Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sleepless Nights and Meatball Soup

Last night was one of the worst nights we've had with Eli ever since he started sleeping through the night. I woke up around 2:00 for a bathroom run (pretty standard this late in the pregnancy!) and he must have heard me, because the screaming started then. He was incredibly tired from our long weekend in Nova Scotia, the five hour drive we'd had that day, and then a late bedtime because we were at a friend's house. I got him up and rocked him back to sleep, then laid him down and rubbed his back until I was SURE he was asleep. Ten minutes later he woke up again. Dragged myself out of bed, repeat the process. Back to bed. Ten minutes later, he was up again. This time it was Cory's turn! He got him up and changed his diaper, then rocked and soothed him back to sleep again. Ten minutes later? You guessed it. I knew Cory wasn't feeling well, so I decided to handle it. He had a really runny nose and Cory thought that maybe he was waking up because he couldn't breathe properly. Unfortunately we don't own a humidifier, so I grabbed the next best thing I could find - the kettle! I squirted some tea tree oil into the water, brought it into his room and plugged it in. After soothing him enough that he was lying down, I sat on the floor in the dark and flipped the kettle on every time it shut off again until I thought his room was steamy enough. By the time I managed to drag myself back into bed again, it was 4:00. Thankfully though, the kettle seemed to do the trick. He stayed asleep! Until 6:30 that is, when we were both up for the day. It was one of those nights where I questioned my decision to have children, but it's too late to give them back now! By the time I had a couple more hours of sleep in me though I was thankful for him again. I expected him to wake up this morning with a vicious cold considering his condition last night, but he seems to be fine, albeit a little tired and grumpy. This evening I put him to bed with the tea tree oil steam again, and also rubbed Vicks under his nose and on his chest and on the bottoms of his feet. I had never heard of putting Vicks on the soles of ones feet until I moved to Browns Flat, but people around here SWEAR by it for curing what ails you. I remain skeptical, but at least it can't hurt him. Here's hoping tonight is an improvement over the last one.

Tonight for dinner we had Italian Meatball Soup. YUM. I've made it twice now and I think it will become a staple around here. I love soup because it incorporates lots of healthy vegetables, homemade chicken stock, healthy fats and you can get away with less meat than in other meals. Here's my recipe, it's loosely based on Italian Wedding Soup, but that traditionally uses tiny pasta called pastini (I think), but I like to use quinoa instead, just to be difficult. As always I'm not really including a lot of measurements here. When I first made it I made so many meatballs that I froze half of them. This made it a lot quicker to make the second time since all I had to do was pull them out of the freezer and throw them in the pot.

Italian Meatball Soup

For the meatballs: 
ground beef
1 egg
bread crumbs
parsley
parmesan cheese
italian seasoning
salt and pepper
Mix together using clean hands and scoop out by the tablespoon, forming into balls. You could always make them bigger if you want, but I like the little ones for soup. Now here is the optional part: you can choose to heat up a skillet on medium high and brown the meatballs a few at a time, or just leave them as is. The first time I made this soup I browned the meatballs. This made them prettier and gave them a nice flavour, but when I didn't bother the second time I really didn't notice much difference. I'll probably just skip this step from now on! 

For the soup:
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic
2 large carrots
3 stalks celery
several tablespoons olive oil
Heat the oil in a large stock pot. Dice the vegetables and saute in oil until they are starting to soften. Don't skip this - sauteing prior to adding the stock really makes the veggies soft and gives them a better flavour. Crunchy onions in my soup? No thanks. 
5-6 cups of chicken stock or water or a combination (beef or veggie stock would be fine too)
Italian seasoning
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
(Feel free to throw in any extra spices you feel like at this point, I added some good old Mrs. Dash!)
Bring this to a rolling boil.
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
meatballs from above
Add to pot. Return to a boil, then cover and simmer 20-25 minutes. 
baby spinach, torn or chopped into bite sized pieces (I used about half a 5 oz. package)
a few tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Remove bay leaf. Add spinach and parsley, stir and let spinach wilt. Serve immediately, topped with extra parmesan cheese if desired.

Very yummy, very healthy, and quite simple, especially if you do the meatballs ahead of time. Eli loves this soup, it gets two thumbs up from him! Oh, and if you're going to be freezing meatballs, make sure you flash freeze them. This means laying them out on a baking sheet to freeze prior to putting them in a bag. This way they'll keep their shape and won't all stick together. Enjoy!

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