You Too Can Make Cute Meatloaf!

Recently I watched my oldest son at a Chinese buffet, happily sucking the eyeballs out of a crayfish (I KNOW. *gag*), and reflected on something: my kids may have flaws aplenty, but they aren't picky eaters. Sure, there are a few things they don't like, but considering that one of them eats paper products (he's ... special, that one), I'd say their tastes are pretty varied.

I think this is mostly because I've always tried to expose them to lots of different flavors, textures, and ethnicities where food is concerned. From the time they were babies, I've given them everything from sushi and spaghetti to Russian syrniki, Thai yum woon sen, and Carolina shrimp and grits. I guess you could say it's for kind of a selfish reason: I love chicken nuggets and fries and other beige foods as much as the next girl, but I don't want to live on those things. And I'm not cooking separate meals just because one of my kids doesn't like the dinner option - ain't nobody got time for that. So they had no choice but to learn to like lots of stuff. Eat it or starve, basically.

The bottom line is, you save yourself a lot of mealtime headaches when your kids aren't picky. When it comes to helping your child develop a diverse palate, there's no better time than when they're little. And there's no better resource than an arsenal of healthy, wholesome, kid-friendly - and most importantly, freaking delicious - recipes. And there's no better arsenal of such recipes than this book right here: What a Good Eater!

This cookbook is co-authored by two real, down-to-earth moms, one of whom - Alessandra (Ali) Macaluso - happens to be a friend of mine. She was kind enough to send me a copy of the book to review (as well as a sweet Vidalia Chop Wizard and an Infinity Jar to help with food prep and storage). I told her I'd gladly do it as a favor - but then when I looked it over, I realized that she was actually doing me a favor. Because y'all? These are some seriously kick-ass recipes.

The book is geared predominantly toward families who want to introduce their babies and toddlers to herbs and spices and flavors. (There are sections conveniently broken up into recipes appropriate for 6 months+, 8 months+, 10 months+, 12 months+, and 15 months+ ... plus helpful tips and healthy snacks, too!) But honestly, my kids range from 4-11 and they all raved about what I made: mini basil meatloaves. See my beautiful, artfully arranged ingredients? I mean I'm practically a food blogger now. You can't even tell that my basil was kind of old. Yeah, I feed my family old basil.

The recipe called for red bell pepper but I only had green. DON'T JUDGE ME.

The meatloaves were cute, for one thing: individual-sized servings baked in muffin tins, just perfect for eating with your hands or tucking into a roll and eating as a slider. Kids like eating cute things. But even better, they tasted phenomenal. And they were easy to put together, which is a huuuuge bonus.

I took photos of them in the muffin tins, but reconsidered when I realized just how gross and old my muffin tin actually is. It might be older than at least two of my kids. And that would be like posing for a lingerie shoot in my stretched-out, used-to-be-white-but-currently-gray Target bra. So this photo is from the book, but let's pretend I took it myself, mmkay?

Nom nom nom! Here's how to make them ...


¼ tablespoon unsalted butter
1 egg, preferably organic
1 1/3 pounds ground beef, preferably organic and/or grass-fed beef
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
½ cup panko bread crumbs
¼ yellow onion, whole
2 cloves garlic, whole
½ red bell pepper, seeds removed, roughly chopped
7 medium-size fresh basil leaves
Approximately ¼ cup of water

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.Thoroughly grease the bottom and sides of a muffin pan with butter to prevent sticking. In a medium-size mixing bowl, add the egg and lightly beat it with a fork. Add the beef, salt, pepper, oregano, mustard, and bread crumbs to the mixing bowl. Mix with clean hands to combine the mixture. Set aside.
3. In a blender, add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, basil leaves, and the minimum amount of water needed to puree (preferably not more than ¼ cup). Puree until smooth. Slowly add the puree to the meat. Thoroughly mix all the ingredients with your hands. Fill each of the 12 muffin containers to the top with the meatloaf mixture using an ice cream scoop. Then, use the back of the ice cream scoop to compress and even out the top of each mini meat loaf.
4. Bake for approximately 23–26 minutes or until the center of the mini meat loaves registers 160 degrees with a meat thermometer. Allow them to cool slightly, then gently run a knife along the circumference of each meat loaf to loosen it. Gently remove them from the pan, and serve bite-size pieces appropriate for your baby.
*You can also try serving these as mini meat loaf sliders between two whole wheat buns with ketchup or mustard. If at first your toddler seems hesitant, try melting a little cheese on top, or serve the meat loaf with your child’s favorite dipping sauce, such as ketchup, honey mustard, or barbeque sauce.

If you'd like to see a few more of Ali and Amy's wonderful recipes from What a Good Eater!, click on over to their website here. And/or, just do yourself - and your fam - a favor by clicking the link below to buy the cookbook from Amazon (it's an affiliate link, just so's ya know). It's a beautiful book, seriously. Visually appealing and full of good stuff that everybody will love. (Pssst ... it also makes a fabulous gift for holidays, baby showers, or for that friend who's constantly struggling with dinner.)

You can also join in a few more fellow bloggers and check out their thoughts on the cookbook with the What a Good Eater! "Virtual Dinner Party"...

Sammiches & Psych Meds
Stay-at-Home Panda
The Filled Lantern
Family Footnote

Happy making-your-kids-not-picky!

Older ... and Actually Kinda Wiser.

Today is my 36th birthday, which means that I'm officially closer to forty now than thirty. I swear I woke up with a new wrinkle, but I also woke up with a pimple which is clearly my body's way of reminding me that I'm still practically a teenager! Right? ... Right?


I can't complain about getting older, though - because as they say, "it's a privilege denied to many" and I absolutely refuse to take that for granted. Would I like to look twenty again? HELL YES. I miss my taut, unlined skin and my firm, un-stretchmarked body and my pre-baby boobs and ... what was I saying? Oh yes. Even though I'd like to look twenty, I would never want to be that age again. Because while I may not have the physical assets I had at that age (emphasis on "ass"ets), I have traded them for something much more important, much more personally valuable: a knowledge of who I am.

We are like puzzles, and we're given a piece or two each year, each one further completing the big picture. Aging is looking at a photograph of yourself that comes into sharper focus as time goes on, so that you notice more and more details. When I was twenty, I didn't realize that I still had so much changing to do. The gift of getting older is being able to see those changes and acknowledge that they're still happening, and to embrace them, knowing that I'm turning out okay.

The self-assurance that comes with age is better than smooth skin or lustrous hair. (Because when you're young enough to have those things in spades, you don't appreciate them anyway.)

I'm gonna rock 36. Aging like a fine wine over here.

Blecch to School

My kids went back to school on Wednesday. Not that I was happy about that or anything.

... I mean, "thrilled" is probably the word I'm looking for.

Seriously, I love the shit out of them, but I was on the verge of dropping them off a few weeks ago with a backpack full of food and clothing and being like, "Okay kids, just wait here. School will be opening in ... a little bit." And then burning out so fast I left skid marks on the pavement.

It's just that those last few weeks before school starts are like the last few weeks of pregnancy. You're like, "THIS HAS BEEN JUST FANTASTIC BUT FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY CAN WE PLEASE BE DONE WITH IT NOW?"

I do miss them during the day, I have to admit. And their first day back at school, the silence in this house - despite the fact that my four-year-old is still home for now - was almost overwhelming. So much that I was actually relieved (for probably the first and only time in my life) to hear his usual call of,  "Hey Mom, can you wipe my butt?"

While I love the laid-back timeline of summer (read: I basically let my kids eat and sleep whenever they want to because I'm lazy like that), I kind of enjoy getting back into an actual routine, even though it's more difficult to keep up with. So overall, I'm glad they've gone back.

But even three days in, there are things that I'm suddenly remembering suck so hard. I mean, you tend to forget about that stuff over the summer because it seems so far away. Then school starts and the crappy parts about it come crashing down like, "Happy fall! And by 'fall' we mean what you're going to do when we slap you back into that School Year Reality." Crappy parts like ...

Waking them up in the morning. Dear Lord. Give me strength. (Or make it acceptable to get drunk before 8 am - whatever works.) There is just something inside every mother that screams nooooo! when it comes to waking peacefully sleeping children. And then when you do wake them it's like this:


Yet on weekends when they could actually sleep in, they're all:

And then after that there's ...

Getting them ready and out the door on time. When their friends show up at the door in the summertime wanting them to play, they're ready in less time than it takes me to yell, "Shut the door, the air conditioner is on!" (Although this may be because they leave the house in strange ensembles such as a plaid shirt and Pokemon-print shorts and a pair of Crocs.) But on school mornings it's as slow as a retirement home around here.

Keeping the laundry done. One thing about sending them to school is that you've got to send them in something that looks at least halfway decent, or at least not like you rummaged it out of a dumpster somewhere. I don't know about your kids, but mine only have a handful of respectable-looking wardrobe items between them, which means I have to do a nightly load of laundry to keep on top of those things, lest they be forced to wear the aforementioned Pokemon shorts.

Keeping up with their crap. With four kids, my poor brain is already on overload (and let's be honest, it didn't even function all that well before the kids). But now I have to remember and manage who needs a daily snack. Whose planner or folder I need to sign. Who turned in what permission slip. Whose lunch money balance is low. Who has a test and when. Whose class is having a competition to collect boxtops. Who is supposed to wear red and gray for "school spirit day." The dates of early dismissals and parent teacher conferences and canned food drives and birthday parties and - BOOM! Sorry, that was my head exploding.

HOMEWORK. Oh. Mah. Gah. I can count on one hand the number of times my kids have done their homework willingly and without complaint. The other times - so like 98% of evenings - it's like I asked them to eat a frozen turd. I have to stand there like I don't have a bazillion other things to do and make sure they stay on task, and then if they've half-assed an answer I'll make them write it again (I KNOW, MEANEST MOM EVER). But the worst is when they bring something home that they need help with and you literally have zero idea how to do it. For me, that's always math. I am so terrible at math that "terrible" isn't even a sufficient word. Nothing makes me feel more brilliant (snort) than staring at an upper-level elementary math problem and feeling my eyes glaze over.

The evening routine. It's pretty much like the morning routine, except that instead of trying to pry them out of the bed, I'm trying to coax them into it at a reasonable time. Which means that everything else - homework, dinner, bath, teeth brushing, etc. - has to fit into a certain schedule in order to be done before it's time for bed. I feel like I need to run around with a cattle prod or at least a well-trained sheepdog. Because it's like spilling a bowl of marbles onto a concrete floor and trying to get them all to roll into the same place at once.

The sickness. I know it's inevitable and I dread the day one of my kids comes down with a fever. Or a sore throat. Or the worst of all: THE STOMACH VIRUS. They haven't been sick at all for the entire summer - not so much as a sniffle between the four of them. But now that they're sharing germs with all the other kids in town, I guarantee it's not long before someone carries home some sort of nasty bug - and then generously shares it with the rest of the household. Ugh.

So yeah, I'm glad the kids have returned to school, but - just as there were things about summer that I could have lived without - there are things I don't exactly cherish getting back into. I just have to keep reminding myself of the good parts: like the fact that my kids can actually ride a bus in our new town (Hallelujah!) so that I don't have to get myself ready in the mornings too.

Because seriously, if I had to put a bra on in the midst of all the morning craziness it might be the one thing that sends me completely over the edge.


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