Taste of Tacoma – Yum

Every year the Emerald Queen Casino hosts the Taste of Tacoma at Point Defiance Park. This is a great food festival. Admission to the festival itself is free, but there is a cost for the food and the midway games and rides. Food is everything from ethnic, featured vendors of olive oil, to great/local restaurants.  No plate is above $8 and if it is like the last few years, several vendors will offer “Bites” or single “try-it” size servings for less.  This year they are also all offering a healthy heart taste too!

Also, when you show up at the event, right near the entrance to the food court, check to see if they still offer discount food coupons.  In prior years they offered 1 ticket for $1 and 20 for $15 or something like that.  It beats paying cash directly or standing in line at the ATM!

In prior years I lived right off the #11 bus line, so I rode the bus back and forth to the Taste, super easy and relatively inexpensive. (The number 10 bus line runs by there too.)  For people who like the shuttle idea, you can ride the shuttle from the TCC park and ride.  Im not sure if it is free or if it is $4. The website says FREE the facebook page says $4.  If you do ride the shuttle, the times are: Friday and Saturday 11am to 9:30 and Sunday 11 to 8:30.  Or, you can try to find street parking in the neighborhoods around the park.

Go, get your eat on! Get something fried, something healthy and get some strawberry shortcake (one of my favs) and enjoy yourself.

Pork Chops with Mushroom Gravy

Pork Chops with Mushroom Gravy

While you may think you know this recipe, it is has been re-incarnated from what I grew up with (milk and cream of mushroom soup) for the lactose intolerant in our house.

  • 1pks of pork chop – regular cut
  • 2 Carrots
  • 3 Stalk Celery
  • 2 sprigs of Rosemary
  • 2 pkgs of sliced crimini mushrooms (or button if you prefer)
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbs flour
  • 4 C stock or broth of your choice

Pre-heat oven to 350 deg. In large dutch oven on stove heat on med heat. Use 1Tbs Olive Oil and batch brown the outside of your Pork Chops. Stack any pieces that do not fit (smaller ones only) on top of pile. Top with sprigs of rosemary, carrots and celery. Seal with foil and place lid on top of foil. Place in oven until Chops register 135 or 140 degrees on instant read thermometer. Take out of the oven and place on cutting board, re-use foil to tent the meat. The residual heat will finish cooking it.

Re-use the dutch oven and drippings from the meat. (big fan of not having to use multiple pans, but if you want your recipe to go faster, then start the gravy while the meat is cooking and add the drippings at the end). Place drippings in a fat separator or other dish. Heat the dutch oven with 1Tbs of olive oil and 2Tbs of meat drippings. Saute Onion and mushrooms until soft, then add garlic (it cooks faster) until fragrant. Add 2Tbs of flour, and cook until light brown. Use a blender or food processor to blend the roasted rosemary, carrots and celery. Add remaining drippings and stock and the vegetable mixture. Simmer until thicken and glossy.

Add the pork chops back to the dutch oven to keep warm until serving. ENJOY!

I like to serve with green beans and roasted potatoes…

Story Hour at the Conservatory

Like books and want to keep the kids busy for an hour in a beautiful park like setting? Then this is definitely at great idea! You can do this even if its raining! But if the sun comes out in the afternoon, skip on over to the great water park and playground at Wright Park. Get the kiddos educated, crafted and played out and have a peaceful afternoon when you are all done!  If the kiddos are too young to read on their own, add this to their list of books read through the Tacoma Library Summer Reading Event. Pack a lunch and make it a great frugal event…

Parking around Wright Park can be tricky with all the permit only parking.  So watch for the signs, and ENJOY!~

Thursday (11:00am – 12:00pm)

Bring the kids to enjoy stories, art and science projects among Seymour Conservatory’s beautiful flowers. Bonnie Beaudoin leads the group in an hour of fun!

  • June 28: Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert
    Science: What is a Rain Garden?
    Art: Thumbprint Flower Garden
  • July 5: If I Ran the Rainforest by Worth
    Science: Nature’s Camouflage
    Art: Camouflage Sponge Painting
  • July 12: The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle
    Science: Ladybugs and Other Garden Insects
    Art: Ladybug Hunt & Craft
  • July 19 Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens
    Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert
    Science: Fun Nutrition Facts
    Art: Garden Collage of Seeds
  • July 26: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
    Science: Our Gifts From Trees
    Activity: “Ornament Tree” Origami Wishes
  • August 2: Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
    Science: Bulbs, Tubors, Corms and Seeds
    Art: Tissue Paper Flowers

Pureed Food Pouches = Not for My family

I read a tweet earlier this morning from @biculturalmama and @pregnancyorg talking about those trendy pureed food pouches you can buy and see kids sucking down.  See article here: http://www.pregnancy.org/blog/food-pouches-for-kids-good-idea-or-lazy-parenting

The article talks about how many parents use these pouches to ensure their toddlers and young children eat balanced meals.  First, I would have to say – yes these products are geared toward very young children. I cant imagine sucking on one of these bad boys in a Jr High environment. But perhaps times have changed.

Yes, I agree that great nutrition is something that you should strive for. In the age-0ld battle of “eat your vegetables, or else…” teaching your kids to eat real food, not pureed, is a way to teach so many other things.  I also understand life is chaotic, as the mother of 3 rambunctious boys, chaos can reign supreme at our house.  During chaotic moments, throwing things into a backpack and running out the door requires extreme portability for snackage.  But I have an issue if these food pouches become a staple of the everyday.  We should not have to trick our kids to eat well.  We should strive to to encourage an appreciation of a healthy life which includes great food.

Food Should Be Real

Food should be real.  Food is more than just taste. Food is a cacophony of texture, taste, color and smell.  In order to teach your children to appreciate the variety and literal spice of life, they need to see those different elements, which is hard to do when the food comes inside a little pouch and is sucked down while running from one place to another.  If the child is used to ‘drinking’ their snacks or meals, will they return to real carrots, peas, spinach, apples and oranges when they are making their own lunches? Will they reach for an orange, orange juice, or orange soda after a squeezable/drinkable precedent has begun?

Food Takes Time

The preparation of food takes time. Sometimes time is what we don’t have.  Cooking anything, is a labour of love. Sitting around a dinner table was a big important deal to my family. It was where we could talk about our day, things we read in the paper, back when it was printed on paper.  We also packed our lunches for school, daycare the night before, but together.  Mom would cut the carrots and I would bag them or something like that.

The new big thing in business right now is to hold “stand-ups” or regular, daily meetings with your staff.  This is a way to check-in, make sure everyone is working on the right projects, can get answers to questions and most importantly, put everyone on the same page.  Why should we treat our family, our children, any less important than our co-workers?

Food is Tradition

Perhaps my visceral reaction to this story and this product is the tradition element.  I like techno gadgets as much as the next person, and love the functionality of my tablet computer, but I some days I  mourn paper. I enjoyed the quiet times with my mom, packing lunches and learning how to cook.  Now I enjoy when the baby runs to bring me the peanut butter for sandwiches, or the older boys help build the salads for dinner. Soon they will be my sou chefs, prepping the food. I enjoy building that legacy with my boys.

Strategy and Planning Can Fight Chaos

I understand life can be a little nutso. When life happens, it’s WAY easier to grab something pre-packaged and run with it.  But, many of these emergencies can be preempted with a little planning.

  • Cut up the veggies and pack lunches the night before.
  • When cutting apples for lunches the night before, reassemble the apple with a heavy rubber band you save from the lettuce at the store – its a no preservative way to prevent browning
  • Add bananas to your PB sandwich, healthier than jelly. (Elvis LOVED this, and frankly so do I)
  • Include snap peas or other interesting foods to supplement or replace crunchies like chips
  • Buy pre-cut, whole fruit from the store
  • For adults, make meals with left overs, then package them in to-go containers for work.
  • You can pack a weeks worth of salads on a Sunday night, keep dressing at work or bring a small, separate container.
  • Garden, when the kiddos see where carrots, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes and zucchini come from – its easier to get them to eat it.

We all have a battle taking place, and its one that I struggle with, how to keep kids eating healthy and active.  What will you do to help win this particular war?

Another really interesting article on food pouches: http://www.shapingyouth.org/?p=15696

Summertime Challenge – Junuary


It is almost the end of June, or this year Junuary. In the great Pacific Northwest, summer might have started according to the calendar, but the sun generally doesn’t start showing its face on a regular basis until late July. Since out family challenge is to explore more of what the great outdoors has to offer, it means we need to be true to our NW roots…we need raincoats!

Today we donned Thomas the Train raincoats, backpacks and the baby wore a hat (something I need to remember for next time) and we set off to Snake Lake trail off of S19th street in Tacoma. The Snake Lake watershed is connected to the Tacoma Nature Center, and both are run by one my favorite governmental entity’s in Pierce County, Metro Parks.

The walk was easy with the 18month old. We didn’t bring a stroller for him, or use a backpack carrier either. Though the backpack might have made it a faster walk. He tends to dawdle, even in the rain. I have to keep reminding myself that this is still relatively new. We met many people who were using the path to run and saw some great sites along the trail. Great thing is that the rain was light while we were walking and some portions of the trail were dry because all the trees kept the rain to a minimum.

After our walk, we ended up at the Tacoma Nature Center. We read books, tried on skunk/beaver/duck costumes and watched turtles swim in their habitat. The center was a big hit because: it was indoors, warm and the activities were numerous! Even during lunch, my older boys, who’ve been there before, kept explaining, ‘look at that!’. It was a natural place to stop and eat the lunch we packed. We made sure to clean up after ourselves. The facility is so nice, it would be a shame to leave it a mess!

Lessons Learned
1) Bring a hat! (I got really wet)
2) Keep a change of clothes in the car, in case of falling in the mud – or other extreme boys sports. (This helped keep us warm and dry on the way home)
3) Pack a lunch. This is a great way to make sure that you’re prepared when the munches hit and a way to rally the troops toward the end…only a little farther till we can stop for lunch! Plus, you can save money vs. eating out.
4) Bring a change of shoes. I forgot to pack the baby’s rain boots and he was mad I kept lifting him over puddles. He wanted to stomp in puddles like his brothers, but I didn’t have a change of shoes. So yes, I became the crazy lady telling her boy, who is surrounded by mud and nature, to be careful about getting dirty…