While I was pregnant, I remember having very big plans for  all the cooking I would do while I was on maternity leave.

I  love to cook, and although I’m not overly skilled in recipe creation – I don’t have the patience to be honest – one of my favourite pastimes is to try out new and unique recipes using fresh, healthy, real food.  I usually end up tweaking the recipes to make them my own, which is part of the fun.  The more I learn about nutrition, the more I see the benefits of eating less processed food so I do attempt to make a lot of things from scratch – homemade broth, nut butters, salad dressings, sauces etc.  They are so much better than anything from a can or jar.  My food processor gets a serious workout.

Obviously cooking meals from scratch takes a lot of time.  And with a full-time job, part-time studies, staying active and having some sort of social life, I was always scrambling to find the time to do all the cooking I wanted to.  Insert an upcoming maternity leave.  With a whole year off of work, I would  have so much free time that I would be able to try out every recipe in my cookbooks and bookmarked on my computer.  It would be “homemade” this and “made from scratch” that.  I think I even told Jon to prepare himself for the wonderful and healthy dinners that he would be coming home to every day.

Seriously, was I naive or what??

I often tell people that the biggest surprise for me about maternity leave was how much less time I have for myself.  I am enjoying the fact that I get to spend so much time with Tyson – he is an extremely social baby and loves to be out and around other people.  I am lucky that I have a large network of other moms to spend time with and to be living downtown Toronto where I have access to so many mom and baby programs and resources.

We typically spend a portion of each day out and about – walking, doing yoga or stroller-fit, at a library or music program, or on a playdate with other babies.  And he is happy as a clam.  And I am too because Tyson takes after his social mama.

The other part of the day we need to spend at home.  We both need down time and there is always a lot to get done around the house, schoolwork to do, blogging and cooking of course.  However, at home Tyson the social-butterfly wants to spend time with whomever is around – that being me and only me!  If I were Tyson’s teacher writing his report card it would say “Tyson is a friendly, smart, social and overall well-behaved baby – but he has trouble playing independantly.”

Tyson will climb, crawl and play when I am right beside him.  So then I try to sneak away when I think he is distracted.  I usually get about 5 feet before the little monkey notices and starts to whine and cry.  I know this is normal for his age as separation anxiety is setting in.  We’ve tried all sorts of distractions – toys, books, the exersaucer, the highchair – but he is not fooled.  He just wants to play with another human being.

Don’t get me wrong – playing with him is the best thing in the world.  He is a ham and is becoming more hilarious and entertaining every single day!  But this has put a damper on my cooking fantasies.  I’m usually struggling to do some cooking when he is napping or once he has gone to bed, but the majority of my cooking takes place whenever I can distract him for 5-10 minutes throughout the day.

Despite all of this, I was not willing to give up on eating healthy, nutritious and real food as much as possible, just because I had a baby.   So, I had to come up with some quick and easy meals and snacks that I can throw together in short periods of time but that I still feel good about eating.  Enter what I like to call:

This will be a regular blog feature where I will outline some of my “go-to”meals solutions.  I can’t promise that the recipes will be pretty or fancy, but they will be (fairly) quick and easy and will taste delicious.

First up – Roasted Chickpeas!

I first read about this idea somewhere in the healthy food blog world about a year ago, but I really started experimenting with it since I have been on Maternity Leave.  The basic recipe is:

Chickpeas + oil (I used coconut oil but olive oil works too) + spices/herbs

Mix them all together and throw them in the oven for about 45 minutes to an hour (depending on your preference on the crunchiness factor) and you have yourself some crunchy and delicious chickpeas.

Chickpeas (also know as Garbanzo Beans) are pretty darn healthy.  They are ridiculously high in dietary fibre and are a great source of protein, especially when paired with a grain, nuts or seeds for a complete protein.  I generally use them as my protein source on a big, bad salad.  They are SOOOOO much better than just plain chickpeas and can really make a salad shine.  You can also put them in a wrap with some fresh veggies, or serve them hot on rice (or any other grain) with some steamed or grilled veggies.  I also love to just eat them on their own as a savoury, high-fibre, high-protein snack – I’ve even caught Jon nibbling on them 🙂  This is something that I will definitely be giving to Tyson as a snack in the future.

For spices, sometimes I just use plain old sea salt and pepper but generally I use a mix of different spices.  Here are a few of my favourites combinations:

  • Crispy Chickpea Kale Salad from Out To Lunch Creations – I use Jesse’s recipe for roasted chickpeas all the time.  They are amazing on any salad, but her Kale Salad is so, so good.
  • Salt and Vinegar Roasted Chickpeas from Oh She Glows
  • Fresh dill and vinegar (tastes like dill pickle chips!)
  • Chili powder and lime juice
  • Curry powder, cumin and ground coriander for an Indian version
  • Lemon juice and fresh ground pepper
  • Honey and cinnamon for a sweet version

For my most recent batch I used this sea salt spice mix that I bought at Home Sense.

Seriously, the possibilities are endless and oh so delicious. (And yes, that is my messy kitchen in the background.  I told you I would be keeping it real on this blog – which means no time for fancy photography!)

Okay, enough of my blabbering for today.  Here is the official recipe (since I want to be a serious blogger and all):

Roasted Chickpeas

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35-45 minutes

Ingredients (2 cups)

  • 2 cups canned or cooked chickpeas*
  • 3 tsp coconut oil (or olive oil)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • Other spices/herbs of your choice

Directions

1.  Pre-heat over to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.  Drain and rinse chickpeas.  Let them dry as much as possible in the strainer or on some paper towels (this will help them get crispier)
3.  Put them in a bowl and toss with oil, sea salt and other spices/herbs, ensuring they are well coated.
4.  Spread evenly on the baking sheet.
5.  Put into the oven to bake for 35-45 minutes, making sure to stir them around  and taste test every 15 minutes.
6.  Remove from oven once they have reached desired crispiness level**.

Notes:
*I usually use dried chickpeas if I remember to soak them the night before.  If doing so, soak and cook them first.
**Keep an eye on them as they can burn very easily if left in too long!
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Let me know how you like them!

Did you have unrealistic expectations about Maternity Leave?   What strategies did you use to deal with the harsh reality? 🙂

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