Cooks and Bakers…

I really, really wanted to be a “good mom” today and bake some cookies for Missy Pie after school. After procrastinating all day, I finally got them in the oven just-in-time. Completely justified, though, because this way they’ll be “hot out of the oven” and even Better! (right?)

Here’s whaoatmeal_cookiest I discovered today: The biggest difference between “cooks” and “bakers” comes down to patience. I have not much, and bakers…and Lord knows, Pastry chefs!…have much, much more. My unspoken rule is that it has to be a one-shot deal. In other words, all the batter has to make the right amount to fit onto two cookie sheets. Because I don’t really want to hang around and do it all again. Once is enough. And, as I found out today…I will squeeeeeze those cookies in, and EAT any remaining batter in order to avoid another go ’round. Nice, huh?! (I’m also not a fan of getting dusted head to toe in flour)

So…hats off to all you Bakers out there. If you’re more of a Cook, like me, and would still like to show your fam some love…I suggest you do what I do and get a handful of insanely easy recipes that you can pull out once in awhile, and still warm their hearts (and tummies)  :  )

PS–My cookies don’t look as good as the ones in the picture…hmmmmph!

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Minivan-Friendly Munchies, Part 1

I am now, officially, a ‘soccer mom’. Just a little bit, though–one kid, one practice, one game a week.  But darned if they don’t have that one practice smack in the middle of dinnertime. In this house, you don’t mess with dinner! About the time I started to think about how we’re going to handle this midweek inconvenience, my sister called me looking for inspiration and ideas because she’s looking at more like FOUR nights a week of practices, games and activities! So, big sis, and all you other crazed moms running taxi services….this is for you  ;  )

Fall (Back) in Love with Your Crockpot
Now, I love the idea of a crockpot. Dump it all in and go, then you’ve got dinner waiting when all’s done (or even if you’ve got time for just a quick pit stop at home in between activities). What I could never reconcile, though, was compromising my good-eating sensibilities by pouring in a can of gloppy condensed soup or some high-sodium seasoning packet as most recipes call for. That’s OK here and there, but if I was going to really take advantage of my crock pot then that meant consuming that stuff regularly, and that doesn’t fly when my goal is to eat and enjoy good, whole foods with my family. So I started re-inventing…

What you’ve got to do is take a fresh look at that old friend. The basic concept is combining your meat and/or vegetables with seasoning and some moisture. So…your seasoning doesn’t have to come from a packet. You’ve got spices and dried herbs in your cabinet. You’ve got rich flavored veggies like sweet potatoes and bell peppers in your fridge. You’ve got things like lemon juice and balsamic vinegar and peanut butter that all provide flavor. And, really, that condensed soup was just short-cutting the seasoning and the moisture step. But how hard is it to pour in some low-sodium chicken broth, or some diced tomatoes instead? With just a little effort, you can find recipes to slip into your repertoire that are just as quick and easy, but with the added bonus of knowing you’re eating real ingredients that are nourishing your little sports stars at the same time!

Start by taking a look at some of the crock pot recipes you already make and love and look at how you can replace the processed ingredients with the fresh versions and spices of your own. Another way is to (yikes!) search for some vegetarian crock pot recipes online. Find some where you like the flavors. Hang with me here a minute! These recipes tend to call for natural, healthy ingredients anyway, so that’s a head start to your recipe. Then, if you’d like, go ahead and either add meat to it at the beginning (browning it first and adding a little extra liquid than called for) or; at the very end, turn the crockpot to “high” and slice up some leftover chicken breasts, or steak, and add them in there to heat through. Either way, look for the leanest cuts of meat you can, trimming off visible fat before hand (make up for it with more flavorful ingredients!) and try to add in more veggies wherever you can that pack a punch nutritionally, like tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, sweet potatoes or butternut squash. Fresh spinach can always be stirred in at the very end of the cooking time. And remember, too, crock pots tend to “mellow out” flavors over the day so be sure to keep the quantities of spices a little more aggressive than you might normally do, or add some in towards the end before serving.

Right here on my blog, check out Asian Crock Pot Pork or Turkey Meatloaf with BBQ/Cranberry Sauce (which can be done in the crockpot as well–you can even throw in the sweet potatoes!) for a few ideas.

Enough

The over-arching theme to my life lately–if it were a movie–would be “busy”. Make that waaaay too busy. An extra busy sundae with tired on top.

And while I’m out there being super woman, my mind is almost always thinking in the background about how I’m not home enough, like I used to be. I’m not cleaning my house enough. I’m not watching over homework enough. I’m not–gasp!–cooking enough. I’m not being a good enough Mom, or wife. I’m not keeping up with…anything. Yet I know each day I’m doing as much as I possibly can, I’m organized and a good multi-tasker. And I’m prayin’ for the strength to do it all. So what’s the problem?

I think it’s my definition of “enough”. As women, I think we’re prewired for this misconception. We’re either Wonder Woman and still feel like it’s not enough or; we feel guilty because we’re not “that woman”…either way we end up with the same voice in our head saying “not enough”. Maybe it’s time to examine that word. I’m not sure it’s doing us any good.

I am passionate about making good food a part of your life and most importantly, part of your family’s life. I say, “cook with your hubby and kids!” and they will grow to have an appreciation for food that’s good for them, they’ll be healthier, they’ll have skills for life. But the best part, the little nugget of gold in all that is this: they will mostly love the time spent with you. Yep…that’ half an hour together with you, where you’re not doing four other things, you are present. Or maybe a better way is to say: you are a present for them. That is “enough” (in fact, it’s more than enough!). It doesn’t have to be fancy, or complicated. It can be a simple sandwich and soup. Or a batch of cookies. The most important thing is that you are there, with them.

I was surprised to find out that my hubby doesn’t value the things I do. Sounds bad for a marriage, doesn’t it? But truly, he does not see the copious amounts of dog hair on the floor (and therefore doesn’t care), he doesn’t really care if I’m behind on laundry. What he does love is when I stop moving. When I sit with him a few minutes, kiss him hello and remember to ask him how his day went. That’s enough for him. It’s plenty, in fact.

See where I’m going with all this? I say “I feel like I can’t do it all and do it well!” So I go and go and go. If I’m constantly ‘waaay too busy’, my family will feel something missing–me!  But really, it’s the small things that we take the time to do that mean the most to those around us. And they make up for the times when we truly are very busy and need to get stuff done. Sit a minute and cuddle on the couch, a note in their lunchbox. I know it’s hard (Mary and Martha, anyone?!) but I’m trying to remember that if I can just do those things, maybe I can eventually quiet that little voice completely…”enough” is enough!