Nothing says “Happy Holidays” like a pretty plate of sweet treats—it’s my go-to gift of the season.
And a busy season it’s shaping up to be. So far, we’ve accepted invitations to an open house, a Hanukkah dinner, a cocktail party and a birthday buffet; on each occasion, I’ll be presenting my hosts a platter of homemade holiday goodies. I’ll also be putting together tins for teachers, neighbors and, of course, my family as they descend to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Before my children came along, holiday baking was a simple, if labor-intensive, affair. I just barricaded myself in the kitchen for a weekend, didn’t emerge until I was done. With three kids and their demanding schedules—basketball, band, gymnastics—that’s not always option. Over the years, I’ve enlisted their help, but after the first five batches, even the most dedicated young chefs can lose interest.
That’s why I’ve developed a few kid- and mom-friendly moves that make holiday baking a treat:
I recognize these people sitting around my kitchen table. They vaguely resemble my family, but the children are quite a bit taller than I remember and I think one of them may have gotten braces over the summer.
After seven long months and three seasons of sports’ playing havoc with our schedule, we’re finally back to eating dinner together on a regular basis. It may not last—basketball season is right around the corner—so I’m enjoying it while I can. My kids have had far too many meals in bleachers or the backseat of the minivan; I think I have to re-educate them on how to hold their utensils and remind them what a napkin is for.
Today’s families are juggling hefty schedules and amid all the commotion and car pools, family dinner is often the first thing to go. It’s an unfortunate sacrifice, because the benefits of eating together go far beyond good nutrition; recent research shows that children who frequently eat dinner with their families are less likely to experiment with drugs, alcohol and tobacco, and that they also do better in school. (more…)
I really should be a more judicious gardener.
Our house came with two raised planting beds—each the size of a bocce court—in the backyard. I start out every spring with an overload of enthusiasm, planting and fertilizing like a madwoman. As I’m digging away, I picture strolling out the garden every evening and serenely harvesting a variety of delicious, homegrown veggies for our dinner.
My plans don’t always work out. The first year here I decided to grow basil. I had no idea how much to plant, so I figured 36 would be a good number. I soon learned, of course, that basil grows like crazy—and that three dozen plants are way too many for anybody not supplying a restaurant. I spent that whole summer making pesto, and wound up delivering giant basil bouquets to my friends. I’m pretty sure the guys at the garden center are still laughing at me over that one. (more…)
My three kids couldn’t be more different. I’ve got two sons—a thirteen-year-old musician/writer and a ten-year-old sports nut/math whiz—and a seven-year-old daughter who loves hip-hop and art (this week anyway). Partner these diverse personalities with the usual sibling squabbles and it can get a little tough to find family-friendly activities that keep everyone engaged and happy.
Sure, we do Family Movie Night (if they can agree on a DVD) and Family Game Night (if the middle child swears not to embezzle the bank) but I’m always on the hunt for something different. As a mom, what I cherish most are the spontaneous times when we grab a few moments to build, make or do something together. And, because we spend most of our time in the kitchen (meals, homework, pets!) lately we’ve been trying our hands at cooking together.
I’ve got three basic criteria for cooking with my brood: whatever we make has to be simple, delicious and have some redeeming nutrient value. Lucky for me, these yummy Brown Sugar Lolli-Pops fit the bill perfectly. In just a few minutes, we can whip up a treat made with whole-grain popcorn—food I feel great about giving them.