Two Bottomless Pits

I’m totally referring to my children, by the way. Two almost-two toddlers with stomachs that seem to have no end. I have friends ask me almost daily, “How do you get your girls to eat?”

Most of the people close to me know this, but if you’re new here or just visiting, I have a serious passion for cooking. I love it. It is the most sincerest form of love, and it’s the most expressive form of art to me. I haven’t cooked nearly as much as I did prior to having the girls, but people who truly “hate cooking” baffle me- it’s almost the equivalent to a dog not liking you- there’s just something not right about it. If you can look me in my face and tell me that you would much rather go pay for a fast food meal than make spaghetti, I will raise my eyebrows and my eyes will get really big, and I’ll just shake my head. Saying “it’s easier” is completely false because you have to load up the car, use gas to drive to the restaurant, and then pay around if not over $20 to feed your family one meal that isn’t nutritious at all, and because of that, isn’t fueling your body so you’ll be hungry within a couple of hours. With that twenty dollars you know what you could’ve purchased? Tortillas, a rotisserie chicken, and stuff to make spaghetti, including an onion that you can split between those two meals. That’s dinner, leftovers, and lunch the next day my friend.

I do have a few tips to encourage you and your kids to eat nutritious food, and these tips are things that I personally do that have proven successful for my family.

Buy good food: As a child I remember not really caring for a good majority of my meals, and now that I am an adult and in charge of what I eat, I know why. It’s not that my mom wasn’t a good cook, it’s she didn’t cook good food. Hamburger helper, spaghetti-o’s, boxed mashed potatoes, velveeta cheese, canned ravioli, canned anything really… cream of mushroom, pasta sauce in the glass jars- none of that sounds good to me as I write it out, and looking back on it, that’s exactly why I didn’t like any of it! That stuff is disgusting, and it’s not very hard to make any those things from scratch. Raviolis I’ll give you, it’s easier to buy those pre-made, especially if you’re a busy parent, but there are way better pre-made choices out on the market, and in today’s society, clean or organic food is much more affordable. We are on a budget, and we get SNAP. Guess what? SNAP pays for organic food.

Season your food: A lot of people advise against using seasoning when cooking for children and I agree to a certain extent. If I made pea puree for Violet and Olivia when they were six months, I wouldn’t add anything to it because they’re being introduced to the vegetables and their natural flavors, and I wouldn’t want to compromise them. If I give the girls peas at their age now, a year and a half after they first started eating them- yeah, I’m gonna spruce them up with some fresh garlic, some salt, and a smidge of butter. We don’t like food that’s bland, neither do our human children with human taste buds.

Empower your kids: find a plate or a set of utensils that excite your kids. If they are excited about their dinnerware they’re more inclined to be excited about the food that’s on it. For example, Violet and Olivia will NOT eat without a fork or a spoon. Even if their food doesn’t require utensils, like a PB&J sandwich, I don’t argue with them, I just let them stab at their sandwiches and pull them apart until they’re completely eaten.

Another way I empower my children is by letting them eat where they want. My aunt tried to tell me that my children “run” me, but they’re not even two yet. They’re curious. They see Erik and me eating on the couch or while standing up and watching TV, so they want to do it, too. They’re not at the age yet where I can explain the whole, “I’m the parent you’re the child” rule, but they are at the age where they get easily upset if they don’t understand why I’m frustrated or telling them not to do something, so I just let them eat where they’re happy as long as it isn’t too messy. Anything messy calls for the high chairs. (Soups, sauces, etc.)

Here is a list of things that are not only affordable, but tasty, and easy to prepare:
Applesauce pouches (yes, there are stories floating around about mold, just use your judgement. We LOVE Tree Top or HEB brand)
Bagged apples or oranges, sometimes you can find variety fruit bags
Bananas
Potatoes/sweet potatoes, peeled and boiled or peeled and baked until tender
Zucchini, cut into “fries” and baked
Broccoli, roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper
Corn on the cob, coated in Kerrygold butter, sprinkled with salt, pepper, and chile powder, wrapped and roasted in foil for 30 mins. Eat right off the cob.
Canned beans rinsed, alone in snack cup or mixed into cheese quesadilla on corn tortilla
Rotisserie chicken, shredded, alone or also added to quesadilla
Steamable bags of veggies, unseasoned. Kroger has a TON to choose from that are all around $1 a bag. I like adding a can of beans to these veggies in their snack cups and letting them snack throughout the day on them. Good source of iron and protein.
Roasted carrots with garlic or raw carrots with greek yogurt + ranch seasoning
Annie’s brand of Mac & Cheese or finger snacks
Cheerios/Honey Nut cheerios

My point: We get by on tons of fruits and veggies. Pooping is NOT an issue in my household.

**fruits and veggies have water soluble sugar, this sugar is not the same as the refined sugar found in processed foods, so please don’t think there’s a similarity between the two**

I hope you found some inspiration, and just know that it takes patience to get picky kids to eat. Ask your children why they don’t like certain things and what you can do to help them acquire the taste for the foods they lack. Usually it’s just a matter of preparation and that can easily be resolved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

top fifteen kitchen must haves

Whether you just moved in to your first place, you need a practical gift idea for that person you just don’t know what to get, or you are looking to add to your personal kitchen stash, this is exactly what you should be reading right now. All of the items listed are things I own myself and use religiously.

Vehicles:

  1. Cast Iron Skillet – You can sear the hell out of a steak, bake a pie, or turn it upside down and crisp a day old pizza crust back to perfection. Hands down, the most used pan in my kitchen. (P.S. If this is your first place and you happen to live alone or do not own a weapon, this doubles as one, okay? Be safe.)
  2. Dutch Oven – These can be pricey, but HEB carries them for around $30 which is the cheapest I have seen them, and that’s where mine is from. It’s made out of enameled cast iron and it’s heavy as hell, but it is the best pot for stews, soups, chilis, and braising. If someone asked me if I would get this over a crock pot, I would say, “You bet your ass I would.” You can get a pork shoulder fork tender in around 1.5-3 hours depending on how big it is.
  3. Baking Dishes in various sizes for casseroles, cakes, brownies, cobblers, etc.
  4. Cookie Sheets for roasting vegetables, baking the obvious cookie, or crisping bacon the mess free way in the oven.
  5. Mixing Bowls – I have two sets: one glass and one set of Cali Bowls that Erik got me for Christmas. I LOVE them because the sides are spill-proof.
  6. Wire Rack – used for cooling baked goods so the hot sheet pan doesn’t continue to cook them from underneath, but can also be used to cook bacon evenly in the oven by allowing circulation and the drippings to fall into the sheet pan underneath so it’s not sitting in the grease. (BONUS: Store the bacon drippings in a small glass mason jar in the fridge to use for later cooking or discard in the trash. NEVER put it down the drain!)

Utensils:

  1. Tongs – I use them for everything. Ev-er-y-thang. Get some with a gripped handle because solid metal can get HOT.
  2. Wooden Spoon – Doesn’t get too hot to touch, used for scraping up browned bits from your pans when deglazing them or stirring rouxs and sauces.
  3. Metal Whisk – I personally prefer metal. If you have metal mixing bowls maybe get a silicone whisk to avoid scratching.
  4. Chef Knife – The end all be all of knives. Seriously, forget about the knife block. This can slice, dice, carve, mince, chop- whatever you need it to do. If you want to be fancy, get a decent set of steak knives if you eat a lot of meat. If cooked properly though, you don’t really need a steak knife to begin with. I am not including a link for this because you need to find one that fits your hand comfortably. Everybody has a different preference. I personally use a 6″ but I have really small hands and am not comfortable using an 8″ knife. However, a burly man might feel like a 6″ knife is a paring knife in his hand so no. Go to Bed Bath & Beyond or a Sur La Table and test out holding the knives they have there to get a feel for something you’ll like.
  5. Microplane – aka a ‘zester.’ This is used to grate anything from garlic to make a paste, chocolate shavings, citrus, fresh nutmeg, and my personal favorite, Parmesan cheese over a fresh pasta dish. YUM.
  6. Measuring Cups + spoons – I have this stacked set from Joseph Joseph that I absolutely love. They snap together so they don’t take up ANY space in my utensil drawer and for the price? Pssh, please.
  7. Cutting Board – a sturdy wooden one is what I use, but I also clean it after every. single. use. and sanitize with fresh lemons after using raw meat which is quite a hassel. Again, Joseph Joseph has saved the day by having THIS bad boy on the market. I have been wanting it for a couple of years now after seeing it in my local Steinmart but failed to take advantage of the $25 discount. I can’t spend that much on a cutting board. I just can’t. Maybe as a gift?
  8. Fish Spatula – Specially made to get under delicate fish without it falling apart on the flip, this comes in handy for many other things for me including flipping burgers, transferring cookies to a wire cooling rack, but most importantly, getting under a cracked egg and flipping it without the yolk breaking. Step your egg game up and invest in one of these.
  9. Silicone Spatula – I use this for a multitude of things, but it’s really helpful when you need to scrape the sides of a pan, or the remains out of a bowl or skillet, and icing cakes. I have this exact one that tells me measurment conversions which comes in handy ALL OF THE TIME, but before you get discouraged about the price, I actually found mine at TJ Maxx (along with a lot of other things on this list) for about $4!