Tuesday, June 28, 2016

KIDS IN THE KITCHEN

I'm pretty passionate about teaching my children how to cook. I never learned how to cook as a child; my mother didn't like cooking (she actually owned a cookbook called "The I Hate To Cook Cookbook") and so she didn't think about teaching me how to make anything. But I've always had an interest and after taking a home economics class in the 8th grade, I taught myself how not only to cook, but found that I love it. And this is a skill that I want to pass on to both my kids.


I mentioned that once a week over the summer, I'm having the kids cook dinner. I let them chose what we eat, they help with the shopping, and they cook it all themselves, to the best of their ability. Of course, I'm there to help-especially with heat and knives-but for the most part, the goal is for them to do it themselves (and the bigger goal is for them to be self-sufficient adults who can grocery shop and cook without batting an eye and won't be calling me from their dorm room asking how to microwave Spaghetti-O's).

So how to get started having your kids help out in the kitchen?

Start Young. Both of my kids have been helping in the kitchen since they could stand on a stool. Start with simple things like whisking, stirring, wiping the counters, and measuring ingredients. As they get older, give them new, more advanced skills. (Don't fret if your kids are already older, they too can learn, promise.) Which leads us to...

Don't Underestimate Them. Kids are capable. I personally find this set of skills pretty accurate, but of course, as with anything, consider your child's personal ability and maturity when making decisions about what kitchen skills are best for them. (But totally remind them to wash their hands because, they're kids and they are germ traps.)


Source: Williams Sonoma

Lay The Groundwork. Make sure they understand how to read over a recipe, make a grocery list of what they need, and plan out their meal. All these steps add up to successfully being able to make that meal!

Let Them Take the Lead and Let It Go. This is harder for some people (ahem, ME) then others. When you let kids cook, there will be mistakes and messes and you just need to hold your tongue and let them enjoy the process. But also...

Make Time For Clean Up. Clean up is part of cooking and make sure your kids know that and help. Maybe there will be less of a mess next time! (probably not, let's be real.)

Indulge Them A Bit. For their Thursday menus, I encourage my kids to chose foods they like and are healthy, but I let them chose a dessert of their choice too. Teaching them balance, even at a young age, is part of the life skills they'll need of a happy healthy life!






Friday, June 24, 2016

WEEKLY MEAL PLAN // WEEK 25


*This is obviously not the the 25th time I've posted my weekly plan, since this is a new series I'm starting here, It is however, the 25th week of the year, and the 25th week of meal planning in general for me this year :). 

Every week in my bullet journal, I write out my weekly meal plan, my grocery list, and a list of things I want to prep for the week. And I'm letting you guys have a sneak peek at it, cross-outs and all! Plus links to some of the recipes I'm using this week.  For me, meal prep is essential to a smooth running week. It makes a difference in my entire mood and only takes a couple hours. And it allows us to sit down as a family almost every night for dinner.

This week I'm making these recipes:

Chicken Gyro Salad from Smitten Kitchen  I've been using a lot of SK recipes lately, mostly from her cookbook. It's a great book if you're looking for one to pick up!

Chicken Lettuce Cups from Shutterbean This are a HUGE hit with my family.

My own Whole 30 compliant meatballs

Paleo Tzatziki from Jay's Baking Me Crazy

When the weather is nice, we basically barbecue/salad it up all weekend and Monday through Thursday I try to focus on simple, healthy meals. This summer, I'm having the kiddos cook on Thursdays, to the best of their ability. The idea is that they chose what to make and then, with minimal assistance, make dinner themselves. Last week was our first week trying this out, and they loved it! We'll see how they feel come the last week of August.

Come back next week for another installment of weekly meal plans!*

*Hopefully I can manage to do this weekly!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

SLOW COOKER CHICKEN POSOLE


Prepare yourselves guys. A tale of culinary woe follows.

I grew up in a community in California that has a large Hispanic population. This resulted in me assuming 1.) most people could speak and understand at least some Spanish, and 2.) everyone had access to decent Mexican food.

My move to Georgia after high school was a rude awakening.

I can remember it perfectly. I went to dinner in downtown Atlanta with a friend. I ordered the sour cream enchiladas. Sour Cream enchiladas are corn tortillas filled with chicken and green chilies and topped with a sour cream and cheese sauce. They are delicious and should be enjoyed without an ounce of regret for eating the whole plate. Don't feel sorry for stuffing your face. Sour cream enchiladas are worth it. My enchiladas arrived and with a pure heart I took a bite.

And then all my realities were destroyed.

Because, you see, that enchilada was stuffed with chicken and VELVETTA CHEESE. Oh, you think that's where this ends? It only gets worse, guys. Because the white sour cream sauce on top? Tasted like gravy. Yes dear ones, they put cream gravy made with sour cream on top of a tortilla stuffed with shredded chicken and Velveeta cheese, I cannot make stuff like this up.

Listen, I'd like to tell you I maintained my composure and simply ate this monastery or that I simply didn't eat it or that I shed a couple tears and moved on. But no. I was fiery as a 19 year old. I got mad. I may have asked questions like "What the hell is this??!!" in a not quiet voice. I may have told my nice little blond waiter with a thick southern accent, who came by to cheerfully ask how our meal was, "This is terrible, this is not enchiladas, I need my check, what the hell?". I mean, I'm still talking about this and it was, like, over a decade ago. It left an impression.

AND THEN. I went and married someone who ended up having me stay in Georgia for the next 5 years surrounded by no decent Mexican food (Georgia does have an amazing food culture, but you will never convince me that there is good Mexican food there. Ever. VELVETTA CHEESE AND CREAM GRAVY. #sins). Guys, we are from California and this made us sad. Our concurrent moves to Texas and then back to California fixed this situation temporarily and we relished every burrito, every breakfast of chorizo and eggs, every homemade tortilla, every fair taco, and every single bite of refried beans.

You noticed how I said "temporarily?"

Because the East Coast has some amazing things to eat (halal, lobster, Shake Shack) but we are in a no Mexican food zone yet again. There are no refried beans to be had anywhere. ANYWHERE. Because trust, we have tried. And because I'm not quite as fiery these days, instead of telling off waiters, I simply have given up in defeat and taken  matters into my own hands by cooking Mexican food at home and doing my best with the ingredients available to me. 

I love this posole recipe because it can all just go in to the slow cooker, barely any prep work is necessary. Posole is often made with pork, but I find chicken thighs to be a flavorful and more healthy way to make it. It tastes a little like deconstructed enchiladas in a bowl, and there is never anything wrong with things tasting like enchiladas.

Slow Cooker Chicken Posole

Ingredients:
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground chipotle OR chili powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cut up tomatoes or 1 can diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup tomato sauce
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 15 ounce can of white hominy, drained
2 bay leaves

For garnish: chopped radishes, avocado, cilantro, and tortilla chips

Combine cumin, paprika, oregano, chipotle or chili powder, salt and pepper together in bowl. Toss chicken thighs in the bowl and coat with the spices. Transfer the chicken to a slow cooker. Add all other ingredients, except for garnishes. Stir to combine and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours ( I prefer the 8 hour method). Season with more salt and pepper to taste and serve with the garnishes (the radishes sound weird but are super tasty in this soup!)

Enjoy!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

CHICKEN AND MUSHROOM RAMEN

This recipe 100% involves Top Ramen and I am not ashamed.
(Fun Fact: During kindergarten, I routinely ate chicken flavored Top Ramen for breakfast. My alternative breakfast meal was Campbell's Vegetable Beef Soup. This is a true story.)

Now that summer vacation is here and I'm off work, I'm trying new recipes and I'm particularly focusing on teaching myself some basic Japanese cooking. Although I'm half Japanese, I lack knowledge on my Japanese heritage. I feel like cooking, something I love, is a good starting point to connect more with this. And sharing those meals with my children, who share this heritage, is somehow important. I recently found the Japanese Cooking 101 website and have been reading over recipes. Next up is cookbooks! Ramen seemed like a good place to start because 1). it's having a moment and is super easy, 2.) I was sure everyone would like it (they did), and 3.) see above where I mention how I used to eat ramen for breakfast and you can tell my love for it is real.

This looks like a million ingredients, but stay with me! They all go into just one pot. Okay, two pots because of the eggs. But they're optional! You can do this!

Chicken and Mushroom Ramen

Ingredients:
2 tbsp. of sesame or vegetable oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp of fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp. of fish sauce
3 tablespoons soy or tamari sauce
2 cups of chicken stock
4 cups of water
1 package of instant miso (optional but adds a really nice touch. Instant miso can be found in most grocery stores in the Asian section.)
2 packages of ramen noodles (any flavor, you aren't going to be using the flavor packet)
2 cups sliced mushrooms (I used baby bellas, but any kind will work just fine)
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (I used left over chicken from the night before. A precooked rotisserie chicken would also work great!)
2-4 green onion, chopped
4 soft boiled eggs (optional)

1. Heat sesame oil in a large pot over medium high heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the ginger and garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the fish sauce (fact: fish sauce smells disgusting when it first starts cooking. WORK THROUGH IT. Do not listen to your children as they say things like "What is that smell?! What are you cooking?!" in disgust because that smell goes away quickly and they will eat this food and be so happy because fish sauce is delicious) and the soy or tamari sauce. Cook 1 minute. Add the stock and water. Bring to a boil, add the instant miso, if using. Add the chicken and the mushrooms, cook at low boil for 10 minutes. Add the ramen and cook until done, 7-10 minutes. Add the green onions, cook for 3-5 minutes. Ladle into bowls.

To make the soft boiled eggs: In a small pot, bring enough water to cover the eggs to a boil. Add the eggs directly from the fridge, you want them to be cold when they go into the boiling water. Cook at a boil, uncovered, for 7-9 minutes. Remove the eggs from the boiling water and place in a bowl of ice water. Let them sit in the ice water bath for 5 minutes. Peel and slice in half, and add to each bowl of ramen.

Enjoy!



Friday, June 3, 2016

B+ GOALS: JUNE

June is here! The month I've been waiting for since I went back to work after winter break. We have 3 baseball games, 7 days of school, and 1 dance recital left and then there are two glorious months of lazy days ahead of us. I am THRILLED.

Lets check in with last months goals:

1. Do the Tone It Up Bikini Series Challenge. (Did it/still doing it! )

2. Finish another Whole 30. (Did it, except for a splurge day in the middle on Mother's Day. So according to Whole 30 rules, I failed, but I'm going to call it done.)

3. Organize our game closet. (Did it!)

4. Have a yard sale or donate all the stuff I've put aside. (I reorganized it...does that count? Probably not.)

5. Use my "real" camera more. (Did it and I want to keep it up!)

6. Get to the library. (Did it!)

Not too bad for May, especially considering that we were insanely busy all month! I definitely managed B+ status.

Now onto June:

1. Enjoy Ava's birthday party. This year, for the first time EVER in 10 years worth of kids birthday parties, we booked a party outside of our home. I literally have to do nothing but show up and pay for this party. And I am going to enjoy it and not let myself feel bad that I have not handpicked all the goodie bag treats.

2. Get to bed on time. I was doing so well with this, but lately it has all gone to hell in a handbasket. I need to get to bed on time!

3. Write something everyday. Blog or journal, I want to be writing more this summer.

4. Donate all our crap. No yard sale. My only goal is to get it all out of the house by the end of the month.

5. Have a really nice Father's day for the husband. Because he deserves it.

Don't forget to check out Sam and Scout and Sarah R Bagley and their B+ goals!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

FAVORITE THINGS: MAY 2016

As usual, May has been a whirlwind. I always feel that May/Early June are the CRAZY months of the year. There is just  so much going on between end of the school year events and baseball and dance recitals and birthdays and anniversaries.
I had to really think about what my Favorite Things were this month. As I was brainstorming for this post all I could think was, "Nothing. NOTHING IS MY FAVORITE WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO DESTORY ME MAY. WHY CAN'T WE JUST GET ALONG!?" (Seriously. This is my life. I talk to the months of the year in caps lock in my head). I had to check myself this past week and remind myself to be positive, be patient, and be kind (to others and myself). Because no one likes a mean, grouchy, frazzled person (including myself). And then, once I was calm (for at least 20 minutes), I was able to think and come up the following:



Favorite Things to Eat: My garden is growing beautifully and the nasturtiums are blooming like mad. Did you know that nasturtiums are edible? The entire plant is-flowers, steams and leaves! They add beautiful color and taste to salads.

Favorite Weekend History Lesson: Over this past Memorial Weekend, our family took a trip to Gettysburg. More to come on that (if I ever manage to write a post about it, that is. Don't hold you breath, friends.)!

Favorite Thing to Wear: These gold sandals are my new BSF (best shoe forever). The metallic makes any outfit instantly more dressy and the cut makes jeans feel summery. Perfect for work and weekends!

Favorite Thing For Relaxing: Lavender essential oil is my go to lately. I put a few drops in the bath in the evening and it helps calm me and even helps me sleep better.

Favorite Cookbook: The Little Paris Kitchen, Rachel Khoo Simple French recipes, beautiful photos. I'm so inspired by this book and Rachel Khoo.

Favorite Family Nights: Little League games. Here's the thing: Little League is a TON of work. Mutiple practices, games, gear. But I love it. I love every part of it. This year has been especially fun, because it's Dylan's first year playing kid pitch and it's Ava's first year ever playing t-ball. I made this chalkboard at the beginning of the season and when it comes to an end next week, I'll be sad. Less for us to do, but the end of baseball season is always bittersweet.


Summer, we are ready for you!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

MYERS BRIGGS & KNOWING YOUR PERSONALITY

I've been fascinated by the ideas of the Myer Briggs test for a few years now. It's a psychological theory that there are 16 personalities, which through a series of questions, you can gage yours and then better understand how you see and work in the world. Your personality is determined by four sets of preferences:

Favorite world: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).
Information: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning? This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition (N).
Decisions: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances? This is called Thinking (T) or Feeling (F).
Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).



Answering honestly in the key to this test-you need to answer how you truly, honestly react in the situations provided verses how you wish/think you should act. I've taken the test and, when answering completely honestly, I'm a ISFJ (Introversion, Sensing, Feeling, Judging). Some highlights that are so very me:





Reading the descriptions to your personality can be shockingly accurate. You can see yourself in the descriptions provided and it can be a bit unnerving. But ultimately, it's fascinating, and can be a true helper in better understanding yourself and those around you. It should be noted that all the personalities are equal; there isn't a goal to be a different personality or a "better" one. Myers Briggs is simply a tool to help you better understand yourself and how you see the world.

You can take your own (free, do-not-have-to-sign-up-for-anything) test HERE.

Let me know in the comments below what your Myers Briggs personality is, and what you think of the test!