Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wordful Wednesday - Just one of several looks that get her out of trouble...

There are just so many things I love about this picture. Where to begin?

1. The cropping action. I busted out my sweet cropping skills on this one. So, you really have no idea how messy this room was when I took this picture. Ha!

2. The ensemble. Kaylee remains stubborn in her fashion choices. Even though this picture was taken in the morning, this is the outfit she insisted on wearing to bed the previous night. Let's discuss. Okay...we've got purple pony sweatshirt, black knit tights (which were not orginally paired together for her outfit, by the way...) and her pink and brown Sketchers. Beautiful, no? And yes, she slept in the shoes.

3. The makeup application skills. Sure, she got some makeup on her shirt. And her tights. And all.over.my.FLOOR! But, I have to give this girl some props for her mad skills in makeup application. Would you just look at the precision of the blush on the cheekbones? Just like Mary Poppins - practically perfect in every way. Seriously. She doesn't miss a beat when she watches me put it on every morning. She knows exactly where that makeup goes, people.

3. The bedhead. Oh, the crazy bedhead. My child finally has enough hair to have crazy bedhead!

4. The look. Really, do I need to offer an explanation for why I love the look? It kept her out of timeout for getting into my makeup - little stinker...

This post is a part of Wordful Wednesday, hosted by Angie at 7 Clown Circus. Go check her out!

Fighting the blahs.

All I want to do today is just stay home, put on a marathon of Barney for Kaylee, and read a book. I started a new one last night by Jennifer Weiner called Little Earthquakes, which was a recommendation from a friend. I'm already hooked and don't want to put it down.

I'm just feeling lazy and unmotivated and not wanting to get out of my cushy robe to do much of anything. I know we all have our days like that.

But, it's sunny outside. Spring is in the air (and everything in bloom is making me want to scratch my eyes out because my allergies are ALSO in full boom). My child thrives on fresh air. I miss the girls at our Mommy and Me exercise class, and I haven't gone to the gym in ages.

So, at some point in the next 62 minutes, I'm going to wash my face, put on a dash of makeup in an attempt to hide my puffy allergy eyes, put on my workout clothes, load Kaylee up in the car, and prepare myself for getting my butt handed to me in our boot camp class for an hour

Because I know it will do both of us some good. I'll feel energized and refreshed and hopefully it will jump start my workouts again.

Plus, when I was changing Kaylee's diaper after she woke up this morning, I asked her what she wanted to do today, and said, "Go to zoo? See da bear?" And...I just can't bear to keep her cooped up in the house all day after such a cute request.

So, the gym and the zoo it is.

(Written on 3.29.10)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

iRead. iCook.

It's an understatement to say that my whole life changed when Kaylee was born. While I was navigating the waters of my early months with her, there were lots of things in my life that I let go - like daily showers, getting outside regularly, housework - the usual things that take a back burner when a new baby comes on the scene. I could only juggle so many things, and unfortunately, one of the things I dropped for several months was reading for fun.

Last year I really got back into reading, and I tried hard to always have a book going on my nightstand. Reading has always been my favorite before-bed ritual. It slows my mind down, calms me, and if I read until my eyelids become heavy and I can't keep them open any longer, I usually sleep really well.

In 2009 I read 19 books. And, while I usually tend to stick to fiction, just for the simple fact that I love getting lost in a good story - something that's totally made up, I started getting into more non-fiction books last year. Memoirs, biographies, books about health - just broadening my horizons.

So far this year, I've already read 17 books, so I know I'll surpass last year's number of books read by quite a lot. I'm continuing to try and read a good variety of books. This year it's been everything from biographies to chick lit, to adventure, to just plain fiction.

I'm so glad I eventually brought myself back to rekindle one of my very favorite past times. I find myself reading, and being so excited about the other books that I want to read, that it seems I just can't read my current book fast enough.

I'm currently on a little kick about reading about polygamy, and I'm finding it absolutely fascinating. At the bottom of this post, I'm including a link where you can view all the books I read in 2009 and all the books I've read so far in 2010. I've rated all of them, and some I've even written quick little reviews about.

I've got a couple books lined up for some blog book tours that I'll be sharing my reviews with you on (one includes a giveaway, which I'll announce tomorrow), and I also hope to highlight some of my favorite books from last year and this year.

Along with more talk of books and reading, there will be some more cooking and food talk, too. I still have a couple giveaways that I meant to include in Food Week, and I also have another food-related post I've had in the works. In addition to that, I've taken some pictures of a couple of the recipes I shared during food week - included especially for those of you who said you're visual and want pictures! And since I kicked off Food Week, I've found another recipe that we are absolutely crazy about around here, and I'll be sharing that, too.

I'm hoping that rather than having themed weeks, I'll just share stuff about books and cooking in more of an ongoing way. I didn't like being limited to talking about just food for a whole week.

So, that's that. Come back tomorrow for a review on one of my most recent reads - a copy of the book will be up for grabs for one lucky reader!

Sera's bookshelf: read

Balancing ActsBehind the Smile: My Journey Out of Postpartum DepressionHarvesting the HeartEscapeThe Hunger GamesI Was Told There'd Be Cake

More of Sera's books »
Sera Goldsmith's  book recommendations, reviews, favorite quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pickin' up where I left off

So...I definitely bit off more than I could chew with my attempt at the whole Food Week thing a couple weeks ago. Sure, I got an awesome interview with cookbook author Aviva Goldfarb, put up some fun, yummy recipes and got some great feedback from some of you on them, but two of my planned Food Week days never happened.

I had a Pampered Chef party at my house at the end of that particular week, and it was so much stinking FUN. It was the first time since Kaylee was born that I had an actual group of girl friends over for a party. It was such a wonderful feeling to have my house full of some of my closest friends and my family. So...needless to say, I spent a ton of time getting ready for that.

Then...Spring Break arrived, and Dennis had an entire week off from work. So, I neglected the blog, and I let the rest of my Food Week go down the crapper. But, I kept my family first, so that's that. We'll just pick up right here and finish things off.

So, one of the things I had planned was to share three great foodie giveaways with you all. One of them expires this Friday - as in, I must give your address to the company by THURSDAY or there will be no giveaway. I definitely dropped the ball on that one.

Right now, I'm home by myself, so I'm just going to get this particular giveaway up, and the other two will go up sometime later this week. Because - hello! I am home. BY. MYSELF.

So, be sure to check out the next post about the Fiber One gift pack that's up for grabs. Be sure to enter - your chances are probably going to be good since there's only a couple days left!

And the other topic I never posted on? Money-saving ideas, especially related to buying and eating fresh produce. That'll be up later this week, too.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

How to be a rock start in your own kitchen: Part Three

Welcome to day five of Food Week on Laughing Through the Chaos - click the links below to catch up if you need to!

As we've been trying new recipes this year, we've discovered some that ended up in the trash after one bite, some that weren't bad, and some that we were just totally crazy about. The following are some of our favorites from our many new adventures in cooking. I hope you enjoy them!

Spicy Turkey Bean Chili 
Oven-Crisp Potato Wedges 
Low Fat Oatmeal Banana Bread 
Microwave Apple and Pear Crisp

How to be a rock star in your own kitchen: Part Two

 Welcome to day five of Food Week on Laughing Through the Chaos - click the links below to catch up if you need to!

On making my first "gourmet" meal...

Glaze of Glory Pork Tenderloin

This is a recipe I adapted from Gourmet magazine. The original recipe is by Paul Grimes and it included a fancy shmancy salad and some salad dressing to serve along with the pork. I never cooked that, so I'm omitting it here. I also made a slight modification to the pork tenderloin based on our family's tastes.

The first time I had this was during a girl's night at a friend's house. I bit into this juicy pork and pretty much thought I'd died and gone to heaven. It was that good. Seriously? One of THE best things I have ever tasted in my life, and it was SO easy to watch them make (I was in charge of potatoes and dessert).

I decided to brave it on my own when we had some family come and visit us in February from out of state. I don't think I've ever cooked for so many people, so I was a little nervous about it turning out right. They raved about it. They asked for the recipe, and they had seconds.

This seriously tastes like a gourmet meal you would get at a restaurant.

It goes great with the Oven-Crisp Potato Wedges and a side of steamed veggies (my personal favorites to go with this meal are asparagus and broccoli).

Dennis told me this was the best dinner I have ever made. That being said, you definitely need to try this, and I promise - it is SO easy!


For pork:

2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper (I prefer the course ground pepper)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 pork tenderloins (2 1/4 to 2 1/2 lbs total - Costco has these for a GREAT price!)
2 Tbsp. olive oil

For glaze

1 c. packed dark brown sugar (all I had was light, and it worked just fine)
2 Tbsp. finely chopped garlic (I substituted the jarred, minced garlic)
*Original recipe also listed 1 Tbsp. of Tabasco, but we omitted this ingredient


-Preheat oven to 350.
-Sit together salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, and cinnamon, then coat pork with spice rub.
-Heat oil in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until just beginning to smoke, then brown pork, turning, about 4 minutes total. Leave pork in skillet.
-Stir together brown sugar, garlic, and Tabasco (if you choose to add that ingredient) and pat onto top of each tenderloin. Roast in middle of oven until thermometer inserted diagonally in center of each tenderloin registers 140 degrees F, about 20 minutes. Let pork stand in skillet at room temperature 10 minutes (temperature will rise while standing).

NOTE: I did not put my skillet in the oven. I transferred the pork to one of my Pampered Chef stoneware casserole dishes. Also, at 140 degrees, the pork was still pink in the middle, so I went with the recommended internal pork temperature listed right on the meat thermometer, which - I do not presently have in front of me, so I'll just go ahead and let you refer to your own meat thermometer. Or Google. Whatever.

How to be a rock star in your own kitchen: Part One

Welcome to day five of Food Week on Laughing Through the Chaos - click the links below to catch up if you need to!

On making my first souffle...

This recipe was was one of the very first I tried after deciding to broaden my horizons with new recipes and new ingredients. I didn't even know what a "souffle" was until I saw the movie, Julie and Julia. Now, every time I see the word souffle, I hear, "I'iiiim Julia Chiiiild" in my head. I checked out the ingredients, thought it sounded like they'd taste good together, and figured the directions looked simple enough, so I gave it whirl.

The recipe says bake until "puffed and golden," but, having never made a souffle before, the high level of puffiness was pretty much freaking me out. It looked like it was about to explode all over the inside of the oven. So, I do what any novice cook does - I jumped on Google real quick, where I quickly found out that, not only is it actually a pretty big deal to make a souffle, but the crazy stuff going on in that oven was actually normal.

Anyway - apparently, souffles can be a bit tricky to make. Had I known that, I probably would have chickened out and say, "Hey, honey. Looks like it's Cheerios and toast for dinner again," but I'm so glad I was ignorant up to that point because this is one of my proudest kitchen creations EVER. I made a souffle! And it tasted amazing, and Dennis even loved it! Oh, happy day.

It's great for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner - anytime, really, and the leftovers taste great the next day.

Apple Pancake Souffle
A modification from Weight Watchers' Simply the Best : 250 Prizewinning Family Recipes


1 cup + 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat flour)
3 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 c. fat-free egg substitute
2 c. skim milk (I used 2%)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. unsalted stick margarine (I used butter)
6 apples, peeled and thinly sliced (my food processor saved me a lot of time by slicing the apples for me - I also used Granny Smith apples)
3 Tbsp. firmly packed light brown sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon; make a well in the center. Add the egg stubstitute, milk and vanilla; whisk until thoroughly combined.

3. Place the margarine in a 13 x 9" baking dish; place in the oven until the margarine is melted and sizzling, about 3 minutes. Add the apples and mix gently to coat. Bake until th e apples are heated through, about 5 minutes (just an FYI, I forgot this step the first time, and it didn't make any difference at all). Pour the egg mixture over the apples; sprinkle with the brown sugar. Bake until the souffle is puffed and golden and a knife inserted int eh center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Serve at once.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chart Toppers: Top 10 food blogs & websites you don't want to miss

Welcome to day three of Food Week on Laughing Through the Chaos - click the links below to catch up if you need to!

In no particular order...

10 food blogs & websites you don't want to miss
  1. Joy the Baker
  2. A Year of Slow Cooking
  3. My First Kitchen
  4.  Pioneer Woman 
  5. Bakerella
  6. The Tasty Kitchen
  7. Stone Gable
  8. The Scramble
  9. All Recipes
  10. Hungry Girl

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Chart Toppers: my top 10 favorite cookbooks {at the moment...}

Welcome to day three of Food Week on Laughing Through the Chaos - click the links below to catch up if you need to!

Later this week I'll be bustin' out some of my favorite recipes to share with you (some new, some old), so I thought it was only appropriate that we talk about cookbooks and other places I find my recipes before we actually check out the recipes themselves. Today it's all about the cookbooks. Tomorrow I'll share my favorite food blogs, websites, and iPod/iPhone apps related to food.

I broke all these bad boys up into categories in case you're looking for something specific. I received many of my cookbooks as gifts, some I bought online, and others were borrowed from friends or checked out from the library.

When it comes to buying cookbooks, I highly recommend checking out local used bookstores or checking online for the best deals. I'd say close to 90% of the time I buy books online, I buy them on Amazon.com because you can get used copies in good condition for super cheap. Another great site I bought books from in college is Half.com, where you'll also find great deals on books. Or, better than paying anything, go to your library and borrow the book, or ask friends if you can peruse their cookbook collections and borrow from them.You don't need to spend a bunch of money to get good ideas for recipes.

The most special cookbook I have was given to me by mom mom as a wedding gift. She compiled recipes that have been in our family for years, got recipes from Dennis's mom that were his favorites, and she had Dennis's sister illustrate it. I remember looking through it the first time, seeing some recipes and realizing it had been years since I'd eaten some of them, but they instantly brought back great memories of my child hood and the creative ways my mom would prepare foods for us. The book itself is something I'll always treasure, with many personal touches from my mom thrown in throughout the book. It's something that I will one day add to and share with Kaylee. I just couldn't include a post about cookbooks without mentioning it.

So, here are some of my favorite cookbooks, with little tidbits about why I love each of them.


Weight Watchers' Simply the Best : 250 Prizewinning Family RecipesWomenHeart's All Heart Family Cookbookby Lisa Lillien Hungry Girl 200 Under Paperback

by Kathy Kastan and Suzanne Banfield

This is a cookbook I checked out from the library. While I didn't find a bunch of recipes that I thought our family would particularly like, I would be tempted to buy this book just for all the reference material at the beginning. The whole first part of the book lists many, many heart healthy foods and discusses the health benefits of each. I learned so much in those pages.I was fascinated by how powerful a role our food choices play in our health. There are so many foods that have been shown to prevent diseases, so it was just more motivation to continue preparing healthy meals from scratch.

by Lisa Lillien

Hands down, this is the best cookbook ever. I am absolutely in LOVE with it, and there are still oh-so-many recipes I'm dying to try but still haven't had the chance to. Every recipe in this book is under 200 calories, and the Weight Watchers Points values are also listed on the Hungry Girl website for each recipe. This book has it all. Snacks, desserts, breakfast, lunch, dinner, appetizers, drinks - holy bananas, it's phenomenal. Lisa takes everybody's favorites like french toast, cinnamon rolls, cookies and cakes, and changes them up to be healthy. You'd expect them to taste nasty with so few calories, but I am in awe of how delicious and decadent her recipes are. Kaylee is crazy about the banana pancakes from this book. I make a big batch and freeze them, and they make a really quick and healthy breakfast for her. If you pay full price for any cookbook, make it be this one.

One of my coworkers let me browse through this cookbook, and I found some absolutely amazing recipes. I've done Weight Watchers in the past, and really enjoyed some of the recipes on their website, so I had high expectations and I was not disappointed with what I found in this cookbook. Again - all sorts of things from muffins to cakes, fish, soups, poultry - something for everyone. All nutrition information is listed, and since it's Weight Watchers, you know all the recipes are healthy. All too often I look through cookbooks and only find a few recipes that seem worth trying, but not this one. This is one I hope to buy soon because it is filled with so many recipes that just sound amazing!

Crock Pot/Slow Cooker
Make It Fast, Cook It Slow: The Big Book of Everyday Slow CookingFix-It and Forget-It Cookbook: Feasting with Your Slow Cooker
by Stephanie O'Dea

Ok, so I don't actually own this cookbook - YET, but I want it really, really bad. You may have heard of The Crockpot Lady. She used her crockpot every day for a year, and wrote a blog to chronicle the whole thing. This is a book filled with some of those recipes. Her blog is amazing, and she includes pictures of all the ingredients and the finished product. She's a mom, so you won't find any crazy, off-the-wall ingredients, and all of her recipes are gluten-free. On her website (http://crockpot365.blogspot.com), she talks about how she tries to limit the amount of sodium, fat, and processed foods that she and her family consume. This is another cookbook I know you wouldn't regret buying. Her stuff is deee-licious.

by Dawn J. Ranck and Phyllis Pellman Good

One of my aunts sent me this cookbook in 2005 after I'd written an email about the crock pot being my "new best friend." This book has over 800 crock pot recipes, submitted from people all over the country. Like many of my other favorite cookbooks, I love the incredible variety this one has! It's not just crock pot soups or pot roasts (although there are plenty of those recipes listed) - there's dessert, breakfast, appetizers, veggies, beverages and more. One other thing I love about the book is that there are so many variations on similar recipes that if you don't like one particular pot roast, you're bound to find another one that suits you better. There are also handy little crock pot tips throughout the entire book.
 Reference Cookbooks

Betty Crocker Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Cook Today (Betty Crocker Books)

Dennis's mom gave us our Betty Crocker cookbook shortly before we were married. This serves as one of the main cooking references in my kitchen. If I haven't heard of a specific method of cooking before (i.e. blanching), or if I decide to be all brave and try a new vegetable, but have no idea how to cook it, I bust out Big Betty. There are handy tables that list different methods for cooking veggies, tips on selecting good produce and suggestions about how to store foods properly. The back cover has a chart for emergency substitutions if you happen to be out of a vital ingredient. I use this cookbook primarily for reference, and not so much for recipes, but it's an invaluable reference book in my kitchen as is evidenced by the many food splatters that adorn its pages.


Miracle Foods For Kids: 25 Super-Nutritious Foods to Keep Your Children in Great HealthHealthy Meals for Babies and Toddlers

by Juliette Kellow and Sunil Vijayakar

This was a Christmas gift from my mom. I've always struggled with feeding Kaylee, and she's pretty tiny, so for the longest time I worried about whether she was getting enough nutrition and if I was choosing the right foods for her. It's so important to me that I instill healthy eating habits with her at a young age. My hope is that she'll develop a love for healthy foods including a variety of fruits and veggies. But, like many kids her age, she can be picky, and she's regularly practicing her ability to say things like, "I no yike it" before she's even tried it, so I have to get creative. This book is absolutely packed with healthy recipes, menu plans for different age groups, information on why kids need certain nutrients, how you can present the same foods in different ways to try and get your kids to eat them, and of course - recipes. The book focuses on "miracle foods" - things like blueberries, kiwifruit, eggs, yogurt, sweet potatoes, avocados, etc. The book discusses how these particular foods can help our kiddos protect themselves against future heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses, as well as the immediate benefits they offer, like helping to prevent things like constipation and anemia. I think all caregivers of children can benefit immensely from this book, and it would make a great gift for expectant or new moms as well.

by Valerie Barrett

This was another gift from my mom. This book is also filled with great resource information regarding allergies and intolerances, appropriate serving sizes for children, tips on cooking, freezing and reheating homemade baby food, and even ideas for for babies who are on vegetarian diets. The book is broken into age-appropriate recipes and meal ideas for babies and toddlers at each stage of their development. The photography in this book is gorgeous and sooo cute! The tiny little kid portions and utensils are just adorable. This is another fantastic resource for anyone with kids.


Smoothies & Ice Treats

Smoothies and Ice Treats
by Lindsay Barnes and Amy Shawgo

My mom got me this cookbook a few years back at Kohl's during one of my smoothie kicks - I definitely go in spurts with the smoothies. One of the authors, Lindsay, is also a nutritionist, so the first part of the book has some basic nutrition information and discusses the health benefits of several foods. The rest of the books has a crazy variety of smoothie recipes. I'm talking everything from smoothies for athletes, for stress management, for men, women, children, breakfast, lunch, dinner - even special occasion smoothies. Love this book.

Please leave a comment tell me what your favorite cookbook is!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Stale marshmallows, exploding pie dishes, and dinner on the table by 7: A conversation with cookbook author, Aviva Goldfarb

Sure, we’d all love to have a nice, hot, healthy meal on the table for our families each night, but – in reality – we all know that’s about as achievable as me trying to figure out a way to stop eating the three boxes of Thin Mints that are currently shoved way in the back of my refrigerator.

We’ve got so much on our plates, and if your dinner rotation looked anything like ours used to (a repetitious cycle of spaghetti, bean burritos, scrambled eggs, and cereal), you understand that all the preparation and planning to create homemade recipes with fresh ingredients can be overwhelming.

I feel lucky I have time to shower most days, let alone successfully plan a menu and make a grocery list. If you ask me, it’s one of the biggest challenges I face as a wife and a working mother, and I’m willing to bet my three boxes of Thin Mints that a majority of you feel the same way.

Enter…Aviva Goldfarb. She’s a wife, mother of two, cookbook author, owner and CEO of The Six O’Clock Scramble, and an active participant with such organizations as Oxfam and Healthy Child, working to promote awareness about creating healthy environments for our children and putting an end to hunger and poverty.

And, not surprisingly, she’s been in your shoes. She knows what it’s like to try and negotiate the aisles of a grocery store with children in tow. She’s had nights where she wondered what in the world she should cook for her family. She’s been tired and exhausted, and she’s even blown stuff up in her kitchen, for crying out loud.

She’s been featured in “O” magazine, Real Simple, Redbook and Shape (to name just a few), and I am so very excited that you get to hear from her today!

Stale marshmallows, exploding pie dishes, and dinner on the table by 7: 
A conversation with cookbook author, Aviva Goldfarb

Sera: How have your cooking habits changed since you became a mom?

Aviva: Oh, pretty much completely. Actually, I have always been interested in healthy food, but before we had kids I didn’t mind so much running around to find special ingredients or making an elaborate meal. But once the realities of parenting set in, I needed really practical recipes, and had to tone down some of the spiciness for a while, although now our 12-year-old son loves spicy food (our 10-year-old daughter is just starting to like them.) Also, going to the grocery store wasn’t as much of a chore before we had kids, although I never loved shopping daily. But now I try to keep errands to a real minimum and plan for a whole week of meals and snacks at once.

Sera: How do you handle the days when you're rushed, tired and too hungry to spend a bunch of time preparing a healthy meal?

Aviva: Do you mean every day? That’s pretty much what you’re describing for us moms, right? That’s why I find that it’s essential to have a plan so you already know what you’re making for dinner and you know you have all the ingredients needed. What holds many people back from making dinner isn’t the cooking itself, it’s the planning or making decisions every day at dinner time about what to make and then trying to scrounge together the ingredients for it. Also, stick to simple meals that don’t take too long to make and don’t have too many ingredients. You can make such wonderful food from a few fresh and healthy ingredients, there’s no need to go to all that trouble and expense!

Sera: What are some of your favorite non-healthy splurges, whether they are from a restaurant, a box, or something you come up with on your own?

Aviva: Well, in terms of meals, I love cheese and could make a whole meal out of it, but I try to resist, and also love a great slow-cooked beef like brisket or homemade corned beef. Once in a while a piece of fried chicken is a treat, too. My strange dessert obsession is stale marshmallows, but I also love chocolate and would eat a lot of candy if it was healthier and calorie free.

Sera: Is there one particular recipe from your cookbook that is a staple in your household, one that everyone just loves?

Aviva: My daughter loves simple pasta like Celia’s Simple Spaghetti from my upcoming cookbook (basically spaghetti with olive oil, garlic and cheese), my son loves steak and baked potatoes, and my husband loves my spinach enchiladas. If my family could have steak and baked or mashed potatoes every week they would probably be thrilled, and we all love my husband’s homemade pizza, which he makes a couple of times a month. I like a lot of variety so I’ll eat any of it happily, but I really love lots of vegetables with my food, and I’m kind of crazy for fresh roasted beets, especially with oranges and goat cheese.

Sera: What is your personal favorite recipe from your cookbook?

Aviva: Wow, I think it’s impossible for me to choose! I got into my business partially because I love experimenting with food and could eat different meals every day of the week. But the Grilled Baby Back Ribs with Pineapple Glaze are pretty awesome, and I love the Grilled Caramelized Ginger Salmon and the Mango and Black Bean Salad.

Sera: What inspired you to get involved with the non-profit organizations you work with, and how can people get involved?

Aviva: I grew up in a family that always found ways to give back so it’s kind of a way of life for me, and I feel like we are so terribly fortunate to have all of our needs met when so many are suffering. I guess that I feel that we who have so much have an obligation to give back in as many ways as we can, but I also find that doing so brings great happiness and satisfaction, because it puts life in perspective and helps us realize what is important. It’s also important when you’re trying to raise kids in world that everyone around them has so much, that they also see how little others have and how we can help them. I was very proud of my son this month. For his bar mitzvah this month rather than giving him gifts, he asked that people make donations to an organization called Nothing But Nets that provides malaria nets for people in third world countries.

Sera: Who inspires you to cook?

Aviva: Probably my family because I want to feed them healthy meals and help them appreciate good food and where it comes from. Also my mom because she always made the most wonderful dinners for our family when we were kids and it really had an impact on me and helped me realize how important that effort and that time together is.

Sera: Aside from your own, which blogs and/or cookbooks do you read or refer to the most?

Aviva: Well of course I love Laughing Through the Chaos! I don’t read tons of blogs, although I’m kind of a Twitter fanatic, so if you count micro blogging that I guess I do follow a lot of people. I love Epicurious.com for research and fantastic recipes, and in terms of cookbook authors, I admire Mark Bittman (The Minimalist), Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa), and I worship Mollie Katzen, the author of the original Moosewood vegetarian cookbooks.

Sera: Please tell us more about how we can waste less by doing fridge and/or freezer makeovers.

Aviva: A well-stocked freezer is my secret trick to getting through a week of homemade meals without making extra trips to the grocery store. It can be my safety net for those nights when I’ve run out of planned meals but don’t have time to get back to the store. I also keep extra veggies or side dishes in my freezer to quickly round out or expand meals I’m making. I find many people conceal hundreds of dollars of food in their freezers without realizing it. Without a plan to use what’s in there, all that valuable food can go to waste! So, I recommend that people “shop” in their freezers weekly to save money on your grocery bills. Here are some of the foods that I like to keep stocked in my freezer:

· Frozen vegetables for sides and main courses— our favorites are broccoli, chopped spinach, edamame, peas, and corn, but we like to branch out occasionally

· Easy and healthy side dishes like Asian dumplings, pierogies, potato or broccoli pancakes - we like Dr. Praeger’s, and even fresh bakery bread· A prepared meal or two—we love Amy’s or Trader Joe’s frozen pizza, Boca Burgers and Gorton’s grilled shrimp entrees

·Frozen lunches for those days we don’t have leftovers to pack for lunch—we enjoy Trader Joe’s or Kashi single-serving entrees

·Frozen fruit for smoothies and snacks, such as strawberries, mangos and blueberries.

· Low fat ice cream, of course! (We favor Edy’s Slow-Churned and Skinny Cow frozen cones)

Sera: I love that you and your entire family sit down together every night to eat at 7. Do you and your family have any fun traditions you do during dinner time?

Aviva: Eating dinner together such an important part of our family life. It’s the only time we’re all in the same room at the same time with no electronic distractions, and sometimes the only time we all even make eye contact! These days the kids help nearly every day with the cooking or setting the table, clearing and loading the dishwasher. We also have some great discussions and play some great games. In one game our kids call Dr. Know It All for some reason, each person says one word and we go around the table and try to create a story, but of course the plots and characters are always crazy.

Sera: Any fun kitchen/recipe disasters you'd be willing to share?

Aviva: All the time! Since I’m always testing new recipes sometimes it seems like nothing comes out well for an entire week, and then we’ll have a week of spectacular meals. But the worst one I can remember is the time that I accidentally set a glass pie dish on a hot burner on Thanksgiving and it exploded. We had to toss the soup, too, because we weren’t certain that it didn’t have glass shards in it.

Sera: What advice do you have for moms who realize they forgot to plan for dinner and have no idea what to make?

Aviva: Eggs and beans are your friends! You can easily make a frittata or omelet or even Scrambled eggs with toast, bagels and/or hash browns, or even just with some fruit. With beans and tortillas you can make super healthy and quick burritos. Both are inexpensive, flexible and healthy proteins. But next week take 10 or 15 minutes to plan out some meals in advance and make a grocery list before heading to the store. Your evenings will be infinitely more relaxing and probably healthier and cheaper, too.

Sera: Your new cookbook "SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue: Earth-Friendly, Kid-Pleasing, Dinners for Busy Families" talks about earth-friendly recipes. This is not a theme I've ever seen in a cookbook. What can readers expect in terms of "earth-friendly"? Are you talking about organic foods, or how to produce less waste? Do tell!

Aviva: I’m so excited about this book, Sera, and it’s finally coming out next month! The new book is still full of easy and healthy family-friendly recipes, but it’s got a new twist. I’ve realized that weekly planning and eating seasonally are actually better for the earth, in addition to being better for our families. So in this book I talk about how families can reduce their environmental impact through smart dinner-time choices, like eating seasonally, buying more organic foods, eating more meatless meals and using sustainable seafood, and eliminating food waste (according to the New York Times, a family of four will throw out an average of 24 pounds of fruits and vegetables per month, or by another estimate, 15 percent of their groceries). I even talk about how to grow some of your own herbs and veggies, and how easy it is to compost your scraps, which is also one of the best things we can do for the environment. I hope you have a chance to check it out!

To hear more from Aviva, check out this video:

Follow Aviva on Twitter: @thescrambler
Become a Facebook Fan: The Six O'Clock Scramble/Aviva Goldfarb
Nothing But Nets website: http://www.nothingbutnets.net/
Aviva's books:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Junk in the trunk.

This is not an easy conversation for me to have on my blog. In fact, I wrote the majority of this post nearly a month ago, and I've just been sitting on it, making sure I want to put it out there.

But ultimately, after having a good amount of time to mull it over, I've decided it's going up because is something I feel really compelled to write about. To be honest, it's probably more for my own therapeutic benefit than anything else, but also because I think it's really important for us to constantly be looking at our lives and making sure that we're dealing with our "junk" because when we carry around things that aren't resolved, it starts to affect our lives in ways we'd never imagine.

For years, I've been able to fly under the radar without these particular issues not seeming to affect my life all that much. But, I can now see that ever since Kaylee was born, these issues have been trying to push their way to the surface. I have this fear that the same things that happened to me, the same harmful ideas and concepts that were ingrained in my head as a kid and young adult, will somehow get to my child as well.

For now, I'm keeping things pretty general. Maybe down the road, as I figure things out a little better, I'll share more, but I figure this here is a good place to start.

About a month ago, I wrote a post about how I hadn't been sleeping well. I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out why, until I had two pivotal conversations - one with my mom, and one with a friend that prompted me to start digging a little deeper. She helped me realize that maybe my brain was literally giving me a wake-up call in the night, saying, "Yo! Sera! There's stuff in here you need to deal with!" She thought that maybe, if I could pinpoint whatever that was, I might be able to sleep better again. And she was right, because I've been sleeping like a log ever since I figured out what was bothering me.

So...here's the post I began writing on February 9, 2010.


I think I've finally figured out what's been keeping me up at night for weeks on end.

After talking with my mom yesterday, it seems that I can pinpoint the time when the sleeplessness began, and now it's all making sense to me.

Not long after Kaylee's ear surgery, we made the choice to keep her out of the church nursery to limit her exposure to illness during the cold/flu season. Her immune system was shot after 2 months of heavy-duty antibiotics, and we didn't want her to end up in the hospital again. So, I began staying home with her on Sundays while Dennis went to church.

Stepping back from church gave me the opportunity to really look at some things in my own life. I've been going to church since I was a baby, but not long after Kaylee was born, I realized I had been having less and less interest in church, and I wasn't quite sure why. It's always been a big part of my life, and growing up, it's where I formed my identity, so to have these thoughts of wanting to step back from it for a while seemed weird to me.

Unfortunately, many aspects of my identity were skewed as a result of some ideologies I learned in the churches I went to.

Because of what I was told over and over during my younger years in church, I've been spending my life trying to live up to expectations that are nothing short of impossible. I've had an all or nothing mentality. I've driven myself to the edge with anxiety and worry and panic because I haven't been able to achieve perfection and the ideal image of who I thought I should be.

I've lived in constant fear of being judged, not being liked, not being good enough, and not making other people happy, and the things I was lead to believe in church ultimately set me up for some really unhealthy perceptions of myself later in life.

I was led to believe a whole series inaccurate things about myself...what it means to be a woman, a mother, a wife, and a Christian.

What I was told all those years ago has set me up to have these underlying themes of guilt and shame throughout my life, even when they were completely and utterly unnecessary and unfounded.

The intellectual part of my brain knows that I was lied to, that I unabashedly trusted people who never deserved my trust and who did nothing but hurt me in return.

It's just taking me some time to accept the fact that the things I learned in church as a young, trusting, impressionable girl have left a tremendously deep footprint on my heart, and it's not one of those footprints in the sand that's light and pretty - it's like a footprint from a big old nasty heavy boot with steel toes.

Being away from church for a while and having time to really think about some of the not so great behind-the-scenes stuff that all churches have (I don't care how "great" a church is - they've all got junk. They're run by people, and none of us are perfect) it's just made old memories fresh and raw, and it's just made me all kinds of angry and ticked off. I can look back on things with a different perspective and see how blinded and naive and vulnerable I was.

The only place I know to go from here is - well, to counseling, to be honest with you. Trying to get my head and my heart on the same page is a rather difficult thing. I'm a much stronger, more confident, and way less naive person than I was back then, but I need somebody neutral to help me figure this stuff out.

I'm comfortable in my faith, and I believe that God accepts me as I am, and that He doesn't want me to live in shame, fear, or guilt. I know those things, but it doesn't change some of the things that happened to me over the last 20 years. It doesn't change the fact that people - who claimed to be doing God's work - did and said things to me that I will never, ever forget, and that will always, always hurt me.

I just know that now, at the slightest sign of being hurt by people who claim to be Christian and doing "God's work" - all I want to do is run. I want to protect myself from ever being hurt like that again. And I'm trying to find the balance between protecting my daughter from those very things, while - at the same time - teaching her about our faith in an accurate light.

There's still a lot for me to figure out, so I'm just going to end here. I certainly welcome your comments and your stories and your experiences. Let's just keep things friendly, ok? Any mean or nasty comments will not be published.

(This post is a part of Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop taking place every Thursday over at Mama's Losin' It.)

Mama's Losin' It

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wordful Wednesday - Sayonara, sucker.

I hate to jinx this glorious situation, but I think it's finally safe to say that we've done away with the pacifier for good.

I told Dennis about all the talk of cutting part of the pacifier off with scissors (thanks again for all of your ideas and stories), and the moment we decided to dive in head first and DO THIS THING, he went to the kitchen and just flat out whacked that sucker in half. I was thinking more along the lines of a not-so-obvious cut in the end of it, but I didn't give him precise instructions, so...we just went with it.

She put it in her mouth, scrunched up her little eybrows, took it out and looked at us like, "Dude! WHAT the?!?"

This was followed by a series of putting it in, taking it out, putting it in, taking it out.

And then...oh, then all hell broke loose.

She utters this long string of thoughts, and we began to wonder if we pretty much made the biggest mistake ever...

"It's broke! What happened? Fix it! Daddy?!?! FIX it! What happened! Mommy? Kiss it!"

Because Daddy fixes things, and I kiss her owies. But, Daddy wasn't going to fix this, and no amount of kisses from me would make it all better.


Into a million little pieces.

I think it would be safe to say that Dennis and I were both fighting back tears.

You'd have thought we just told her the Wiggles were checked into rehab and wouldn't be released for 28 more days. She took it that hard.

The kid was devastated with a capital D. And her tears weren't part of a fit or a tantrum - it was pretty much just pure heartbreak.

You better believe we were questioning our decision. I'm freaking out thinking my child is going to end up in therapy someday because I gave her a broken pacifier. Please. Give me a break, right? But her big old alligator tears did that big of a number on me.

Once she calmed down later that night, she'd occasionally pick it up, put it in her mouth once, and then set it down and say, "It's broke." And that was that.

Getting her to bed was nothing short of a miracle, but she eventually went to sleep. And so did we.

And we all woke up the next morning and lived to tell the tale.

Since then, we've left some of the broken ones around the house and she just keeps telling us they're broken, but that's it. No tears. No sadness. As if it's no big thing.

The one significant change is that now, for breakfast each morning, she tells us matter-of-factly, "I need a cookie." Maybe she's dealing with it in her own special way like so many of us girls do. Cookies.

So, one really rough night, and a few days and at least an entire box of Thin Mints (we all remember the depths I'll go to for my Thin Mints, right?) later, we're no worse for the wear.

We've conquered one huge struggle, and now we just wait for the next one that's lurking it's ugly head around the corner, waiting to pounce on us.

But, I've got a box of Thin Mints hidden in the freezer, so we are good to go, people. Good to GO.

(This post is a part of Wordful Wednesdays, hosted by Angie at 7 Clown Circus.