Saturday, November 30, 2013

Giving Back

I hope this Saturday after Thanksgiving finds you all healthy, happy and Thankful.  I know that for most people, the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving involve lots of shopping and even more indulgence over and above the Thanksgiving feast.  There is nothing wrong with that in the least.  I'd just like to remind you to remember those less fortunate than we are.

I have talked about my Mom's group before, my IndyMoms, a fantastic group of women who never cease to amaze me.  One of those Moms, Satch, is the owner of the Blue Spatula in Indianapolis.  She organized a "Make them smile" event for people to get together and put together bags for the homeless.  We not only gathered items needed but put the bags together and delivered them to the homeless in downtown.  

As we Moms always do, it's not about spending a large amount of money, it's the little things that I have put together with the little things that another Mom brings and so on and so forth, that add up to make a wonderful bag of stuff.  Included was not only the usual items needed for winter in Indiana, hats, gloves, socks, scarf, and lightweight fleece blankets but also a wash cloth, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste.  We also included bottled water, lunchmeat & cheese sandwiches, pb&J sandwiches, carrots, slim jims, crackers with cheese.  You get the idea.  We had food they could eat now and food for later.  And no one really spent a lot of money.  

My family and I went down to help assembly and distribute the bags.  I should point out that this wasn't just us Moms, everyone brought their whole families.  We had so many children there who were so anxious and willing to help.  The loved the assembly line process of filling the bags and they all got to carry them as we walked the couple of blocks to deliver them.  

I know for me, I was so very touched to see the appreciation of the homeless person receiving the bag as well as the looks on the faces of the children as they realized that THEY were making a difference in their own little way.  Many of them, including my own 9 year old wanted to do more.  He was upset that there were some who didn't get a bag.

As we walked back, there were so many adults in tears and children who had made new friends and had so many ideas about wanting to do more.  It was fun listening to some of their ideas.  It was refreshing to see so many giving back to those less fortunate.  

I don't know if you'd call it a sign (no pun intended) but when I got home and turned on my computer to finish the homework I had left when we headed downtown, but a friend has just posted this sign to Facebook

This is something that more people need to remember.  No matter how little we have or how hard life may be at the moment, there is always something to be thankful for.  (Thanks for posting this sign Michelle).  

There are always those less fortunate than us out there too.  If hands on, face-to-face isn't your thing, please remember that all year, but especially this time of year the  homeless shelters, food pantries, and other agencies can use some extra help to provide some holiday cheer for those in need.

I'm going to throw a plug out here too.  Satch and The Blue Spatula at Jumbo's in the Market are at the City Market downtown.  If you'd like to support a small business that gives back to the community, I'd highly suggest the Chicken Pot Pie and the Dark Chocolate Mousse is divine!

Just know that big or small, organized or a quiet drop off, we can all do something to help.  Little things add up to great things!  How are you going to help?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving hints!

Good morning!  We are in the home stretch with school, the semester will end around December 12.  I am more than ready for that day, it's been a tough one.  Working around homework, I am trying to get ready for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a time to be together, enjoying each other and the day, not about one person spending the entire day away from everyone else in the kitchen. 

I don't know about you, but I am not a fan of the thought of busting my butt the day before and getting up at the crack of dawn on Thanksgiving to get the Thanksgiving meal together.  There are things that you can do early to make it easier.  

Just a few hints:

You can make pie crusts a head of time and freeze them right in the pans.  It doesn't take much time at all to thaw when you're ready to fill or bake.

Dinner rolls can be done early too.  You can make the bread dough early, follow your recipe up to the point of shaping into rolls.  Freeze them on a wax lined pan, then put into a Ziploc bag.  

The day or so before Thanksgiving you can pull them out and let them rise.  You can also par-bake them so they're almost done.  Then on Thanksgiving day, you can finish baking them for a couple of minutes and have fresh rolls that don't tie up your precious oven space.  

Have the kids help by setting the table the night before.

If, like us, you have stuffing and chicken and noodles at dinner, make some chicken stock a few days ahead of time and portion it out to what you need for each item.  Homemade is easy to make and doesn't have a ton of salt or preservatives in it.

I also make the noodles a week or so in advance, dry them out and store in a Ziploc or a Tupperware type bowl with a good sealing type lid.

I also save the heels of bread or any that may have gotten a little stale and I dry them out in the oven.  Generally, after I have baked something or made dinner in the oven or what have you, I'll put a tray of dried bread in there after I've pulled out what I'm baking and shut the oven off.  Make sure the bread is in a single layer, as the oven is cooling, there is enough heat to dry it out well.  Gram used to include some leftover cornbread as well.  You can put those last couple of pieces or so in the freezer until Thanksgiving and thaw them out and dry them in the oven.

Remember, if there is any cutting, chopping, dicing, etc. that you can do the day or so before, do it.  You can store the items in Ziploc bags in the fridge, if you get the air out of them, they'll lay flat and stack.  If you dice up onions, double bag them to control the smell in the fridge!

It's no secret that I am a list maker.  The joke is that my lists have lists...LOL.  Anyway, make a menu for the day, go over it and decide what you can do early and what is definitely a last minute to-do.  Make a to-do list of things a week early, a few days early, the day before and the day of.  This will help you keep the day running smoothly.  It will also let someone out of the kitchen a bit to enjoy time with family and friends.

If you haven't started yet, make a list...Thanksgiving is in a few days!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Kids in the kitchen

One thing that I enjoy immensely is when my children want to be in the kitchen cooking with me.  They all like to bake because, well let's face it, you have yummy sweets to eat at the end of baking.  Cooking is different because it's dinner and involves veggies.  LOL.  I've tried to make sure that they all know the basics of cooking whether they wanted too or not.  It's just really nice when they want to do it.  

My kids have always helped in the kitchen.  From the time they could walk.  Even a 2 year old can set the table.  We call my kitchen "the cave", it's small, hard to brighten up and secluded from the rest of the house.  So, it's always been that when little, they've been in the kitchen with me so I knew what they were getting into...LOL.  Anyway, even at 2 years old, I would stack the items needed for dinner on the counter next to where I was working and I'd give the little one one plate at a time and tell them, "this goes where Mom sits" or "this goes where you sit".  If they take one item at a time, it may take them most of my prep time to set the table but they are occupied and helping.  And if a plate gets broken, it'll be ok.  Just remember to not use the "good" china for this.

Kids can also help with the food prep.  Even little kids can wash veggies, tear lettuce, help to mix a salad.  Just remind them that "tossing a salad" doesn't mean throwing things...LOL  They can put butter on bread, they can help clear a table.  There are lots of things that little kids can do.

As kids get older, they can actually help with meal preparation.  First and foremost, always put safety first!  I found this safety list for parents on JustMommies and this one for older kids on the Kraft website.  Take a minute to go over the safety rules and once your child gets into cooking, maybe even print them and put them on the inside of a cabinet door for them to refer to.

I decided to write about this today because my son had worked on a badge for health that required him to plan some meals but not a lot of cooking.  He decided he wanted to help here and there anyway, normally he helps to bake and set/clear the table.  

Anyway, he has kinda gotten into it, even helping me make Belgium Waffles last weekend and now asked me to help cook for a whole day, breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I know he can do it.  The idea of the menu kinda scares me, but I'm game.  We're gonna work on the menu later this week.  

A few helpful hints when working with kids in the kitchen is to make sure you plan extra time.  Keep it simple.  Think tacos over fried chicken!  LOL  Bring your patience, you're gonna need it.  Run a sink of soapy water, you'll need it.  And make sure they help with the clean up.  Make it fun (even the clean up), put on some fun music and turn it up louder than normal.  

Don't forget to laugh and have fun!  It can be so much fun to have your kids in the kitchen with you.  Embrace it (and the mess) and ENJOY it!