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I have been remiss in my blogging because I’m recovering from this past weekend’s Florida getaway. I left early Friday, and returned late Sunday. I wanted to get every second of Florida sun, and am paying the price. I also wanted to see an old buddy, Phyllis, who moved to Jacksonville ten or eleven years ago. We were new moms together back in our Long Island days. She, though, had her first a few years before my first, and when we met at a Mommy and Me class, we hit it off. My support system (meaning my mother) lived in Brooklyn, and calls to her about baby burping, and crying jags, and napping, worked well for awhile, but there was nothing like a real live mom who’d been through it all, and who was patient with my many questions. Plus, she’d been in the neighborhood longer than I and knew where the good parks were, and how to throw a kids birthday party. I learned about the joys of cutting up hotdogs for lunch, with a side dish of mac-n-cheese; that carrying a potty in the back of the van could make or break a day trip. My daughter and her daughter became fast friends, and the friendship continued until a job transfer brought Phyllis and her husband and two kids to Florida.
By that time, we’d passed the real tricky days of parenting, and our kids were in elementary school. Their lives got busier with new school friends and activities, so the move wasn’t as bad on the little people as it was on the big people. But our friendship continued via emails, and on our family trips to Orlando, and when they visited New York. Last year I took a solo trip down to Florida for a real catch-up weekend, and it was great. And this past weekend, we had another chat-fest. Our kids are much, much – MUCH — older, in college or heading there, and while the challenges of raising kids (in this case, teens and young adults) is still very much a part of our conversation, we can also go on and on about our jobs, our marriage, our aging parents, and about how the years are passing for us, too.
The bond between moms is a strong one because only another mom understands the sleepless nights, the worries about a sick kid, that first day we leave them at pre-school, or watch them swim without you by their side, and when the school bus comes for the last one. And now those same kids are graduating high school, getting jobs, drivers licenses. We both remember when those same kids were just learning about life, and now here we are, just two moms who started out together, who can now look at our kids with pride and amazement; but we know it wasn’t just the kids we had in common, but a real and true friendship we know will last for life.
There are few breakfasts more delightful than a warm muffin. Muffins are not only tasty, but a fabulous way to incorporate whole grains and fruits into your morning, as whole wheat pastry flour and cut up fruit melt right in during baking. Not only are muffins portable for a meal on the fly, but it’s quite easy to make a double batch and freeze half for a quick breakfast during the week.
Whole grain banana chocolate chip muffins
This recipe is actually for banana bread, but on mornings when we’re hungry and we want breakfast sooner, I make it into muffins instead. I’ve fiddled with this recipe over the years, increasing the whole grains and using applesauce instead of oil. Often I’ll put blueberries or strawberries into it, but on this morning we had a handful of chocolate chips sitting in the pantry, so I tossed those in. Mmm.
Mix ½ c. of applesauce and ¾ c. of sugar together. Add 2 eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth. Blend in 3 mashed bananas and 1 tsp. vanilla. In a second bowl, mix 1 c. of white flour, 1 c. whole wheat pastry flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, ½ tsp. baking powder, ½ tsp. salt, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and ½ tsp. nutmeg. Add dry to wet, stirring only to moisten. Pour into greased muffin tins, and bake in preheated oven at 350 for 18-20 min, or into a greased loaf pan for 45-50 min, until toothpick comes out clean. Let stand 10 min, cool on wire rack.
Recipes are not always family friendly, and I’ve grown comfortable adjusting them to the likes and dislikes of my crew. Especially when cooking for children, certain spices or vegetables might require substitutions in order to ensure your kids will eat the meal you’ve just worked so hard to produce. A new cook may be afraid to alter a recipe for fear of ruining it, but I’ve found that substitutions almost always work beautifully. More importantly, by making some minor changes to a recipe, you can try something you ordinarily would have avoided. In broadening your repertoire of dishes, meals become more diverse and interesting, and you expose your family to a wider variety of healthy foods.
Although this is a chicken dish, it started as a coconut beef recipe from one of my favorite crockpot cookbooks. (If you don’t have a crockpot, try this one of the stove, I’m confident it would come out well). Since I don’t eat or cook beef, I used boneless chicken breasts. Next, I noticed that the sauce called for a good amount of curry, coriander, and cumin. Not wanting to completely change the intended flavor, I still used these ingredients, but scaled back on amounts so that it would be milder-tasting. Served over a brown rice pilaf with pureed cauliflower with fresh broccoli and watermelon, this was a great meal that my whole family enjoyed.
How many parents pay their kids an allowance these days? Hmmmm?
Well, I’ve sharpened my perspective on an allowance. I absolutely do not believe that children should receive an allowance just for being those cute little wonderful beings we created. I do however believe that children should be given the opportunity to earn a “work pay” for chores they do around the house. The way to raise money savvy, responsible adults is to teach them when they’re small. Money literacy does not come by accident — it comes by intention.
For my own thirteen year old, we designed a work week with one main chore a day for five days a week. She’s expected to do something every day but if our schedules get too hectic she can double up on another day, however all chores must be done before Friday’s payday. My daughter really bought into this for the first couple of weeks then began slacking. When she came for her work pay, it was not the agreed upon total. (A good rule of thumb: the weekly total should match their age, hence a ten year old would earn $10 per week). When my daughter looked in the envelope, she had a questioning look. I explained to her that if she did not do her work she did not get paid. Just like in the real world when you don’t go to work, you get docked (you can save the sick time discussion for another time). This message rang clear and she regrouped the following week and committed to getting her chores done.
Children should understand there are things they are expected to do as a contributing member in the household and there are chores they can do to earn their work pay. I suggest sitting down and mapping it all out together. If they buy into what you are trying to establish they will be more likely to participate. Teach children to earn, save, donate and think through their purchasing decisions. By the time they are adults working real jobs, they will have the foundation to be respectful of the money they earn. Children who want to make a large purchase could be given the opportunity to earn extra money by doing additional chores.
Too many parents are parenting through guilt and the outcome is a generation of children who feel entitled, and their unquenchable thirst for more “stuff” fuels them, yet leaves them empty inside. When children have to contribute in some way to the purchase of their desired item, they are more likely to appreciate, respect, and enjoy it.
More next time on: Teach children to earn, save, donate and think through their purchasing decisions.
I haven’t made this recipe in a while, but it’s part of one of my favorite fun family dinners. One of the most creative chefs I’ve found, Annabel Karmel, has myriad of cookbooks, ranging from baby foods to kids’ cooking to family meals. This dinner is so cute, it’s impossible not to love it.
This teddy bear burger begins with ground chicken breast, and has chunks of apple blended within. The recipe instructs you to grind your own chicken, but you can purchase it ground and skip that step if you’d like. Accompanying the Sneaky Chef’s whole grain mac and cheese (with pureed cauliflower), and served alongside steamed veggies and fresh fruit, somewhere on this plate is bound to be something healthy your family will eat.
I was grinning like the Cheshire cat as my family ate dinner the other night. Why? I was watching them eat a meal filled with foods that normally might have required some cajoling, but instead it was being gobbled bite after bite. We had tacos, which doesn’t sound spectacular, I know. What was done with the tacos, however, was what led to my happy smile. Rather than plain old greasy meat in a shell, this tiny wonder boasted four vegetables, a lean protein, fiber-rich beans, and low-fat dairy.
Rather than a fatty ground beef, I used a 99% fat-free ground chicken, seasoning it as usual. (Even if you stop at this step, you’ve already improved your meal tremendously). Next I added ½ cup of pureed butternut squash, a trick learned from Deceptively Delicious, followed by a medium-sized zucchini, shredded into the mix. A can of black beans and two finely diced tomatoes (canned would work fine) went in last, and then I mixed well. Neither of my daughters would normally eat tomatoes, and zucchini is always a wild card, but tonight there was no discussion. Spooned into taco shells and garnished with baby spinach, low-fat sour cream, and shredded cheddar, no one was the wiser. Only the healthier.
You see this big guy? He’s listed as one of the big five in Africa, along with the rhino, elephant, lion and Cape buffalo. I guess they have the biggest teeth? Not sure. But I’m headed to his turf and I tell you, he intimidates me. I’m going there because I made a promise to my youngest, that she could pick anywhere in the world to go (except maybe Afghanistan), and in 11th grade, during spring break, I’d make it happen. I thought she might pick Hawaii, or Italy, or even the Mayan ruins in Mexico. But no, we’re headed 15 hours away, landing in Johannesburg, visiting Kruger National Park, and then south to Capetown, where we can shop, and put our toes into the Indian Ocean. I’ve already put my toes into the Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the waters off of the Bahamas. We do get around. I just hope I have my toes with me when I return.
She is taking up photography, and that explains it. Of course! Where else in the world would would-be photographers want to venture? So, she got herself one of those “stop the action — zoom up close to see nostril hairs — and take panoramic shots of the wildebeest migration” kind of cameras. I told her we should do a mother/daughter book, that I’d do the writing, and she could provide the photographs. She rolled her eyes, and went back to her facebook page. It may be a long trip.
Believe me, there will be more write-ups about this, pre and post trip. I haven’t even considered the malaria meds as yet. But, it all gets filed under, “the things we do as a parent.” TTYL, mj
I love finding dinner recipes that sound fun, and “chicken spinach pie with mashed-potato crust” was one of them. Although the ingredients themselves aren’t so unique– chicken, spinach, carrots, ricotta, and potatoes– the assembly and presentation are cute, and results in a dinner that is definitely not boring. Straight out of Parenting magazine, the recipe can be found here. It is a fairly easy dish to make, and lends itself well to one small improvement. When making the mashed potatoes, I mixed in ½ cup of pureed, steamed cauliflower, a trick I learned from my favorite food enhancer, the Sneaky Chef. The addition was not noticeable to the naked tongue (ha), and I felt happy knowing there was one more vegetable in our dinner. My kids loved eating a meal that came from a pie plate, and who can argue with that?
Chicken-spinach pie with mashed-potato crust
I had one of those “OMG” moments when I couldn’t find my wallet on the way home from work. I’d just stopped at the store, and after parking, reached into my bag to make sure I had enough cash for my shopping, and my wallet was nowhere to be found. I checked everywhere, under the seats, behind the seats, in my jacket, and then I retraced my steps that day in my head. Ok, I stopped for coffee at DD that morning, then was taken to lunch, and then nothing. I didn’t need my wallet since I stopped for coffee. Then, in a moment of pure terror, I knew where it was..on the counter at DD when I added one more splendor to my large French Vanilla. What are the chances of my wallet being behind the counter, or locked in their safe after a good Samaritan found it and brought it to the manager.
I began going through my wallet in my head, trying to remember what I kept in it…a few credit cards, my debit card, license of course, registration, some receipts I wanted to save, and who knows what else. I thought, ”why didn’t I make a copy of the documents in my wallet so at least this part of the ’lost wallet episode’ wasn’t a total brain drain, and time waster.” I’d gotten a dozen of those friendly reminder emails, along with the wonderful uses of vinegar, and the warnings of parking lot carjackers. Why didn’t I listen?
What’s next? Waiting on line at the DMV? The expense of getting another license. Calling up my credit card companies after going through my bills to see which ones I had. And then, it came to me. I hadn’t lost my wallet at all. I had it at my desk at work when I needed to fill out a form that required a bit of information I kept in a secret compartment. Yes, I really did have it, it was NOT lost. Now all this took place in the matter of about 6 minutes. It felt like hours. The stress of losing the wallet, the complicated aftermath of retrieving all that I kept in it, made time move very slow.
I drove very carefully to work this morning, not wanting to have to explain to Mr. New York State Trooper why I didnt’ have my license (had I had a copy, I could’ve at least carried that with me until I got to the DMV), and a ticket on top of the shock would’ve been the last straw. When I opened up my bottom desk drawer and saw that beautiful, cheap black plastic wallet, I felt the air rush back into my lungs. All was right with the world for now. I did stop for my coffee, and my XL French Vanilla just felt so good going down.
The moral of this story: stop what you’re doing right now and make a xerox copy of the important documents you carry with you. Enough said.
I can never seem to have enough recipes for main dish vegetarian entrées, as variety seems key in meatless cooking. As I’ve said before, vegetarian eating benefits not just your health, but your wallet and the planet as well. Twice a week is our personal goal for non-meat meals, and I am always in pursuit of something new. I was happy to discover and enjoy this recipe, as was my family. It comes from Jessica Seinfeld’s Double Delicious.
Black Bean Burgers
This burger is so filled with veggies and protein that adding just fruit and a whole-grain bun was enough to qualify as a balanced meal. To make, sauté ½ c. chopped onion, 2 cloves minced garlic, and 1 ½ c. mixed, diced vegetables (squash, zucchini, peppers, mushrooms and corn) in 1 tsp. olive oil until softened. Combine mixture with 2 (15 oz) cans of black beans (drained and rinsed), 1 egg, 1 c. whole wheat breadcrumbs, ¼ tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. pepper in the bowl of an electric mixer. Blend until some beans are broken and mixture holds together. Form into 6 patties (1/3 c. each). Sauté patties in 2 tsp. olive oil until browned, 2-3 minutes per side.