Category Archives: food

8 Ways to Survive Cooking with Kids

This article originally appeared on Perfection Pending.

In my experience, kids love to help cook. They love to help measure, they like to stir, and they can’t wait to see the finished product that they can claim as their own. But also based on my own experience, cooking with kids might need a little preparation. Here’s what I have to do before I get started cooking with my kiddos:

Lower the bar. I mean this in a nice way, but I’m serious. Whatever beautiful product you have in mind, you might want to, uh, let go of that image. However quick and painless you think that recipe might be, just let that go, too. Whatever you do with your kids will take longer, be more messy, and likely less attractive than you thought. That doesn’t mean it won’t taste delicious, though!

Tell them the plan. Kids always do better when they know what’s coming. They can stay on task better when they have an idea of what the task is. They need to know the first part is the fun part where they do all the helping, and the second part you might need to do on your own. Or that those muffins have to bake for ONE ENTIRE EPISODE of Octonauts, then cool for several MORE minutes before they can eat them.

Be flexible. Got a cloud of flour all over yourself? It’ll wash out! Did you lose half the bag of chocolate chips to the floor? Worse spills have happened! I try to take off my “in charge” hat before I get started. I’m often getting frustrated with whoever is “helping” if I don’t already have it in my head that all bets are off. If I’ve committed to making a mess and having fun, then it goes MUCH better!

Choose a simple recipe. Even if you think you’ll be able to control the proportions of the ingredients going into the dish, you may be surprised how sneaky the kids are at adding extra things in. If the recipe is something you know needs to be exact, then it might not be a good one to use.

Be careful. If your kids are still short, they’ll either be standing on a chair or stool, or sitting on the counter with you. Make sure they’re being safe – or else they can’t be good helpers!

Get everything out and close by before you start. This one goes with “be careful” because the more you have at an arm’s reach, the less likely you are to have a kid get loose, or dump something extra into the mix! Whatever your ingredients, tools, etc. are, have them close by before you are running around the kitchen while your kid is dumping the olive oil on the counter.

Divide the labor. If you’ve got more than one helper, make sure they know they’ve got to take turns. There are only so many steps to the recipe – either half it, and switch the helpers out, or go back and forth with pouring, measuring, and stirring. My kiddos can get frustrated when they’re standing around for too long, watching their sibling have all the fun.

Let your inner germaphobe take a back seat. Of course you had the kids wash their hands before you got started… but that doesn’t mean someone won’t sneeze a little too close to the bowl, lick the spoon, or reach in there with their sticky, contaminated fingers to be a taste-tester. You’ve just gotta let that one go.

Cooking is definitely something you want your kids to learn, and learn to enjoy. A bit of preparation can make the process of cooking alongside your littles less stressful and more successful. Relax, don’t worry about the mess, and have fun!

Did you know? It’s National Men Make Dinner Day!

During the month of November, I’ll be participating in National Blog Post Month, where I’ll publish a post every single day.

Did y’all know that November 2 is “National Men Make Dinner Day”?! For a lot of women, this would seem like a good opportunity to have your man to get in the kitchen. I know lots of wives and mamas who get burned out on being the “dinner master” each and every day. But for me, National Men Make Dinner Day is just an opportunity to celebrate how often (and how well!) my husband makes dinner for his family!

You see, my hubby is an incredible cook. He is creative (way more than I am), eclectic (because our family loves tons of different foods), knowledgable (the main thing that I am not), and basically a kitchen magician. Even if we haven’t been to the grocery store all week, and all we have are things we don’t use often, he’s able to create a delicious, and typically healthy, meal for us. I’m thankful that he is a sweet sharer of his gifts.

So if you’re asking your man who isn’t normally the cook to provide dinner for you, or for your family, don’t forget to ask nicely. You could help plan it out, or pick up the ingredients. Maybe even offer to open that bottle of wine to get it started! In our experience, wine makes the creativity flow more easily and makes the preparation and cooking process more fun. It’s so nice to be in the kitchen together!

Currently: AUGUST?!

Vacation might’ve caused this post to be a little late, but it’s here!

I cannot believe it’s already August! Where has this summer gone?! My firstborn starts kindergarten THIS MONTH and I am ridiculously crazy over it. I can’t decide if I want to jump for joy or lay in the bed and cry. Who knows what I will do! Anyway, I’m linking up with Anne in Residence and Shea Lennon for this month’s currently. Link up and join us!

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Snacking (on) || Right this second? Quaker Oatmeal Squares. Usually? Something a little healthier! My recent selfish snack of choice is crackers with goat cheese and pepper jelly. WOW, y’all. Find yourself a good pepper jelly (mine is a local jalopeño jam – delightful!) and some goat cheese. My cracker of choice is Wheat Thins. YUM!

Anticipating || Two BIG things this month. First, as I mentioned, my oldest starts kindergarten at the end of the month! I am out of my mind about it. I know she’s ready and excited and as prepared as she can be… but still. Y’all may read about my tears when she goes… And the next big thing is the launch of my church’s new campus! We have a “soft” launch at the end of this month (including only the team that we’re sending) and a “public” launch at the end of September. We’ve got exactly a month to get used to our new space, work out all the kinks, and promo the campus to get the maximum amount of people aware. HEY-OOOOOO it is HAPPENING.

Borrowing || a new Bible study idea from one of my pastors. He suggested a translation of Isaiah by Alec Motyer, Isaiah by the Day. I’ve only just started, so I’ll let you know how it goes!

Admiring || my family and how well we all get along. I’m on vacation with my hubby, his parents, his brothers, and their families. It’s SO FUN to all be together since usually we’re too busy to get together all at the same time. We’ve all got our own things going but we get along just fine when we are able to make time for it!

Purchasing || a new L.L. Bean bookbag for EK! It was my favorite part of school supply shopping… and the best part being that we didn’t really need them every year because those things wear like iron. Best investment ever – and I let her choose the pattern and her monogram style and color. She did a great job, I think! It gets here this week and I can’t wait to see it… although it’s going to make Kindergarten a little more real.

Well there you have it- my life currently. What’s going on in your world?

 5 Reasons Your Family Should Plant a Vegetable Garden 

More and more people are getting back into growing at least some of their food – and for good reason! Here are a few reasons I think this bandwagon is one worth jumping on.

1. You’ll appreciate your food more. When you’ve planted, weeded, pruned, watered, and generally been a caretaker for your plants, you appreciate the fruits of your labor so much more. You might start understanding why produce can be expensive but is much better for you when you’ve taken a part in growing some.img_1558

2. It fosters responsibility. When a family has a garden, there’s a job for everyone. It’s good to teach kids to get their hands in the dirt, and take responsibility for the work it takes to make a garden grow. It’s also a chore to put on their chore chart, or keep them occupied for a few more minutes each day once school is out.img_8339

3. Learning about it is fun! Getting outside with your family is always a good thing! Even if your garden is in a few pots on the front porch, it’s fun to see how they grow each day, what color the flowers are, and how long it takes for each different plant to grow. My kids have enjoyed learning to identify the plants we’re growing by leaf shape, smell, and what they look like once they’re producing the veggies.img_1766

4. It’s not as hard as you think it is. Sure, if you have a hundred plants to take care of, it can seem quite daunting. But if you start small, it’s not too hard to keep a tomato plant or two and some rosemary alive. Even if you forget to water or don’t pull all the weeds, they’re likely to still be fine. Choose something easy to begin with, even if it means you won’t have much fruit the first time. Tomatoes and peppers are some of the easiest things to grow, and often bear the most fruit.IMG_1888

5. It’s nice to know what you’re eating. You know what went into the work, whether or not you used fertilizer or weed/pest killer. You know exactly what what did or didn’t touch the plant. It’s reassuring to know where it came from, how freshly it was picked, and how well it was tended.img_0898

There really aren’t down sides to having a garden. You’re going on vacation for a week? Just have someone come and water a couple of times while you’re gone. You don’t know anything about gardening? Just take the first step of buying seedlings instead of seeds; they’re more durable, and the hardest part is over. It’s already June and you think you’ve missed the window? The plants might not get as big, but I say it’s not too late to start! Try it out! What have you got to lose?

10 Reasons I Brunch

Brunch is super trendy right now. You probably see memes about it, pictures your friends post on your Instagram feed, and local restaurants promoting their brunch specials. Whichever day you brunch, it’s likely a lovely event with friends, yummy food, and a mimosa or two. Here are the reasons I personally love brunch.brunch.jpg

1. I love breakfast. I’ve written about this before, but it’ll never stop being true. Breakfast food is the best food. Any time of day.  So there.

2. Sunday is my busy day. It might be the most common brunch day anyway, but on Sunday, I’m often too tired by the time church is over to even consider what I’d like to do for lunch. This is where my hubby and besties come in, whisking me off to brunch.

3. The kids love it. What’s something easy your kids will actually eat at a restaurant? Brunch food. I feel like most kids love things like pancakes, waffles, French toast, and other brunchy things.

4. Mimosas. I don’t even have to explain why something bubbly and sweet is a perk, do I?

5. I love seeing my friends. What is brunch unless you’ve got all your people with you? My kids are the cutest, my hubby is the best, and our friends and their kids can complete a brunch date with their good company.

6. It’s springtime. The weather has been beautiful, the sun is gleaming but not blistering hot, and there’s usually a pleasant breeze around brunchtime. It’s the perfect excuse to eat bacon outdoors.

7. Eggs. Shall I elaborate on why eggs are the ideal food? Okay, you forced my hand. I hardly need to count the hundred ways that eggs could be prepared by even the most basic of chefs. I also don’t need to list reasons that eggs are very healthy and beneficial for your body. What I will say is this: have you ever had a perfectly fried egg?

8. I can sleep late and still not cook. Brunch on a Saturday means that I don’t have to worry about feeding the family anything right when we get up. We can snooze a little longer, and not have to rush to the kitchen to get breakfast in before we head out for the day. Brunch IS heading out for the day!

9. You can have the sweet and the savory. I’m always torn at brunch places on whether to get something sweet or something savory. I love having a veggie omelette, for example. But I know when my kids chocolate chip pancakes arrive, I’m going to covet that dessert-like dish. But I think it’s acceptable (and there’s an option on most brunch menus!) to have a little bit of both. Best of both worlds, if you will. After all, it is breakfast and lunch.

10. It’s easier than going out to dinner. Taking our kids out to dinner sometimes means that they’re already tired, or too hungry, or that they just can’t sit still any more that day. But at brunchtime, they’re still fresh, and they’re more likely to behave (or at least stay in their chairs). We want our kids to know what it means to go to a restaurant, but brunch is a great time to practice restaurant etiquette.

Well, there you have it… ten reasons I think brunch is worth doing. You can find me brunching pretty much every weekend – join me!

How to Go Gluten Free (Without Hating It)

This post also appeared on the Grit and Grace Project. I’m a contributor there – go check it out!

I’ve gone gluten free for several periods of time in the past few years, and even now, I’m a little gluten-less-than-usual. And guess what?! It’s not as hard – or as miserable – as you might think. Yes, you make concessions. Yes, there are foods that you will probably miss. But depending on the reason you’re going gluten free (allergens, weight loss, or to support a family member who has to make that choice), you might be surprised at how successful and even happy you can be while you’re off gluten. Here are a few suggestions to help you along in the process.

  1. Don’t feel like you can’t eat bread. Or pasta. Or whatever your glutenous pleasure is. There are plenty of gluten free breads, pastas, and even beers out there. Of course they don’t taste the same as your favorite sourdough, but they can be great substitutes.
  2. Make the effort to search for gluten-free recipes. The main reason I suggest this is because it’s much more successful than trying to leave out or substitute the gluten in your normal recipes. There are many substitutes; for instance, flour can be substituted by brown rice flour, coconut flour, almond flour, and others. But those don’t always measure cup for cup, and they don’t always substitute well, especially when you’re baking. There are many recipe bloggers that have already figured out the best substitutions, so why not just use their methods? Don’t reinvent the wheel.
  3. Stick it out. If it’s not an absolute requirement to go gluten free (ie: allergy-related) and it’s just an experiment, then it’s tempting to add gluten back in sooner, rather than later. But my advice? Stick it out for a couple of months (yes, whole months!) before you start adding it back in. Whatever your desired results are, it might take a couple of months to start seeing them.
  4. Be creative with how you eat your vegetables. Lots of types of food (Asian food, for instance) don’t have much gluten in them in most cases. Gluten free doesn’t mean salads only, or that you can’t be full after your meal. But it might mean you’ve got to be a little more creative with what your meals look like. If you usually eat a pasta of some sort with your vegetables, try eating rice instead. If you typically eat a bagel or toast for breakfast, try oatmeal. There are other grains that are just as filling as wheat.

It’s possible to go gluten-free and love it! Here are three blogs that I like to check out for delicious meals, practical ideas, and even baked goods!

Against All Grain – Danielle isn’t just gluten free, but all of her recipes are! She also has a cookbook, if you’d like it on paper.

Elana’s Pantry – Elana has some great recipes I use often (specifically for sweets/baked goods).

Delightfully Gluten Free – Cassandra is helpful with knowing what products to buy to help out your kitchen’s ingredient stock.

*Also helpful for gluten-free eating are blogs that focus on recipes for those with celiac disease.

Don’t believe all the bad things you’ve heard about going gluten-free. It’s possible to go gluten-free and love it! You’ll never know until you give it a shot, though. What do you have to lose?

Currently

It’s time for another little update of what’s been going on in my life! There is mostly holiday shenanigans to report, but since it’s the first Currently of the month, I’m linking up with Anne in Residence and her guest host, Kellie from the B Hive. So, here’s what I am currently…

Doing || a lot of scheduling. December is busy for everyone, but often for musicians especially. Hubby has extra gigs, I have extra rehearsals and services, and those are in addition to parties, shopping, visiting, and actually trying to stay rested, we are doing quite a lot. We’re also hopping away to NYC next week for two days of a getaway for some fancy food, a concert, and a show! We’ve never been at Christmastime so we’re excited to see a holiday-decorated NYC.

Enjoying || the weather! I love right when the weather gets cold… it’s not freezing yet, but it’s cold enough to layer up, don my boots, and add a colorful scarf. Fall truly is my favorite season.

Cooking || a little of this and that. I’m still on soups (yeah, French Onion!) but Hubby has been hitting up some major Asian flair recently (in his genes, apparently) and he’s amazing at it. Here’s a snippet of the okonomiyaki he made for lunch today.

Wrapping || lots of presents, of course! My mom was here the past couple of days, so she helped me wrap, and I helped her wrap. My shopping and wrapping is almost complete. There are only one or two things left on my list, and I have finished J’s birthday stuff, as well! (His birthday is December 28th.) I’ve had a few wrapping papers that I haven’t opened up the last couple of Christmases simply because I hate having too many rolls to try to keep together. But I finished two this year, so I opened up two more! It’s funny how new, fun wrapping paper can add some excitement to the wrapping process for me.

Playing || with Magformers with the kiddos. They’ve always loved them, but I’m so glad they are back in a phase of playing with them all the time. They’re colorful, easy to manipulate, and great for all three of the kids’ current ages. We literally sat in the hallway outside their rooms last night and played with them for almost an hour. The only problem is that since there are typically three kids playing with them at the same time, we don’t have quite enough for them all to feel like they can make a structure as big as they want to. So I got them an expansion pack “from Santa”. Typically Santa’s gifts are for all three of them, so that his gifts aren’t as cool as Mom and Dad’s!

So there you have it! What are you currently up to?