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


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

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
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

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?" 


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!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Mom on Repeat!

These days I feel like a broken record.

These days I feel like a broken record.

These days I feel like a broken record.

Do you ever have days where you feel like you are on auto-pilot with your kids? Like some weird version of the movie Groudhog Day except it really is a new day but you find yourself saying the same thing over and over and over again?

If so, YEA! Join the club. If not, you obviously don't have kids yet!

Here are just a few examples of our daily phrases. Does anyone have a tape recorder? This might make my job a lot easier!

  • Tushi in the chair! - This one has multiple applications: carseat, dining room, shopping cart…etc.
  • I'm the Mom! - Cooper not only tries to parent his little sister, he also tries to parent ME! I often sub this line out with: "YOU'RE NOT IN CHARGE!" To a 3 year old…#momfail
  • Don't hit your sister! - Usually followed by "Don't wave that [whatever thing he has in his hand] around in the air and "accidentally" hit your sister either!
  • Step in your pants! - I don't know what is so hard about getting dressed but everyday it's like I have to explain it to him all over again. (As I'm squatting down on the floor offering my head as a balance bar, no less.)
  • That is not a toy! - My kids have what seems like 100 toys although they never play with any of them. Brooms, hangers and my nice camera on the other hand…
  • It's not snack time, it's [breakfast/lunch/dinner] time. - Why are snacks so superior to all other meals? If I call Cooper's lunch a "little snack", he will eat it without question…go figure.
  • Forks are for eating! - You would be surprised as to how many musical instruments, trucks and monsters our forks can turn into…to the demise of my breakfast table, no less!

These are just some of the little phrases I find myself repeating every day. I would LOVE to hear what is on repeat at your house! 

The little nuggets that make it all worthwhile!