Thursday, September 18, 2014

What's For Lunch...

On the ipod "My Heart Is Open (feat. Gwen Stefani)" By: Maroon 5
So there has been a lot of chatter about Levi's school lunches... So I wanted to answer some questions, post a couple of recipes and explain how easy it is to do this yourself... if you want to.
About three years ago we started packing Levi's lunches in a planetbox lunch box for various reasons, so to answer the first question why a planetbox?
#1 I have a strong belief that food is extremely visual. The planetbox is pretty.  Not pretty because its has the best characters on the outside but pretty because it is neaust because it is in it!
#2 Because of all of the small compartments it forces me to give Levi a myriad of choices. The outside cover also holds his water and mid morning snack. As to not waste valuable lunch space!
#3 I also love the fact that the planetbox can be washed in the dishwasher and that it has held up well for three years and still looks almost brand new.
How do I cut out all of the cute shapes?
I use mostly metal cookie cutters that I have collected over the years in addition to some Japanese garnishing tools that date back to culinary school. You can find mini cookie cutters in various places... cake decorating stores, craft stores and even online although amazon should be ashamed for selling mini metal cookie cutters for $5 dollars each! (btw I would never pay that)  Some shapes I do cut by hand but not that many.
How long does it take me to make is lunch?
While I'm flattered that some of you think I stay up all night doing these, the true is on average they take about 5-10 minutes prep time.  But I do think about them all of the time. I try to make lunches that interest him.  He loves fish, tornados, whirlpools, car washes, volcanos.  In school they are studying about fruits and focusing a lot on letters and words so I really try to bring all of those elements into his lunch.
Does he eat all of the food?
It depends. he's three. I made him a jello pond with apricot fish in it..."he told me he couldn't eat it because the fish were swimming!" Will I try it again...absolutely!  Levi eats a lot of stuff that most kids wont.  He has woken up in the middle of the night and asked for an English cucumber and actually ate the entire thing... He has also been exposed to a lot of different kinds of food...its sort of the plus to being a chef's son.  He is not into sugar unless its a sour patch kid or a soda.  He threw up the last time he ate a cupcake, but every once in a while he will eat cake with no icing.  I usually don't order a standard kid menu item for him at a restaurant because honestly how can I expect him to try new foods if every time we go out he eats chicken nuggets and these days it doesn't matter if we go to Amercian, Mexican or Chinese the kids menu is almost identical...  Actually don't even get me started on chicken nuggets because I think they are the downfall of American cuisine.. Im not against a piece of fried chicken or even a chicken tender but the formed nuggets are just unfortunate. And honestly if restaurant chef's decided to get just a little more creative and realize that the children eating at their restaurants will one day be adult patrons, maybe we wouldn't see the same stale kids menu... I digress.... So he eats most of the food but does leave some.  Most parents introduce foods to their child once... If they refuse it, the parent doesn't send it again. Most children, most adults actually are not crazy about something the first time they see it.... I'm not saying to send your kid with a lunchbox full of stuff they dont eat... Instead maybe send a couple of new things a week. Make it different ways, spice it up!
Do I do this to show off? 
Ha! No if showing off was using cookie cutters then I really don't get paid enough!  I work alot... And not just away from the home... I have to tell my boys I'm working even sometimes when I'm with them. I work on most holidays and my work doesn't ever really end... That is really hard to understand when you are three.  So making great exciting lunches for him is honestly a great way for him to have a constant everyday reminder that even if its at 530 am and he is still sleeping... I am thinking about him and taking time to do something for him. And I enjoy it! Food should be fun when you are 3! Actually food should always be fun... Why not?  I hear from friends and clients everyday that lunches are a beating so if by me posting pictures even just helps a couple of moms with ideas then it is totally worth it!
Can I have the recipes? 
If it is something that I'm making for my kiddos, absolutely. There are some proprietary recipes that I use for work but most of the time I'm pretty open :) so the much requested veggie chili recipe is here!
Veggie chili
1 Tb olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 mixed (red, yellow, orange) peppers, diced and completely optional
2 -15 oz cans chili beans, not drained
2 -15 oz cans navy beans, drained
2 -15 oz cans black beans, drained
2 -15 oz can pinto or kidney beans, drained
2 -15 1/2 oz can petit diced tomatoes, not drained
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste
In a soup pot bring oil up to smoking add onions and peppers, sauté until slightly soft. Add the garlic and continue cooking over medium high heat for 1 min. Add all of the beans and tomatoes and the chili powder, cumin and oregano. Reduce heat to medium low. Continue to simmer for about 10-12 minutes or until flavors meld and a nice rich sauce develops. Serve with cheese and chips. You can also top with fresh guacamole and/or sour cream
xoxo chef a

Monday, September 15, 2014

In the blink of an eye...

On the iPod  "Wonderful Unknown" by: Ingrid Michaelson

So here I am staring into the video monitor looking for breaths... Luca has been asleep since 7:30 tonight, he has slept through the last three nights by some miracle, but tonight I wouldn't mind a midnight wake up call because today was one of the scariest days I have had as a parent...

Luca and Levi slept awesome last night, they both woke up in good moods and we were excited to spend some quality time with friends, who we love dearly.  I dropped the boys off at my moms and ran to an appointment.  Luca took his early nap right when I wanted him to and by the time I got back to my moms both boys were ready to go to our play date....

The play date started great... The kids were playing wonderfully together.  The moms were catching up when in the blink of an eye everything changed...

Luca turned around from a high table right next to us and in a split second I saw a Tide laundry detergent pod hanging from his lips... My heart hit the floor... I grabbed the pod so quickly from his mouth that I for sure scared the living day lights out of him. I rushed him to the kitchen sink where I tried to remove as much soap from his mouth as I could... I can not even explain to you the amount of bubbles that were spewing from his mouth. He was hysterical, I was hysterical, actually everyone was hysterical.  Well except Levi... Levi seemed to be the only one who probably was so scared by the way we were acting he just kept to himself and played quietly... Luca was visibly gagging at this point and even threw up either because the soap was so thick and tasted horrible or possibly because we were trying to clear out his mouth the best we could and gagged him with our fingers.   I decided to call 911 because he was making weird gagging gasping sounds and I was worried about his breathing. 

Within 3-4 minutes the paramedics had arrived and luca was already starting to act like a normal 8 month old. The first thing they asked for was the box the detergent came out of.  On the back of most cleaning supplies there are instructions on what to do if ingested... I actually knew this from baby first aid class but remembering when your kid is in distress is actually quite difficult.  The instructions were clear, "do not induce vomiting" " drink a full glass of water or milk and call poison control!"  They also asked to see the package of soap that he had ingested... luckily,  luca had not broken into the stain remover part of the pod which is actually more harmful but instead had just ingested the soap part.  

So I gave him a bottle and the paramedics assured me he was fine. (I ended up calling poison control and "Debbie" (the R.N. on call) and I became best buds... She even ended up calling to check on him later in the day) 

Things I've learned from today... 

It doesn't matter how careful you are there can always be accidents....

Kids are completely different... Levi never put anything in his mouth... Luca puts everything into his mouth. 

If your child ever accidentally ingests a chemical. Look on the back of the package first to see what to do.

Have the poison control number on your phone. There is no reason to not have this number on your phone! When we were growing up my mom always had a list of chemicals inside the door of the medicine cabinet with the poison control number on it! Maybe things were easier in the 70s when we used paper! 

Update:  It has been a couple of days and luckily my sweet baby is completely fine. Still sleeping through the night... And I have calmed down to watching him breathe only a couple of times at night :). We feel extremely lucky! 

On the blog tomorrow school lunches.... And recipes! 

xoxo chef a

Monday, September 8, 2014


On the iPod "When I Go" by: Over The Rhine

I feel like I'm ripping a scab off if that makes sense. I've started this blog post three times about other things but it all just seems a bit too surface or rather guarded and well, that's just not me. So here goes nothing...

I work a lot... Taking care of other people's families... Being a chef is just my everyday title but in truth I am part of these families.  Most of them know me like they would know their best friends... And I know them pretty much the same. I cook their meals, arrange their pantries, help them with computer problems, kid problems, housekeeper problems, nanny problems, family problems and even a couple high school math problems. I have been with most of them for almost 8 years and even as long as 15 years. And I absolutely love what I do...

But I'm not going to lie it is painfully hard sometimes. I started working these hours when I was a baby "20 year old".  I used to be able to party to the wee hours of the morning and still be at the grocery store by 7 AM and not even blink an eye. I don't even know what people do till the wee hours in the morning anymore. Please don't take this the wrong way because I love my boys more than anything in the world and I wouldn't give up being a mom for a million trillion gazillion dollars. But do I miss old life...

Sometimes I feel like a rubber band being pulled in 500 different ways and I think to myself... When am I just going to break?  It seems like I have "to do" lists coming out of my ears.  Mike actually came home last week to find me sitting on the couch with the laptop in a chair (being used as a table, mind you) and he asked what I was doing... When I looked down I realized that I was typing nonsense into the log on screen because the computer had kicked me out since I had been idle for too long. In actuality I had fallen asleep completely sitting up while typing and when mike walked in I must have gotten startled and started typing again half asleep... When I realized what time it was, I literally had a 15 minute conversation in my head about whether or not it was even worth it to go to bed because if I did the baby would surely wake up soon and if I just sucked it up and stayed awake he would for sure sleep through! Just to #^%* with me!  And I know all of you mom likes will say "This too shall pass..." But right now it sucks a little...

So I guess at 11:33 pm on Monday night on September 8th, 2014 exactly 5 years since my very first post on this blog I can honestly say that I miss nia, I miss Thursday night karaoke at Meridian Room, I miss long baths without hot wheels cars driving into the water, I miss going to the bathroom alone, I miss afternoon cocktails at Snookies with my girls, I miss alone time with my husband without the fear of doors flying open or babies crying, and I miss being able to call in "rich" and do nothing for the day...wait never mind that last one was never in my life... I don't really miss my "old life" and more than anything I would miss this life more...well except for the more alone time with my husband part :-)

Goodnight... here's hoping for a little bit of balance in everyone's life...
xoxo chef a

Thursday, September 4, 2014

I'm so sorry you are hurt, here's a cookie...

On the ipod "Brave" by: Sara Bareilles

So here I am again... Last Friday after I dropped Levi off at school, I walked through the lower school to get to the school store. As I was walking, there was a slightly chubby girl about 9 years old hysterically crying and holding onto her mom. She was pulling out the big guns, "Mom, don't leave...I love you...please, please don't leave me here!" Oddly enough I was this girl...I was 9 once upon a time and had awful separation anxiety, I'm actually not sure how my mom survived it! But what this little girl's mom said in response to her is what really struck me. As I turned the corner I heard these words, "Honey, if you just stop crying and go in I will get you ice cream right after school."

I kept walking so I really cant tell you how it ended, but what I can say is those words stuck with me all day... It's not that I think the mom is a bad mom or that by her using sweets as a reward she is trying to screw her kid up, but the reason it hit me so hard is because I was that little girl and in some ways I still am. I joke with my family and friends that I can come up with a reason everyday why I deserve a treat. Something special to make me feel special I guess... It goes back to this..."Oh, you scraped you knee sweetie, here's a cookie!"

I'm by no means trying to call this woman out. I do the same thing its just Levi's bargaining tool is the Ipad. The kid could watch YouTube videos all day! I am fortunate that Levi doesn't have the same food issues I have... But listening to the mother/daughter exchange and then really thinking about my relationship with food and well Levi's relationship with the ipad, I couldn't help but think... what is it that we are all really looking for?.

What do we really need when we are finding comfort in say... anything. How could my relationship with my kids change if instead of giving them a cookie or an ipad, I gave them my time. Real time...the kind that doesn't include cell phones or TV...or grilled cheese and cupcakes. But instead just me... maybe we will just talk or maybe we will build the highest tower... the possibilities are endless. I don't really know if its the answer but I know too well that the ice cream after school won't really make the little girl any braver and in actuality it might lead to the biggest weakness of her life.

xoxo chef a

Monday, September 1, 2014

I like the way you work it...

On the iPod "No Diggity" By: Blackstreet 10:03 pm Friday night... Levi is having a sleepover at BeBe's house, Mike is still at work , Luca is asleep in his bed and I am dancing like i just don't care to "No Diggity" Oh my have the times changed... I remember when I started this blog... Mike and I were newly married, we were waiting for our new mid rise apartment to be ready and we were living out of boxes in an interim apartment. My biggest worry was whether I was going to write a blog post before I worked out or after. 2 kids later and a house in my childhood neighborhood, here I am 14 months since my last post. I've wanted to start writing again for awhile but life happens and hours turn into days and days into weeks and so on... But here I am... Levi started school two weeks ago at a private school that I attended at one of the most difficult times in my life- ages 12-14. At first, I was very hesitant to send him there... Although I do have some good memories and even a few close friendships, in general, it was a pretty painful place for me. Not one in which I was just dying to relive. But Levi is 3 1/2 not 12 and they are my demons not his... Not sure where this blog will take us this time, just know I miss it... Feel free to light a fire under my ass if I don't keep up with writing... For those of you who are new here.. Feel free to start at the beginning, you will learn more about me than you might have wanted to! Xoxo chef a