Friday, November 28, 2014

Hope it was a Happy Thansgiving

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving shared with family and friends. We headed out to a cousin's little ranch with some sheep, chickens, one horse, 2 cats and a dog. Nothing like eating good homemade Thanksgiving classics made by the people who raised the food themselves. This time of year is beautiful in the Phoenix area, and we were able to eat outside under a long covered porch. Our two little girls just played and played for hours outside. It was just the type of day I had hoped for.

Mashed potatoes in process (with the compost bowl in background)

We were responsible for the mashed potatoes and the sweet potatoes. This year I tried cooking the potatoes with the skins on, and then used the ricer to help remove the last of the skins. It took a while to rice 10 pounds of potatoes, but I think it was worth it. Making large quantities of mashed potatoes is a workout! I thought that it's a good thing I'm hauling around a 30 pound toddler all the time, or I might have gotten worn out.  I used this recipe for the potatoes and this one for the sweet potatoes (but I cut out the brown sugar and subbed pecans for the walnuts. I love the combo of the orange zest and sweet potatoes).

We are extending our celebration to today, and cooking a turkey and making more sides and having another family over for dinner. They have two boys roughly the same age as our girls. It will be interesting to see how it goes. Today we are making turkey, gravy, stuffing, cranberry relish, green beans, brussels sprouts and more sweet potatoes. I love all of this food, and I'm looking forward to another feast today.

These celebrations always remind me of those who aren't here to celebrate with us. My dad always made the mashed potatoes and cranberry relish for Thanksgiving, so I've made sure to make them each year in his honor. This is my third Thanksgiving doing it solo. Hard to believe that that much time has passed, but it's amazing how doing the ricing, the mashing, the chopping - those physical movements - bring back strong memories of past Thanksgivings and help keep him close. That's the reason we have traditions.

I better get cooking.... Enjoy those leftovers!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Tips on Traveling with Small Children- Day of Travel

Part 2 of a series on traveling with kids. Part 1 was Preparing Young Children for Travel.

We are preparing for a trip to New York City this Friday and it has gotten us thinking about different travel tips we have heard and tried. Now I'm not an expert, and my kids are far from easy going, laid back travelers (here's a post on their delightful behavior while away and with company), but here are some things that have worked for us on the day of travel with our two daughters.

Some well traveled car seats.

First of all, the actual traveling is always easier than I expect, so try to put those fears aside. With some planning I think it can be fun (most of the time) for everyone. I find airplane travel to be easier than car travel. On an airplane you get to sit together and can do things together such as read books, color, play games etc. Plus, you can even walk around and use the bathroom (some of the time). I find car travel a bit trickier because generally the parents are in the front and the kids are in the back, and when they start getting antsy the adults have to debate how soon to stop yet again. I think trains are the best mode of transportation of all, but sadly they often aren't an easy option for our destinations.

Suggestions for the Airplane Carry-on Bags

1.   Snacks 

We bend the rules on travel days to have some fun treats, but try to include a pretty healthy mix to keep everyone on an even keel. We have had experiences with getting stuck places, so I bring a lot of food. Probably more that we could eat in one day, but if you get stuck in an airport hotel over night it will be nice to have some baby/toddler/preschooler food on hand.

For our plane trip in June we brought organic baby food pouches, a mix of steamed veggies cut into small pieces, bananas and some cooked beans for the eleven month old (she wasn't eating grains, nuts, tomatoes or eggs yet). For the Two (almost 3) year old we brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bananas, grapes, apples, gold fish crackers, pretzel sticks, roasted seaweed, cucumber, carrot and red pepper sticks with hummus, and individual packages of trail mix. Mom and Dad had some sandwiches and shared the kid snacks. All of these things make it through security no problem.

We still eat at the terminal when we have layovers (especially when they have local specialties) because I don't want to deplete our emergency rations too much. I know. I'm so dramatic, but I feel much better with a food supply on hand.

2.   Water bottles or Sippy Cups

Bring them empty to get through security, and then fill at a drinking fountain or with bottled water once inside.

3.   Activities for Kids 

My mom had read a tip to wrap up some of the kids' things as presents. I thought this was brilliant! We wrapped some of the favorite books, toys and finger puppets that we planned to bring in tissue paper. Unwrapping the "presents" was an activity in and of itself. The baby would just happily play with whatever she opened. The toddler would comment, "Oh, this is just like one that we have at our house," and then would also happily play with whatever she had opened.

Keeping the 11 month old and 35 month old in mind, we brought about 5 board books, 5 story books, each girl had a dolly and a stuffed animal, some finger puppets, stacking cups, paper, crayons, stickers, and a couple of other things.

One of the things that was the biggest hit was a present from our good friend. She had cut three strips of stretchy fabric in varying lengths and labled them headband, belt, and fishing line. Our toddler and Dada played with those for almost our whole second flight (about 2.5 hours). They dressed up dolly, Dada, baby sister, Mama and the stuffed animals with them. They became horse reins fastened around the hook on the back of the seat, and so much more.

We did also bring some DVDs and a laptop in case things got ugly, but we never used them.

4.  Two-three days of diapers and underpants for each child

You would think that those convenience stores in the airport would carry diapers, but they don't necessarily have them. Or if they do, they might not be in the size you need. If you get stuck in an airport or airport hotel for the night, it can be really hard to get out of airport circle to get to a drug store without a car. Bring diapers - maybe a whole carry-on worth!

5.  Three-four changes of clothes for each child

There is nothing like being away from home and having a child eating on your lap to make a big mess. Between messy meals, diapers leaking or who knows what else, several changes of clothes are nice to have on hand.

6.   One change of clothes for each grown-up

Last year on our way home from Vermont, we missed our connecting flight and had to spend the night in Detroit. Luckily I had all the snacks, activities, diapers and children's clothing I could possibly need, but I had packed all the grown up clothes in the checked luggage (to save space for kid stuff). I thought that because we were on our way home that if our bag got lost it wouldn't be a problem because we would be at home. Ha, I didn't think about a night in Detroit along the way. Now I always pack a change of clothes for Mama and Dada because it was bad enough to stay in a hotel when you are looking forward to your own bed, but if you have to wear yesterday's clothes too...not fun.

7. Baby Carrier

I have found it really helpful to have a baby carrier (we have an Ergo) for getting through the airport and helping little ones take naps on the plane. Our 11 month old had been walking for a while hadn't been in the Ergo for some time, but she found it comforting amid all the commotion.

8.  Hand Sanitizer and Baby Wipes

A flight attendant friend suggested this one: Squirt hand sanitizer on a baby wipe and generously smear all over the tray, arm rest, and any other hard surface your kids might be able to reach. It's great peace of mind that you at least tried to minimize the germs.

Suggestions for the front seat of the car

The same snacks, water bottles and activities that you would take on a plane with all of the other items on the list easily accessible in the trunk.

We start the trip with piles of snacks and activities in the front seat, and as the trip wears on they all get passed to the back. When we stop for a break, Mama and Dada move most of the stuff back to the front so that we can repeat the process.

Music CDs

It's amazing how music can calm fussy babies and help toddlers and preschoolers give you a break from the relentless questions. I recommend finding some that you all find tolerable. Two of our favorites are Dan Zanes and Laurie Berkener.

If you relax and plan for the unexpected, I'm sure you and the kids will be able to enjoy your adventures.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Utica Coffee Roasting Company

When most people they hear "New York," they think of New York City with its skyscrapers and bustling sidewalks. Some people don't realize that New York is a big state made up mostly of farmland, country villages and some small-medium cities. We have been living in the lesser known part of New York state for most of this summer. We are about 20 minutes outside of Utica, NY in a funky little farmhouse that we rented for three months. It has been a nice combination of a bucolic lifestyle with pretty easy access to quaint villages and the small city of Utica, NY.

A Utica poster at the Utica Coffee Roasting Co

Utica is like many cities in the Northeast and Midwest that thrived from the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries, but have fallen on hard times as manufacturing moved elsewhere and the economy changed. Utica thrived because of its location at the junction of the Erie and the Chenango Canals. It was a transportation hub and manufacturing center. Now the downtown is full of empty buildings and vacant lots (city revitalization plans that went awry) and it is bifurcated by highways that make it hard to walk around and explore on foot.

View when from the front door.

The case with some local treats.

My husband and I have a soft spot for these kinds of cities. We like to come up with schemes that could turn them around, and root for any efforts by entrepreneurs to contribute to the local economy and revitalize the city. Yesterday after the farmers' market, we visited one such business - the Utica Coffee Roasting Company. We both are fans of coffee and local food, so we immediately loved it. They carry local yogurt, Utica made bagels, Adirondack nut butters, soaps made with their coffee grounds and lots of other fun stuff. We're sorry we discovered it so late in the summer, but we'll plan on a second visit our last Saturday in New York state.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Getting Back to Our Roots

I can't believe it has been almost a month since I last posted. In the intervening time, we made a 5 day trip to the Burlington, VT area to visit family, and then the day after we got back some friends came up to visit from New York City. It was great seeing family and friends, but it has taken us a little while to recuperate. The girls (ages 3 and 1) really seem to thrive on their regular schedules and surroundings, so it has taken us a while to get back on an even keel. You of course want your children to be the picture of well-adjusted, even tempered, polite little ladies while visiting family and friends, but instead our two girls took turns crying, shrieking, running away from people, hunger striking, not sleeping and NEEDING MAMA. Uggh, so embarrassing. Of course I felt like people were looking at me like I have two heads, and were appalled that I let the situation careen so far out of control (some of this might be slight paranoia - my husband seems to think they did as well as can be expected under the circumstances - they are always his little angels :). Finally after two weeks back to New York house, I feel like we are doing better. (But, we are getting ready to depart to NYC in one week. We are obviously gluttons for punishment.)

This morning we headed out to the Utica Farmers' Market. We really enjoyed chatting with the farmers, and the kids got to help pick out some vegetables for the week. It was very exciting to see the summer's bounty. When we got here two months ago, the vegetable farmers only had cooking greens and lettuce. Now there is a great selection of vegetables to chose from. I was going to make a list of all that we got to make a meal plan for the week, but decided to take a photo too. When I started this blog, it was too document our CSA share in New York City (hence City Share for a blog title), and I posted a photo each week to be able to compare each week's haul.  I decided to that again today and get back to our roots.

Cabbage, cucumbers, red chard, collard greens, purple green beans, Yukon gold potatoes, beets, zucchini, scallions, golden cherry tomatoes, and Non-GMO corn

In addition to the nice selection of vegetables, we got some bratwurst, chicken thighs, ground beef and goat stew meat. After the Farmers' Market, we stopped by Utica Coffee Roasting Co for a light lunch. It was a great morning of family time, and gave me hope that our New York City trip might actually be fun. Off to plan this week's menu...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Birthday Season is Behind Us

We have been in birthday mode for about two months, and it is now finished. Our first daughter is feeling some withdrawal, but the adult members of the family are relieved. It's funny how birthdays seem to come in batches. For us it is the end of June/beginning of July. Baby girl has a birthday, seven days later is the toddler's birthday and then five days later is my husband's birthday. So yes, three birthdays in 12 days. Now under normal circumstances this might result in a whirlwind of celebrations that last about 2 weeks, and that would be a lot of cake and parties, but this year it was a whirlwind of planning, parties, cake and balloons that lasted about two months.

We really included the toddler in all aspects of preparations for her Rainbow Dance Party. The planning probably lasted about a month, and that's pretty much all she talked about for the month of May. We had the party at the end of May before we left for a summer in Upstate NY. Then we spent June hearing about her "real birthday" was coming and that she would be turning 3! (We created a bit of a birthday monster.) The baby turned 1 while we were on our VA trip, and we had a party for both girls with that part of the family. We celebrated the toddler's actual birthday with just our little immediate family, and then again two days later with Mimi and Grampie. Then it was two parties on the 4th of July and then a party for my husband. Whew, that was a lot of cake. We now have to get back on track with our eating. The toddler has started requesting cake with every meal, and we don't want that to be the new normal.

In our girls' minds, it is not a birthday without balloons. So we decorated NY house too. The owner had the branches already mounted, so it made it easy to hang the balloons.

The rainbow hand-kites from the birthday party helped us create a balloon chandelier.

Of course, the front porch needed some balloons too.

At this point I guess I'll also officially have to change my daughters' names. The baby is now officially a toddler now that she's one and has been walking since 9.5 months, and the toddler I guess is a preschooler now that she is three.

This has been our favorite cake to make for birthdays (besides the rainbow 6 layer cake - which was an all time crowd pleaser). It's simple, vegan/egg-free, and very easy for kids to help make.

Usually we have served the cake unfrosted with a dollop of whipped cream and strawberries. Our preschooler wanted "frosting" this time, so we went ahead and spread the whipped cream on the cake and did a giant outline of her first initial in sprinkles. Dada went all out and added ice cream to the mix too.

A good friend shared this recipe with me, and we have made it for every birthday since. Mollie Katzen, of The Moosewood Cookbook fame, has a kids' cookbook called, Honest Pretzels. In it there is a recipe for a great Made-In-The-Pan Chocolate Cake. We like to serve it with whipped cream and strawberries. This time around we frosted it with whipped cream.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Vegetarian Paleo Spaghetti Alla Carbonara

Shortly after we felt like we were settling in at "NY house" as our toddler calls it, we had to make a trek down to VA for a family wedding. After we saw how long it took to get acclimated in our NY rental, we flirted with the idea of canceling last minute. But it was our chance to see a part of the family we hadn't seen since our move to AZ, so we decided to brave it. We were gone for 5 days, and now we were glad we made the trip. The kids survived the 8 hour drive each way and sleeping in 3 different places, and it was great to get caught up with family. We like to think that we are helping make them more resilient and flexible, but we've yet to see the proof.

We were gone just long enough to make us eat up the food in the fridge before we left. The last night before the trip we found ourselves with lots of leftover spaghetti squash and I thought spaghetti alla carbonara sounded good. We only had one egg and no bacon, but we made it work. Vegetarian Paleo Spaghetti Alla Carbonara was born.

Our recipe was a bit skimpy on the eggs and the mushrooms, but it was all we had. I decided to write the recipe the way we ate it because it is always nice to know that you can stretch some sparse rations into a decent meal.

Vegetarian Paleo Spaghetti Alla Carbonara with a side of broccoli and salad.
Vegetarian Paleo Spaghetti Alla Carbonara

1 large spaghetti squash
2 T coconut oil
2 C mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 egg, beaten
3/4 C coconut milk
1 T herbes de Provence
Parmesan Cheese (if you eat dairy)-optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Bake spaghetti squash until it just gives when squeezed (about 45 minutes to an hour). Immediately cut in half to help it stop cooking. Remove the seeds. Scrape the squash out with a fork to create the noodles.

Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet and add the mushrooms. Cook until tender. Add the garlic and the spaghetti squash and heat through. Add the egg, coconut milk and herbes. Stir continuously for the egg and coconut milk to evenly coat the squash. Cook for 2 minutes. Serve and eat immediately. Great topped with some Parmesan cheese (if you eat dairy). Enjoy.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Living with Someone Else's Things

We have been in our summer rental in upstate NY for a couple of weeks now, and it has been interesting to live among other people's things. In the beginning, it was mostly about child proofing to protect the owners' treasures from our children's curious little fingers (and the baby's mouth). But with that task mostly behind us, we can really start to see how our life style and preferences influence our stuff. Especially in the kitchen. I noticed today while putting away dishes and pots and pans, that there are two muffin tins, four mini muffin tins, two round cake pans, two square cake pans and two bread pans. Clearly someone does a lot of baking. I don't have that much baking gear because I try to avoid sweets, and just make the occasional paleo muffins or birthday cake (not paleo).

We do a fair bit of cooking and we cook in large quantities, so we have big pots and pans at home. A big frying pan perfect for frying 5-6 eggs at a time, a large slow cooker perfect for preparing whole chickens, good sized roasts and big batches of broth, and a big dutch oven. We don't have any of those resources here, and it is interesting to see how we tend to cook smaller batches of things as a result. Several times we've barely had enough food to fill everyone up at dinner time - never mind enough leftovers for lunch the next day (always my goal). Luckily small pans don't get in the way of deconstructed dinner. We can easily cook all the components separately and combine them at the end.

Here is one of our latest examples: Spinach Salad and Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce

The baby's dinner. We haven't introduced tomatoes yet, so I pulled out the ground beef and pork sausage before combining it with the sauce. She loves the spaghetti squash because it is fun to eat, and we had her try the chopped raw spinach. She didn't eat much of it, but we work to keep exposing her to a variety of vegetable tastes and textures.

The  toddler's dinner. She has just recently started enjoying salad more, but she requests hers "Plain with no dressing" every night. She seems to think I will forget. And we keep her sauce on the side so she can chose whether she is going to mix it that night.

Mama and Dada's dinner. We like dressing on our salad, and I like lots of red sauce too.

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