We do swimming lessons at the lake. I believe I’ve told you all that before. The lessons are through the American Red Cross and we love the instructors. They offer two different sessions during the summer, each lasting three weeks.
In the past, we’ve done one 3-week session. That’s what most people do.
This year, however, we missed the first week of the June-July session due to being in the Outer Banks. We also missed the last class when the kids got hit with a virus. As a result, two of my three kids were right on the cusp of moving up to the next level, but maybe not quite there. The other child? Remains terrified of the water and needs all the exposure she can get. Soooo… we elected to sign them all up for the second session.
All that to say? We’re back in swimming lessons this week (and the next two weeks, too!)
Here’s what I plan to feed the perpetually starving masses:
B–Migas, Bacon, OJ, Mixed Fruit (in Massachusetts, with our friends)
L–McDonald’s (on the road)– not great, but at least we got to play The Fry Game
Around here, the “at-home date night” is a regular staple. How we pull this off is really rather simple. I prepare supper for the kids early on, we go through our regular evening/bedtime routine, and then we reconvene for a grown-up meal where we eat, sans kids. Sometimes we grab take-out from one place or another, others I prepare a “fancier” dish just for us. Either way, we both really look forward to these evenings together.
Deciding what to eat as a couple might be the easy part, however. For many people I talk to, it’s more of an issue to figure out what to make for just the kids.
If, like me, you’re a bit averse to the idea of serving up chicking nuggets or mac and cheese every week, let me offer a list of suggestions for great quick suppers that typically please little people:
1. Cheesy Beans & Rice– This dish is a HUGE staple around here. My children all absolutely adore it and I love the flexibility of it. It’s super easy to customize the amount you cook and leftovers are tasty on nachos or in a burrito. My kids love black beans or pintos with their rice and cheddar or co-jack as the cheese. Two out of three eat it with ranch dressing. This one is quick, cheap, and easy and can be made mild or spicy to suit your kids’ preferences.
2. Egg Wraps– Eggs cook in a flash and provide a nice dose of protein. Most kids are pretty content with eggs and cheese on tortilla. Using pre-sliced cheese (cheddar, jack, American, whatver) makes it come together even faster!
3. Homemade Cheese Pizza– Since you can make a pizza, with a fresh dough crust, in 3 minutes (minus baking time), this one is a great, kid-pleasing option! No need to wait for delivery or serve frozen pizza. Making your own can be a piece of cake.
4. Cheesy Peas & Rice– I cook rice in chicken stock, stir in frozen peas toward the end, and fold in abundant shredded sharp cheddar cheese once it’s done. Sound boring? I think so, too. That doesn’t change the fact that almost all kids I know scarf it up and, well, it’s crazy easy to make.
5. Hummus, Carrot Sticks, Pretzels, & Cheese (in photo above)– Sometimes, you don’t even have to cook to make a good, balanced, kid-friendly meal! The dip-ability level is high with this one and that makes it all the more appealing. I made my own hummus here, but you can absolutely buy it and save yourself a step.
6. Cinnamon-Sugar Oven Pancake– Serve this alongside some fruit and a slice of deli ham, and you’re good to go. You can even make the batter ahead of time and have it ready to pop in the oven.
7. Cheddar Apple Chicken Salad Wraps– These can be served in lettuce leaves if you’re kids are cool with that or tortillas is they’re not. There’s nothing “funky” in it and it’s a great summer meal.
8. Pasta Salad– My kids love pasta salad. I think lots of kids do. You’ll likely want to use a milder dressing like ranch or creamy Italian, but you know your children the best! You can add chicken or diced ham, carrots or broccoli, diced tomato or even chopped apple. The sky’s the limit! Pasta salads are highly customizable and they not only CAN be made ahead of time, they actually taste BETTER when made ahead. Perfect!
Feeding the little people needn’t be complicated! It also doesn’t have to be boring.
What are some of your favorite quick and kid-friendly meals?
Have you MISSED this series?? I’ve missed writing it! I need to put it on a calendar or something. I’m such a “fly by the seat of my pants” blogger that I do a horrible job remembering it on my own. Sorry!
Anyway, it’s been about 4 1/2 months since the last segment of JL Answers the Search Box. Let’s go take a look and see what sorts of questions people have had for me…
JL Answers the Search Box, volume 6
1. “I loosed the back of my earring so what to use now”
I feel like we’ve been over this one approximately 852 times already but, again, the short answer? Use an eraser. Just break it off your pencil and put the part that you haven’t been using to erase up against your ear. Now that we’ve solved that problem, can we just talk about your use of “loosed” here? I mean, I know it’s a Google search. I know people don’t use proper punctuation and are prone to omitting words. But, see, the thing is… you made the word LONGER than it needed to be. And that makes me think that you weren’t trying to save time. Perhaps you really thought that, when your earring back went missing, you had “loosed” it. But, alas… no. You LOST it. It goes like this– you lose it, you’re losing it, you lost it, you have lost it. Loose is a totally different word. You could say, “I lost my loose earring back.” You cannot say, “I loosed my loss earring back.” Okie dokie? I feel a little better now that we’ve cleared that up.
2. “I lost the backs of my ears- help”
Gah!!! I’d cry for help, too! But, for heaven’s sake, get off the computer! If you lose the backs of your ears, you need medical help, not my blog. (p.s. Good job using “lost” instead of “loosed.”)
3. “my hair is much too long”
I’m a tiny bit worried about this person. I mean, there are some problems out there that are hard to solve. And I am a big fan of googling for answers. But, is it just me, or is this one kind of an easy fix? No? Hmm…
4. “burning breast exclusive pumping”
OUCH!!!!!!! Burning breasts are not good. Not good at all. I can think of no circumstance in which this is a good thing. I’m thinking the very important word “calories” was left out somewhere here and, in that case, yes, pumping burns a lot of them. And shouldn’t be nearly as painful as burning breasts.
5. “long fingers hand photo”, “sexy long fingers”, “super long hot thumbs”, “long skinny hands”, “pretty hand photo”
Sigh… I wish I were kidding. I get these searches every week. There are whole websites dedicated to hand fetishes and I find photos of my hands there fairly frequently that have been lifted from my site. “You have beautiful hands, but that’s just weird,” my husband says. It is weird. And I don’t get it. But I’m no longer surprised by the searches…
6. “many a man feed one chicken”
I kind of love this search term. I makes my “5 Meals from 5 Chicken Breasts” post feel like an old adage or something. Although, really, it kind of sounds like a whole bunch of dudes gathered around throwing feed at a single bird. But, anyway, it has a nice ring to it.
7. “Is Adam Lanza in hell?”
I have no idea. But I lose no sleep over it, either. (LOSE no sleep, not LOOSE no sleep. You see how often this comes up???)
8. “what to serve with brazilian cheese bread”
What’s Brazilian cheese bread? I’ve never heard of such a thing! And, well, I kind of have a thing for cheese bread, so I find this appalling! Hmmm… Brazilian cheese bread…
9. “sluty negglijaye”
Not even kidding. Sigh… where to start. Okay. First of all, I’m not slutty (or sluty)– sorry. Second of all, you will find no lingerie shots here, including negligees. And, finally… “negglijaye”???? REALLY??? You make that “loosed earring” person look brilliant.
And, finally, you knew it was coming…
10. “I love playing with balls, but my wife doesn’t”
Oh, the great “playing with balls” quandary that every marriage must face… Ha! I kid! This is an easy fix, my dear man. I recommend you either play ball with your kid, assuming you have one, or toss a ball around with a friend. Happily, your wife’s distinterest in ball-play should not prove to be a make-or-break in your marriage. Now, go forth, have fun, and play ball!
I took G. in for her five-year-old well-child visit yesterday. I’m guessing it will suprise no one to learn that she is a very healthy little girl.
In many ways, G. is the child about whom we’ve had the fewest worries. She was born full-term, has had no developmental delays, and seems to blend well with her peers. She is sparkly and flirty and sweet and, well, well-liked. Is she perfect? Of course not. But, blessedly, she hasn’t had any major bumps in the road as of yet.
She is also our most average-sized child.
As a baby, A. was gigantic in both length and weight. Now, he’s still super tall, but, even though his weight is higher than the median (he’s about the 65th%), he would never in a gazillion years be considered “big” or “thick” or “chunky” or even “sturdy.” Ribs sticking out and six-pack abs… that’s my boy.
G. rides right around the 50th% for both height and weight. Sometimes one number will slide up or down a bit, but never significantly, and she follows a very steady “middle-of-the-road” curve.
And then there’s C. She’s actually never the shortest in our class– her height places her in about the 10th% for her age. Her weight hovers on that bottom line, but that’s HER line. She’s healthy and it’s fine. She’s so fine-boned, she comes across as very tiny and delicate, but she’s totally healthy and that is just who she is.
G. weighs exactly the same as C. right now.
Honestly, it threw me when the nurse told me G’s weight because it sounded so familiar to me, but I couldn’t figure out why. Finally, we sorted it out– my girls are the same weight, to the pound.
Now, to be honest, that’s kind of comical. I mean, G. is three and a half years younger than C. Surely no one would expect them to perfectly balance a teeter totter!
And, right now, they think it’s cool. They both get a kick out of the fact that they share a number on the scale. And that makes me smile.
But I also worry.
Because there’s a part of me that suspects the day is going to come when G’s number passes C’s. Maybe even next year. I anticipate there will come a day when my “average-sized”, incredibly capable gymnast who’s so amazingly strong her coach calls her “Muscles” will be heavier than her willow-wispy older sister.
And I wonder how that will make her feel.
Our children are all healthy. They’re also all well within what any doctors consider “healthy weights.” Not even once has anyone expressed the slightest hint of concern over G’s size. She’s, well, she’s kind of “average”, really. That’s what the 50th percentile is, after all, right?
She’s healthy. She’s strong. She should be wildly proud of all her strong body can do.
But… will she?
Or will she fret that she’s “big” compared to her whip-slim sis? Will it no longer be “cute” or “funny” when people point out that she’s just as heavy as someone years older and inches taller than her?
Even a fit woman who wears a size eight can feel big next to the lady who wears a size two.
And that’s so sad.
Right now, it’s all good. And we’re not making an issue about their being the same weight. We try hard to emphasize how proud we are of all of them for eating good foods and being active. The focus needs to be on health and not size.
Yet, as I watch my youngest child pull herself up onto a tree limb with strong, capable shoulders, I see the muscles in her back bunch. I watch her toned thighs engage as she climbs and I’m in awe of her abilities…
… but those abilities, that muscle, make her heavier.
And I worry that, one day, that number being more will make her feel like less.
Though I cook and bake all the time, I would have to say I’m a bit of a minimalist in the kitchen. You’ll find no bread machine, no salad spinner, no garlic press, no pastry bag, no… well, lots of stuff.
There are a couple reasons for this, from the practical– I don’t have much cabinet space, to the personal– I’d rather chop garlic with a knife than have a press rolling around. At the core, though, it comes down to this– I really don’t like keeping something around if I don’t totally feel like its earning its real estate.
For example, I’m not going to let a bundt pan clutter up the precious space in my baking cupboard just so I can bake a fancy-looking cake, what, once, maybe twice a year? I just can’t justify that.
But what if I could use that same pan to make, not just pretty baked goods, but also meat, potatoes, and side dishes? What if I could take a seldom-used item and turn it into a regular workhouse in the kitchen?
Are you tired of wasting your money on the latest kitchen tools and cleaning products? The things you already own can go the extra mile for you if you let them, saving you all those steps and keeping your money where it belongs – in your wallet. In Coffee Filters to Cheese Graters: Creative Ways to Use Just About Everything, you will find lists of 10 or more new uses for 44 everyday household items. Including everything from using your bundt pan to bake potatoes to making mini meat loafs in your muffin tin to using salt to clean coffee-stained mugs, this book is the answer to questions you didn’t even know you had!
I love that book is helpful to a vast array of personality types in the kitchen–
–> For those who are apt to buy the latest and greatest gadgets and tools all the time, this book helps uncover new ways to use things you likely already have, thus saving money and space.
–> For those, like me, who are apt to cast things aside as “not useful enough”, this book helps reveal all the hidden “bonus” uses that can be found, if you really look.
Now, I’m going to be honest with you all. I consider myself pretty darn kitchen-savvy. As such, I didn’t really expect to find a whole lot I didn’t already know in this book. And, again, speaking truthfully, I did know some of these tricks and ideas already. HOWEVER… I was floored by just how many totally new-to-me uses were suggested and I found myself looking at some dusty, cast-off items with new appreciation. (Also? There are some fun looking recipes peppered throughout and I love that Tara lists them right in with the appropiate item so you’re not searching around.)
Now is the best time to act if you’re interested, since the price is $4.99 from 7/14 through 7/17, then $6.99 from 7/18 on.
But wait! There’s more!
Everyone who buys between 7/14 and 7/20 will get a set of bonuses – 10 pages of printables (a cleaning checklist, a list of recyclable items, and an alphabetic index of all the recipes in the book) and access to a 10-day Getting Started challenge during which you can win a $50 Amazon gift card. After 7/20, the printables will be $2.99.
And, while you’re here, tell me this…
Are you a kitchen minimalist or a gadget girl?
Disclosure: I was provided a complimentary copy of the PDF version of this ebook to faciliate my review. I’ve also known, and liked, Tara for years now! Neither of these facts have anything to do with my opinion, however, and I would never suggest or recommend an ebook I didn’t truly feel might be beneficial to some of you.
Last week, I told you that we were in the midst of a week of craziness. When that post was published? That was totally true. But, in His typical fashion, God threw us a curveball and forced some rest upon us.
Wednesday afternoon, my two older children fell asleep. FELL ASLEEP. For hours! Now, that’s just odd. They typically rest and read and sprawl and chill, but they don’t sleep mid-afternoon. I assumed a week full of Summer Spirit, swimming, and other activities had just wiped them out.
A. woke, stumbled to the bathroom, then out to the couch, and crashed out again. I was able to finally rouse him about 6PM and planned to feed him fast and get him out the door to karate. Something made me take pause, however, and I took his temperature.
So we took C’s temperature.
And then G.
It was not a big deal and we totally managed and treated the virus at home. They’re all fine now and no one’s the worse for wear. By necessity, however, we scrapped Thursday and Friday’s activities.
Ah, well… c’est la vie! Sometimes you gotta roll with the punches, right?
We stuck pretty close to the menu plan, but my husband did do an emergency lunch-hour run for Gatorade, yogurt, and apple sauce to get us through the worst of the (104+) fevers and blistered throats.
Everyone’s healthy for the moment, and here’s what we’re hoping will hit the table all this week!
Here’s what we’ve been eating and will be eating–
B–Cheerios, Apples, & Milk for the littles, before 7:30AM Mass
L–Bacon, Egg, & Cheese Sandwiches, Yogurt, Black Raspberries
D–Sunday Supper at Bama & Papa’s– my dad grilled ribs! And he also grilled a chicken breast. Because he knows his youngest child well. And he knows I don’t like ribs.
I’ve admitted it before and I’ll say it again– I’m not very good about using recipes when I cook. (Last time I admitted that, I received a scathing email calling me arrogant for saying that I could cook without instructions– I have no idea where that came from, but, trust me. I’m not telling you this to brag. I don’t consider it a virtue, by any means.)
Anyway, I do love to cook and I can (usually) concoct something fairly tasty. I chalk that ability up to being primarily a “method” cook. I tend to read and study enough recipes that I can learn a basic method, and then I try to apply that skill in different ways.
It usually works out okay.
One of the “methods” that I learned years ago and on which I still rely quite a bit is making a basic cheese sauce. There are lots of ways to make a good cheese sauce and many start with a roux– the butter and flour mixture that will ultimately thicken it. I typically skip the roux and just use butter, cream (or half & half or whole milk), and cheese, plus whatever spices sound good.
This is the method I use in the following simple recipe. Know that this way of making cheese sauce works for almost any cheese, so long as it doesn’t get “stringy” when it melts. For example, when I do this with swiss cheese? It’s not really creamy. It has a different texture. Now, my husband absolutely LOVES it and I still do it, but you should know that it won’t be smooth and creamy; it will have chunks and strings melted throughout.
Anyhow, moving on…
This recipe can be as made with fresh broccoli that’s been steamed and real crab meat for a very elegant, but still not hard, meal. It can also be made with a bag a frozen broccoli and imitation crab meat for an easy, inexpensive meal with great flavor. It’s up to you. I’ve done both and I will not judge you etiher way!
A quick-to-prepare, elegant pasta dish featuring sweet crab, tender broccoli, and creamy havarti cheese.
1 lb. penne pasta
½ cup butter
1 cup half & half or whole milk
7 or 8 oz. havarti cheese, finely shredded
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence (or dill or tarragon, if you don't have that)
2 cups broccoli florets, steamed, OR 1 bag steamable frozen broccoli
8 oz. crab or imitation crab (fully cooked), in bite-sized pieces
Heat a large pot of salted water over high heat, to boil. Once at a full, rolling boil, cook penne according to package directions.
Meanwhile, add butter and half & half (milk) to sauce pan and heat over medium heat, until bubbling. Cook at a VERY low boil for about five minutes.
Remove butter/half & half mixture from heat and gradually stir in shredded cheese, a handful at a time. It will melt in and form a sauce. Don't fret if it seems kind of thin-- it will thicken when it hits the starch of the pasts. Once all cheese is added, stir in black pepper and herbs.
Set the (empty) pot from the pasta, which will still be hot, back on the burner, set to low now. Toss the crab into the pot and stir occasionally to warm through and sweeten it.
While you're warming the crab, steam your broccoli, on stove or microwave. Once steamed, dump it in with the crab.
Pour cheese sauce over broccoli and crab and stir.
Add pasta back to pot and stir gently to coat. Allow to sit for just a minute if the sauce seems thin. Otherwise, serve immediately.
When I say “BAKED BEANS”, what comes to your mind?
1. Beans simmered in a sweet, typically molasses-based sauce with salt pork, sometimes referred to as “Boston baked beans”?
2. Beans simmered and/or baked in a tomato based sauce (with any manner of variations in sweetness, spiciness, etc.)?
Here’s why I ask–
I LOVE baked beans.
I’ve loved them since I was a child and I eat them with burgers, dogs, and also German potato dumplings.
Occasionally, however, I’d go to a potluck cookout and there’d be a big serving dish of baked beans. I’d load up my plate, take a big bite, and then nearly gag. They were NOT what I knew as baked beans.
I’m embarrassed to admit that this happened to me many, many times before I determined that there were clearly different ideas out there about what exactly constituted “baked beans.”
Do YOU like baked beans? And, if so, which type are you familiar with?
[For the record, I only like the "Boston baked beans" type that are sweetened with molasses or, occasionally up here in New England and also Canada, maple syrup. Though I love both beans and tomatoes, I can't get onboard with that other sort of baked beans. ]
We were invited to spend the day at the Connecticut shoreline. The family of one of A’s classmates had rented a cottage for a week and thought it would be nice for our boys to spend the day together. Not one to say no to the beach, I RSVPed in the affirmative. Her email came quickly, “Oh, we’re so excited you’ll be here! There will be a couple other families from the area. They’re all nice. :)”
We arrived and the boys wandered off to check something out. Our hostess introduced me to the other adults there– some parents and kiddos from our town and some family members of the hosts.
One of the families was familiar to me. They have three boys and they live on our end of town. Of their children, I’ve really only met the middle one. He was in preschool with both my older kids, actually, and I can remember having him at our house for a birthday party at some point. I’m going to call him Beck.
Beck is severely autistic. (Is that how that’s worded? I so dearly do not want to offend. Feel free to correct me (gently) if I’ve used the wrong verbiage.) Anyway, I remember vividly when we attended the preschool open house. It was loud and chaotic and crowded and, honestly, it just about pushed me over the edge as I tried to navigate the space with a six-week-old in a stroller.
It was overwhelming for me. It was pretty much intolerable for Beck. He looked positively panicked as he remained in the hallway, refusing to enter the fray.
Parties throughout the schoolyear were difficult, too. They were just so loud. So crowded. There so much movement and they broke the routine. Unusual foods, smells, faces, and sounds filled the space. While many of the children beamed with joy through those parties, Beck averted his eyes and struggled fiercely not to break down. It was hard for him.
Anyway, Beck is going to fourth grade now. It was good to see him again! But, honestly, this beach house setting was challenging, too. Again, with the noise, the crowd, the odd smells, the different foods, the sudden comings and goings of various people. Everyone was kind and accomodating and it was all going fine, but you’d have to be pretty unobservant not to see that, well, it was hard for Beck.
A few of the boys (including Beck) decided to go into an inflatable rectangular pool on the sand behind the beach house. They all played together peacably but, if you really watched, the other two boys pretty much just played AROUND Beck. He was in his own world, watching water run through his fingers.
And then C. decided to get in the pool.
C. bopped on over, climbed in slowly– she’s not a huge water fan, and smiled widely, “Hey, Beck! How’ve you been?”
He looked up sideways at her. Raised his chin a little bit.
You see, C. and Beck were together in a special ed support room for periods of time each day. They worked on different things, sometimes at different times, but their paths crossed often.
C. knows him well. And, for lack of a better way to describe it, she just knows him as exactly who he is. His sensitivity to sounds, smells, changes in routine, and what-not? Well, that’s just who he is. It’s who he’s always been. It’s neither good nor bad in C’s opinion– it’s just who he is.
His mom saw this unfold and hurried over. She didn’t realize they’d known each other. She captured a beautiful photo of C. beaming with Beck’s arm around her, a crooked smile on his face as he avoided looking directly at the camera. She posted it on Facebook (with my permission) with the caption “Found a friend!” and tagged their special ed teacher.
It was beautiful.
I watched those two play their way through the afternoon. At one point, I called C. over by name and Beck spoke up clearly to correct me. Apparently they’d been playing a game and he was Mr. Bee and she was Mrs. Butterfly.
I quickly apologized for my oversight.
We went to the beach that day because we’d been invited by a friend of A’s.
But it was watching the beauty of C’s friendship with Beck that actually made the whole day.
Sometimes all it takes to feel more at home is to know you’ve found a friend.