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Sniff and Season

My five year old makes me so proud.

My five year old makes me so proud.

Sniff and season is a very serious task.

Sniff and season is a very serious task.


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We live in Northern Michigan and that is never more clear than during the winter. We get a lot of snow, a lot of ice, and now that the twins are in school we get a lot of snow days.

The kids get to stay in their pajamas all day, we get to eat on our natural schedule, the baby can nap when she’s tired. The house gets destroyed every time. It takes weeks to recover from the housekeeping nightmare that is a snow day.

Around lunchtime we always have the food debate. Soup? Sandwiches? Chicken nuggets (again)? Inevitably we can’t all agree, that is the nature of kids. Mine at least. They want something fast and NOW. I want something hot for them, since they eat cold lunch at school every other day of the week.

Today we all decided on fish. Fish is a dish that is either loved by all, or barely touched, depending on the day. So now the kids are in charge of seasoning it every time, this almost guarantees that at least three of the four will eat it. They trust each other’s seasonings more than they trust mine.

It is the same process every time, the only thing that changes is the kid. I pull out all the spices that we have. They open each one, give it a good sniff, and if it smells nice it goes on the fish. We get a nice meal, the kids gets more familiar with spices and how they work together in a dish.

Pierce and Ted are heavy handed with their seasonings, they prefer to mask the taste of the fish as much as possible. Both prefer to stick to old favorites like lemon pepper, garlic, or dill.

Lillian changes it up but is always light on the seasonings. She really gets into the concept of sniff and season. Since she is not putting much of anything on, the seasonings usually end up like a nice light nature’s seasoning. She takes her time, sometimes going back to ones she has passed over.

Today she had a lovely mix that pleased everyone, it is always amazing when one meal is enjoyed by all the members of the family! We don’t write down the fish recipes, it is more fun to do the sniff and season every time. This method keeps us from getting in a seasoning rut. I save ruts for my pot roasts and stews.

In case you don’t want to try the sniff and season method yourself here is the mix she used today:

Sniff and Season Tilapia

1 package frozen tilapia, thawed
1/2 stick salted butter, cut into chunks
Salt
Garlic
Rosemary
Parsley
Onion powder
Basil

Preheat oven to 425

Cover cookie sheet with aluminum foil, spray with oil. Place fish on sheet so it is not overlapping. Put the chunks of butter on top of the fish. Lightly season with everything, to your own taste preference.

Bake 12 minutes or until fish flakes with a fork.

Enjoy!

The three things we learned are
1) How spices work together
2) Sniff and season can take 30 seconds or 30 minutes depending on the kid
3) Mom needs a vacation after a snow day

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Posted by on February 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Mmmmm…meat

Look in the middle...that is where the genius lives

Look in the middle…that is where the genius lives


This is a fairly busy picture, my apologies.

Focus on the center, there is a simple thing happening there that was a huge hit.

Lily Belle wanted to put something on a pick. The picks are a highly desired piece of our bento arsenal. I usually just stick a few grapes on them, but the kids get more creative. She took a piece of lunch meat and gave me a lesson in fractions (I fold it and now its in half I fold it again and now we have ________…at which point she looks to me for my input, I love lessons where the teacher doesn’t have the answers) and stuck it on a pick. She filled up the pick with meat, which took only a few minutes.

This meat, outside of a sandwich, was such a fun novelty for both twins that we’ve continued to add it to lunches. I think it’s a cute method, and its easy enough for them to do themselves…maybe soon she’ll remember what 1/4 is.

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Lily Belle’s First Recipe

She wanted little to no help with this project.

She wanted little to no help with this project.

Lily Belle is five. She’s been cooking and baking with me for nearly four years now. Some days when I call in the troupes to peel, stir, and measure she declines. As much as she likes to help in the kitchen, she is not striving to become a chef.

Or so I thought.

She found an instant oatmeal packet that she loved. Loved, loved. Ruined all other oatmeal for her. No more wonderful steel-cut oats with apples and cinnamon, no more plain quick oats with jam. It was blueberry cream instant oatmeal…or nothing.

When our stock of instant oatmeal was gone, and she realized she had to wait for the next big sale, Lily Belle took the initiative to make up her very first recipe.

She added dried blueberries to the grocery list (please no one tell her I bought the much cheaper dried cranberries with infused blueberry juice!) and got to work.

Using this blog she was able to get a starting point, and after a few weeks of trouble shooting she came up with her perfect version. Now remember, Lily Belle is a kid. If I was making this for myself I would add more dried fruit, less sweetener, and maybe powdered milk instead of CoffeeMate. I was in no way going to get in the way of her creative process though, so this recipe is exactly as she wanted it.

Here is what we learned in this endeavor:

  1. Trust
  2. Determination to follow through must be mutual
  3. How to find the right measuring cup

Lily Belle’s Blueberry Cream Single Serve Oatmeal

Ingredients:

  • Quick oats
  • Dried Fruit (We used CranBlueberry)
  • Stevia (or sugar)
  • French Vanilla Coffee Mate

Directions:

Get out as many Ziploc, or reusable, bags as you want servings. One serving per bag. Add 1/3 cup quick oats to each bag. Add 1.5 teaspoons Stevia and 1 teaspoon French Vanilla CoffeeMate to each bag.

Have an adult cut three cranberries into six pieces each, so each piece is very little. Add the tiny pieces to the bag, shake to mix, close. Repeat this step for all remaining bags.

I must say I am very proud of Lily Belle for this. She found the exact recipe she wanted, she’s saving money, and making school mornings a little easier on me. I’m looking forward to altering this recipe further for the boys’ preferences.

Let me know if you try this! Did you add different things? What did you add?

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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My kids make Chicken Pot Pie

To start out my new blog voice of “I make my kids cook for me” I need to clarify a couple of things. I prefer eating a no-preservative diet. I lost a lot of weight and feel much better with this lifestyle. Unfortunately I have not mastered the art of making a pie crust, so I don’t expect my 4 year olds to do this. Instead, I’d rather have fun, make a mess, and add a few store-bought ingredients to ensure that I don’t have to do anything except pop it in the oven.

Also, when I say I “make my kids cook for me” I am being snarky. If they would rather finger paint or stare at the wall, they are more than welcome to. This is not a chore they MUST do, this is a fun activity they like and I exploit.

So, here is our version of Chicken Pot Pie…a completely 4-year old twin and 2-year old tornado friendly recipe.

We used a chicken breast and a half that was leftover from a full chicken that we roasted earlier in the week. I cut it into strips, then the twins tore it into small pieces. My aunt has used the pouch chicken (sold in the same aisle as tuna in the store) and I’m sure if you cook up frozen chicken breasts first, it would work fine. I always make this as a “use up the leftovers kind of meal.

Meanwhile, Ted put in the veggies. Since a 2-year old was doing this step we used all frozen veggies this time, and there was no measuring. We often use fresh veggies that we steam first.

Everyone had a hand (literally) in the mixing of the mixture once the soup was in. Half the peas ended up on the counter, but the consensus was that we’d just do without. We’ve also used gravy, or a simple to-make white sauce in this dish.

Lily Belle had pulled the pie crust out of the fridge awhile beforehand, so Pierce unrolled the first one and put it in the pie pan. Once the mixture was poured in (okay, in reality it was put in by the handful, this took a LONG time and I do not recommend it) we went and washed our hands. The top crust was trickier. Pierce poked a hole in it trying to center it, but that didn’t have any negative effects on our pot pie. The twins enjoyed tucking the top crust in and pinching it together with the bottom crust, a little too much. They both went over the pie twice pinching it together. Luckily for them Ted was feeding the dog frozen peas, so I was distracted.

I popped it in the oven, and ta-da! A simple, easy to prepare dinner that I didn’t have to make! Life is good.

Chicken Pot Pie

Pie crust

1-2 Chicken Breasts, cooked and diced

1/2-1 cup each of frozen peas, corn, potatoes (the cubed hashbrown type works well), carrots, lima beans, whatever else looks good

1 can cream of mushroom soup, or cream of chicken

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

In a bowl combine diced chicken, vegetables, soup. Salt and pepper to taste, use more than you think you need to compensate for the pie crust being slightly sweet.

Prepare pie pan by spraying with cooking spray. Place one pie crust into pan. Add mixture. Center second pie crust on top, tuck sides down in between the pie pan and the bottom crust. Pinch the two crusts together all the way around. Brush top with a beaten egg if desired.

Bake for 35-45 minutes

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Baked Garbanzo Beans

A few weeks ago a friend told me to try baking garbanzo beans for a fun salty snack that was similar to Corn Nuts. I’m all for new salty snacks, so I went right out and bought the beans.

So. Did you know garbanzo bean is a fancy name for chick peas?!? I do now!

My fabulous Meijer produce section carries fresh garbanzo beans, which I got even though the recipe called for canned. I bought canned too, so I could try both to see what I preferred.

The twins helped me get them all ready and we were geeked for something new and exciting. We waited and waited and waited for the oven to preheat. And waited. It never did, those beans were doomed, our oven was broken.

A few weeks, and a round of the flu later, my husband replaced the heating element and we tried again! I haven’t blogged since the oven broke. I assume my writing ability is directly related to my oven’s performance.

One batch we did by the recipe, the other we adjusted to remove all preservatives and try a different flavor.

The twins helped paint a tray with butter and season the beans. They really enjoyed helping with this recipe and I enjoyed how little of a mess they made.

The original recipe for Roasted Garbanzo Beans (as given to me by K. Daukstststesses B.)

Rinse canned beans well, pat dry
Coat with non-stick spray
Toss with Italian seasoning and Garlic salt
Roast 400 degrees for 30 minutes (or more as needed)
Toss halfway through cooking

My altered version

Melt 1 tablespoon salted butter, paint tray with it
Spread beans on tray
Sprinkle with taco seasoning (we used homemade taco seasoning)
Cook as directed above

My observations

1) Canned beans are bigger and plumper to begin with, and organic canned is available if preferred.

2) My altered version charred a bit. I’m thinking it was the butter so I will simply omit it next time to see. Possibly was the taco seasoning.

3) I cooked the beans for 40 minutes…and probably should have gone longer by 5-7 minutes. I suggest checking them at 30 minutes and then every 7 minutes until done.

4) We all agreed the canned bean batch had a better texture.

5) We were split 50/50 on flavor preference. Ted had no preference due to the flu, so we had no tie breaker vote.

6) This is an easy, fun, new salty snack. I like it.

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Pre-Preschool Stress

The twins are getting to the age in which I’m feeling the stress to prepare them for school. To find the right school, to offer the right social skill building activities, to no longer have this fun and carefree lifestyle. Phone calls, emails, tours, preschool enrichment fairs, endless internet searches… I’m feeling pre-preschool stress.

I’m a stay at home mom, so I’m being advised that my kids need preschool to build social skills. They need structure. They need a learning environment away from me.

Of course this makes me all excited for both them and me, and weepy and sad at the same time. Mostly it stresses me out!

The importance of preschool has been STRESSED (see how much stress is involved already?) by both friends and family. Interestingly, men my husband talks to go the other way. They suggest keeping them home until Kindergarten, kids grow up too fast as it is, they advise. That’s another topic all together though. A Facebook post brought many comments from moms, most of which have, or recently had, kids in early elementary. All said preschool is a must. All. My stress level went up exponentially. These are women I trust, some of them are teachers. Social skills, ability to be in school for hours, school teaching methods, easier learning in higher grades, and more reasons given in favor of preschool.

I was told that preschool is the new Kindergarten, it is the year kids prepare to start school. *sigh* While I understand children learn better/quicker/easier at a younger age, if preschool is so important why isn’t it mandatory or available at all public schools?

Geographically we are at a disadvantage compared to my Facebook friends. They are all in well populated suburbs filled with school options. I have moved to the country, our tiny school district doesn’t offer preschool. The large school district north of us won’t accept my kids because we live fifty yards out of their county. I don’t want to send them to a day care for preschool, just my personal preference. I do want to send them to a two or three day, a.m. half days, preschool that will also be their elementary school. So that leaves us three options.

Public school twenty minutes away that may or may not have a preschool class (depending on enrollment), may or may not accept us (we would have to try our luck with School of Choice) and may or may not be affordable.

The co-op school or the Academy, both of which are enrollment by lottery (best of luck!). One of which is more costly then I’d like, but I’m sure the kids won’t mind living without electricity during the school year.

The third option is to skip preschool and resign myself to impolite, socially awkward, slow to learn, mediocre kids. Okay, that is 100% the stress talking, and to be honest, they may wind up like that anyway if they are too much like me…or my husband. Basically, they are doomed with or without preschool! *maniacal stressed out laughter*

So which option do I go with? I wish the decision was already made. I’m ready to go back to playdoh, counting blocks and painting abstracts.

I’m hoping that if we are unable to send the kids to preschool they will still be able to adjust to Kindergarten. I hope that if they struggle because I made the wrong choice, they will come to me for help. I hope that a clear and easy choice will fall in my lap so I can stop stressing out and taking it out on my husband. I really hope to have electricity next fall.

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Have Cornish Game Hens, Will Create a Theme

I like to make entire day long themes to make the long winter days more fun for my three preschool children. To help explain this I’m going to take you through my thought processes using *s to indicate internal dialect.

This is your warning. If you don’t want a glimpse into my brain, stop reading now. I admit, it is a scary place.

Last week cornish game hens were on sale, so that automatically put them on this week’s menu plan.

Brad brought them home and I can only assume his thought process went something like this. *geeze our meals are getting weirder and weirder. She knows these are just tiny chickens, right? I wonder if there is a football game on.*

Having never made game hens before I had to bust out my trusty Joy of Cooking book.

*cornish game hen, cornish game hen…here it is. Looks easy, less hen an hour to cook. Ohhhh swedish meatballs yum. I wonder how to cook a whole fish. I don’t have a whole fish. Ooooo I remember going to Medieval Times show in Vegas…we had cornish game hen there. The knights and horses were cool. We ate without forks. There is a fork under the table I need to remember to retrieve.*

I am that scattered. I probably don’t say “ooooo” in my head. I added that for effect.

So I’m thinking about Medieval Times shows and how my kids would love to eat a meal without utensils.

*I could just hack those little birds apart with a big knife. Jousting! The boys would love it. Maybe a bit dangerous. Pillow fights while perched on the rocking horses? Coloring house crests? Crowns!*

I got a bit more thinking in and came up with this fun filled Medieval day for us.

Before lunch we painted crests, during nap time I cut them out and taped them up in the kitchen.

We made up fairy tale stories, Lily’s all included a princess named Lily Belle and Pierce had to have a dragon named Tedzilla.

After naps we made crowns and princess hats by putting stickers, puff balls and sparkle paint on oversized construction paper.

We tried the pillow fights on the rocking horses, but it got too rough. So we switched to racing the horses across the living room. This was fun even though Ted couldn’t rock enough to move his horse. I just pushed him a bit when his opponent wasn’t looking.

Dinner was fun. We wore our hats. We ate our game hens, baked potatoes and broccoli spears with our hands. Everyone was fabulously messy. We laughed uproariously at Pierce’s confusion. Not understanding how to eat his meat without a fork he kept repeating “how do I eat it out? How do I EAT IT OUT?!?”.

*now what? I’m all tapped out on ideas. The castle tent! Ew the carpet over here got peed on. I need a scullery maid. Oh wait, I guess I am the scullery maid*

We set up the tent that is a castle and played prince and princess until it turned into a wrestling match and Tedzilla ripped off everyone’s crowns.

I’m not sure if the kids got any lessons out of the day, or will remember it, but this snowy day was fun regardless. Having a theme is fun, it creates a creative atmosphere, and is a nice change of pace.

I’m looking for other themes to incorporate into our days the rest of the winter. We have a football tent, with Superbowl just around the corner we could do a football theme and serve hot wings and (root) beer. Or a day of fishing in the bathtub followed by a baked fish dinner. My Facebook friends suggested a color theme, or an international day. I’d love to hear your ideas! *shamelessy use and pass off as my own*

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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