Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Celebrating 100!

The wonderful brownie recipe my daughter made reached 100 likes on my Instagram the other day. She just feels so totally psyched. 100 is a huge number for her, and she really doesn't know much about Instagram or how likes work, but it was worth celebrating! We got some ice cream and she celebrated by...what else...making the brownies! I also did a cute little interview with my mini baker.

Why did you get interested in baking?
I watched Kids Baking Championship and thought that I could probably be a baker.

What other interests do you have besides baking?
Art! And I like Math. I also like Halloween, like October. FALL! And I like to read Harry Potter.

Do you like to cook, too?
I cook.....ramen. It kind of gets me over my fear of (stove/oven) heat.

How do you feel about the fact that Hot Cookin' Mama has never reached 100 "likes" on an Instagram post before now?
*giggle*. I'm pretty impressed that I could make it that far!

Let's talk brownies. What is your biggest tip for someone who wants to try this brownie recipe?
It's simple enough that you don't have to need any tips ya know? Try it with your favorite ice cream!

What dessert do you want to master next?
Cookies! Pumpkin chocolate chip.

Is this something you hope to do professionally? What do you want to be when you grow up?
Actually it kind of is. I really like baking and I'm thinking I want to try things to become a baker. Or a teacher.

What would you say to other kids who are thinking about giving baking a try?
You should try it and if you don't like it you should try it again.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Explaining Santa's Gifts

We're approaching the big holiday season. Already. I'm still trying to get a nap in from last years Christmas. But, ready or not, it's coming. Are you prepared?! Your kids are older this year, and just might give you a run for your money with the Santa questions.

Every Christmas, we see parents all over trying to teach their kids the importance of giving, service and kindness. We see them doing their best to add a child in need to their Christmas list to be a good example. We bake cookies for neighbors, we drop off a turkey anonymously to a family's doorstep that we know is struggling financially.

But, when a child asks, "why doesn't Santa go to the homeless shelter?" Or, "why can't I ask for this $500 gift from Santa?" what do we say? That Santa picks and chooses which kids to visit, and that he also has a budget? Santa has RULES? Where's the fun in that?!

While there are plenty of great churchy and inspiring ways to deal with things like this where you can sit down with your children and give a lengthy and perfectly worded explanation, sometimes you need just a few words to get your point across. The best words I've ever heard someone say to their kids when these questions started popping up was,..

"Yeah, Santa brings the gifts, but Mom and Dad still have to pay for it."

I know there are many families out there who don't do the Santa thing, and that's okay. Every family is different, so if you're a family who cherishes those few years where your kids still believe in Santa and you don't want to break down saying, "Santa isn't real" when they ask the tough questions, this might be what you're looking for! These few words allow the magic of Santa to continue on while allowing some reality to the situation to be factored in. 

Children can grasp the ideas of some families having a larger budget than others. That's life, and they're typically already aware of it before anyone ever actually brings it up to them. Simply stating that Mom's and Dad's are still in charge of paying for their Christmas even when Santa and his helpers do all the work connects so many dots for them!

A family in need is still a family in need, even when Santa is involved. A $500 toy is still a $500 toy, even when Santa is involved. This answer might not be what you were looking for or work for your kids. If not, that's okay. There are plenty of other ways you can talk to your kids about these things. But for our family, it has worked great! 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

3 Steps to Stop Judging

We have been advised time and time again. In nearly every lecture, we are reminded to avoid judging others and gossip. Elder Uchtdorf famously said,"this topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following: Stop it!"

What a wake up call that was for a lot of people! It cut deep in our cores and made us realize that maybe we weren't doing as great as we thought we were. And maybe, just maybe, we could try to make a change.

Years and years ago, I had decided gossip and unrighteous judgment wasn't going to be a part of my life anymore. Obviously, I am not perfect. When others around me are gossiping or saying negative things about other people, sometimes I hear myself asking questions to know more rather than keeping my mouth shut or trying to change the subject. But it is possible to change, and I have noticed an extremely positive change in my life over the years of actively trying to be better at this.

How can you go from point A to point B? We know we are suppose to. But are we really suppose to just wake up one morning and be perfect at it? No, but there is a way to be better.

There are 3 simple (or extremely difficult, depending where you're at on the gossip/judgy pole) steps you can try to better yourself with the ever so slippery slope of being a jerk. I kid, I kid.

Step 1: Commitment

You need to make the commitment to yourself that you are going to make a serious effort. You can let those around you know and ask them to hold you accountable.

This is not a conditional effort. You can't back out when your co-worker calls with the new dirty details on your horrid supervisor's dramatic affair or when the incredibly tempting new "people of walmart" video is made. You have to make the commitment and stick to it.

Step 2: Refuse Verbal Judgment

When you see someone doing something or looking a certain way that makes you want to say something negative, refuse. When you hear that so-and-so from work did such-and-such and you want to tell someone, refuse. Refuse to verbalize your negativity.

One of the biggest rewards we feel we get from gossip or unrighteous judgment is validation. We want to feel that our thoughts and opinions are correct. It is human nature to want to be understood, and when people tell you that you're right for thinking certain things about someone, it makes us feel good and builds our confidence.

Unfortunately, that singular feel good moment turns into a thousand feel good moments that suddenly and without warning turn into a pile of misery and isolation topped with a bitter piece of sad broccoli. It's completely worth it to at least attempt to make the change.

So, you can think these negative or gossip type thoughts as much as you want, but refusing to say it out loud will kill off one of the biggest incentives for doing it in the first place; validation.

Step 3: Train your thoughts

Now that you're not verbalizing your gossip or negative thoughts, start training yourself to think of something positive immediately upon hearing/thinking those things. It doesn't necessary need to be super positive or elaborate. I use the simple phrase, "I wonder if..." to help train myself.

That shirt is way too small for her.
I wonder if that's the only shirt she owns.

Big surprise, my neighbor hasn't watered her yard all summer.
I wonder if they're going through a hard time right now.

Looks like Sara finally got fired. She's always been so lazy, that's probably why.
I wonder if she had more on her plate than I knew. 

Why is she at McDonalds when she clearly needs to lose weight?
I wonder if she's been working hard at getting healthier and today is her cheat day.

They don't need to be perfect replacement thoughts, or even extremely positive ones. Just training yourself to slap your initial negative thought in the face is what we're after here. Getting yourself in the habit of giving people the benefit of the doubt is an empowering feeling of freedom you won't expect, but will undoubtedly love. It will inevitably build and build until positive thoughts are the first ones you think of. 

 It takes time, and you'll mess up (heaven knows I get riled up and say things I shouldn't way too often), but when you are striving to be your very best, you get credit for trying!

These steps are merely suggestions. They are steps that I made up for myself and worked for me to kick myself into gear. They will of course not work for everyone and I am not a psychologist or any kind of mental professional in any way. It's worth a shot, though, considering how none of us want to end up a miserable, isolated being topped with a bitter piece of sad broccoli.

Monday, September 26, 2016

5 Ways to Help Your Kids Feel the Spirit on the Sabbath

Sunday mornings with kids. Kids on Sunday mornings. Mornings with kids.....on Sundays. How many different ways can I say that before you develop a twitch? Sunday mornings with kids is probably rated a zero on a scale of 1 to 10. Why? Because Satan don't want no church goers!

I'm kidding (I'm not, but you know what I mean). Sunday mornings just have a way of getting a little out of hand most weeks. Are you grouchy by the time you all finally get loaded into the car? Maybe a little stressed out or frazzled? Chances are, if that's how you're feeling, your kids are feeling it, too. At the very least, they aren't feeling excited or wanting to go.

So, how can we fix that? Kids typically see church as a to-do. If we're being honest, we all feel that way a lot of the time, too. We show up, sit through it or teach it and get out of there. Our kids, much like school, show up and sit through it so they can get out of there.

Teaching them to find how to enjoy church or feel the spirit can be tricky. However, kids deserve more credit. They are often very sensitive to the spirit and very capable of seeing the importance of a lesson. We just need to provide and encourage those moments for them as often as we can. If we are willing to find just a few things to tweak for our Sundays, we are acknowledging that our children deserve and have the capacity to feel and grow just as we do.

Here are 5 ways that you can help your kids feel the spirit on the sabbath.

1. The Friend
You know the song! Saturday is a special day.....Keeping the space around you tidy does help you feel the spirit, and with kids it's no different! Making sure their room is clean with their church clothes out each Saturday is so helpful! 

In addition, I send my kids to bed with the Friend magazine on Saturday nights. I pick out a couple of stories for them to read or activity to do and I try to base it on what their primary class or sharing time lesson will be about the next day. They are able to start shifting their focus to Christ in their cozy clean rooms with their church clothes in view.

This small change has had a huge effect on how my kids feel the next morning. It helps set their mood before they even wake up Sunday morning. They are able to fall asleep the night before feeling peaceful and "in the zone" ;).

 2. Gospel Centered Music
With how many electronic devices we have these days, there are so many ways to access this kind of music. I set my Ipad out in the living room with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir channel on Pandora. It's the first thing my kids hear when they get out of bed each Sunday morning. Singing along, humming along and simply having the music fill our home gives an immediate and lasting feeling throughout the day.

As we know, music has such power to lift us up and feel the spirit. Doctrine and Covenants shares with us:
"For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me and it shall be answered by a blessings upon their heads." (D&C 25:12)

 Wholesome and uplifting music can have a great impact on how we feel on and about our Sundays. Joseph F. Smith gave a wonderful thought as he addressed the choir; 

"When we listen to this choir . . . we listen to music, and music is truth. Good music is gracious praise of God. It is delightsome to the ear, and it is one of our most acceptable methods of worshipping God.. ...My soul is always lifted up and my spirit cheered and comforted when I hear good music. I rejoice in it very much indeed." (Joseph F. Smith CR1899Oct:69)

3. Church Activities Jar
You've probably seen this idea floating around on Pinterest at one time or another. But actually taking the time to put one together takes some effort. Each Saturday night I pull out the activities jar and set it on the kitchen table. It's one of the first things they see on Sunday morning! It's just a good reminder that they won't be doing their regular day activities, but that they have other options that are fun to choose from so they don't get discouraged.

I looked at a few lists of ideas and picked the ones I thought were realistic for our family and threw in a few ideas of my own. Then it's just a matter of printing them off, cutting them out and sticking them in a jar! It doesn't have to be fancy and you can even just scribble them down on slips of paper instead of printing them all out.

Our rules are that whatever they choose, they have to do it for at least 15 minutes (and they can't put it back to re-pick). This keeps them from going for the jar simply because they know "bake a treat" is in there. They have to be willing to pick even knowing that some kind of service or their dreaded "go for a drive" is in there, too :). 

This change has really been a fun one for our family. I've seen my kids end up doing things they should but usually don't do on Sundays (like call Grandma and Grandpa!). 

4. Media
This is somewhat of a debate for church goers. Do we watch TV on Sundays? Do we not? What if it's a Disney show? That's not what I'm here to talk about. Every family is different and what is right for you is right for you!

But, if you're looking for a change, or simply something to add in to your Sundays media-wise that can help your kids feel the spirit, youtube is the best!

For us, we decided we didn't really want the TV on Sundays. Not for the regular day to day shows, anyway. So, I created my own playlist on youtube with video's I felt were appropriate and I chromecast it to the TV in our bedroom. It has a mixture of Mormon Messages that I think the kids will like, some gospel songs that have interesting videos with them, or even talks from General Conference that have video's with them I've found to be really awesome! You can check out my own playlist right here or you can make your own!

I've really loved having that on and playing in the bedroom. With the church music out in the living room and kitchen area, the sound from the videos in my room will flow out into the hallway and suck the kids in :). I'll find my kids in there watching for a while and they'll come and go. Even my almost 2 year old sits on my bed and watches intently.  As many great gospel centered videos that there are, I did sneak in Let it Go by Alex Boye  ;).

5. FHE
Family Home Evening can be hard to be consistent with! Coming up with a lesson, rounding up the kids and getting them to sit quietly, all of that can be a bit much to look forward to in the day when you've already reached your limits at 10am :). 

What I've done to keep things simple and also help them feel the spirit each Sunday, is plan my FHE lessons along with the Sharing time lessons. Whatever sharing time lesson is coming up the next Sunday, that's the lesson we will have for FHE. This is a bit easy for me since I teach sharing time once a month and I have access to the lesson outlines. The sharing time outline book is available online to download if you're interested.

This gets them thinking about the particular topic at the beginning of the week in order for them to apply it in their daily lives. It also helps them on Sundays when sharing time begins because they can contribute with thoughts and experiences from their week. Seeing how learning that lesson and spending time thinking about it fits into their lives opens the door for them to feel the spirit as they share those things on Sunday. 

Plus, we all know how kids loooove to know the answers to questions ;). 

So there you have it! There are clearly many many more ways and ideas and I would love for you to share any ideas you have as well! I am definitely not perfect at doing all of these things all the time, but I cannot deny the changes that they have made with the over all impact. 

I encourage you to give one or two of these a try that you haven't done before and let me know how it goes!

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Pineapple Effect

The Pineapple Effect: The memory of a seemingly insignificant moment having a lasting impact on your future thoughts and choices.

I made that up, so I'm sure there's an actual word for that same definition :). But for this, we're going to call it the Pineapple Effect. Pineapples will always remind me of my first time trying fresh pineapple. I had never tried fresh pineapple until I was 22 years old. I had just never bothered and always assumed it was as disgusting as they were to me on pizza. When I tried fresh pineapple I fell in love and never looked back! They always remind me to try new things, never assume you know the full story and never take yourself too seriously.

To be honest, this has been a long time coming. I've debated on this for months and months now, but have officially come to the conclusion that this recipe blog will no long be a recipe blog. At least, not just recipes. It sounds so trivial, but for some reason I had a hard time accepting that idea of including other bits of my writing here.

Mixing things up on a recipe blog seemed strange. More than anything, I've always felt a little awkward putting myself out there as a serious writer with valid things to say or with fun stories I've created. My first passion has always been writing. I remember daydreaming a vision of myself as an 8 year old in the corner of my room at my very own desk with my very own typewriter (go ahead and laugh. I'll wait..) furiously working to meet another book deadline.

I've always tried to keep writing as a form of an outlet for me. Being a stay at home mom has a way of tugging at everything you have to give, So I've felt it was important to have something that reminded me who I was, even if what I was writing was stupid or didn't make any sense. It's just what I needed for myself to stay myself. So here I am, taking a serious whack at it. Even though it's a big reach for me and I'm secretly scared to death that people will read whatever I write and judge me. I've felt very strongly that I need to put myself out there with what I have to say.

I did have a separate blog to give myself an outlet, but it gave me sooo many problems. I hated working with it because I couldn't do exactly what I wanted with it. So I just completely abandoned it. Now here I am, meshing things together and hoping the combination of everything works out. Yikes.

I guess we'll just go with the fact that my LDS centered blog is called Hot Cookin' Mama for life. Which, by the way, I swear I am not a self centered weirdo. The name of my blog originates from way back when. I think I was around 12 years old or so when my friend and I decided to break out her parents video camera and try to make our own cooking show. We called ourselves the Hot Cookin Mama's. So when I started my recipe blog, I made it just for myself not thinking anyone else would ever see it and went with my "original" cooking name ;). So, please excuse that. It's here to stay.

I hope you'll join me in this new, weird mashup of a website. I have a great first non-recipe post coming up for you!
5 Ways to Help Your Kids Feel the Spirit on the Sabbath

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Egg McMuffin

Welcome to Hot Cookin' Mama, My Kids Favorite Breakfast edition ;). But seriously, this is my kids favorite breakfast. They'd prefer this over the ones from McDonalds or other fast food, and that's saying something because they really love those.

These are really very simple to make, so I've got them on the breakfast menu once a week. You could of course change this to your liking. Using sausage instead of the ham, for one thing, would be a yummy change!

I know this isn't the most amazing picture, but we're entering into daylight savings time where everything is darker all the time so it's a bit of a challenge finding good lighting in the place I live. 

What you will need:
  • English muffins (I get "extra crisp")
  • 1 slice Canadian Bacon (usually found in a package of about 6 in the refrigerated section by the bacon.)
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 slice of cheese
  • Cook your egg all the way through
  • While that's cooking, throw your english muffin slices in the toaster
  • Heat up your canadian bacon slice. If it's nice and hot and browned it's done
  • Butter your slices of english muffin
  • Build your breakfast sandwich!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Maintaining Lemon Water

If you've been reading about the health benefits of drinking warm lemon water each morning on an empty stomach but not exactly sure how to go about that, this might be a great idea for you!

I had been interested in giving it a try for months and months, but every time I went for it, I wasn't sure how to maintain the whole thing. I didn't love juicing a lemon every single morning when I could barely open my eyes, nor did I have the time while cooking breakfast for the kids, packing lunches and getting them off to school.

So here we have what just so happens to be a great solution and you only need what's lying around your kitchen (unless you don't have any kind of juicer. I just use a good old fashion kind which you can find for cheap!).

Once you've juiced your lemons you can put them in your ice cube tray. Just pop one out into your mug of warm water each morning and voila!

The nitty gritty: It still might sound like a lot of work. I juiced 10 lemons here and it filled 14 slots in my tray. It took me about 10 minutes. So the way I look at it is that I spent 10 minutes juicing and only have to do it every 2 weeks.

Now, as far as the water to lemon juice ratio, everyone has their different ideas. Typically, 1/2 C of warm water with enough juice from half a lemon is standard. I figure that 1 cube for that 1/2 C is pretty good!

About the taste. If you're a tea drinker, this will taste better than any tea I've ever tried ;) (I hate tea). It's not delicious, but it's not gross and it's not daunting to drink. So do with that info what you will!