Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Bad Bad Baked Cauli-Tots

My kids know what tater tots are thanks to school lunch. I've never served them at home because I think I would be 100 pounds heavier than I am and I try to keep our meals either healthy, worth it or interesting.

I saw this recipe on Pinterest and she had me sold.

You can see the recipe HERE on Cupcakes and Kale Chips.

Personally, I thought these were disgusting. I tried 3 or 4 of them to try to taste any remote goodness, but no. Not even ketchup could make these babies taste good to me.

BUT. BUT. My kids ate them and told me that they liked them. I'd love to hear if you have tried something like this and liked them - or whether you have a different recipe you prefer that you think I'd like.

How to Prepare a Whole Dungeness Crab

I bought these Dungeness Crabs for Valentines Day. Even though I love food, I have an aversion to pulling apart protein. I won't go into detail with you bc if I did - you would also have a problem but I'll tell you this... When I was pregnant with child #3 I decided to buy an Easter Ham and julienne and dice it for quick snacks and meals for my then 3 and 4 year old. Ham (and BACON) are my favorite meats in the world and I didn't eat ham for 2 years - TWO YEARS. So, my sweet husband steps in and does the dirty work for me - from the Thanksgiving turkey, the Easter ham and now, the Dungeness crab.

I googled "How to prepare a whole dungeness crab" and got great instructions HERE. After my Sweetness got all the good crab meat out of the shell, I warmed it up by pan frying it in a little butter. 

Crab Cakes with Lemon Dill Sauce

 I had some kind of allergic reaction back in October when my hubby took me to the Dominican Republic. When it happened, we were eating at a seafood restaurant, so I have abstained from all seafood ever since - which was absolutely pain staking for me as seafood is my absolute favorite type of food. I finally got in to a food allergist last week and had a "scratch test" that proved I am NOT allergic to seafood - YAHOO!!

I also took my 10 year old son, who had his last scratch test at age 5 that showed he was allergic to eggs, seafood and shellfish. The test they did was much more specific and we found out that he is ONLY allergic to eggs, shrimp and salmon. We are having his blood work done next week. Anyway... seafood. Since I found out I'm not allergic, we have had sushi, salmon, and crab two ways. Seriously delicious.

I got this recipe from Paula Deen...

Lemon Dill Sauce:
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced

Crab Cakes:
3 tablespoons butter
1 green onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped red bell pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
Cayenne pepper
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 pound white or claw crabmeat, picked free of any bits of shell (I got a pound of lump crab meat at Costco that was amazing!)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

To make the sauce, combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Refrigerate until chilled. The sauce will thicken as it chills.

To prepare the crab cakes, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion, bell pepper, and garlic until the pepper is limp, approximately 3 minutes. Add the cream, mustard, 1 egg, parsley, cayenne pepper and 1/2 cup bread crumbs, to taste, and mix well. Gently fold in the crabmeat.

Form the mixture into 8 patties, about 1/2-inch thick. In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of bread crumbs with the Parmesan. Pat this topping onto both sides of the patties. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

Using a skillet, combine the oil and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Saute the crab cakes in the hot oil-butter mixture for approximately 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. These crab cakes can also be baked for 7 to 10 minutes in a 400 degree F oven.

To serve, spoon a dollop of the lemon dill sauce along side each crab cake.

*I cleaned out the skillet in between batches so the crab cakes wouldn't get any "burned" flavor from the patties that were in before them. Also, before adding the cream, mustard... I took the skillet off the heat - I was worried that the egg may scramble. Also, I formed the crab mixture into patties and set them on a cookie sheet (covered in aluminum) then topped them with the panko and parm. After they were in the refrigerator for a little over an hour, I flipped them over and coated the other side - I had a really busy day and that seemed to make things less of a mess and less time consuming for me.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Kids Cooking

Since I wrote the post "Why Aren't Your Kids Picky Eaters?" I've had several requests for recipes that my kids make for our family dinners. AGAIN - I don't have all the answers, just sharing my personal experience.

What I didn't say in that post was how incredible it has been to reap the many, many benefits of having children that can cook. To name a few: Self Reliance, Math skills (doubling a recipe), Expanding their vocabulary, desire to READ cookbooks, Imagination, Confidence, allowing for substitutions when we are missing an ingredient, being able to identify what tastes good with what (a million different types of onions - which one works for our recipe?). Although I am very athletic and grew up that way - I love that my kids have a hobby that doesn't involve sports, school or media (screen time).

I also have to say, that if BOOKS were drugs - I'd be a dealer. Buy cookbooks FOR KIDS - with kid recipes - with lots of pictures. I can't tell you how my heart swells with happiness every time I catch my kids reading in general - but when they read cookbooks, it always leads to conversation and inspiration with me:) I really have to stop telling people this - but I almost exclusively buy books at Goodwill/Deseret Industries. You don't have to spend a lot of money to get them interested!!

Since my older kids are now nearly 11, 9 and 6, and they've been making family dinners for several years - anything is game for them - so I'll focus on the meals I start my kids cooking when they are little - between 2 and 5 years old...

As I said previously, my baby - who just turned 2 - hasn't started the process yet, so this will be a good post for me to refer to very soon!

Set a goal for yourself to carve out one day a week - one day a month - when you know you will have time to spend with your little one in the kitchen. It can be tricky to do. With 4 kids of my own, our schedules can be hectic and unpredictable. So consider this seriously.

Have a meal in mind and make certain you have everything you need before you even chase your little punkin down and bring them into the kitchen.

IF you have set a day specified to cook with your little one and your not in a good mood - DON'T DO IT. Seriously. You want your childs first experiences cooking to be pleasant and fun - with an emphasis on FUN.

I start having them "help" when they are capable or interested. I generally start by having them help me make one of their favorite meals. The next 3 words I'm going to share with you will change your culinary experiences forever. Ready? DUMP, POUR, STIR. You can't believe how excited kids get about these 3 words - these 3 actions.

Even when my older kids aren't making dinner for the family, they usually wander into the kitchen while I'm making dinner and are always excited to help in whatever way they can. Currently, my 6 year old is the "seasoner" for nearly every meal. I have a pot of Kosher salt and a black pepper grinder she uses. Since her fingers are so little - she can put several "pinches" of salt and several grinds on the pepper mill without over seasoning the meal.

Even if you aren't accustomed to measuring ingredients or spices - make the effort to. It's hard to tell a 2 year old what your particular idea of "a bit" of a certain spice is - but when you measure it out - they can still participate without having major mistakes.

Let your kids get dirty. It's fun. It's an adventure. You will become a superhero.

Now. The food. I usually stick to crock pot meals, soups, baked pastas, meals where they are not required to have a lot of contact with uncooked meats.

Some fun blasts from the past:
White Bean Chicken Chili
Jack's 3 Bean Soup
Spinach Lasagna
Any Pizza you can think of - the one I linked to was actually made from start to finish - concept and ingredients included by Jack:)

And any of the following:
Crock Pot meals
Roasted Vegetables (which are particularly fun bc they get to sprinkle them with salt and pepper and toss them with evoo)

I've even pinned several ideas from Pinterest specifically for my baby to start with - like
Ravioli Casserole
Caprese Garlic Bread
Murray's Mac n Cheese

For some of the more complicated meals, I still let the little ones help out - but I do all the mise (prep and cutting) ad let them do all the dump, pour and stir:)

What do you do??

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Valentine's Day

Have you thought about what you are going to eat on Valentine's Day yet??

My husband and I don't subscribe to the idea that our love should be celebrated once a year by giving each other gifts - not even when we were dating. SO, around here... Valentines Day is about the kids. 

These are a few fun things I did for the kids last year. Heart shaped quesadillas and strawberries for lunch...

 Apples, carrots, cucumbers and more strawberries for snack
 Heart shaped pizza (from Papa Murphy's $4.99 each!)
 Berry sorbet and sprite in fancy glasses with pizza for dinner... I generally stick to that kind of cheesy stuff for the kids.
 BUT, I just saw these little cuties on Pinterest and thought HOW FUN! They are so darling. Maybe I'll amp up our "Sweethearts Dinner" this year and surprise everyone:)
The recipe can be found HERE. If I make them I'll just do my usual (often requested) roasted potatoes HERE.

Roasted Potatoes

Just going to jot this quick and easy 'non-recipe' for my kids favorite roasted recipe bc I was going to link to it and realized that because it isn't really a recipe - I haven't posted it before. I'll take pictures as soon as I can.

Roasted Potatoes
Red potatoes, quartered (bite sizedish)
Kosher salt & fresh cracked black pepper
Good evoo

Wash the potatoes well (you can peel them, but I don't). Cut them into bite sized pieces. Put in a large bowl and drizzle with evoo, salt and pepper. Toss them with your hands to coat fully.

Bake on 400 for about 60 minutes - turning the potatoes once halfway through. They are crispy on the outside, tender on the inside and nice and salty. SO GOOD! I know every time I make these - the kids will have seconds and thirds of them so I make a lot (which I why I didn't give you specific measurements).

Friday, February 7, 2014

Why Aren't Your Kids Picky Eaters?

Several people have asked me this question over the years. I've hesitated to post about it because I don't have all the answers. I only know what has worked for our family. My kids don't eat everything. They have differing pallets just as we all do - AND 2 of my 4 kids have food allergies that we work around. 

Food allergies include: eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, seafood & shellfish. I'm grateful that we don't have any of the more complicated food allergies like dairy, wheat, soy lecithin, etc. All of our food allergies are generally easy to avoid and don't limit our food choices much. We still have lots of different nuts, peanut butter, eggs and seafood in our home - the allergy kids know what to eat and what to avoid.

My personal opinion is that "kid food" in general is gross and lacks in nearly every food category out there. Chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese out of the box, spagettios, chef boyardi ravioli, chicken noodle soup from a can, all fast food, ad nausea. I haven't raised my kids to be food snobs, but I've heard them say a few "food snobby" things - like "they sell frozen chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs? Disgusting!" BUT, thanks to my mom, the kids had Macaroni and cheese out of the blue box for the first time a few months ago and thought it was amazing.  

When my oldest child was born - I was trying to adjust from working full time to training my replacement part time and figuring out how to be a stay at home Mom. As all first time Mother's do - I had a difficult time making the transition BUT the hardest part of being a first time Mom was feeding him. Sitting down for 30 minutes to nurse every 3 hours was incredibly hard for me. I'm someone who loves to be on the go - doesn't like to sit down, can't stand to kill time. When I stopped nursing, I tried to feed him baby food ONE TIME. One time - I couldn't stand to spend 45 minutes feeding him baby food. So, basically, I was a lazy Mom who didn't want to sit down to feed her baby baby food. As luck would have it - all my kids all got their teeth early - they all had a full set by their first birthday. SO... we've raised our kids to eat what we eat. No short order cook. No options. 

A few things we've intentionally instigated:
The "No Thank You Bite"
When we introduce a new food to our kids and they are hesitant to try it, we remind them of our "no thank you bite" rule. You are required to take ONE bite of everything on your plate. If you don't like something, just say, "no thank you" and we thank the kids for trying something new. At this point, our older kids (10, 9 & 6) are willing to try everything because they know they won't be forced to eat it or finish it. Using this method has allowed my children to fall in love with veggies like asparagus & beets - to actually request certain veggie sides they like for dinner, etc.

Picky Phase
Our kids have all gone through a "picky phase" - usually when they are 3 or 4. I have dealt with that by using trickery:) I cut snacks down to a minimum with the particular picky eater. I make dinner with ONE thing I know that picky eater will eat. It is usually a side dish. The picky eater will devour the one thing they like - but they know they are required to take a bite of everything on the plate. This means they don't starve - but they continue to expand their pallets and quickly realize that there are many foods out there that they like.

Table Manners
We emphasize the importance of table manners with all of our kids - to the point that if they practice good table manners - they can earn 5 points on our "points system" HERE. We focus on basic table manners. Saying please and thank you, sticking to appropriate conversations (no potty talk - since my kids think tooting is the most hilarious thing on the planet), having cordial conversations (what did you do today? what did you learn today?) listening intently, not interrupting, no talking with your mouth full, when getting up from the table (to refill a drink or get seconds) ask "Can I get anything for anyone while I'm up?" Asking to be excused from the table when they are finished with dinner, etc.

Because we've introduced and emphasized the two items above, taking 4 kids (10,9,6 & 2) to dinner is easy and enjoyable. As soon as the kids can talk, we have them order their own dinners. They know to speak up and speak clearly so the waiter can hear them. They know to start ordering by saying "I would like..." then order an entree, a side and a drink - finish the order by saying "thank you." They also know to talk or draw quietly while everyone else orders their food.
This picture was taken 4 years ago - the girls are 2 and 5...

As soon as my kids show interest or capability, they are involved in making meals for the family. They start about age 2. The easiest things to have them help with are crock pot meals or soups. You open the cans, they get to dump all the ingredients in. They love to stir the ingredients around AND - here's the best reason of all - they are excited to EAT what they have helped prepare. As they get older, they learn to know the ingredients and know what tastes good with what. Each of our kids makes dinner for the family - with supervision but little help - once a month - except for our newly minted 2 year old:) Cooking has also given them confidence in their abilities and in themselves. They also have opinions on what we have for dinner or what they want to make for their dinner night - which leads to a fun shopping trip where they make the list and pick the ingredients.

So that is my answer. I've probably gone into too much detail - and I'll probably think of 100 other things we've done - but that is my answer for now.


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