Working Girl

Summer at House of Bedlam means camp for the kids and back to work for me, which also means less time in the kitchen. Since I’ve started working our cooking time has been interrupted in a huge way. Getting creative home-cooked meals on the table every night is just not happening. And my kids have eaten more hot dogs this summer than I want to admit. The irony is that I’m working at a fitness club! You’d think I’d be cooking even healthier but instead I’m thinking more about medicine balls than meatballs. I’ve had to come up with a few shortcuts and also make a few compromises along the way…

My boys aren’t thrilled that I’m working but they’re ecstatic about eating more “junky” food as they call it. So we compromise and sometimes its fruit with their hot dog instead of fries. They promised me they would try to eat some of the veggies and fruit I pack in their lunches. Some days they do, some days not. And on Fridays when the camp serves “junky” food they can eat whatever and however they want.

So what’s a girl to do? Just like I would suggest at the gym, if the program is not working, switch it up. If your schedule changes, figure out how to make it work. Get up earlier, stay up later, become more efficient with the time you have. Stick to the basics and don’t overthink it or try to do too much. And above all, whatever life is throwing your way at the moment, do the best you can with what you’ve got!

Leftover Sloppy Joes

Ingredients

I tsp olive oil

1 lb. ground turkey

1 cup leftover roasted vegetables, or thawed frozen vegetables

1 8oz can tomato sauce

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

2 Tbsp. ketchup

1 tsp dry mustard

Salt & Pepper

6-8 hamburger buns

Method

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Season the ground turkey with salt and pepper and add to the skillet. Cook turkey, breaking up, until no longer pink.

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While turkey is browning, combine vegetables and tomato sauce in food processor until you have a chunky sauce. If you are using leftover vegetables that already have salt it is probably not necessary to season your sauce.

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Add vegetable sauce, brown sugar, ketchup, and dry mustard to the cooked turkey. Simmer for about 15 minutes on low heat to allow sugars to caramelize.

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Serve on hamburger buns along with leftover vegetables and lots of napkins!

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 8): “Amazing”

Dylan (age 6): “This rocks!”

Liam (age 6): “Love it”

And sloppy it was!

Pasta Mystery

Is there anyone out there with a child who loves pasta? Just a few of you, right? Pasta is easy, pasta is quick but pasta can also get so boring. So when I see a new shape of pasta at the supermarket it’s a welcome diversion from the usual penne and rigatoni standbys.

In the pasta aisle last week I spotted a shape called Fideo. I vaguely remembered an episode on Chopped where one of the chefs cooked this shape of noodle so I picked up a box and went home to Google my new find.

So what is Fideo? Some people call it Mexican spaghetti. Basically it is a thin noodle similar to angel hair that is used in soups or in place of rice. The part that is unique is the cooking method. Instead of boiling the noodles in water and draining them, the noodles are sautéed until browned and then cooked in a soup or broth with spices and vegetables.

I can’t believe I’ve never heard of Fideo before but I’m thrilled to have discovered it. My kids loved this dish. It was easy and leftovers filled lunchboxes too, which was an extra bonus.

Chicken & Vegetable Fideo

Ingredients

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1 clove garlic

1 small onion, diced

2 carrots, grated

1 small pepper, yellow, red or orange, diced

2 cups Fideo pasta, or vermicelli broken up

2 cans tomato sauce, 8oz

3-4 cups water

1 Tbsp. oregano

1 Tbsp. cumin

Salt & Pepper

1 cup shredded chicken (optional)

Method

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add garlic to the oil and cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant, stir often so garlic does not burn. Add onion, carrots, and peppers to the pot and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.

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Remove vegetables from pot and set aside. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the pan. Add the pasta and saute, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are browned. This will take about 8-10 minutes.

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When the pasta is browned add both cans of tomato sauce to the pot along with the water. Use 3 cups of water if you want the dish on the drier side. If you want more of a soup, add the fourth cup of water.

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Mix the vegetables back into the pot. Add the oregano, cumin and salt and pepper to taste.

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Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed and pasta is tender, about 7-8 minutes. Remove from heat. The pasta will continue to soak up the broth as it sits.

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Top w/shredded chicken and enjoy!

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “Can we call this Fernando?”

Liam (age 5): “Onions? No thanks”

Dylan (age 5): “I can say FiDAYOOO – very yummy”

After I added a little shredded cheese to Liam’s he quickly forgot about the onions!

barkTHINS – snacking chocolate – Product Review

This week at House of Bedlam we got to review one of my favorite things – chocolate! It’s a tough job but someone has to do it…

What are barkTHINS?

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barkTHINS snacking chocolates are a handcrafted new twist on traditional chunky chocolate bark. Super thin slivers of rich, fair trade dark chocolate combined with delicious salty or sweet add-ins. The company uses only Fair Trade Certified chocolate, which guarantees the cocoa bean farmers who they purchase from are getting a fair price, following good agricultural practices, and investing in their farms and communities. All of the ingredients are also in compliance with the Non-GMO Project Standard, ensuring the highest possible standards for GMO avoidance.

So Many Choices!

barkTHINS come in seven flavors:

Dark Chocolate Almond with Sea Salt

Dark Chocolate Pretzel with Sea Salt

Dark Chocolate Mint with Sea Salt

Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed with Sea Salt

Blueberry Quinoa with Agave

Dark Chocolate Toasted Coconut with Almonds

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel with Sea Salt

It was tough to choose out of the many different combinations but we settled on Dark Chocolate Mint and Blueberry Quinoa for our tasting.

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The Tasting

Usually when I ask my kids to try something they suspect it’s a new vegetable and are not always receptive. I’m sure they thought I had somehow mixed broccoli into this chocolate but they certainly didn’t mind trying it. This was not a hard sell, they loved both flavors.

And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “I think the mint is deeeelicious”

Dylan (age 5): “Oh so yummy” “I like the mint better A LOT”

Liam (age 5): “I like ‘em both but mint a tiny tiny bit better”

Dark Chocolate Mint was the clear favorite…   And all three requested I put a piece in their lunchboxes this week!

Where do I buy barkTHINS?

You can buy this product at most major supermarkets – Check out barkTHINS.com for a store near you. Or become a member of the barkFAN community and follow on social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest.

Vacation Eats

Eating clean at home with three young children is hard but on vacation it’s nearly impossible. By eating clean I mean as little processed food as possible and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. As hard as I try to find “real food” on our travels we rely heavily on “road fare” to keep us going.

It starts with the plane ride. Going through the airport I scope out some fresh fruit that can easily be packed for the trip. Besides fruit the options are fairly limited. And since it is vacation, we also settle on some decadent pastry and extra-large coffees for Brian and myself to get through the flight. So far so good. An hour into flying things break down as the kids get bags of processed snacks from the smiling stewardesses. And let’s face it, at 30,000 feet in the air I’m willing to do all it takes to keep them happy and quiet. Doritos at 9am? No problem!

Once we land things get even harder. Hungry children on the road seem to need cheese and bread in enormous quantities to keep them on the move. So we find “family friendly” restaurants aka loud, greasy food joints with large TVs. And it’s a good thing most serve pink lemonade (in 24 oz. cups) because the kids usually need a serious pick me up.

One memorable meal was at a brick oven pizza place. We had breadsticks, then pizza, followed by the house special dessert called Beach Balls, pizza dough ball covered in sugar and Nutella. Okay, it was ridiculously good but I think I had my carb quota for the entire month just in that meal. And I wasn’t going to admit it but we had the same meal later in the week, minus the balls, but double the breadsticks… what can I say those breadsticks were delicious!

Don’t get me wrong – we had a fantastic and much needed week away with the kids. But it’s nice to be back in my own kitchen where we can eat a little healthier! For our first night home I’m making a simple recipe that can be quickly assembled and cooked on a baking sheet. Sort of like throwing things in a slow cooker – toss in and forget about it.

Shrimp & Peppers

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked brown rice, cook according to package directions

3 bell peppers, assorted colors, seeds removed and cut into strips

1 large onion, cut into ½ rings

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp coarse salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 lime, cut into wedges

Marinade for Shrimp

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp cumin

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp coarse salt

½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

2 lbs shrimp, large, peeled and deveined

Method

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss peppers and onions with olive oil, salt and pepper on a large baking sheet.

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Bake in oven until peppers are soft and caramelized, about 40-45 minutes. Mix halfway through to prevent edges from burning.

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Brown rice takes about 40 minutes so once you put the peppers in the oven start cooking the rice.

In a large bowl whisk together the olive oil, cumin, garlic powder, salt, red pepper, and black pepper. Add shrimp and toss to coat.

When the peppers and onions are done, remove from oven turn up the heat to 450 degrees. Lay the shrimp on top and return baking sheet to oven.

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Bake until shrimp are cooked through, about 5-8 minutes and then toss the shrimp, peppers and onions all together.

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Serve over rice with a squeeze of lime. Enjoy!

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “Shrimp! The lime gives it an interesting flavor”

Liam (age 5): “I’ll take a pepper but not onions”

Dylan (age 5): “The red peppers are better”

I’m pretty sure they liked the breadsticks better but not a bad verdict overall.

In A Pickle

Need some last minute gifts but have no time to shop? Instead of dragging your kids to the mall, get them into the kitchen and cook some gifts. The beauty of giving a food gift is that it will never be the wrong size. You don’t have to wait in long lines to pay for it and there are never any shipping costs. 

This year we decided to try our hand at pickling and make some jars of sweet pickles. In our house we call them pickle chips but the traditional name is bread and butter pickles. They are delicious on a sandwich or burger, but just as good straight from the jar.

Making pickles is surprisingly easy, although it may take a few attempts until you get just the right spice level for your taste. Our first attempts were a little too vinegary but after we had perfected the recipe, our pickles tasted as good as the Pickle Man at our local farmer’s market. (well, almost…)

All you need to get started is a few simple ingredients, small glass jars, labels and ribbon to dress up your gifts. We opted for a very kid-friendly, not so spicy pickle but there are so many spices that work well in this recipe; celery seeds, cinnamon sticks, cloves, or coriander seeds just to name a few. Experiment with a variety of combinations to see what works for you.

Sweet Pickles Chips

Ingredients

Note: Recipe yields about 2 small jars of pickles

6 mini or 2 regular size cucumbers

2 Tsp Kosher salt

1 1/4 cup water

3/4-cup rice wine vinegar

1/2-cup sugar

1 Tbsp mustard seeds

 

Method

Wash cucumbers thoroughly and pat dry. Cut cucumbers into coins, 1/8 thick.

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Place sliced pickles into a colander. Sprinkle with the salt and toss to evenly coat. Place the colander over a bowl and let sit in refrigerator for about an hour. Rinse off the salt and pat the cucumbers dry. Place the slices in your jars and set aside.

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In a small saucepan add the water, vinegar, sugar and mustard seeds. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and allow the brine to cool. Pour over the cucumbers in jar. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

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Note: Unless you are sterilizing your jars and following proper canning procedures these pickles are only good for up to 2 weeks, and must be kept refrigerated.

And the VERDICT is: 

Matthew (age 6): “Much better than our first batch! Not as good as Pickle Man”

Liam (age 4): “Too spicy, don’t like these little balls”

Dylan (age 4): “I l sure do love these pickles”