I work in an office with lots of young moms. Well three, but in a law firm, that qualifies as lots. At least once a week, we run in to each other at the microwave and commiserate over teething babies, mom jeans, and meals. Or really, lack of meals. Someone mentions how she fed her baby grapes and tofu for dinner last night. Someone else chimes in that their family ate take-out sushi for the third night in a row. And I confess that we have perfected our "recipe" for baking the perfect frozen pizza. And we all feel bad.
I don't know what it is about momhood that causes us to constantly feel bad and doubt our choices. Am I working too much? Am I not working enough? Am I too involved in my child's life? Not involved enough? Why do we have so much dirty laundry? Good god, why am I always stepping on Legos when I'm barely awake and trying to get my morning coffee on?
And in the middle of this feel-bad-fest, one of the girls looks down at my lunch bowl and comments, "I don't know how you do it." Do what? Look like a sleep-deprived gremlin? That's courtesy of little man who is STILL waking up at 3 a.m. Oh, you mean how I rock these coal-miner nails? Yup, haven't had a manicure in over a year. Ah, perhaps you were referring to my poofy hair which moves on up and out at the first sign of moisture in the air. Oh, you mean, my lunch. Why am I eating a real meal that is relatively healthy and tastes pretty fantastic and not a frozen dinner that was made in 1984 or a plastic container of odd-looking greens some of which are purple because all of a sudden, it's trendy to eat purple colored salad leaves?
Because, I really really like lunch. It's those few minutes of quiet in the middle of the day that allow me to get through it without pulling out what's left of my poofy hair. Heck, lunch is the raison d'etre of this very blog. I don't have all the answers to momhood, but I know that I like eating well. It makes me happier when my belly is full of real food. I work better when I nuke my tasty leftovers and bring them back to my desk.
Take this Mexican Fried Rice. Yes, it is basically doctored up Spanish rice. But on a Wednesday night, when you're staring into a fridge that holds a container of two day old white rice and not much else, this recipe (if you can even call it that) is pretty much a lifesaver. Grab that old rice. Oh lookie here, some leftover chicken breast. Take that too. Open up your veggie drawer and take out any forgotten veggies. Peppers, mushrooms, spinach, yup all of those things work. Rough week and nothing in the veggie drawer? Grab a bag of frozen corn from the freezer. Next, find a can of tomato sauce in your pantry. Oh look, a can of black beans. Take that, too. Heat up some oil in a giant skillet. Cook up your Mexican Fried Rice with sass!
Make extra so you have some for tomorrow's lunch. Oh, and don't let anyone eat the portion earmarked as your lunch leftovers (I'm looking at you, hubster! Eating my rice straight outta the pan!). It's tough being a working mom. So I'm going to cut myself some slack. And get another bowl of Mexican Fried Rice.
3 cups cooked rice
2 tbs. tomato paste or 1/4 cup crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
1 can black beans, drained
Assorted diced veggies (red or green pepper, mushrooms, carrots, corn) and/or cooked chicken
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsps. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne
Salt and pepper
Heat oil in skillet and cook onions until translucent. Add garlic and cook for a few minutes until fragrant. Add veggies and cook until soft (you may need to add a bit of water and lengthen the cooking time if you're cooking harder veggies like carrots).
Once all of the veggies are soft, add the tomato product, spices, and cooked chicken (if you're using chicken). If you're using tomato paste, you'll need to add 1/4 cup of water and mix to create a loose paste. If you're using crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce, you will need to add only a few drops of water.
Add the rice and mix thoroughly to ensure the rice is coated with the tomato and veggie mixture. Spread the rice in the pan and turn the heat on high. Do not keep stirring. Once the rice on the bottom is crispy, add a bit more oil to the pan and stir so the rice on the top is now on the bottom. Stop stirring so the rice can get crispy. Garnish with cilantro if you have it. Throw on some cheese. Heck, add some sour cream. And celebrate Wednesday.