Tuesday, March 26, 2013

recipe: fish fingers

Nate has long been in the "I don't like any food" phase of life. Ben is still usually a good eater, but gradually arriving in that phase as well. Because of this, I have been looking for lots of kid-friendly foods. (Now's as good a time as any to point out this Chik fil a copy cat recipe. It's one of the few recipes I actually follow exactly.)

The boys love fish fingers (fish sticks) that come in a box, frozen, precooked, and highly processed. One great thing about living here is that we don't have access to all of that processed food. But it also means that my kids, who have tasted processed food in the US and LOOOVE it, have a hard time finding fresh food that they like. It has taken me a year to find a fish recipe the picky toddler will eat. We've tried to get them to eat different types of fish, cooked different ways. Sometimes in the past Ben would, but less so now. I've tried different recipes for fish fingers, thinking maybe if they look the "right" shape and are fried, they'll eat them. No go.

Until today.

I started with this recipe, but I kind of did my own thing. One thing that is really great about their recipe is the suggested addition of turmeric to the bread crumbs for color. Kids love colorful food. (I'm looking at you, Rainbow Goldfish.) I took that suggestion, and they did turn out with great color. Another secret to the success this time, I think, is that we had a very mild flavored fish (Nile Perch), which also had a great texture for the small pieces.

Note that I did not measure anything, so the following recipe is true Ken-Tex family style cooking.

It's hard to get a good picture in our house at night. The lights are not very bright.

Fish Fingers

2 servings of fish, filleted (It's usually enough. We didn't know the boys would eat.)
flour, about half a cereal bowl
1 egg
breadcrumbs, same amount as flour
garlic powder
black pepper
oil for frying

1. Cut the fish into thumb-sized pieces. I aimed for similar thickness to the ones my mom served them in Texas - the frozen ones they adore.
2. Place flour in a small bowl. Add some (1/2 tsp, give or take) garlic powder and paprika, 2 pinches of salt, and a few shakes of black pepper. Mix thoroughly. Beat the egg in a separate small bowl. Place the breadcrumbs in a third small bowl. Add some turmeric. Mix thoroughly.
3. Coat the fish fingers in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs.
4. Heat oil in a frying pan, < 1/2" deep. When the oil is hot, add the fish and fry until golden brown. The original said 3-4 min per side, but I didn't think they were golden brown enough yet. I did about 10 minutes total. Remove from oil and drain on a towel or paper towels.

There are none left. At all. And I bet we would have kept eating if there had been more.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

no shortage of grated cheese

When we moved here, we searched and searched for good kitchen gadgets and tools. I had brought very important things (like my garlic press) with us. We found a really awesome peeler/scraper, but we still needed a cheese grater and slicer. We found a small one of each. They were rather pricey, but necessary. Cheesy pasta and veggies would be very difficult with only a knife and a block of cheese.

After several months, two new big Super WalMart style stores opened up. A new Tuskys and a Naivas, which we'd never seen before. With them came more western stuff and better prices. One day I found a big 4-sided grater! It has a side for slicing, a side for zesting, and sides for coarse and fine grating. And it's so much bigger than the hand-held ones we already had. It was also cheaper. Of course, we bought it. The problem was, we didn't have a good place to keep it. It ended up on a top shelf and forgotten.

It's bigger than it looks. This is a weird angle.

When we got back from Texas, I made some cheese crackers and grated the whole 2 cups of cheddar using the tiny hand-held grater because I'd forgotten about this nice big one way up on the top shelf. I also made some carrot snack sticks, which required even more grating. The next time we bought groceries, there was an abundant selection of graters. I picked a 6-sided one. It has an extra, different slicing side and grating side, in addition to the 4 sides on the red one. As we were driving home, I suddenly had déjà vu...

It's also bigger than it looks. I can't be bothered to take new pictures at a realistic angle.

We could have returned it, but I like it better than the others. We kept it. Soon we'll need a whole shelf for our graters.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Ben is 18 months!

Every time we hit one of these round-number ages, it feels like an accomplishment. Ben is 1 and a half! Besides filling in the dates his last 8 teeth grow in and recording heights and weights, his baby book is finished. All of his baby book milestones are done, photographed, and recorded.

Three-quarters of the way to 2 years old. And we are seeing lots of fun 2 year old traits. Though he's always been a more compliant type, he is showing some strength of will, throwing fits, and refusing to do what he's told with the old toddler favorite "my legs don't work" trick.

He loves reading books, throwing and kicking balls, building with Legos, and singing. He also asks to color every day, but usually he just wants to play with the crayons. He likes tickling and playing peek-a-boo or surprise! He wants to be outside as much as possible, to run, try to jump, and explore.

Sometimes when I tell him he can't have what he is asking for, he will smile sweetly and repeat the request in a whisper. I think he's caught on to me telling Nate to ask for things in a kind voice. If I still say no, then the temper flares.

Ben loves watching Sesame Street, Super Why, and Bubble Guppies, as well as whatever Nate wants to watch. His favorite foods are pizza, french fries, chapati with soup (bean drippings or stew broth), and fruit, especially bananas and mangoes.

Ben seems huge, but he is just a bit tall for his age, and thin. He's 33" (75th percentile) and 23 lbs 6 oz (25th percentile). He's wearing what 18m clothes he has, as well as 24m/2T tops and shorts (from Nate's shelf). On days he wears disposable diapers, he still wears 12m shorts, but they no longer fit over his cloth diapers. He wears a toddler 6 in US shoes. That should be a 23 in European size, which most shoes here are, but the sandals we just bought him, with growing room, are an 18. Whose sizing standard is that?

Ben talks a lot and is beginning to say more and more Swahili words, as well as English. I have completely lost count of how many words he says in English. He is working on simple sentences now, but is not quite to the "I want" phase yet (you know, when every sentence they say begins with "I want..."). But, for instance, he was pretending to talk to Rodgers on the phone the other day and said, "Daddy! Where are you? We're at house," though someone other than his mom wouldn't have understood as much of that as I did.

He is goofy and silly. He loves to cuddle his teddy bear, which Grandpa named Bartholomew. We call him Bart. He loves giving kisses and splats (high-fives). He loves Nate and thinks he can do everything Nate does. It works out because Nate also loves Ben and calls him his "best friend" and "favorite friend."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

4 years

On the days leading up to our anniversary, Rodgers and I count down as if it's our wedding day again. Yesterday we told each other, "Tomorrow, I will marry you for the 5th time!" Just another silly thing we do.

I can't decide if the time has flown or if I feel like we've always been married. What I'm sure of is that I'm so glad I married this guy! If you know Rodgers, you already know how awesome he is. If you've never met him, I am sorry. You are missing out.

He is caring, practical, wise, bold. He is both sentimental and rational. We make a great team in life, work, parenting, and ministry. He is hardworking: at his job, with necessary tasks at home, and as a dad. He is so fun to be around! We have a great time together, goofing off and playing with our kids. He takes seriously his role as spiritual leader of our family and prioritizes his relationship with God. This has a tremendous positive impact on our marriage, family, and home.

He is currently at the fish market, buying prawns. He's taking the day off and said he's going to cook me a very special supper tonight. I'm going to bake him a pan of brownies.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Operation Depacification

By now I have learned that there is a right way and a wrong way to raise a baby. However, what's right or wrong varies depending on the person speaking. They may concede that there are multiple good ways of taking care of one aspect of raising a baby, but on another issue, "x" is right and "y" is wrong. What's really amusing about this is that almost immediately after hearing advice that "y" is wrong - and not only that, "y" is probably the worst thing you can do - I will hear from someone else that what really works best is "y." There is no aspect of baby raising that is safe from this. Even something as inconsequential as whether or not a baby should have a paci.

I know some moms refuse to offer a pacifier because then the baby becomes dependent, addicted, can't sleep without it, and has a hard time giving it up. These are usually quick to mention 4 year olds at WalMart attempting to speak through their "older toddler" size pacis. Other moms insist that, since your baby is going to suck on something for comfort, it might as well be a paci. After all, you can eventually take the paci away, but you can't take their thumb away. I have observed many semi-heated discussions on this subject.

His favorite - a newborn paci that he can hold on one side of his mouth while he's talking

All that to say: we are paci people. Not because it's right but because I really don't think you can go wrong with soothing a baby, because our boys like/liked them, and because they made our lives more peaceful when our babies were small. I would guesstimate that we bought 8 pacis for each of our boys. By the time we decided to take them away, there were only 2 left. Both times. The things are lost so easily, though two of Ben's weren't lost so much as destroyed (by a mouse and a crockpot).

One of Nate's last paci pictures. That one had actually been run over by a car. The ring broke off, but it was otherwise fine.

Now it's time for Ben to give it up. We could make him go cold turkey, and I think a lot of people have success with that. With Nate, we did phases. Phase 1: paci only allowed in the carseat or bed. Phase 2: paci only allowed at night. Phase 3: no more paci. Phase 1b was no more paci in the car, but that wasn't really intentional. It just happened that we either lost the one in the car or stopped carrying it. Phase 2 happened at daycare. They stopped giving him his paci for naps on Monday and told me about it Friday. We moved straight into Phase 3 that weekend. He had just turned 18 months old. I wanted him off the paci before Ben was born so there wouldn't be paci stealing, but I was afraid he would stop sleeping.

Nate would pretend to use that paci after Ben was born, so that he didn't feel left out of the paci club.

With Ben, we're starting on Phase 1b. He's not as fussy in the car as Nate was, maybe because he has built in entertainment in the form of an older brother. This is day 4. He still needs some extra cuddles when he gets out of bed. Even though he's an early riser, he may not be as much of a morning person as the other guys in this house, and I think his paci was helping him be comfortable while waking up. This morning he asked me for coffee. Sorry kid, not yet.

Tiny baby Ben with a paci and a 3" cowlick (see that?)