Redeeming St. Patrick’s Day and a Shamrock Craft

I’ve never really liked St. Patrick’s Day. People seem to just use it as an excuse to drink too much beer and pinch unsuspecting bystanders who made the unfortunate choice to not wear green on March 17th. This year, however, I’m seeing things a bit differently. You see, I just got back from my first trip to Ireland where I learned a lot about Irish history and who St. Patrick really was (yes, he was a real person). So this year, instead of eating green eggs in a drunken stupor, I am going to try and redeem St. Patrick’s Day for my kids.

Who Was St. Patrick?
First of all, Patrick is not really a Saint (you know, the capital “s” type canonized by the Catholic church). And he’s not even Irish. Patrick was born in Scotland and, when he was about 16 years old, he was captured in a raid and brought to Ireland as a slave (this was in about the year 405–a really long time ago). At the time, Ireland was a radically pagan place– considered to be about as far away from God as any place on the planet. Patrick’s grandfather, however, had been a priest. While Patrick remained in bondage in Ireland he clung to his faith and relied on prayer. Then, after 6 years, he managed to escape and return home.

When Patrick was in his 40’s, God brought him back to Ireland–this time as a missionary (I love God’s sense of irony!). Patrick had become intimately connected with the Irish people during his years in slavery and history tells us that one of his first converts was the very man who had held Patrick in captivity. Patrick went on to spend the next several years of his life preaching and spreading the gospel throughout Ireland. He was so successful in his missionary work that he turned the once-pagan island into one of the early centers of the Christian faith.

Legend has it that on one of Patrick’s missionary journeys through Ireland he came to a castle at the top of a rocky crag called the Rock of Cashel. I had the great honor of visiting the Rock of Cashel a few weeks ago when I was in Ireland:

Ireland Allisons iPhone - 0132

It was here at the Rock of Cashel that Patrick (reputedly) used a shamrock to tell the story of the trinity and then baptized King Aengus. Basically, the illustration of the shamrock trinity is that each of the leaves represents one of God’s persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. While they are each separate and unique, they are all part of one whole.

As you look out from the Rock of Cashel to the Irish countryside, it’s easy to imagine what that day must have been like:

Ireland Allisons iPhone - 0136

For The Kids: Shamrock Collages
This week I told my 2 year old about St. Patrick. I told him how he was a man who lived a long, long time ago and that God used him to help other people learn about Jesus. We looked at pictures of shamrocks and I explained the trinity to little David using Patrick’s illustration. It was awesome!

Then the former-kindergarten teacher in me had to get crafty. We decided to commemorate our little shamrock “lesson” with a simple project.

I started by gathering an assortment of green things: scrapbooking paper, pom-poms, foam shapes, tissue paper and a large piece of green cardstock. I also put a dime-sized squirt of glue into a bowl with a Q-tip to use as a paintbrush:

IMG_1348

I used a pencil to draw a shamrock shape onto the cardstock (heavy construction paper or cardboard painted green would also work), then I cut out the shamrock:

IMG_1349

I sat David down at the table and gave him all of the green things I’d collected. He helped me tear the tissue paper into small pieces (this is great fine-motor practice, by the way!). Then I showed David how to use the Q-tip to “paint” glue onto the shamrock where he wanted to stick his green things. Whenever we’re using glue we use the mantra “just a dot, not a lot!”. David had a lot of fun picking out the decorations for his shamrock and sticking them on.

IMG_1355

He required quite a bit of supervision and direction (put the glue here…ok, now pick out another piece of paper..ok, now put the paper on top of the glue…please don’t lick the glue…). In the end, though, his little shamrock turned out pretty darn cute! And the best part of all: we’ll have something meaningful to think about this St. Patricks day.

IMG_1356

Sweet Curried Chicken Recipe and This Week’s Menu

Teaching_photos_0095

When I was doing my student teaching I wrote a bio for my class so they could get to know me. And, me being me, I wrote half of the bio about how much I love cooking and eating. One sweet first grader brought me in a recipe card the next day. On it, he had written down one of his favorite family recipes (OK, his mom had actually written it, but he was so proud handing it over to me that he may as well have penned it himself). The recipe was for what he called “yellow chicken”–baked chicken with a sweet curry sauce. Now, 8 years later, that little first grader is now a teenager–and his favorite family recipe is now one of my favorite family recipes. I love this recipe because it’s quick to throw together and it’s a real crowd-pleaser. I’ve made this chicken dozens of times and it’s still just as delicious as the first time I made it. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Zach’s Yellow Chicken (Sweet Curried Chicken)

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
*Optional* Cooked rice and roasted veggies for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put the chicken breasts into an 8-inch square baking dish. In a small saucepan, combine the butter, honey, mustard, curry powder and salt; cook over medium heat, stirring until the mixture begins to bubble. Pour the curry sauce over the chicken breasts and bake until cooked through (about 30 minutes).

We like to serve the chicken over cooked rice. I also like to make a pan of roasted veggies to put in the oven at the same time as the chicken: wash, rinse, peel and chop into small pieces whatever veggies you desire (potatoes, carrots, squash, onions, and yams all work great). Toss the veggies with some olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and put the pan of veggies in the oven at the same time as the chicken. They should all be done at about the same time (just poke the veggies with a fork to see if they are soft). One more thing: the sauce is insane. I usually make a double batch of the sauce because I basically douse my entire plate in the stuff.

What I’m Cooking This Week
-Sweet Curried Chicken (recipe above)
-Grilled tri-tip and mashed potatoes
-Steak stir fry (using leftover tri-tip)
-Crockpot chicken Taco soup
-Fried rice and potstickers

If You Give A Mom A Mocha: A Parody

One of our favorite activities is going to the library. We go almost every week and come home with bags brimming with new books to read together. On our most recent trip to the library (one that involved an overly-tired, screaming at the top of his lungs baby and a potty-training 2-year old with diarrhea) we got a version of the classic If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Numeroff. David loved If You Give A Dog A Donut so much that we decided to bring home another called If You Give A Pig A Party. The books all follow a basic pattern–if you give (some animal) a (treat) they’ll ask for a (something to go with the treat). That “something” will remind them of something else, and they go on a silly adventure finding the things they are reminded of.

I thought it would be fun to write my own version of the If You Give A…. books. And, since I’m a mom, I’m going to write about what’s nearest and dearest to a mother’s heart: coffee.

If You Give A Mom A Mocha

saltedcarmelmochaIf you give a mom a Mocha, she’s going to want a cardboard sleeve for her hot cup.
The cardboard sleeve will remind her that today is recycling day, so she’ll rush home to put the recycling bins out by the curb.
As she’s moving the recycling bins to the curb, she’ll notice an empty diaper box in the bin. She’ll want to go to Costco so she can buy more diapers before the baby runs out.
While she’s at Costco buying diapers, she’ll pass by the food court. The pizza will smell delicious.
She’ll want a slice of ooey-gooey pizza. And, since the kids are already whining for lunch, she’ll decide to stop and get some.
After she eats the pizza, she’ll remember that her “lose the baby weight diet” doesn’t involve noshing on pizza.
She’ll go home and change into her running shoes and load the kids into the jogging stroller for a little post-pizza workout. It will take about an hour to get everyone ready and out the door.
When she gets about a block away from home, her 2-year old will say that he has to go potty.
She’ll run back home to the potty as fast as her legs can carry her. As she’s pulling back into the driveway, her 2-year old will say that he doesn’t have to go potty anymore.
She’ll take him out of the stroller and see why he doesn’t have to go anymore.
She’ll take off his wet pants, socks, and shoes and sit him on the potty anyway.
Then she’ll hose off the stroller and leave it in the driveway until she can come up with a better cleaning solution.
When she gets back inside from hosing off the stroller, she’ll see that the 2-year old has gotten into the pantry. He’s dumped a whole bag of Cheerios onto the floor and the dog and the baby are licking them up.
She’ll get out the vacuum to clean up the Cheerios. The vacuum will remind her of how disgusting the rest of the floors in her house are, so she’ll vacuum the other rooms while she’s at it.
While she’s vacuuming she’ll vacuum up a stray sock.
The sock will remind her that she promised her kids to make sock puppets with them this week.
She’ll get out all of the craft supplies and help the little ones make new toys out of their old socks.
Once they have sock puppets, the kiddos will want to put on a puppet show.
She’ll get out an old cardboard box to make a stage for the puppets to perform on.
When she sees the cardboard box, she’ll be reminded of the cardboard sleeve that they put on coffee cups.
Once she starts thinking about coffee, she’ll want a mocha. And you know what? I think she’ll deserve one!

Quick and Easy Toddler Lunches

Feeding a toddler is difficult. They tend to be picky eaters, they eat on sporadic schedules, and they need a lot of assistance at meal time (I wonder at what point can I expect my child to safely wield a steak knife?). Lunch is always a bit of a struggle for me because it happens to fall right in the middle of the day between the time that I’ve just cooked and cleaned up breakfast and have to start prepping for dinner. I have, however, found a few tried-and-true lunches that are my go-to’s on busy days. Note: I always offer milk or water and at least two fruits and/or veggies with each meal. My 2-year old will always eat the fruit and, more often than not, he goes for the veggie, too. Here are some of my faves:

IMG_1346

  1. peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (when I’m feeling fancy, I’ll even make them into “t-balls”–use the top of a glass to cut out the sandwich bread into circles–and use string cheese to make the “T” and the “bat”. If you know my son, you know that this is about the coolest lunch in the world to him). 
  2. “deli tray”- cubes of lunch meat and cheeses
  3. breakfast foods: oatmeal, scambled eggs and toast, a muffin and yogurt–breakfast is usually my son’s favorite meal of the day, and who says you can only eat those things in the morning anyway?
  4. quesadillas with salsa “dip”
  5. anything on a stick: fruit, cheese cubes, chunks of meat, grilled veggies
  6. mac and cheese (yeah, it’s terrible but he loves it…)
  7. smoothies (you can sneak all kinds of good stuff into thesese guys!)
  8. leftovers from whatever we ate for dinner last night
  9. chicken nuggets and sweet potato fries
  10. pasta (he usually loves any kind of pasta)
  11. hummus with crackers, pita wedges and veggies for dipping
  12. tortilla roll ups (lay out a tortilla, spread on some cream cheese, layer on lunch meat/cheese/spinach/lettuce, roll up, and slice into rolls)
  13. grilled cheese and soup
  14. prepared tuna fish spread on crackers (or with goldfish crackers swimming in the tuna fish “sea”)
  15. healthy nachos (multigrain crackers baked with shredded cheese, beans, etc.)
  16. english muffin pizzas (1/2 a whole wheat english muffin spread with pizza sauce, topped with shredded mozzarella cheese and whatever toppings you like, then baked in the oven)
  17. “beanie-weenies”–baked beans with little hot dog pieces
  18. yogurt parfait (plain greek yogurt layered with granola, berries, and honey)
  19. mini whole-wheat bagels topped with peanut butter, bananas and a drizzle of honey
  20. “pigs in a blanket” (wrap a ‘lil smokies sausage or slice of turkey inside 1/3 of a crescent roll, then bake)

I’m always looking for new ideas, so feel free to leave a comment if you have any other great lunches!

Weekend Waffles and This Week’s Menu

photo (22)

Most mornings in our house are a bit hectic–we’re all in a rush to get ready and get out of the house. But Saturdays are different. Saturday mornings are usually our one chance in the week to laze around (unfortunately, not to sleep in–we do have two children under the age of 3, after all) and enjoy each other’s company. And where I come from, that calls for a good meal.

We’ve started a bit of a tradition involving baked goods and, usually, lots of syrup: The Saturday Morning Breakfast. The meals are usually pretty simple–pancakes, waffles, or scrambled “cheesy eggs”–but they’re always delicious and they get our weekends off to a good start.

This weekend I made one of our all-time favorites: Great-Grandma Doreen’s light-and-fluffy as air waffles. They’re made with whipped egg whites so they puff up beautifully–and then they literally melt in your mouth with each bite. And, if you’re like me, you know that the only way to eat waffles (or, really, just about anything) is smothered in whipped cream and fresh berries. They are so delectable that our 29-pound 2-year old polished off two of them in one sitting. So, go ahead, make these waffles for your family next weekend–I bet you can’t stop at just one!

Weekend Waffles Recipe

2 eggs, separated
2 cups flour
2 cups milk
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup canola oil

Beat the 2 egg whites until stiff (forming soft peaks). In a separate bowl, combine the 2 egg yolks, milk, and oil. In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour , baking powder and salt. Add the egg/milk/oil mixture to the flour mixture and blend well. Fold in the stiffened egg whites. Spray a waffle iron with cooking spray, then spoon waffle batter into the iron and cook according to your iron’s instructions. Serve hot with mounds of whipped cream (or whatever other toppings you like!). Makes 6-8 waffles.

This Week’s Menu

Monday: Slow-Cooker Pot Roast with carrots and baby red potatoes

Tuesday: Bible study potluck–I’m bringing Caesar salad with homemade dressing (I may have to share my recipe for the dressing on here some time. It’s the best Caesar dressing ever because there are no gross little sardines involved.)

Wednesday: Butternut Squash Soup–This is already in my freezer from when I made it a few weeks ago

Thursday: Southwest Turkey Burgers with Avocado-Garlic Aioli–an amazing recipe that I got from a friend, and they’re actually better cooked inside on a griddle (I’m not quite ready to brave the wind and the rain for our outdoor grill yet!)

Friday: Dinner with friends

Saturday: Roasted Chicken and Rosemary Ravioli–Pre-made from Costco. They’re delicious.

Sunday: Chicken Broccoli Rice Bake–made with cheddar cheese and a bit of curry powder for some kick