healthy eating · life

Wanting it all and zucchini parmesan

I want it all. I want the career and the satisfaction of staying at home with my kids. I want a rewarding salary and the rewards of feeding my kids home cooked meals each and every day. I want the grueling pace I grew so fond of at work but to never miss a second of these early childhood years.

I never understood the concept of “having it all” before I had kids. I saw my close friends return to work, heartbroken, after having their first babies but also happy to have a professional outlet. I didn’t understand then just how heartbreaking it was for them to go back to work. I had no idea the challenges surrounding a decision to work or stay at home for those with the financial ability to choose. I had no concept of the intellectual gap one might feel as a full-time mom or dad after years of a super productive career.

Now I get it. Having it all is this illusive thing we chase. It doesn’t quite exist the way we want it to or think it may. We have to continuously redefine what “all” is as we move through phases in life. For me, that means trying to come to terms with the self I knew at work and the self I know now. It means looking for my own acceptance of not returning to the career I managed for so many years.

I sought some guidance from a close friend on this subject recently. She has done an incredible job of balancing kids, family, and work over the years. I joked with her that she’s my role model and always has been whether she realized it or not. It wasn’t a joke at all, though. I’ve watched her deftly move through 12 years of raising kids and have admired the clear sacrifices I saw her make. She made it look easy, as if there was no difficult deliberation in the choices she made. In talking through it, I came to realize her reality was every bit as challenging as it is for me to navigate. Looking back, I have no idea how she left her 3 month old daughter with her parents and in-laws when she first returned to work. I was still 9 years away from having kids at the time so I couldn’t relate then as I do now. She cried the whole way into work that first day. And I suspect many more days.

These are hard choices in front of us. Whether we get to stay home full time, part time, or no time. Whether we want to stay home full-time or return to work. What that work looks like after having kids. I’m trying to find the balance I need in taking care of my kids full time but also developing an intellectual and creative outlet for myself. I need that outlet to be a better mom, spouse, and person. I haven’t found the silver bullet yet but I’ll keep you posted on my progress as I work through the process. In the meantime, I’m channeling my former career obsession into a cooking obsession. May you enjoy the fruits of my labor.

I love all sorts of parmesans. I’m a sucker for red sauce and cheese baked in an oven as much as I’m a sucker for ranch dressing. Plus, these things are the perfect candidate for a make ahead meal to wow house guests. Or to load up your freezer for that night you get home late from a long trip. This zucchini parmesan recipe helps us use up some of the ridiculous amount of squash that come out of our garden in the summer. Why can’t I ever learn that you only need one or two zucchini plants?

Zucchini Parmesan

zucchini parmesan

2 – 3 large zucchini
1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce (but Rao’s is the best)
12 oz whole fat ricotta cheese
8 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced and divided
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Lightly oil one large or two medium baking sheets.

Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise and widthwise then slice it into thin strips about 1/4 – 1/2” thick. Place the zucchini on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove sheet pan, flip zucchini, and continue roasting for another 10 – 15 minutes or until starting to brown. Repeat until you’ve roasted all of the zucchini. Set the zucchini aside until ready to assemble.

Mix the ricotta and garlic to combine. Spread a thin coating of sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Place roasted zucchini into the casserole dish to create your first layer. Top with half of the ricotta mixture and a sprinkling of basil. Add another layer of zucchini. Top with remaining ricotta mixture and about 1/2 cup of parmesan. Add another layer of zucchini. Top with remaining sauce, basil, mozzarella cheese, and remaining parmesan cheese. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25 to 35 minutes or until cheese starts to brown. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!