Oh! It’s You, Oatmeal!

Now that I’ve surpassed the age of 40 (please don’t tell my girls – they think I’m 29), I’m quickly learning those few extra calories I grab here and there actually stick…and in places about which I’m not too happy. So I’ve vowed to stop performing the old “pick off their plates” routine I’ve lately perfected (letter “P” anyone?). And it starts with breakfast. Those last bites of their waffles add up, and who knew donut holes can have as many as 70 calories? Yikes! According to my new Lose It app, I have to walk almost a mile to burn that off!

shutterstock_97491371So I’m making a commitment to oatmeal. Every day. First thing. My hope is it will keep me full (because sometimes my schedule demands that lunch runs late) and that I’m doing all sorts of good things for my body when I eat it: fiber, protein, antioxidants, lignans – yay! And what I’ve discovered is that if the plain oatmeal routine gets too boring, I can always doctor it up. Here are some delicious takes on this breakfast staple:

Almond Joy Oatmeal

1 cup dry old fashioned oats, water (as directed), 1 tablespoon shredded coconut, 1 scoop (about 1/4 cup) chocolate protein powder, sugar-free Da Vinnici coconut syrup, sugar-free Da Vinnici chocolate syrup

Apple Walnut Oatmeal

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal (not instant), 1 cup low-fat milk, 2 apples – cored and peeled and diced, 1/2 cup crushed walnuts, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Banana Cream Oatmeal

4 cups water, 2 cups quick-cooking oats, 2 bananas cut into thin coins, 1/2 cup non-fat sweetened condensed milk, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Blueberry Almond Oatmeal

1/4 cup steel-cut oats, 1/3 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, 1/4 cup milk, 1 tablespoon slivered almonds, 1 teaspoon ground flaxseed

Cherry Vanilla Oatmeal

1 and 3/4 cups water, 1 cup quick cooking oats, 1/4 cup dried cherries, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons cherry jam

Now go tackle that drop-off line!

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How to Order a Helping of Sanity

My family had a banner moment. Get that trophy ready.

shutterstock_27729742To kick off the long weekend, I made the decision to go out to eat. I skipped lunch on Friday to get my hair cut, and so I walked in the door that evening starving.  Taking the time to prepare a meal felt like food deprivation times ten.  And yet despite my hunger pangs, I was actually annoyed by my decision. The girls were really wound up, and I confess, I cringe at the thought of disruptive children in restaurants. And my cringe turns into a downright scowl when those children just happen to be mine.

But to my surprise – my girls hopped in the car, and I only had to ask once. Then they fastened their own seat belts. We arrived at the restaurant, and they waited quietly before we were seated. Then they sat down. My girls ordered, my oldest remembered to look the waitress in the eye, and all three girls threw in a couple of “pleases” and “thank yous” throughout the course of the meal.

It hit me. We had arrived. We were now a family capable of eating out together, without highchairs and coloring books and diaper bags full of “entertain me” tricks. I looked at a few of the families around me struggling to stave off children’s tears and tantrums while grown ups took one last bite of their entrees, and I remembered how hard it was, and I marveled at how easy it had become. And then, as most mothers do, I couldn’t help but think I would love one more hug post-tantrum, one more set of scribbles on paper that represent a plane or a princess or a portrait of me. For a brief moment, I wanted that time in my life, including those painful trips out to eat, back.

For those of you who are still there, here’s a list of tips for eating out with toddlers, courtesy of BabyZone.com:

Leave your fears at home. Most people don’t mind children in restaurants as long as they aren’t disruptive. We’re not talking four-star, staid establishments here. There are probably plenty of informal and excellent restaurants at your disposal. Moderately priced ethnic restaurants, trendy university hangouts, casual but elegant dining – these are all good choices. It’s okay to check them out!

Set reasonable expectations. Your child won’t be perfect, quiet, neat, and adventurous at first. Eating out is a skill and as usual, practice makes perfect.

Take the edge off. Feed your child a little something in the car on the way. Alternately, ask the wait staff for bread the moment you arrive.

Bring a little kit of supplies (toys, food, coloring books). Stock your wallet with emergency stickers and bandages for entertainment.

Don’t try to sneak your baby in. Introduce your baby to the host/hostess and say, “Zoe is really looking forward to your wonderful food!”

Sit near the door. If your child cries, take him or her outside immediately. Be firm with your child that he or she cannot reenter the restaurant until calm and quiet.

Take a walk immediately after you order your food. This could be around the restaurant or outside.

Set limits about where your antsy toddler can toddle. Around your table is fine, but the aisle is off-limits, as are other people’s tables.

Drape and cover. You might want to carry a small plastic drop cloth for under baby’s chair, especially if you know your chosen dining destination has nice rugs. Wait to shake until well outside.

When ordering food, don’t forget your child. A side order or two will make your toddler feel special and may actually land her something she likes. Little kids tend to enjoy food that comes in tiny bits (noodles, beans, peas, blueberries, cut-up fruit) and many don’t like their foods to touch each other.

Give your child tastes of your food. If you treat food and eating as an adventure, your child eventually will too.

Offer to clean up under the high chair when you’re done. The restaurant staff will refuse, but they’ll appreciate your offer.

Don’t ever change a baby or toddler at the table.

Leave a big tip.

Try to enjoy and appreciate. It doesn’t last long!

Hazelnuts: a Universal Language

When I was in college, I studied abroad in Luxembourg. I know.  This seems obscure.  And some of you may need to google a map of Europe.  Just be sure to also put on your glasses.  It’s the teeny tiny country squished in between Germany, France and Belgium that while small in square footage, is by no means small in history or charm.

I had the opportunity to live with Marie, a delightful, elderly woman whose sons forced her to board college students so that she would not be on her own. I think, in all honesty, Marie would have been just fine on her own. Marie read. Marie loved watching Oprah. Marie could cut up a chicken with a few simple snips of the kitchen scissors, and once I observed her dismantle and repair the pipes underneath the bathroom sink as if she were a licensed plumber. Marie painted her nails a new shade every night before she went to bed, and when I returned home, I sent her a box of the trendiest colors OPI had to offer. Marie was independent and “old school” self-reliant, and I suspect that somewhere inside her head she pitied her female college boarders who were helpless in the world by comparison.

Despite her many American boarders, Marie spoke no English. I of course was double majoring in Marketing and Spanish – not much help in the “communicate with Marie” department. And yet somehow we got by. She loved to show me the flowers in her garden, where there was always common ground to be had: tulip- tulipe, rose-rose, gardenia-gardenia – a ha! We understand each other!

shutterstock_61418674We also managed to limp through conversations in the kitchen. Yogurt-yaourt, croissant-croissant, chocolate-chocolat – a ha! Now we really understand each other, especially on this last one! Marie always placed a small square of chocolate next to my plate – with tea, with lunch, with dinner…and breakfast of course was nutella spread on croissants, toast and even crackers. I’ve never met a hazlenut I didn’t like since, and though I’m older now and have to eat healthier breakfasts if I want to fit into my jeans, every once in a while I’ll still buy a jar of Nutella out of nostagia.  It’s certainly cheaper than a ticket to Luxembourg, but for the record, it’s also far less enjoyable than a lovely European woman who can paint her nails and snake a drain with equal aplomb.

A Place at the Table

shutterstock_76105909My kitchen table is, in its own right, an accomplished piece of furniture. It is the site where meals, art projects, homework, pumpkin carving, egg dying, cookie decorating and gift wrapping takes place. Backpacks are deposited on top and shoes are kicked off underneath. It can support the goldfish bowl and the cereal bowls with equal finesse. And once I even caught it supporting three young children (who were quickly sent into a timeout for standing on the furniture).

The kitchen table has many a story to tell, most of which can be read on its surface: water rings, glitter glue and paint smears…chips, dents, scuffs and warps….A very long time ago I used to have the table refinished every year, but after child number three, I more or less threw in the towel and embraced the table’s well worn aesthetic. Lest you think I am completely turning a blind eye to the table abuse taking place in my kitchen, I do make a small attempt at preservation and insist on placemats underneath all art projects and meals. No, the mats don’t make much of a difference in terms of surface protection (we’re just that messy) but we have amassed a fun assortment of placemats over the years, and the girls enjoy selecting one from our little collection at mealtimes.

And so today, as a small homage to my bedraggled but faithful kitchen table, I’m telling everyone that One King’s Lane is featuring placemats, runners, cloths and coasters in an assortment of colors and patterns to spice (get it?) up your kitchen decor and conceal those table blemishes.

But now my duty is done.  While there’s no better way to attempt to preserve your table than with a charming set of placemats, you are on your own for attempts at getting the kids to set and clear it!

Cows Eat Asparagus Too

asparagusMy favorite party of the year is held by dear friends of mine each May.  They have a good old-fashioned backyard bar-b-que, and it is pure Americana: watermelon seed spitting contest, potato sack races, hula hoop contests and even a “cow-calling” competition for the grown-ups (traditionally scheduled mid-way through the party.  Everyone’s “moos” seem “moo-ier” after a beer or two…go figure).  While I did not win the cow-calling contest this year, I did knock it out of the park (or is that the barn?) with my appetizer contribution: Asparagus Rolls.  Since awards season is upon us and many of you are hosting fetes, I think this would also be a great addition to your party menu, so here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

1 lb. fresh asparagus

1 8 oz. package crescent roll dough

1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated

1/4 cup bacon bits

1/4 cup green onion, finely chopped

Preparation:

Break off the tough ends of the asparagus, leaving just the tender tips.

Steam for several minutes until cooked just crisp tender.

Open crescent roll dough and separate at the seams.

Sprinkle some cheese, bacon bits and green onion on each roll, followed by an asparagus spear.

Roll up and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until rolls are browned.

Serve!

Practicing for May: Mooooooooooooo!

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to my Email

Oh man.  Like woe is me.  As in this is VERY, VERY, BAD.  I sat down at my desk today fully prepared to write about the football game tonight (I am a house divided, wish me luck), and instead…what’s that in my inbox?  Up to 70% off the new weekend me?  Well gosh, that’s perfectly innocent, right?  I mean, 70% off – that’s a sale, and sales save us money.  They are a great, great thing.  So here I go a clickin’…

ambulance1BOOM!!!!!  That was the sound of my head exploding.  I have no idea whether workers’ comp is gonna’ cover this, but I am rendered unable to work, maybe even to breathe.  Valentino handbags, Phillip Lim dresses and OMG…Lanvin shoes????!!!!  At 70% off!!!!????  Someone please call 9-1-1, like stat!

Moms, I know that you, like me, live in the real world, and that our hard-earned dollars are better spent on hockey skates and dance recital costumes and college tuition funds, not on gorgeous Yves Saint Laurent jumpsuits, despite The Outnet’s lovely little sale.  But the eye candy on this gem of a site is something to behold, and I think it serves as great inspiration to embrace your inner glam.  You CAN rock a great outfit in the dropoff line – you CAN, you CAN!  (By the way, I’m thinking skinny jeans and a cool Elizabeth & James jacket for the dropoff line, not the satin jumpsuit).

I have to sign off now.  The EMT says it is not a good idea to continue typing with this oxygen mask on…

The Only Thing Better than Singing is…a Danish! (not really)

My oldest daughter sings.  In the shower, at singing1the dinner table, in the car, into the karaoke machine…and yes, I do attempt to harness the passion, and so she sings in the school choir too.  Often, the school choir sings at church on Sunday, and following services, we’ll have a small breakfast.  Contributing the standard coffee and donuts to these breakfasts gets a little boring after a few months, and so I do try to mix it up when I can.  However, I knew thinking beyond Dunkin D this morning was going to be a little tough coming off the last of Christmas vacation, so I pulled this together because you can make it ahead and refrigerate.  Thought I’d share in case you’re staring down this week’s calendar and are feeling depressed by the need to once again strap on your uber mommy suit for the PTA coffee, church fundraiser, and mother-in-law “drop in.”  These are an easy cheat (and no one but us will ever know!).

Ingredients:

2 8 oz. cans Pillsbury crescent rolls

2 8 oz. packages Philly cream cheese

1 can (approximately 15 oz.) blueberry pie filling

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preparation:

Spread one can of crescent roll dough in a greased, 9×13 inch pan.  Press perforations together to seal.  Combine cream cheese, egg, sugar, and vanilla.  Spread on top of the crescent rolls.  Spoon pie filling over the cheese mixture.  Place the second can of crescent rolls on top of the pie filling.  Bake at 350 for approximately 30 minutes.

And yes – these are delish even when there isn’t a song in the air!