Cooking for Kids When You Have Constraints

Radcliffe has become very interested in food and recipes and helping me come up with a menu for meals. But, as any mother out there knows, it’s hard to cook good meals during the school week when you are carting children to after school activities, doing homework, and dealing with bedtime.

I have food allergies, which means I almost always make our meals from scratch (which takes forever), and I am limited to chicken and seafood as our protein…which gets redundant. It’s frustrating to work within the time constraints we have and my food constraints. Throw in two picky eaters, and well, you know the rest.

One of my dear friends, Alessandra Macaluso, just co-wrote a cookbook with Amy Godiwalla called What a Good Eater! You need to take a look how beautiful this cookbook cover is:

whatagoodeatercover

I mistakenly thought this cookbook what just for baby food, but it’s not. It has recipes that can be adapted into baby food. And they’re all good for you. And the photos are so beautiful, you’ll want to lick the pages of the book, but I digress…

Alessandra and Amy allowed me to share this recipe with all of you. It’s super easy, fast, and good for you…perfect for other families like mine for a weekday meal.

iron-chicken-dance

IRON CHICKEN DANCE

RECOMMENDED AGE: 8 months plus
YIELD approximately 4-6 chicken thighs
FOOD STORAGE refrigerator friendly, freezer friendly
PREP TIME 8 minutes
COOK TIME 40 minutes

This is called the Iron Chicken Dance because the chicken thighs are nutrient rich, packing all the iron we know is so important for our babies’ little bodies, and the salsa makes it “dance.” Don’t be intimidated by the term “sal-sa”—it’s super easy to toss together!

INGREDIENTS
• 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, preferably organic
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt (optional: we only recommend adding salt for babies 12 months plus)
• ½ teaspoon pepper
• ½ teaspoon dried herb mixture, such as Herbes de Provence or Italian seasoning
• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• ½ tablespoon unsalted butter
• 1 (15-ounce) can organic black beans, rinsed and drained
• 2 cups fresh mango, diced into ½-inch-by-½-inch chunks (for time savings, check if your market sells this precut)
• ¼ cup fresh cilantro, minced
• Juice from 1 lime, seeds removed

DIRECTIONS

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Season both sides of the chicken with salt (if using), pepper, and dried herbs. Set aside.
  • In a Dutch oven or large oven-safe pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the butter, and allow it to melt. Once the oil and butter are hot, add the chicken to the pot. (The chicken should sizzle when you add it to the pot.) Sear the chicken on both sides until golden brown (about 2–4 minutes per side). Transfer the pot to the oven and bake uncovered for approximately 25–28 minutes or until the thickest part of the chicken reaches 175 degrees. (If you do not have an oven-safe pot, transfer chicken to a baking dish and place in oven.)
  • Remove the pot from the oven and add the black beans. Cover the pot with a lid and let the mixture rest for 5 minutes. Add the mango, cilantro, and lime juice to the pot. Serve, cutting into smaller pieces ap-propriate for your baby, or puree the baby’s portion to desired consistency, adding small amounts of water as needed.

Tip: If your baby seems hesitant or generally has a difficult time eating meats, try mixing in 1 teaspoon of sour cream. If she still seems hesitant, puree a small portion of the dish and spread it on a slice of whole wheat bread, creating a “pâté sandwich.” This may help make meats more palatable to babies/toddlers adjusting to the new texture.

For an even easier and faster prepping your meal (cutting your chopping time in half), I suggest getting a Vidalia Chop Wizard, and store your cilantro in these fancy jars from Infinity Jars. You’re going to want these jars for everything, they are airtight ultraviolet glass jars and bottles and apothecary containers, designed to preserve the freshness of your herbs, spices, and natural products.

This book has even more delicious recipes in it, which I am really looking forward to cooking for the boys, with the boys. Check out their website for more information: What A Good Eater!

Living a Life Free of Regret Through Gratitude

livingalifewithoutregret

Have you ever been completely honest with yourself about regret? As in, have you ever indexed all of the things you wish you didn’t say or didn’t do?

What about the things you didn’t say when you had the chance?

I had a notoriously tough childhood. Sexual abuse fed an eating disorder, and then I was raped. I was an angry person, and gratitude seemed to be something for the favored people, the ones with the perfect lives. In retrospect, as a forgiving adult, I understand the why behind this sentiment.

Years of therapy helped me target turning points in my life that helped to steer me in a healthier direction. One such turning point was my Aunt Josephine, a woman I only met once and yet that is the singular defining moment in my childhood that made me question the difference between “good” and “evil” people.

During a particularly dark time in my childhood, I attended a rare family event. While there, Aunt Josephine smiled down at me, with light from the windows shining behind her, casting the shadow of an angel, and gifted me with an enameled daisy chain bracelet, with no expectation of anything in return.

I held onto that bracelet and then regrettably lost it in years later in one of my many moves. I became obsessed with finding the bracelet and searched vintage stores, then eBay and Etsy, to no avail. I was obsessed because I wanted to tell her thank you. Thank you for showing me that not all adults are evil and that people are inherently good and want to give with no ulterior intent.

Years went by, 30 years, actually, and the bracelet crossed my mind every few months. I need to write her and tell her thank you, I would think in a fleeting moment, but I never did.

Then, I was driving one day when I got the phone call that she had died. I had to pull over because I was overcome with regret. Why the hell did I let 30 years pass without telling someone I was grateful for their influence in my life? It’s something she likely had no recollection of, but that five-minute interaction made me question everything.

This is what regret looks like: a gnawing feeling that you need to fix something that won’t go away. I couldn’t fix that I never properly thanked Aunt Josephine, but I could start to make an intentional effort to thank the people in my life that make a difference, big and small.

That November, I sat down and started writing thank you notes. I wrote about 15 that year. Some were for big things, such as, “Thank you for believing in me years ago and helping me discover my path.” Others were small, such as, “Thank you for being so kind on a day that I was struggling and no one else knew about it.’

Around the same time that I started writing the thank you notes, my parents were able to track down an identical version of the daisy chain bracelet I had so desperately been searching for.

This was a few years ago, and it has quickly become my favorite Thanksgiving tradition. This past year, however, made evident the importance of tradition in my life and the importance of expressing my gratitude.

Last November, I had a stack of about 10 cards. I don’t remember who all was in that stack, but I remember one in particular was addressed to a close acquaintance of mine whose advice and opinions had been influential in certain decisions I had made the previous year. We briefly had a conversation about the card the next time we spoke, and the reason I send them out. He told me it made him make a more conscious effort to thank people in his life.

Four months later, I spoke to him on a Friday afternoon. At the end of the conversation, I asked him how everything was going in his personal life, since the conversation up until that point was professional. He said, “You know, for the first time in a really long time, I can say that I’m really good and really grateful. I’m happy at work, the wife is good, and the kids are happy. And they all know I am thankful for them.”

The next day, he was in a car accident and died later in the week from his injuries.

I really struggled, and still struggle, with the reasoning of the universe. Why does bad stuff happen?

Later that week, for probably the 10th time, I was discussing this with my husband. He finally stopped me. “He was happy, he knew he was loved, and I think he probably died without regret.”

He was right. And I didn’t wait until this Thanksgiving to write thank you notes. I started writing them furiously shortly after that conversation. I won’t miss out on another opportunity to tell someone thank you for being a positive light in my life. As much as this exercise helps me to be mindful and keep me grounded in gratitude, what if that person needs to hear what you have to say? That what you do and say actually matters, no matter how tiny the gesture? And that, in turn, through your gesture of gratitude, helps them?

I implore you to put your gratitude out into your world. Days of gratitude on social media is a start, but personal thank-yous and direct expressions of gratitude are what will keep the regret for words left unsaid away.

This was originally published on Scary Mommy, ©2015.

Writer’s Block & Laundry are an Ugly Pair

Birthday Walk on the Beach

I’ve been dealing with writer’s block for the last two to three months. If you’re not a writer, it’s an excruciatingly frustrating experience. I liken it to this: you put dirty clothes in the washing machine and feel relieved you took the first step (let’s say this is opening your laptop). You know that the wet clothes need to be put in the dryer, but you put it off and have to rewash the clothes because of mildew because you waited too long (you get distracted by anything else in your life and do not write). You finally put the clothes in the dryer and push start (you set aside time to write and then you stare blankly at the screen while you try to translate words onto a page). The clothes sit in the dryer for two days because you just cannot, for the life of you, muster up the follow-through to get the clothes out of the dryer and put them on your couch (you then block out time, yet again, to write and words start to flow and you have a fantastic idea, and then you stop). The clothes sit on your couch for two days, then you fold them, and then for some reason, unclear to you at best, you are unable to put the clothes up, an act that will most likely take ten minutes (you are paralyzed by the words on your page).

This is where I’ve been, paralyzed by the words on my page and unable to process the thoughts in my head and translate them into tangible paragraphs to read.

I had an epiphany this month, well two actually. First, fear of failure is paralyzing to me. This is not a new concept to me, but it circles back every once in awhile. When I went viral two years ago, I was terrified I would never again move people with my words as I did then. I was wrong, of course, as time has proven to me, but I had to continue to put authentic writing out.

My second epiphany is that I needed to process the last few months. Since July, our town has struggled with a multitude of stressful events. Alton Sterling was killed by a police officer. Shortly after, a man came into our town and shot and killed police officers. Our town dealt publicly with riots and bad press. Then, a flash flood destroyed almost half of our town, with almost no national attention. To top it all off, the coach of the LSU football team was fired, and their beloved mascot, Mike IV, died last week.

Since July, my writing partner Harmony Hobbs of Modern Mommy Madness and I used our page Hobbs & Hayworth to address some of the issues our city has faced. First, we held a round table discussion to talk about race relations in our town and how to talk to our children about current events. You can watch that here.

And then we got to work getting the children and school affected by the flood the school supplies and uniforms they need. At last count, we’ve been able to help about 5,000 children in our local parishes, all thanks to everyone who stepped up and helped us when we asked. Read more about this here.

I have a lot more to write about all of the above, but what has really weighed on me over the last few months is the revelation of people’s character. It’s been said many times, but now more than ever, I believe that in times of challenge, people reveal their true selves. It is truly remarkable that once the fog of survival fades, everything becomes crystal clear. People’s true motives, deals made with their devil behind the scenes, and what others say about you when you aren’t around are revealed, even when you can hardly stand to look with one eye open at the truth.

I don’t know about you, but I like to know where I stand with people, no matter how painful that knowledge is. This brings guttural disappointment, and feelings of embarrassment if you have been blind to something right in front of your eyes. But this is life. Times of trial and challenges reveal that friends will become strangers, and strangers will become family.

The question remains, what do you do with this knowledge, because once exposed, you can never go back to the way things are. It changes you at your core. You can be bitter, or you can use it as fuel to once again, re-evaluate.

For me, my circle continues to get smaller. And yet, my life has continued to get much larger, so much fuller, and more fulfilling. This is a trade off I will gladly take and not look back.

I turned 38 recently, and as I have written many times before, it is a painful reminder for me. But it’s more than that. It is my personal litmus test as to whether or not the weight of my baggage is worth it. I will tell you, unequivocally, even though I would not wish it on my worst enemy, it is so worth it. I am loved, and surrounded by family, friends and colleagues who fuel me to be better. My commitment to myself, as I head towards 40, is to remain true to myself and act with integrity. People will continue to question why I do the things I do and continue to say negative and untrue things about me behind my back, but I am the only one who has to answer to God and the universe for my actions. And that, knowing who I am, is the greatest gift I have starting my next year on Earth. I wish it for all of you, because once you know it, it provides incredible freedom to live an even more authentic life.

And so, I am holding myself accountable to put the dirty laundry in the wash and finally put this writer’s block up on the shelf where it belongs.