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.
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.