Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Thanksgiving Preparations

For us Canucks, Thanksgiving is just around the corner. This year, my uncle from New Brunswick is coming for a visit so my mom is having a traditional dinner. Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce... the works. Also this year is my turn for hosting the in-laws. My husband of course wants the traditional set up as well. Being a week before his birthday, sure why not. And I never complain about having turkey leftovers. (Turkey pot pie, turkey soup, turkey BLTs....)

Being true to myself, I wanted to add something a little different this year, but still staying traditional. I picked up an Acorn Squash at the store today and thought I would test run a side dish for Thanksgiving. I threw a chicken in the slow cooker and voila! Sunday dinner on a Tuesday.

The squash I chose to make is Balsamic Glazed Acorn Squash and Carrots. I diced them (acorn squah and baby cut carrots) up and place in a bowl, then dressed them with a simple vinegarette of balsamic vinegar, rosemarry, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. (I used regular balsamic but next time I think I'll try the white balsamic) I then placed them in a baking dish (with the chicken to crisp the skin from the slow cooker) for about 40 minutes, flipping once or twice. It was easy as pie and tasted almost as good.

Now, I had offered about a month ago to make dessert for my mom's thanksgiving dinner, so I was trying to think of something I can make ahead of time and freeze. So, I think I'll double my pumpkin gingerbread swirl loaf recipe and turn it into a bundt cake and serve it the sweetened whip cream. The other dessert, I think I decided on a carrot roll cake. It will be everything we love about carrot cake rolled around cream cheese icing and topped with walnuts. I will share my recipe as soon as I work out the details. Did I mention my husband loves carrot cake?

Overall, I feel pretty organized, but will feel better once I get in the kitchen. Before you know it, we get to do it all again for Christmas.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I Love Fall

Yes, I really do love fall. I love the crispness in the morning air and the leaves when they change colour. And I love getting back into our regular routine. Admittedly, the meal planning has fall off the back burner in the lazy summer months, but no more. The kids are back at school (yeah) and the activities have started. Such is the life of a Stay-At-Home-Mom. My little one has started kindergarten and loves it. My 8-year-old can take it or leave it.

On my meal plan for tonight is written "Slow Cooker Chicken". I have a whole fryer chicken in the freezer, so I could make a roast slow cooker chicken, but was really not in the mood for that. I was pretty brisk this morning, so I knew I still wanted to dust off the slow cooker from months of neglect. I had a pound of ground chicken in the fridge, so how about.... meatballs. The kids love meatballs and I love creating something new with ground meats. (It's something about making the ordinary, extrordinary)

So, What's for dinner tonight?

Slow Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken Meatballs

I had found a recipe online, but it used chicken breasts, which from the pictures, looked like it was shredded; and there were no vegetables in it. So, in my version, I used my lean ground chicken and added a ton of vegetables. The kids loved it.

1 lb ground chicken
3 tbsp ground flaxseeds (or breadcrumbs)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground ginger
salt and pepper
1/2 onion, diced

Form into balls and place on a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes. Transfer to slow coooker with diced onions.

3/4 c honey
1/3 c tamari
1/4 c ketchup
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp Asian hot sauce - or more to taste
2 tbsp corn starch mixed with 1/4 c chicken broth

Mix together and pour over chicken in the slow cooker. Cook on low 5-7 hours.
Add the vegetables:
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 can baby corn, drained
3-4 oz snow peas

Give it a mix and cover for another 30-40 minutes.

Serve over rice.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
I particularly like this dish because there is so much you can make ahead of time. You can have the meatballs made and frozen in the freezer, you can make the sauce the night before and prep all the vegetables. Not only is dinner ready for you, but most of the cleanup is done too.

This would also work with ground pork, diced cooked chicken  or even browned pork chops.


Breaking the Picky Eating Cycle

I had a friend ask me the other day how to deal with her picky eater. Now, I am fortunate that this is not an issue I have to deal with. Both my boys are great eaters but I like to think it's because that's the way we trained them. But, I do have some tips for changing your picky eater. The quicker you catch it, the easier the transition.

I think the first thing you need to do is lead by example.It sounds simple enough, but you wouldn't believe how many adults I know that are picky eaters. If there is something you don't like, say in front of the child that you don't like it, and don't make faces. Try to keep a positive attitude. Make dinner a family event, not hitting the drive through between activities. Of course, in today's hustle and bustle lifestyle, that is not always a possibility but make dinner a priority, not an afterthought. Family dinners should be the norm, not the exception.

Another tip for picky eating is the one bite rule.In our house, when we are trying a new food, we have to have at least one bite. If you don't like it after that, then this time you don't have to eat it. The next time that dish is made, that one bite may turn into two. As an additional caveat to the rule, is always have something on the plate that they do like. If you know your child like raw carrots with dip, then you can make that part of the meal. But that meals everyone eats the carrots and dip. If after the carrots, and the one bite of the new food, they are still hungry I recommend offering them a "whole food". That is, something healthy and unprocessed. That could be an apple, glass of milk or yogurt... something along those lines. After all, I'm a mom, not a short-order cook.  If they are still hungry after that, then I hope they like breakfast. (Yes, a little old-school) I have tried to steer away from bribery and deal making. "If you eat your peas, you can have a cookie" sort of thing. As someone who deals with a weight issue, I didn't want my kids to have food as a reward.

Getting you children involved in cooking is a good idea for many reasons. When my kids were really little, we had a toy barbeque and microwave with a big box of toy food right in the kitchen. My 5-year old still loves to play with it, and will often play restaurant or create some wonderful dish and serve it to us. At the grocery store, have your children name the different items in the produce aisle. Maybe even bring one home to try. Let them know that trying new foods is fun. As the children get older they can have more input. Let them rip up the lettuce for the salad, measure the tomato sauce or crack an egg into a bowl. Let them tell everyone what "they made for dinner".You can let them pick one part of the meal... "Sally, would you like to have peas or carrots with dinner?" Older ones can start to cook. My 7-year old will make his own scrambled eggs and flip pancake. By the time they are teenagers, full responsibility for a meal could be a weekly occurance. After all, dinner is a family event.

As parents, we are always creating habits for our kids, good and bad and this is one of them. When toddlers start "terrible-twos" some of it is a control issue. Giving your child a little age-appropreate control when it comes to food will work wonders. As with everything set expectation and follow through.

Post a comment with specific questions about picky eating and I'll do my best to help.