I'm so excited to have my second Sous Chef, Jen Casey, share her experiences of pregnancy and motherhood with us. Jen is one extraordinary woman who I also have the privilege of calling my cousin. A Mom of two of the most beautiful, sweet, and smart children, Jen was a constant source of mentoring and support during my pregnancy. She is a lawyer, extremely funny, intelligent, loves a good challenge and is always on the go (this sounds like an add for an online dating profile.....I will let you know if any suitors come calling). Jen has shared one of her favorite risotto recipes with us and although I haven't yet tried it, you can be sure I will be putting it on the menu ASAP.
I am honored she has taken the time to share her thoughts with us and I know you will enjoy this post as much as I do.
1) What is the one thing you wish your pre-kiddo self knew?
I wish I knew how long it would take for me to really adjust to parenthood. For me, I was very excited to be pregnant and have a baby. I was very well prepared for labor and birth and I thought I had a solid understanding of the fact that being a parent was a never-ending responsibility and challenge. But, I didn’t realize how long it would take for me to be totally comfortable in the role of being a mother. Looking back, it really wasn’t until my second child – my daughter, Helen – was born that I was really comfortable and confident and truly happy with my role as a mother.
2.) What have you found to be the most rewarding part of motherhood?
Watching my kiddos develop love and respect for each other. Every time I hear them talk to each other nicely, compliment one another or comfort the other when one of them is upset or hurt – it makes my heart melt and makes me feel proud that I have been a part of teaching them how to be nice human beings.
3.) What has been the biggest challenge of motherhood?
Patience. I am not that patient of a person. And I don’t mean just being patient when your child has a temper tantrum, although that certainly does test my patience. But I mean, having patience when every simple task – from getting out the door, to getting in car seats, to taking off coats, to brushing teeth, takes WAY longer than it really should. I have a hard time maintaining my cool.
4.) If you had one day to re-live with your kids, what would it be?
The day of their births. Probably not the labor. But taking that first look at each of them. Snuggling them to my chest, gazing at them with my husband in pure love and wonderment. If I could do that again, I would in a heartbeat.
5.) What is your favorite pregnancy memory?
My favorite pregnancy memory is picking my husband up at the T-stop in Cambridge, Massachusetts with my positive pregnancy test after a year of trying to get pregnant with our first baby.
6.) What is your least favorite pregnancy memory?
My worst pregnancy memory is the terrible, terrible rash I got in the last weeks of my pregnancy with my son, Cyrus. Apparently it is relatively common, it started on my belly and spread all over my body. I was about 1,000 pounds, really ready to get that baby out and felt like I was wearing a fiberglass suit. It was awful.
7.) Who was/is your mentor for pregnancy/motherhood?
My best friend Danielle has been my mentor for pregnancy and motherhood. She has had 3 gorgeous daughters naturally – two at home and makes being a parent look effortless but is always honest about how much effort it really does take.
8.) What is your favorite place to travel without your kids? What about with your kids?
My favorite place to travel with my kids is back to New England during the summer. The beach in Maine and the family lake in Manomet, Massachusetts are the dreamiest places in the world. Plenty of place for us all to run and swim and surf and water ski and fish and enjoy the company of our family, watch the kids play with cousins and nurture their relationships with our extended family.
I think my favorite place to travel without my kids – although I have not done it yet – would be to New York or Paris with my husband.
9.) What qualities do you think each of your kids has that comes from you?
I love food. Cyrus loves food. The kid will try, and enjoy, absolutely anything – sushi, Indian, lobster, spicy Mexican food, lasagna, quiche, you name it. I love this about him.
Helen is very stubborn and kind of bossy. As much as I don’t like admitting it, I think that this comes from me as well.
10.) What was the best advice anyone gave you about motherhood?
I don’t know if its advice – but the saying “the days are long but the years are short” really holds true. It helps to keep things in perspective. My babies are no longer babies, and it happened in the blink of an eye.
Quinoa Risotto with Butternut Squash
3 cups of butternut squash, diced
2 T Olive oil (divided)
Freshly Ground Black pepper
2 cups vegetable/chicken broth
½ cup white wine
1 cup of quinoa, rinsed
1 onion, finely diced
1 red pepper, finely diced
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1/8 – ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
4 -6 cloves garlic, minced
1 T fresh thyme
1 T fresh sage, minced
1 cup frozen peas
3 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss the diced butternut squash with 1 T olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally.
2. Bring broth to simmer over medium heat. Keep warm.
3. Sauté onion and pepper in 1 T olive oil over medium high heat for 8 minutes, stirring often. Lower heat to medium. Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add rinsed quinoa and cook 2 minutes more.
4. Add wine, salt and cayenne pepper. Cook until wine has absorbed and then add in just enough vegetable broth to cover. Continue stirring frequently and adding broth until all but ½ cup of the broth has been added. This should take about 20 minutes.
5. Add in thyme, sage, peas, goat cheese and remaining 1/2 cup liquid. Stir for two minutes and then remove pan from heat. (There will still be a little liquid remaining. )
6. Add in squash. Place on a plate and garnish with parmesan cheese.