Little heart beets for Valentine’s Day

by

Kami Bigler

posted in Life & Home

With Valentine’s Day coming up quick, we’re all about simple ways to add a little more love to your life. Nothing that will break the bank, just fun ideas to put a smile on your loved one’s faces. How about little heart beets for Valentine’s Day. One of my favorite salad toppings are pickled beets. I know some people are totally grossed out by pickled beets, but they’re my FAVE! Along with chickpeas, hardboiled eggs, and peas. Yum! Now I’m craving a really good salad bar. What are your favorite salad toppings?

Grab your tiny heart shaped cookie cutter and a can of sliced pickled beets and add a little love to your salad for a special Valentine’s day dinner in.

heart beets salad topping

Just press the cookie cutter down on each little slice. You can also chop up the excess from the negative space and save for a salad for later. Also don’t throw out the beet juice. Mix in a little of the beet juice with some ranch dressing to make pink ranch. The kids will love dipping carrots into some pink ranch.

heart beets

I’d love to know are you planning a quiet night in on Valentine’s Day or do you like to go out? Do you include the kids and make it a family affair? Or do you get them off to bed for a romantic night? It’s such a fun day.

*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.


“Need chocolate NOW!’ cake

by

Lindsay Weiss

posted in Life & Home

I know you’ve had that moment where you need chocolate stat. No substitutes; it has to be the real thing and preferably in baked good form because everyone knows that’s the best.

When these er, urges hit, you don’t have the patience to wait for a whole cake to bake. Good lord, no! You need chocolate cake in less than two minutes and, by golly, chocolate cake you shall have.

This is a really easy cake you can mix up in a mug and microwave for just over a minute. That’s right, you can have homemade chocolate cake in ONE MINUTE. I make this one with a scoop of Nutella in the center because it adds flavor and makes the center kind of molten-y.

I think these are best when eaten right away (after a brief cooling period so you don’t burn your tongue) but I can’t be 100% sure because they’ve NEVER LASTED THAT LONG!

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

need chocolate now mug cake 2_2_small

Need Chocolate NOW Cake

I didn’t have a mug big enough to hold this cake (2 cup capacity), so I did them in two 1-cup ramekins. Perfection. Cook time was the same — I just threw them in the microwave together.

1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons Nutella or 1 oz semisweet chocolate, lightly broken up
1 tablespoon water

In a 2-cup microwave-safe mug, whisk together with a fork, the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt until well combined.

Add in the melted butter, milk, most of the beaten egg and vanilla. Whisk well to combine, making sure to mix in the flour mixture in the bottom.

Drop the Nutella or semisweet chocolate in the center of the mug. Do not push down; it will sink as it bakes.

Drizzle the tablespoon of water right on top of the batter. Don’t stir.

Cook in microwave on full power for 1 minute and 20 seconds to 2 minutes (1 minute and 25 seconds is my magic number), or until the cake rises to the top, the edges look set but the center looks ever-so-slighly wet and shiny but not raw, and sticks slightly to the finger when touched. Do NOT overbake to ensure that saucy, molten-y interior. If the center still looks raw then give it another 5 to 10 seconds. The cake will fall after it comes out of the microwave.

Let it cool for about 5 minutes so you don’t burn your tongue and the cake sets.

* A short mug with a wide mouth works best for this recipe. If not available, a small bowl could be used instead. To know if your mug/or bowl is the right size, pour 2 cups of water in it and this should fill it to the top.

Adapted from http://cleobuttera.com/cakes/molten-chocolate-mug-cake/

No more waiting: Offer a variety of foods early

by

BabyCenter Guest Blogger

posted in Life & Home

By Dr. Alan Greene, Pediatrician, Author, and Advisor to Plum Organics

Food allergies are much more common today than they were when you were a baby. With food allergies such a hot topic in mothers’ groups, classrooms and playgrounds, you may be surprised to learn that introducing a wide variety of foods before a baby’s first birthday can not only be safe and fun, but may even help to prevent food allergies.

Anywhere you go these days — a parents’ group, touring a preschool, the airport — it can feel like everyone around you is dealing with a food allergy. The numbers back this up: More kids do have food allergies today compared to our own childhood. Given this rise, it can feel incongruous that today’s allergy-aware approach to baby’s first foods involves offering a variety of options, no waiting needed. It used to be that holding off on known allergens until a baby turned one was deemed prudent, but that has fallen out of favor. The new thinking is that early exposure to a mix of foods is not only safe for healthy kids, it could also wind up preventing allergies.

Not long ago, many recommended delaying introducing cow’s milk until 1 year, eggs until 2 years, and nuts, peanuts, and fish until age 3. But while kids are still babies, their immune systems are trying to learn what is normal and what to react against later.

In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released updated guidelines, which underlined that for healthy babies there is no convincing evidence that delaying any foods beyond 6 months of age reduces allergies. In fact, there is mounting evidence that introducing foods in the first year may reduce allergies. This applies even to the most common food allergens: peanuts, nuts, egg, wheat, milk, soy, fish, and shellfish.

I understand that this may seem scary.  I always recommend that you do what feels most comfortable for you and your baby, and consult with your doctor before starting these foods — all the more so if there’s a history of food allergies in your family.

That being said, I suggest, that as long as little ones are healthy, you do not need to delay certain foods beyond 6 months in an effort to prevent allergies. Feeding your growing baby can be joyful and fun, not fearful and overly restrictive.

I do, however, recommend avoiding highly allergenic foods in a few situations — specifically when babies are taking antibiotics or have a tummy illness, or without talking with your doctor if they are already showing signs of an allergic reaction. Also, be aware that allergies aren’t the only food safety issue: do avoid shapes or textures that might cause choking (such as peanut butter or individual peanuts) or carry infections (such as raw or undercooked fish or eggs).

Teach your baby that new foods and flavor combinations are delicious and to be expected. Introducing new foods rapidly, and feeding different mixtures of foods, may even lead to more adventurous, happy eaters.

Yet many folks still recommend waiting 3 to 5 days between introducing new foods. I disagree! As long as babies are tolerating their foods well, proceed with the feeding adventure. This style of eating doesn’t increase allergy risk. It does create a little more work to detect the culprit if a child does develop a food allergy — but more than 90 percent of children never will.

If a child does show signs of an allergic reaction, removing the possible culprits from the diet can be wise. Remember, these guidelines are about preventing, not treating allergies. Thankfully, most early food allergies are later outgrown.

So get started on teaching your baby to love the variety of great foods you and your family already enjoy!

For more tips on getting a solid start, visit Plum Organics Resource Center.

Alan Greene Headshot 2014-06

About Alan Greene, MD

An industry leader with a progressive approach to wellness, Dr. Greene is a practicing pediatrician, author, Pediatric Advisor to Plum Organics, children’s health advocate and father of four. His website, DrGreene.com, is cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician web site” and he was named “The Children’s Health Hero of the Internet” by Intel.  Dr. Greene is the author of “Feeding Baby Green,” “Raising Baby Green,” and “From First Kicks to First Steps.”

This post is sponsored by Plum Organics.

A fun, simple lunch your kids can make themselves

by

Laura Falin

posted in Life & Home

Do you ever feel like it’s so much simpler to do things for your children than to teach them to do these things themselves?

I know we’re supposed to be teaching them to be self-sufficient. To pick up their own toys, and eventually do their own laundry and cooking and stuff. And some day this is all going to pay off, and we’re all going to collectively take one nice loooooong nap while our kids wash all our clothes for us and make dinner and let us make up for 16 years of lost sleep. I really believe this. But wow — it can be hard (and messy!) to let them learn how to do these things in the meantime.

These easy make-your-own lunchables are a great way for kids to start making their own meals!

And so for the early stages, we need nice, simple lunches kids can make and clean up by themselves, like these make-your-own-lunchables. You’ll have to do the prep work, but the kids can feel like they helped…and trust me, this is so much better than letting them do peanut butter and jelly on their own. I had to clean that off the ceiling after our last “I do it myself” lunch. Not cool, preschoolers. Not. Cool.

Make-Your-Own Lunchables:

Ingredients:

  • lunch meat
  • sliced cheese
  • crackers
  • cucumbers, tomatoes, or any other add-ons

These easy make-your-own lunchables are a great way for kids to start making their own meals!

Instructions:

Cut the lunch meat and cheese into small squares. If you have little cookie cutters, it’s fun to cut out some shapes — ours are perfect for Valentine’s Day! And if you really want to blow their minds, cut out cheese in two different colors, then switch the inserts around to make your cheese multi-colored.

Show the kids how to stack one cracker, a slice of cheese, a slice of lunch meat, cucumbers or other veggies if you choose, and another cracker on top. Let them practice stacking their sandwiches and eating.

These easy make-your-own lunchables are a great way for kids to start making their own meals!

This is also one of those lunches you can prep pretty easily on a Sunday, and have them ready all week long. I just put my lunch meat and cut up cheese in plastic containers, so I can pull them out during the week for quick lunches for the kids.

Do your kids like to help in the kitchen? What’s their favorite way to help?

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

Got sniffles? Try this cold-busting smoothie

by

Lindsay Weiss

posted in Life & Home

Gah.

This is the time of year our family always goes down for the count. Strike one: we’ve got a toddler who goes to “school” twice per week. Strike two: We’ve got two in elementary school, otherwise known as Germ Capitol of the World. Strike three: My oldest daughter and I spend many winter weekends cooped up on a team bus and in large, germy convention centers while she competes with her cheer team.

We go down hard this time of year.

I do three things to try to combat this: 1) My kids take a good-quality multi-vitamin every day 2) If someone in the family gets sick, we take extra zinc and 3) We up the vitamin C wherever we can.

This smoothie helps with #3. It’s saturated with vitamin C-laden fruits and BONUS it’s delicious. I make a huge batch for breakfast and save three small cups for the kids to have as an after-school snack too. I add protein powder to it because it’s sometimes the only thing my kids have time for in the morning, so I’m trying to round it out a bit.

I buy the giant bags of frozen peaches, strawberries and pineapple at our local warehouse store. That way they last me through a chunk of cold season!

Stay healthy y’all…

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

vitamin c immunity smoothie 2_2_small

Cold-Busting “C” Smoothie
I usually throw everything in the blender the night before and set it in the fridge. This way the fruit isn’t frozen solid (which kills your blender).

10 oz. orange juice
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
4 oz. peach greek yogurt
1 cup strawberries, frozen
1 cup peaches, frozen
1/2 cup pineapple chunks, frozen

Place all ingredients into blender and process until smooth.

Makes 2 smoothies.

Instructions

DIY Valentine’s Day box (trash to treasure)

by

Kami Bigler

posted in Life & Home

In just a few weeks, you will (most likely) be making a Valentine’s box with your little one for sweet little Valentine’s to be dropped in.

Here’s a little DIY Valentine’s Day box inspiration for you.

I spotted this little metal box at the thrift store. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of thrift store shopping, infact, I think it really helps to get you in a creative mindset. I loved the shape of the little box. It almost looks like a bread box, but the opening is too small for a loaf of bread to go inside. Who know’s what it was used for in it’s first life.

I love a good before and after, don’t you?! Isn’t it adorable pink?! It always amazes me what a can of spray paint can do. I love how it turned out, and I love that it can double as a Valentine decoration during the month leading up to Valentine’s Day.

I used an old heart shaped earring that I had on hand. I first added a little glitter and then I hot glued it on. Glitter makes everything better…except for food. It’s not good on food. 😉

Here are the details all together:

So next time you run into a thrift store, look at things for their shape. I bet you’ll find something fun!

Will you be making a Valentine’s box in the next few weeks? Once you have a box like this for the base, you can let your little one decorate it however they’d like…that’s the fun part!

*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.

Comfort in a Crock-Pot: Old-fashioned apple butter

by

Kami Bigler

posted in Life & Home

Here’s a good recipe to put your favorite apple to good use: old fashioned apple butter made in your Crock-Pot. This apple butter works great with many things, from toast to pork chops. Here it is served on top of a pork chop. It really compliments the pork nicely.

crock pot apple butter recipe

To make the job easy, you’ll want one of these apple corer/slicer/peeler gadgets. They’re really cool! My kids love when I use this thing.

apple corer:peeler:slicer

crock pot apple butter recipe - NoBiggie.net

Here’s the recipe:

Old Fashioned Apple Butter in the Crock-Pot

Ingredients:
10 medium to large tart sweet apples depending on size
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup apple juice or cider
I TBS. lemon juice
1 TBS cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves

Directions:
Peel, core and chop apples. Put apples and all other ingredients in slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-7 hours. Mash apples with a potato masher and cook for about one more hour. Great on so many things, especially english muffins.

Looking for more great make-it-from-scratch recipes? You’ll love some of these:

Do you like apple butter? …And if so, what do you like it on?

*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.


Kid tested: Orange chicken and rice

by

Lindsay Weiss

posted in Life & Home

Kate saw a version of this recipe on the back of a Smuckers jar a while back and thought we should make it. I thought it sounded kinda weird (bbq sauce + orange marmalade + soy sauce?) and gave her a non-committal “Sure, honey.” Well, sure enough she did not forget and kept mentioning it every week as we made our grocery list. Finally, this week, I sucked it up and agreed to buy the only thing we never had on hand — orange marmalade.

We simplified the recipe a little so she could make most of it, and do you know what? It was good. Like, I’d-make-it-again-this-week good. And super easy. It reminds me of the orange chicken my kids like from our Chinese takeout place, but much healthier.

This is a perfect weeknight meal; it comes together in minutes. I served it with a side of steam-in-the-bag green beans and rice.

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

orange chicken 2_2_small

Orange Chicken
Save time and have your butcher chop your chicken into bite-sized pieces. You’ll thank me later.

For the sauce:
1 cup barbecue sauce
1 cup orange marmalade
2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

For the chicken:
3/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast – cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup flour
2 eggs
canola oil
green onions

In a sauce pan, add the barbecue sauce, marmalade, and soy sauce. Turn the heat on low and let it simmer for 20 minutes, stirring a few times.

Place eggs in one bowl and stir. Place flour in another bowl. Dip pieces of chicken in the egg and then cover in flour. Set on an extra plate.

Add a thin layer of oil to a frying pan and turn your stove on medium/high heat. Once it sizzles, add half the chicken to the pan then cook the other half so they cook evenly. Let it cook for 3-5 minutes each side until it’s brown and cooked on the inside. Set the oily pieces on a paper towel and let drain.

Add the chicken to the sauce and toss. Serve with rice and green beans, garnish with green onions.

Serves 4.

Want an adventurous eater? Enlist all senses, not just taste

by

BabyCenter Featured Expert

posted in Life & Home

By Dr. Alan Greene, Pediatrician, Author, and Advisor to Plum Organics          

Some parents lament that they have little control over what their children are willing to eat. It can be so frustrating. The good news is that parents have a unique window of time to educate and influence children’s taste buds: the first few years of life.

Introducing a wide variety of good-for-you foods in all colors and textures during this time stacks the cards in parents’ favor. It enables kids to develop their Nutritional Intelligence. Taste preferences form rapidly when children are young — they can even form via what Mom eats while pregnant and during breastfeeding. We now know that kids’ likes and dislikes can be shaped by experiencing food with all the senses, not just taste.

Giving kids great food from the start is a wonderful gift to them. Why not do all you can to help them enjoy it?  Try engaging their little noses, eyes, hands, and even ears as well as their taste buds in their food experience. Here are some helpful tips on relying on all of the senses to raise a healthy, adventurous eater.

 

Sight

Babies are watching what we eat. You’ll likely notice them staring, if you haven’t already. They also remember. Studies suggest that even a single experience of watching an adult eat a specific food can increase the odds of a child wanting to eat that food much later. Being a role model is a powerful position!

Serve meals with bright colors — think orange yams, green beans, and red berries. I also suggest making it a habit to feed your baby something green at lunch and dinner. I believe that if babies become accustomed to color, it may make it easier to keep their diet varied and balanced in future years. For these kids, brown-beige meals, such as grilled cheese and potato chips, look boring — they may know intuitively that something’s missing.

If you open an avocado or banana for yourself or for the baby, use the opportunity for visual learning. Even if you only feed your baby pouch purées of banana, still hold up a real banana next to him from time to time to try to help make the connection.

Baby Center Third Blog Sensory Experience- old

Smell

Smell and taste are tightly linked. For an example, it can be hard to guess the flavor of a jellybean if you are blindfolded; but it’s nearly impossible if you also pinch your nose.

Smell is an important way babies explore their world and learn about their food. Sometimes you may want to bring food close to your baby’s nose briefly (the smell of a fresh peach you are slicing, for instance), to increase his desire for the food and help him connect the aroma with what he sees. Other times, you may want to let the waft of an aroma alert your baby before he gets a chance to see or taste it — sort of an olfactory game of peekaboo.

And cook your favorites dishes with herbs, spices, and aromatic ingredients like onion, garlic, and ginger. Yum!

Touch

Babies, untamed by forks until they’re older, delight in pinching, grasping, shoving, squishing, tossing, and otherwise exploring their food with their hands. Don’t hold them back.

Also, you don’t want all of your baby’s foods perfectly puréed. Be sure to provide soft chunks and irregularities that are easily managed and swallowed (remembering to be mindful of choking hazards). This variety can prepare them to accept more foods and textures later on.

When it comes to toddlers being willing to eat chopped carrots, for example, their willingness appears to depend as much, if not more, on their experience with textures than on their experiences with flavor. So try to serve foods of a variety of consistencies as the months go by — if they have enough teeth and experience to handle them. And even at the beginning of solid introduction, an occasional fork-smashed banana or avocado is an exciting addition to a diet of pure purées.

Sound

Welcome your baby into the kitchen not only so she can enjoy the sights and aromas of food, but also so she’ll hear sizzling, popping, boiling, whirring, whipping, and all kinds of other stimulating sounds.

Also, taste preferences are forming at the same time that babies are rapidly learning to understand new words — they may understand a hundred words before they say their first word. Naming a food each time a child eats can help the food become more familiar and trusted. And if you’re using baby signs, consider using signs for specific foods.

In our final post next week, we’ll dig into the new thinking on allergens. Until then, bon appetit!

For more tips on getting a solid start, visit Plum Organics Resource Center.

Alan Greene Headshot 2014-06

About Alan Greene, MD

An industry leader with a progressive approach to wellness, Dr. Greene is a practicing pediatrician, author, Pediatric Advisor to Plum Organics, children’s health advocate and father of four. His website, DrGreene.com, is cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician web site” and he was named “The Children’s Health Hero of the Internet” by Intel.  Dr. Greene is the author of “Feeding Baby Green,” “Raising Baby Green,” and “From First Kicks to First Steps.”

This post is sponsored by Plum Organics.

A great game when the kids are stuck inside

by

Laura Falin

posted in Life & Home

I try to get outside with the kids every day.

This is not because I’m Supermom, taking the kids out for fun and educational outings every single day. This is actually because if the kids stay in the house for too long, they start messing with my stuff. They get into my things, or start flinging themselves off couches and sliding down stairs in sleeping bags and whatever else they can think of that might break an arm.

But sometimes it’s too cold, or rainy, or even too hot to go out and we have to stay in and do stuff that hopefully doesn’t destroy the house.

paper airplane golf -- a great game when the kids are stuck inside

Paper airplane golf is great on so many levels. It takes up some time, because first you must make your airplanes before you begin the game. And the kids get to throw stuff in the house without getting yelled at.

So we begin by making airplanes. When we have scrapbook paper around, we use that because it adds some fun color, and it makes it easier to keep track of everyone’s planes. But you can use any ol’ 81/2″ x 11″ paper and color or decorate it.

Of course you can make your plane any way you wish, but this is one of my kids’ favorites:

Making a paper airplane:paper airplane Step 1

Step 1:

Begin with an 81/2″x11″ piece of paper. If it’s patterned, make sure the pattern is facedown so it will show up when the plane is done. Fold it in half lengthwise, open, and fold each side of the top to the middle, making a point.

paper airplane Step 2

Step 2:

Fold the entire top point down.

paper airplane Step 3

Step 3:

Fold the outer points in to the middle crease.

paper airplane Step 4

Step 4:

Fold the entire plane in half lengthwise and fold the wings down.

That’s it! This is a pretty simple plane that goes quite fast so my kids love it.

paper airplane Step 6

Now, let the games begin! We like to do both of these:

Paper Airplane Golf: Place empty baskets, toy containers, or cardboard boxes around a room, or even all over the house. Set a starting point, and try flying your planes into each target as you move around the house.

paper airplane golf -- a great game when the kids are stuck inside

(sometimes you hit all the targets…sometimes you end up in the fireplace…)

Paper Airplane Races: Set up an area where you can fly your planes in a straight line (our living room works for this). Have each person take turns flying their plane and see which plane goes furthest. You could even make several models of planes and experiment to see which goes furthest or fastest.

Most importantly, have fun throwing stuff around your house without worrying about breaking (most) things!

What do you do on days you’re stuck inside?

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