did me in! How did people survive with 6 or more kids!!!

Food for Thought Linds said...

Yes Kris, we're definitely super lucky that daycare is so cheap out here. I don't know if he'd be going at all, and certainly wouldn't be f/t if it was $65 a day! And Karen, I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one!! I was thinking of Kate plus 8 last night and wondering how she manages. Though, let's be honest, she's pretty cranky most of the time ;)

Kris said...

Like I said, my colleague is going to pay to have her son in for half a week once her second is born in a week or two. So even with the high cost some people do it too! And "cranky" is a nice way to describe Kate. :)

Karen said...

Kate is cranky? More evil is like it. Shes a horrible person!!!! How cheap is your daycare?!?!? We pay $30 a day for in home daycare. If you dont mind me asking?

Food for Thought Linds said...

you're gonna die... the gov't subsidizes it here, so it's $7/day. It can be hard to get a subsidized spot, but we managed to snag one when he started. Private daycares here run about $45/day at his age.

Karen said...

Yup. Just died! Thx!

Food for Thought Linds said...

haha!! However, I should add that our taxes are considerably higher here, so we pay for it indirectly. Not complaining though :)

Kris said...

My colleague has kids that are 3 and 4.5. She says it gets easier. When she returned to work after her second, it was still hard at times but she says it got better and the age difference is now nice. She also used to take her kids to the Ontario Learning Centre where the oldest could play and she'd sit with the youngest. Not sure if you have ymca's there (they have the learning centres).

Food for Thought Linds said...

I don't regret having them so close together. Because really, I don't think 6 more months would make a huge difference. I'm sure there are hard days regardless of the age difference. I think our best solution for now is daycare - lets me nap (and thus get less cranky!) and Logan play with other kids.

Kris said...

She really likes the age difference now! She says they play well together.