Monday, June 30, 2014

Be a YES Mom

If you are a parent you've probably heard this phrase a time or two, "Be a YES Mom" or some derivative of this phrase. But, what exactly does it mean? 

Several years ago I took my kids to the Zoo. I had just two kids at the time; a baby and a toddler. It's a day that has been stuck in my head for quite some time now. While walking through the Zoo looking and gawking at the animals I seemed to be in a hurry. Why? I have no idea, but isn't that what moms do? Rush? We rush in the morning, we rush for nap time, dinner time and bed time. It becomes so natural that we always feel rushed. I'm guilty of it, we all are. 

So, while we were at the Zoo my toddler climbed out of my double stroller and decided to walk while I continued pushing the baby. I was telling her to, "Hurry up," "Keep up," and "You're going to have to get back in the stroller!" At that exact moment I looked over at another mom who was patiently waiting for her daughter to catch up to her. Her daughter was in lala land and this mom didn't seem to mind, even though her friends and their kids continued walking and she was left behind. 

I still, many years later, remember that mom's words to her little girl, "What are doing? Trying to crush every leaf on the ground? Okay." Still while she stood patiently waiting for the girl to literally step on each and every leaf on the ground. 

It made me step back and look at myself. Why was I telling my toddler to hurry up? Why was I trying to rush through the Zoo? Didn't I bring them there to enjoy and learn? 

I keep that day and those thoughts and feelings in my head almost daily and it reminds me to be a "yes" mom. But, what is a "yes" mom?

Does it mean saying, "yes" to sweets before dinner or unlimited screen time? 

Does it mean spoiling our kids and buying them everything they want; letting them do whatever they want? 

Or does it mean saying, "yes" to childhood? 

Saying, "Yes," you can stop and smell those flowers even though I'm lugging a 20 pound baby and my arm is about to fall off. 

Yes, we can take a moment to try and catch that frog, then many more minutes looking and examining it. Maybe we'll even try to take it home. Or go to the library and check out a book about frogs. Why? Because this child's natural curiosity has drawn her to want to learn about frogs. 

Isn't that what children are doing all day, every day, learning? Whatever it is that they stop to explore; a bird, a lizard, a flower or mushroom is what they are naturally wanting to learn about. It's how humans learn, we explore and discover.

Being a yes mom is not about spoiling our kids, it's simply about saying yes to childhood. "Yes, please walk on the curb, even though it slows us down. It's improving your balance and really, what am I in a hurry for anyway?"

Moms, let's say, "Yes!" Yes to:

Staying up past dark to catch fireflies

Picking a bouquet of wildflowers during an evening walk

Playing in the sprinkler, who cares about the mud?

 Walking with the family and getting an ice cream cone after dinner

Going down the slide just one more time (again and again)

Picking dandelions and blowing them to make wishes

Staying up late to snuggle on the couch and watch a movie together

Making mud pies

There's so many excuses we, as moms, can come up with. It's too late, they'll be tired tomorrow. I'm in a hurry to get back home and (fill in the blank). That's going to make a big mess! 

But what are we rushing? Our children's childhood? 

Its time we all take a deep breath, step back and look at what's really important. Is it getting dinner on the table by 5 o'clock and the kids in the bath by 7 o'clock? 

We must stop rushing and fretting the little stuff and start letting our children be children. Because the truth is, the laundry and dishes will always be there, but our kids just keep growing up.

Let them explore, discover and learn. They're creating memories and we'll have time to clean it up...later. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sweet Potato and Kale Hash - Meatless Monday, Vegetarian Dish, Vegan Meal

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Summer is in full swing here at our little homestead, which means I don't spend too much time in the kitchen. Not like I do in the winter, that is. In summer we usually eat quick meals so we can go out and swim in the evening. A cool dip in the lake is a perfect end to a sweltering hot and humid day here in the Midwest! 

I actually discovered this hash recipe over the winter and it quickly became a favorite in our house. But, one of my favorite things about it is how easily I can change up the ingredients to use what we have. 

I'll first tell you the "real" recipe, then how we've modified it. The recipe serves 4 adults, but with our kids being young it serves all 5 of us. Once everything is diced and ready, cook time is roughly 15 min.

What you'll need: 

1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
3 cloves minced garlic
3 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin 
2 cups chopped kale
1/4 cup water
salt and pepper

What to do:

1. Place the diced sweet potatoes in a glass bowl with a tablespoon of water in the microwave for 2-3 minutes. You don't want them to cook, but just get a head start. 

2. In a small bowl mix 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the chili powder, 1 tsp salt, and cumin.

3. Once the sweet potatoes are out of the microwave, add to the glass bowl the onion, bell pepper and garlic.

4. Pour the olive oil and spice mixture over the sweet potato mixture and coat the veggies.

5. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a skillet on med-high and add the veggie mix to the skillet. 

6. Stir occasionally until the sweet potatoes are fork tender (If you choose not to use the microwave for the sweet potatoes this step can take quite a while, trust me). The sweet potatoes will also get a nice crisp to them from the spice mixture. 

7. Once the sweet potatoes are tender, add the 2 cups of kale and 1/4 water and cover the skillet with a lid. The kale will quickly steam to a nice wilted texture. 

Once the kale is wilted the dish is ready to eat. It is best served immediately. You may choose to season with additional salt and pepper.

Ok, so that is the original recipe (originally found here) and it's amazing. But, what I love most is how adaptable it is. 

You can eat it as a side dish to a multiple course meal.

You can add more veggies. We've added broccoli (seen in the photo), subtracted bell pepper when we are out of bell peppers, added edamame for protein (great meatless Monday dish), added diced carrots, added mushrooms, etc. Basically, you can add any veggies you have that need to be cooked! :) 

You can serve this as breakfast (or dinner) with a sunny side up egg on top. 

You can do anything you want with it! And that's the best part, other than the amazing flavor! 

I hope you all enjoy this dish as much as my family. I'm sure we'll be eating it a lot this summer with all the kale and veggies in the garden. I bet it would be great with fresh squash! 

As always, I love to hear feedback. Did you try it? Did you like it? 

And what are some of your go-to quick summer meals? I'm always in need of more ideas!