Monday, August 25, 2008

What's for Dinner?

Laura recently requested some quick and easy dinner ideas for toddlers. (Well, she didn't specify "quick and easy" but with twin toddlers I'm assuming that would be best). J is a really picky eater, so I'm constantly struggling to find things he will eat that us adults won't get sick of. He's one of those little kids that doesn't like all of the typical little kids things. Macaroni and cheese? Nope. Pizza? No. (The sausage on the pizza? Sure, but the pizza itself...not so much.) Strawberries? Apples? Bananas? No, no, and not a chance. Bread? Don't make me laugh.

But we do have a few household favorites that are reasonably nutritious, fairly quick to prepare (30 min. or less), and make good leftovers.

Turkey and Bean Burritos
Prep time: 20 min.

2-3 tbsp oil
2 cans refried beans or one giant can - I like Rosarita Vegetarian Fat Free
1/2 large onion, diced
1lb ground turkey (we're ground turkey people but obviously ground beef would work)
1/3 packet Taco Seasoning (better than burrito seasoning, it's not as salty)
Maybe 3/4 cup chunky salsa (depends on how "soupy" you like your beans)
Tortillas or wraps
Shredded cheddar and/or Monterey Jack cheese
1 tomato, diced
Shredded lettuce

1. This is a "one-skillet" meal. Heat the oil on medium-high heat and cook the onions until translucent.
2. Add the ground turkey/beef and brown thoroughly.
3. Mix in the taco seasoning.
4. Add the beans and the salsa. Turn heat down to low-medium and cover.
5. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until beans are cooked through, stirring occasionally.
6. Serve rolled up in a tortillas with cheese, tomatoes, and lettuce. Or, smother with green chile sauce and put cheese/tomatoes/lettuce on top. J won't eat tortillas but he'll eat his "beetos" in a bowl with cheese on them like chili.

Chicken/Sausage/Rice Soup
Prep/Cook Time: About 30 minutes

1lb boneless skinless chicken (breasts or thighs, whatever's on sale), cut into small pieces
1/2 lb. sausage of your choice (other than breakfast sausage) cut into 1/2" pieces
1 bag frozen mixed veggies
1 large box (32 oz.) of low-sodium chicken broth
2 cans cream of chicken soup
4 cups cooked white or brown rice
garlic powder
poultry seasoning

Directions (this is another one-pot recipe):
1. Start the rice cooking first before other steps. (ok 2 pots if you count the rice)
2. Brown the chicken in the bottom of a large soup pot in a small amount of oil. Add the sausage and cook through. Do not drain. Season the meat with garlic powder, poultry seasoning, and/or whatever you like (cajun spice works well if your kid will eat spicy food.)
3. Whisk the cream of chicken soup into the chicken broth in a bowl and add to the meat. If you like a creamier soup use less broth (2/3 box).
4. Add the bag of frozen veggies. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 20 minutes.
5. When rice is done, add the cooked rice to the soup.
6. Serve with crusty bread.

This is one of those recipes that actually tastes even better the next day and microwaves well.

White Lasagna
(This one is my "specialty." It's probably really fattening, but once you go white, you'll never want regular lasagna again. It also takes a little more time to prepare (45 min.) so it's a Sunday or potluck dish. This recipe makes a lot.)


1 1/2 - 2lb. boneless skinless chicken (breasts or thighs)
One package "ready to bake" lasagna noodles
3 jars alfredo sauce of your choice
8oz package of sliced mushrooms (or 16oz if you really like mushrooms)
1 bag baby spinach
16oz shredded mozarella or "Italian blend" cheese.
Small package of shredded parmesan cheese.
Italian seasoning blend

1. Preheat oven according to directions on lasagna package, usually around 400F.
2. Season chicken with Italian spices and grill or sautee cooked through (I use a Foreman grill.) Cube cooked chicken or shred with a fork.
3. Start cooking all 3 jars of alfredo sauce on medium-low heat.
4. Add chicken and mushrooms to sauce and simmer for 5-10 minutes (until mushrooms soften up).
5. Coat the bottom of a large lasagna dish with nonstick spray. Start layering the lasagna as follows (note that lasagna noodles are "oven-ready" so they don't have to be cooked ahead of time.):
  • Lasagna -- make sure the noodles aren't touching each other or the sides of the dish.
  • Alfredo sauce mixture -- I use a ladle to put a spoonful on each lasagna noodle and make sure to cover each noodle completely.
  • A couple handfuls of fresh spinach
  • Shredded cheese
6. Continue layering until all noodles are used (usually 4 layers). On the last layer add the shredded Parmesan to the top. Sometimes I will put a layer of steamed or canned asparagus on the top and put the Parmesan on top of that.
7. Cover with foil and bake according to lasagna noodle instructions. On the last 10 minutes uncover so the cheese can brown a bit.
8. Stuff your face.
9. Gain 10 pounds.

If you really want to know...

I'd like to thank Steph for giving me something to do today since I'm in a huge writing funk. She "tagged" me for a little Q & A, so here goes...

A. Attached or single? Firmly attached, thank you very much.

B. Best friend? My sisters.

C. Cake or Pie? Cheesecake...technically is that a cake or a pie? Discuss amongst yourselves.

D. Day of Choice? Sunday. It's family day, and the only day I'm guaranteed not to have to work.

E. Essential item? Lip gloss.

F. Favorite color? Red.

G. Gummy bears or worms? Worms.

H. Hometown? Denver, CO.

I. Indulgence? Hmmm...I'm not a shoe or purse girl, so my indulgences are pretty small. I like high-quality makeup, so I guess that's an indulgence. I'm also addicted to buying children's books.

J. January or July? July. It's super hot here but we have alot of fun in July--TH's birthday, 4th of July, our anniversary.

K. Kids? One. And a few pets.

L. Life isn't complete without? TH and J.

M. Marriage date? July 2002.

N. Number of brothers and sisters? Two - identical twin sister and younger sister.

O. Oranges or apples? Oranges. There's no comparison.

P. Phobias? Heights. Sometimes flying if I think about it long enough.

Q. Quotes? There's no place like home.

R. Reasons to smile? Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder. "I'm the dude playin' the dude that thinks he's another dude!" How can that not make you laugh?

S. Season of Choice? Spring

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I consider myself an expert.

A Guide to Understanding and Dealing with Your Toddler

Do you have a child under 3 living in your home? Do you find yourself in a state of constant confusion and frustration trying to figure out just what the little guy wants or needs at any given time? Does it seem like you can't predict from one moment to the next what will trigger a meltdown?

After several months of intensive research, I've compiled a list of all the things guaranteed to cause tantrums and irrational displays of emotion in my own toddler. By memorizing this list and making sure not to EVER perform any of these actions, you will be one step closer to a peaceful, quiet, tantrum-free household. Keep in mind this list is only a starting point; your own toddler may have different triggers, or be that rare child that never gets upset (yeah, right).

Disclaimer: This list may not be applicable to all children in all situations. If you have tried to avoid every trigger on this list and your child still acts irrationally, the author is not responsible for gray hairs, high blood pressure, curse words, or stress-induced vices (such as eating or alcohol consumption) that may result from constant exposure to tantrums and/or whining.

Tantrum Triggers to Avoid at All Times:
  • Letting different types of food touch each other.
  • Using the wrong placemat at meal times.
  • Using any placemat at meal times.
  • Expecting the toddler to sit in their seat at meal times.
  • Expecting the toddler to eat at meal times.
  • Forcing a toddler to be buckled into a carseat.
  • Forcing a child to sit in a carseat instead of the preferred location of the front seat, or even more fun, the middle console between the seats.
  • Forcing a toddler to get into a car at all and leave the house when they have other plans.
  • Touching anything without pre-approval from the toddler. For instance my toddler has not approved me resting my elbow on the console of the car while driving, so if I do this he is sure to throw a fit.
  • Turning the pages of a book. Or turning them incorrectly.
  • Not turning the pages of a book.
  • Putting juice/milk/water in the wrong cup. Putting a straw in a cup.
  • Not putting a straw in a cup.
  • Singing the wrong song. Singing while they are singing. Not singing while they are singing.
  • Insisting that the toddler get in the bathtub.
  • Insisting that the toddler get out of the bathtub.
  • Putting on the wrong clothes. Not allowing them to go naked in public.
  • Taking clothes off, especially pajamas in the morning before going to daycare.
  • Anything involving brushing -- teeth or hair.
  • Not letting them touch the cat with "mean hands."
  • Letting the cat touch them without permission.
  • Walking to one side of the room when the toddler wants you on the other side. Sitting in a different spot than they want you to sit in.
  • Breathing.
This is just the basic list. There are several more advanced lists covering subjects such as Avoiding Tantrums While Travelling (first tip: don't travel with your toddler) and Special Circumstances: Things That Set Them Off in Public Places Such as Church or the Library.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bye-bye, little baby

I'm really not digging the Terrible Twos right now. From one day to the next, we never know if we'll have a good day (laughing, smiling, cuteness, new words, new skills, cooperation, good naps, eating well) or a Terrible day (screaming, crying, throwing things, getting frustrated over a lack of new words and skills, refusing to take a nap, acting like food he liked the day before is burning acid in his throat...). The highs are really high, like J running up to me and cannonballing into my lap, shouting "Mommy!" like I'm the best thing he ever saw. But then the lows can be pretty low, as evidenced by the scene last night when J flipped out over taking a bath, but we had to force the issue because he was covered in dirt and chocolate pudding, so we ganged up on him like jail wardens, TH wrestling the kid while I manned the soap and washcloth.

That said...I realized over the weekend what I hate the most about this age. It's the growing pains -- mine, not his. My baby is leaving me. Sure, he's still in diapers and he still sleeps in a crib, but his growing independence is causing me to struggle some days just as much as him. Over the weekend we had a little dinner party/playdate with friends from out of town--one friend has 8-month-old twins, and the other has an 8-week-old. As I was holding the newborn baby, I tried to remember J at that age, and I couldn't. I remember that time in our life, and I can tell a million stories about breastfeeding, poopy diapers, and sleep deprivation, but I can't really remember what J looked or sounded or smelled like then. If I didn't have the pictures to prove it, I probably would have forgotten little details like what his face looked like without eyebrows (he didn't have any for a long time) and the fact that he had pretty bad baby acne when he was 6 weeks old (totally forgot about that until I pulled out the photo album the other day). Then I looked over at J standing next to one of the twins, and he was HUGE, he towered over them like a giant. Was he really as small as them only a little over a year ago? When did he fit 9-month size clothes? I remember saying to my sister when he was that age that I couldn't even imagine him walking and with a mouth full of teeth. And she wisely told me, "Just wait. Soon you won't be able to remember when he didn't."

I looked back and forth between the 3 littles ones and my big one, and realized his "baby" days are quickly receding into distant memory. And wouldn't you know it, I felt a little sad. Don't get me wrong, I love my almost-preschooler, tantrums and all. He's much more fun and interesting and engaging in so many ways, and in all honesty I wasn't a huge fan of the newborn phase anyway. It's not so much that I miss him being a's more the realization that the whole point of going through these Terrible Twos is to start the long road to independence. He's still needy and clingy to Mommy most days, but I can see that as he learns to jump and walk and run, he's jumping and walking and running away from us, bit by bit. One day (too soon) all of this...this...littleness will be another distant memory and a picture in the photo album, and I won't be able to really remember a lot of it. The day is coming when I'll be watching him skateboard down the street or something, and I'll fondly recall him throwing a fit about not being able to turn the pedals on the tricycle, screaming "I DO IT! I DO IT!" as I tried to help him. I'll be like my own mom, forcing my former mama's boy to give me a kiss before he runs into his first day of school, then secretly watching him through the window and crying (one of her favorite stories). I know, I know, it's wonderful and necessary and the natural order of things, but burns a little, doesn't it?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Like most 2-year olds J has developed an obsession with having "boo-boos," and he is constantly pointing out microscopic lesions on his body so he can score a band-aid. He'll even wince in fake pain when I'm checking them out, and after he gets his band-aid he'll randomly hunch over the area like a wounded animal and push me away, going, "NO!! DON'T TOUCH MY BOO-BOO!!" . This is usually followed by him hopefully asking, "Medicine?". Yeah, he tries to score Tylenol and Motrin, too, whenever he can.

Very cute, right? Only not so cute when his new daily routine is to point out zits on my face and tell me, "Mommy got boo-boos onna face." Thank you, baby, for telling me that. It's right up there with him trying to pull up my shirt so he can poke my fat belly, yell, "Mommy booty!" and cackle hysterically. Next thing you know he'll be pointing out wrinkles and gray hairs....