Tuesday, December 30, 2014

December Recap

Wow. It's been a fast and furious month. This poor little space has been highly neglected among all of our activities: Hanukkah, Christmas, our road trip tour de Texas and having Cooper out of school! Here are some high and low notes of the month:

I lost my biggest blog fan and most avid follower this month. I say that in jest but there is no one that loved this blog more than Kyle's grandmother, Bubby (Marolyn). She printed off every post that I wrote to show to people and also laid them out on her coffee table in her living room. If I ever questioned the importance of posting yet another "this has got to be the most hilarious thing that any kid has ever said" moment, I knew that Bubby would read and treasure it…and she did!


Bubby was a very spirited woman who never let her opinion go unknown. Towards the end of her battle with cancer, she would constantly remind us that "these doctors don't know who they are dealing with!" I had to laugh because that was true, on oh so many levels. She loved us all fiercely and we loved her right back. We will all miss her very much.

In lighter news…

 - Our Elf on the Shelf, Bama, returned this year. He made his scheduled appearance only a few days late after being misplaced by Mom and Dad. When all else fails, chocolate.


 - Cooper's beloved Mr. Snake tragically lost his eye in a severe wall banging incident a few months ago. He was promptly removed from the group of animals Cooper sleeps with every night, affectionately named "the stuff". He would say, "I don't like him anymore. His eye is broken." There is a lesson in there about tolerance and acceptance that somehow didn't translate! Anyway, I performed a little surgery a la Doc McStuffins and voila…Mr. Snake is happily part of "the stuff" again!



 - This little cheeser helped me decorate the Christmas tree this year. I've only been waiting to do this with him SINCE HE WAS BORN! We blared Christmas music and drank hot chocolate and there was only one reported ornament loss to speak of!


 - In other "wanted to do this since they were born" news…I officially have a shopping buddy. I knew this would happen eventually, I just didn't foresee it being the case with a 17 month old. Watch out Kyle, she's coming for your credit card! Let's just say, I didn't mind the company while shlepping through town buying gifts this year!


 - Kyle and I spent 1.5 days in Belize soaking up the sun and enjoying childless laziness. Unfortunately (on many levels) we had to cut our trip short to attend Bubby's funeral and spend time with family, but it was beautiful and luxurious while it lasted.


 - One of Cooper's favorite activities is to go golfing with Kyle. So, on days when there aren't many people on the course, Kyle will take him out to play a few holes. (Tough Dad job, I know.) Cooper will don his fishing/golfing glove and they head out to tear up the course (and the water hazards). Our apologies to the other golfers!




 - Cooper really got into the season this year. Eight nights of Hanukkah celebrations bode well for almost 4 year old boys! Every day during Hanukkah, Cooper would announce that he said "Burch atah adonai" (the beginning of the Hanukkah prayer) and that he was ready to open presents clearly ignoring the whole waiting until sundown thing. Patience is not our strong suit!


 - Speaking of getting into the season, I made Cooper help me clean out his toys so that we might give the ones he no longer plays with to other boys and girls. Y'all. We gathered up 5 trash bags full of toys! Embarrassing yet extremely satisfying. We even had one whole toy drawer empty…until Christmas came along!


 - I'm always taken aback by the simplicity of Cooper's holiday wishes. Last year he wanted a basketball and this year he wanted a light for his bike. I always fret over what to get him when in reality I should just embrace it before he discovers the beauty that is the Toys R Us catalogue. True to form, he wouldn't open up another gift this year until Kyle attached the light he got from Santa to his bike!




Hope your December has been just as full as ours. I really can't believe 2015 is just knocking on the door. Since I'm recapping… Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Christmas Sneaker

My Mom was a terrible present hider. (Sorry Mom but you know it's true!) Every Christmas, I would sneak into her closet and get a preview of my Christmas morning "surprises". I knew exactly where to find them. They were in the same place year after year after year… I thought I was so clever!

Well, as it turns out, I am not "so clever" and have inherited the bad present hiding gene! I got a bunch of the kids' presents on Amazon the other day and put the CLOSED box of toys in our hall closet. Apparently, that little smiley face on the side was just too tempting for little eyes because this happened last night:

Me: (to Kyle, who was internet shopping two weeks before Christmas!) I should just give you your Christmas presents now!

Cooper: (overhearing me) OK!!! I want my present now!

Me: Sorry bud, you are going to have to wait until Christmas.

Cooper: (after a dramatic slump to the ground) But I really, really want them. PLEASE?!?!

Me: Sorry, no.

Cooper: (now crying) But I REALLY, REALLY want my Superman Legos!

Me: (fighting back the laughter) Did you peak into Mommy's Christmas box?

Cooper: (so very innocently) Yes, I did.

Stinker.

Just another one to add to the list of how my boy is older (and much wiser) than I give him credit for!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Spiced Pork Chops with Sweet and Sour Glaze

This is another one of my favorites from the Giada De Laurentiis "Weeknights with Giada" cookbook. I made this a couple of nights ago using five (5!!!) pork chops and we had zero leftovers. Granted, they were on the smaller side but everyone in this house loves this recipe and gobbles it up!

It's highly adaptable for the kids. I just cut the red pepper flakes when seasoning their chops and I don't use any of the glaze for them…more for me!

You can find the recipe on Giada De Laurentiis' website here or copied below.

Spiced Pork Chops with Sweet and Sour Glaze


Ingredients:
Pork
¼ cup olive oil, plus extra as needed
4 (8-ounce) boneless pork chops, about 1 ½ inches thick
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Glaze
½ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 scallions, pale green and white parts only, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes, at room temperature
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper



Directions:
Pork
In a large, heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper, to taste, and sprinkle with the red pepper flakes. Add the pork to the pan and cook until cooked through. for about 5 to 6 minutes on each side, or Remove the pork from the pan, cover loosely with foil, and set aside.
Glaze
In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar, honey, garlic, scallions, and rosemary to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the honey has dissolved. Simmer for 9 minutes, or until slightly reduced. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.


Arrange the pork chops on a platter and drizzle with the glaze.


Happy Mommy.

Happy kids.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Spaghetti Squash with Sausage, Pesto and Goat Cheese

Hi! If you missed my post last week due to the Thanksgiving shuffle, I posted a really great (and EASY) Barbecue Rubbed Salmon recipe here. This is a good one to tuck away when you're cooking but not in the mood to do a ton of work!

On to the next…

We LOVE spaghetti squash around here. It's versatile (can be subbed for pasta in most any dish) and feels lighter than pasta, even when you're adding sausage and goat cheese to it! I love to keep one on hand and use it to help purge the refrigerator. That half-empty jar of sun-dried tomatoes you've been holding on to? Thrown 'em in with your spaghetti squash! Not sure what to do with last nights leftover baked chicken? Chicken spaghetti squash! That half-eaten bag of spinach? You know what to do…

Here's a combo that we love around here:

Spaghetti Squash with Sausage, Pesto and Goat Cheese


Ingredients:
1 whole spaghetti squash
3-4 oz. Goat Cheese
Package of sausage links (I usually pick up the Applegate Chicken and Apple Sausage)
1 jar artichoke hearts
1 jar sun-dried tomatoes
1 jar pesto (about 6oz)
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 
  2. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  3. Place cut-side down in a foil lined baking dish. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until tender.
  4. Remove spaghetti squash from oven and let cool. 
  5. Chop about half of the jar of sun-dried tomatoes and about half the jar of artichokes. Chop sausage into bite-sized pieces.
  6. Scoop out insides of spaghetti squash with a fork and toss with goat cheese, sausage, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and pesto.
A note for the kids… When I make this for my family, I set aside a portion of spaghetti squash that I toss with a little bit of butter and serve to the kiddos with chicken sausage and peas!







Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Barbecue Rubbed Salmon

I know you're probably busy getting ready to stuff your bird (and stuff your face) tomorrow, but I thought I'd keep up with the What's For Dinner Wednesday series to give you an idea for next week. You know, for when you're tired of cooking and ready to right the bad eating train?!?! This recipe is super easy and tasty, plus the rub is easy to save and makes enough for two meals.

Barbecue Rubbed Salmon

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp Paprika
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Red pepper flakes
Honey
1 lb salmon

Directions:
  1. Mix the first 7 ingredients in a small tupperware or air tight container.
  2. Sprinkle about half the rub over the fish and save the rest for the next time you make this. (I usually leave a small portion of the fish unseasoned for my kids.)
  3. Top with red pepper flakes to taste and drizzle with honey.
  4. Bake at 425 degrees for 22 minutes.

Adult and kid meal all in one!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

First Haircut (Can you spot the second born?)

I've joked around a lot about Carrington and her #secondkidprobs (here) and have made many reference to how Cooper is the typical firstborn (structured and particular are the "nice" words that come to mind). However, my words can never tell the firstborn vs. second-born story as well as the picture of my kids' first haircut. Eat your heart out, witty blog post! You've got nothing on this:

Cooper's First Haircut

Carrington's First Haircut

Hamming it up.
I didn't even intend to get her first haircut the day I went in and Kyle definitely was not in attendance. How second-born is that? Yes, in true little sister fashion, she hopped right up into the chair after her big brother was up there and practically demanded a cut. I was able to walk in and out of the room (to tend to Cooper, of course) while she happily ate her lollipop and sat perfectly still for her cut.

Can you believe this big girl bob?

I know her laid-back cool is a result of her second-born level of attention from me (or lacktherof!) but it has definitely made her more able to roll with the punches and cope with big things on her own. Sorry, Coop!

Dang. She is so cute I could eat her!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Shredded Chicken Tacos

Y'all, this recipe is so easy and simple I'm almost embarrassed to post it. But then again, doesn't everyone have days when you just need something super easy and simple?! If you're shaking your head no, why don't you take me out for a glass of wine to discuss your secrets? P.S. You're paying.

So for all the normal busy people out there, here's my recipe for shredded chicken tacos. I've seen several versions of this floating around Pinterest that don't include onions but, in my humble opinion, crockpot recipes either need to have one of the following: 1) a bed of vegetables sitting underneath the meat you are cooking (e.g. whole chicken or pot roast); or, 2) plenty of liquid (e.g. soups and stews). Trust my dried out nothings of dinners past to know this to be true!

Shredded Chicken Tacos

Ingredients:
Chicken breast tenders
Taco seasoning (1 package or DIY here)
16 oz. jar of MILD salsa (I use Ranchero or something similarly very tomato-y)
1 onion
Tortillas

Garnish: Green onion, avocado, cilantro

Directions:
  1. Cut onion into large chunks and spread on the bottom of your crock pot.
  2. Place chicken breast tenders on top of the onion.
  3. Sprinkle with taco seasoning (enough to cover).
  4. Pour entire jar of salsa over the chicken.
  5. Cook on low setting for 6 hours.
  6. Shred chicken, assemble tacos and garnish with your choice of toppings. 
Yeah, it's that easy. This recipe comes out mild enough that I can use the chicken to stuff a quesadilla or taco for the kids. We pump up the spice factor with some Cholula or other hot sauce. For all of my Texas people, have you tried HEB's "That Green Sauce" in HOT? Amazing and really spicy!

I promise to take a better picture next time! I promise it's good…)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Spicy Thai Basil Fish

Our favorite Thai food spot in Houston is Thai Gourmet. Have you been? Unfortunately, we haven't been much since the kids came in to the picture. Apparently melt your face spice and kid palates don't quite mix!

My favorite Thai dish is the basil fish. In fact, this is what I ate on Cooper's due date (ordered EXTRA SPICY) in order to coax him out. While the food was awesome, all I ended up with was heartburn and no baby that night!

I recently set out to replicate this dish along with something that could be served to the kids! I started with this Cooking Light Spicy Thai Basil Chicken Wraps and ended up with something close…plus fish burgers for the kids! (I know "fish burgers" sound disgusting but bear with me!)

Spicy Thai Basil Fish

Ingredients:
4 tsp vegetable oil
1 shallot, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound white fish filets (I've used flounder and Alaskan cod.)
2 serrano peppers, minced (I use one with seeds, one without for spiciness. No seeds = milder flavor.)
1 Tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp dark brown sugar
2 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 cup thai basil (purple), chopped
Ground chili paste, to taste (Look for "Sambal Oelek" in the Asian foods section of the grocery store.)

Directions:
  1. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a skillet over medium heat.
  2. Sauté shallots for two minutes. Add bell pepper and sauté for one minute. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Remove mixture from pan skillet and set aside.
  3. Add remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to the skillet. Cook fish filets 2-3 minutes on each side or until cooked through (depending on thickness). Remove from skillet and place on a paper towel to drain. Reserve one filet for kids dish (below).
  4. Sauté peppers for one minute. Add fish back to the pan along with shallot mixture, fish sauce, brown sugar, soy sauce and pepper. Cook for one minute.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in basil. Add chili paste to taste.

Excuse the un-tossed salad…somebody was throwing themselves on the ground in hunger desperation at this point! Poor Kyle…

Fish Burgers for the kids!

No, not a sandwich, a burger with ketchup and pickles! Sorry to those of you who already threw up in their mouths a little bit! I know it sounds gross but my kids eat it (hopefully not forever) and I am happy serving up a lean protein that they enjoy. Cooper has always LOVED salmon but never touched white fish until recently. (This is so strange to me because in my opinion salmon is the fishiest! I digress…) Anyway, when it comes to introducing new kid food, we have luck serving up something new in a familiar package. The first time I tried this with fish, I gave it to Cooper plain on a whole wheat slider and called it a burger. He immediately asked for ketchup and pickles. I was disgusted until he happily ate two fish filet sliders. After that, I stopped caring! Best of luck fish-burgering!

Monday, November 10, 2014

What's in My Bag? (Toddler Edition)

Have you seen the spread in US Weekly "What's in My Bag"? I read those articles with both a sense of awe ("What a good idea to keep that in your purse!") and fear ("Please God let nobody do this to my purse!") Carrington, on the other hand, was an unknowing yet I'm sure willing participant!



Not only has Carrington carried a purse ever since she could walk, she is also a "stasher". I find things she has hidden in all sorts of strange places.

Exhibit A: Binky in kitchen cabinet.

Exhibit B: Boot in bathroom cabinet.

Exhibit C: Herself (and Daddy's Gold Bold) in the bathroom cabinet!


Well for her, naturally, the purse carrying and the stashing go hand in hand. I'm always tickled as to what she loads up in there. Surprisingly, its mostly practical…a girl after my own heart!


So without further ado, I wanted to share the "What's in My Bag? Toddler Edition)":





  • Three different sets of keys: Someone's got to be able to open up that villa in Aspen!
  • Tea bags, in two different flavors: Because, you know, variety is the spice of life!
  • Debit Card: Soon enough she'll be swiping Kyle's.
  • Binky aka "Bop Bop": Just in case Mom forgets…AGAIN!
  • Toothbrush: "I had all of those strawberry seeds. And you shouldn't neglect your [8 teeth]." sic
  • Kyle's Chapstick: With the tip bit off!
  • A card that goes to one of Cooper's games: Just because its fun to mess with him.
  • MY LIP GLOSS!: The first time of many, I'm sure.
  • "Open the Barn Door" board book: Because her brother's activities are bor-ing!
I do find it interesting that she has stolen and stashed something from each family member. If I ever lose my keys I'll know where to look!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Chicken Tortilla Soup

Happy Wednesday! It's a rainy day in Texas and a perfect day to share this Chicken Tortilla Soup!

Speaking of sharing, I added a Cheeseburgers on China "What's For Dinner Wednesday" board on Pinterest to make it easier to find all of these recipes. You can follow by clicking here. I also made a permanent link on my blog so you will be able to navigate to the Pinterest board directly from my blog in the future.

Business aside…

This soup feels a little more like short-order cooking than the rest of the recipes I've shared but only because I get two pots going at once. No extra chopping required and the kids get the feel of eating the adult meal. It's super yummy and freezes well!

(Note: I attempted to write the directions in the order that I cook the two pots at once. Holler at me if this is confusing!)

Chicken Tortilla Soup


Ingredients:
6 tbsp vegetable oil
4 corn tortillas, chopped into bite sized pieces
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 small can green chilies 
1 ear of corn, cooked and off the cobb (or 1 can sweet corn if corn not in season)
4 cooked chicken breast halves (or a whole shredded rotisserie chicken)
2 tbsp cumin (plus a bit extra to season kid soup)
1 tbsp chili powder
3 bay leaves
8 cups chicken stock
1 tsp salt (plus a bit extra to season kid soup)
1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne

(Garnish: sour cream, green onion, shredded cheese, tortilla chips, avocado)

  1. Heat 4 tbsp of vegetable oil in a large stock pot (adult soup) and 2 tbsp of oil in a large saucepan (kid soup).
  2. In the kid soup add: about a small handful of tortillas, 1 clove garlic and 2 tbsp of onion. In the adult soup add the remaining tortillas, garlic and onion plus cilantro. Saute both pots for 2-3 minutes.
  3. In the kid soup add about 2 tbsp of tomatoes. In the adult soup add the remaining tomatoes plus the green chilies. Bring to a boil.
  4. In the kid soup add 2 cups of chicken stock, 1 bay leaf,  and cumin to taste (approx. 1/4 tsp cumin). In the adult soup add 6 cups chicken stock, 2 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp chili powder and 2 bay leaves. Return to boil.
  5. Reduce heat. In the kid soup add salt to taste (just a pinch) and about 4 tbsp corn. In the adult soup add salt, cayenne pepper and the remaining corn. 
  6. Simmer both pots for 30 minutes.
  7. Remove bay leaves. In the kid soup stir in a small handful of chicken. In the adult soup add in the remaining chicken. Heat for about 5 minutes or until chicken is heated through.
  8. Garnish with cheese, sour cream, green onion, shredded cheese, tortilla chips and avocado…or whatever else you and your kids prefer!
Adult soup on the left, kid on the right…simmering!

Chicken Tortilla Soup, adult version

Chicken Tortilla Soup, kid version

Monday, November 3, 2014

HELP! We are saying goodbye to the nap! (And trying not to cry about it.)

It is with a heavy heart that I come to inform you that my magical "double-nap nap time" is coming to an end. Yes, sadly the door is shutting on the two to three hours of glorious alone time I had every afternoon.

Now, before you break out your tiny violin for me and my sob story, hear me out! My kids have never been great night time sleepers. When one is doing fine the other is crying about monsters and when that resolves someone else is yelling about teeth. I won't name names. But nap time? They nailed it and I took full advantage.

I cleaned. I cooked. I did laundry. I wrote emails. I blogged. I scheduled conference calls. I sometimes snuck in the occasional shower. I warned Kyle never to come home from work before nap time because that was my time to get my stuff together (and pluck the socks off the ceiling fans from the tornados that are our mornings).

But now I am stuck holding on to a tiny little thread that was once my afternoon [sniffle]. Why is this blog post all about me, you ask? Because the boy is 100% fine with this new schedule. He's down to about two naps a week and there have been no meltdowns and no 5 o'clock witching hour. He just happily transitions from play time to dinner to what is now (thankfully) an earlier bedtime.

So my question is this: What do all of you do that have older kids at home that don't nap? Do we feel ok with some daily screen time in order to get things done? I'm talking an hour or so. Any great "play by yourself" toys or activities that you know of? I have to be honest, I'm great at zoo outings and the Children's Museum and taking kids to the park but I am not the sit on the floor and craft and play puzzles all afternoon kind of Mom!

HELP! I would love to hear from you!


This little face is getting really tired of Finding Nemo!



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Sweet and Spicy Meatballs

Hi! It's Wednesday and I'm cooking up something yummy that will satisfy your picky kids and your need to eat something that is NOT BLAND KID FOOD!

This is one of our favorites. The meatball recipe is one that I use a ton and it can be easily adapted to whatever you are cooking by just adding some seasoning and spices. For example, if I'm making Italian meatballs I will add fresh oregano and thyme. For Asian, I use a Hoisin based sauce…a very versatile meatball, if I do say so myself!!! The low heat for baking ensures that these babies won't dry out and they are easy to freeze if you have extra!

Sweet and Spicy Meatballs


Ingredients:

Meatballs:
1lb ground beef (or turkey if you prefer)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 clove garlic
salt/pepper to taste

Sauce (adapted from Table For Seven's recipe):
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
1/3 cup honey
2 TBSP soy sauce
1 clove minced garlic
1/4 to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (to taste!)

Pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees. Spray olive oil (I use olive oil in a Misto) or cooking spray on a cookie sheet. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Form into balls (this usually makes about 30, 1-inch balls). Arrange on cookie sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes.

At this point I will set aside about 6-8 meatballs for my kids and save the rest for the "adult sauce" below. Because hey, even I'm smart enough not to try to compete with ketchup as my kids' "dip it"!

Moving on...

In a large saucepan, combine all of the sauce ingredients. (I use 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes for a nice kick!) Mix over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and sauce is combined. 

Stir in cooked meatballs and enjoy!

When little boys don't nap, little hands have to help out in the kitchen!

This looks like a ton but they don't stick around for long!

Kids' Meatballs!

Adults' Meatballs!





Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cooperisms, Fifth Ediition

First, I wanted to say thank you for the outpouring of support from this post. It really felt nice to be able to air some dirty laundry and hear back with lots of "I've been there"'s and "nobody is perfect"'s! As Chelsea put it: Love that we can ALL stand together and say, "Yep! I'm trying my best but I'm screwing up along the way too."

Second, back to the Cooper antics, because that is our life right nowliving Cooper antic to Cooper antic!

So, without further ado, here are the current "Cooperisms"!

  • "Shake it Off" - We were in a store when this Taylor Swift song came over the radio. Cooper said: "This sounds like Mommy's car!" Oops.
  • Old Mint - Randy Travis' "Forever and Ever, Amen" is included in the strange melody of songs that I sing to Cooper at bedtime (as well as an old Kappa Picker song, Garth Brooks and a song from Dumbo…random!). Lately, I've been singing a line and then Cooper will sing the next back to me. I've realized many things he thinks I've been singing that aren't the actual lyrics. By far the funniest, is "old mint" instead of "old men". I tried to correct him, apparently I don't' know what I'm talking about!
    • "As long as OLD MINT sit and talk about the weather, as long as old women sit and talk about OLD MINT." 
  • "And that's the TRUTH!" - Lately, its been a struggle to get him to take a nap. He still does it about 75% of the time but there is a lot of hemming and hawing beforehand. Honestly, he's probably fine without one but I do enjoy the precious double nap I get in the afternoons! One of his better arguments was: "Napping is not good for you and THAT'S. THE. TRUTH. You can't do things that are not the truth because that would not be the truth." Okayyyyyy.
  • Love Girl / Love Boy - Cooper has started calling the people and pets in our family "love girls" or "love boys". e.g. "Layla is so nice because she's a love girl." "I love Daddy because he's a love boy." I have no idea what he means by this but this is by far the sweetest and sappiest thing he's ever come up with!
  • "Toots in the agua!" - Not sure that this one really needs much explaining…he's a boy and he thinks tooting in the bathtub is HILARIOUS! When he does it, he gets this sneaky smile and says "toots in the agua"! This is definitely an active choice, not a funny coincidence. I'm always warning him not to push too hard…"poops in the agua" would just not be as funny (to me, at least)!
  • "I'm going to protect your heart." - Another one that I'm not sure exactly what it means but it is so sweet. He says this every night to Kyle before he goes to bed.

This guy!



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Chicken and Arugula Pita Pockets

(For the premise of my "What's for Dinner Wednesday" series, you can read my first post here. The long and short of it is that I've been collecting recipes that are interesting enough for an adult palate that also have components that are simple enough to dish out to the kiddos. "Component Cooking"? Still working out a name for this, ha!)

I love the Weeknights with Giada cookbook and have tried a lot of her recipes. Most really are simple enough for a good weeknight meal but they definitely pack a flavor punch.

One of the reasons I love making this for dinner is because the pesto recipe makes enough for two meals and it can be frozen. So the next time you go to make this recipe its like you've already made dinner...for yourself…how nice of you!

Chicken and Arugula Pita Pockets



Ingredients
Pitas:
2 whole-wheat pitas, halved and opened
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup Arugula Pesto, (recipe follows)
2 store-bought rotisserie chicken breasts, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
 (Or baked tenders)
8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cup arugula
Pesto:
2 cups packed arugula
1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions
Pitas
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Arrange the pita halves on a baking sheet and bake for 5 to 7 minutes until warmed through.

In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, lemon zest and Arugula Pesto (1/2 cup). Stir in the diced chicken. (If you are making a kid version (see below) set aside some diced chicken.)

To assemble the pita pockets, fill each pita half with the chicken mixture. Top with tomatoes and 1/4 cup arugula and serve.

Arugula Pesto (makes 1 cup)

For the pesto, blend the arugula and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. With the machine running, gradually add the oil until well blended. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in Parmesan and salt and pepper.


Kid Version:

So I don't know about your kids but arugula pesto does not go over very well with mine! For their version, I will throw some cooked (but previously frozen) peas into my food processor and add in some mayo to make a spread for the inside of their pita. I probably use about a cup of peas and a tablespoon of mayo. I will spread this on the inside of the pita, stuff with chicken, a little parmesan cheese and, in Cooper's case, a little lettuce. If they won't go for the pea spread, a little mayo will do the trick and you can serve your veggie of choice on the side!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Because his worst trait is MY worst trait...

Yesterday morning is not one that I want to relive. In black and white that looks pretty dramatic but hear me out…

My car had a flat tire so we were getting ready to walk to school. Per the norm, no matter what time I wake-up or start getting the kids ready, the last 10 minutes before we are out the door is hectic. I had scheduled our Christmas picture shoot for yesterday afternoon so yesterday morning I pulled out a sparkling new pair of shoes for Cooper to wear. 

You see, it does not matter that the new pair of blue Converse was the exact same as the old pair of blue Converse (but in the appropriate size 12 instead of the size 10 he's been jamming his feet into), they were new shoes and Cooper does not like new shoes just on principle. Period. End of discussion.

I knew it was going to be a fight but I put them on him anyway.

He cried. He raged. He took his shoes off. I put them back on. He threw himself on the ground. I picked him up. He threw his school bag down. I picked that up. It went on, and on, and on. Ridiculous, I know, but it had escalated to a point where I couldn't just let him cry and get his way.

Somehow I managed to get the three of us out the door, had Carrington in the stroller and was coaxing a crying Cooper down the driveway on his scooter. Then, he fell. He was lying on the ground, SCREAMING about his shoes in front of God and all of the neighbors when I totally lost it.

I grabbed his new shoes, chucked them against the garage so hard that it made Carrington cry and then I stomped off to go get his other shoes. 

Not my proudest moment. I lost my temper and caved to his demands in one shoe-throwing instant.

About halfway to school I stopped him, apologized and told him that Mommy made a mistake. I shouldn't have gotten so angry and I definitely shouldn't have thrown shoes. Inside, I was thinking about how much trouble he would have been in if he acted like that. 

The worst part was that I realized that his temper is MY temper. The reason that we go head to head so often is that we are so much alike. Unfortunately, the part of myself that I hate the most is manifested in him and on top of that I had just set a TERRIBLE example of how to act. Ouch.

After a somewhat normal/pleasant drop-off, I tucked in my quivering lip until I got out of the carpool circle and called Kyle. I knew what I was going to hear on the other end of the line and I knew it it was not going to be empathy. Unlike me, Kyle has no temper whatsoever (unless its about Aggie football, haha). Cool as a cucumber, that guy. In our 10 years together, he has never so much as raised his voice with me or called me an ugly name. (Guilty and guilty.) Shoe-throwing anger is a completely foreign concept to him. 

After my "confession", I was in full blown beat myself up mode and made the phone call I always make when I need someone to listen and help me sort things out…my friend Chelsea. As college roommates, we used to call each other "2am friends" because it didn't matter what time of night it was, we were always there to talk. Same holds true (schmirteen or so) years later!

What she said was so perfect I wish I could have recorded it and listen to her telling me this before I start every day. Instead, I'll share with you because it is such a good message to all Moms out there!

In summary:

Stop beating yourself up. You are not perfect and it's healthy for your children to see that. Use this as a teaching moment.


Knowing how alike Cooper and I are, she told me to think about what I would want Cooper to tell me if he had thrown the shoes (which I assure you he was seconds away from doing, ha!) and say that very thing to him.

So smart that friend o' mine! (P.S. C, this is why you are going to continue to get the first phone call whether you like it or not!)

So when I picked him up from school, I did as instructed. After a heartfelt discussion, I wrapped it up by telling him that I would try harder next time. His response? "Next time I'm crying just let me wear my different shoes, ok Mom?" 

Sigh.

We'll get there. One day at a time buddy man…


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What's for Dinner Wednesday: Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

I decided to start (and hopefully keep up with) a series on the blog about what's cooking over at our house. If your house is anything like ours, it's hard to get everyone on the same page meal-wise. Here are our "eating truths":


  1. I am NOT a short-order cook. What you get served for dinner is what you eat for dinner.
  2. I have realistic expectations about what my kids will and will not eat...but we try everything.
  3. Kyle and I do not eat bland food.
At first glance, you may be thinking that these three things do not marry. Are our kids out of luck on chicken vindaloo night? Are Kyle and I drowning our baked chicken and pea sorrows in a pound of Chahula? NO and NO.

Lately I've been using a little method around here that keeps us all happy. I've been breaking down the elements of what you may write off as an "adult recipe" and serving the basics to the kids and spicing things us for us. For example, my kids will totally go for some crock-pot chicken over rice while I happily cook by vindaloo sauce on the side. And while they would both turn their noses up at my arugula pesto chicken pitas, they are happy to chow down on some chicken and pita bread.

First up on my recipe list are Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes. This time I used beef and gruyere but you could sub ground turkey. Or do chicken and peppercorn romano. Or sausage and leeks…I digress but it's all good!

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes



3 sweet potatoes 
1lb ground beef
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 head of broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp cumin (I find that cumin is a spice flavorful enough but not "too spicy" for kids.)
1/4 tsp chopped fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated Gruyere (or other cheese of your liking!)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a casserole dish with foil.

Pierce skins of washed sweet potatoes with a fork several times and arrange in the casserole dish. Bake until tender, 45-60 minutes. (If you don't have a ton of time, start your potatoes for about 5 minutes in the microwave.)

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion (only use half if your kids are picky about this). Reduce heat to medium and sauté until onions just start to turn clear. Add ground beef, cumin, salt and pepper and cook until no longer pink. Transfer to two plates: one with a kid sized portion of beef (See "Kid Dinner" below) and one for the remaining portion.

When the sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut two of them in half lengthwise and gently scoop out the flesh leaving about 1/8 inch of flesh in the skins and put into a large bowl. (Sweet potato skins are pretty delicate.) Set the other sweet potato to the side for kid dinner - see below!

Mash sweet potatoes with a fork, masher or hand mixer until smooth. Stir in butter, milk, thyme, broccoli and beef. You can check your spice factor and add salt and pepper (or whatever else you like) at this point.

Mound your filling back into your sweet potato skins and top with cheese. Put the potatoes back into your baking dish and cook for another 10-15 minutes. Turn up the heat to broil if you want to brown the cheese on top.


Kid Dinner

You already have it cooked. Whew! Cut the remaining sweet potato into cubes or sticks (easy for little hands) and serve with ground beef. I also keep bags of frozen veggies (I like the Central Market Organics brand) so serve with meals such as these. Peas and lima beans are always a hit around here!