Why You Should Teach Your Kid To Cook

I recently wrote a piece for Your Teen Magazine making the case for why every teen should know how to cook. If you have been following me for any length of time you will probably know that I enjoy cooking immensely, and I feel very comfortable in the kitchen.

This wasn’t always the case. As I write in the article, I grew up not knowing how to cook, and I went away to college having not even the most basic of skills. I think knowing how to perform the most common “adult” tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry are essential for every teenager. I went to college not knowing how to do any of those things, which looking back seems unbelievable.

I believe that one of the main goals in raising a child is to help them become productive adults who can get along well in the world. This means having good social skills, being able to have a conversation with an adult, and knowing how to shake hands. In my opinion it also means knowing things like how to make an entire meal from scratch, how to chop and dice using the appropriate chef’s knives, and how to make cooking calculations in your head (ie: four tablespoons = 1/4 cup).

Teaching your kids how to cook can be messy and frustrating. My daughter has been in the kitchen with me since she was a baby. There has been a lot of spilling and mistakes over the years, and moments when I would just rather do it myself.  But just this past weekend she made a healthy banana blueberry bread from scratch that turned out beautifully. It made me realize it was all worthwhile.

These “soft skills” are just as essential in building a capable adult as all the other skills we want our kids to have. It gives them confidence, allowing them to begin their young adult lives with a head start.

I’m curious: what was your experience growing up. Did you leave for college or other post-high school adventure knowing essential “adult” skills? If so, how did it help you in other aspects of your life? Is there anything you wished you had done differently with your own kids? Comment below!

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Make Each Day Of The Week Unique (plus a new carnitas recipe!)

I wrote a post in July about my new dinner plan, which is to “make each day of the week unique”. You can read about it here. I’m excited to be implementing it now that the school year has started and things have gotten pretty busy with sports practices\matches, theater set design, and orchestra rehearsals for my daughter, and meetings for me and my husband. More than ever, I need focus when it comes to meal planning. The premise is to assign each day of the week a theme (Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, etc) so that it’s easier to plan the week’s recipes.

When I was poring over recipes yesterday morning trying to figure out what to make this week, it was so much easier to decide using my new system. I’m telling you, I am really on to something here!

Here is this week’s dinner plan. Thursdays are kind of a catch-all day. We usually have a good amount of leftovers in the fridge, and sometimes we will just fend for ourselves. On Friday, without exception, we go out or order in. The kitchen is always closed. This tradition has been going on since my 13 year old was a baby and I look forward to it every week. On Sundays we get together with our close friends and neighbors for our Crappy Dinner Party which I cannot recommend highly enough. Dinner Plan

Next week for “Taco Tuesday” I have promised my family I would make these Pork Carnitas. I made them for a friend on Saturday in my Instant Pot and they were so good (and very easy)!

Here’s to a great fall ahead!

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Should You Drink Celery Juice?

celery

A friend reached out to me recently asking if she should be drinking celery juice. She had read about all of the health benefits and wanted to know if I recommended it and if she should jump on the celery juice bandwagon.

Have you heard about this newest trend? The actress Busy Phillips (whom I love for her honesty on social media about all kinds of issues ranging from parenting to body image and more) posted in January about her commitment to drinking it every day. She said “Apparently it’s supposed to do all of these wonderful things for you and something with Gwyneth Paltrow and I don’t know but I’m on board,” she said, laughing. “So now I’m drinking celery juice. It’s really good.”

Ok, back up a second. Gwyneth Paltrow’s website Goop has received all kinds of press regarding her health advice, much of which is not supported by science. In fact, there has been such a backlash that she recently committed to hiring a fact checker for all the claims her website makes. This article is an absolute must read for anyone who follows Gwyneth Paltrow’s advice or even is a little interested in her Goop empire. It’s titled, “How  Goop’s haters made Gwyneth Paltrow’s company worth $250 Million”.

This is all to say that even as a holistic nutrition consultant (with a healthy dose of skepticism for any outlandish claims), I wouldn’t necessarily recommend drinking celery juice. Why? First of all, it’s very very bitter. Why punish yourself? Secondly, no one food is a magic bullet. Yes, celery is a very healthy veggie with fiber, folate, vitamin K, and potassium. It’s a powerful antioxidant. But so are a lot of vegetables. What I would recommend is eating celery in its whole form so that you do get the fiber along with it. Put it in a green smoothie so you get some other flavors and nutrients in there. Eat it with some peanut butter for a healthy snack that contains the magic trio of fats, carbohydrates, and protein. And if you really want a green juice, combine it with some other green veggies so you are mixing your nutrients instead of focusing on just one source. I like the Suja Uber Greens Organic juice which has cucumber, celery, grapefruit, green chard, spinach, parsley, mint tea and more. I buy them from Costco for a reasonable price and when I feel like having a green juice I reach for one of those. They have only 5 grams of sugar per bottle, which is important to note because a lot of green juices contain fruit juices and up to 48 grams of sugar per bottle.

My final thoughts on the matter: be wary of outlandish health claims. While drinking celery juice won’t hurt you, I don’t believe there is anything magical about it. If it makes you feel good, have some celery. But if you are suffering trying to choke down a glass of celery juice, give yourself a break and eat it with a healthy dip instead.

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Easy Dinner Plan

cookbook

Most every Sunday I sit down with a mixture of cookbooks, magazines, recipe files and swirling thoughts to try to map out the next week’s dinner menus. I collect cookbooks and recipes the way some people collect baseball cards or coins. I love recipes, I can’t get enough of them, but there are SO. MANY. And when it comes time to figure out weeknight meals I do feel sometimes as though I need a little guidance.

I read a tip somewhere recently to make each day of the week a unique *type* of cuisine to help guide things along. Taco Tuesday is a popular night, but can you really eat tacos every week without someone in your family complaining that they are getting sick of them by month six (I mean, in my family the answer is no, but I realize we don’t represent all families)? So instead of tacos, you could designate Tuesdays for Mexican food night. Rather than it just serving tacos, you could also incorporate an easy pozole , burritos, chilaquiles, make your own Chipotle bowls, etc.

This tip was kind of a big deal for me, and I laid out a plan for our week that I think will work nicely. Every so often, maybe quarterly, I can mix things up a bit so that I have a chance to use all my recipes that I love so much.  This plan will work well during the school year, when we are on a little bit more of a regular schedule.

Here’s my weekly plan:

Monday: Meatless Monday (usually a pasta or another grain)

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday (or any Mexican inspired dish like chilaquiles, burritos, or this Easy Posole)

Wednesday: Fish (salmon, poke bowls, shrimp kebabs, etc)

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: KITCHEN IS CLOSED, OUT TO EAT

Saturday: John grills or smokes meat

Sunday: Comforting soup or a roast, or any other more complicated, time consuming dish that sounds good

I am really excited about this new approach to planning meals, and I think it’s going to work well for us.

Do you use a system like this? How does it work for you? What are you ideas for days of the week? Please leave a comment below!

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Giant Scallions

This summer I am in a CSA share with my good friend Shawn. In case you didn’t know, CSA is short for Community Supported Agriculture. You buy a seasonal “share” from a local farm and each week you receive a box of produce (or cheese or whatever that farm specializes in). If you want to learn more and find a farm near you, click here. Anyway, we both have families of three so our boxes get split up very evenly and it’s a nice way to try new fruits and veggies. For instance, in yesterday’s box there were a smattering of gooseberries, which I had never tried. That was fun.

Also in yesterday’s box were the most gigantic scallions (also known as green onions) I have ever seen. One of these scallions probably equals four or five store-bought scallions. I got very excited because I adore green onions in any format. In fact, when I was a child, my grandma used to serve them raw on her veggie plate at her annual backyard BBQ and I would gladly gobble them up. I pity the fool who smelled my breath after that.

scallions
Giant scallions from the CSA

Onions are a powerful source of antioxidants and are part of the Allium family (along with garlic). They are rich in anti-cancer compounds called phenols and flavanoids. They are also rich in alliinase which is believed to be heart protective. They are anti-inflammatory and overall a very healthy food to add to your regular diet.

I got a little overwhelmed with the size and quantity of the scallions yesterday so I asked on my Cultivate Wellness Facebook page for cooking ideas and got some great ones. I thought that I would compile and share some of them here so you, too, can be empowered in your scallion cooking journey.

How about Tessa’s idea to make some Afghan Dumplings with Lamb Kofta and Yogurt Sauce?

Maria says “My favorite way to cook green onions is in a cast iron skillet with olive oil, salt and lemon pepper! I do it on a medium/high ( depending on your stove) you want the onions to break down and get a little char! It’s about a 10 min cooking time.”

Lara suggested adding them to a batch of cold Potato Leek Soup (I can get on board with that! Plus we got potatoes in our box this week, too).

Allison wrote that she was using her CSA scallions to make a Minty Orzo Salad with Grilled Beef. That recipe isn’t available online but here’s one that looks ah-mazing.

Sally used her giant scallions to make Crab Cakes. I do love a crab cake.

Molly likes to make Smitten Kitchen’s Spicy Green Onion Slaw recipe, which looks absolutely delicious. I love a slaw in any form.

How fun that so many people participate in a CSA?! At least a couple of the readers who chimed in with ideas got their giant scallions this week too. I love that.

If you have a favorite scallion/green onion recipe, please leave it in the comments! Happy cooking!

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Friday Cocktails: The Pimm’s Cup

Pimms Cup
The Pimm’s Cup

I think the first time I heard about a Pimm’s Cup was reading about the Royal Family in a magazine, probably featuring Prince William and Kate Middleton at Wimbledon.  Ever since I found out about this refreshing and less boozy cocktail that is so popular in England, I’ve wanted to try one. Last weekend when I was shopping for a new bottle of bourbon for my husband for Father’s Day, I saw that the liquor store carried Pimm’s. At $18 a bottle, I figured I had nothing to lose and that I could check something off my bucket list.

Pimm’s Cup is made with Pimm’s No. 1, a concoction made out of “gin with herbal botanicals, caramelised orange and delicate spices”. Doesn’t it sound just delightful? It’s got an amber color that looks just beautiful in a glass.

Still, I was dubious. I sent my British friend Sally a text from the store that said “Is this gross?” and she immediately responded that it was delicious and then gave me some tips on how to make it authentic (“cucumber and mint a must, and orange slices rather than lemon or lime”). She also said that she likes hers with ginger ale rather than lemon lime soda. Done (except I also opted to use lemon slices too).

I stopped at the market for fresh oranges and cukes, and some Fever-Tree Ginger Ale. I like Fever Tree because it’s made with real ginger and doesn’t have artificial ingredients. The taste is more nuanced than other ginger ales, but any brand will do. I have fresh mint growing in my backyard and there are always lemons in my refrigerator. I eagerly set off for home so I could finally try the cocktail that has piqued my interest for so long.

I was very happy with the result, and can understand why it is so popular. It’s sweet without being cloying, and the delicate bubbles are refreshing. It’s also just a beautiful cocktail to look at. My husband took a sip and promptly said “will you make one for me?” He doesn’t generally like a sweeter cocktail, so I was surprised. I gladly poured him his own Pimm’s Cup and the rest is history.

This cocktail is perfect for your summer BBQ or other gathering, as it is refreshing and light on the booze. It’s celebratory but easy to make. And since it’s British, it feels super fancy.

INGREDIENTS:

2 oranges, sliced into rounds 

2 lemons, sliced into rounds 

About six slices of cucumber

2 cups Pimm’s No. 1 

4 cups ginger ale 

6 to 8 large sprigs mint plus more for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS:

In a pitcher, add a layer of orange slices, lemon slices, and cucumber slices. Repeat until gone. Pour in the Pimm’s and ginger ale, and mix with a long-handled spoon, making sure to muddle the fruit a bit to release the flavor.  In each individual glass, place a sprig of mint and muddle with the end of a wooden spoon (more or less, depending on how much mint flavor you want).  Add ice and fill with cocktail mixture, placing some of the fruit slices into each cup. Garnish with mint.

 

Enjoy!

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Summer Intentions: An Update

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my summer intentions. You can read that post here. I always put my summer goals on paper so that I have a clear idea of what I want to focus on between June and early September.

In a nutshell, those goals were to: meditate daily, strength train weekly, update the blog more regularly, and stop being the “cruise director”.

So, how am I doing? I’m pleased to say I have meditated the last four days in a row. That’s pretty huge. I’ve noticed a difference, too. Instead of waking up and getting on Twitter (and then throwing my phone across the room in disgust at what I’m reading), I meditate. In fact, I have been waiting until later in the day to log on to Twitter and it’s helping my mood quite a bit. Secondly, I have really done a great job of resisting the urge to plan and coordinate constantly. It has actually freed up a lot of mental space and I am doing a lot more spontaneous things, which has been fun.

The two things I would like to improve upon are strength training more regularly and writing more than one blog post a week.  I would also like to add a weekly yoga session. Summer has just gotten started and I’m finding a rhythm, so I feel confident I will feel good about my implantation of my summer intentions when I reflect on them this September. I plan on checking in every few weeks to make sure I am following through.

Do you make any summer goals? If so, please share them with me in the comments!

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