Thursday, August 26, 2010

Easy Cheese-y Veggie Bake

As most of you know, David is a vegetarian. Honestly, three and a half years ago I was hoping this was a "phase" that wouldn't last. But, here we are, still a meatless family, for the most part. Maxwell and I do eat meat, but since it doesn't make sense to make different meals for everyone, we don't have much meat in the house and rarely eat it ourselves. I substitute the missing protein with soy, "fake meats," beans, and nuts.

Last night as I was making dinner, the whole house was smelling yummy, so I thought I would share one of my veggie recipes with you. Several of my mommy friends have asked what kind of dinners I make since we are vegetarian. Here's an inexpensive, super yummy, EASY recipe that I love! I originally found the idea on, but over the last 4 or 5 times I have made this, I have tweaked it enough to make it even better tasting...and better for us! Last night Dave came in from work raving about how great dinner smelled, and as I lifted the lid on the casserole dish to scoop away the leftovers he said, "Wow, it still smells fantastic!"

That made me feel terrific! I am not the best cook, but throughout the *almost* five years we have been married and eight that we have been together, I think I have gotten better. I like to try new things, and I am learning how to change things up to meet our needs. What I really love to do is bake, and I can follow a recipe like a pro, but because of my waistline and binging tendencies I just can't have those yummy baked goods around all the time!

Here's what you'll need to make the Veggie Bake, if you'd like to give it a go:

1 box cornbread stuffing mix (prepared per listed directions)
**I use vegetable broth instead of water**

1/2 cup diced yellow onion
6-7 cloves garlic, minced (more or less to taste! We're a garlic family, I think I used more than this!)
3 cups fresh broccoli, diced
2 cups frozen veggies (Last night I used corn, carrots and peas, as that's what I had on hand-you can be creative!)
1 14.5 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
cooking spray
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 eggs & 1 egg white
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 350*. Prepare stuffing mix as directed. Set aside.

Heat skillet and spray with cooking spray. Cook onions and garlic for 5 minutes over medium heat, add broccoli and heat for 2-3 minutes. Add frozen veggies and garlic powder and heat until cooked through. Finally, add beans and heat until cooked, about 5 minutes.

Beat eggs, egg white and parmesan cheese in a bowl.

Spoon veggie and bean mixture into a lightly greased baking pan or casserole dish, spread egg and cheese mixture over veggies.
This is the point where I thought, "Man, this looks good! I should take a picture an post it on my blog!" :o)

Top evenly with prepared stuffing and bake 20-25 minutes, until the center is set. Sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese and bake an additional 5 minutes. Remove and cool slightly before serving.

Adding the cheddar cheese stage

Finished Product! It kinda sets up like a quiche.


Something else that David and I have been doing...
At the beginning of the year we made a resolution, and for the most part have stuck to it. Every Sunday we make a menu for the week, and try new recipes. We've had quite a few hits and a few misses. The menu is fantastic though, as it streamlines our grocery shopping process, and it cuts down on over-buying foods that may end up going bad! One rule on trying new recipes: they can't have a ton of prep work or take a long time to prepare. I've got two little ones dancing around my feet when I cook dinner!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I feel GOOD!

Today I went to Target with the kids to get a new lamp for the living room. Maxwell accidentally knocked the old one over the other night, and I hate how dark it is in here without it.

When I pulled into the parking lot I saw this homeless boy that hangs out at the entrance with a sign that says, "Hungry, please help." I have seen him there off and on for about three years now, but that isn't how I first met him. When Maxwell was about five months old I went to Target to get a few things, and this kid and his mom were in the parking lot with windex and paper towels, offering to wash people's windows for either cash or school supplies. He was about to start school (his senior year, he told me) and needed notebooks and stuff. I had just gotten that car washed the day before, and I never really carry cash, so I couldn't help him out. And all I had purchased was baby stuff, so I didn't even have something that I could offer.

I forgot about him because I didn't see him for a while, but in the last year he has been hanging out by the entrance on Empire Avenue with that sign. I remember the first time I saw him after quite some time. I thought, "Wow-he looks so thin. Poor kid must really be homeless now." I think I even may have said that out loud to David once when we were there together. I really felt bad for him, and I wondered what happened to his mom, or if she was at the other entrance or something.

Now, I live in the Los Angeles area, so there are plenty of homeless around. But in my sheltered little Burbank, there aren't too many. There are a few that I encountered when I worked at the downtown Starbucks. They were a nuisance to me because they would come in and lock themselves in the bathroom for an hour to clean up, and I always had to go in there and clean the room when they were done because it was such a mess. When I worked at the Empire Center store (by Target), there was a big guy who would come in and pay for a coffee with a bunch of change. I thought, "If this guy worked so hard to get $1.85, why is he getting coffee at Starbucks? Why not go to a gas station and get twice as much?" I guess he just liked the good stuff and it was worth it to him.

But back to the Target boy. Today when I pulled in, he was there, with his sign. I couldn't stop thinking about how thin he looked compared to when I first met him three years ago, a boy about to start his senior year of high school. I wanted to help him. As I was getting the kids loaded into a cart, I thought, "I'll get him some groceries, but I'll buy stuff that I'll be able to use in case he isn't there when I leave."

I went into the store and got my lamp, then swung by the groceries and picked up a few things. I got a loaf of bread, peanut butter, jelly, a box of granola bars, a bunch of bananas and two bottles of water. Then while I was waiting in line to pay I threw in two snickers bars, a pack of gum and some Wet Ones. On my way out I stopped by the snack bar to get some plastic knives (since I had gotten him peanut butter) and a bunch of napkins.

As I was walking to the car, I started worrying. What if he isn't there anymore? Yeah, I could use this stuff, but I really wanted him to have it. I jogged a little, got the kids in the car, and took off. Instant relief when I pulled into the lane and saw him there with his sign. When the light turned green and I approached the young man, the car ahead of me stopped to give him some change. He said thank you and the driver went on his way. When I got to him, I stopped traffic, opened my window and handed him the bag, saying, "I bought you some groceries." He looked at me, then the bag, and as he reached for it he started crying. CRYING. "Thank you SO much," he said, with a shy smile. A car honked and I pulled forward, but as I turned the corner, I saw in my mirror that he was turned around, waving at me.

I felt so good, so sad, so inspired all at once. This kid stands out there on a regular basis. Has this never happened before? Does he just get spare change here and there? It must be a good spot for him, if he keeps coming back. But the surprise and gratitude I saw in his eyes was REAL, and it made me so sad. And then in the same moment I felt good. I smiled.

I found myself thinking of the lyrics to a song from Avenue Q, and I laughed out loud. That musical is a parody of social issues, but the lyrics I was thinking about were true:

All right, all right, here you go.

Ahh, thanks!

Take care.


What's the matter?

I feel generous!
I feel compassionate!

You do?

Yeah! I feel like a new person - a good person!
Helping other people out makes you feel fantastic!

That's what I've been trying to tell you-

All this time I've been running around thinking
about me, me, me - and where has it gotten me!
I'm gonna do something for someone else!

It's so silly that I thought of that song, but I did feel good after helping this kid. I DO feel good. Am I going to do this everyday? Every week? Every month? No. A couple times a year? Sure. And I know that there are a million other things I could do to help people who are less fortunate. I know some pretty amazing people that do great things! My friends are so generous and loving!!

My friend Kate goes to a homeless shelter once a week to make and handout food. My friend Annie is passionate about Fair Trade and is starting to blog about her experiences in learning and growing. My friend Anita collected baby stuff from a bunch of us to deliver to an orphanage a few months ago. I have several mommy friends: Carrie, Anita, Viv-who use cloth diapers to do their part to help the environment. My friend Renee' hosted a party at her house and made Easter baskets last spring to take to a local homeless shelter that houses children.

I am sure that many of my other friends do wonderful things to help their families, communities and peers. I am open to new ideas, but I am also willing to lend a hand!

Tell me!!! What do you do to help?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How'd She Do That?

Over the last month or so, I have had several different people (specifically Mommies in my playgroup) say some sort of that phrase to me: "How do you do it?"

Now, I don't feel like I am doing anything extraordinary at all. I get up in the morning, feed my kids and self, play for a while, pack up, take them out for the day, come home for naps, cook and eat dinner, walk the dog, get them ready for bed, PUT them in bed, AND RELAX! Yeah, right. First we clean up from all that and MAYBE I actually have a conversation with my husband, then we relax for a bit before we both pass out.

Isn't that what all wives/moms/husbands/dads do though? I'm not doing anything you aren't, believe me! But I figured I would share how I get it done, because having three or four people say that to me in just a few short weeks got me thinking about it!

Scenario One:
I posted my first blog in ages, and my friend Aine sent me a note asking me how I juggle it all. Her actual note was:
"I just don't know how you do it, run the mommy website, do blogs, keep the kids alive and well and leave the house at any time . . . I am clearly missing something, come on, admit it, you have an army of nannies or a secretary or a ghost writer???!!!
Now, she is referring to the play group website that I took over. All I have to do it post a few playdates each week and go to them. Easy Peasy! And as for the blog, getting to sit down once a week to vent to all five of my readers is a treat! Not a chore at all.

Honestly, the answer to this one is simple. Naptime! It took me more than six months to get my two itty bitties napping at the same time, but they finally are. In that precious hour or so of napping overlap, I choose to sit on my "arse," as I imagine my dear Aine from the UK might say, and mess around on the computer. It's my no-brainer mommy time!

This is both of them, in the same position, sleeping at the same time! CUTE!

Scenario Two
A two parter. Another mommy in our group asked two questions. First, how do I find the time to make all of Darian's food, and two, how did I "get" Maxwell to learn his ABCs and his numbers.

Okay, food question first. For the most part, I make all of Darian's pureed baby food. I did the first batch of applesauce, but now she is just eating the all natural applesauce that I give Maxwell. As for everything else, this is really only possible because I have such an awesome support team. My mom, "Nana Paulette," comes over for a few hours to play with the kids almost every weekend. One day when she did, I went to the store and bought about $40 worth of produce, and came home to peal, core, steam and puree' my little heart out. Then I freeze the purees in ice cube trays (and old baby food containers that I accumulated over time from when we used to travel with Maxwell). When I don't have Nana weekend time to do it, I wait until the kids are in bed. ALSO, and here's the biggie: since we did this with Maxwell, too, David now knows how to do it and he has made some of her food, too! He is a HUGE help!

These are pictures from when I made Maxwell's food about two years ago, but you get the general idea. I haven't taken any recent pictures of our "Food Factory."

To answer her second question, about Maxwell's love for letters and numbers, I have NO ANSWER! We do everything that I am sure all parents have done: we read all the time, we sing songs, etc. etc. For his birthday Uncle Steve and Aunt Nicole gave him the crayola easel and it came with those little magnetic letters and numbers. He loves those! For months they were his go to toys. He would line them up on the erase board, the coffee table, the fireplace bench, the kitchen floor. I never did anything out of the ordinary to really encourage his love of letters, reading and such; it just came naturally. I am sure all kids are different! I just hope this love of learning lasts and lasts!

Scenario Three
Another mommy in the group was apprehensive about taking both her kids out swimming or to the wading pools that we have been frequenting lately. She asked me how I do it. When I wrote her back, I told her that first and foremost, I am just lucky that my kids are so great! Maxwell doesn't run off, he listens pretty well, and Darian is totally chill. She'll play for a while and she will also just sit and play with a toy in her carseat or take a nap in there when she is ready.

We have been taking Maxwell to swim classes since he was 6 months old, so he is totally used to the water. Lately he is getting to be a better and better swimmer. He likes to swim around the pool with a noodle tied around him! And at the wading pool, which is only about a foot deep, he likes to stand on the edge and pour water from one can to another! ha ha ha!

And when we get together with our playgroup, I am constantly surrounded by amazing woman who in a very short time have become good friends. We are all there for each other and willing to help each other out in any way. And if I need someone to keep an eye on maxwell while I change Darian, or hold onto her while I help Maxwell in the pool, they are all ready and willing. THANK YOU ALL!

Scenario Four
Lastly, several mommy friends have mentioned how they don't get time to themselves to go out to movies or dinner with friends or to just be home to get stuff done around the house.
I really can't say enough about the answer to this one. My mom is awesome and babysits all the time. My in-laws come to visit frequently and take Maxwell out to do lots of fun stuff. And the number one answer to this is:


David really has gained a lot of confidence in the last couple of months in terms of being alone with both kids and taking them out and about. He gets up in the morning sometimes on the weekends and takes them to the bagel place so I can sleep in a little bit. He took both of them to Underwood Farms one day while I went to Orange County to hang with Shelly and Jill, see a movie and get my haircut. He comes home from work each night, plays with the kids, does bathtime and bedtime and always helps clean the tornado from the day. I love this man more than I can say, and I only hope that all the great mommies will in the end be able to answer...

How did she do that?

She has great people by her side!

Thank you all, because if you are taking the time to read my blog, chances are at some point you have helped me to be what I am today.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I am thankful for my friends...

and my blog! Last night I realized just how cool my little blog is. My dear friend Becki came over (thank you Becki!) for dinner. She helped me out with the kids, even got Maxwell to clean up his toys before bed, and gave me some much needed grown-up interaction in the evening, since David is still away in NYC. There were two or three stories that I started to tell her when she said, "Oh, you already told me that!" In reality, she had just read my blog!!! Yay! That's exactly why I am trying to be better about writing these days. I don't get to see and talk to everyone I love to share all these fun little tidbits of the kiddies on a regular basis, so I am so glad that you are all able to grow along side us and share in these fun memories.

And I need to keep the memories alive. Anyone who knows me knows how bad my memory really is. I look at Darian and try to remember what Maxwell was like at this age, and I find myself picturing photographs that I have taken in my mind, rather than picturing actual memories. It really does make me sad that I am going to forget these precious moments in time.

Maxwell and Darian both do such fun little things. Like how Maxwell runs around in a circle and asks me to sing Ring-Around-the-Rosie for him. Or how he "tickles" random objects and sings the ABCs while drumming on the bench by the fireplace. Saying he wants to hold Darian, and scooting up behind her to hug her, and then getting bored after 2 seconds and (lightly) pushing her aside and climbing over her. How he barely tries to do something, and then looks at us and says, "It's not working," shaking his head, with his hands up in the air. Luckily, I got that one on the video of him whistling for Tucker!

I want to remember Darian and her army crawl that can shoot her across the living room in about 4.5 seconds. (And how she has little rug burns on the sides of her tummy now from doing it so often!) How lately she has been growling at us, and we say there is a dragon in the room. I love how she just looks up at me and smiles so big, and in those moments, I KNOW she loves me. Even more so, how she looks at Maxwell and you can see the adoration in her eyes. Like when he sits near her, and she just stares at him with a smile, and then grabs his face to gnaw on his chin, nose, cheeks.

Becki made me so proud last night by saying that she brags about my kids to other people. :o) It's nice to know that other people recognize how awesome they are, and it's not just me because I'm the mom!

I am so lucky to have such great friends...girlfriends to talk to, mommy friends to share mommyhood stories, family friends who know me better than anyone. I am grateful that Maxwell has a fun little group of friends to play with, too. Seeing him give his little friends hugs and kisses goodbye is one of the cutest things I've ever seen. Thank you all for reading, and more than anything, for being my friend.