As we get ready to begin the holiday season, there is certainly no shortage of things to be thankful for around here. This year, I am trying to go one step further. Yes, I am grateful for the blessings in my life. But how will I use those blessings to BE a blessing to someone else?
My children, who have given me a second chance to experience the magic of childhood.
My husband, who is the exact combination of loving, smart and fun that I had always wished for.
My family, who was always, and still is, a safe harbor in a world of uncertainty.
My friends…old friends who knew me when I used “pasta toss” and called it “cooking” and new friends who are making this parenting gig seem less like a “job” and more like a “walk in the park”…okay, maybe not exactly like that…maybe a marathon with funny and helpful friends jogging alongside you?
My dog…if you have a dog, I don’t need to explain. If you do not have a dog…you need to get a dog.
If you are looking for some inspiration for your Thanksgiving table, here are some things that caught my eye this week. These free printable placemats would be fun for the kids table. Here’s a mouth watering recipe for the classic side dish that kids (and grown ups!) love. And if you are feeling nostalgic, take a look at what was on the table in the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM OUR KITCHEN TO YOURS!
We have tacos on the menu about once a month and for years I have been mixing up my own seasonings for them. This is real food bragging…”I can’t remember the last time I bought one of those little MSG laden taco seasoning packets!” Sorry. I’ll stop. But, seriously…try making it yourself. It’s sort of relaxing. Lining up all of those spice jars, carefully pouring out little teaspoons and tablespoons full of amazing aromas, making a pretty mosaic pattern in the bowl. Zen…that’s what it is…I don’t really care that you need snow pants for school tomorrow and no you can’t go on the iPad and no Santa will not bring you a sea turtle unless he has permission from us and what’s that, the dog is eating what? Noooo…I’m just ignoring all of that and going about my business, making my own taco seasoning…yes, I am!
(Makes enough for 1 lb. of meat)
~1 Tablespoon chili powder
~1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
~1/4 teaspoon onion powder
~1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
~1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
~1/2 teaspoon paprika
~1 teaspoon ground cumin
~1/2 teaspoon salt
~1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and store in an airtight container until ready to use.
Use about 2 Tablespoons of the seasoning for each pound of meat. Stir about 1/2 Tablespoon of flour into the seasoning just before adding it to the meat. Brown the ground beef, drain off the fat, then add the seasoning mix along with 2/3 cup of water. Heat over medium heat until most of the liquid has evaporated and it has thickened to the desired consistency.
I spent my entire childhood convinced that I did not like fish. I would eat fish sticks and shrimp and, ironically, I declared that “Red Lobster” was one of my favorite restaurants…but, no…I was not a fan of fish. If it was not breaded and fried beyond recognition, I wrinkled my nose at it. The good news is that ,eventually, I gave up my aversion to this particular food and now find myself trying to get my own kids to eat fish. There’s good reason to keep trying. Fish, especially fatty fish such as salmon, are a major source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for healthy brain and eye development in children. Omega-3s have also been shown to lower your risk of dying from heart disease. There has been some concern regarding contaminants like mercury in certain types of fish, but if you avoid larger fish like shark, tilefish, swordfish, and king mackerel, the health benefits outweigh the risks. This article and this one explain the health benefits and risks of seafood if you want to read more.
If you want to entice your family to eat more fish (or to even try it at all!) here are some tips that you can try.
1. Introduce it early in your child’s life and include it on the menu weekly.
2. Buy the freshest fish you can and use it the same day if possible.
3. Make sure there are no bones in the fish. We rarely find any in the main types that we buy (salmon and codfish).
4. Start with mild tasting fish like cod, halibut, sole and salmon.
5. Use a glaze or seasonings that you know your kids like. If your child does not like sauces and seasonings, just stick with something simple like butter and salt.
6. Serve the fish in very small portions. Put small, bite sized pieces on toothpicks to dip in a sauce.
7. Try a variety of presentations…fish kebabs, fish tacos, and fish sandwiches on a bun are all ways that allow you to customize with fillings and toppings.
We usually prepare fish very simply…oil or butter a baking dish, sprinkle salt and pepper on the fish and dot it with butter (or drizzle with olive oil) and then bake for 15-20 minutes in a 375 or 400 degree oven, depending on the fish. Pictured below are some simple sauce ideas to use with fish and I’ve included a recipe for an Asian sauce from Katie Workman’s cookbook, “The Mom 100 Cookbook”.
GARLIC SOY SAUCE From The Mom 100 Cookbook
~3 Tablespoons soy sauce
~2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
~1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
~1 Tablespoon brown sugar
~1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
Put all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine. You can pour some of the sauce over salmon before you cook it, rubbing it in with your fingers. Then drizzle the remaining sauce over the fish after it’s been cooked. Or use the sauce for dipping the cooked fish into.
One of my favorite passages from the book “I Don’t Know How She Does It” by Allison Pearson is the one where the main character, working mom Kate Reddy, has to bring a baked good in to her child’s school. She does what any overworked parent who is clinging to her “scheduled to the 30 second increment” life by a thread would do…she buys it from the store. But then, in a move of sheer brilliance, she opens the picture perfect baked good, throws a dusting of flour onto it and smashes it a bit. Now, no one will ever suspect that she actually does have better things to do than bake! Her fragile psyche just can’t bear the thought of all of the judging that she expects will come her way if she doesn’t bring in something homemade. We’ve all been there. Whether it’s the condition of our bathrooms, the state of our wardrobes or the amount of “screen time” going on in our homes…we worry about what other moms will think of us. We know we shouldn’t…and sometimes we manage to be secure enough to say, “It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough!” and just move on. But sometimes we feel like we’re in eighth grade all over again and we just want to impress people! Now I am certainly not suggesting that it’s not okay to purchase your bake sale offering from the store…but if you want to make something yourself and have only a small, tiny window of time to devote to it…this fudge might be your ticket. It takes only 3 ingredients and about 10 minutes of time (plus chilling) and you’re done. Wrap it up, tie a fancy ribbon around it and all of those other moms will be saying, “I don’t know how she does it!” (And you really need to read that book…so good!)
PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE
Adapted from Heavenly Homemakers
~1 cup of natural peanut butter (we use Smuckers)
~1/2 cup honey
~1 cup chocolate chips
Combine all three ingredients in a saucepan, heat over medium low heat, stirring frequently, until the chips are melted and everything is blended and smooth. Pour into an 8 inch by 8 inch pan and refrigerate until solid. We usually line the pan with parchment paper to make it easier to remove the fudge. Cut into squares. This can be stored at room temperature, but will last longer in the fridge.