IKEA – solo

Today, I’m treating myself.  Earlier this morning I was grumbling about having to clean up the mess I made from moving furnitures around last night.  M suggested that I don’t do any chores and just enjoy myself.  So I thought about it and here I am.  
Breakfast and a leisurely stroll at IKEA is what I need right now. Wi-fi and a $3.14 breakfast (tax included), it can’t get any better than this. Ok, the eggs aren’t the creamiest but the potatoes and sausage are good.  And free coffee refills. Who can argue?  Gotta love IKEA!

I’m in a nesting mood this week – because there are no kids around during the day. No kids means more work done!  Lots of tidying and organizing. Last night, while doing some online reading on how to deal with toys in all areas of the house, I learned that having one playroom with all the toys is not conducive to play.  

One strategy is to rotate toys.  Intelligent Nest suggests sorting toys (not sets or puzzles) into categories and then taking one toy from each category and placing it in a clear in or displaying them in an inviting way.  This rotation would occur weekly and it claims to increase play time as well as promote higher order thinking.  This strategy is especially beneficial to younger children. I’m definitely going to try it this week.  

Another strategy, also suggested by Intelligent Nest is to scatter toys around the house.  Not in a messy way. But deliberate placement to encourage appropriate developmental play. A very good example is to place the play kitchen near or in the actual kitchen so children can mimic adults and learn in their own way. Come to think of it, we did this for Z when he was a toddler and he loved it!!!  The challenge for us is finding the space to do it.  It’ll involve some rearrangement. 

Breakfast done.  Time to shop!

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Summer in Winter

I’m in my t-shirt and Capri pants. Its that warm out. Yeah. I’m out walking W for a nap.  The first attempt at noon didn’t last long – 30 min.  It’s so nice out, so I thought, ‘why not?”.  The wind is blowing but the sun is beating down so it’s nice and warm in the sun.  I’m thankful for weather like this.

On my walk, I did some errands.  As you know, M is gluten-free. I grabbed some items from the grocery store and came across this new gluten-free bread. I’m telling you, it is delicious.  More importantly, light and fluffy.  


Just look at the air pockets.  Never mind the chia seeds you don’t even taste them.  M spread Nutella on it and was in heaven eating it.  It’s that crazy good. 


Also, take a look at this strawberry.  It is ginormous. It’s probably the size of little Vs heart.  

 

Fort LV

If you have boys or are with a LEGO fan, chances are, you can find LEGO in almost any room in the house.  Maybe not.  But I can.  After coming down from tucking the kids in for bedtime, I was confronted by these three minifigures.  I don’t even know where they came from. They were just lying on the kitchen counter so I decided to place them on the shelf in the kitchen cupboard so as to be able to spot them easily.

Anyhow, tonight, I am solo. With three kids.  M has PT interviews today until 8, then he has a meeting with a colleague.  So, if all goes well with W’s sleep, then I’m in for a relaxing 2 hours.  Otherwise, it’s early bedtime for me.

Let’s start with the great things that happened today.

I took W to the Parenting and Family Literacy Centre this morning for about 2 hours.  She had so much fun and was enjoying the social aspect of it a lot, saying ‘hi’ to every person she encounters.  She even gives things to random people.  We played with the sensory tables (a rice one and a yarn one), did an arts and craft with coloured glue, sequins and feathers, played with baby dolls and play food, had snacks, read some books, and discovered these letter bags filled with plastic beads and objects – kind of like an I Spy bag. We even went to gym time, where she got to just walk around, picking up and carrying balls in her arms.

The night before was not so great for sleep so I was happy that I was able to distract her and keep her occupied and stimulated for the morning.  We rushed home to have lunch and then by 12 noon, she was asleep.  I came downstairs, had lunch, watched a little Jane the Virgin and felt like solving math problems so I sat and did just that!  All this time, I had the monitor beside me and was keeping an eye on her, expecting her to wake up anytime soon.  But she slept – uninterrupted for 2 hours!  I was so relieved that this new schedule was working out so far.

Z had a PA Day at school but I sent him to Kids Club, where they played indoor sports and baked some cookies.  He enjoyed himself with his friends.  Instead of having him come home in the transportation van he usually takes, I went to go pick him up with W.  After, we swung by V’s school to pick her up and then M was last.  On the ride home, I asked the kids if they would be interested in having hotdogs for dinner.  Z had to one-up it and requested for corndogs instead.  Have you ever had corndogs?  Oh, wait till you try this recipe.  It is the easiest!

Corndog Recipe

  • 1/2 c corn meal
  • 1/2 flour (sub for Gluten-free Bisquick for a GF version)
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 6 hotdogs cut in half and skewered
  • canola oil for frying

Just mix all the ingredients and place in a tall glass. (I thinned out my batter a little by adding a tbsp or so of milk.  I don’t like a doughy batter.)  Dredge each hotdog in flour and dip into the batter. Fry in oil at 350F until golden brown.  I like to spin the skewer so that it cooks evenly and the batter puffs up.

Serve with ketchup or your favourite mustard.

Screen Shot 2017-02-16 at 8.25.52 PM.pngWhen W saw the corndogs, she got so excited!  I didn’t know she would love them so much.  Btw, we buy the hotdogs that are natural and free from nitrites.  It’s the PC Brand.  The best.  Hands down.  SO, dinner consisted of corndogs, potato chips and veggies with dip.  I made it so that it would be an easy and fun dinner if I was going to be alone with the kids – even though M ended up staying a little before going back to work.

After dinner, the two kids played for a bit.  I wanted to just sit with W and unwind, have some cantaloupe so we sat on the couch.  I turned on the tv and Odd Squad was on.  Z and V heard it and came and sat and watched.  They love that show.  Then after, Wild Kratts was on – another great show, so I let them watch.  I asked them to come up for a shower after the show was over while I got W ready for bedtime.

They came up on their own, got showered on their own and got dressed on their own.  They did an amazing job.  (Here are the parts I left out.  While in the shower together, V got shampoo in her eyes and was screaming like a banshee while Z stands under the water just oblivious to the fact that V needs water!!! So I had to go into the bathroom and rectify the situation.  Then, a few minutes later, V shouts, “stop! stop! Stop! – her classic one liner, lol, and it turns out, Z was splashing her with water.  Of course, he denies it, so at this point, I don’t even know who to believe. I just needed the screaming to stop and for them to finish showering so the water could also stop running down the drain.)

While they got ready for the night, I go downstairs to get the iPads.  One is completely dead so I had to find a charger and bring it up.  The other one appears to have a new password – a 6-digit one!   What?!?  No one informed me of this change.  So I text M, who, apparently, was in a meeting with a parent. No response for about 5 min so I call (like it’s an emergency. Uhm, yeah, it IS an emergency, coz I’ve got to put the baby to bed. And this password situation is holding us up!) M answers.  Yes, a new password.  Solved!

Z gets ready first and is done before V.  Normally, he prefers one iPad over the other, because the apps are not entirely the same. But tonight, he decided to just play on the one, even though he really prefers the other one. V is still getting dressed at this time.  I leave Z to his device and proceed to turn off the lights and nurse W to sleep.  Then I hear our door open and Z walks in in tears.  Great!  V won’t let him have the other iPad and it has all his ‘favourite games’.  What?!?  So I had to bring the baby with me, scold them (well, I raised my voice out of frustration, really.  I know, shame on me.  But I’m planning to apologize to them later.)  about disrupting W’s bedtime routine, and asked them solve the problem.

I left and W finally falls asleep at 7:05, after much fussing in my arms and in her crib – not really crying but just trying to find a comfortable position.  I sneak out, go to the kids and ask them to surrender the devices.  Z does it immediately, while V wanted to show me something before she gave it to me.

Exhale.

I started by apologizing to the kids for raising my voice. All is back to calm.  We read stories.  Z loves the series of books I found in the library by Jane Yolen. So we read from the Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts.  Now, the reading level is certainly not for kids under 7 because V confirmed the fact that she often does not follow the story due to the writing style.  So I made it an effort to retell using plain language that she would understand.  Book time is really one of my favourite times with them because I get to snuggle up with both of them and read.

The rest is history.  They were both out by 7:45pm.  And  I made a decision NOT to take a shower in case W wakes up.  Instead, I came downstairs to write this post.  And guess what?  W is still sleeping, so this means I have some ME time.  Woohoo!!!!

Oh, wait. I still need to make V a lunch since she has school tomorrow.  Damn.  Ok, that shouldn’t be too difficult.  Z has no school and M is only working half day and will be taking Z with him to school.

 

 

Hanging in Here

9:23 pm.  I’m sitting in the rocking chair, holding W, again.  I went to her at 8:26 pm, got her settled and back  in the crib. I was in the midst of enjoying a delicious slice of carrot cake I baked earlier. 

(At this point I feel like just bringing W in to our bed just so I can get some sleep. But maybe I should wait.  It’s just that I’m starting to ache from sitting in the chair and holding her for hours on end.)

I’m on my own tonight from 4:30 pm today.  M is at a Raptor’s game till late.  I had all three kids for dinner and bedtime.  Dinner was quick and easy – a teriyaki chicken bowl with broccoli and rice.  I even managed to make a carrot cake from scratch.

It’s been over a week since W moved to her new room.  The last couple of nights have been so exhausting with me going to W all hours of the night.  Once you’ve tasted sleep, it’s hard losing it again. I’m not sure why she’s waking a lot.  It’s also become increasingly challenging to put her in the crib without her waking and crying.  The I end up  holding her some more until I fall asleep in the  chair for a hour or so.

M suggested just letting her cry and go back to sleep on her own and not go to her at all. Well I tried that tonight and she just kept crying harder. By the time I picked her up she was so upset that she started coughing and gagging from crying so hard. That was less than ten minutes, too.

Some good things. We finally have a couple of gates up on the main floor so I’m able to let W walk around without worrying she’ll fall down stairs.  The shoes I ordered from Sears before the holidays just came today!  And they didn’t fit so now I need to figure out how to return an online purchase.   

At one point, just after V came home and M was getting ready to leave, I was also preparing dinner. Z was going to be home before 5 do I needed to get the food ready.  I tore off a large sheet of paper, squirted some poster paint on it and let the girls paint.  I took off Ws clothes and let her paint naked. 


W enjoyed herself so much it was comical to watch her.  She even have herself a moustache.  It looks like a lot of cleanup but in fact, it wasn’t.  Baby: tub wash. Floor: tear off masking tapes sheets and mop. Voila!

(Gotta go put W down. I’m going to try and rest before the next  I feel like a rough night is ahead of me. No rest for mama tonight. Sigh.)

Buddha Bowl Buffet

Yesterday was our last get-together with sis and her bf.  They fly off to London tomorrow.  They’re going to be sadly missed.  We had a send-off lunch and one my other sis-in-laws suggested Buddha Bowls.  It’s perfect since it can be made to be totally vegan.  I loved the whole concept since you can really have a variety of items in your bowl.  Here are the items we had in our buffet.

file_006Grains:  Brown Rice and Quinoa

Proteins:  Tofu Puffs, Fried Tofu slices, Edamame, French lentils (Technically, Quinoa is also protein)

Vegetables: Corn kernels, cucumber chunks, carrots shredded, avocado cubes, roasted butternut squash slices, cherry tomatoes halved, shredded head lettuce, shredded romaine lettuce, blanched and chopped rapini with olive oil and garlic, sliced shanghai bok choy

Aromatics: red onion, scallions, cilantro, basil

Crunchy Toppings: Cashew pieces, chickpea puffs

Dressings: Tahini, Soy Maple Garlic, Peanut

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There are endless combinations you can make with these choices.  In fact, there are even more items available you can use.  The possibilities are endless.

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It’s easy to have two or three bowls since it’s all so light and fresh.  And the best part is that there’s no need to worry about the food getting cold as everything is served at room temperature.  As for dressings, I chose the peanut and soy ones because I love those flavours.  You can use whatever dressings suit your tastebuds.

file_003This has me thinking now.  I’m going to serve this next time we have a party since people can just help themselves and it can be completely vegan and gluten-free.

What other items do you think would be good to include in a Buddha Bowl?

Hearty Breakfast

I love weekends.  But I love breakfast on weekends even more.  When else can you have French toast or home fries, eggs and bacon, or fried rice? Or steamed buns?

Last night I made steamed bun dough while M was out with his colleagues.  I re-steamed them this morning and it was a hit with all three kids!  But because M is gluten-free he couldn’t eat them. So I made Chinese Fried Rice.

Our household loves rice. We go through rice so quickly that I need to buy a 40-lb rice to make it last a long time.  Another thing we have is  a 10-cup rice cooker.  (I know what you are thinking – who eats 10 cups of rice?!?!)  Well, we do – but not in one sitting, obviously.  I like to make extra because you can always just microwave rice to reheat.  And if it gets stale, all the better to make fried rice with!  Also, when I make sushi rolls, I go through a lot of rice so it’s better to cook it in the rice cooker.

Whenever I am cooking, one of the kids ends up wanting to help.  This morning, it was Z. So I made him don an apron and stir-fry rice in a wok.  Here’s how we made it.

Chinese Fried Rice

Ingredients:

  • 2 pcs Chinese Sausage
  • 2 pieces of green onions, chopped
  • 3 cups stale rice
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce 0r 3 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp veg or canola oil

Directions:

  1. Heat wok until smoking and add oil.
  2. Scramble eggs in the hot oil until cooked.
  3. Add a handful of green onions (or omit if you don’t like).
  4. Add Chinese Sausage and stir for about a minute.
  5. Toss in stale rice and cook, tossing to distribute the heat and ingredients evenly.
  6. Season with soy sauce and/or salt.
  7. Enjoy!

Happy Friday!

You know the feeling when you don’t know what day it is?  It happens when I’m not working.  It’s Friday already!  Yay. Spending time with M and the kids is what I look forward to.  

Tonight, I was home with all three kids for dinner and bedtime. (M went to a coworkers retirement dinner party.) It is a challenge but not impossible. Now that W is walking, she tries to keep up with Z and V.  They were playing ball and W was in it, laughing and giggling with them. 

When it was time for W to get ready for bed, I let the other two have some tech/tv time. I came back down in time for them to have dessert.  We managed to get ready and read two books before W woke up. I had to bring in W to their room while singing to them so that everyone would be happy. 

I quickly went downstairs to finish making mochi.  This weekend, we’re having a play date and dinner with friends and on Sunday, a send-off get-together for my little sis and her bf.  They’re off to London on Tuesday. They will be sadly missed. 

We’re having a Buddha Bowl Buffet on Sunday for lunch.  I’m so excited as the table will be covered with all these colourful and fresh ingredients. I’ve prepared two vegan and gluten-free desserts.  

The first one is Chocolate Coconut Cashew Bars. I tried them and it’s delicious.The second one is a twix copycat – VGF version.  Here’s the link if you would like to give it a try as well.  

I also made mochi with red bean and black sesame paste. 

Since we are on the topic of food, I was at the public library the other day and came across an awesome book. I love it as the fairy tales are followed by a recipe.  Z loves the stories even though there aren’t a lot of pictures.  V is not as patient but will listen.  

In the book is a recipe for Steam Buns. So I made half a batch. Here’s how they look before and after steaming. 

What are you cooking this weekend? 

Meats and More Meats

Today, we woke to a lot of snow again.  I had offered to drop M off at school so he wouldn’t have to walk in the snow. It’s about 6 inches deep.  The drive to Vs school was longer than usual, even with the detour.  Nevertheless I got her to school a few minutes after nine.  But of course, baby W was getting impatient. So I made a stop at our favourite Korean grocery store – Galleria. 

At our house, we love meat.  Galleria has the best quality meats we’ve seen for a reasonable price.  Their butchery puts out great cuts of meat and because it’s an Asian store, there’s a wide selection of animal bones. The cold weather always makes me feel like soup so I bought a few trays of beef and pork bones for soup making.  Beef Chuck Rib and pork belly were also on sale.

Here’s what I bought. (Pardon W’s hand. She thinks everything is a toy.  LOL)

Here is what I’ve planned for each of the meats.

Beef Tendons – sous vide in a curry sauce

Short Rib Bones – roast and make beef Pho broth (mmm…)

Chuck Rib – sous vide with Korean BBQ Sauce and then sear to finish (reduce the juice to a thick sauce to drizzle over)

Pork Bones – make Gamjatang (Korean Pork Bone Soup – my favourite!)

Pork Belly – sous vide with a soy garlic marinade and sear

Stay tuned to see the finished dishes!

 

Vegan Dinner Challenge

My vegan sister and her vegan supporter boyfriend are coming over for dinner tonight.  M and I decided we were going to attempt to cook a completely  vegan-friendly dinner.  They are moving to London, England in about two weeks so we won’t see them for a while.  We want this dinner to be a lasting impression.  I will start by showing you all the main ingredients I used in preparing the dishes.


Firm tofu is a great product to use as it is so versatile.  You can stir fry it, marinate it, or fry it. It also comes in soft and medium.  If you want to have a chequer texture, firm is the best choice.  Soft is great for soups.  Last night I pressed some tofu to rid of the excess liquid in it. All it takes is to place it between two plates and place a heavy weight on top while it sits in the fridge.  You’d be surprised how much water comes out of it.

This is a product called Fried Tofu Balls or Puffs.  They are so delicious.  Sometimes I just pop them in my mouth on their own.  They are great in hot pots, stir fries, or own their own.  Again, they will take on any flavour of sauce you use. Bonus:  They are FUN to eat!

 I did a lot of the prep work, or mise en place, as it’s called in the culinary world, ahead of time.  My favourite aromatic is this variety of garlic that comes as one bulb – no peeling of separate cloves. Solo garlic.  It is truly a cook’s dream come true as it saves so much time. Not only that, you also don’t end up with all the paper-thin skins flying around everywhere.  As for flavour I would say it’s quite good, maybe a little less garlicky than its cousin.

A favourite kitchen tool of mine is this garlic and ginger grater.  It also comes in ceramic form – a better quality one. I love the flavour of ginger but gag when I accidentally bite on a piece of ginger.  Weird, I know.  But that’s me.  This grater gives me ginger flavour without the chunks.  It is super easy to use and even easier to clean – just wash with soap and water.  You can find this tool at any asian supermarkets.  And the bonus part is that it is inexpensive.  This one cost me $2.99.

At one point in time, I had scallions growing in jars of water on my kitchen window sill.  The problem with that is the water starts to smell if you don’t change it often.  So I stuck my grocery store-bought ends into a plant pot in our dining room and just let it grow there.  Now I will have scallions whenever I want – and they will always be fresh and not wilted or dry, as they tend to get in the fridge.


I love mushrooms in general.  Their earthy flavour and meaty texture lends to a lot of possible ways to prepare them.  The King Oyster is by far my favourite as it is so big and you just get a lot of mushroom in one bite.  The smaller ones are called Shimeji Mushrooms.  They are so cute.   Sauteed with garlic and butter or olive oil, they are delicious just like that!  I bet they would taste great in an omelet as well!

I found this fresh bean curd sheets as well and I had Z cut them into strips to resemble noodles. They have a great texture and has so many possible applications.  Here’s a link to Mark Bittman’s article on Playing with Tofu Skins.   And if you’ve never tried or are curious about the different types of tofu products, read this article.

And now for the dishes.  I will start with the most popular one.

Sweet Chili Tofu

I like to use Pinterest to search for visually appealing dishes and I came across a Honey Sriracha Tofu.  I didn’t have a lot of Sriracha left and didn’t want the dish to be too spicy in case the kids wanted to try it.  So I used a sweet chili sauce instead and this eliminated the need for honey.  The tofu is coated with potato starch, which was shallow fried first to obtain the crispy outside.  After removing the tofu from the wok, I fried up some onion, ginger, scallions and green pepper.  I then returned the tofu into the wok with the aromatics and added my soy and sweet chili sauce. This dish is pure deliciousness.

Bean Curd Noodles

This dish was also very good. The ‘noodles’ were first pan fried to get the crispy texture (texture is everything when it comes to food!) and then stir fried with the Shimeji mushrooms and onions, garlic and ginger.  As for sauce, I used soy sauce and some sesame oil. Simple flavours.

Zander stir-frying King Oyster Mushrooms for MooShoo


We love lettuce cups and I usually make it with ground pork.  To substitute for the meat, I diced the meaty King Oyster mushrooms and stir fried it with onions, garlic, carrots and used hoisin to flavour and season the dish. Served with fresh iceberg lettuce, it makes for a light appetizer.

Mixed Greens with Fried Tofu Balls

The last dish is a simple stir fry of snow peas, broccoli and fried tofu balls.  A corn starch and vegetable stock makes the sauce for this dish.  This could also be used as the topping for crispy fried chow mein noodles to make a vegetarian version of chow mein.

All in all, I would say this was a successful dinner and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it – at least the adults did.  I loved this challenge as it really forced me to cook with a lot of produce since sometimes I am guilty of us not eating enough greens.  And can I also say that this meal was also entirely gluten-free?

Now that I have done this, I am up for more challenges.   What challenge would you like to see me do?

 

Holiday Frenzy

I love the holidays.  It’s a time to slow down and enjoy loved ones.  But at the same time, one can’t help but feel the hustle and bustle of preparing food for gatherings.  

Our family had brunch this morning at my mom’s. It was all five of us siblings, plus our other halves, and the kids.  This year, there are five grandkids.  So we all crowded around in my mom’s townhouse living room. She also has Sophie, my little sister’s bf’s cat.  Willow loved seeing her and wanted to touch her the entire time.  

As for naps, they were terrible.  28 min in the morning and 23 min in the afternoon.  I can’t imagine how exhausted she must’ve been. Despite the short naps, she was happy in the car both ways.  


We did gift exchanges for the kids at my mom’s and Z couldn’t wait to put together his NHL hockey table.   W wanted to get into it as well so I tried to distract her.  She got a Vtevh basket and cash register.  She loves the basket.  

I had cinammon in a ziploc bag that she saw. And you know how much she loves plastic so I gave her a stick.  She loved chewing on it!   She held on to it for at least 15 min, chewing on it every so often. 


This is one moment V and Z were playing nicely.   As soon as V picked up the puck instead of using the players, Zander got upset.  I was preparing dinner at the same time since B and L were sleeping over tonight. Z and V were so excited about this.  


I made latkes for dinner – gluten-free and vegan. Traditional latkes require egg or flour as binding agents.  To achieve a crispy exterior and chewy interior, I used Russet potatoes (lower water content) and chickpea flour in our Vitamix blender.  Some salt, pepper and an onion and that’s it. I shallow fried them in my cast iron pan.  They turned out delicious. 


After dinner the kids wanted to watch a movie with B and L. So we put on Zootopia and made popcorn. This was a splurge as we normally buy microwaveable popcorn.  I don’t think I will ever buy that stuff anymore after tasting these kernels.  So much tastier!  And that cheese powder, from Amazon, just makes everything taste even better!