Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Sneaky Chef

Book Review: The Sneaky Chef

My mom gave my sister-in-law and I this for Christmas.  Well, one of my sisters-in-law.  The one sister-in-law I had at the time, as one of my other brothers married since that time and now I have TWO awesome sisters-in-law which for someone who grew up with only brothers is pretty fantastic.  Anyhow, back to the book review.

The concept of the book is hiding nutritious things in food.  My mom did this to us- we have family jokes about the things that she added wheat germ and chicken broth into that normally wouldn’t have had those things.  She really tried to convince us that wheat germ was a great ice cream topping, but we rebelled against that.  I was a little skeptical about the book going in, though.  I want my children to eat their vegetables KNOWING that they are eating veggies.  We had joked with one of our other friends as her husband won’t eat veggies that maybe this was a way to help him.

J, however, is a picky eater.  Not picky in the sense that there are certain foods he likes and certain ones he doesn’t.  Picky in the sense that he will like something one day and refuse to eat it the next time we serve it or that he sometimes refuses to eat altogether.  Dinner has been a very frustrating experience numerous times and it felt like we were getting to the point that it was always a battle just to get him to eat anything.  So, we started trying out some of the recipes from here- on the belief that if I could only get him to eat 3 bites at dinner, I wanted those to be the 3 most nutritious bites possible.

I have been pleasantly surprised by how well the additions have gone over.  Hands down favorite?  The Orange puree.  The book’s recipe calls for carrots and sweet potatoes to be steamed and pureed together.  We usually add butternut squash as well.  We also don’t worry too much about the stated amounts in the recipe, instead we just get a bunch of all 3 veggies and have at it.  Then we freeze it in various portion sizes (this last time I did portions of about 1 cup) to use in recipes as needed.  The puree works really well in anything tomato based and thickens sauces very nicely.  J likes the puree so much  that he will eat it by itself.

We’ve also tried the “white” puree- cauliflower and peeled zucchini.  This one comes out a very light green instead of white, but does mix in well with light colored sauces.  It doesn’t add much flavor to the sauce, so I use this in cream based sauces and soups and it works very well for that.  J will eat it plain, but isn’t nearly as keen on it as the orange.

The Green puree- spinach, broccoli and peas.  We haven’t used this one as much- as it is REALLY green and has a strong flavor.  So, I have to use it in things where the flavor will work, and that I don’t mind being obviously green.  I’ve put it in tuna casserole- which gave it a funny color, but the tuna flavor was strong enough to work with the veggies- and J liked it.  I’ve also put small amounts in spaghetti sauce and that sort of thing.  I’m going to try it in a ham quiche- probably tonight and will let you know how that works out.  Maybe I can make an omelet for “green eggs” and ham. 

I tried the white bean puree and that didn’t go over as well.  It gave a very “beany” flavor to things and J wasn’t thrilled by that.

The purple puree.   This is a mix of blueberries and spinach. My brother and sister-in-law tried this in the author’s recipe for chocolate cookies and raved about the results.  I tried it as “quick fix” for brownie mix (along with the recommended wheat germ- my mother would be so proud!)  The results were pretty ok.  Flavor was fine- no spinach taste at all- maybe a slight hint of fruitiness from the blueberries- although I may have been looking for it since I knew it was there.  The texture wasn’t as unnoticeable, however.  There was a slight graininess, whether from the blueberry seeds or the wheat germ is unclear.  Very edible, and I don’t think J will really notice or care since he is not yet a brownie connoisseur.

Altogether?  I would give the book 4 out of 5 stars.  Some great stuff and some ok stuff.  I think I will also try her other book which focuses on quick fixes for things.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


I don't have a one topic post today.  So here are some snippets.

Lately we have welcomed another sweet baby into our group of friends.  Lebean has a Little Bean.  She is adorable and has the cutest cheeks in the world.  (I keep telling B that I am going to see his future girlfriend whenever I go to see her.  Of course, her could be like his brother, J, and like older women, but I have matchmaking hopes, I do!!)  Unfortunately, I have no pictures of her to share, but you can see some at her momma's blog, here.  I'm sure you will agree about her cheeks. 

This leads to another random thought.  Our friends group has and is changing.  A number of us have brought children into the world, some have married, we are all getting older.  When I was younger, I "knew" things about my future life.  (I always saw myself with children, but didn't always see a husband there.  Luckily for me, I got both!)  I knew that when I had kids, my life would revolve around them and their activities as well as my own and I knew they would change my life.  I never really pictured how things would change groups of people though.  It's kind of a weird dynamic.  I don't want to force my kids on my friends- but my friends seem to enjoy seeing them almost as much as they enjoy seeing me (or more?)  It's a really cool thing.

School is a bit rough.  I still haven't really regained the passion for it that I used to have.  I am still planning to go back in the fall, but large parts of me just don't really want to.  (I have a significant case of the "I don't wanna's".)  I don't have a particular big reason- B and J both seem to be doing fine with the schedule.  I just would rather be with them than at school.

I am still working on craft projects and will, some day, exercise again.  Really, I will.  I have the urge to go running- or rather, I have the urge to run the way I used to be able to when I was in better shape.  I will not enjoy the process of getting there again.  But, at least I have the urge!

Monday, April 16, 2012

2 years ago, my life changed irrevocably.  My husband and I welcomed J into the world.  He has become an amazing little boy- stubborn and infuriating, tender and giving, hilarious and mischievous, loving and generous, intrepid and brave- in short, incredible and awesome.

The story:
My caesarean was scheduled for 9 am.  (As I had had fibroid surgery previously, my Dr. recommended against labor.)  My parents were in town and some friends waited with us at the hospital. We all got up early and headed to the hospital. Getting prepped for the surgery was kind of surreal.  Epidurals are odd, to say the least.  D (my husband) washed up and put on his scrubs in order to be in the OR with me.  They did my pre-surgery blood work and we headed in to have a baby.
Everything went fine for the surgery- although hearing the Drs. talking was funny.  They were chatting, and at one point said, “did you see those twins?”  That made us a little nervous!  Soon, D got his first sight of J.  D says that when they held J up for me to see, he watched me fall in love.  And, I did.  We had a few complications post surgery- my bloodwork showed I had the HELLP syndrome, but J was great.  D and our friends got to watch him at the nursery and take pics- like the one below from our friend, P.

J started life out as a skinny, energetic baby, and hasn’t changed a great deal in the last 2 years.  He’s still pretty skinny- and still has incredible amounts of energy.  You can see how his personality has blossomed and grown in these pictures.

Today, J amazes me daily with the growth of his imagination, his vocabulary, his love and curiosity, and his new found role as a big brother.  Thank you little man, for making the world such a better place than it was before.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Infant sensory/ texture cards:

So, here is the latest project I made for my busy bag group.  This one is for an infant (0-18 mos.) group.  There are 6 of us in the group, meaning I made a set of these for myself and 5 more to send to the others in the group.  They will then send me the projects they created, which will give me 6 different activities/ toys for B.
The leaders of the group have challenged us to write/ create tutorials for the projects we make so that we can all learn from each other.  Since this was my first completed project for this go round, here is my tutorial.

All that being said, I feel a little silly writing a tutorial for something that could be summed up with this sentence:
"Find interesting feeling stuff and glue it to a card shaped material."  

Yep, that's really about it.  For the long version, however, you can keep reading.

I found the idea at Fun and Engaging Activities for Toddlers.  She made a wider variety than I did- I kept it to 8 cards to send out, although I may make an "expansion pack" later.

First, I gathered all the stuff I wanted to use.  I decided on eyelash yarn, taffeta, fleece, sandpaper, bubble stickers, miniature pompoms, glass "bubbles" and netting.  I'd originally thought I would use some velvet and some cotton balls, as well, but those textures seemed to already be met by other materials so I dropped them.  (When/ if I make the expansion pack, I want to include sponges and buttons.)

I decided to use foam cards for the backing- my hope is that they will stand up a little better that cardstock or paper- at least my 2 year old may be less likely to rip them up quite as quickly.  Here are the cards as I planned them out (nothing is glued down here).

I glued most of the materials down completely- with the exception of the fleece and taffeta.  Those I just glued at the top so that the material can be felt between the fingers. 
Another tip: For the eyelash yarn, I made the prototype by zigzagging the yarn onto lines of glue- I thought that it would be neater than cutting it into strips.  It was neater, but cutting the yarn into strips made applying the yarn to the card MUCH easier.  I found that out around card 4.

Here are the final versions:

Back to the short version- find some interesting feeling stuff and glue it to something vaguely card shaped.

In terms of using these with your kids- for little ones, let them touch the materials and talk to them about the kind of textures they feel.  For older children, you could put a card in a paper bag and let them feel it without seeing it.  They could then tell you what they feel or try to guess what the material is, etc.

Have fun!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


We had a good weekend.  My parents came into town on Saturday and J- as always- really enjoyed the time with his Papa.  My husband is currently working on the weekends, so having some help with J and B was wonderful for me.
Sunday morning started early.  I've been looking for another church for us- and think that I may have found it.  So, we headed off to an 8 am service.  Then, back home for an Easter Egg hunt for J.  My dad acted the part of Easter bunny and hid the eggs I'd prepared outside while I nursed B.  Then, he helped J find them all.

Once all the eggs had been found, J got to enjoy all of his loot.  And then, it was off to faire for us to see Daddy.

Rain was threatening as we left, but the skies had cleared- temporarily- by the time we got to site.  We had some nice visiting time with people and were able to watch part of a show before the skies opened on us again.
B was not necessarily impressed by his first visit- we'll have to see if he likes it better next time.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

So, 2 weeks into being back at school so far.  I set myself some goals for the transition.  :)
Week #1- go to work each day.  Yep, that was it, as long as I showed up at work at some point each day, I was doing good.  Assessment?  Totally achieved this goal.
Week #2- get to work on time each day.  Hmmm, now I'm creating some higher expectations.  Assessment?  Did well except for 1 day.  Yay, me!
Week #3- (starts on Monday)- do my job well. 

The transition back to school has been a little rough at times.  For the first week, I didn't feel mentally present at all.  The second week was a little better- by Thursday I had stopped simply staring blankly at students who asked me questions.  I even had answers for some of them.  My subs were great while I was gone, but finding the rhythm of teaching again may still take me a little while.

Another struggle has been finding time to pump.  I teach 3 classes in a row- and I can't quite see me pulling out my breastpump in front of high school students to pump during the morning.  I think the guys might spontaneously combust.  So, that leaves me with pumping at lunchtime.  As long as there are no meetings or students needing tutorials.  Luckily I can lock my door, although other teachers sometimes just unlock it and come in.  The VP who did was embarrassed enough, though, that I don't think he'll do that again.

Outside of school, I am becoming slightly obsessed by busy bags and quiet books.  Busy bags are activities that fit into a gallon ziploc bag so that they are fairly portable.  The idea is that you can use them at home, but you can also toss 1 or 2 into your bag to keep the kids occupied at a restaurant or the Dr.'s office or something like that.  Quiet books are groups of activities pulled together into a book.  The pages can be fabric or paper, and each page has its own activity.  I am involved in making 2 fabric ones currently- one that will be a variety of things and one based on an ABC theme.  I've joined some groups in which each person makes the activity for their own children, and then makes 5 or 6 more exactly the same (depending on the size of group) and mails those to the other members of the group.  So you end up with a large variety of activities- and you only had to be creative enough to come up with one of them.  :)

One of the group leaders has challenged us to make tutorials of the activities and pages we create, so I will be doing that.  Here are my plans for this exchange cycle:
Busy bag for toddlers- making shapes from popsicle sticks or pool noodle lacing.
Busy bag for infants- texture/ sensory cards
Themed busy bag related to Boynton books- a dress up game based on Blue Hat, Green Hat
Quiet book page ABCs- I have the letter B, so a beach page with sandcastle pieces (out of felt) for building
Quiet book page seasons- not really sure yet, but I have ordered a lot of felt leaves.
Quiet book page regular- something to do with the weather.

I'm not sure which I will tackle first, but should have a post up about 1 of these by the end of next week.

That's the news.