Single moms and speaking 'little kid' language

I have been caught saying little kids words over the years, although my kids are getting older.  I will say shoozies for shoes, hannies for hands, I will still point out choo-choo trains, and I will still defend forever, even with conclusive evidence against the fact, that Santa Claus did exist.

I still find myself explaining or pointing out things, to these children of mine, things that they must know, and they will say that they know.  My kids aren't babied, they do have responsibilities and have had some small but paying, part time jobs.  But I will still remind them that the oven door is hot, or that knife is sharp, and I get the look and tone that says 'I know, Mom'.

So I figured out that I have spent 17 years with little kids in the house, from a step-daughter Crystal years ago, until my baby reached 7 years old.  This doesn't count the years of 7 and older, only 7 and younger.  So it is no wonder that I still say shoozies for shoes, and point out choo-choo trains, I've been talking this way for 17 years.  I don't know how to stop.

Wave bye bye now!

Kids, cooking, then and now

I was raised by a single mom.  My parents split up when I was about 10 and my sister was 1.  Luckily, my mom had a teaching degree, (from 15 years earlier but only taught for 2 years) but had also been a secretary, and got a good job in a government office relating to post-secondary education.   Now my sister and I were daycare or latch key kids.  My sister went to daycare, where she got hurt from jumping down from too high and had to have a cast, as well as escaping out the fence with a buddy and getting a mile from the daycare along busy streets.  I was left to my own devices.

Because my mom worked full-time, I would sometimes make dinner, and I started doing this when I was 12 or 13 years old.  I would make the same type of meals that she did, nothing fancy but edible.  It would have been Kraft Dinner with sausages and cole slaw, or spaghetti and green salad, or homemade submarines with bacon, or meat pies with corn and baked potatoes.  Nobody showed me how to cook, I just happened to notice and it really isn't that difficult. 

So as my kids got older, they wanted different things, and because I hate cooking now, I have started showing my boys how to cook.  Tonight was hamburgers.  Because we don't have a large frying pan, the frozen burgers were baked.  There was the usual talk about E-coli and the invisible trail of contaminants that they must be aware of.   There was also the talk about the heat of the oven, the hot pans, the oven mitts, the dripping grease, the meat's wrapper, etc. 

But they still aren't eating like I used to eat.  Those burgers I made were from a pound of hamburger mixed with oatmeal, egg and onion.  That spaghetti sauce was homemade and from the freezer.  Cole slaw from scratch and green salad not from a bag.   Today, it seems that home cooking is considered something that is made at home, even if it is totally precooked, prepackaged, loaded with preservatives and costing just as much.

Wisdom from the old Roseanne show?

Remember that show, Roseanne?  The average family being two working parents and three reasonably normal children.  The usual additions of less than ordinary friends and relatives.  Although I would generally never have gained any wisdom from this show, I did once. 

It was a usual episode of the ups and downs of daily life of a busy family trying to get 36 hours of work done in a 24 hour period.  Roseanne, the mom, is trying to get an answer from DJ, the youngest.  She has asked him a question and is now wanting an answer.  DJ finally says that why should he answer, he hasn't talked in three days and no one has noticed.

I have often wondered if this could happen in a busy household, and I think it could.  Just because he isn't talking doesn't mean that he isn't looking at you when you are talking, nor does it mean that he isn't doing what you just asked, like homework.   Maybe when he didn't say good night back, you either didn't notice, or maybe you thought he didn't hear you.   He's not talking to his older sisters, cause they don't really talk to him anyways.

Often my kids and I have great conversations in the car on the way to school.  But I've had jobs where I started before they got up and ended after they went to bed.  When I worked two full time jobs, I still saw the kids in the morning and drove them to school, but when I returned at 11 pm at night, they were in bed.  What if one of them had not talked to me for three days?  I'm sure I would have noticed, I'm always talking to them about something.  But what if my day job had started earlier?

Grocery shopping hell

I remember grocery shopping when the kids were little, and there are few things more stressful than that.  It is grocery shopping hell.  I went from single and grocery shopping with one of those little carry baskets, swinging it carefree down the aisles, filling it with gourmet cheeses and wines, to 6 1/2 years later having a newborn in a carry seat attached to the top of the large family sized shopping buggy, a one year old sitting in the kid seat and a 6 1/2 year old walking besides. 

Cheese Whiz is my gourmet cheese now and I really could use a couple bottles of wine!

Fast forward a couple of years and the kids are more mobile, they are about 4, 5 and 10 1/2.  Before we enter the vortex of "Can I have . . . ", "Can I get . . . ", and "I want this",  I am reading the Riot Act, yet again, about how we are going to behave in the store.  I have a red pepper in the buggy when one kid pushes the buggy (accidentally) into another kid.  We've been here two minutes, and I just can't put myself through this, I swear we will eat bread and water for dinner forever, I say we are leaving, we abandon the buggy and go home. 

These days, I will take the youngest, but not so young anymore, kid to the store with me.  Sometimes our conversations are like this:

"Can . . ."
"But . . ."
"Mom . . ."

Lately, I've been quicker on the draw, and now it goes like this:

"C . . . "
"B . . ."
"M . . ."

Now it's getting funner to grocery shop, try it yourself, see how fast you can say "no" when they start to ask for something.  (I'm serious, it's really funny, you've got to try it!)

Kids and taxes

When my kids were small and had little money, I decided that I would pay the taxes on all of their very own purchases. Which, at that time, wasn't very much money. But as time goes by and their purchases get bigger with the money they earn, my tax portion is also getting higher.

I mentioned earlier about my boys and their delivering of phone books to earn money. One of my boys, put his phone book money together with some xmas money, and had enough to purchase a brand new larger screen HDTV for his Xbox. This TV costs $495., so far so good. But when both mafia-like taxes and that stupid lets-look-like-we-are-doing-something environment fee are added, this $495 TV is now costing $595. That's an addition of 100 &%#&%#@ dollars!

And I don't have the heart to make them try to come up with another $100 dollars. That $495 saved for the HDTV had already been in the plans for the past year. My kids just don't have any other money. So it's Mom that will come up with the difference. Because that's what moms do.

I hate cooking!

Cooking and meal times for a family are nothing like commercials and television shows.   I still recall, very clearly, when I had prepared yet another decent meal (chicken burgers, mashed potatoes, and corn) and had everyone's plates on the table, and calling them to come and eat dinner.  Not one of them wanted dinner at that moment.  I remember that one or two of them wanted to stay outside and play and another stated that he was only going to eat the mashed potatoes.  I stood and the entry way between the kitchen and the dining room looking at these plates of food, on a table with no people, and having either a small breakdown or an epiphany.  I have had enough, my cooking days were over!

So along this minimalistic cooking ideology, I seldom go over 1 pot or pan, and the following is a list of some of my favorite easy recipes.

Sloppy Joes

I used to love those!  I love messy sloppy food, like overfilled tacos, tortillas, and burgers.  I will heat up a pound of the ground round, either add the canned Sloppy Joe mix or create my own and pour over toasted bread or buns.

A mix that you could create yourself is basically what you may already have.  For instance, a 1/2 jar of spaghetti sauce and 1/2 can of tomato sauce and a little chili powder.  If you are feeling exceptionally chef-like, saute onions or peppers or what have you, in the pan first.

Leftovers?  Pour over rice or spaghetti noodles or create a sloppy joe salad. 

Haystacks, a treat kids (or men) could make:

So if it is that easy, then I'll do it. This has got to be one of easiest chocolatey treat ever to make. You have 2 basic ingredients and you can add up from there. You need:

1. chocolate, baking squares will do;
2. Chinese noodles, the chow mein type.

You melt the chocolate and add enough noodles so they are covered, then drops blobs of this on wax paper or similar, let it harden, and presto!

You can upgrade this basic recipe by adding peanuts, coconut, raisins, etc.

Bread Pizzas

single moms, cooking, recipes, momsI love pizza, and I have made it from scratch, but I have discovered a pizza miracle.   I use slices of bread, roll them flat, and add the tomato/spaghetti/pizza sauce, all the toppings, and put it on a cookie sheet to bake.   Presto, done in 5 minutes.

Considering that it's homemade, that makes it cheaper, more nutritious, and faster than any frozen or delivery pizza, which makes it even better.  This is so easy for kids to do as well.  You can use other types of breads and add your choice of toppings, like spinach. You might have to chop up some toppings and grate some cheese, but over all, you can't beat bread pizzas!

Leftover magic meals

In my fridge I had numerous leftovers from the past couple of days. One of which I actually cooked on. It went like this:

one frying pan with oil,
added the rest of the diced onions that I had chopped up for the kids hotdogs,
added the rest of the greek salad to the frying pan,
added the rest of the roasted potatoes,
added the small leftover amount of broccoli.

Fried it all up, removed from pan and fried up two veggie burgers, added mustard to the burgers and ketchup to the potatoes. It was good stuff. And only 1 pan.

I have a friend who is one of those amazing non-conforming cooks. Doesn't use a recipe and creates vegetarian masterpieces. And because she doesn't use recipes, neither does she record her creations, hence we had called them all 'MacArthur Park Recipes', never to be made again.

Real Cinnamon Toast

Do you remember cinnamon toast? The real cinnamon toast. I think it must have originated from being poor, where one would not have a 'proper' topping for toast like jam, cheese, or peanut butter. My kids will have a few (okay, 4 - 6) slices of this toast at night before bed sometimes. I usually have multi-grain or brown bread, the-least-chemical margarine, and organic cinnamon mixed with organic raw sugar, (that's approx. 1 tsp cinnamon to 3/4 cup of sugar, all shaken up in a plastic container).
I bought that cinnamon toast cereal once, and it was horrible. Those squares were hard enough to break a tooth on, and all I could taste was sugar. Read the "Cereal is stupid food" article for more on cereal.

Try a piece of good homemade cinnamon toast, it's warm, naturally sweet and a little crunchy, all at the same time. And so much better for you. Although this does involve a toaster, don't consider it as really cooking.

The perfect meal:

I am not a big fruit eater, and knowing this has caused me to always have fruit around for the kids. One way to get myself to eat fruit is to spice it up a bit somehow, and lately that somehow has been whipping cream. I have come to the conclusion that any food is better with it. If you use the real whipping cream that you have to whip up at home, then that is the safer and natural version of this topping. The point here is to improve our eating habits without increasing our consumption of chemicals from spray can whipping cream (which is really an oil/chemical hybrid product).

Grated mango and yogurt tastes like a dessert. Grated apple with celery and pine nuts and a touch of cinnamon.

Fruit is so good for you and so natural, it's important to find a way to get it in you, and if that means whipping cream, so be it!

Yes, eggs for dinner

Eggs are so thought of as a breakfast that it is considered odd to have them for dinner. But not around here. Omelets are great as you can add practically anything to them to make them seem special. Again, like the nachos, anything available is great, from mushrooms, onions, peppers, tomatoes, any cheese, leeks, black olives, any type of meat, and green onions. Got zucchini? Make a Frittata, simply saute the grated zucchini for a few minutes first, then continue in an omelet type fashion. Got previous leftovers? Add fried mashed potatoes or fried rice as a side dish. Eggs are inexpensive, so cook the whole dozen, like I do.

Sweet potatoes can be used in place of the zucchini for a Frittata-like omelet. Eggs are a simple uncomplicated protein with trace elements that are not in everyday foods. Don't let the cholesterol boogie man scare you away from eggs. Fact is, any meal that you cook from scratch is eons better than any prepackaged food that you can buy.

Years ago, I walked into the kitchen and burst into tears because I had to make, yet one more dinner that would be met with some complaint and wasted food. We'd had had nachos a couple of times, and now, all of a sudden, I realized, that in order to save my sanity, it would have to nachos EVERY NIGHT! Think about it, a plate (no pots), nachos chips (straight from the bag), grated cheese (cheddar but who cares at this point), and whatever else. And the "whatever else" varied from what was on hand, being chopped spinach, onions, green onions, tomatoes, peppers of any color, black olives, pork and beans type of beans, meat (almost any kind, sliced ham or pepperoni), then salsa and sour cream. (That's salsa bought bulk in jugs). And presto, the kids can prepare their very own plate of nachos, and you have retained your sanity.

Wraps to the rescue

Wraps are good too. Throw almost anything in them and serve. Tonite I spread salmon sandwich fixings on one, covered in grated cheese, and broiled for 4 minutes. You can make pizza-like flat wraps the same way. Scrambled eggs, peanut butter and jam, everything is one step up on the gourmet scale if you use wraps.

If you get those seasoned wraps, that's even better! Multigrain wraps? Even better yet! Hot wraps? Cold wraps? I love bread, but I don't want it all the time, and you can't cram in tons of salad in a sandwich like you can for a wrap. Check them out, and let your imagination create something easy and nutritious.


Salad in Bags?

I remember a lady behind me in the supermarket who had a large bag of premixed and ready to eat salad. And I had thought what a lazy person she was, she can't even cut up some lettuce. Well, a couple of years later, and those salad bags are looking pretty good. But there's got to be something wrong with them, like tons of chemicals. I check, there are none. It's just salad, great looking and fresh salad, just waiting for dressing. You can even eat the whole bag if you want because it is salad.

I love those salad bags. I still buy lettuce in the produce section, just to prove that I am not the laziest person on the planet, but by the time you cut away and bad, dirty or wilted sections, and calculated the cost vs. balance or whatever, the wonderful salad bags may have been the same, if not less, in cost.

I made the best salad dressing the other day. It was mayo, milk, shot of mustard, dill and pickle juice. I surprised myself at how good it was.

Feeding teenagers/bottomless pits

I still have two teenage boys at home, and I am in awe of the amount of food that they can eat in a day. Probably their weight's worth. But I have to cook something, or they will find whatever crap there is, and fill up on that.

Baked Spaghetti:

1 roasting pan (this one is medium sized)
1 jar of spaghetti sauce
1/2 package of spaghetti noodles (well any noodle will do, but kids don't think so)
cheese (preferably mozzarella, whatever you can afford to add)
water, 1 sauce jars worth.

Put sauce in the roasting pan, AND add a full jar of water.
Add some vegetables if you like, mixed veggies are good.
Break up the noodles into 4 - 5 pieces, they cook better this way.
Stir it all up, some noodles will stick up for now.
Bake, with lid on, for 1/2 hour, at 350 - 375.
Now you have 1/2 hour to do something, or not.
Remove roasting pan, give it a good stir to unstick some of those noodles, and return to oven, with lid.
Now you have another 1/2 hour.

With my baked spaghetti, I made a makeshift greek salad, it was missing a couple of the ingredients, but we all really liked it.

At the full one hour cooking time, remove from oven, and eat. If you are really lucky, there will be leftovers for tomorrow.

I used a medium roasting pan, consider using a larger roasting pan and doubling/tripling the recipe.

Boiling water is cooking too!

I do remember not having a microwave, among other small kitchen appliances, but once we can have hot water in 2 minutes, there seems no going back. On the other hand, nor do I want to nuke my food either, and I have found a compromise in making tea.

I do have a coffee maker, with a timer of course, but I have discovered that I can use it for other not drinks like tea! I put in my water, throw a couple of tea bags in the coffee pot, and turn it on. It is faster than boiling a kettle and requires no further effort. No listening for the whistle, no pouring of hot water into a tea pot, no turning off of an element, no usage of two separate items in order to make tea, and no reheating of tea in the first two hours. I like making tea now.

Also in my quest to seek healthy solutions in every day life, even if I don't apply it, is to add a green tea bag to my coffee. This way, you get your green tea benefits, but in a coffee. I should mention that I do use decaf varieties in both my coffees and teas, or I'd be seriously wired after one of these.

Other Peoples Cooking - my favorite!

I was at my sister-in-laws for dinner tonight. It was a feast like usual, she doesn't forget one little thing when she has the whole family over. Every type of drink you could want, every type of salad dressing, and always more than enough for everyone. Sometimes you get to take some home with you too. With these types of events, food is just the excuse to get everyone together. Tonight, like other dinners, I enjoyed the conversation pieces. I heard that when Suzie's dad enters a hardware store, the stud finders go off. I heard brother-in-law Paul's musical recording where for one chorus, his voice was altered like an old 78 rpm record. For someone like me who hates cooking, I so appreciate the time, effort and costs involved for a meal like this. Thanks Suzie!

Other peoples cooking, that's my favorite type of food now. Not necessarily Chinese cooking or vegan or something in between, but anything that I don't make myself. I would like to eat that everyday.

Cereal is stupid food:

I know that we have been brought up on cereal. Well, everyone except me, as I was never a cereal kid. I am a toast kid (now grown up of course). And I believe that the consumption of cereal has contributed to the over weightedness of our country. There is such a lack of nutrients, yet over abundance of simple carbs, chemicals, white flours and sugar, that it is inconceivable that this could, in any way, be considered good for you. The smattering of synthetic vitamins that are added cannot possibly make up for the high level of immune suppressing ingredients.

So although I hate cooking, I have trouble just letting myself eat whatever is within groping distance. My breakfasts are usually lunch-like, and eaten mid morning, like half of a sandwich and diluted real fruit juice.

There is no law written that cereal has to be eaten in the morning, or at anytime. Nor does one need to have toast for breakfast. Think about those cereal commercials and the phrase they use, "part of a nutritious breakfast". Think about that phrase, are they describing that the entire breakfast with cereal is nutritious, or are they saying that the cereal is part of an already nutritious breakfast. Look around the table, you will see a small glass of fruit juice, small glass of milk, and some fruit, and sometimes toast. Don't believe that the cereal is the nutritious part, because it is not.

If you want grated apple and whipping cream for breakfast, I can't think of anything better.

Stupid dinners for smart moms:

I ate popcorn for dinner last night. This truly was not my intention when I got home. I have healthier things to eat. Fact is, the season premiere of one of my favorite shows was on, and I didn't want to miss anything and I only had 2 minute intervals to prepare something. I am trying to make up for it today with yogurt, banana, carrot sticks, red pepper sticks and natural salad dressing, and green and lemon tea instead of coffee. Of course, this didn't stop me from getting a medium iced cappuccino on the way to work.

I have noticed, that if I eat crap first thing in the morning, that sets the eating/craving tone for the day. Yet if I get up and avoid anything sugary or white-floury, I don't seem to get those intense cravings for crap food.

Factory ordered kids

Sometimes I look at my three kids and wonder how it is that I am this fortunate in life.  I have one daughter and two sons and I realize that there is nothing I would change about them.   So over the years, I have told them how lucky I was to have them.  That my life with just them and me in it has been the best years of my life.

Once when we were all in the livingroom checking the TV listings, I again was telling them how wonderful they were and how much I loved them, when out of the blue I hear,

"Hey Cam, our favorite movie is on in 5 minutes!"

I stop, and with a smile I say,

"Hey, I was pouring my heart out here."

But I also realized a bigger truth.  They already knew how much I loved them, this wasn't surprising or new, this was comfortable and known.    I couldn't have factory-ordered better kids!