So when you’re the face of the leading health-focused food magazine in the country—but you’re also a busy woman, wife, and mom—how do you manage to feed yourself (properly) while maintaining sanity? Cooking Light‘s Executive Chef and Registered Dietitian, Anna Bullett, shares a day in her life.
I hear my kid on the monitor. Oh hell no, I was up with him for at least an hour in the middle of the night. My dutiful husband turns off the monitor and quietly closes the door behind him. They let me sleep until 6:45. It is wonderful.
BUT FIRST, COFFEE! I am the only coffee drinker in our apartment, leaving me solely responsible for brewing. Since having my son, I drink cold brew year-round, made in a big, squat French press (which Bodum discontinued, boo). Cold brew is the bomb because I only need to make it 2-3 times a week, and it’s always at the ready. I pour over ice and add a splash of whole milk. On the weekends, I indulge and add Maine maple syrup. But today is Monday. Womp.
Our 15 month old recently moved from the baby to the toddler daycare room, so I no longer have to pack meals. The amazing caregivers cook for the kids. It’s been a time saver, but their menu is heavy on carbs and light on protein and veggies, so I always send a few snacks. Today I pack green eggs (scrambled eggs with lots of spinach) and half a veggie sausage patty. I try to send a fresh fruit and vegetable smoothie a few times a week, but the morning got away from us, so I send a pear, blueberry & beet pouch. We throw a cut clementine in the bag, but it comes home untouched. Two weeks ago clementines and grapefruit were his favorite foods. Now he acts like we are attempting to poison him with citrus. #toddlerlife
First stop when I arrive at the 6th floor at Time Inc. HQ – the pantry, to put my lunch in the fridge (go me, I packed!) and hit the coffee machine before the masses make messes. I add one packet of sugar and a splash of whole milk. I microwave green eggs, roasted butternut, and steamed broccoli brought from home while my coffee brews. File microwaved scrambled eggs under foods I never would have consumed pre-parenthood.
I venture out into the spitting snow to hit the local little grocery store for cupcake ingredients. I take pictures of random new products to send to my editor friends. Apparently Scramble from Clever Foodies (which is maybe owned by Cabot?) has been around since the spring, but this is the first time I’ve seen it. I buy most of my groceries online, which is awesome, but I don’t necessarily see new products the way I would if shopping in person.
Pregnant (and thus hungry) coworker announces it is time for lunch, and after my skimpy breakfast, I am happy to join the early eating train. Our team meets at a big communal table by the pantry. I enjoy leftover orecchiette-white bean-kale-meatball-lemon soup made on Saturday. While teaching the week before at the Institute of Culinary Education, I made parmesan rind-infused vegetable stock with all the kitchen scraps, and then forgot to invite the students to take it home. Oops! More soup for me. A coworker announces we should have hot chocolate. Yes, please! It is snowing after all. At some point in the afternoon I eat an apple.
I pack my ingredients and my muffin tins in giant tote bags and head to the cafeteria kitchen where I am going to borrow a mixer and an oven. Unfortunately they’ve had something come up, and I am left kitchen-less. Thankfully the studio kitchen happens to be available, so I preheat an oven and get to work.
I make a triple batch of cupcakes using one of my favorite ever Cooking Light recipes. The grocery store only had dark cocoa powder, so that’s what I use and OMG, the batter is luscious and delicious (yes, I licked the spatula–and maybe had a spoonful. Comment away about raw egg risks; I am honestly more scared of bagged salad greens).
I get distracted chatting with the studio director and burn the pecans. Nuts! I make a mental note to buy a new bag on the way home. There is a construction crew working on the electrical across the studio, so I am basically guarding the cupcakes with my life. A coworker helps me clean in exchange for a not-presentation-quality cupcake (She’s awesome!) So are the cupcakes, btw.
Where has the day gone? I store the cooling cupcakes, which will be frosted in the morning, change out of my chef coat, and head to the subway. While waiting on the platform, I catch up on email from the afternoon. Once on the train, service is lost, so I edit cupcake batter photos to post later on Instagram and start writing this food diary in the notes section on my phone.
In my line of work (and life), hitting two grocery stores in one day is far from unusual. This visit is for replacement pecans and whole milk for the milk monster that is my son. Of note: After I get home, I text my husband to stop at the store because I forget to grab baby spinach (my favorite for smoothies, but I used it up in the mornings’ green eggs).
Home. I am super hungry, and the Wheat Thins and cheddar are calling, but I know what I want/need is a real meal, so I stay away. Plus the kid is cranky. He is refusing the chicken breast and green beans on offer. Also he refuses orecchiette, carrots, and meatballs from the leftover soup. And by refuses, I mean violently throws them on the floor.
Okay, fine: Plain, whole milk yogurt for dinner once again. He’s teething so I get it, but as a dietitian, it is pretty embarrassing to have my kid refusing green in anything other than smoothies.
I cut up the chicken and hide it in the yogurt. He goes for it. The veggies, not so much. I snack on blueberries, raw green beans (a way under-appreciated raw vegetable), and a handful of corn Chex. I let my son feed himself the last of the yogurt, and since he is also practicing with his big kid cup of water, there is now (like there is almost every night) yogurt soup all over him, the chair, and the surrounding 2-foot radius. Eh well. Bath time, story time, and bedtime.
Finally, grown-up dinner is on the horizon. But OY, I am tired. I dig through the freezer and find a pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. No clue what I will do with them but into the microwave on defrost they go. I made brown rice-lentil pilaf over the weekend, and we have some lemons, so I am thinking vaguely Middle Eastern. Since the green beans are already out and we need a vegetable, I set some water to boil.
While the chicken thaws, I dig around the spice drawer for coriander but then remember the POUND of incredible Lebanese spice blend brought back to me from Lebanon by a coworker. YAYAYAY! There is no English on the package, so I have no clue what is in it but I am pretty sure sumac and Fenugreek are involved, along with cinnamon, cardamom, etc. It isn’t spicy, just warm and fragrant. The smell makes me want to get on a plane bound for an exotic locale immediately.
I dredge the thighs with the spice blend, some sea salt, and Wondra flour and place them in preheated safflower oil in a hot sauté pan. A dig though the cupboard turns up Turkish dried apricots. I cut strips and throw them in the pan with the chicken, then add the zest and juice of one lemon and a squeeze of honey. I know I want a creamy element but I know my plain, non-fat Greek yogurt is going to curdle the minute it hits the hot pan. I am too tired to care, so into the pan it goes. I stir it all up, cook a few more minutes, and when my husband walks in the door at 8 p.m. dinner is done. YAY! And the fruit-with-meat-adverse husband loves the made-up-on-the-fly Lebanese-and-apricot chicken with lemon. Double YAY!
I have aspirations of eating at the table, but it is covered with randomness. And did I mention I am tired? We eat on the couch and watch the last episode of season 1 of Jane the Virgin (A CLIFFHANGER, GRR).
I want something sweet for dessert but am reminded of the afternoon I spent with cupcake batter, and I am totally spent, so off to bed and lights out by 10 p.m.
A note – I didn’t write it down, but I drink a ton water (lots of ice, please!) throughout the day. Sometimes seltzer with a splash of cranberry juice but mostly filtered tap water.
ALSO, this was a particularly healthy Monday for me because I had cooked over the weekend. When I have had a travel- or sickness-intense month, I am more apt to buy my lunch and sometimes even breakfast in the work cafeteria a few times a week and order Thai or Middle Eastern food for dinner. #reallife
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