Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Caramelized Cauliflower and Onion Soup with Gorgonzola Toasts

I've been trying to branch out with my vegetable preparation, try new veggies and new ways of preparing them. This week the chosen veggie was cauliflower. Cauliflower is high in fiber, folate, and vitamin C, and is very low in fat and calories. I've also been making a lot of soup lately; it's so comforting on a winter day. So I thought I'd give cauliflower soup a try. I came across this recipe on Rachael Ray's website (her show is always on when I'm at the gym so she also inspired my cooking this week). 

Caramelized Cauliflower and Onion Soup with Gorgonzola Toasts

This turned out to be a good soup, not a great soup. The gorgonzola toasts really help add a nice flavor. But I know not everyone is a fan of gorgonzola, it's a strong cheese. As a substitute you could make grilled cheese or even garlic toasts. I think the soup definitely needs a little accompaniment though. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Mom Guilt--One of the Joys of Parenting

Guilt (n.): feelings of culpability or fault, especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy.

You may have heard of Catholic guilt or Jewish guilt, often referred to jokingly when poking fun at this sense of fault that we feel for the choices we make. But in both religions and really in every type of society, religious or not, guilt exists. I recently read an article on the topic from USAToday http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2010-09-11-guilt14ONLINE_ST_N.htm
and in the article there was a quote, "Guilt is like pain. It's a message we get that says: 'Pay attention.' It's for our benefit, telling us, through our conscience, that something is happening we should not ignore." Well if this is true then Motherhood is really painful. 

Being a rather over sensitive, Catholic, female, I have felt a strong sense of guilt my entire life, but motherhood has added a whole new dimension to that. I am completely responsible for this tiny helpless individual and everytime I make a decision that is not, in my opinion, perfect, I feel a huge painful surge of guilt. I'd like to think I'm not alone on this one and that Mom Guilt is an actual thing. Sometimes I have lots of errands to run so I'm bouncing from store to store while my son is bouncing from car seat to stroller to car seat to shopping cart to car seat to high chair to crib. Huge guilt. Why didn't I find time to bring him to the playground? Sometimes there is tons of housework to do, so I wash dishes, sweep the floor, clean bathrooms, dust, and vacuum while my little one is entertaining himself with some kind of toy with loud songs and flashing lights. Big time guilt. Why didn't I stop to just sit and sings songs with him? Sometimes in the morning it takes me a long time to wake up and I just need to sit, drink coffee, and watch the Today show, but while I'm doing this my son is watching too because the people standing around Rockefeller Center holding signs and cheering for Matt, Ann, and Al are much more interesting that his Legos. Major guilt! Why didn't I just turn the t.v. off and build block towers with him.? 

As much as I strive to be, I'm not perfect. Sometimes I make choices that I later wish I could change, which I suppose is where this whole Mom Guilt thing comes in handy. As long as I recognize the choices that are causing this guilt, and look for forgiveness (if the situation calls for that) or look to change the action in the future then I can let go of that guilt and regain a sense of balance. Errands still need to get done, but maybe I can be more aware of adding playground breaks in the middle. Housework still needs to be accomplished, but perhaps I can give my boy a mini broom and let him join in (while he still thinks cleaning is fun) or take  breaks every few minutes to sing a song with him. I'm probably never going to be a morning person, but perhaps someday I'll be able to give up my mornings with the Today Show crew and focus more on my little guy instead. And then again, there will be some days when there are no breaks in the errands, when my boy is entertaining himself while I clean, and when we watch the Today show while I sit and sip coffee, and that is ok too! Sometimes things need to get done and sometimes Mom needs a sanity break.** It's all about balance. So while it's a terrible feeling, guilt actually makes me a better mom in my opinion. But it's crucial to find a sense of balance in it all, otherwise Mom Guilt can easily turn into Mom Craziness, and no one wants Mom to end up there. 

**As I write this, the baby is sleeping and I feel a sense of guilt that I am not doing housework. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bottles and Sippy Cups and Straws...Oh My

Bottles and sippy cups and straws...oh my! With so many different drinking choices, what's a mom to choose? I mainly breastfed my little one until his first birthday. He had the occasional bottle during that time, but mostly it was me he was feeding from. So luckily I didn't have to think too much about our choice of drinking vessel.  We were told the next step was the sippy cup. Now comes the choices! I had received a couple as shower gifts and then bought a couple other brands myself until I found the one that produced the least amount of spills for me to clean up, The Playtex brand sippy cup. I also purchased a Playtex cup that had a straw just to see how he did with that. What I found was that when I gave him the sippy cup he ended up drinking more. The straw cup always led to leftover milk. So I naturally steered away from these a bit because I wanted to make sure he was getting well hydrated. As someone who does not like drinking water herself, remembering to give my little one water was something I had to work on. 

Recently I took a course called, Enhancing Language Development, in order to keep up my teaching certification. In an article I read about the development of the muscles in the mouth I learned that moving to a regular cup or straw helps a child's lips, tongue, and jaw muscles develop. These muscles need to be strengthened in order to successfully produce many of the speech sounds. When drinking from a sippy cup, the liquid often comes out more quickly.  The tongue moves forward to stop the flow so the child can swallow. Maybe this won't be detrimental, but without properly strengthening those muscles, speech issues could occur. I certainly don't think that children who drink from sippy cups are destined to speak with a lisp. But if using a straw can help to set him up for successful speech I might as well start to incorporate it more and more.  Now drinking from a normal cup would produce the same positive sucking as the straw cup, but I'm just not ready to clean up all those spills. Maybe we'll practice that outside next summer. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cake Pops Yum!

For several years I've been making a fabulous dessert treat; I make it whenever I host or attend a party. We gave them a rather colorful title due to their amazing deliciousness. When I had a baby we decided, being the responsible parents we are, to clean up the title and call them simply Oreo Balls. I recently came across a recipe that was very similar. The next day I heard mention of them on an episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I think I even saw one of the housewives eat one! I just had to try this recipe to see if their flavor could match or surpass my sweet treat, the Oreo Ball. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to, the Cake Pop!

1 box of white cake mix--plus ingredients to prepare cake according to box instructions
1 container of white frosting
1 bag of melting chocolate discs (you can find these at craft stores)
Lollipop sticks (optional)

1. Prepare the cake according to the box directions. Let cool completely.

2. Use your hands to crumble the cake into a bowl.

3. Mix in almost an entire container of white frosting.

4. Roll the mixture into small balls about 1.5 inches in diameter. Then place the balls on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper.

5. Chill in the refrigerator or freezer for several hours to set the balls.

6. Melt the candy melts according to the instructions on the bag.

7. You can dip the cake into the chocolate using a spoon or fork and then gently shake the excess off if you want to make little cake balls or you can insert sticks if you want to make cake pops. If you are making the pops, dip the stick into the melted candy first and then insert into cake ball. Let that candy harden to set the stick in the ball, then dip  entire ball into candy. Place on waxed paper to let the candy 

8. Yum yum yum!

About This Mom

I am Kristin, wife to one amazing husband and mom to two adorable sons. I taught for 9 years in the classroom and now that I have two boys of my own, I spend my time teaching (and learning) at home.  Mom Wasn't Built in a Day because I am constantly learning and trying new things in parenting, teaching, crafting, cooking, and homemaking. It's what I love to do, so I thought I'd share some of my successes, messes, learning moments, and most of all, the teaching I continue at home with my children. 

Kale Chips Are SO In Right Now

Kale is the new "it" vegetable. It's got crazy amount of vitamin A and C, not to mention a bit of calcium, potassium, and tons of other nutritional goodies. It's great sautéed with some garlic and a little balsamic vinegar, added into soups, or tossed in a salad. The recipe that I've been hearing rave reviews about for a while now though is kale chips. My first attempt at cooking this supposed treat was a huge failure. They tasted like a crispy, salty, sandy bits of cardboard. I was determined though! The reviews had me convinced that these things had to be delicious and that I just was not preparing them correctly. Six or seven attempts later I have a pretty yummy healthy snack. I mean it's lettuce, you can't expect it to taste like pretzels, potato chips or nachos, but for lettuce it's pretty good. After trying various oven temperatures, cooking times, and toppings, here is what I found works best.

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees

2. I got a bag of kale that was already torn into pieces. (I don't recommend baby kale!)  But if you get the full leaves, tear it into bite sized pieces and remove from the center ribs. You just want the leafy part. You need about 2 or 3 handfuls. 

3. Wash the kale and dry really well. I use a salad spinner. 

4. Put the kale in a bowl and drizzle with about 2 or 3 teaspoons or olive oil. Then massage the oil into the kale. I don't normally like to massage anything unless I'm getting a massage in return, but you really need to gets the leaves covered in oil. 

5. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil then spread the kale in a single layer on the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. There are lots of other seasonings you can add to flavor your kale chips but my favorite is parmesan cheese. So sprinkle with a tablespoon or so of cheese. 

6. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn the kale over, then bake an additional 10 minutes. Cooking time may vary depending on your oven so keep an eye on them in these last minutes. You don't want them to burn. That's when that cardboard taste comes out. You just want the leaves to be slightly crispy. When you notice a little bit of brown on the edges of some of the leaves they are probably done. 

Yes, kale is rather trendy now. So enjoy this healthy popular snack! Before you know it, the "it" vegetable will change. It might be something retro, like sweet potatoes. Ooooh, I look forward to that one!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

All's Right With the World When Beef Stew is in the Oven

According to Julia Child, "When beef stew is in the oven, all's right with the world, and beef Bourguignon is the best beef stew known to man." I just finished reading Julia's book, My Life in France, and felt inspired. I'm not moving to France, nor do I intend to cook my way through her entire cookbook, but I did feel inspired to become a little more adventurous with my cooking. I would describe myself as a timid cook. I can follow a recipe, but cooking anything beyond chicken breasts or pasta dishes usually intimidates me. I'm just afraid of ruining the food and having to throw it away. But Julia, was not naturally a great cook. She tested her recipes over and over and over, until she had them just right to her high standards. She inspired me to cook outside the box, and try some foods that I don't normally feel at ease cooking. I went to the library and checked out, The French Chef Cookbook and decided to cook beef Bourguignon....for my in-laws. Double pressure. I mean, not that they would ever judge my cooking, they are wonderful wonderful people, but for my own level of comfort, generally if I'm going to screw up dinner I'd rather just screw it up for myself and my husband. But if I'm going to live by Julia's mantra I need to step out of my comfort zone a little bit, so beef Bourguignon for the in-laws it is!

It was a delicious, beefy, confidence boost. Thanks Julia. I know I still have a lot of work to do but I think I've learned to trust myself a little bit more and take some more risks with my menu planning!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hhhhmmmmmm.....What Song Should We Sing Next?

We do a lot of singing in our house. Often my husband and I make up songs that add a fun musical accompaniment to everyday happenings. Mostly we like to stick to the classics though. Sometimes when the little guy and I are singing songs I draw a blank on what song we should sing next. He makes this adorable little "thinking" face where he puts one finger to his lip, looks off to the side, and says, "hhhmmmm". While I don't ever want to stop seeing this "thinking" face, I thought it'd be helpful to put together a list of songs so they are easily accessible.
Let me know if you need any lyrics!

Row, Row, Row Your Boat
Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
Open Shut Them
If You're Happy And You Know It
Itsy Bitsy Spider
Rise and Shine
You Are My Sunshine
Skinamarinky Dinky Dink
The Farmer in the Dell
Old MacDonald
This Old Man
Pat A Cake
Ring Around the Rosie/ Ring a Ring o'Roses
The Alphabet Song
Twinkle Twinkle Little Start
On Top of Spaghetti
Where is Thumbkin
The Wheels on the Bus
Take Me Out to the Ballgame
Hokey Pokey
Six Little Ducks
Rubber Ducky
Frere Jacques
(Baby) is Eating (to the tune of Frere Jacques)
I Like to Eat Apples and Bananas
This is The Way
She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain
I've Been Working on the Railroad/Someone's in the Kitchen With Dinah

"Bouncing" Songs/Chants
Trot Trot to Boston
This Is the Way the Ladies Ride
Motor Boat Motor Boat
10 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed
Pop Goes the Weasel

Rock a Bye Baby
Hush Little Baby
Great Big Stars Way Up Yonder

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mommy Confessions: I Hope I'm Not the Only One

We have a playdate with friends. I look at the clock. It's 12:30. Naptime is at about 1:00. Sure, I can make it home in time. Pack up the car, buckle us in, get on the road to start our 20 minute drive, it's 12:40. Check the rearview mirror and I see drowsy eyes. So, I turn up the Music Together cd and start singing aloud, loudly. His eyes open up a little. It's 12:45. The speedometer says 70. His eyes are drowsy and his head starts to tilt. My hands at twelve and two are gripping the steering wheel rather tightly. I feel my heart rate increase. Check the rearview, eyes are closed. Turn up the music a little louder, say his name, sing along. No response. He's out. It's 12:50 and we are two miles from home. I loosen my grip on the steering wheel and sigh a little. It's done. He's asleep.

Why do I give myself a panic attack every time it's approaching nap time and he falls asleep in the car? Because nap time is a special time. It's my time to have a moment alone in quiet, to take a shower, to get some work done around the house. It's special and anything that threatens the existence or length of nap time makes me anxious. I know it's a little crazy, because he will generally fall asleep when I move him from the car into his crib, but even the thought of no nap is scary. Mommy needs her break time.

We get home, I unbuckle the car seat, and the eyes open. I carry him inside with his head resting on my shoulder. Place him gently in his crib, turn out the lights, close the door, and tiptoe away. Plonk! I hear the sound of blanket, pillow, pacifier, and stuffed animal being tossed out of the crib. This is immediately followed by crying. Though I AM crying on the inside, the audible ones are coming from the baby's room. Looks like Mommy's Special Time is going to be delayed a bit today.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mommy Workouts

The gym and I don't have a good history together. When I discovered that years ago, I learned to accept it and found many other ways to get in my daily workout. Ok, daily may be a bit of an exaggeration. Certainly some weeks it is daily, but other weeks it is every few days, and there are some weeks where it is nonexistent. I try to keep a positive attitude towards working out by reminding myself weight loss is not the most important goal, rather I try to focus on workouts making me more heart healthy. It's my one little way of trying not to focus on the number on the scale too much. It's totally mental, only slightly works. When you look at those little charts at the doctor's office, I've generally been in the "normal" range, but high up on the normal range. I've always strived to be more in the normal to low end of the "normal" range, but never could seem to get there.

Then pregnancy came into play and for once, I didn't feel the need to agonize over my weight as we women tend to do. I gained a little more that you are supposed to when I was pregnant with my son, but not to the point of being unhealthy. I was eager to get back into my workouts to lose the baby weight post pregnancy. Let's just fast forward to 8 months later and despite my daily walks, runs, aerobics, or weight training I still was not back to my starting weight. I know that they say it takes 9 months to put the weight on, it will take just as long to take the weight off, but I guess I was hoping I'd be the exception to that rule. Somewhere in the midst of all this I decided to purchase the Insanity DVDs. My brother and sister-in-law completed the programs with amazing results. At first it felt impossible! I had never felt so out of shape in my life. But I stuck with the 6 day a week for 2 months workout and I was amazed by how progressively stronger I got. Every few weeks I completed a "fit test" where I did the same 8 exercises and recorded the number I was able to do. What a great feeling to see that number increase throughout the program. And to see the number on the scale decrease throughout as well! I finally got down to that "normal" range on the charts I'd been hoping for. I mean, my heart feels really healthy ;) I'm trying not to sound too much like an infomercial, but I do recommend this program for anyone who needs an intense daily workout to reach their fitness goals.

I completed the program. Now what? I needed a new goal, something new to motivate me. How about a half marathon? Was I nuts? Yes, slightly. I had never run a half-marathon; 10ks were my limit so far. I'm not much of a runner. I can't say that I love it the way that so many do. But I figured if I spent the $80 to sign up that'd be a good motivator. Plus I decided to run one in my hometown of Detroit so I would have a good excuse (not that I need one) to go home and visit my family.  So I signed up and recruited a couple of friends and my cousin to join me so we could help motivate each other. After approximately 35 runs with my son in the stroller, 12 solo long runs on the weekends, 2 pairs of running shoes, and a 600 mile flight,  I completed my first half-marathon! It went great! I feel like my training really prepared me and I achieved my goal of about a 9:45 mile pace. No, I do not feel any desire to run a full marathon now. For the time being 13.1 miles is more than enough, but I do need a new challenge to motivate my workouts. In the meantime, I'm sticking to some easy runs and walks and the occasional workout dvd. For now, this is working.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rules Are For Parents Too!

Sometimes on a rainy day I take my son to the indoor play area at the mall. He loves it! This particular one is actually in a store space so it is a pretty good size. Immediately when you walk in, there is a convenient area for you to park your stroller and on both sides of the room there is a list of rules. On the list are such requests as, remove your shoes, no running, no children above a certain age/height, and no food or drinks. Now, in general, I'm a rule follower. But, getting small children not to run can be a challenge. There is just too much energy and excitement in those little bodies that needs to come out. I'm happy to remind my little one to "slow down" but I can see how this would be a difficult rule to follow.

The other rules should be more than easy for any adult to follow though. As I look around, I'm one of only two parents in the room that has removed her child's shoes. As I've said in the past, I'm not much of a germaphobe so it doesn't bother me that much that people have not removed their child's shoes. You better believe I would have been pretty annoyed had my child been stepped on and hurt as a result of said un-removed shoes, but I wasn't really too worried about that happening. One thing that did irk me  is the parent drinking a coffee and feeding her child Gogurts in the middle of the play area. I have issue with this for numerous reasons. #1 There is a list of rules posted in two places that clearly states, no food or drinks. As a result I left my coffee on my stroller in the designated stroller area, and simply stared at it longingly while my son played. In addition to the list of rules there are two MORE signs that say, no food or drinks in large print. That makes FOUR places that state that there should be no food or drinks in this area. #2 Do you know how catastrophically messy Gogurt can be? Nine years on lunch duty as a classroom teacher has taught me that an overly vigorous squeeze can send yogurt flying into places there is no way you can reach to clean. #3 It is posted in FOUR places that you should not be eating in there! It's a rule. Maybe its a rule you don't care for or think is necessary, but it's a rule, in a children's play area. If anything, can't you see that this is an excellent opportunity to be teaching your child to follow directions, respect authority, and perhaps even practice a little patience where he might have to *gasp* WAIT to get something that he wants? Did I mention that she also did not have her stroller in the designated area, but it was sitting right in the middle of the play area? Look, I'm not trying to say I've never broken a rule. I'm sure I've even eaten in a place I wasn't supposed to. It just seems to me that as parents when we are given opportunities to teach our children about following rules we should take those moments, no matter how trivial they may seem. Otherwise, little by little those small rules we said are ok to break become bigger and bigger. Now I'm not trying to say that if you break a rule and let your child eat in a child's play area when the sign clearly says not to that later in life your child will become a burglar or an arsonist, but shouldn't we at least try to cover all our bases?

I think that mostly this situation bothered me because it brought back memories of all the students I had over the years that were disrespectful to others or who did not follow directions. As if it's not hard enough to be a teacher and try to cram the entire curriculum into nine months of school all while addressing different learning styles and disabilities, but then we also have to teach the students the manners that they really should've learned at home. Again, it's not the fact that someone was eating where they shouldn't have been that bothered me, it's that some adults think that rules don't apply to them and then they send that message to the children that that is ok.

The goal here is for me to learn something in the everyday, so what did I learn here, other than that I can be easily annoyed? I learned that I want to try hard to follow rules, especially in parenting situations where I may be showing right/wrong to a child. I learned that as hard as I might try it's impossible not to be slightly judgmental of other parents, so that's something for me to work on. And I will also remember that we are ALL a work in progress so hopefully that parent realized that maybe she didn't make the best choice and will do things differently next time....hopefully.

Friday, October 21, 2011

When Life Gives You Apples, Make Apple-Cheddar-Squash Soup

It's Fall, it's raining, and I have a few more apples to use up....it's time to make soup! I found this delicious recipe on FoodNetwork.com We loved it, and then loved it again the next day for lunch.

The Apple Deadline is Approaching

 So many apples, so little time. Literally we were about to leave to go out of town and I needed to use up these apples! Two batches of applesauce barely made a dent. Time to get baking! I found a recipe for apple muffins on food.com I decided to try. They were pretty delicious, especially warmed up in a pan with a little butter.

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How 'Bout Them Apples?

It's fall in New England. Time to pick apples! The apple orchard we visited was perfect for young families. Not only was there easy picking, but there was also a bouncy house, mini tractors to ride, and a tiny maze made of barrels of hay. While I was distracted with picking which activity J would do first, my husband convinced me to
purchase the large bag for picking apples. Approximately 50 apples later we were faced with the inevitable question, what are we going to do with all these apples? We made one of my favorite sandwiches, grilled cheese with apples! There are lots of ways you can make this sandwich, butI like to use raisin bread, thinly sliced apples, a little bit of American cheese and a little bit of brie. YUM! Still had 49 apples left though so it was time to get cooking! Applesauce seemed like a good place to start. While I already know the gist of making applesauce, I decided to find a recipe that might give me a little inspiration on spice to add in. I didn't find much.The recipe I made added cinnamon and about 1/2 cup brown sugar. The end result was more of an apple pie filling than an applesauce. My husband and I made little apple pies by putting the warm filling into a mini graham cracker crust and topping with vanilla ice cream. Delicious! Not quite the healthy snack I wanted to feed my one year old though. I decided to try again. This time I skipped the sugar entirely. Here is the recipe I used:

3 lbs apples, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 slices of lemon
1 tsp of cinnamon
1 pinch of nutmeg
1 cup of water

Put all the ingredients in a pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir often while it's cooking. When the time is up, remove the lemon pieces. You can use an immersion blender or food processor if you want a smooth apple sauce but I prefer a chunky applesauce so I use a potato masher to smash the apples. I decided to freeze some to use later by pouring the applesauce
into ice cube trays. When they are frozen I remove them and store in freezer bags. Still about 30 apples left. Time to find some more cooking inspiration.http://momwasntbuiltinaday.blogspot.com/p/whats-cooking.html

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Stop Avoiding The Sandbox

I'm not a neat freak, though some days I wish I were. Before my son could eat solid food I swore that I would not allow him to eat in the car. I didn't want to have one of those cars. You know, the car that has two different types of strollers in it, half empty drinks in every cup holder, and cheerios dust spread across the backseat like glitter on a -well let's keep this PG and just say on a 2nd grader's art project. Who was I kidding? I had one of those cars before I even had a kid. At least I'm aware of my mess. I can admit that it exists and that I would indeed like to do something about it. As a result, I often avoid taking my son to playgrounds that have sand. It just gets EVERYWHERE. But what kind of mom would I be if I didn't let my little boy get dirty and dig in the sand? Children need to explore. They need to feel sand to know that the wet stuff is better for building castles. They need to eat a bit to learn that sand does not taste as good as it looks. And they need to rub their face with sand all over their hands to learn that maybe they shouldn't do that next time because it doesn't feel so good. Then what? I still would like to avoid bringing the sandbox into my car or my house. If you've ever tried to brush the sand off you know that is just doesn't work. I recently learned that baby powder is the answer. Apparently the baby powder absorbs the moisture, as it promises to do, and the sand just falls off. Now the real challenge in all of this remembering to pack baby powder in my bag before we leave for the park. As for the cleanliness of the actual sandbox, that's a whole other topic.