Thursday, May 15, 2014

Creamy Pasta Bake and Reasonable Expectations


Holy! This whole "stay at home with two kids" thing is hard! I know that half of you are thinking, "Um, duh!" and the other half are like, "Pshh, it can't be that hard." To the first group, I say, "Geez, you couldn't have given this poor girl a head's up?" And to the latter bunch, well your time will come. A time when you haven't showered for more days than you can admit, when all your clothes are covered in spit-up, and you have eaten far too many slices of cold bread slathered with an obscene amount of peanut butter.

As a totally random aside, it appears both Little Man and Little Lady are fans of Fitz and the Tantrums. Their music is particularly effective in calming tantrums of all sizes (including Mamma tantrums). So for a few minutes every afternoon, Casa Aboobaker is home to a hopping dance club where the patrons are all a little crabby but are rocking out, nonetheless.

In an effort to gain some control over chaos, I encourage myself to complete one non-kid-related task each day to maintain some semblance of productivity. Don't get me wrong, I fully understand that the kid-related tasks are obviously productive but it's the same tasks that come around like clockwork and it's hard to feel productive when you just did the same thing an hour ago. Feed me, change me, feed me, feed me, feeeeeeed me. Based on how both kids eat, I know for certain they're mine. I may as well set up camp in the kitchen, doling out strawberries, Cheerios, pasta (plain white with not a speck of sauce, of course), and milk. It'd make things a whole lot more efficient.

The daily task doesn't have to be a big task. Heck, I make sure it's not a big task because then I know it'll never get done and there goes my sense of productivity for the day. No, the daily task has to be a reasonable one. For example, a few days ago, I promised myself I'd take the thank-you cards that I'd written weeks ago to the mailbox. Not the post office. Pssh, ain't no one got time for that. No, I mean the mailbox that's five steps from my front door. And when I popped those cards in the mailbox and flipped that little red plastic flag up at 10 p.m., I grinned because that was productivity right there, folks. Sometime next week, I plan to moisturize my scaly elbows as the task of the day. TMI? Sorry, it's hard to figure out what is and isn't when you're running on 3-4 hours of oh so interrupted sleep.


So, this creamy pasta bake. It was the result of a few days of daily tasks. Because well, see note above about avoiding big tasks and having realistic expectations. But hey, when you actually put it together (hopefully in one go, because you'll have the luxury of an hour without two Littles demanding things simultaneously), it's really fantastic and makes a giant pan of creamy pasta studded with grilled chicken and peas (that will hopefully last you longer than the one meal it lasted us. Again, see note above about big eaters 'round here). Oh, and if you don't have chicken and/or peas, I've also made this with ground beef, broccoli, asparagus, and corn and it's been great every time. Heck, on an apocalyptic day when we run out of white pasta, I may get really crazy and substitute rice for pasta.

Until then, you'll find us in our jammies, eating cold pasta, and rockin' out to hipster jams.

Creamy Pasta Bake

16 ounces small pasta such as penne, uncooked
3 tbs. butter
2 tbs. olive oil
4 tbs. flour
3 cups milk
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup cooked, diced chicken breast
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 cup bread crumbs, panko, or cracker crumbs
Salt and Pepper

Boil the pasta according to package directions, but leave it a bit more al dente than usual to account for the final baking.

To make the sauce:
In a large pot, heat the butter and oil over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add the flour to the butter and oil mixture, and cook until flour mixture is golden brown. In a separate pan (or in the microwave), heat the milk so it's warm. Add the warm milk and chicken stock to the flour mixture, whisking continuously. Add the spices, chicken, and peas. If the sauce mixture appears too thin, cook on high heat for a few minutes to thicken. Alternatively, if the sauce mixture is too thick, thin it out with additional milk. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce mixture and mix thoroughly.

Butter a large, oven-safe bowl. Add the pasta and sauce mixture to the bowl. Top with bread crumbs, panko, or cracker crumbs (sometimes, I'll also add some grated cheese, depending on how long I can keep the troops distracted). Cover and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees until pasta is heated through. Broil for the last five minutes to crisp up the top. 

17 comments :

We Are Not Martha said...

This looks awesome! I can't even imagine how tough it is to stay home with two kids, so I give you major props! Especially when you get dinners like this on the table :)

Sues

Catherine said...

Looks delish!! Blessings, Catherine

Monica said...

Thank you for making me laugh! I only have one child and I imagine having 2 so young must be quite a handful! Sounds like you are managing just fine and I love your very realistic attitude of trying to accomplish one small task a day! I am amazed you could put together this great pasta bake even if it took a few days. I was completely non functional for at least 3 months after having my son! Take care and hope things settle into a routine soon.

Monet said...

I feel you sister! Goodness, I'm having a hard time with just one! Ryan and I are "thinking" about trying for another soon, but I think I need to give myself a little more time. You are a super mama! And just remember, day by day, hour by hour. This creamy pasta bake looks delicious too. Thank you for sharing!

The Cooking Doctor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jehanne@thecookingdoctor said...

This is hilarious, as I go through the same thing here, but with ONE toddler. check on the pasta with no sauce ! Enjoy your little me-times whenever u get some, and this pasta looks delicious :-)

Medeja said...

This pasta bake looks really yummy!
I think it is a great idea to do one non kid related task in a day, to have some time (even little bit of time) just for yourself :)

Ameena said...

I can't believe you have time to cook. I remember when Maya was a baby and cooking and eating was the LAST thing on my mind. Everyone had to fend for themselves (and I'm referring to Ali here).

Looks delicious. Hope that some uninterrupted sleep comes soon!

And kudos also for doing the thank you notes...really such a classy thing.

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Parita @ myinnershakti said...

Love the look of this pasta bake!

And kudos to you for juggling two kiddos! I can't even imagine how much energy that takes - all good stuff but still a bit draining I imagine!

Laura Dembowski said...

This pasta looks awesome! I'm sure you are doing a great job balancing everything. It will all work out. It's funny you mention pasta without sauce because I have never liked tomato sauce. Not on pasta, not on pizza.

Ruby said...

Wow, I'm exhausted just reading about your day to day routine. And the mamma tantrums?? hahaha but it looks like you're doing a good job!!

This pasta looks delicious!

Kelly said...

Oh my goodness, I totally understand Azmina. We are at the same stage and some days are insane! Just take it day by day and so glad that you are set aside a task just for you :) This pasta bake looks amazing and super comforting :)

Joyti said...

3 - 4 hours of interrupted sleeps? Sounds like law school finals period ;-)

The pasta looks delicious!

sugarandcinnamon.com said...

The kids I babysit won't eat any sauce on their pasta either! It must be a kid thing. This pasta looks delicious though! So comforting :)

Adriana@WearEatLove said...

This post brings back some memories…We have a saying back home: small kids 'small' worries, big kids 'big' worries. And that's true! But I'm oh so glad that my kids are little bit bigger, that I finally sleep at night and I don't have to feed anybody! And Fitz and the Tantrums…same here!
Love the pasta!

CQUEK said...

i love to try out this weekend.

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