Category Archives: food

‘Tis the Season – of Indulging Your Taste Buds!

During the month of November, I’m participating in NaBloPoMo, where I try to write and publish each day.

I don’t know what it is about this time of year that makes me abandon any sort of diet or food regulations I might normally have going for me. Perhaps it begins with Halloween and the amount of candy that enters the house. Or it might have to do with being inside more often… which typically leads me to baking a lot. Or maybe it’s just that the holidays are full of sugary treats and fatty, sharable sides. Who knows. But what I DO know is that I LOVE food that tastes good.

Now, for me, saying “food that tastes good” covers a multitude of sins. I love fancy meals. I love farm-fresh eggs and meats. I love organic fruits and veggies. I love cuisine from all over the world (here’s looking specifically at you, Italy and Thailand). BUT! I also love a good slamburger (the term coined by my husband for a greasy burger from a no-name burger joint). I love a late-night hotdog from a street cart. Coldstone ice cream creations can cheer me up any day. My kids don’t have to beg to get me to eat at Chick-fil-A. To me, they taste good. And that’s what matters.

But this time of year, I lean in to those home-baked cookies, the cinnamon-sprinkled drinks, and the heavily-buttered breads or potatoes. I want large cuts of fatty meats (hey there, prime rib!) and richly-flavored, creamy soups (butternut squash soup, anyone?). And who can blame me?! It’s getting dark at 5:00pm and I’d like to have some compensation for the stealing of my daylight.

So today, I celebrate the pumpkin muffins with maple-pecan drizzle, the eggnog spiked with bourbon, and ramen from the Bahtmobile (our local Asian food truck). I celebrate shortbread cookies, King’s Hawaiian rolls (why are they so good?!) and 18-pound hunks of prime rib – if you’re having Thanksgiving lunch at our house, anyway. I celebrate good ol’ GBC (if you’re from around here, you should know that’s green bean casserole) and mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and Honeybaked Ham. It’s going to be a good couple of months, y’all, in the world of flavors. Indulge. ‘Tis the season!

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!

Healthy After-School Snacks

If your kids are like mine, they come home from school HUNGRY. I’ve been working a lot on packing healthy lunches for them, and consequently on providing healthy snacks for when they get home. If you’re out of ideas, here are a few oldies (but goodies!) and a few new ideas for you to try with your kids.

1. Variations on “ants on a log”. I bet we can all remember having a celery stalk with peanut butter and raisins, but you can also halve a thick carrot and add the toppings the same way! Try a different kind of nut butter (or sun butter) for a new flavor, add honey if your sweetie likes sweets, and if your kids don’t like raisins, try Craisins for a similar effect with a tart pop!

2. Peanut butter on anything. Speaking of that wonderful creation: peanut butter. It goes with anything. Apples, bananas, carrots, celery, on lots of different kinds of bread (try tortillas, pita, or naan), rice cakes, or just on a spoon. My friend’s mom used to make “fruit pizza”, which was pizza crust or pita, with a layer of peanut butter and honey (or caramel for a treat), with bites of fruit, nuts, and granola sprinkled on top. It was a major win, especially if you need a snack that’s multiple servings.

3. Tortilla sushi. You can take a tortilla and put a thin layer of mayo or mustard, deli meat, lettuce, and cheese, roll it tightly, and slice it into “sushi bites”. It transforms a “boring” wrap into a fun snack! As you can imagine, peanut butter and jelly (I buy Polaner’s Fruit Spread that’s sweetened with only fruit juice) works just as well! Or, if your kids are like mine, picking up a California roll for some REAL sushi is a hit, too!

4. Chips and salsa or guac. With this one, the fresher the better. Grab some avocados from Costco or Trader Joe’s, add tomatoes, some onion, lime juice, salt and pepper, and you’ve got yourself a pleasing and healthy guacamole for an easy snack. Lots of grocery stores have Wholly Guacamole if you aren’t a cook, or some fresh-made salsa in their deli section. We like black bean and corn salsa for its protein, too, easily whipped up with tomato, onion, lime juice, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Try a new salsa on your kids!

5. Protein bites. These no-bake treats are so easy! I came across my favorite recipe on Pinterest, but a quick search for “protein balls” or “energy bites” will reveal hundreds of ideas in a second. My usual ingredients include dry oats, peanut butter, chocolate chips, ground flaxseed, honey, Craisins, and vanilla. There are so many flavors out there to try, and they’re all pretty easy!

6. Healthy muffins. I have discovered a food blog that’s quite literally changed my life. BrenDid.com has tons of different healthy muffin recipes and I haven’t made one yet that my kids haven’t devoured. Almost all her muffin recipes are sugar free, oil free, and gluten free! Everything from pumpkin muffins to chocolate peanut butter muffins, even the plain oatmeal muffins (with any type of add-in you can think of) are a hit with my kids. We eat them for breakfast, or I send them in their lunches, or we snack on them. They’re whipped up in the blender and totally yummy!

7. Hummus. Easy to eat on veggies, chips, or pita, hummus is a versatile and delicious snack. If you’ve never tried your hand at making hummus, there are very few ingredients and all you do is toss them in your blender! I recommend trying a new hummus recipe (just get on Pinterest, y’all!) and even let your kids help you make it! (If your family usually likes Greek or Mediterranean food, try making some tzatziki, too!)

8. Apple cheddar toast. This may sound crazy, but one of the most delightful snacks is cheddar cheese melted on toast, with a (still cold) Granny Smith apple sliced on top. Savory and sweet, hot and cold, crunchy and melted cheese? Those are three winning combinations, not to mention healthy!

I hope I gave you a few new ideas for healthy snacks (or even lunches) to please the hungry brood at your house. What other suggestions do you have for healthy snacks?

Currently: September!

Y’all! Is that fall I smell in the air?! I am beside myself for a this magical weather. Even if it just lasts until 10:30am, I am so excited for a cool down. It’s a glimpse of what’s to come, surely! Now if the rain would just calm down… but I know that I cannot complain, since those towards the coast are in for much worse pretty soon. 

This month, I’m linking up with Anne in Residence, and Lowanda of Sunshine and Elephants for our monthly Currently link party. Leave a comment, or link up and join us! Thanks for stopping by… and here’s what’s going on in my neck of the woods currently…

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Celebrating || the start of school! We’ve really amped up this year with our first true school experience (my oldest is off to kindergarten!) and the fact that the baby (age 2) began preschool on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. It’s blowing my mind that all three of my kids are in some sort of school! And that they’re even old enough for that to be happening at all… time flies when you’re having fun busy with small children!

Watching || Our TV shows that are starting back up soon! We are excited to continue New Girl and I’ll be glad to get going on This Is Us. We also flew through that new installment of the Netflix Wet Hot American Summer Series (Ronnie Reagan, yikes) while we were on vacation last month, and recently began our trusted favorite show for the hundredth time: Arrested Development (the original, though I’m sure we’ll watch the Netflix add-on of that as well). We’ve also recently watched all the Star Wars movies, and several of them with the kids. They looooooove them. #nerdalert

Welcoming || a little tease of cooler weather! All last week the high was in the mid-70s and I was not sad. I have a new pair of suede booties that are BEGGING to be worn (thanks, Target!) and my scarves have been forlorn in my closet for months. I know that it won’t truly be cold enough for scarves here in NC for at LEAST another six weeks but I am READY!

Preparing || lunches for my kinder-girl and breakfasts for all. I’ve been trying to get some semi-meal planning done, which for me isn’t necessarily preparing a week’s worth of a meal schedule, but more like baking (healthy) muffins for breakfasts (or lunch!) and making twice the amount of (again, healthy) waffles I need in one morning to cover another morning’s breakfast. I pack most of EK’s lunch the night before, since she mostly just snacks for lunch (raw carrot, pretzels, cheese, fruit, maybe a PBJ or a turkey wrap). If I’ve got leftovers I know for sure she’ll eat (here’s looking at you, mac and cheese) I’ll send those along as well.

Photographing || the first day of school, as well as getting a fall photo session booked. I want something updated for Christmas, even if it’s a hot mess like it sorta was last year. It’s still tough to get a nice photo with all five of us in it, and so I usually end up with a collage on our Christmas card. But I’d really like to have something approaching a nice family photo this year. SO – bribery it is! (Jelly beans and M&Ms work best for my brood.) Here are our first day of school photos:

So now, tell me: what’s going on in your world currently?

Currently – May

Hi friends! It’s that time again… that time that seems to come more quickly every month. Time for a new currently! I probably say this every month, but I can’t believe May is here! Already, our garden is flourishing, the kids have only a few weeks of school left, and I am already trying to make sure our summer isn’t boring!

Thanks to Anne in Residence and Nancy of NY Foodie Family, we’ve got another currently link-up. Here’s a little bit about what’s going on currently…

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Baking || some Healthy Oatmeal Muffins. During my fitness challenge, I was looking for ways I could feed everyone healthily and easily. These muffins are a win with me, the hubs, and all three of the kids. I’ve made them three times in the last six weeks! Now I just need to start doubling the recipe so I don’t have to make them as often. I should also add that this same gal, Bren, has a deadly delicious chocolate peanut butter muffin recipe that’s healthy, also! I made them on Monday. Some pics are on my Instagram!

Listening || to First Aid Kit. They’re a couple of Scandinavian gals who sing Americana. It’s actually really cool, with some lush harmonies and some interesting (and also not clean) lyrics. Check them out! I’ve enjoyed several of their albums.

Loving || some of the things we have planned for our days Charleston this week! We have some friends getting married there, and so we will fill our free time with the beach, the aquarium, sweet friends, and good eats!

Planting || all of the things! That torrential rain we got here in NC last week was actually good for us, as far as our garden goes. I can tell things have been growing, despite getting beaten by the rain. We’ve planted seedlings and seeds of all sorts, including several types of lettuce, yellow and green squash, eggplants, carrots, broccoli, radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes, lots of herbs, and a few blueberry bushes. I can’t wait until things start bearing fruit and we get to eat all our hard work!

Lovely lettuces.
My little helpers!
Soon you will be tomatoes!

Remembering || to keep on eating healthy and getting my rest. I transferred my registration from the half-marathon this past weekend to one on May 13th. I had been feeling so poorly for several days before that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to actually race well. It was really disappointing, to be totally honest. It was a hard couple of days knowing I should have been up to it but I wasn’t. But now I’m back at it to make sure I am healthy, fit, and can race well on the 13th! I even bought a fresh pair of runners to start breaking in since my current pair is beginning to wear out. 

The new girls.

Training in my glasses because eye infections are the WORST.

That’s about it in our world. What have you been up to currently? Feel free to join our link up, or comment and let me know!

The Best Ever Pancake Recipe for Moms Who Aren’t Chefs

 I make hot breakfast for my kids almost every single morning. There are very few exceptions – mostly because I set a particular precedent and now they won’t eat cold cereal. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Anyway, because of this fact, I’ve gotten really creative with the breakfasts I make, specifically in the pancake department. I found that I could hide almost anything in a pancake, in a good way. I make a new-fangled pancake batter with some crazy ingredients, I scramble a couple of eggs to go with them, and serve a side of fruit. BOOM! Healthy breakfast, please and thank you.

If you want to know my pancake secrets, here are a few suggestions.

  1. Start with Bisquick (or whatever type pancake mix you prefer). I like Bisquick because it doesn’t have a ton of sugar in it to begin with, but it’s a good base so you don’t have to add things like baking powder or salt. I typically include the ingredients it suggests for pancake-making (a couple of eggs and some milk), then I flavor it with whatever mood I’m in that day.
  2. Add in vanilla extract. I ALWAYS dribble in some vanilla extract to the batter. No excuses not to. I make my own (well, my mom makes it, but I help!) so it’s extra special, but if you’re not a creative guru like my mama, regular vanilla will do.
  3. Get some fruit. Usually, I opt for whatever is overripe/soft/abounding/neglected in our kitchen. Banana works well, but we also like blueberry and strawberry, or a combination of those. Mash it or puree it, and stir it in. Do it before the milk, because it often means you need less milk, because it’s juicy.
  4. Grab some flaxseed. Or chia seed. Or almond flour. Or whatever power powder you have around. Even ginger or turmeric could hide if you have a careful hand. You can likely sprinkle in a couple of tablespoons of the powders (or a teaspoon or two of the spices) without it getting noticed by kids or husbands.
  5. If you’re feeling generous, dump in some chocolate chips. Or if you’re like my family, Craisins. Sprinkles could also be fun if you’re celebrating something! Finely-chopped nuts are good, too, if your family is okay with nuts and likes a little crunch (Banana walnut pancakes, I’m looking at you.)
  6. Mix in some peanut butter or cocoa powder for a new spin on flavored pancakes. Peanut butter adds protein, of course, and makes them wonderfully thick and fluffy. Cocoa powder gives them a chocolatey tone without a ton of sugar… although I find that you need to add a little sugar (if you’re using Bisquick especially), honey, or other sweetener to combat the slight bitterness. I typically go for coconut sugar.
  7. Shape them like Mickey Mouse, snowmen, or caterpillars if you’re feeling fancy, and top them with some pure maple syrup. More flavor than “pancake syrup” (sorry, Aunt Jemima) and no artificial ingredients!

Pancakes please kids almost every time you make them, so I hide all sorts of goodies in there and call them healthy. I’ve stopped measuring things entirely and just go by looks. If the batter’s consistency looks like it’ll cook up on a pan, your breakfast won’t fall flat. BA-DUM, TSSS! (My husband told me that would be funny. If you didn’t laugh, it’s his fault.)

In case you’re wondering, this is just another post about my love affair with breakfast food.