Delicious, simple banana chocolate chip smoothies

by

Laura Falin

posted in Life & Home

My husband bought me a smoothie maker for Christmas.

We have a sacred rule that neither of us buys each other appliances, or other un-fun presents. But we decided that the smoothie maker is different. It’s for me to make smoothies for myself and no one else. And I like smoothies, and I do enjoy making them (pulverizing stuff is fun!). So he gets a pass on this one, and I’m now happily puttering about the kitchen, having one long Smoothie Party #alldayeveryday.

A delicious, simple banana chocolate chip smoothie!

Smoothies are also a huge part of our winter diet. It’s cold and snowy here and fresh fruits and veggies get kind of sad and sorry-looking, and yet more expensive at the same time. So we turn to more frozen fruits and vegetables and toss them into smoothies for breakfasts and snacks. My new little smoothie maker is going to get quite a workout, I think.

This one was good. It’s chock-full of protein, with peanut butter and Greek yogurt. It’s got some chocolate chips in it, so I won’t argue that it’s as healthy as, say, a Kale Wheatgrass Smoothie. But it doesn’t have a ton, and as a substitute for dessert, or a breakfast to kick-start you in the morning, I think it’s a perfectly respectable option. I used a banana I’d tossed in the freezer because it was getting spots, but you can use fresh if you have that on-hand instead.

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 c peanut butter
  • 1/2 c Greek yogurt
  • 1 c milk
  • 1 c crushed ice
  • 1 c semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a blender (or smoothie maker, if you happen to possess such a thing) and pulse until smooth. Makes two large (12 oz) glasses, or enough for five smaller servings.

Do you have trouble getting good fruits and vegetables in the winter? How do you eat them?

For more kids’ activities and easy recipes, you can find Laura at Peace but not Quiet, and on facebook and Pinterest.

Fun, easy New Year’s Eve nails for kids

by

Laura Falin

posted in Life & Home

I can never decide if I like New Year’s Eve or not.

Every movie or TV show you watch with a New Year’s Eve scene always has people at these fun parties, dressed all fancy, sipping champagne, and kissing each other at midnight. Have you seen “When Harry Met Sally”? They were at an actual BALL. With ballgowns.

But here? At our house? We’re in our fuzzy jammies, sipping sparkling apple cider, watching a countdown from another country on the computer because there’s no way anyone in this house is going to make it until midnight. It’s nothing like the movies.

These nails are a fun way to add a little bling to your New Year's Eve!

We have to have a little bling, though, even if it’s just to admire while we’re in our bathrobes and pjs. And since one of my girls loooooves doing her nails, we had a little fun with them. You can take this opportunity to go buy some new, glittery nail polish if you want (we grabbed a metallic gold the last time we were at the grocery store), or you can just use what you already have.

These nail ideas for kids are a fun way to add a little bling to your New Year's Eve!

Polka Dot Nails

What you need:

  • two colors of nail polish (we chose bright pink and metallic gold)
  • toothpicks

Begin by painting your nails. We alternated our colors, painting one nail pink and the next gold until we were finished. Allow nails to dry completely. Dip a toothpick into the opposite color (so for our pink nails, we dipped the toothpick in the gold). Drop tiny dots of polish on your nails and allow to dry. That’s it! You could change this up for football games (my daughter lectured me on making sure we have blue and orange in time for the next Bronco game) or other fun events or holidays.

These nail ideas for kids are a fun way to add a little bling to your New Year's Eve!

Glitter Nails

What you need:

  • one color of nail polish
  • glitter (we have a ton in our craft stash that we swiped for this)

Paint your nails. Before the polish is dry, add a sprinkle of glitter to each nail and finish drying. We used white glitter, but you could use a contrasting color to mix things up.

So there you go — do up your nails, and your kids’ nails, and ring in the new year with your blinged out fingers and flannel jammies, you crazy party animal, you. And if you do go to a ball or something, I wanna hear all about it and live vicariously through you.

How does your family celebrate New Year’s Eve? (Check out this post for more ideas on celebrating with kids!)

For more kids’ activities and easy recipes, you can find Laura at Peace but not Quiet, and on facebook and Pinterest.

The Wintertini: Your new favorite cocktail/mocktail for New Years!

by

Lindsay Weiss

posted in Life & Home

Got kids this New Year’s Eve? Pregnant and can’t indulge in all the libations? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Here’s a special little celebratory drink that can go two ways to please the drinkers and non-drinkers.

Apple cider is the center of both beverages. From there they go two different ways — the alcoholic version goes all vanilla with a hint of butterscotch. It’s like the best hot toddy you’ve ever sipped, except in ice-cold martini form.

The non-alcoholic version is crisp and fruity. Orange essence with a hint of pomegranate is a kid and adult-pleaser alike. My kids drank this for our Christmas dinner and (gulp) it was the first thing gone.

Both drinks could be enjoyed warm too if you want to skip the cocktail feel. But for New Year’s Eve, these are a great way to make everyone feel special!

Here’s to 2016!!

Looking for more Sweets and Eats for the Whole Family? Find Lindsay at SugarMama.

Apple Cidertini 2_2

Cocktail version
6 ounces apple cider
4 ounces Smirnoff vanilla vodka
1 ounce butterscotch schnapps

Combine all ingredients with ice in a martini shaker. Shake vigorously and strain to serve. Garnish with cinnamon stick.

Mocktail version:

1 cup chilled apple cider
1/2 cup chilled orange juice
Splash of pomegranate juice
Cinnamon stick (for garnish)

Combine cider, OJ and pomegranate juice and chill for at least 30 minutes. Pour evenly into glasses. Add a cinnamon stick for garnish.

Both versions make two martini-size cocktail/mocktails.

Is your baby food really organic?

by

Lindsay Weiss

posted in Life & Home

Buying baby food is a little like buying meat. There are all sorts of labels — natural, organic, minimally processed — and not a lot of clear-cut information about what they really mean. I’m a sucker for things labeled 100 percent natural; I’ll buy that item every time. But, in the baby food world, it turns out 100 percent natural doesn’t always mean the same thing to everyone.

natural organic

I used the Beech-Nut decoder to help me figure out what baby food labels really mean. Using the word “natural” in baby food isn’t regulated by the FDA at all, so even if your food claims to be 100 percent natural, there are no standards by which to measure this. That said, some companies really do have rigorous standards of their own, so you might be happily surprised when you read the label. But that’s the trick with all baby food labeled “natural” — you have to read the label.

“Organic” is a tricky label too. The USDA actually has varying degrees of organic. There’s organic, 100 percent organic, and made with organic ingredients. I’ve been buying organic baby food for years assuming it was 100 percent organic, but it turns out it’s not. All food labeled organic can exempt up to 5 percent of ingredients per the USDA standards. Now, I’m not the type to freak out about that 5 percent, but I wish I’d known, because I would have looked a little harder for the 100 percent organic and at least compared prices.

Bby-eating-88

This is the kind of stuff we moms (and dads) need to know! Read up on these labels and make informed choices, right? I’ve had three babies and I’m just now learning the nuances of baby food labeling. Take a second to understand the terms before your baby takes his first bite and you won’t make mistakes like I did.

What questions still come to mind for you regarding natural and organic baby foods?

This post is sponsored by Beech-Nut. All opinions are my own.

Images via BabyCenter.

Pancakes with a message surprise

by

Kami Bigler

posted in Life & Home

How fun would Christmas breakfast be if your pancakes had a special message surprise on them? My family’s been making these for a few years now, and if you have the time in the morning, it is such a fun thing to do with the kids. This works great for birthdays and other holidays too.

Message in a pancake surprise | NoBiggie.net

The first step is pretty easy. Start by making your favorite pancake mix. We used a whole wheat pancake mix on this day, but just use your favorite. Once you have it mixed up, scoop out about 1 1/2 cups and put it in a different bowl so you can thin with a little extra milk. Once it’s thinned you can put it in a small squeeze bottle. Now you are ready to start cookin’.

Pancakes with a message surprise steps | NoBiggie.net

Using your favorite pancake skillet, pan or griddle make your special surprise design or message using the thinned pancake mix in the squeeze bottle. Remember with words you might have to write them backwards to make them look right. Let the message cook for 30 seconds to a minute (the longer you go before the next step the darker the message will be). Then when you’re and the message will hold it’s shape, pour your regular pancake batter on top of the message.

Pancakes with a message surprise | NoBiggie.net

That’s it! This is such a fun way to get kids cooking and helping in the kitchen? Holiday or not this will be a new breakfast favorite.

Have you ever made message pancakes before? If so, what designs or words would your kids love?

*For more craft tutorials, great recipes, free printables, fun giveaways, and real life you can follow Kami at NoBiggie.net, or find her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.


Make delicious shakes with leftover candy canes

by

Laura Falin

posted in Life & Home

Are you overrun by candy canes yet?

My kids have a bunch. They always seem to get candy canes in goody bags, along with other candy…and usually at places like parties or recitals where they’ve already had some treats, so by the time we get to the candy canes it’s time to take a break from all the sugar and the poor little suckers never get eaten.

So. All this to say — lots of candy canes floating around here.

Do you have leftover candy canes? Try this delicious recipe for candy cane milkshakes!

We’ve used some in Reindeer Crunch, of course. But then we decided to branch out into milkshakes, and we did not regret it for one little second.

Do you have leftover candy canes? Try this delicious recipe for candy cane milkshakes!

So good. And creamy. With only four ingredients and one of them is milk so really, these are full of calcium and pretty healthy, yes? We’ll say yes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 c milk
  • 2 c vanilla ice cream
  • 1/2 c crushed candy canes
  • peppermint extract

Instructions:

In a blender, combine milk, ice cream, and crushed candy canes (I like to crush mine the old fashioned way — by putting them in a plastic bag and beating them with a rolling pin. It’s a great way to relieve any lingering holiday stress. But you can pulse them in a food processor as well. It’s up to you whether you like chunks of candy cane in your shake, or whether you want them crushed to a powder to just add flavor.)

Add two drops of peppermint extract and blend just enough to combine everything.

Put one scoop of vanilla ice cream in the bottom of each glass. Pour the shake mixture over the top, leaving room for whipped cream on top of that. Serve.

Do you have leftover candy canes? Try this delicious recipe for candy cane milkshakes!

Happy holidays to you all, however you celebrate them. I hope that the rest of your year is filled with love and family, in all the different, weird, and wonderful forms that families take.

I’m so thankful to share this little corner of the internet with you. It means more than you know.

For more kids’ activities and easy recipes, you can find Laura at Peace but not Quiet, and on facebook and Pinterest.

 

Never organize your kids’ crafts or Play-Doh again

by

Joanna Venditti

posted in Life & Home

One of the areas in my home that I find the most difficult to keep organized, is our kids’ craft cupboard. To say that it is a thorn in my side would be an understatement. Despite the fact that I try to purge this area as often as possible, it always refills in no time. In fact, every time I’d open up the cupboard, I would fear that everything would fall out.

Craft cupboard organization, before and after

Finally, one day, I couldn’t take the clutter any longer. I was going to organize this cupboard once and for all. One of the biggest space hogs was all of my kids’ Play-Doh kits. Although we love Play-Doh in our house, these kits were taking up too much space. Besides, I need to be in the right mood to pull out the Play-Doh and deal with the mess. So I decided it needed to find a new home.

I found this handy cart at Ikea, and decided it was perfect to house all of that Play-Doh and accessories. I store the cart in a closet, and wheel it out when we want to enjoy the Play-Doh.

Play doh trolly - resized

The next thing I did was take all of my kids’ artwork and store them in bins under their beds.

artwork storage bins

Then I approached our craft cupboard as if I was creating little office desks for my kids. I added bins to store coloring books and craft supplies.

Craft Supplies organization

I also added a letter tray to each shelf to store newsletters and artwork that come home from school. That is, until I can get to either throwing them away or storing it in my kids’ new artwork storage bins.

The results were fantastic! My kids each have a space of their own, and everything has a home.Organized CupboardHaving an organized craft cupboard has not only reduced my stress, but my kids are taking responsibility for their own mess.

Here is a list of items I used to organize our cupboards…


Dokument Letter tray, Ikea – $8.99


Raskog utility cart, Ikea – $29.99


Samla box, Ikea – $1.99


Small box, Ikea – $8.99

For more organizational tips, follow my blog Nesting Story. You can also follow along on Facebook and Instagram.

A fun, easy bird feeder to make with your kids

by

Laura Falin

posted in Life & Home

I’m fascinated by birds in winter. On cold snowy and rainy days, when the rest of us would give anything to stay inside in our jammies all the day long — they’re out there, doing their birdie things. Flying around. Singing. Being birds.

We usually have a bird feeder hanging right in front of our window, so that on those cold, snowy days we can watch the birds eat and chat and flit about.

These simple citrus bird feeders are simple and fun to make!

A few tips on attracting birds to your own house or bird feeder:

  • be patient and consistent — they need a few days to know you have food out there for them, and to tell their friends. They also need to make sure you’re not going to eat them. Don’t be discouraged if your bird food is out for a week before you really become popular. And once you are, keep refilling it and they’ll keep coming.
  • have fresh water — in the winter, it can be hard to find fresh water to drink that isn’t iced over. If you don’t want to spend the money on food for the birds, you can still attract a lot of them with a simple bird bath (ours is a saucer on top of a stump).

These simple citrus bird feeders are simple and fun to make!

You can make these simple bird feeders mostly with stuff you already have on-hand. We used storebought birdseed for ours, but you can make your own mixture, too. The Audobon Society has a great list of nuts, seeds, and other things you can feed birds.

Ingredients:

  • oranges, grapefruit, lemons, or other citrus fruit
  • peanut butter
  • birdseed or other nuts and seeds
  • skewer or sharp object
  • yarn or twine

Instructions:

Slice the citrus fruit in half and remove the juicy inside (set it aside to eat for breakfast, or juice, or use for cooking). Don’t worry about getting the inside perfectly clean, the birds will appreciate any of the pulp you leave in there for them. When the fruit is emptied out, poke four holes in the bottom with the skewer. Thread one piece of yarn from the outside, through one hole, diagonally across the bottom of the rind, and out the other side. Repeat with another piece of yarn, leaving the ends nice and long so you can hang your feeder. Like this:

These simple citrus bird feeders are simple and fun to make!

Mix 1 c birdseed and 1/2 c peanut butter in a bowl. Add a spoonful to the rind, and draw all four strings up around the outside of the fruit. Knot them at the top.

These simple citrus bird feeders are simple and fun to make!

Hang your feeder outside, away from any cats or other predators, and start your bird stakeout.

Happy bird watching!

Do you bird watch with your kids? I’d love to hear your experiences and any tips or hacks for attracting them!

For more kids’ activities and easy recipes, you can find Laura at Peace but not Quiet, and on facebook and Pinterest.

Souper supper: Butternut squash and sweet corn chowder

by

Lindsay Weiss

posted in Life & Home

This will forever be the soup that turned my 8-year-old into a squash liker. I won’t say lover because he still maintains that the flavor is iffy, but in this soup, he loves it.

I am actually the only one in my family of five who loves squash. Everyone else nibbles a little and tries to drown it in something else…butter, brown sugar, I even caught Kate dipping hers in ketchup. Ew.

But something magic happens when you simmer the squash with garlic, onions, potatoes and sweet corn. The soup becomes much more than the sum of its humble parts; it marries together in a perfect union of sweet, savory, and smooth.

We actually loved this soup so much, we’re serving it as an appetizer before our holiday meal. It’s super easy to make ahead (and the flavors only get better overnight); re-heat and drizzle in the half-and-half just before serving. The bacon and green onions are essential, so don’t forget to add them in!

Beech Nut Butternut Squash Sweet Corn Chowder 1_small

Oh, and did I mention there’s baby food in this soup? Crazy, right? But it helps give the soup a punch of flavor and color which take it from good to great. Go ahead, give this to any anti-squash-er in your life. I’ll bet you can turn that frown upside down!

Butternut Squash and Sweet Corn Chowder

2 jars (4.25 oz each) Beech-Nut Organics just butternut squash and sweet corn
1/4 cup butter
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups chicken broth
2 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 cup chopped butternut squash (I use the pre-chopped stuff available in my produce section)
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup corn kernels
1 cup half-and-half
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 cup chopped green onion
4 slices cooked bacon, chopped

In large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; cook onion for 4 minutes or until softened but not browned. Add garlic; cook for 1 minute. Stir in flour; cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Slowly add chicken broth, whisking constantly, until well combined.

Add potatoes, squash, bay leaf, salt and pepper; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are fork-tender. Stir in Beech-Nut Organics just butternut squash and sweet corn, half-and-half, corn, and cayenne; simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until thick and creamy. Season to taste; garnish with green onion and bacon.

Serves 4.

Recipe from Beech-Nut.

This post is sponsored by Beech-Nut, but all delicious opinions are my own.

Easy Green Chili for Chilly Days

by

Laura Falin

posted in Life & Home

We’re Chili People.

Maybe it’s the cold weather. Maybe it’s because most chilis can be prepped in the morning, thrown in a slow cooker, and eaten whenever we want to have dinner. Maybe it’s because we can make mild chilis for the kids, and doctor ours up with Tabasco or hot sauce for the adults. Maybe it’s because chilis are forgiving — if you’re missing an ingredient or two, usually you can substitute something else, or leave it out entirely, and still have a really good meal. Definitely it’s because they’re simple — you can get your protein and your veggies all in one dish, serve it up with maybe a little bread or some tortillas, and that’s all you need.

This green chili is a simple meal to toss in a slow cooker. It's mild for kids, but can be doctored up for those who like a little more heat!

So we’ll make up a big pot of chili to serve up for dinner one night, and I’ll send it to school with the kids the next day for lunch. We can usually get at least 2-3 meals out of it. (Sidenote: my son takes his in this:

thermos-smaller

 

Good heavens. I’m raising a 13-year old hipster.)

This is a green chili my husband came up with, based on one he had “at some restaurant at Denver International Airport one time.” He came home, started tinkering, and came up with this really tasty dinner. Even though it’s a green chili, it’s very mild. You can keep it that way for the kids, and add some hot sauce or diced jalapeños for those who like a little more heat. And definitely serve with a dollop of sour cream and some tortillas for dipping.

This green chili is a simple meal to toss in a slow cooker. It's mild for kids, but can be doctored up for those who like a little more heat!

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs pre-diced pork (you can buy it this way at the store)
  • 1 pkg taco seasoning
  • 5 large tomatillos, husked and chopped
  • 2 c diced green chiles
  • 1 15 oz can roasted, diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • minced garlic to taste
  • 5 c water or broth
  • 1 tsp salt
  • seasoning salt to taste
  • 6 Tb corn starch
  • shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, diced green onions, and/or tortillas for toppings (optional)

Instructions:

Brown diced pork in oil or bacon fat (ohhhh, goodness…go with the bacon fat if you possibly can). Combine taco seasoning, tomatillos, green chiles, diced tomatoes, onion, garlic, water or broth, salt, and seasoning salt in slow cooker and stir. Add browned pork and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high 4-6 hours. Stir in corn starch to thicken just before serving.  Serve it up with the suggested toppings (or your own favorites!).

Does your family have a go-to cold weather meal?

For more kids’ activities and easy recipes, you can find Laura at Peace but not Quiet, and on facebook and Pinterest.