Family Time Management Tips [From a Chief Mom]

Doing Things Together

One of the most challenging, rewarding responsibilities I’ve had is working in the tech space. I’m drawn to innovation and disruptive technologies that really connect people — from mobile games and smartphones to pet technology that can literally give pets a voice (AI/ML). I have a lifelong love of learning and tinkering.

Most importantly, I love being a mom (aka Chief Mom Officer), and it’s a tough gig! For this week’s fiver, here are tips to make the most of family time.

1) Calendar to plan everything

The all-important calendar is necessary to plan every appointment, party, meeting, lesson, and to-do’s. I can always check it on my phone, get reminder alerts, and it gives me the semblance of being organized.

2) Order essentials in bulk

Why buy TP or paper towels as one-offs? Ordering in bulk on a recurring schedule is a great way to save time and to ensure you never run out of the important things. What did I ever do before Amazon?

3) Pack lunches the night before

Packing lunches the night before
I’ve embraced the bento box lunch

I’m not that good at origami, but I’ve gotten creative with preparing bento box style lunches. This is effective with picky eaters, and a great way of showing you care (notice the hearts?). I prep lunches the night before, so I don’t feel rushed in the mornings.

4) Spend quality time; ask thoughtful questions

Compromises are made every day. One area I don’t negotiate is spending quality time with the kids daily. I’ll think of ways to engage them with questions (peppered with hugs).

Being present
Spend quality time; ask questions

Questions like: What was the most interesting thing you learned today? Did you like the lunch I packed for you? What made you smile? Who did you play with today? Did anything bother or upset you? (why?)

5) Organize weekly baking / other creative projects

I’m no Martha Stewart, and neither is the hubs. But together, we make a great team when it comes to cooking up projects with kid-friendly themes. Weekends are the best to do things together, and Sundays are designated Sunday Fundays.

Baking projects together
Space rock cookies were the theme

Well, that’s it for this week’s fiver.

How do you manage time with loved ones? Suggestions always welcome.

 

Gluten Free Berry Pancake Hack

Very Berry GF Pancakes

Only have 5 minutes to prep a heart healthy breakfast? You can check brekkie off your list with this superfood fueled meal.

Go gluten free on these beauties and prevent the belly bloat that often comes from ingesting too much wheat gluten (a protein found in wheat).

TJ’s Breakfast Hack

If Trader Joe’s is within a short distance from your home, hit the freezer section and grab a box of the Gluten & Dairy Free Homestyle Pancakes. These frozen silver dollars are surprisingly tasty with a fluffy, glutinous texture. The primary ingredients in these premade pancake are rice and tapioca flour. Each packet comes with a stack of 3 small pancakes. There are a total of 4 packets, or 4 servings per box. If TJs is not your jam, then you can find frozen pancakes from quality brands like Vans and Earths Best.

Follow the heating instructions on the box. Once ready, you can either stack’em up or lay them out like so.

Gluten Free Waffles Instead?

Now if you’re hankering for waffles, you can find gluten free frozen ones in the freezer section. Vans makes wheat and gluten free waffles, which are dense, moist and fluffy. Vans waffles are much more satisfying than the TJ’s gluten free version, which tends to be dry and crumbly in texture. Harder to find is the delightful Kitchfix Grain Free Banana Cinnamon Waffles (or Blueberry), which I’ve found at my local Sprouts Farmers Market.

Organic berries and bananas

Chop up some organic strawberries, blueberries and bananas and toss them on your pancakes. The combination of bananas and berries balance the flavor of sweet and tartness from the berries.

Blueberries and strawberries are superfoods that pack a powerful anti-inflammatory punch and come with vitamin C, fiber, folate, and potassium. These colorful gems are also rich in age-fighting polyphenols and are low in calories. Polyphenols are those touted micronutrients that come loaded with antioxidants.

Bananas contain potassium and come with vitamin B6, vitamin C, magnesium, copper, and manganese. The pectin and resistant starch found in bananas may help with moderating blood sugar levels.

Dash of cinnamon and try coconut nectar 

Generously sprinkle cinnamon, and don’t feel bad if you’re a bit heavy handed. You can also incorporate unsweetened coconut flakes to really blend in some of the white if the off-white banana slices aren’t patriotic enough for you.

Cinnamon is a spice that lays claim to being anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial with health-promoting antioxidants. Cinnamon has also been studied for its effects in helping to lower blood sugar.

To top it all off, substitute maple syrup with coconut nectar. We found Big Tree Farms Unrefined Coconut Nectar to be a great sweetener that goes well on pancakes and waffles.

Made from the sap of coconut tree flowers, coconut nectar contains essential amino acids, and is low glycemic, so you don’t have the effects of blood sugar spikes. The consistency of coconut nectar is that of a brown liquid that is runnier and earthier in taste than maple syrup.

Breakfast Hack Ingredients (serves 4)

Package of gluten free pancakes or waffles (frozen)
Strawberries (small carton)
Blueberries (small carton)
1-2 ripe bananas
Cinnamon
Dried unsweetened coconut flakes (optional)

Raw Coconut Nectar (optional replacement to maple syrup)

Enjoy the fireworks of flavor

Now if you have the time or have pancake batter mix hidden away in your cupboard, by all means, whip up a batch of pancakes or heat up that waffle iron. Enjoy this healthy habit!

 

 

Probiotics & Keto Korean food

Korean side dishes are health trendy

As an immigrant child growing up in the Chicago area, my mom (a phenomenal cook) made sure we appreciated the wide spectrum of Korean cuisine. Most nights of the week we would have a spread of banchan, a menagerie of colorful side dishes comprised of various kinds of kimchi (fermented cabbage, cubed daikon, and cucumbers), kongnamul-muchim (seasoned, blanched soy bean sprouts), musaengchae (julienned daikon salad), gosari namul (seasoned, sautéed fiddlehead ferns), and sigeumchi namul (blanched, seasoned spinach). And those were only the side dishes.

Throughout a given week, we ate a balanced array of beef, pork, chicken, or seafood dishes. Of course, we didn’t eat all those tasty dishes at once. We sometimes enjoyed a bubbling pot of jigae (spicy delicious stew). My absolute favorite was the kimchi soondubu jigae – a mixed seafood and meat stew with kimchi, soft tofu, and veggies in a bubbling cauldron of deliciousness. During the hot summer months, my dad would fire up the grill and we would enjoy a feast of Korean barbecue, popularized by the kalbi (marinated short ribs) and bulgogi (thinly sliced marinated beef) always accompanied by banchan.

Back when kimchi was relatively unknown

Back in the ’80s, Korean food wasn’t something I could just tote in my lunch sack. For school lunches, I carried my brown bag of turkey, PB&J, ham, or egg salad sandwich. You couldn’t find Korean food in your typical American supermarket, and you had to shop at an Asian market for specialty items.

These were the days of Stranger Things fame where I revel in flash backs of Eleven’s Eggo waffles, toaster strudels that came with packets of DIY frosting, Chef Boyardee Beefaroni and Spaghettios, Little Debbie’s snacks, Gorton’s fish sticks, blocks of Velveeta cheese, and of course, Hot Pockets. The heyday of packaged meals and Happy Meal boxes.

I see kimchi everywhere

Now when I step into a major supermarket, I smile to myself when I see the many varieties of kimchi that are marketed as probiotic, gut-friendly, diet-conscious health food products. It’s the stuff I grew up with as part of my regular eating existence. Can I bastardize a line from The Six Sense? I see kimchi everywhere. That and Korean-dressed mashups.

Just the other day I walked through the aisles at Whole Food and was confronted with Gochujang Ketchup. Basically, ketchup infused with Korean-fermented chili paste.  The mashup is intriguing to stay the least. Whole Foods now also carries its own brand of 365 Kettle Cooked Gochujang Chips. I have yet to try these. Save for a future post.

Kimchi makes the top 10 list except…

Aside from the now trendiness of Korean cuisine, kimchi has been sweeping the top 10 lists of gut-friendly foods. Men’s Journal proclaimed it as one of the top 8 probiotic foods you should be eating. Similarly, Dr. Axe ranked kimchi on his top 13 list of great probiotic foods. Healthline listed it as one the top 8 fermented foods that boost digestion and health, and Dr. Oz highlighted kimchi as one of the top 5 foods that TV chefs always have in their refrigerators. In a recent Time.com article published in April 2018, kimchi was lauded as a probiotic rich dish that may help reduce cancer risk. And, kimchi consistently makes the keto friendly list of foods, so check that off your ketogenic food diary.

Then you see conflicting advice from Dr. Michael Greger, author of How Not to Die, who cites epidemiological evidence that indicates that elevated consumption of kimchi (fermented vegetables) could possibly increase the risk of cancer. In a published 2011 study in the Journal of Gastric Cancer, the research revealed the average consumption of kimchi in Korea represents 20% of daily sodium intake. The case-control studies link high intake of kimchi with an increased risk for gastric cancer. A leading culprit may be the high daily intake of sodium, in which salt can damage the stomach lining thereby promoting the carcinogenic effects. Food for thought. Balance and moderation continue to be the keys to a healthy diet.

Chock full of vitamins and lactobacilli

Nutritionists generally regard kimchi as a good source of vitamins A, B, C and of course the probiotic gut-supporting bacteria called lactobacilli, which one finds in fermented foods.  This aids in moving things along and in healthy digestion. Koreans are said to eat on average 40 pounds per person annually.

Kimchi has been around for +2,000 years

Whatever your impressions of kimchi are, it is a longtime staple dish in the Korean diet and a source of nationalistic pride. It dates back at least as early as 37 BC-7 AD. The process of salting and fermenting vegetables was one of necessity to preserve food throughout the year. I recall my grandmothers took pride in making their own variations of kimchi, which would ferment in large airtight glass jars.

Kimchi for every palate

With all the store options, you can have the pick of the litter. My favorites always involve the delectable, crunchy daikon and refreshing cucumber. The nappa cabbage version is the most popular kind of kimchi. If you cannot stomach spice, you can try the milder white nappa cabbage version. Of the store-bought varietals, I like Sinto Gourmet brand for its clean flavors and pretty, resealable packaging that keep the aromas airtight inside.

Kimchi Soondubu Jigae recipe for home

As there are a plethora of kimchi options at your local supermarket or Asian market (i.e. Ranch 99), you can arrange your own colorful tableau of banchan. To create a savory soondubu jigae, I’ll give you my version of a favorite comfort food. As with all cookery, you can experiment to make it your own.

Soup Starter Hack

If you happen to shop at Ranch 99 or equivalent Asian market, a great hack is to buy a carton of House Foods BCD Soon Tofu Soup Starter. It’s an easy hack and all you need to throw in is veggies and whatever meat or seafood you so desire.

The Non-Hack Recipe 

Now if you don’t have a soup starter, don’t fret. I’ve got you covered. You’ll need some store-bought kimchi, soft silken tofu, veggies, seafood (optional), and a bit of imagination. The following is enough for 1-3 servings depending on your appetite, and if you plan to share.

Ingredients (seafood version)

Kimchi (one cup)
Soft silken tofu (12 to 16 ounce carton)
Can of clams (littleneck clams)
Can of tuna (responsibly caught, tuna in water vs. oil)
2 cups of beef or vegetable stock
1 large zucchini
2 green scallions, or chives
Couple tsps of Gochujang (Korean chili paste)
1 tsp of minced garlic (or smash a glove)
1 tsp of sesame oil
1 tsp of soy sauce (or tamari sauce for GF sensitivities)
1 Tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil
2 eggs

Instructions

Prep
Open the carton of silken tofu, and carefully cut into large blocks or chunks to make it easier for placing in a large saucepan. Chop up the zucchini and scallions, and place on the side. If you prefer your kimchi to be in smaller pieces, then you can chop that as well.

Heat up a large sauce pan
In a large sauce pan over medium heat, pour in your olive oil, gochujang, and sesame oil. Toss in your minced garlic and zucchini. Give that a good stir for a minute. Then add the kimchi and stir it around for a minute or two.

Add the broth (boil then simmer)
After a couple minutes, add the broth and soy sauce. Bring your stew to a boil. Then lower the heat to a simmer. Add salt to taste.

Add the canned clams and tuna
Make sure to drain the canned clams and tuna before you drop them into the simmering sauce pan.

Incorporate the chunks of silken soft tofu
Remember that the silken tofu is delicate and breaks apart easily. Using a large spatula or large ladle, add the pieces of silken tofu into the simmering pot. Give it 3-5 minutes, and keep the pot covered.

Lastly the eggs
While the jigae is simmering (and still bubbling), drop in one egg at a time. You want the lovely stew to cook up the yellow yolks nicely. Keep the simmering pot covered for a couple minutes. Once the eggs are nicely incorporated, you’re ready to serve up your soondubu jigae creation.

Garnish with scallions or chives
Garnish your finished soondubu jigae with scallions (or chives) and ladle them into bowls.

Steamed white rice (or brown rice).
Invest in a good rice cooker to get the perfect consistency of rice. An Asian rice cooker generally makes a perfect pot of moist rice, more so than an Instant Pot. I like medium grain white rice like Kokuho Rose white rice. If Kokuho Rose is unavailable, I’d recommend Nishiki’s premium white or brown rice version. When using a rice cooker, I rinse and use 2 cups of medium grain white rice with nearly 3 cups of water in total. As a rule of thumb, for every 1 cup of medium grain white rice, use 1.5 cups of water. For brown rice, you’ll need to double the water otherwise the rice is super hard. So for every 1 cup of brown rice, use 2 cups of water.

Depending on the make/model and setting of the rice cooker, your rice can take anywhere from 30-50 minutes to cook rice. The great thing about leftover rice is that you can leave it in the rice cooker as it has a “warm” setting.

I now leave you with this boomerang video of bubbling kimchi soondubu jigae. I recently enjoyed this stew full of belly-pleasing probiotics. Enjoy some adventurous eats!

 

 

Keto Friendly Smoked Salmon Scramble

by Vivian Lee

Going soft on salmon

Before the terms keto or ketogenic entered our dietary conscience, smoked salmon played a supporting role in diets around the world. Over the centuries, smoking was a common way to preserve and cure meat of any kind to prevent spoilage. The smoking process generally involves curing and partially drying out the meat. GoT fans could imagine the House of Stark highly regarding the smoked cured meats alongside their motto “Winter is coming.” With the scarcity of fresh food during the harsh winter months, smoking and curing meat was a necessity for survival.

Native Americans were said to have relied on smoked salmon in their diet with salmon being quite abundant along the coastal waters of America. In Greek and Roman history, smoked fish was often a dish eaten at celebratory gatherings. Throughout the Middle Ages, people incorporated smoked salmon as part of their regular diet.

Smoked salmon makes it special

In today’s world, smoked salmon is often regarded as a delicacy with choices ranging from the Pacific Northwest variety and the North Atlantic Scottish style to the Norwegian and burgeoning Chilean scene. It’s not something you eat every day, but incorporating smoked salmon in a canapé for a special occasion or a savory breakfast dish can make any eating occasion a memorable one.

Cold smoke out

According to a historical account on gourmetfoodstore.com, salmon is typically smoked when it is under 3 years of age to maximize the flavor and freshness. Smoking involves curing (salting) the fish. The majority of the commercial smoked salmon you buy at the store involves a wet cure, which involves dunking the fish in a salty solution (aka brine). The brine itself becomes a savory liquid concoction of salt, pepper, and spices. Following the brining process, the salmon is taken out to the smokehouse. The more popular “cold smoking” gives the salmon a more subtle flavoring vs. “hot smoking” which gives the fish a more intense smoky flavor and more desiccated texture.

Soft Scramble with Smoked Salmon

On a recent trip to Geneva, Illinois, a famed Midwestern town known for its annual Swedish Days, we popped into a local hipster joint called Craft Urban, and I settled in for a nice weekend brunch of soft scrambled eggs layered with smoked salmon, heirloom tomatoes and spinach, garnished with slivers of pickled onions and snuggling with brightly beaded roe.  This beauty sat comfortably on two pieces of toasted bread. The eggs were “soft scrambled” so each bite of egg seemingly melted in my mouth with a flavorful piece of smoked salmon, roe, and tomatoes.

The meal was an even more memorable experience catching up with old friends and bouncing my niece on my lap.

DIY Breakfast at Home

When we got back home, I regaled over the yummy meal we had back in Geneva, and my hubs thought it best to whip up a lovely Sunday brunch at home, his way.  With his British roots intact, he opted for the Scottish Style smoked salmon (wild caught). From my understanding, the Scottish style smoked salmon has a smokier flavor than your typical Pacific Northwest varietal.  The Scots like to smoke their fish using oak. He picked up a small packet of smoked Scottish Style salmon at the local market, pre-sliced and perfectly portioned.

Gist of the recipe at home

He then whisked several eggs together with a little almond milk (due to our collective dairy sensitivities) and poured the egg mixture into a medium-hot pan. He scrambled the eggs and quickly turned off the heat while the eggs were still soft.

The key to a soft scramble is to keep the eggs constantly moving on the pan (lean into that wooden spoon or spatula). As soon as the liquidy mixture turns solid, remove the the eggs immediately from the hot pan. Leaving eggs in a pan will leave you with a hard scramble.

He then laid out the soft scrambled eggs next to the sliced smoked salmon, and sprinkled some thyme, dill, and cracked pepper. To give the smoked salmon and soft egg scramble a bit of tang, he added a dollop of lemon-infused hummus and whipped together a basic homemade salsa (pulsing a handful of roma tomatoes in a blender, combined with fresh garlic, a little lemon juice, olive oil, coconut sugar, and a tiny pinch of salt.  You can find a ready assortment of hummus from TJ’s, Whole Foods, or your local market.

He toasted slices of Udi’s Delicious Soft White bread (gluten free), buttered with soft Irish butter (keeping with the UK theme). Keeping it simple, we sat down to a delicious meal. The following are the ingredients, serves 4.

Ingredients

Smoked Salmon (4oz): 1 to 2 packets

Scramble
Eggs (8 large brown eggs)
Almond milk (1/4-1/3 cup). Less liquid for thickier consistency
Pinch of sea salt
Black pepper
Pinches of thyme and dill
Butter (couple tablespoons to grease the pan)

Basic Mild Salsa
4-5 Roma tomatoes (quartered)
Garlic (couple cloves, or equivalent minced)
Half a lemon (squeezed)
1 Tsp coconut sugar
1 Tbsp Olive oil
Pinch of sea salt

For those of you on a keto diet, skip the toast.

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Make your upcoming weekend brunch a special occasion. Bon appétit!

Have a Fine Time with Canned Wine

by Vivian Lee

Canned Wine is the New Craft Beer

4th of July brings out the red, white and blues, sizzling hot dogs and burgers, sparklers, and a symphony of fireworks enveloping the nighttime sky. Throwing your neighborly afternoon BBQ, you cram your cooler full of fizzy drinks, Lacroix, beer and re-corked bottles of whites, champagne, and rosés. While beer has been a longtime staple of those hot Independence Day celebrations, canned wine is coming into its own. They’re portable, chillable and available in an array of hipster cool, arty designs.

If you can’t be bothered with toting large bottles, the Coravin wine opener is out of the average person’s price range and less economical for those summer barbecues.  Cans are great because they come in single servings as well as shareable larger servings, so you can sip and share. To avoid the sometimes “aluminum can” taste, you should pour out the wine into a glass or plastic cup.

Skin-Friendly Resveratrol

Wine can be complex as well as a pleasurable drink, and it’s often touted for certain effects beyond the heady buzz you get from imbibing a glass. You’ve probably heard of skin care products that include wine polyphenol ingredients. Red wine in particular is often lauded for anti-aging properties associated with resveratrol, that skin-friendly polyphenol found in grape skins. Based on published articles, resveratrol has a hand in fighting free radicals and oxidative stress. What are free radicals? Generally speaking, these are unstable molecules that wreak havoc and oxidative stress on your body. Pollution and sun damage contribute to the formation of free radicals.

Craft Beer or Canned Wine?

The sales of craft beer has continued to climb while the those of big brands have remained flat in recent years. Craft beer sales were up 7% last year with more people wanting to have that special experience of creative craft beer making. Canned wine is changing the winemaking landscape and increasing the accessibility of wine to the masses. According to MarketWatch, the nascent canned wine industry is valued at $28 million today. Just four years ago, total sales of canned wine was just below $2 million. Times are a-changing.

Behold the Beautiful Can

Canned wine is getting the craft beer love  with greater consideration to what goes inside the beautiful can. But not all canned wines are created equal. After reading a thoughtful article written by The Washington Post food columnist Dave McIntyre, I took heed and poured my canned wine into a glass cup. 

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Rosés are my pick of drinkable canned wines

As I walk through the wine aisles at Whole Foods, I see more options of canned wines mixed in with bottled wines and spirits. At Trader Joe’s I encountered a similar, albeit sparser experience. After having sampled various cans of reds, whites and rosés, my preference always leads me to the refreshingly crisp and bubbly rosés. Whites were often disappointing straight out of a can, and some reds seemed to cling on to that “aluminum can” taste.

Whole Foods carries the bubbly Italian-based Presto rosé in a can. Slightly dry and fruity,  I enjoyed this in a glass. Presto comes in a 4-pack, and each serving size is a dainty 187ml. Child-size juice glass rejoice!

I was, however, far less impressed with the considerably sweet Presto sparkling cuvée in a can. Mirabeau’s Pure Provence rosé in a can was less drinkable in comparison to the Presto rosé.

Economical Fave – TJ’s Simpler Wines Rosé

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Trader Joe’s does the job right with a small single-serving canned rosé. When chilled, it’s refreshingly light and effervescent with just the right tinge of sweetness. I generally prefer dry wines. In a slim 187ml serving size can, TJ’s Simpler Wines come in a 4-pack, and you can spend a whopping $3.99.  I sampled the TJ’s white wine, and it was frankly “meh”.

Canned Reds are a work-in-progress

With all the hype and articles written about Oregon based Union Wine Co., my expectations were a tad high for the Underwood Pinot Noir. I was sadly disappointed. It came with a distinct aluminum taste even after I poured it into a wine glass. I may have to give Underwood another go and try some of its other varietals. The Underwood cans come in a larger serving size of 375ml, and are available for sale in single cans at Whole Foods and other wine shops. The West Side Wine Co’s Cabernet Sauvignon also had the “aluminum can” taste.

Size Matters

The average bottle of wine is 750ml (25 oz) and pours out approximately five to six glasses. The canned wines these days come in 187ml, 250ml, 375ml, and 500ml cans.  The portability and single serving size of the 187ml cans provide great consumption control. The larger sizes, particularly as you get to 375ml and 500ml provides the perfect MO to whip out a couple of wine glasses for a day trip (or night out) with friends or dates.

Recycle & Drink Responsibly

As with any packaging, whether in an elegant bottle or a can, we can be mindful of recycling and our continued responsibility to the environment. When you’re ready for that perfect picnic trip, or in this case, a 4th of July barbecue, celebrate in style.

Enjoy a Happy 4th and cheers to you!

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