December 15, 2014


Here’s what up:

Thai chicken soup

chipotle chili and cornbread

spinach and pepper quiche with a spinach salad

bison burgers (and all the fixins) and sweet potato “steaks”

^^ Tacos from Bien Trucha in Geneva (YUM!) ^^

Good Eaters?

December 12, 2014

CKT: Good Eaters? What makes a kid a good eater?  My friends always comment that my kids are good eaters; and while George is still in the stage where he will eat anything and everything at all times, my response (in my head) is always, “really?!”

As much as I love the compliment I still constantly deal with the I don’t like dinner talk, the strong will not to try things, and the overall small-portion dining.

So, are kids just born picky/good eaters? Is eating just another personality trait? I would think the answer is yes and no.  Can we probably nurture better outcomes? I think yes.

On letting kids run the show
As tough as dinner can be, I have found that I have to (usually) stick to my guns. Believe me, nothing gets me riled up like an argument with a 4-year-old over if the ham and cheese melt is good or not when they have not even laid a finger on it (and, clearly it’s delicious). But if I offered a new dinner option for the kids on the nights where they “didn’t like dinner,” then I would be doing that 3+ a week. Take that option away. It will make your life easier and theirs. (Some nights are just a bust, and that’s just life).

On giving them options
Speaking of options, I used to think it was best to always give Nora a lot of options so that she had the freedom to make her own food decisions, particularly at breakfast and lunch. And while I do want to give her the freedom to decide, it started to get a little out of control. So now, we still have options at those meals, but there’s a limit (anything goes at breakfast and 2 choices max at lunch). And dinner is dinner–no options there. Our dinners always feature something on the plate that everyone should like and then food that the kids may or may not like. Everyone is expected to try everything (and as little as a bite if it is new and/or scary). I constantly remind Nora that her taste buds are constantly changing, so you always have to give things a try; and it’s ok if you don’t like something. Exposure, exposure, exposure…sometimes it can take 15+ times for a kid to like something (and sometimes never, but…cross that bridge when you come to it).

On overly processed foods
We know processed foods are not good for us, but who can deny the convenience? The major problem I have with processed foods is that they mess with our taste since they are loaded with hidden sugars and salt. Things start to taste different after eating a lot of processed foods. I no longer buy any boxed mac n’ cheese, never have hot dogs/pre-cooked frozen chicken nuggets in the house (although, we do love lunch dates at Portillo’s, hello–we are normal people and live in Chicago), and have been trying to cut down on boxed snacks (but definitely still have a bunch in the house). My rule of thumb is: if I don’t like giving my kids XYZ, don’t buy it–it’s the easiest way to not serve it to them. Side note: both of the kids used pacifiers and the only way for me not to give them one was to not have one available. I think I have sold the point, but as parents, we are weak, I tell ya.
**it’s judgment free zone here; my kids will gladly eat boxed mac n’ cheese and chicken nuggets if served.

Instead of boxed mac n’ cheese – try buttered noodles with pre-grated parmesan, it’s just as quick (Trader Joe’s has awesome parmesan cheese)

Instead of hot dogs – get extra meat to cook at each dinner and then you’ll have that to serve the next day

Instead of boxed snacks – try trail mix (we do dried cherries and walnuts, and sometimes chocolate chips), popcorn, homemade banana bread, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, string cheese, peanut butter toast with honey, etc.

On trying new things and positive food talk
Continue to show them new food–don’t be afraid to take them to the Thai, or sushi restaurant (even if they are just eating avocados and noodles). Make it fun. Talk about food. Let them hang out while you are cooking (Nora sits on the counter and it’s our best time to gab). Take them to the grocery store–even let them pick out a new fruit or veggie to try. I think the more you introduce them to, the more they will like. It is  a rocky journey (no doubt), but worth it. Believe me not every restaurant outing is fun, but we keep at it.

On the reward system and breaking down
We do use the reward system…a lot–eat a good dinner and you can have dessert (even if it’s the world’s smallest piece of chocolate–it feels like a treat). And when all else fails, we occasionally invite them on our lap or sit next to them to help them along (literally feeding them like a baby–we need to find a new ‘break down’ tactic, Nora is getting too old for this). Sometimes you do what you need to do.

The road to a good eater is sometimes chance, sometimes luck, but always hard work. What are your tricks of the trade?


December 9, 2014


Our weekly meal guide!

classic chicken noodle soup and baguette

seared skirt steak salad (with mixed greens, avocados, red onion, blue cheese, homemade croutons, and balsamic vinaigrette) – the kids will eat the avocados, steak, bread before it becomes croutons, and carrots.

roasted vegetable pasta with goat cheese and walnuts

pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, and green beans

^^are you following CKT on Instagram yet? Click here!^^

2014 CKT Gift Guide

December 1, 2014

CKT gift guide 2014 With the holiday season well under way, I give you CKT’s annual gift guide. Here are my hand-picked gifts for the season–some are personal favorites and some are things we are giving/wanting this year.

We try to keep things relatively simple in the present department and just enjoy the season–special outings like dinner in the city, the Nutcracker, and Zoo Lights. I love to model our kid’s gifts around this idea: something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read (Monica, thanks for this!) Merry, Happy, Friends! xoxo

2014 CKT Gift Guide

1. Ugg Baby Booties - For the new baby in your family. These little slippers go with everything, keep toes warm, and stay on feet. $34.95 (we like them in blue)

2. A Proper Shave from the Art of Shaving - For your husband, brother, or dad who probably doesn’t get pampered enough; this is fun and something they would never buy for themselves. $55

3. Pinhole Press Picture Puzzle - For your grandma or grandpa who loves puzzles and photos of you–combine the two and make them smile this season. $24.99

4. Mah-Ze-Dahr Bars - For your relatives who don’t live close–share the gift of a baked goods. Cue the Mah-Ze-Dahr bar. And for your relatives who live in the Big Apple, get them the brioche doughnuts (The New York Times loves them)! $18.00

5. Card Holder - For your son, daughter, niece, or nephew–it’s never too early to start the family Uno games (great stocking stuffer). $5.56

6. Nice J.Crew PJs - For your mom or sister-in-law–indulge her with the cutest jammies to curl up in this season. $95.00

7. Yes Please by Amy Poehler - For the grab bag you go to every year. Who doesn’t love a few laughs? p.s. On my wish list, Mom. $17.39

8. Dry Soda - For your friend who just found out she’s pregnant. I love these sodas when I’m missing out on fun holiday cocktails. They are light, a tiny bit sweet, and look great served in a wine glass. $32.45 (for 6–4 packs)

9. Hello Apparel hoodie - For the lady in your life that loves hoodies, but also likes to look slightly stylish. $36.00 Brian–take note! (check out their cute kid’s clothes too)

10. Mini Micro Scooter – For your son or daughter–this is a little spendy, but so worth it! Best scooter around–no question. Scooters are the new big wheel (and sometimes bike). $79.99

11. War on Drugs record – For your partner in crime. This album must be enjoyed on vinyl–trust me. $18.93

12. WildFire Honey - For the foodie in your life. This stuff is sweet and spicy–just how we like it. It takes grilled or fried chicken to a whole new level. $12.99

photo credits // Mah-Ze-Dahr bars: Vanessa Rees, WildFire Honey: Andres J. DeLeon, Ugg Booties: Ugg Website, Hello Apparel hoodie: Hello Apparel Website, Pinhole Puzze: Pinhole Website, Shave Brush: The Art of Shaving Website, War on Drugs record, Micro Mini Scooter, Dry Soda, Card Holder, and Yes, Please: Amazon Website.  


November 24, 2014

#CKTeats Weekly Meal Planning

Here’s what we are eating this week, what about you?

lemon orzo chicken soup (seriously soul healing)

spaghetti and meatballs

grilled tuna nicoise salad (the kids will most likely eat everything except the tuna; think potatoes, hard boiled eggs, green beans, etc.)

self explanatory

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! xoxo

Perfect Eggs

November 19, 2014

CKT: perfect eggs

I noticed about a year ago, that most of us struggle with hard boiled eggs (including yours truly). You’d’ think it be so easy, but how many times have you seen the green circle and tasted a chalky yolk (you know what I’m talking about). And so many different methods–turning off the water, 6 minutes, 20 minutes…how to choose?

I discovered the most foolproof technique and have been boiling our eggs this way for some time now. The yolks are always golden yellow and have a just the right consistency. They are also amazingly easy to peel. And since eggs are a great snack and egg salad is a favorite sandwich in our house, we use this method about once or twice a week.

CKT Hard Boiled Eggs

Bring a pot of water to a hard boil. Once boiling, use a spoon to gently drop the eggs into the pot. Set the timer for 9 minutes (8 if you like a softer center). Once the timer goes off, drain the water and replace with cool water from the sink and a bunch of ice. Let sit for at least 5-10 minutes. Peel and serve (lightly salted of course). If not using right away, place eggs in the fridge for up to 5 days.


November 17, 2014


After two weeks off, weekly meal planning is back! Here’s what we are eating this week:

chili-rubbed salmon with roasted broccoli and avocado slices

pasta with sautéed baby kale, oven roasted tomatoes and bread crumbs

ham & cheese melts with an apple salad

kielbasa/veg stir fry

I’m Thankful for Chocolate & Good Friends

November 3, 2014

CKT Chocolate Cake

This year, my dear friend, Deanna and I thought it would be fun to collaborate on a Thanksgiving craft/dessert. She got to work on a recipe card design (hello party favor!) while I was busy baking apples and chocolate cakes–testing things out.

CKT Chocolate Cake

Since I’m not in charge of the turkey or stuffing (we still go to our parent’s house), I usually offer to make dessert. And when you are only bringing one thing to the big meal (and wine of course), you want it to really be special–and stand out, big time.

CKT DIY Recipe Card

Deanna and I headed to the Paper Source for inspiration and all of our crafting goods. We came home with beautiful paper (for presentation), durable craft paper (for the recipe cards), and a fun stamp to work with our holiday theme.

In the end, the chocolate cake beat out the baked apples (naturally). And let me tell you this cake is perfection…somewhere between a brownie and a molten lava cake, but more delicate (did I mention it’s easy?). The cake itself is not terribly pretty, but with a little help from some fall foliage, pretty paper, fresh cut thyme, and a little powdered sugar–this little cake looks pretty darn amazing!

CKT DIY Recipe Card

(1. PS 8.5×11 Cover Weight Paper in ‘Paper Bag,’ pack of 10 sheets
2. Color Box Stamp Pad in Orange 3. PS Arrow Stamp)

We wanted to make sure you could share your special Thanksgiving recipe with your friends and family too, making this printable recipe card:

click here for your recipe card PDF

Aren’t these cards adorable? I’m going to use them year-round. Download the PDF and personalize with your own name or recipe (or maybe just this chocolate cake recipe). And if you are feeling extra crafty, we recommend gathering a few extra leaves and stamping them with fun sayings for the tablescape (thanks for the tip, Em!).

What are you making for Thanksgiving (food or crafts)? We’d love to hear!

CKT Chocolate Cake
adapted from Orangette
serves 8

7oz semi-sweet high quality chocolate chips
7oz salted high quality butter – cubed + more to prepare the pan
1 cup + 3 TBS sugar
5 eggs
1 TBS flour

Preheat oven to 375 F. Prepare an 8-inch cake pan with butter (sides and bottom). Then cut a circle of parchment paper to line the bottom of the pan and butter that as well.

Place the cubed butter and the chocolate in a microwaveable bowl or a double boiler. Heat until just melted and smooth. If using the microwave, heat in 30 second intervals whisking after each time until melted. If using the double boiler, whisk continuously until melted. Be careful to not burn the mixture.

Add the sugar to the mixture and whisk. Then add the eggs one at a time and whisk. Finally add the flour. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan. Place in the preheated oven and cook for 25-30+ minutes (mine usually takes 30 minutes). You want the cake to be set and the center to have just a slight jiggle, if any. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and then place a plate on top of the cake and flip the cake out onto the plate. Then get your serving plate, place on top and flip the cake on to that. The cake is very delicate.

Just before serving, dust with powdered sugar and serve with ice cream. (The cake is good at room temp for 3 days, and 5 days in the fridge). Best if made one day in advance. Always serve at room temp.

*photos & styling by Deanna Matyskiel!


October 27, 2014

CKT: Pumpkin Patch Here’s our meal plan for the week:


grilled chicken with potatoes and avocado mayo


minestrone soup with crusty bread


roasted chicken (from the store) and a spinach salad


sausage and pepper sandwiches and sautéed kale


out at our friend’s house for Halloween!

^^We had so much fun at the pumpkin patch this year, can you tell?^^