Friday, April 17, 2015

National Healthy Kids Day

I have a few things that I am really passionate about in my life. I could joke that chocolate and coke-a-cola were at the top of the list quickly followed by knitting and competitive cooking shows. But in all seriousness (and we are nothing if not serious around here...) I am extremely passionate about feeding kids and keeping kids healthy.

I don't feel this way just because I have kids, but because I really love kids and I think not being hungry should be a basic human right. All people deserve to have bellies full of healthy food that helps their bodies grow and brains develop. Adults can do a lot of things to change their situation, but kids depend on us, they depend on us to not just buy their food and prepare their meals, but to also teach them good habits about food and eating and nutrition. It is up to each of us to stop the cycle of inactivity and junk food.

April 25th  is National Healthy Kids Day! 

What a great day to celebrate! It is sponsored nationally by the YMCA. 

How are you going to get wild and crazy and make it a special day? What changes are you going to make that are going to improve the lives of the little people that you care about and love?

Snap has some of the best resources imaginable to help you to get your "kids" to eat better and be more active.

Here are the resources that they provide of Kids. I think this means elementary school age children. (Basically your 5-12 year olds) There are all kinds of games, activities, videos, songs and papers to print / color and worksheets.

If you have preschoolers, they are a little more dependent on you to teach them. Here are some resources that are geared specifically for that little age group. And here is a shortcut to print out to give you quick reminder tips.

Still looking for some ideas to get you jump started ?

Here are 5 ideas to get you and your kids active.

and Here are 15 ideas to get you started with your kids in the kitchen.

You are the single biggest influence in the life of your child. They are most likely to feel the same way about food as you do. Change the world with your child.

Remember Food $ense has some amazing resources to help you as well.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Spring Into Menu Planning

Time for me to talk about one of my all time favorite things in the world... No, not chocolate, and not sleeping in without the kids burning down the house....  Menu Planning. I know, you guys already all do it and I am preaching to the choir. You all do it, right??

When I first learned about Food $ense. It seemed so overwhelming and so beyond my "smartness-level". But I was desperate to stop the cycle of being overwhelmed by the "chore" of feeding my family . I was tired of being in fear of the budget and annoyed with the idea of making dinner every night and scared that my kids were going to be over weight and at risk for all those scary things that are related to chronic bad eating habits  - like diabetes, heart disease.

And so I sucked it up and stepped out of my comfort zone and decided to take the baby steps to make a change. When I read back to how I was feeling when I started. I am amazed at how far I have come.  That was 390 posts ago!!

But I am still so far from perfect. I will confess, I still have some oreos in my pantry. On Friday my 6 yr old had peanut butter and jelly for every meal (not that there is anything wrong with that) and this morning my 2 year old had mac and cheese for breakfast (two bowls).  Sometimes I "forget" to menu plan (and I regret it all week), Sometimes I don't shop the outside of the store... Sometimes I do beg my husband to pick up a pizza on the way home... because I have HAD it! 

But those are choices that I am choosing to make, not that I feel like are being forced on me because I don't know how to be any other way.

Back to the wonder of Menu Planning. If you haven't been brave enough to start it. Do it Now.  Take that brave little baby step, get out a piece of paper and write something down. All you have to do is just start.

Here is the Handout that I first got from Food $ense to get me motivated.

Here is the online class that I took that explained it more to me.

Don't be afraid to jump on in. The only wrong way to do it is to Not do it!!


Monday, April 13, 2015

Create an Omelet - By My Teen


I have a few breakfast chefs at my house. They actually plan to wake up a little bit earlier than they need to so they can make themselves a really delicious breakfast. 

You can see there, that I said, "make themselves" because I am on the other end of the spectrum where I calculate the last possible moment I can roll out of bed and still have time to brush my teeth and still be on time. 

One of the things that my oldest breakfast chef likes to make is an omelet. It isn't anything Too official and certainly not difficult. There are a lot of french techniques and broo-ha-ha that can be made over an omelet, complete with special tools and pans and lots of ways to make it overly complicated.

I am here to say to you, "Do Not Be Scared to Make an Omelet!"

Food $ense has an amazing Step-by-Step plan to help you get started.


Here We Go: 

Prepare fillings of choice; set aside - This is a great way to use up leftovers. Especially things you just have a little bit of left. 
• Vegetables-onion, green pepper, mushroom, tomato, salsa, green chili, broccoli, squash, etc.
• Grated cheese–cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss, American, Parmesan, feta, etc.
• Cooked meat–ham, bacon, Canadian bacon, chicken, etc. (Pepperoni is a big favorite)


Crack two eggs in a small bowl
Add salt, pepper, water, and herbs to bowl and gently stir.
• Water: 2 tablespoons
• Herbs: 1 tablespoon of chives and/or parsley (optional)


Fold the omelet with a spatula and carefully slide it onto a plate.


Heat omelet pan or non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Spray with cooking spray. The pan should be hot when you add the cooking spray so that it sizzles.

Add egg mixture to pan and tilt to evenly coat bottom of pan with eggs.

Pull cooked egg from edge of pan with spatula and let liquid eggs run underneath.
When the eggs are mostly set but the top is still a little runny, add any filling of choice. 

Add fillings down center of omelet.

Fold omelet in thirds and slide onto plate -

You can cook your eggs are "hard" or "soft" as you want them. I like mine to be on the softer side and really creamy. Jarren (who made this omelet) likes his cooked hard with no liquid left at all in the egg. That is one of the great things about making an omelet. You can make it how you want it to be.

** I know the flipping and folding seems like it is hard and going to be difficult, but give it a try. If you don't succeed the first time - No Problem... you just make the most awesome scrambled eggs ever!


Friday, April 10, 2015

Creamy Popsicles - Pudding Pops but Way Way Better


The weather has been above 50 degrees at our house and that means just one thing.... The natives are restless for Popsicles! They dig and search in the back of the freezer looking for one that might be left behind from the summer and dropped into the very back of the freezer. If somebody finds one, the rest rush to the freezer desperately hoping for their luck to be just a chilly and sugary. If they don't find one, they turn to begging the lucky popsicle finder to please, please share the one they have.

Who knew my whole house revolves around frozen treats!



When my boys' dad comes down to visit them, he traditionally buys a box of Creamies brand treats. ( I don't think you can call them popsicles) - They is a lot of specific name "branding" in the world of frozen liquid on a stick. Kinda like pudding pops.... anyway!  My three boys think that Creamies rule the world, and when they come home, the little ones are in awe over the forbidden treat on a stick.



So when the weather got a bit warmer and the frenzy for frozen treats started, I busted out the trusty popsicle makers and decided to make something. Thing was..... I had no juice or fresh fruit, I was out of yogurt. and I LOATHE making them out of Kool-Aid. And so I attempted to make a pudding pop/ Creamie hybrid and take back my title as most awesome parent.


Pudding Pop Directions -

Make pudding (any flavor) According to Directions
then Quickly, Quickly before it starts to set.... Pour it into your molds or little paper cups and freeze.

** Remember if you are using paper cups to let them freeze for about an hour and them poke the sticks in - this bypasses the annoying and "never works" step of coating with plastic wrap **



But we were searching for Creamies... that means I needed to step up my game - I have had pudding on a stick and no matter what Bill Cosby says - it is Not really very good.

1 large box chocolate pudding
3 cups cold milk
2 cups frozen whipped topping (Cool Whip)

Make your pudding with the milk and pudding mix, then stir in the softened whipped topping.

(Use same instructions as above to freeze into pops.)


Become favorite parent again.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Chili


We are split down the middle in our family when it comes to chili. Half of us absolutely Love it, and Half of Them really really dislike it. The beans are the culprit. We have some serious bean haters in this family. Grr!! - Who hates Beans?!

Anyway, back to chili, I absolutely love chili. Anything that has its own cook-off and competition and world champion is a food that I can really get behind.  Plus, once you make a pot of chili, you can eat for days - taco salad, bake potato bar, tortilla pie.  Ooooh, Chili!


But aside from all the competitions and secret recipes - I don't really have the time (or frankly) the energy to cook a crazy world champion mystery dinner (that only half my family is going to eat)

So I need a quick chili recipe with lots of flavor (and very few beans - so they can pick them out)



Ingredients

2 pounds ground beef
2 cloves garlic, chopped
One 8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
One 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
One 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

Shredded Cheddar, for serving
Chopped onions, for serving
Tortilla chips, for serving
Lime wedges, for serving



Directions

Place the ground beef in a large pot and throw in the garlic. Cook over medium heat until browned.

Drain off the excess fat, and then pour in the tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and cayenne.

Stir together well, cover, and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

If the mixture becomes overly dry, add 1/2 cup water at a time as needed.

Add the beans and simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve with shredded Cheddar, chopped onions, tortilla chips and lime wedges.


Monday, April 6, 2015

Speedy Cheesecake Pie


My step-son who now lives with us is a cheesecake fiend! He absolutely loves the stuff. The thing is, I don't bake cheesecake - cheesecake is hard to make. You have to have a special pan and bake it in a water bath and lots of really hard steps. I am not quite up to that, but I do really love cheesecake!

This recipes is one that my mother in law used to make and it has terrific cheesecake flavor and texture - but it is so easy. So Very Very Easy! 



Ingredients

Crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker or digestive biscuits crumbs
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Filling:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla,
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs

Topping:
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla



How to make it

Mix the cracker mixture with the melted butter, sugar and cinnamon.
Press along the bottom of a greased 9 inch pie plate.

Beat softened cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually blend in sugar, lemon juice, half of the vanilla, and salt. Add eggs, one at a time; beating well after each.

Pour into the graham cracker crust.

Bake at 325*F for 25-30 minutes until set.

Mix sour cream, sugar, and vanilla in a small bowl. Spread the warm cheesecake with the sour cream topping and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Chill and serve with sliced sweetened strawberries.


And Ta-DA!  You are know a cheesecake guru supreme making you the best step-mom in the whole wide world!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Easier Fried Chicken and the Fried Chicken Tradition



There is a bit of fried chicken lore in my new family. When I married into Joseph's family his mom made fried chicken for a family dinner. It was fantastic, but I didn't realize how important fried chicken was as a tradition to my new family. 

The story goes, when Poppa first started to date Meema he kept coming around because of her mom's delicious fried chicken. He will still admit (only in certain company) that her mom's fried chicken was better than hers. 

My kids had never had homemade fried chicken. My mom had never made it and I for sure had never attempted it. They loved her fried chicken and would really look forward to family dinners and keep their fingers crossed that she would be frying chicken - they usually had their wishes granted. 

And so perhaps - although fried chicken is not the Best thing for you.....  I think allowances need to be made for tradition and family togetherness.  And so, I gather all my braveness and decided to make fried chicken for my step-sons going away dinner. That would be attended by the entire family. (nothing quite like putting extra extra pressure on myself )

But I also decided, if I was going to carry on this tradition in my own family, It really did need to be a little bit better for us that they way it is traditionally done. 

I am happy to report it turned out Amazing!! My Mother-in-law even asked for the recipe for the coating and my husband was super impressed that I made it "extra crispy" because he likes it that way.  

Mission: Fried Chicken = Wild Success!! 




Here's how I managed to do it:

INGREDIENTS

1 1/4 cups buttermilk - I never have (or buy) buttermilk. Make it by using 1 TB lemon juice per 1 Cup Milk
Salt
dash hot sauce
3 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken parts (breasts, thighs, and drumsticks, or a mix, with breasts cut in half), trimmed of excess fat (see note)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 3/4 cups vegetable oil




INSTRUCTIONS

1. Whisk 1 cup buttermilk, 1 tablespoon salt, hot sauce, 1 teaspoon black pepper, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, ¼ teaspoon paprika, and pinch of cayenne together in large bowl. Add chicken and turn to coat. Refrigerate, covered, at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

Soaking the chicken in seasoned buttermilk both enhances flavor and ensures that the meat retains moisture.

2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees.

Whisk flour, baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and remaining 2 teaspoons black pepper, ¾ teaspoon garlic powder, ¾ teaspoon paprika, and remaining cayenne together in large bowl.

Add remaining ¼ cup buttermilk to flour mixture and mix with fingers until combined and small clumps form.

Adding a little buttermilk to the dry ingredients of the coating creates irregular texture, which translates to extra crunch.

Working with 1 piece at a time, dredge chicken pieces in flour mixture, pressing mixture onto pieces to form thick, even coating. Place dredged chicken on large plate, skin side up.






3. Heat oil in 11-inch straight-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat to 375 degrees.

Carefully place chicken pieces in pan, skin side down, and cook until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.

Carefully flip and continue to cook until golden brown on second side, 2 to 4 minutes longer.

Frying in 1 3/4 cups of oil jumpstarts a super-crisp coating with minimal cleanup. And without all that oily mess and greasy grossness. 

Transfer chicken to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet.

Transferring the chicken to a 400-degree oven allows it to cook through without overbrowning.

Bake chicken until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 160 degrees for breasts and 175 for legs and thighs, 15 to 20 minutes. (Smaller pieces may cook faster than larger pieces. Remove pieces from oven as they reach -correct temperature.)

Let chicken rest 5 minutes before serving.



Now get out there and take on some scary family traditions..  We are going to attempt "Bunny Rolls" Today. Wish us Luck!!