This week – CHEESY POBLANO AND BACON QUESADILLA (p. 49)
This week, I was looking for something from the HBH book that required a little less prep time. I figured quesadillas would likely go over well with our preschooler’s picky habits and the ingredients list was nice and short. Technically, this dish is under the “Apperizers & Sides” chapter, so I knew I was going to have make another side (I made a big salad) for Paolo and me but it was the perfect amount for Theo. It would also probably be just the right amount of food if we were to have this for lunch instead of dinner.
Pepper Jack cheese
Difficulty level –
Once again, Tieghan didn’t lie – this recipe is SUPER simple. It is definitely a weeknight-approved quick meal. If you’re able to find shredded pepper Jack cheese than it’s even quicker to prep.
The bacon, peppers, tortillas and spinach are staples in our home, so I didn’t need to purchase those. I just had to purchase the cheddar cheese and I opted for the store-made salsa as opposed to making our own. So, in total, I only had to spend about $13 for this meal and, again, the cheese and salsa will be good for other meals/snacks.
Things I Googled While Making this Recipe
Difference between bell peppers and poblano peppers? (Poblano peppers would have made it a bit more smoky).
Alterations to Recipe –
The recipe includes the option to make your own Pickled Jalapeño Pineapple Salsa. We’re not really fans of pineapples in our meals, so I opted for the traditional salsa (store bought) instead. I also used the bell peppers that I had on hand as opposed to the poblano peppers that the recipe calls for.
This is likely to be another staple in our house. So easy to make PLUS everything is made in one skillet (less dishes is always a win!). There wasn’t enough for any leftovers, so this is a one-and-done dish.
The first book in my Learn to Cook Challenge is by the amazing Tieghan Gerard, who is the chef behind Half Baked Harvest. I first learned of Tieghan when I stumbled upon her Instagram account (@halfbakedharvest) and it was love at first sight! She has almost 3 million (!!!) followers and posts daily recipes/how-to stories. I own both her books – Half Baked Harvest and Half Baked Harvest Super Simple – and for this month’s challenge I picked the Super Simple cookbook because, well, my skill set would not allow me to do anything above the “super simple” level!
My first recipe – KOREAN BEEF WITH YUM YUM SAUCE (p. 214)
I won’t lie, we have been ordering out a lot lately (trying to support local during the pandemic and eating our feelings about all of these lockdowns…). Each time we seem to gravitate towards Asian-inspired cuisine so it was no surprise that I chose the Korean Beef as my first recipe to make from this book.
Difficulty level –
Tieghan was not lying, this recipe was simple. The only thing I would say, however, is that I found it to be time consuming. Others with more experience chopping vegetables and slicing meat could easily breeze through this recipe but for the newbies like me, it took me about 40 minutes just to get all of the ingredients ready.
I paid about $75 to get everything I needed for this recipe, which is wayyy more than I wanted to spend. However, you have to keep in mind that I am starting with a blank slate so there were a lot of pantry items that I purchased that I will be able to reuse many times over in other recipes.
Things I Googled While Making this Recipe –
What is gochujang and Where do I find it in the grocery store?
How to cook rice?
How to toast sesame seeds (I couldn’t find any ready-made toasted sesame seeds, do they even exist?)?
Alterations to Recipe –
I followed this recipe exactly as described and I think it turned out as intended (although my food pictures will never be as beautiful as Tieghan’s). In the future, I will probably substitute the mushroom and spinach side with another vegetable. My whole family is not particularly a fan of mushrooms to begin with and the mix of spinach, mushrooms and olive oil tasted like dirt to me…
Right off the bat, I can vouch that I will be making this recipe many times again! The beef, rice and sauce were a hit with everyone, including Theo (the four year old chicken fingers lover)! The meal was delicious served fresh and just as good reheated the next day for lunch. Plus, we had left over Yum Yum sauce that we used as a dip with some veggies.
Last year was the first year that Theo was old enough to understand the idea of the “Easter Bunny”, it was also the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic so we had not had a chance to fully prepare celebrating as a family of three (I was pregnant with Luca at the time) as opposed to celebrating with the 20+ relatives we usually get together with in Montreal.
So we improvised… and, along the way, started some traditions that we’re planning to continue even post-pandemic.
Growing up, Easter in my family consisted of delivering baked goods to family members, attending church and then 20+ of my family members would meet at a restaurant for lunch. During lunch, the kids would get chocolates and, as we got older, the chocolates were replaced by toys and then a card with money.
While very popular with other families, my family never had Easter Egg Hunts and, since we were usually out delivering cakes and other sweets, we also didn’t do Easter breakfast or brunch… Easter of 2020 allowed us to do both and that’s what we hope our Easters will consist of going forward (we’ll likely have to figure out a hybrid version when we’re able to visit family again).
So here is what Easter will look like for us in 2021:
Message from the Easter Bunny
In the age of emails and text messages, there is something particularly nostalgic about a handwritten note. So the first thing we do on Easter morning is read the note that the Easter Bunny left beside the baskets. It’s written on Peter Rabbit stationary (found online on the All My Pretty Books page) and tells the kids that there are treasures hidden all over the house (queue Easter Egg Hunt!).
We ordered the most beautiful Peter Rabbit personalized baskets this year from Pottery Barn Kids. These will be used every year for the kids’ gifts and then to hold their treasures during the Easter Egg Hunt.
Theo is currently really into stickers, colouring and squishy toys so we included all of those and some chocolates in his basket. Since Luka is only 5 months, this year his basket will have some stuffed animals and books.
Easter Egg Hunt
Since we usually still have snow and other winter remnants in April, I think it’s safe to say that the Easter Egg Hunt will likely always be indoors. Peter Rabbit’s note tells the kids that he hid (or dropped) his treasure on the main floor (we’ll expand to the basement as well when they’re older but, for now, I’m aiming for an injury-free Easter). To make life easier, we bought individually packaged candies, chocolates, erasers, stickers, tattoos, etc. and will hide them in obvious places for Theo (and next year Luca) to find.
I wish I could say that we will be having brunch on Easter Sunday but, with a 4 year old and 5 month old in the house, chances are we’ll all be awake by 7am, so Easter Breakfast it is. I bought the cutest bunny shaped waffle maker that I know Theo will adore!
When I had Theo, I knew my life – the day-to-day aspects – would forever change. What I didn’t realize is how much I, as a person, and more specifically my outlook on life would change. Everyone always said that your priorities change when you have kids and, to me, that’s to be expected. What no one ever really talked about is how much your perception and outlook would shift, not only regarding children but in all aspects of life – marriage, friendships, work, home, future, etc.
Now that we are less than a month away from welcoming our second (and final!) baby, I can’t help but reflect and wonder what kind of “new mom” I will be to this little one.
While I’m not naive enough to think that I am some kind of expert after having had one child, I do know that there are certain lessons I learned with Theo that will shape how I interact with #2.
Don’t Stress The Insignificant
The #1 best advice I received after Theo was born came from our next door neighbour (whom we hadn’t officially met until that day). His son was only a year or two older than Theo and he said to us – from across the lawn – “Don’t worry about the things that, in the long run, won’t matter.” He explained that there is no sense in worrying about things like at what age your child first speaks, walks or is potty trained. Every kid develops at a different rate but, the reality is, we all get there in our own way.
Let’s be real, when was the last time you were asked – either in school, in a job interview, or by anyone really – how old you were when you took your first step? or at what age you were fully potty trained? Reality is, my own parents don’t remember the answer to those questions for me and they were there!
Obviously I didn’t take my neighbour’s advice on day one – I spent many days/nights worrying that Theo wasn’t developing “appropriately”, that I wasn’t giving him enough tummy time, that maybe his head was too big and that’s why he wasn’t walking early enough (that last one is a true story – I even brought him to the doctor’s to get his head size checked!). But eventually, when we got past those milestones and looked back, we realized that our trusty neighbour had it right all along. My hope with #2 is that I embrace the newfound knowledge and way of thinking so that I can enjoy the moments in the moment, without worrying if he/she is where they should be.
Insofar as this mindset has impacted my outlook, I can say one thing: it has certainly helped me in not comparing myself to others. My friend who had a baby at the same time as me but lost all the baby weight a whole year before me – good for her! I don’t need to compare to her because I ended up losing it too, it just took me longer to get there. Friends who have climbed the corporate ladder faster than I have – good for them! I’ll get there eventually too, if I want… The one good thing with not always being the first to achieve things is that you can look to those who have already “made it” and reflect whether that’s even something you want anyway…
There’s A Reason Life Moments Are Called “Stages”
The second life lesson we learned all by ourselves and I know will have a huge impact on how we embrace the newborn stage with #2.
When Theo was born, every cry, sleepless night, or cranky mood seemed to last a lifetime. There didn’t appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel, primarily because we didn’t know what was waiting for us on the other end of that tunnel – was it another sleepless night after he’d had a good nap? surely there’s nothing worse than a screaming infant who has been fed, changed and is not sleepy (yup, there is, it’s a called the temper tantrums that 3 year-olds pull in public!)?
But every time we got past a stage, we looked back and thought “well look we actually made it through that one relatively unscathed”… And that sort of became our approach with parenting – before we knew it, the newborn stage was over, then Theo was holding his head up and we didn’t have to worry about burping him, then came the end of breastfeeding and the introduction of solids, and so on… Right now, we are navigating our way through a world pandemic but, this too, shall pass.
It’s hard to keep positive when you are sleep deprived and in the thick of things but the truth is that all the stages – good and bad – will end. I know that I will be exhausted and sleep deprived with #2; it doesn’t mean that I won’t be feeling it in the moment but I take comfort in knowing that I have been through it and there’s an end in sight and, based on our experience with Theo, it really does just keep getting better!
As for how this experience has shaped a “life lesson” for me – I honestly now look at most events in my life as stages. Difficult times at work (we all have those moments where we’re just unhappy with the daily grind) have been easier to navigate when I stop and think “this too shall pass”. Falling out with friends no longer has to mean that the friendship is over, it’s just that we are going through a rough stage and we will, if it’s meant to be, rekindle that friendship in due time.
Don’t Wish Your Life Away
This last life lesson actually came from my father in the early months following Theo’s birth. Paolo was saying how he just wanted to get past this baby phase and wanted to be able to interact with Theo on a more communicative level. My dad turned to him and said “you’re wishing your life away”. Again, in the moment, that didn’t sink in but, looking back now, we understand…
Theo isn’t the only one who got older, so did we. And while it’s only been three years and we have what feels like a lifetime of growing with him ahead of us, those three years are now behind us. Three years of him developing and us growing have passed. I try to look at it from my father’s perspective and 35+ years of me developing and him growing are now past him too. It’s with the benefit of that time that he can say to us “don’t wish your life away”. Because while my second life lesson above deals with taking solace in the fact that the hard times are just stages that will pass, this final life lesson has taught me that those “stages” are what life is made up of and if you spend your time hoping for them to end, you lose sight of the moments that will inevitably become the memories.
This last life lesson is the one I will be taking most to heart, especially when we are in the “young kids” stage of life. For every temper tantrum, sleepless night or difficult experience, I’m going to try to live in THAT moment – not because I think I will look back and realize it was wonderful (let’s be real, it probably won’t be wonderful) but because each of those moments, along with the regular day-to-day and the fun times are what a life is made up of. I never would have appreciated the value of a good night’s rest if I hadn’t gone through so many sleepless nights – the hard times are just life’s way of making you realize and fully appreciate the good times.