Caprese Chicken

This was a delicious choice for the summer. I used fresh basil and tomatoes from my garden, and the result was a really simple, refreshing meal. I served it with mashed potatoes, and would definitely add more tomatoes next time, as they were the highlight of the meal, in my opinion. Using a good quality balsamic vinegar is also important – there are many types that are infused with flavors that would be interesting to try.
Ingredients:

  • Chicken breast
  • Olive oil, 2-3 tbs
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, good quality.
  • Fresh basil, chiffanade (cut into strips)
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half.
  • Mozzarella, fresh and thinly sliced. (you may substitute shredded)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Step one:

Heat olive oil on medium heat. Salt and pepper the chicken liberally. Cook chicken for six minutes on each side, and then remove from heat.

Step two:

Saute garlic in the balsamic vinegar for several minutes, until softened. Add the basil and tomatoes and cook it down for a couple of minutes, until they begin to soften.

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Step three:

Add the chicken back in the pan, and thinly sliced mozzarella on top. Cook until the mozzarella is melted, and serve. Enjoy!

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S’mores Bark

 

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Ingredients:

  • Milk chocolate
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Crushed graham crackers
  • 1-2 Hershey bars

To make:

Melt milk chocolate and spread on wax or parchment paper.


Crush graham crackers and sprinkle over the top. Add marshmallows and bits of a Hershey chocolate bar.


Chill for one hour and then break apart.  Enjoy!

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Mongolian Beef

I am not sure there really is such thing as an authentic Mongolian beef; from what I understand this is an Americanized concoction. Regardless, I enjoy the flavor very much and decided to look out into the internet universe for some ideas. Here is what I found (with some of my own twists).


I served this with white rice, and used fresh veggies from the garden. Green beans and spinach would be my top choice, but you could certainly use bok choy or broccoli for variation. I got the beef (thin sliced top round) from my favorite butcher. It’s perfect for strifry and cost effective.

You can adjust the heat by adding more chili or ramp up the sweet by adding more brown sugar.Adapted from: http://thewoksoflife.com/2015/07/mongolian-beef-recipe/

Serves 4:

  • 8 ounces top round thinly sliced or flank steak cut into thin strips
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4  cup vegetable oil, for frying the beef
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 5 dried red chili peppers or 1 Tbs chili paste
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • one shallot, sliced* (optional)
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce for cooking
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 scallions cut on the diagonal
  • Vegetables of your choosing – green beans, bok choy, broccoli

Step one:

Combine soy sauce with brown sugar and set aside.

Marinate the beef in one teaspoon of oil, 1 teaspoon of soy cause, and 1 tbs of cornstarch. . Make sure it is room temperature before going to the next step. 15 min- 1 hour

Step two:

Dredge the marinated beef in the remaining cornstarch. Heat the oil on medium so that the meat will be seared and crisp up quickly. Brown the beef on either side, ideally getting a bit of a crust on the side. Set aside the beef out of the pan. 4-5 minutes

Step three

Reduce the heat to medium. Saute garlic for 2- 3 minutes. Add in chili peppers and continue cooking for several more minutes. Make sure to scrape the pan for any cracklings from the beef and mix it in. Add ginger, chicken broth, and then desired vegetables. Cook for 5 more minutes.Finally, add back in the beef and drizzle the soy sauce mixture over the pan. Stir and continue cooking until the liquid is mostly absorbed. 15-18 minutes

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Great Smoothies

 

Mango, pineapple, papaya & banana

I’m not a big breakfast eater, especially if I ate a good dinner the night before. Smoothies are my go-to to get some nutrition in my body before going to work. I especially like them in summertime for breakfast, or as an afternoon pick-me up to hold me until dinner (I tend to get crazy hungry around 4). Smoothies allow me to get extra fruit and dairy into my diet which is always great for your skin and health.

Instead of sugar, I always use one banana as it provides enough sweet for me. If you hate bananas, I would suggest some honey, instead. I feel like most smoothie recipes that call for added sugar negate the healthiness of the treat.

 

ch ch ch chia!

I add some chia seeds for the omega-3’s, as you don’t notice the texture due to the other fruit. I prefer unsweetened almond milk for the nutrition, but any kind of milk will do, and usually I use greek yogurt, or an organic-plain. As for the fruit, I usually use frozen, but in the summertime when I have fresh options, I make sure to add extra ice.

 

Lately I am all about this flavor

It is also a great sweet treat for the kids, and they enjoy getting to choose their flavors. Its definitely a much better alternative to junk food.

Blend for a couple of minutes:

  1. 8 oz almond milk (or coconut or regular)
  2. 2-3 heaping spoons of yogurt
  3. A sprinkle of chia seeds
  4. one banana
  5. combo of fruit of your choice.
  6. Handful of ice

My favorite combos:

Tropical: mango, pineapple, papaya

Antioxidant: Berries – blackberries, blueberries, strawberries

Classic: Strawberry & banana

For further reading:

Benefits of Berries

Benefits of coconut milk

Benefits of almond milk

 

 

 

 

Children and Chores

There is nothing more annoying then some supermom claiming to know how to manage children and a household. I’ve been a single mom, and I am now in a blended family with three kids, so while I may know some things, I never want to be THAT chick. Over the years, I have observed a lot of debate when it comes to allowances and chores. I know households where kids get an allowance for no chores whatsoever, and others who pay kids for doing things around the house or even grades.

Personally, I am a big believer in not paying kids for chores for several reasons. One, children like to feel useful; when they are young they truly enjoy “helping.” As a parent, you really want to cultivate a helping spirit in your children. Yes, even if that means they make more mess or more trouble than they intend. If you start them young, then they don’t have the chance to develop resistance to helping you later when you actually need it. It’s a big embarrassment when you ask an older child for help and they give you attitude in front of others. Back when I was a single parent, I truly needed to the help and couldn’t afford it – I found, ultimately that led to a good sense of responsibility in my daughter.

 Another reason to not pay is that it leads to a false expectation of what actually goes running a house. Adults understand that we all must put in work everyday in order to enjoy the leisure, but if kids don’t get that message, it leads to entitlement. Think of it as a long con – if you want your children to be helpful, appreciative adults, they need to value and understand that work is necessary.

Finally, if you give children money for chores, it destroys their incentive to earn money on their own. In our generation, most of us had to hustle for the things we desired. So we got paper routes, we babysat, we did whatever we could to pay for lunch money, or new clothes, or music. We now give our children so much, that incentive does not usually exist anymore.

I’m a big believer in the Montessori method for the little ones – when your child does their work – let them focus, let them make mistakes, gently correct them, and allow them to take pride in their task. Pick age appropriate chores, and be consistent. And of course, if you have some big project or crisis, lighten up on their load now and then.

Here is what we have our kids doing during the day, and during the week.

Everyday:

  1. Hang up your pj’s and make your bed
  2. Pack your lunch
  3. Set the dinner table – Kai (6)
  4. Clear the dishes, wipe down the table, sweep around the kitchen table– Issy and Theresa (10)

 

This hangs on our fridge

 

Once a week:

  1. Put away laundry
  2. Empty small garbage cans and add toilet paper to the bathrooms – Kai (6)
  3. Clean mirrors with glass cleaner & wipe down counters – Issy and Theresa (10)
  4. Help clean pet cages

The weekly cleaning chores don’t even take 15 minutes. The laundry and pet cages probably take 15 minutes, as well. Sometimes, I give them a choice – do it all on one day or split it up. The older ones usually want to knock it out early so they can enjoy their weekend, and the little one follows suit.

Just so you know, the bigger kids also help the little one pack lunch to avoid frustration. The ten year olds actually stop fighting (for a millisecond) to help him out, and take pride in watching him do things on his own at six. It’s pretty cute to see. They get it – and for a moment, at least, that is beautiful. They make sure he includes a fruit or vegetable, and they set a good example. As for the chores, the little one still needs help putting away his laundry, but he is getting into the habit. The older ones negotiate and trade-off their responsibilities depending on their mood. I tried to get them to do dishes, which was an unmitigated disaster. Next year.

As always, takes what works for you – I hope it helps, and I am open to suggestions.

Some good articles on the paying for chores debate:

Finance Columnist Explains Why You Shouldn’t Pay Your Kids For Chores – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/25/pay-kids-for-chores-ron-lieber_n_6754998.html

Wall Street Journal – Why Children Need Chores: http://www.wsj.com/articles/why-children-need-chores-1426262655

 

 

Drunken Noodles

 Recipe Ease: easy

Length: 25 minutes

I’m a big fan of Thai Food. My personal favorites are Tom Yum Soup and Red Curry; however, I will never turn down a bowl of Drunken Noodles. The spice, the aroma comforts me instantly.

When I did my research (okay, just googled) the name, I found many theories. Some say you have to be drunk to eat all of that spice, or that the chef must be drunk to throw in such a variety of ingredients, or that it is a famous hangover cure. Regardless, the dish didn’t seem that difficult to make.

While you could find most of the ingredients at a typical grocery store, I opted to go to an international market which had a huge variety of soy sauce, fish sauce and the like. The recipe calls for thick soy sauce, and this is far more thick than the soy sauce we are used to. You could add molasses or honey to regular or use Hoisin in a pinch. I pointed out in the ingredient list where you can use a substitute if you have trouble tracking down the ingredients.

The beauty of the dish is you can put in whatever you like. Many recipes called for egg or tofu. I added in some baby bok choy because it looked so fresh and nice at the supermarket. We served it with beer, and it was the perfect dish for a cold, snowy night.

You will need:

  • 12 oz bag rice flake noodles, soaked in warm water for 8 -10 minutes and drained.
  • 2-3Tbsp. Thai chili garlic oil (you can use sriracha)
  • 4 Tbsp thick soy sauce
  • 4 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Oyster sauce
  • 4 Tbsp Fish sauce
  • 3 tbs sesame oil (you can use canola)
    3 cloves garlic, minced.
    1 shallot, sliced
  • 2 green onions, sliced
    12 medium sized shrimp, cleaned
  • 1/2 1lb chicken breast, sliced thinly
    1 red bell pepper cut into bite-sized pieces.
    1 Cup packed fresh thai basil leaves. (you can use regular basil)

 

What gorgeous veggies

I found some great sauces at the local international mart

 

One package easily fed 5 people
Steps:
1. Whisk Thick soy, soy sauce, oyster sauce, chili oil and fish sauce together and set aside.

2. Heat a large wok or the biggest skillet you have over medium heat. Add oil to skillet and cook garlic, onions and shallots until light brown.


3.  Add chicken and cook for about 5 minutes. Add shrimp and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

4. Add drained noodles, bell pepper, sauce mixture, and stir fry five minutes

5. Add basil and cook for a bout two minutes or until some of the noodles are a bit crisp on the edges

Baking Bread with Grandma

I got a kitchen-aid with a bread paddle for Christmas which is a total game changer. Naturally, the first thing I did was call my mom.

Growing up, I was very lucky. My mom made her own bread, her own pasta, and even her own spaetzel – which is no joke. We may not have had a lot of belongings, but we ate like kings. Of course, my mom would enlist my help when I was little. I got to knead the dough, and even punch it.

Last Saturday, she came over to give me a tutorial on how to use the kitchen aid, and to teach our children how to do make it themselves. The littlest one had no interest in making the bread, and chose to come down as a taster when it was ready.

checking the consistency

 

everything is more fun with grandma

Adding some flour

Learning from the master

Punching the dough is the best part