Get outside, Family!

Get outside, Family!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Baby Zi preparing for new title

Baby Zi is getting closer to graduating to Sous-chef Zi every day. I don’t remember exactly at what age I had the Chef working on a chair at the sink and counter – definitely around 2 -- but I feel like Baby Zi is getting there earlier. Just another example of the Littlest Guy trying to keep up with Bigger Guy.

Lately, Baby Zi has been “doing the dishes”, which is filling containers with water from the faucet and dumping them out. Last night he poured a large yogurt container of water on the floor -- not so good. But mostly he keeps it in the sink.

Six years ago, I’m sure I was more worried about the Chef slipping from the chair or tumbling into the sink. I remember being afraid of walking four steps away from him to the fridge, and realized last night I hardly even think about that now. It’s nice to be a lot less anxious the second time around. But I think Mom-stinct is at work, here, too – Baby Zi is extremely sure-footed. I would not, however, give him anything more sharp-edged than a plastic utensil because he would surely let it fly into someone’s body part, probably his own.

What was I doing while my tot played in the sink? I prepared…

Cabbage and Chicken Stir-Fry

Half head of fresh green cabbage
Ear of corn (cooked night before)
Frozen sweet peas
Roasted chicken breast (from two nights ago)
Olive oil
Chicken stock
Salt and pepper

To make: Chop cabbage into thin strips. Add to pan with heated olive oil. Cook until soft and browned in places. Slice corn off ear and add to pan with frozen peas. When vegetables are cooked, add pieces of chicken. Season with honey, chicken stock and salt and pepper.

We served it with quinoa.

Baby Zi discovers scooping

Baby Zi is following in his big brother’s footsteps when it comes to joining me in the kitchen. I was chopping for another pot of ratatouille, and gave him a plastic knife and some zucchini and peach slices to squish. Mr. Smarty now knows where the utensils are kept, and chose instead a measuring cup and spoon. Then he went digging in the sugar bowl, carefully scooping out a pile of sweet whiteness onto the counter.

This was when Mama Zi had to take a big swig of Chill and not freak about the sticky mess and how the sugar will bring in the ants I’ve been battling all summer. I may have had to wipe up the counter, chair, floor and most of Baby Zi; but I also got dinner ready without having to turn on Elmo or losing my mind.

Back to Junk Food

It’s back to school, and back to the big question of each evening: What can I get Chef Zi to eat in his lunch tomorrow? We’re several weeks into school now, and the menu prepared here at the Zi CafĂ© has so far pleased the Chef. Ham sandwich on wheat bread – Ate it. Leftover takeout pizza – Loved it. Egg noodles in chicken broth in his Star Wars thermos – Gobbled all but two teeny noodles. Sliced apples and plums – Gone, except for one slice he always leaves behind, like he’s messing with me. I’ve also included every day a treat of some sort – his grandmother’s brownies, my chocolate cookies, pre-packaged Rice Krispies Treats, Scooby Doo! graham crackers -- which I know he eats first. But I’m okay with that.

Notice the mix of homemade, lovingly prepared dishes and artificially preserved junk food? I think this balanced combination might be key to keeping the Chef engaged in his lunch. Last year, when I tried to stick to nourishing leftovers and fresh fruit, the Chef went on a hunger strike. But I also cannot send my child to school on an exclusive diet of factory-churned, mass-produced, excessively packaged, eternally preserved “food products” every day. So today, for instance, I sent him with one of those cardboard packaged deals where you make your own cold, uncooked pizza and then have candy for dessert– BlaaaaAauuggh!!! But tomorrow, he will find an organic turkey sandwich and apple.

Here’s to hoping he eats more than the candy...