Kindness counts

This is the face of a boy who loves a new book, especially when it’s Pete the Cat. He will it around and sleep with it for weeks, and I love it because it means we are raising a grateful child.  

The road to receive this book however was a bumpy one.

I bought this book and a Pete the Cat doll (of course) because Luke had a nice little streak of good behavior in school this week – and because I like to give presents. But when he got home [cue the dramatic music] he announced that he was on yellow at school today because he didn’t follow directions. Luke generalizes this term and could mean putting his body all over other kids, talking when he wasn’t supposed to or not listening to his teachers. 

Luke’s Friday afternoon reward was quickly stashed for a later date.

FFWD to bedtime. This child acts. a. fool. So much so that he ends up frustrated and cries. Then I get frustrated and cry. This child stands up, hugs me, gives me a kiss and then goes into the bathroom. And brings me a tissue. A TISSUE. 

I’m dead.

Armed with knowledge that I’m probably not raising a tyrant or future serial killer, I run downstairs and get his book. He may have not made the best choices today or been a good listener, but Luke was kind. Kind without an agenda or because he thought he would be rewarded, but kind because it’s who he is. 

Kindness matters. Always. 

Italian Chicken with Rainbow Vegetable Skewers

IMG_8018

I totally phoned in dinner tonight, I mean it’s Thursday. Enough said.

If you have chicken and random vegetables,  you will have a low calorie dinner you can make in 15 minutes that will have your family think you spent 20 on them.

Ingredients:
2-4 Garlic Cloves
1 Tbsp. Italian Seasoning Blend
2 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
1 Red Onion
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 Orange Bell Pepper
1 Yellow Squash
1 Zucchini
Wooden Skewers
Balsamic Glaze

Directions:

  1. Mince garlic. Place Italian seasoning, garlic, 4 tsp. olive oil , 1 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. pepper in a medium mixing bowl and mix together thoroughly. Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry. Add chicken breasts to bowl, toss to coat, and marinate at least 20 minutes.
  2. While chicken is marinating, peel and halve onion. Cut halves into 1” dice. Stem, seed, and cut red bell pepper and orange bell pepper into 1’’ dice. Trim yellow squash and zucchini ends and cut each into ½” slices.
  3. Combine peppers, onions, zucchini, and squash in a medium mixing bowl and toss with 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil, ½ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper. Alternate vegetables on wooden skewers, and place assembled skewers on one half of prepared baking sheet.
  4. Heat 2 tsp. olive oil in a medium non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Remove chicken breasts from marinade and add to hot pan. Cook 2 minutes per
    side, or until lightly browned. Discard marinade.
  5. While chicken sears, cover exposed ends of skewers with foil. Broil 4 minutes, then carefully remove from broiler and flip skewers. Add seared chicken to other half of baking sheet and return to broiler 4-5 minutes, or until chicken reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees and vegetables are tender. Watch vegetables and chicken carefully, as some broilers are hotter than others!
  6. Serve three skewers on a plate. Place chicken breast next to skewers and drizzle chicken with balsamic glaze.

“Ham and Cheese” Breakfast Casserole

14d235dc84c5f17b0fc3861502b7ad419b335b3b

Every morning I drive by a Krispy Kreme that always has the light on. And most mornings, I drive on by and wish I could actually consume 1 or 4 of their donuts – but settle for an iced coffee or a protein shake. Aside from donuts, if I could eat something yummy for breakfast, it would definitely be this casserole.

I hate to even call this a casserole because it lacks the gloopy, greasy consistency most breakfast casseroles have. It is perfect for potlucks, breakfasts, brunches, holiday mornings. You can make it ahead or prepare and eat right away.

Note: who knew pancetta was so delicious? Hot, crispy – porky. It takes everything I have in me to not eat all of it before even adding it to the casserole.

The cooking time is a little wonky – as in keep your eyes on it. Since the bread is soaked in an egg mixture, it could take a bit to cook the entire thing, but not so much time it dries the whole thing out. It takes me almost a full 60 minutes to bake, but others say it takes them 40.

Ingredients:

4 cups (loosely packed) day-old challah or other egg-enriched bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 pound pancetta (thickly sliced), diced
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese, from about 4 ounces

Grease an 8-inch square baking dish (or another 1 1/2-quart to 2-quart baking dish) and spread the cubed challah in the bottom.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a skillet over medium to low heat. Add the onions, salt, and sugar. Sauté until they are lightly caramelized (a medium golden-brown color), about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in another heavy skillet, heat the other tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and sauté the pancetta until the fat is almost all rendered and it begins to get crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes. Set on a paper towel to drain.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, dry mustard, nutmeg, and thyme. Season with about 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a generous quantity of black pepper.

Spread the pancetta over the bread cubes, then layer the onions on top. Sprinkle grated Gruyère on next, and then pour the egg mixture over the entire thing.

Press down on the top gently, so that all of the bread cubes get soaked a bit with the egg mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, take the casserole out of the fridge so it can warm on the counter, and preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake, uncovered, for 35 to 60 minutes, or until the edges are bubbling and the top begins to brown. The baking time will be greatly dependent on the depth of dish you use. Check the interior with a knife; if it comes out clean the bread custard is baked through. (Cover with foil near the end of cooking if the top is already browned.)

I like serving this casserole with fresh fruit and a light salad.

Serves 6 to 8

Follow me on Pinterest!

Recipe & photo courtesy of thekitchn.com

Mama: At Your Service

IMG_7992

6:55 p.m. That’s the first time I have stopped since 5 a.m. The first time I have stopped taking care of someone else’s needs all day and sort of acknowledged myself. Don’t get me wrong, I live to take care of other people…I really feel like it’s God purpose for my life, and my heart’s joy.  I have never met a person or cause in need that I didn’t feel a deep feeling of responsibility to help.

Maybe I have all the feels because it’s Shark Week for the 12th week in a row. Maybe this Mama just needs to vent.

I am so very fortunate to have a family. A husband that is a great provider, friend and father – a child that is my life’s happiness. But somedays I feel like the help…the cook, the chauffeur, the maid. As a natural giver, I don’t ask for a lot. But some days, like today, when I make 2 dinners and have yet to have something for myself…when I cook and clean-up…when a “thank you” never comes from anyone – I feel something that no Mama wants to feel: unappreciated.

I need an outlet, a hobby or some Mama time – but how do I, the care giver ask to be taken care of? Are all of us – Mamas everywhere – just living for our families and not taking time to live for ourselves?

To all the Mamas out there, single, coupled – working outside the home or working at home: I see you. I feel you. I appreciate you.

“3 Secrets That Will Potty Train Your Child In Just 3 Days”

14021554_10154083764353229_6663328336158612571_n

Seeing articles about training kids (especially boys) to use the potty in *just 3 days* makes me laugh. Every time. What makes me think that I can boot camp my kid into abandoning their pull-up when I can’t get to make a rational decision about, well – anything. Have you met my son?

In case you want to read the hilarious article, be my guest.

If you want the real secrets to potty training your son – pain free – here are mine:

  1. Casually discuss the potty. Read potty books. Show him the potty but by all means, don’t make them sit on it all day. If you ask them if they want to do it and they say no, abort mission.
  2. Send them to preschool with their favorite pull-ups.
  3. Hope that there are older boys in your son’s class that wears underwear. Full-time.
  4. Wait for you precious child to connect the dots and ask for underwear of this own.
  5. Stand back and watch your child wear underwear, go to the bathroom on his own and never look back. He probably knew all along but just felt like being lazy and giving zero flips about it because he is a guy and sitting in a hot diaper doesn’t faze him.

Seriously. don’t waste the tears, threats and swear words…wait for the lightbulb to come on, the switch to flip. If you the lucky chosen one who has tackled it in 3 days (or heck 30 days) – I applaud you. I kinda miss the days of diapers, but just the days I have to clean the bathroom of a 5 year old boy. 

 

Blue Cheese and Green Onion-Crusted Pork Chop with Green Bean and Grape Tomato Amandine

FullSizeRender 2

To say I don’t eat a lot these days is an understatement, so a lot of my cooking is purely for my husband and son. I still love to cook, but the cravings for something very specific have pretty much disappeared. This was an easy meal to prepare, but I don’t really love blue cheese so don’t say I never do anything for ya babe.

Ingredients:
2 Green Onions
4 oz. Green Beans
4 oz. Grape Tomatoes
2 oz. Blue Cheese
2 Bone-in Pork Chops
1 oz. Slivered Almonds
3 tbs Butter

Directions:

  1. Thinly chop green onions (or mince depending on your texture issues). Trim ends of  green beans. Halve grape tomatoes. Combine blue cheese, green onions and a pinch of black pepper in a small bowl. Rinse pork chops, pat dry, and season both sides with 1⁄2 tsp. salt and a pinch of pepper.
  2. Heat 2 tsp. olive oil in a medium non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add pork chops to hot pan and cook on each side 2-3 minutes, or until a caramelized crust forms. Remove pan from burner and transfer chops to prepared baking sheet. Wipe pan clean.
  3. Top pork chops with blue cheese and green onion mix-ture, pressing lightly to adhere crust on chops. Roast 7-9 minutes, or until crust is melted and chops reach a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees. Remove chops from oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving.
  4. While pork chops are roasting, place slivered almonds in same pan used for searing chops (no oil needed) over medium heat and toast almonds evenly. Remove pan from burner once almonds are golden brown and aromatic, 2-4 minutes. Transfer toasted almonds to a plate and return pan to medium heat (no need to wipe clean).
  5. Add butter, green beans, and a few tablespoons of  water to pan. Cover and cook 3-4 minutes, or until beans are bright green. Remove cover, add grape tomatoes, and cook 3-4 minutes, or until beans are tender and tomatoes are warmed through. Add toasted almonds and season with 1⁄4 tsp. salt and a pinch of pepper.
  6. Arrange a pile of the green bean almandine in the middle of a plate. Top green beans with blue cheese-crusted pork chop.

Balsamic-Glazed Steak with garlic-Parmesan broccoli and roasted potatoes

IMG_7807.PNG

Friday night always has me in the mood for something quick like pizza or sushi, but since we had sushi last night and I can no longer eat pizza (although I still fantasize about it) – I couldn’t phone it in.

This recipe was really quick to come together – the longest part involved roasting the potatoes – and it satisfied my boys. It’s funny how my 5 year old refuses to eat a sandwich or a good ol’ mac & cheese, but gobbles up a medium rare cut of beef. Did I mention will only take peppered salami in his lunchbox? No bread…just spicy salami. Must get that from his Dad.

Anywho, here is the recipe – enjoy!

Ingredients:
2 Russet Potatoes
8 oz. Broccoli
2 Garlic Cloves
2 6 oz. steaks – just use whatever cut you have on hand / prefer to eat
4 Tbsp. Butter
1 oz. Grated Parmesan Cheese
Balsamic Glaze

Directions:

  1. Peel and cut potatoes into 1” dice. Cut broccoli orets into large bite-sized pieces. Thinly slice garlic. Rinse steaks, pat dry, and season both sides with 1⁄2 tsp. salt and 1⁄4 tsp. pepper.
  2. Place a large non-stick oven-safe pan (I use cast iron) over medium-high heat and add butter. Once melted, add potatoes to hot pan and cook, while stirring, 1 minute. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook 5 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Uncover, place pan in oven, and roast 20-22 minutes, stirring halfway through, until golden brown and tender. Remove from oven, season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside.
  3. Place a medium non-stick pan over medium heat. Add 1 tsp. olive oil to hot pan. Add steaks to hot pan and sear on one side 4-5 minutes, or until a dark brown crust forms. Flip, and cook 4-5 more minutes, or until steaks reach a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees. Remove steaks from pan and let rest 3-5 minutes. Wipe pan clean and reuse.
  4. Place pan used to cook steaks over medium-high heat. Add 1 tsp. olive oil and garlic (to taste) to hot pan. Cook, while stirring, 30-45 seconds, or until aromatic. Add 1⁄4 cup water and broccoli. Cook 5-6 minutes, or until broccoli is tender (but not mushy) and water has evaporated. Remove from burner, season with 1⁄4 tsp. salt and 1⁄4 tsp. pepper, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  5. Place potatoes and broccoli on a plate. Place steak up against vegetables and drizzle with balsamic glaze.