Monthly Archives: January 2015

Kiwi Crates

The kids got Kiwi Crate subscriptions for Christmas.  I wasn’t sure if they were going to be worth the price, but so far I have been happy with the product.

Our youngest, who is almost 6, got the six month subscription to the Kiwi Crate.

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We got the first box just before Christmas and received the second box this week. In each box there are two activities.  This past box contained a chef’s hat and apron to be decorated with fabric crayons and a foam “cake” that the kids could decorate with clay icing.

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The cake activity was the biggest hit and the smallest spent over an hour decorating her cake.

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I really like that the kits are structured,  but leave room for the kids to be creative. The activities are easy enough for kids to do unassisted, or with just a little assistance, but are still complex enough to hold their attention.

The Tinker Crate and Doodle Crate have also been well received.

In the first Tinker crate my son received a motor kit.  It was a good kit and provided just the right amount of frustration and tinkering on his part to get it going.

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The Doodle crate was perfect for my middle kid who loves to craft.  We haven’t received our second box yet, but after decorating pencil cases using a resist technique she is anxiously awaiting the next project.

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Noodle Soup

I finally gave in to the pressure and curiosity.

After months of seeing recipe after recipe using spiral cut vegetables I gave in and ordered a Spiralizer

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I used it last night for the first time and this morning the first thing my daughter asked was “are we having more of those noodles for dinner tonight”

Based on that question, I am guessing the Spiralizer was a big hit.  Now it could be the newness of this fun gadget, but the chicken and noodle soup we had last night was delicious. The kids knew the noodles were made with turnips and they still inhaled the soup.

I used a basic Ramen soup recipe that is a favorite with the entire family, but instead of using regular Ramen noodles I used turnip noodles.

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As would be expected the turnip noodles were a little more firm than regular noodles, but they were still soft and slurpable – and a slurpable soup is one of the highest compliments my kids can offer.

I was missing a lot of ingredients when I made this.  I usually add spinach and sometimes Shiitake mushrooms or soft boiled eggs.  I also like garnish with lime juice, hot sauce and cilantro. But that is one of the things that makes this soup so fantastic, even if you are missing ingredients it is still delicious!

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If you haven’t succumbed to the spiral craze this is a super yummy soup with regular noodles.  If you are spiral crazed try some other veggies and share the results.

As a side note, when I make this soup, I put the chicken in the freezer for about 30-60 minutes before slicing. It is much easier to thinly slice the chicken when it is partially frozen.

Ramen Noodle Soup

2 boneless chicken breast, thinly sliced
6 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons curry paste
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 carrot thinly sliced
2 turnips, cut into spiral strip
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 cups baby spinach

In a large pot add sliced chicken breast, stock, curry paste, garlic and ginger. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked. Add carrot and turnips and cook for another 5-10 minutes or until the turnips are soft. Add scallions and baby spinach. Once the spinach has wilted serve and enjoy!

Serve with lime, hot sauce or soft boiled egg if desired

Snowmen

Looking for a fun project to keep the kids busy this weekend?  Make some snowmen.

You don’t have to bundle the kids up or worry about a lack of snow.  Just take some inspiration from Lois Ehlert’s book Snowballs

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This month the theme with my preschool class is snow and making snowmen was a big hit with all the kids.  We talked about how Lois Ehlert made her snow people and spent a lot of time looking at all the objects she used.  The kids hunted around the classroom, the playground and their homes collecting their own “good stuff.”

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After working hard at cutting out circles and pasting them down, the kids finally got to make the snowballs come to life using all the good stuff they collected.

snowmen (3)The collection of screws, shells, rick-rack and buttons made each snowman as unique as the child who created it.  And each was fantastic!

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Dinner Dash: Taco Salad

Salads are one of my favorite dinner dash meals.  Not only do they come together quickly, but the recipe list is super flexible and easily adjustable to your families likes and dislikes. Plus, they are a great way to use up vegetables or leftover chicken or beef.   A few years ago I discovered another secret to salad making that makes the process even faster  – my kids.

Usually when I ask my kids to help with something I get ignored or a lot of complaining. When I ask for their help and bribe them with the use of a knife or a cool gadget I get volunteers and only a few complaints (I would like to say I get no complaints, but complaining is a skill my kids excel at -they’ve been known to complain at having to go to their own birthday parties).

Ever since they were very little my kids have loved to help make salads because they felt pretty big time being able to use a knife.  I learned pretty quickly to let go of the need to have all the vegetables the same size. In like so many other things when they had some freedom and the ability to make their own decisions they were more likely to stick with the task.  Some days the kids wanted to chop away and we would have tiny pieces of everything, other days they went large.

As they are getting older my kids are beginning to become more aware of the details.  They realize it is easier to eat a salad when the tomatoes are cut into bite sized pieces.  They are also beginning to see the consistency is more visually appealing and they like the challenge of getting everything in a consistent size.

This week I called my oldest in to help make a Taco Salad.  This is a meal he can make on his own, but still likes to have me in the kitchen to serve as his sous chef.

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The kids love having this salad in taco bowls, which are super easy to make – a great project for the little ones.

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Simply light brush the tortillas with oil, place in between muffin cups and bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes.

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Taco Salad

Dressing:
1/2 cup mayonaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup salsa
1 tablespoon Taco Seasoning

Salad:
1 head Butterhead or Romaine Lettuce, roughly chopped
3 tomatoes, diced
1 cup frozen corn
1 8oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 avocado diced
2-3 large handfuls of Tortilla chips, lightly crushed

For the dressing:
In a small bowl combine mayonaise, sour cream, salsa and taco seasoning. Stir until combined.

For the salad:
In a large salad bowl combine lettuce, tomatoes, corn, black beans and avocado. Add dressing and toss to combine. Top with tortilla chips, gently toss.

Serve and Enjoy!

Cabin Fever

Winter break started on December 22nd.  We had family in town throughout the break. Bedtimes, mealtimes and activities were not consistent.  The kids returned to school on January 5th, we were ready to get back in to a routine.  January 6th it snowed, but it was a Northern Virginia snow, which means all the snow melted before noon.  Since our first “big” snow storm we have had two snow days and 4 delayed starts.

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A treacherous snow day in our neck of the woods

So, we are still trying to get back in to a routine.  Right now the only consistent thing we have going for us are regular arguments.  It feels as if, at all times, there are at least two people fighting and one person crying or pouting.  Family time is important, but I think there can be too much family time and we have had too much family time.

It can be hard when you get in a funk like this, when the routine is off, everyone is fighting and getting on each others nerves.  These days make me want to crawl in to bed, or to just turn on every screen we own and plop each child down in front of her own little device. Unfortunately those are just temporary distractions.  I know that eventually they will find me hiding in my bed or will begin to fight about the device they have not being as good as their brother or sisters.

To help reestablish some family harmony we have been trying to spend time with non family members.  We have had lots of friends over and have been going over to friends’ houses.  We have been trying to get out of the house as much as possible, even if that is just a walk around the block or a drive to the grocery store to get something we don’t really need.

I have also been trying to encourage the kids to find activities that they can then later share with the rest of the family.  Making brownies has been the biggest hit so far, but we have also enjoyed some good art shows and a thrilling round of Idol auditions.

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We are slowly making cabin fever our new routine and are finding ways to embrace it.  I am sure in a few weeks when schedules become crazy I will find myself wishing for a snow day and some unplanned family time.

Dinner Dash: Lo Mein

This is one of my favorite things

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I almost always have a bag on hand and we go through it very quickly.  I usually use it in Lo Mein and stir fry, but it is also great when I need a veggie and don’t have time to prep. .

We have Lo Mein a couple times a month.  Everybody loves it, it comes together in about 20 minutes, it can be eaten hot or cold and is loaded with a variety of vegetables – making it a big win in the Dinner Dash category.

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It is super easy to make this dish from scratch, but this week I had a bottle of Kikkoman Stir Fry sauce on hand, so I used that.  The stir fry sauce was fine, but wasn’t a huge time saver and it is just as easy to make your own.

Lo Mein

1 lb Spaghetti
1 tablespoon Olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
2 large handfuls frozen vegetables
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons Oyster suace
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Fill large pot with water, bring to a boil. Once water is boiling add spaghetti, cook until al dente then drain reserving about 1/2 cup of cooking liquid.

While spaghetti is cooking, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger, cook for two to three minutes then add frozen vegetables. In measuring cup combine soy sauce, Hoisin sauce, Oyster sauce, sugar, cornstarch and sesame oil, stir until combined. Stir liquid into vegetables, cook for 3-5 minutes then add cooked pasta. Stir in pasta water, a little bit at a time until you reach desired amount of sauce.

Enjoy!

Grapefruit Syrup

My family, myself included, is not a fan of grapefruit.  I want to like grapefruit, I want my family to like this beautiful yellow fruit.  I want it so much that I have it arrive, every week, in our vegetable delivery.

Week after week I have the same internal discussion trying to decide if I should get it or swap it – “Should I swap the grapefruit for oranges? Well the kids like oranges better.  Oranges will definitely get eaten. But, grapefruit is so healthy, filled with antioxidants, it would be so good for us.  I will get it this week and do something fun with it, so it will get eaten.  I will broil it with bananas and brown sugar, they will devour it. That’s it I’m keeping the grapefruit in the delivery”

I don’t broil the grapefruits with brown sugar and bananas, I don’t even cut them up.  I take them out of the delivery box, put them in the bowl and there they sit, a bowl full of grapefruits staring at me.

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Yesterday, in my New Year inspired dedication to clean house and body I managed to use two of these lonely fruits by making a grapefruit syrup.  My hope was to use the syrup to make flavored soda that my kids would love and beg to drink. What I got was a sweet, slightly tangy syrup that is too sweet for soda, but perfect for tea.  My kids aren’t begging to drink it, but I love it and have been drinking it almost nonstop.

I still plan on perfecting my grapefruit soda, and as soon as I do I will share it,  but until then here is a wonderful syrup that is the perfect addition to a cup of tea.010615 (15)

Grapefruit Syrup

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
zest from one grapefruit
juice from two grapefruits

In small saucepan combine all ingredients.  Over medium heat bring to a light boil, stirring occasionally.  Simmer until sugar has dissolved.