What’s For Dinner?

The proof of the pudding is the eating.  ~Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Cheyenne-Piper-&-Kyle-at-Bethel-Church-2005-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle & his cousin Cheyenne Piper at Bethel Lutheran Church. 2005

Ever since Kyle was a little tyke, he’s been very structured, eventually including his eating habits.  Truly.  It could be ten o’clock at night and he’d sit back in retrospect asking, “What was for dinner?”  Usually I ask, “Are you hungry?”  With Kyle’s response of, “No, but I wanted to know what was for dinner?”  Seriously?  Oh, yes!  Like he’s taking a tally or checking of his daily list.  He’ll even reiterate what he ate and what category it was considered, either breakfast, dinner, supper, or snack.  Kyle can’t simply eat when he’s hungry and leave it at that, he has to place it in a mental check box.

On a side note, in our household, we call “lunch”, dinner.  So what do we call dinner or the last meal of the day?  Supper.  Yes, dinner is our midday meal, or commonly called lunch, and supper is our later day meal, or sometimes called dinner.

Anyway, when conversing with Kyle over his meals for the day, a big WARNING needs to accompany this discussion.  If you try and assist Kyle recollect his food consumption for that particular day, and you categorize a food item as part of the wrong meal, or worse, call out an item eaten from the previous day, he’ll call you out on it and make a big deal about his supposedly missed meal, even when he’s not hungry.

Example time.  Now I can’t exactly recall a specific conversation between us, but they basically go like this:

Aunt-Heather-Piper-baking-in-Pittsburgh-Apartment-1995

Me making cupcakes in my apartment in Pittsburgh (Beechview on Broadway Street) 1995

Stage:  (It’s 10:00 pm on a Saturday night and Kyle is laying on the couch watching television, winding down before bed.)
Kyle:  Aunt Heather what was for dinner?
Me:  (Not thinking to hard on the question)  I don’t know, are you hungry?
Kyle:  No, I just wanted to know what we had for dinner.
Me:  I don’t know, steak and eggs.
Kyle:  No that was breakfast.
Me:  Oh, we had grilled chicken and potatoes.
Kyle:  No, that was for supper.
Me: (Getting frustrated over a pointless conversation.)  I don’t know!  Are you hungry?
Kyle:  No, I just wanted to know.
Me:  If you’re not hungry does it matter?
Kyle:  No
Me:  (LIGHT BULB!)  Oh, we had sandwiches!  (Now feeling pleased with myself for finally remembering.)
Kyle:  Oh, yeah that’s right!
Me:  Now do you want me to review all your snacks including the quart of chocolate milk you drank in one gulp?  (Sarcasm and silliness, for I truly don’t care what Kyle eats or how much, as long as the majority of his consumption is healthy, and in moderation for the not-so-nutritious food items.  Please note, the remark about the chocolate milk was not an exaggeration.  He really does fill up a quart jar with milk and chocolate syrup, and gulp it down instantly.  I guess he’s a growing boy.)
Kyle:  (snickering) No.  But what was for dessert?
Me:  I saw you eating Oreos earlier.
Kyle:  Yeah, but that wasn’t dessert for supper.
Me:  You don’t have to have a dessert for every meal.  Desserts are only for special occasions, or as a rare treat, not for everyday.
Kyle:  Why not?  I like desserts!
Me:  I do too buddy, but it’s not good to have all that sugar and fat.
Kyle:  I like sugar.
Me:  I know!  Same as your dad!
Kyle:  (Snicker, before he heads off to bed, satisfied that his checklist is completed.)

Dad-U-Sonny-Jeremy-Nicole-92-Christmas-Party-Aunt-Heather-Piper

In the back row: Dad, Uncle Sonny & Jeremy. Uncle Denny’s back is on the left & Nicole on the right. Christmas Party 1992

Perhaps this strange and sporadic phenomenon is partially my fault.  When Kyle was little, I became aware that when he wasn’t with my family, he’d miss meals or the sustenance eaten was less than par, not healthy in the slightest.  So I began to teach Kyle to eat at least three meals a day, and snack healthy in between.  That’s about the time I taught him about nutrition.  I especially stressed the importance of breakfast, which was completely omitted from his diet before school.  Or worse, he’d eat his jelly sandwich and crackers on the bus headed to school because he was hungry, and then have to go without for the entire day.  It broke my heart to think of Kyle sitting in the cafeteria with his friends, watching them eat their lunches, while he was hungry.  I’m not saying a jelly sandwich (at the time he hated peanut butter, so that was his PB&J minus the P) is the most nutritious for breakfast, but it’s something.

Naturally, there’s always an excuse, but with a five, six, seven, eight, nine and even a ten year old, there doesn’t need to be an excuse, simply doing what’s right for his well-being.  This is paramount during a child’s developmental stages.  Plus, it’s good habit forming.  Granted, to counter act this, over the years, I began my mission to teach Kyle to make himself some simple and quick dishes to equip him to fend for himself.  Like what?  Oatmeal in the microwave  or eggs. (Yes, Kyle has always known how to make eggs and to properly and safely use the stove and oven since he was probably two or so.)  Grabbing a banana or apple isn’t too taxing and is an acceptable breakfast or snack, both of which Kyle loves.  Even toast would be better than nothing.

On another side note, I also gave Kyle money to buy a hot lunch, not saying the cafeteria meals were any healthier, but at least it was food for his empty stomach and a warm meal.

Well, enough heavy.  Kyle is now a healthy teenager, one who still confirms his three meals of the day.  Maybe something really did sink in when I was teaching him about healthy eating habits.  I hope so.  I only want Kyle to have every opportunity in life, and that includes eating healthy and staying that way for a long time.

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Truly Homemade

Only someone who is well prepared has the opportunity to improvise.  ~Ingmar Bergman

Little-mom-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Mom as a young’in, probably about Kyle’s age during the cracker cereal incidence. c.1950s

I think it’s safe to say, most people like homemade meals.  At least I do.  If you compare homemade to the prepackaged boxed up junk you buy in the grocery store full of preservatives, homemade is gourmet all the way.  Even some of the “homemade” items at the deli counter and on display by the bakery section doesn’t have that delicious homemade quality.  It still tastes cheap and “store bought”.  But not always.  Depending where you get your meals and depending on the item, sometimes they taste like they came straight from your mom’s kitchen.

Of course, this all is dependent on what type of meals you grew up with as a child.  If your mom or the “chef” of the household was a terrible cook or believed homemade was heating up a prepacked meal, then, you don’t know what I’m talking about.  Me?  I am very fortunate, for my mom knows her way around the kitchen.  Granted, she’s not a delicate cook with petite serving sizes nor did she ever care about visual presentation.  Nope.  Mom’s an old fashioned gal who cooks with her pallet, usually no recipes necessary.

On a side note, it baffles me with those who don’t cook, even when there’s no reason for it.  Example:  Those who purchase precooked chicken and throw it on the grill.  Why?  Raw chicken doesn’t take that much longer and it’s not hard.  You get my point.  I’m all for simplicity and for some assistance, but really?

What’s really interesting about mom, is her talent to cook for the masses.  It’s true, mom has a talent for cooking large amounts of food for any occasion.  Not everyone can handle such a challenge.

When I was in elementary school at Sacred Heart, we always had our annual booth at the Fourth of July Celebration at Legion Keener in Latrobe.  Mom was always one of the parents who made large amounts of Italian roast beef for the roast beef sandwiches we sold.  That’s just one simple example.  She doesn’t stop there, mom made all the food for each of our graduation parties, each attendance of nearly two hundred hungry celebration gatherers.  I’m not talking about purchasing food or having it catered.  Nope.  Mom made all the grub from scratch and it was awesome!  No bland generic food when mom’s in charge.

In addition to cooking for large groups, mom is a genius with making due.  I mean, not having certain ingredients to complete a dish or making it up as she goes.  Mom rocks at it!  Although, fair warning, sometimes this isn’t for the faint of heart, watching her and actually knowing what she is mixing together.  The end result is great, but getting there looks a bit sketchy.

Ok, now for the truly funny part of this story.  Last night mom and I were talking about cracker cereal.  What is cracker cereal?  Simply, it’s when you crush up Saltine crackers into milk and sometimes add a little sugar.  Yes, those crackers that are white and square and comes in a sleeve.  They usually make their appearance when someone has the stomach flu, except in our house.  We get in our kicks for the slightly salty treats every now-and-again.  My pappy LOVED Saltine crackers.  He used to pack a sleeve of them in his lunchbox everyday.  (I know because when I was staying with him, I’d wake up at 5:00 am and help him pack his lunch since my gram wouldn’t)

Nicole-Chad-Jeremy-Tim-Aunt-Heather-Piper 1976

Nicole eating with our cousins. Nicole front left, behind her is Tim, across from Tim is Jeremy & in front is Jeremy’s brother Chad. c.1976

To some, cracker cereal might sound gross and to others it might be a step back in time.  Either way, mom ate it as a kid and in turn as did Nicole, Ryan and myself.  Not a lot, but it was usually consumed when the shelves were bare and no other cereal was on hand.

Did the tradition of the cracker cereal continue on with Kyle?  Nope!  First I’ll admit, we are not a big cereal eating family, never really was.  I personally am not a fan of milk, therefore cereal was never my choice of breakfast.  In fact, I’d sooner eat dinner or lunch dishes for breakfast any day, and I do.  Even salads, chili and sandwiches have been consumed by me in the early morning hours, without issue.

How did this tradition die?  Mom, a.k.a. Gigi didn’t introduce it early enough with Kyle.

As mom and I reminisced yesterday, we laughed about the day cracker cereal was presented to Kyle for the first time.  As with most milestones, I was there, including this one.

Kyle was laying on the couch watching his Saturday morning cartoons, probably George Shrinks or Thomas the Tank Engine or Jakers!  The Adventures of Piggley Winks (which it wasn’t because I LOVED that cartoon and I’d remember)  Anyway, Kyle was about six years old or so.  He asked his Gigi for breakfast, which we’ve always made him his morning meal, to make sure he got a home cooked healthy breakfast.  This particular morning Kyle requested cereal.  I thought mom was going to make him eggs or something along those lines to feed the kid, since I knew there wasn’t a box of cereal in mom and dad’s house in close to a year if not longer.

Next thing I knew, here comes mom with a bowl of what looked like cereal?  That was strange, but then again, perhaps mom purchased the disguised box of pure sugar and garbage for Kyle who might have requested it on the grocery list.  Now don’t get me wrong, there are some cereals I LOVE like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, but there’s no real nutritional value.  As mom helped Kyle get situated to eat and watch television, I saw the contents of the bowl.  It was cracker cereal!  No sooner after I realized this, did Kyle question the white monotone material floating in the milk.  His face turned up and I started to die inside, trying not to laugh myself off of the couch.  He ask, “Gigi, Gigi, what is this?”  I’m still trying to hold back the laughter.  Mom responds with a very straight face, as if the kid is uncultured and unsophisticated for never having this type of breakfast.  The conversation went something like this:

Mom:  “It’s cracker cereal.”
Kyle:  Still making this face.  “What’s cracker cereal?”
Mom:  Still holding a straight face.  “It’s crackers smashed up in milk.  It’s good.”
Kyle:  Still making this face grabs the spoon to push around the contents of the bowl.
Me:  Dying inside!
Mom:  Trying to sweeten the deal.  “Try it, I even put some sugar on top.”
Kyle:  Intrigued by the idea of sugar, which I never allowed him to have too much of.  He sniffs the soggy crackers and proceeds to taste it, ever so gently.
Mom:  Knowing this was going to end badly, gave it another effort to convince the kid to eat it.  “It’s good.  I used to eat it all the time as a kid.”
Kyle:  Making an even worse face.  “Umm Gigi, I don’t really like it.”
Me:  Now the bouts of giggles are erupting out my throat.
Mom:  Now is excusing Kyle from having to eat the contents, yet tries reverse psychology.  “Here, give it to me.  I’ll eat it, it’s good.”
Kyle:  Never fell for the trick and gladly handed over the bowl to see if mom was indeed going to eat it.
Mom:  Not wanting to back down and to prove her point, shovels in large bites.
Me:  Gagging
Kyle:  Watched mom, didn’t care and proceeded to ask what else is there to eat.
Me:  Completely lost it and started laughing uncontrollably.  Even mom joined in on the humor.  Kyle didn’t get it.

It was seriously one of those funny moments that can never be recreated, but will be and have been talked about since.  Last night, mom and I were still cracking up hysterically over that story.  While the interaction between mom and Kyle was unfolding, I felt like the reader of a book, knowing the outcome of the story and past chapters leading up until this point and knowing what the main character (Kyle) didn’t, and that’s cracker cereal wasn’t really cereal.  It was great!

Pap-11-1959-Aunt-Heather-Piper

This is a rare photo I’ve never personally witnessed, pap with hair, walking with both of his real legs (no prosthetics) without canes. Miss you pap! 11/1959

Mom still shamefully admits she introduced cracker cereal to Kyle too late in life.  She says, “If I would have had him eating it when he was really little like you kids, then he wouldn’t know no better and wouldn’t put his nose up to it.”  Believe it or not, I think that’s mom’s greatest regret, not giving Kyle cracker cereal young enough.  I’m dying!

As we were talking last night, I also brought up the salad dressing.  You see I’ve always loved salads, yes even when I was younger, especially with the vegetables fresh out of the garden.  One summer day, unbeknownst to me, salad dressings where going to change forever.

You see, we were all out of, you guessed it, salad dressing.  So mom suggested making our own.  Most people would assume making your own would involve olive oil and spices and such, nope!  Mom had me mix, ketchup, squeeze ripe tomatoes, mixed with a little salt and pepper and a dash of vinegar together.  Yep!  That was mom’s version of salad dressing with the items we had on hand.

As we talked about this, we both were cracking up, yet I can’t deny it was pretty tasty.  My version was mostly made with the freshly squeezed tomato juice, which I still do to this day.

Gigi’s a crafty one.  They don’t make ’em like her anymore, although when cooking I do find myself exuding some of her same characteristics, as does Kyle.  Look out next generation, Kyle and I are going Gigi style with cooking!

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Dad Has No Clue

Accept who you are. Unless you’re a serial killer.  ~Ellen DeGeneres

Dad-c.-1990-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Dad hanging out watching television – Nicole’s fish tank in the background c. 1990

With the recent posts of those passing away, I feel like my blog has become an obituary.  I truly want to pay my respects and share stories to those who have passed, yet I need to find humor in the every day.

First, I must say, by writing this post I mean absolutely no disrespect.  It’s just something I’ve notice, as did mom, and I wanted to share.  I find dad funny and it’s how he is and that’s the way it is.  I take no offense to dad’s ignorance, just plain humor in his cluelessness.

Most people have a tendency to omit details and not pay attention to others, and yet there are others with this wonderful talent for such details.  I’m referring to specifics such as likes and dislikes with respect to food, their favorite color, their favorite music group or hobby and the list goes on and on.  Even those are pretty big items most people are aware of with close family and friends.  But what about the smaller, sometimes unknown finer points about a persons personality or habits?  Usually they are commonplace with close family, right?

Dad has no trouble keeping tabs on deer season, turkey season or fishing season.  Those are pretty standard times of the year, and I too can give a guess without looking up exact dates.  However, dad has this unique talent for naming specifics when it comes to those activities.  He can tell me what rifle I was using two years ago, what rifle shot what point deer and who made the shot.  He can tell me what grain of power is in my shells, Kyles and his and what he used the previous year and how each one shot.  He can name each location in four different counties where Ryan and him shot deer, my mom, my sister, Kyle and even me, for all the years we’ve been hunting!  Seriously no joke!  Our Hunting Adventures…New York, Our Hunting Adventures…New York Continued.  He can do the same for small game and fishing.  Actually, it’s pretty amazing.  This talent has yet to slow down, he’s still that sharp.

This recollection also can be applied to dad’s fruit and nut trees.  Dad can rattle of each of the fruit and nut trees in the back yard (about 25 different kinds) without missing a beat.  He can also tell you when each one was planted and how each one produced year-over-year.  He too can name the types of vegetables we planted in the garden every year since I was little.  Pretty impressive!

It doesn’t stop there.  He can name each location where he cleared out trees, worked in the woods or hauled lumber.  Ingrained In the Wood  Sometimes he can tell you what logs he chopped down and hauled out and where they went.  We’re talking over the course of most of his life working in the woods since he was nine or ten!

I think it’s safe to say, that dad is still as sharp as a tack, at least with respect to his interests.  Then there are those times when he is completely oblivious.  Example, when I was in the junior high, mom took me to get my ears pierced with my second holes.  I wasn’t allowed to get my ears pierced until I was in the fifth grade, but a few years later mom allowed me to get two more holes with the understanding that I stopped there.  About three or four years later, after the holes healed up and become commonplace, we were sitting in the living-room and out of nowhere dad asked defensively, “When did you get your ears pierced again?”  I actually sat in shock not truly remembering.  He had NO idea!  It’s not like I had long hair that covered my ears.  It’s not like we didn’t mention we were heading to the mall and what we were doing.  It’s not like there was a big conspiracy or secret kept from him regarding my ears.  Nope, my ear jewelry was a widely known fact that somehow passed over his head.

Dad-&-Kyle-on-Quad-c.-2004

Dad & Kyle cruising on the quad. Kyle loves his pappy! c. 2004

Now let’s get to the silliness of this blog.  When we were butchering the pig a few months ago, Bringing Home the Bacon…Literally dad stepped out and come back with lunch.  (Sometimes I work out of my parent’s kitchen)  Great!  Much appreciated.  What did he get me?  He got me a Subway sandwich.  Good!  Meatball.  Good!  With lettuce?  Not sure how to take that.  Dad knows I love lettuce and salads, so in his mind he felt lettuce on top of the meatball hoagie was the way to my heart.  Umm…. ok?  Did I eat it?  You bet!  Did I mention this strange combination to dad?  Never!  Love the attempt, just a slight miss.

Then, a few weeks ago, dad came home with strawberry frozen yogurt milkshakes for me and mom.  That was a nice surprise.  Dad’s favorite flavor?  Strawberry.  Mom’s favorite flavor?  Chocolate.  Dad got her strawberry.  My favorite flavor?  Vanilla.  Dad got me strawberry.  Mom and I laughed while sucking down our strawberry milkshakes.  After all these years, he truly has no clue.

Recently, I got a hankering for chocolate covered raisins.  Not a favorite stable, but a nice treat every once-in-a-while.  Dad noticed I was eating them because he asked me what I was shoveling in my face.  Between chomps, I informed him, chocolate covered raisins, before polishing off the bag.  Keep in mind, he heard me and I didn’t stammer my words or speak another language when I answered him.  The next day or two, dad comes home with malted milk duds, which I absolutely hate.  In this particular instance, I did mention my displeasure with those gross pieces of chocolate, only after popping one in my mouth thinking it was a chocolate covered raisin.  To my surprise, it was not!

Me: “Oooo Dad, these are malted milk duds!”
Dad: “Ya, don’t you like those?”
Me:  “No, I thought it was a chocolate covered raisin.”
Dad: “You scarfed them down the other day, I didn’t even get one.”
Me:  “Those were chocolate covered raisins!  I told you when you asked.”
Dad:  “O, well I’m sure they will be gone by tomorrow.”
Me:  “I don’t think so.”

They are still sitting in the same place with one missing.  I can’t stomach those things!  Even mom and Kyle turn their nose up to them.

Personally, I’m not a picky eater, truly I’m not.  There are very few food items that I won’t eat.  However, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to reiterate that I don’t eat peppers, no kind of peppers.  Yet dad will bring it up, “Want some stuffed peppers?” or “Let’s get peppers on the pizza.”  No thanks, I’m good!

Gotta love dad!  He truly has no clue, but then again if he did, I wouldn’t have anything to write about.  I know it’s the thought that counts, but he sure is funny!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

Family Traditions Through Sauerkraut

When publications like the Baltimore Sun run headlines like ‘Seafood, tea, sauerkraut in food spotlight,’ you know that sauerkraut has arrived in the national consciousness and has spiked in popularity. We’ve seen our sales climb pretty rapidly in the fourth quarter of 2005 as people have learned about the health benefits of sauerkraut and continued eating it because of its versatility and flavor.  ~Chris Smith

Kyle's-8th-Birthday-at-Chef-Dato-Tin-Lizzy-7-2009-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle’s 8th Birthday Party at the Tin Lizzy with Chef Dato. They made pizza’s & pretzels. Great party! 7/2009

Yes, we do make our own sauerkraut, about once every couple of years.  We make a big batch, and then when it’s ready, we freeze it and it lasts a long time.  No joke!  Great for the crock-pot with kielbasa and hot dogs! Anytime of the year.

It’s funny, as we were getting things prepped and ready on Sunday for the deed, Kyle was super stoked!  He was so excited to participate with the family on such a tradition.  I even said to him, “Kyle you’ve only done this once before.”  He corrected me, and informed me he’s participated a few times with making sauerkraut.  My bad!  I didn’t realize this meant so much to him, and it really did!

Actually, I’m pretty happy about that, learning to make anything is a good lesson, not to mention keeping up family traditions is the best.  My sister didn’t join us this time, but maybe next.

So why would one make sauerkraut?  It tastes so much better than store bought out of a can!  Way better!  Tell me if this makes sense, but growing up with a half Polish mom, you’d think I would have a taste for the aged cabbage sustenance, but alas I never really cared for it.  In fact, when mom would cook sauerkraut, I would gag at the smell, literally dry heave.  Luckily, over the years I’ve grown accustomed to the potency, and developed a mild craving for sauerkraut, only mom’s.  I still don’t care for the canned or store bought.  Probably because mom and dad’s sauerkraut simply contains cabbage, salt and water.  Whereas, if you read the ingredients on the packages, it contains a lot more than that, which I feel taints the taste.  Yep, homemade or nothing.

Pizza-8th-Birthday-Party-for-Kyle-at-Tin-Lizzy-Chef-Dato-7-2009-Aunt-Heather-Piper

The kids made pizza’s & pretzels for Kyle’s 8th Birthday Party. Tin Lizzy with Chef Dato. Kyle’s on the right. 7/2009

How does one start to make sauerkraut?  It’s really easy actually.  Dad always gets about eight large heads of cabbage or so, from the farmers market.  Then, we peel off the outside leaves, chop the heads in half to remove the heart, then the real fun begins.   We have a professional grade meat slicer we use to slice up the cabbage.  Before our lives were made easier, we would use mom’s food processor set to slice, and then before that we would use a hand mandolin or micro-plane, whichever you prefer to call it.  Now that uses the arm muscles!  No wonder the Polish women are buff!

After each head of cabbage is sliced, then it is placed in a large ceramic crock, ours holds about fifteen gallons.  Add about one of dad’s handfuls of course Kosher salt, and begin pounding the sliced cabbage down.  This action helps to generate the natural juices from within.  Where does one buy a sauerkraut pounder?  No clue.  Dad made ours.  It’s simply a wooden cylinder head attached to a long wooden handle.

This process is repeated after every head of cabbage is shredded, and added to the ceramic crock.  While the pounding continues, tons of juices come to the surface till your arms are ready to fall off.  Dad and I took turns pounding.  Mom was in charge of adding the cabbage to the ceramic crock, while Kyle was on the meat slicer.  Yes I know, not a safe job for a munchkin, but he did help with the other jobs and begged us to let him on the meat slice.  It does have the safety features and Kyle was instructed on the consequences of what could go wrong.  When Kyle is scared, he is always overly cautious.  Knowing that, we still meticulously watched him and made sure he was safe.  Dad’s only comment was, “Kyle this thing could take off your finger easily and that hurts, trust me!”  As dad showed him his finger.  Kyle about turned white from hearing and envisioning the reality.

Kyle's-8th-Birthday-Party-at-Chef-Dato-Tin-Lizzy-7-2009-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle rolling out his dough for his personal pizza at his 8th Birthday Party with Chef Dato. Tin Lizzy 7/2009

It’s true, a couple of years ago dad was slicing deer meat on the band saw and took off the tip of his finger.  It’s still missing, gone!  Did he go to the doctors?  Nope!  He wrapped it up, and washed it out until it healed.  It’s still sore for him, but he manages, and uses it now as a learning lesson.  That’s taking a negative and turning it into a positive!

Once the sauerkraut was pounded and done, we placed a glass plate facing down on top of the soon to be aged saurerkraut, with a gallon jug of water to weight it all down, allowing the cabbage to soak in all the salty juices.  Then, we placed several layers of garbage bags down in to seal it off from contaminants.  Yes, the bags are clean and no, I don’t know what they used in the olden days.  Probably some sort of burlap, which we don’t have a supply of laying around the house.  Then, as a final step, we dumped more water into the garbage bags, which resided on the gallon jug, glass plate and the sauerkraut, to really keep the weight pressed down on the future goodness.  That’s it!  Let it alone for about eight weeks and enjoy!

Since we make so much at a go, we divide it into freezer bags, label them and send the sauerkraut to our own arctic in the garage, awaiting our next meal, or for New Year’s Eve morning.  Yes, that’s another tradition I know most people share, hot dogs, kielbasa and sauerkraut for New Years.  I love it!

While we were making the sauerkraut, I do recall the last time.  Kyle was giving everyone positive reinforcement.  You know, “You’re doing good Aunt Heather, keep it up.”  or “Wow, pap pap, good job!” as he gave my dad a thumbs up.  He was in that cheering stage, which was way too cute!

Love that kid!  I hope he never changes and I hope he is always available to make sauerkraut with us for years to come!

P.S. it’s such a whirl wind when making sauerkraut, I never thought to stop and take pictures.  It actually happens so fast and we get into such a rhythm.  Maybe next time, I’ll be sure to snap a few pics for my records.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Family Cooking Raises Healthy Lego Building Kids

I think careful cooking is love, don’t you?  The loveliest thing you can cook for someone who’s close to you is about as nice a valentine as you can give.  ~Julia Child

Kyle-Legofest-Pittsburgh-2012-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle hanging with the Star Wars Boba Fett or Janko Fett at LegoKidsFest 2012 in Pittsburgh

My family is like many who enjoy cooking and cooking together.  We really don’t eat out a lot, hence the congregation in the kitchen when hunger pains arrive.  Seriously, we don’t even really eat fast food.  In fact, the only fast food joints I support when I am in a pinch, or if the graving takes is Chick-fil-a, their service and friendly demeanor is always awesome and contagious, not to mention I love their chicken; or SubWay, when I need serious food and I want to control what is put on my sandwich; or Panera, when I’m looking for better tasting quality food, quickly; or Jioio’s when I want my thin, slightly sweet crust pizza; or any other pizza joint for that matter.  Every now-and-again I will make my appearance at a 5 Guys Burger & Fries or a Sonic or a Dairy Queen, but again that’s rare.  Nope, eating out is a rarity not a daily choice.  I was raised that way, and so I continue to keep the tradition.

I’ve said it before and the same still holds true, I enjoy cooking, especially with Kyle!  No matter if we are talking about breakfast, lunch, dinner or a simple snack, cooking together always makes it more fun!  Kyle really likes being in the kitchen, but he prefers to develop his food with the assistance of others.  Not that I can blame him, cooking together is way more fun and sometimes exciting when we start experimenting with ingredients.

In the past, cooking was a way for me to reinforce Kyle’s reading and his math by making him read the recipes to me and forcing him to figure out the measurements himself.  (Inner Conflict, Egg Sandwich Spectacular, Healthy Smoothie Sunday) Not to mention it was a great way to introduce him to different dishes, expanding his pallet and to teach him about the health benefits of specific foods, or lack there of in some cases.  Yes, I don’t always make the healthiest of dishes, but at least I am aware of what goes into the items I consume.

Kyle-&-Pap-Mentor-Deer-Hunting-10-2012 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle & his pappy getting ready to mentor deer hunt. We eat a lot of deer meat throughout the year. 2012

Same goes for Kyle.  I have always stressed the importance of eating healthy, however I have also demonstrated the moments of weakness and giving in to temptation.  When I splurge and steer clear of nutritious foods and swap them with junk food, I am also aware of how much I consume and how often.  Not to mention I have always lived by example to burn off the food through various exercise.  I’m not saying I am the poster child for physical fitness, but I do try and make a conscientious effort to demonstrate good healthy behaviors to Kyle.  I’m not saying he completely listens to me, but I know the information is being stored up in his cranium cavity…somewhere.  It’s my job to guide him in the right direction, even if I’m pushing him up a very steep hill.

This week has been wonderful, spending every day with Kyle.  For his birthday, I bought him two Bricks 4 Kidz Lego Camps at Saint Vincent College.  He’s been going all week with a morning session and an afternoon session, allowing us to hang out together for lunch.

Kyle-at-IHOP-Aunt-Heather-Piper

A rare treat at IHOP. Kyle wanted caramel hot chocolate. He was reading the Hunger Games while enjoying his dessert drink! c. 2011

All week we’ve been doing breakfast, lunch and dinner together!  And you what?  He has been eating healthier.  I’ve seen his improvement over these few short days.  When we cook together and eat together, Kyle is making better choices with his nutrition.  Plus, having the right foods on hand is a big part of it.

Everyday, he gets to help pick out what he wants for lunch and every day we make the meal together!  Like I said he loves being in the kitchen, helping to prepare the food, cut, stir and flip.  When we’re done, he is truly proud of what he’s made and knows I approve of his eating choices.  This situation just makes everyone happy!

Speaking of happy, Kyle has been seriously energetic and upbeat!  Keep in mind he’s been building Lego’s every morning and night, and this week, one of his rewards for his great report card came in the mail, in the form of another Lego.  So those certainly can sway a child’s attitude, but it also has to do with what is digesting in his gut.  When y0u eat right, you feel right!

Example, Kyle used to like vegetables when he was little.  Then all of a sudden he refuses to eat them, even though I know he doesn’t hate certain veggies.  One day this week, Kyle and I made a huge salad, per both of our suggestions.  He helped me chop up the salad stuff including the carrots and mushrooms.  More importantly, he was excited to make the salad large enough so his Gigi and pappy would have some for dinner.  He not only ate one salad for lunch, but he ate two and then one for dinner!  Granted it was coated in French dressing (low fat), but it wasn’t covered in cheese and no croutons made their appearance.  Just good old fashioned vegetables.  He LOVED the salad and was proud of what he made and his choice for consumption.

I am still amazed over what a difference a few days make, when choosing to eat correctly!  Granted, he does eat pretty good on the weekends, but a lot of the time, that’s our cheat days, which unfortunately is just a continuation of Kyle’s normal week.

Sometimes Kyle tells me what he’s had during the week, and although it sounds fine, the food items he eats are all processed crap.  Full of fat, sodium, not to mention the extra junk they throw into food bought off the shelves that alter our natural body’s chemistry.

The more I learn, the more I’ll continue to teach Kyle and try to live by example.  After all, it’s my job to fight for his health as much as it is for his spiritual well-being and his brain development.

Wander what he wants to eat for lunch today?  I can’t wait to pick him up!

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,LEGO's,Milestone,Observation & Imagination and have No Comments

Food Has Many Tastes

I will not eat oysters. I want my food dead.  Not sick.  Not wounded.  Dead.  ~Woody Allen

Discussing food and different tastes seems appropriate to talk about, since Thanksgiving is upon us.  The day to over eat and mix a smorgasbord of flavors.

Kyles-1st-B-Day-with-pap-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle’s 1st Birthday…hanging with pap 7/2002

Kyles tastes are certainly changing the older he gets.  Personally I love it!  It’s neat watching him develop his own likes and dislikes for food and really expanding his pallet.  My favorite is watching his new discoveries with specific edible items.  Is this a new behavior for Kyle to try new foods?  Nope!  Not even close.  Ever since he was little, we always encouraged Kyle to at least sample an unknown taste.  Our deal was, if he tried it and didn’t like it, he would never have to eat the unfavorable item again and I would never say anything about his choices in sustenance.  You know what?  He lived by that deal.  Sometimes he would turn his nose up to certain items or shy away from the sheer mention of a food, but when it came down to it, he always gave it a shot.  Surprisingly, whether he liked the item or not, he was proud of himself for giving it the good old college try.  Then, when he discovered a new favorite taste, he bragged about it and would go off on a tangent. He would even push the food on us to try it if he felt it was a new discovery.  I was always content with Kyle just trying.  My belief is, how can a child make a decision without knowing all the facts?  I guess more people should use that belief with everything in life.

What really cracks me up about Kyle is his consistent behavior.  Kyle is now eleven and he’s been like this for years.  He has his “usual” at specific places.  There was a time when he would never deviate from the “standard”.  I mean, I know other adults who do this, but for a child?  No one can say that I’m like that, not at all!  I like to change things up, try new items, crave different foods. I like to explore the menu and try the specials.  When Kyle only orders his previously established standard, set by himself, he reminds me of Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory.  He’s the uptight genius who has to have everything a certain way, being very consistent and particular, especially with his food. That’s Kyle.  Well, maybe not that extreme, but not far off the mark.  I will give Kyle credit though, he has a much better sense of humor and personality!

As I mentioned, for the longest time, Kyle had his favorite items at certain places.  I say places because that includes mom and dad’s house, my house, his Aunt Nikki’s, plus different restaurants and gas stations etc.  However, I’ve noticed he’s been trying new items and changing it up a bit.  Not a lot, let’s not get silly, but subtle changes.  Now indulge me while I outline a few examples.  Instead of his “usual” items he gets at these  places… he’s been introducing his pallet to new flavors and variations of the food.

Sheldon Cooper Big Bang Theory - Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle actually makes this face!

Dairy Queen.  Ever since Kyle was eating ice-cream he was known for eating a twist on a cake cone with rainbow sprinkles.  Done!  He only deviated on the different sizes.  When we would treat ourselves for ice-cream, Dairy Queen was generally the place to go.  If we did go to another ice-cream establishment, Kyle would order the same.  Heavens forbid if they didn’t have rainbow sprinkles!  It was like his world was crumbling into a pile of melted ice-cream.  In fact, mom and dad would get him rainbow sprinkles and cones to eat his ice-cream at home.  Way to fuel Kyle’s obsessive behavior mom and dad!  Me, I’m the opposite, instead of catering to him, I would intentionally screw with Kyle to force him to try something new.  I’m fine with the arguments and the kicking and screaming that accompany this situation as long as I was opening his mind.  Not to mention, this fuels my nature to instigate.  Our last few visits to the Dairy Queen included Kyle experimenting with different toppings.  He has branched out to the waffle cone, caramel, hot fudge and nuts.  Not that junk food should be promoted and praised, but it’s a start.

Once when we were at the TastyLand this past summer, he said to me “Aunt Heather I think I’m going to try a chocolate dipped cone instead of sprinkles.”  That may not sound like a big deal to anyone else, but that was a profound statement.  And you know what?  He did and he loved it!  Then he said, “I think this will be my new cone when we come to TastyLand.”  Again, it’s a start.

Moving off of the important sweet tooth to something hardier.  Let’s discuss Subway. Normally I don’t allow Kyle to dine at fast food restaurants.  I try to direct him to eat healthier choices by making our meals, but there are those times when we’re running around on serious crunch time.  In those cases, we try to eat a little bit healthy by hitting up the local Subway.  His usual was a ham and cheese sub with lettuce and black olives.  Over the last year he has branched out to include turkey, ham, pepperoni, bacon with his standard lettuce, cheese and olives, plus onions.  Yes!  Kyle has acquired a taste for onions.  Not a lot, but a few mixed in his food are fine by him.  I don’t know how that happened, but I’ve informed Kyle that onions are good for the heart and he seems pleased with his new staple.  My sister always comments on how disgusting this sandwich is, not that I disagree.  Sometimes I make Kyle omit the pepperoni or the bacon to cut down on the fat.  Although, he never adds ranch or any dressing and he always gets a multi-grain bread.  I can live with that!

Admittingly, I do like the Sheetz Tomato Basil panini sandwiches and the one with Pesto.  Kyle tried them and surprising was not turned off by the hot sandwiches.  This, coming from the boy who has proclaimed his dislike for tomatoes a time or two over the years.  He said “Umm it’s ok, maybe without so many tomatoes.”  That statement actually put me in shock!  His comment was almost unfathomable!  That’s the first I’ve ever heard Kyle speak of tomatoes in any positive manner, not including sun dried tomatoes Cooking With Kyle – Aunt Nikki’s Hors d’oeuvres.  These are all positive steps!

Sleeping-Kyle-w-bottle-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Our little man falling asleep with his once coveted bottle… drink of choice c.2002

Even his usual Egg Sandwich Spectacular! has been pushed to new limits.  He asks for different vegetables to be added to the mixture.  That’s very amusing since he still won’t eat most cooked vegetables, let’s not even discuss the raw ones.  The other day Kyle went into a dissertation on why he thinks he is going through a growth spurt.  You see he is at least a head and a half shorter than all the kids in his class.  Let’s not even discuss that he’s the only one with baby teeth, half of them to be exact.  His height has been the topic of many of his conversations, brought up solely by him.  So when he turned to me and said, “I think I’m growing Aunt Heather.  I think I’m going through a growth spurt.  Maybe I’m going to be tall like my dad.”  I quickly shot back, “Maybe, your dad was around six foot, but I know you won’t grow right if you don’t start giving your body what it needs, like fruits and vegetables.  Your body needs those minerals and vitamins to grow properly.”  He looked at me almost horrified and then said, “But I eat meat and that’s protein for the muscles!  I eat fruit!”  To give him the big picture I said, “Yes, but it also needs other nutrients, the ones found in all the foods.  Even the ones you say you don’t like.”  I could tell he was thinking it over but didn’t say anything else on the subject.

Speaking of foods he claimed to not like.  One root vegetable that I have never understood his disgust for is the potato.  I love potatoes!  Mashed, parsley, baked, home fries, french fries, scalloped, you name it, I eat potatoes.  For the longest time Kyle would never eat the tuberous crop.  Really?  Yep, except french fries, naturally.  He wouldn’t even eat mashed potatoes.  Who turns their nose down to a bowl of mashed up starch with butter, milk, salt and pepper?  Especially at Thanksgiving!  Let’s not forget the potato cakes made from the left over mashed potatoes.  YUM!  It wasn’t until a year or two ago that he started eating mom’s potato cakes.  In fact, every now and again he’ll say, “Gigi can you make some potato cakes?”  They are really good!  I love them really, really crispy!

Since the discovery of the potato cake, Kyle all of a sudden started eating mashed potatoes.  What?  After all these years, he’s acquired a taste for mashed potatoes?  To be honest I think it was the mashed potatoes he initially tried that made him turn away from the side dish.  I don’t ever remember Kyle eating mom’s mashed potatoes until he was asked to by mom.  Then like magic, he was a big advocate of mashed potatoes!

I know tastes change but everyone should follow Kyle’s example.  Give everything a little try and don’t be turned off by something, even if at first it’s not to your liking.  Give it another go.  Maybe it was made differently or your pallet has matured.  I don’t expect Kyle to eat everything and it’s really not that important to me, but it is important for Kyle to give it go.  That’s with everything.  If he has an opportunity to try something I don’t want him to assume he doesn’t like it or worse, afraid to go out of his comfort zone.  I also don’t expect Kyle to be like that alone, everyone in my family lives by the “try it” rule, well within moral reason.

For the record, I eat oysters and muscles.  I especially love muscles!  I don’t care how they are prepared, whichever way desired by the chef.  In fact, I love seafood!  Just like my dad most everyone in the family.  There are very few foods I will not eat.  My pallet is a lot like my dad’s.  Although sometimes I wish I was disgusted by sweets and pastries.

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments
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