Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Easy Cheesy

This is more of a summer favorite but has turned into an anytime, easy meal or treat.  We started making this a couple of summers ago when the tomatoes and basil were out of control.  We picked up some fresh mozzarella from Costco and had caprese in every way possible.  Once we got tired of that, I still needed to use all of those ingredients.  We had been at the pool a lot and ordering a pizza fairly often.  When I was ordering, I saw a specialty pizza with all my ingredients on it!  I decided to try it on a loaf of bread because I'm afraid of making my own pizza dough. This is always wonderful and you can really add anything you have on hand.

Arsenic in our Juice?!

This article listed brands they tested with the least amount of arsenic-
Welch's Pourable Concentrate 100% Apple Juice, America's Choice Apple; Tropicana 100% Apple; and Red Jacket Orchards 100% Apple.
America's Choice is listed below too.  I'm not sure what that means. . . Also, if the arsenic is coming from the ground, why aren't they testing the fresh produce.  Is it safe?? What about other products that contain these fruits? 

A friend just sent me this link.  
Please read this article.  Arsenic is a known carcinogen and is also found in baby foods and rice cereal! I am emptying my juice bottles until I can find a safe alternative. 

Here is an excerpt-
Our study, including tests of apple and grape juice, a scientific analysis of federal health data, a consumer poll, and interviews with doctors and other experts, finds the following:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Edible Peanut Butter Play Dough

A while back, I posted about a craft swap that a few of my friends conducted.  I promised to post some of our favorite activities from the swap.  We have had LOTS of favorites so far!  Peanut Butter Play Dough is one of them. 

Edible Peanut Butter Play Dough
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 1/4 cups powdered milk
1 cup corn syrup
1 cup smooth peanut butter

Mix all ingredients, and store in an airtight container for up to several days.

What I loved most about this craft/activity is that WP (2) was very involved in the whole process of making it.  He helped dump the ingredients into a bowl and helped "stir".  I did the heavy lifting on the mixing part (some of the ingredients are pretty sticky!), but he was really proud to have helped. And of course, he played with the dough, and taste-tested lots of it. This activity, from start to finish, lasted about an hour.  It's a rare day that WP will focus on something for a whole hour - so I call this a success! 

One thing to know about the dough before making it is that it is very different in texture from Play Dough.  The peanut butter version is tougher, not as pliable as the store-bought kind.  It worked OK with some of our Play Dough toys (like the letter stamps pictured), and not-so-good with others (like anything that you 'press' the dough through.)  The texture is similar to a cookie dough... so we got out cookie cutters and made pretend cookies.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

We saw this Ikea Easel on sale, and wanted to share!  It's $9.99 through Sunday, November 27 (normally $15.) You can buy the drawing paper roll separately for $4.99.  Kim has this, and the boys love it! It would make a great Christmas gift.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Savory & Sweet Butternut Squash Soup

I made this the other day because I love butternut squash soup in the fall. And even in Houston, it is fall - despite the fact that the kids across the street were in swimsuits, playing in the sprinkler yesterday afternoon. The weather is warm.  But I wanted soup! And I wanted a lunch for WP and me that was not grilled cheese or PB&J.

This recipe is a combination of Alton Brown and Seattlest's soups. I really like the ginger - it adds a nice depth/warmth of flavor.

Disclaimer: WP LOVED butternut squash soup last fall, when he was one.  He didn't like it as much this year.  He did, however, DEVOUR the Parmesan Cheese Croutons.

Savory & Sweet Butternut Squash Soup

3 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil
One 2 pound butternut squash
2 ripe pears
1/2 (or 1 very small) yellow onion
1 cup apple cider (apple juice is a fine substitute)
4 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/3 cup half-and-half
Parmesan cheese (optional topping)

Peel and de-seed the squash and cut into cubes (about 4 cups).  Peel and de-core the pears and cut into cubes (about 2 cups).  Peel and coarsely chop the onion.

Heat butter/oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the squash, pears, and onion and stir well. Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pears are soft and starting to fall apart.

Add the cider and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the broth and ginger, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, partially covered, for about 30 minutes or until squash is tender.

Use a blender or food processor to puree the soup until very smooth.  Work in small batches and don't fill the blender more than 1/3 full - hot liquids expand a lot. Return the soup to the Dutch oven and add the salt. Continue to cook, uncovered, over medium-low, until the final consistency looks good to you. I usually let it reduce about half in volume.

Stir in half-and-half and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve, garnished with parmesan cheese (optional).

Parmesan Cheese Croutons

French bread
Extra virgin olive oil
Parmesan cheese

Slice bread into 1 " slices. Remove crust, and cut or tear bread into cubes.  Place cubes in a plastic freezer bag.  Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and toss to coat.  Assemble bread on a foil-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Bake at 350 to desired brown-ness (about 10 minutes.)

Print Recipes

Happy (early) Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pumpkin Apple Muffin

Sorry for the uber-close shot (some ingredients are out of frame).  KC was going for the eggs.
Flexible, yummy recipe for breakfast, snack, or dessert. 

Pumpkin Apple Muffins
Print Recipe
    2 1/2 cups flour (whole wheat is great too)
    1 cup brown sugar
    1 T pumpkin pie spice
    1 t baking soda
    1/2 t salt
    2 large eggs
    1 cup canned pure pumpkin (I sometime have a bit leftover from making something else- you can add mashed banana to make a cup if needed)
    1/2 cup ricotta cheese (if using low fat do half veggie oil/half cheese)
    2 medium apples, peeled and diced (can also sub banana)
   Optional add-ins: raisins, nuts, chocolate chips . . .
   Optional toppings: streusel (1/2 c flour, 1/4 c brown sugar, 4 T butter, 1/2 t cinnamon, combined with fork), granola. OR ice them like cupcakes- cream cheese icing (1 pkg crm cheese, softened, 1/4 c butter softened, 1 c powdered sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract)! 

Combine flour, sugar, spice, baking soda and salt.  In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, pumpkin, and ricotta.  Stir dry ingredients into wet; then add apples and any other add-ins.  The batter is thick but bakes up nice and  moist.  Spoon into 18 lined or greased muffin tins. Top with streusel or granola, if you'd like.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Yam Mallow Crisp

The first Thanksgiving I spent with my husband's family, I decided to bring this and a cranberry salad (I'll post later). I mixed the dry ingredients and put them in a Ziploc.  I placed the cans, a bag of marshmallows, and the Ziploc in the dish I was going to use and just needed a stick of butter and a bit of orange juice to put it together.
My mother in-law is a wonderful cook but never made yams for their meals because neither of her kids liked them- which I learned the day I showed up at their home!  We had been dating for almost a year and it never came up that he didn't like yams/sweet potatoes! Guess who liked MY yams?? My hubs and his sister!  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Rocket Ranch Dip

WP loves ranch dressing!  He will eat veggies dipped in ranch that he wouldn't touch otherwise. I created this recipe to give the tasty dip more nutritional value.  Now we dip our veggies in veggie dip (with 4 cups of greens!) that tastes just as good as plain old ranch.  

Rocket Ranch Dip
2 cups greek yogurt OR 2 cups sour cream 
1 packet ranch dip seasoning mix (or 1 Tablespoon homemade mix)
2 cups fresh rocket/arugula leaves, washed and ready to eat
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, washed and ready to eat
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Mix the yogurt and ranch dip seasoning in a medium bowl until well combined. Set aside.
For the 'pesto', add the rocket/arugula, spinach, white wine vinegar and salt to the bowl of a food processor, fitted with blade. Pulse the leafy mixture until the leaves are finely chopped. This won’t take more than a few seconds. With the food processor on, slowly add the extra virgin olive oil and pulse until well combined. You may have to stop and scrape down the sides a few times. 
Stir the pesto mixture into the prepared ranch dip. 4 cups of greens sounds like so much, but once they are pureed down, they are in good proportion to the ranch dip. The picture below is a halved recipe.

Serve with crackers, plantain chips, or.... MORE VEGGIES for dipping! I love it with sugar snap peas and those little yellow 'snacking' tomatoes.

Step 1: Mix Sour Cream (or Greek Yogurt) and Ranch Dip Mix

Step 2: Blend the arugula and spinach pesto
Step 3: Add pesto to dip & stir
Step 4: Call it Dinosaur Dip, Rocket Ranch, or Monster Slime if your kid needs some persuasion to try a green dip. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Oh, Daylight Savings Time . . .

These pictures were taken at 6:15 pm.  My boys aren't the best sleepers.  I think they have potential but between traveling and visitors, I don't feel like we give them a fair chance to excel in this aspect of their lives!  As of mid-October, we officially have no travel or visitors planned and the boys were starting to do alright.  Then . . . DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME! I decided to do some research since I really didn't understand why we did it.  I've always heard that it was for the farmers but learned that farmers are actually against it!

 Here is a summary of what I learned about Daylight Savings Time on Wikipedia:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Green Beans with Feta & Dill

This recipe makes green beans taste delicious!  If you are looking for a way to entice your kids to eat 'green', or to incorporate some fresh veggies into your Thanksgiving meal, give this a try. 

The recipe is very forgiving, and you can pretty much tailor each of the ingredients to suit your family's tastes. The original recipe is below, and the alterations I like to make are in parenthesis. 

Green Beans and Feta with Dill

2 lbs fresh green beans, trimmed
1/2 cup prepared Good Seasons Italian Dip Mix (1/2 packet of dry, not prepared, mix for bolder flavor)
1/4 cup crumbled Feta cheese (1/2 cup - we like Feta!)
1/4 cup chopped red onion (I omit onion for kids)
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill (1 1/2 tablespoons of dried dill works too)

Cook beans in boiling water for 7 minutes, or until crisp but tender. Drain and rinse in cold water. Add remaining ingredients and toss to coat. 

Thanks to my friend M, and her sister-in-law, for introducing me to this now-family-favorite!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"I'm Thankful For"... Place Mats

I love these "I'm Thankful For..." place mats created by June Pfaff Daley.  She created them to help her kids understand the meaning behind the Thanksgiving holiday... and so that they would have a fun activity to do while the meal was being prepared.

How cute would it be to bring these to your family's Thanksgiving meal, along with a mason jar full of crayons for the kids?

To print place mats, click here. If you want to use these for more than one Thanksgiving, have them laminated at an office or teacher's supply store.  You could use dry erase markers or dry erase crayons... the colors (and any mess) will wipe right off a laminated version.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Homemade Peppermint Patties

Oops! Don't forget the butter and heavy cream!
I wasn't always a chocolate and mint fan.  I'm not sure why but it just never appealed to me.  Once I tried Thin Mints (a Girl Scout cookie, for those of you who live under a rock!), I began my upward spiral towards choco-mint heaven.  Peppermint patties are now one of my favorite candies and, if I have the time, this homemade version is far better than the ones from the store.  I came across this recipe on the internet a couple of years back and have searched around but can't find the source.  There are other recipes out there but none like this. Really creamy, perfectly minty, and the chocolate shell is as good as you invest.

Turkey Pancakes

We made these turkey pancakes yesterday morning, and the boy talked about them all day!  They only take a tiny bit more effort and ingredients than regular old pancakes.  

  • Your favorite pancake mix, prepared (I used 1 1/2 cups of Bruce's Sweet Potato Pancake mix, "the breakfast vegetable!" which yielded 2 turkey pancakes.)
  • A few drops of red and yellow food coloring (optional)
  • Sliced strawberries
  • Raisins 
Step 1: Prepare pancake mix and add food coloring (optional.) I separated the prepared pancake mix into 3 bowls, and added yellow food coloring to one bowl and yellow+red food coloring to another bowl.  The tail feathers of the turkey are the yellow and orange colored mix... but you can't really tell once they are cooked!  Maybe it's because the sweet potato mix already has a darker color to it.  If you want to save some time, don't worry about the food coloring! 
Step 2: Add the pancake mix to plastic 'piping' bags (I used Ziploc.) Squish the mix over to one side, and cut a small hole in one corner.  If you have plastic squeeze bottle, that would work too. But, honestly, it's really nice to just throw away the bag when you are done with it!
Step 3: "Draw" the turkey parts on the griddle.  Sorry, this picture is kind of unappetizing. Some of the 'turkey parts' actually look like turkey parts. 
Step 4: Assemble the turkey on the plate with strawberries, raisins, or other fruit you have on hand (bananas would be cute too!) WP loved this. He even ate the strawberries and raisins first!
For more, and cooler, pancake ideas, check out Jim's Pancakes. 

~ Lauren

Tell a Better Story

"A story is a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it." Donald Miller

Do you ever tell your kids stories?  Good, old-fashioned, spoken, made-up stories?  I tried to do this for the first time the other day, and I really struggled to tell a good story.  Actually, I struggled to tell "a" story... much less a good one. This was my story: The protagonist (who shared a name with my child - it was all I could come up with) went to the park, saw his friend, played some, and them came home. It was more a re-cap of our afternoon than a story, and it really bothered me that I couldn't come up with anything better.

Then, I read Don Miller's book "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years."  Don sheds a lot of light on telling a good story, but his thesis is this: "A story is a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it."  The more we can identify with the main character, the more noble his or her ambition, the fiercer the conflict, and the more triumphant the overcoming... the more epic the story. This resonated with me so much. I immediately thought of two of my favorite stories, The Lord of the Rings and The Shawshank Redemption, and realized that they both contain all elements of a great story.

The formula is simple: Story = character + desire + conflict + overcoming. So, I started thinking:
  1. I can use this simple formula to tell better stories to my son. 
  2. I can use this simple formula to tell a better story with my life, and to help my son tell a better story with his. 
What kind of story are you telling? What kind of character are you? What is the thing you want? What conflict is keeping you from getting it? And what can you do to overcome that conflict?

Think about it... then go tell a great story!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cinnamon apples

Apples are in season and I can't walk by them in the grocery store without taking a big whiff and studying all the varieties. Which ones will we be eating this week? These are Fuji. They arent too hard so my little one can enjoy them and they taste amazing. To make them even more special, I sprinkle a little cinnamon on slices for my boys' lunches. Simple, delicious, healthy!

Check out this great chart for knowing what to do with different varieties of apples! Apple Chart

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pizza Fun

I have never made my own pizza dough before.  Everyone tells me how easy it is but for some reason, I have baker's block when it comes to yeast.  I've used it in my bread machine and have bought envelopes of it to make different things with but have never actually mixed it up, patiently let it rise, then baked it.  I think the whole 'add to 113.14159265 degree water' intimidates me a bit.  I'm pretty sure I'm capable SO, as an ice-breaker, I bought some frozen pizza dough.


It counts.


Ok.  Maybe not.

Either way, I patiently let the dough thaw.  Then got creative with my toddlers.
I split the dough in half and stretched one half out into a traditional pie.  I had half of a jar of spaghetti sauce (a go-to in our house for tot dinners) and a bag of shredded mozzarella that I bought after I slaved in the freezer aisle looking for pizza dough.  I put some sauce on the pie and let KD spread it out. He gladly took handfuls of cheese and put them into his mouth, while I made sure there was some for the pizza.  I brushed the exposed crust with an olive oil and garlic powder slurry and baked at 450 degrees for 14 minutes.  I was surprised with how pretty it was!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ice Cube Bags

This is an easy activity to prep and both my 1 and 3 year olds enjoyed it!  My 3-year old definitely got the colors mixing even though they weren't exactly Crayola colors.  It may be difficult, though, to convince a two-year old that the water is now 'purple'. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Greek Pasta Salad

The first time I made a greek salad, I used a recipe from Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer.  I still follow the process but it has evolved into a pasta salad (a friend had brought me something similar after I had KC). Making this is almost as wonderful as eating it. The smell, the colors, and the texture are complete therapy! You can eat the pasta salad for lunch, as a side dish, or on top of some romaine lettuce. It's great for a quick snack or meal and both of my boys like the pasta.  I know that once you try this recipe, it will be printed, laminated, then passed on for the rest of eternity!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Red Beans & Rice: My Go-To Meal

This is one of our very favorite meals! I often make it when we have company because adults love it, and it can easily be adapted so that the kids will eat it too.  Plus, as a hostess, it’s so nice to be able to leave the pot of beans simmering on the stove, virtually unattended, and enjoy guests. And an added bonus: the beans freeze well.  
I recently served this dish to some friends and their kids. I was so impressed when I overheard one mom pointing out the turkey sausage in the dish to her 3 year old daughter by saying, “Look, mini hot dogs!”  And... her daughter loved it! WP likes this dish as well - most days anyway.  
Red Beans & Rice
1 lb dried light kidney beans
2 quarts water
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, with leaves, chopped
2 1/2 t salt
1 1/2 rounded T thyme
1 1/2 rounded T oregano
1 1/2 t garlic powder
3/4 t cayenne
2 bay leaves
1 lb smoked turkey sausage, sliced into 1/2 inch slices (I prefer Hillshire Farms)
Green Onions
Cheddar Cheese
Greek yogurt or sour cream
Rice, prepared
Green sauce, such as Tobasco or Emeri’s Kick It UP Green Pepper Sauce

Soak beans overnight. Drain beans. (To speed up the process, you can bring them to a boil, simmer 2 minutes, remove from heat and let stand 1 hour before the next step. If you use this method, do not drain the soaking water.  Simply add enough water to equal 2 quarts in the pot.)
Add 2 quarts cold water, bring to boil with onions and celery. (Note: I don’t use celery very often, so when I buy if for this recipe, I usually chop the whole bunch and freeze it in bags of 2 stalks. That way, I have some on hand for future recipes.)  Cover, reduce heat and simmer 1 1/2 hours until beans are soft and begin to thicken. Do not stir too often. I usually stir only a few times in the hour and a half. 
Stir in seasonings (which can be mixed ahead of time and stored in a plastic container) and sausage slices. Simmer 30 minutes more. 
My husband and I serve ours over hot rice topped with cheddar cheese, green onions, and green Tobasco. A nice adaptation for kids is to mush the beans with a fork, cut the sausage into tiny pieces, and mix them together with the rice, cheese, and a tablespoon of greek yogurt or sour cream (this cools off some of the heat). 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Craft Swap

One of my friends recently had a great idea: a craft swap! Many great mommy bloggers out there have posted about Busy Bags and Busy Bag Swaps, which are a similar idea to our craft swap. Here is how ours worked:
  • 4 moms participated. We all have kids around age 2 (give or take several months). 
  • Via email, each mom submitted several age-appropriate crafts she would like to make/do with her kids, and we compiled a master list of crafts.
  • Each mom picked 5 crafts off of the master list and committed to making 4 sets of each craft.  
  • We gave ourselves about 2 weeks to make the crafts. (We live in different cities, but we already had a get-together planned when we could swap. This saved shipping costs.)
  • As a general rule, each activity fit in a freezer-sized Ziploc bag and was inexpensive or even free to make.  
  • We got together and gave each other the crafts we had made.  At the end, each of us had 20 new crafts/activities to do with our kids.
I have LOVED having these crafts on hand.  I usually pull one out in the morning after breakfast. Most mornings, I'm very hazy and slow-thinking until my coffee kicks in (and sometimes even after it kicks in.)  It's been wonderful for me to be able to reach for one of these bags and have an activity ready to go - no prep work required!  Plus, starting our day with some structured fun/learning is really nice. After we do the activity, I put it back in the bag and store it away.  This helps the activities stay fresh! 

As we play with the different activities, I will share some of our favorites.

~ Lauren
I store our craft bags in here...
... so they are out of sight.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Turning 'Yuck' into 'Yum' for Picky Eaters

Studies show that 30-50% of parents of preschool age children say they have picky eaters.  I guess that every-parent-I-know is a poor sample size, because I would've guessed the percentages to be even higher, say, 100%!  Either way,  this is a wonderful podcast on picky eaters, featuring Kayla Boyse, R.N. from the University of Michigan.  It is free on iTunesU, and certainly worth the time to download and listen to. 

Here are the highlights: 

  • Pickiness often starts along with walking and may be a human defense mechanism (so that your one year old doesn't eat the poisonous berries.)  The good news: pickiness often fades around age 4 or 5 or 6. 
  • The principle of repeated exposure says that the more times you are exposed to something, the more you start to like it. Most kids must taste (not just see) a food about 10 times before they start to like it.  Unfortunately, parents usually give up after 3 or 4 times. 
  • When it comes to modeling good eating habits, other kids (or even admired cartoon characters) are more effective than Mom & Dad.
  • The more you use food as a reward (e.g.: if you eat your dinner, you can have ice cream), the more kids learn to like it.   
The bottom line: Parents are responsible for WHAT goes on the plate, and the child is responsible for HOW MUCH gets eaten. Good to remember!

Yummy Chicken Balls

What kind of foods are toddlers drawn to? Something they can feed themselves? the right texture? sweet? salty? Whatever YOU are eating??! Every child has different preferences and temperaments- who are we kidding, each child has a little Jekyll and Hyde in them! Your sweet child's favorite today may be tantrum-worthy tomorrow.

Why I like this recipe:
  • It's loaded with produce and protein, which can be the hardest to get my boys to eat
  • It's relatively lean and low in salt
  • It's sweet and savory
  • It freezes well so if it's not a hit you can try it again next week
  • It's not messy- my 15-month old easily can throw them directly into my dog's mouth:)
  • Mommy and daddy will happily eat it too
With so many positives, it is definitely worth a try.
I hope you enjoy them as much as most of us did!


Save your pumpkins, buy some mums, enlist your kids, and make Mumpkins!

After seeing these Mumpkins here, I wanted to make them to see if they really did turn out so cute. And... they did! I think they would make the perfect Thanksgiving center piece. Even if you aren't hosting this year, wouldn't this make a lovely hostess gift for whoever is?

My 2 year old had fun poking the mums into the pumpkin. Once he got tired of doing that, he had fun pulling petals from the mums. I think we will make these again the week of Thanksgiving so that he can take one to Granny and show off his craft (and his mom's craftiness)!

Here's a quick photo-tutorial:
Step 1: Pick your pumpkins. I recommend using a small-ish pumpkin. It will be faster to cover and I think it looks cutest too! A long stem is also nice - you can hold onto it while pushing in the flowers. Pumpkins are on sale right now - if you don't have some left over from Halloween, you can get them for under $1 at many grocery stores!

Step 2: Pick your mums - you will have so many great colors to choose from! I tried both small and large blooms, and each had its own "pros". Large blooms = more pumpkin coverage for less money. Who doesn't like that? It only took one bunch (about 40-50 large blooms) of the yellow mums to cover my small pumpkin. It took almost 4 bunches (over 200 small blooms) of the purple mums to cover my large pumpkin. But... the small blooms held up better than the larger blooms, which began to wither in about a day.
Step3: Prep the pumpkin and the mums. Poke a few holes in your pumpkin with an ice pick, more or less an inch apart, depending on the mum size. Cut the mums off leaving about 1 inch of stem.

Step 4: Hide the ice pick. Enlist your kiddo and start pushing the mums into the pumpkin.

The Mumpkins should stay fresh for 3-4 days.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Peanut Butter Caramel Apple Bites

Peanut Butter Caramel Apple Bites

Making these Peanut Butter Caramel Apple Bites is a fun activity for little hands. They are a snack and activity in one; and since they take a some time to make, little mouths will be eager with anticipation to eat them! We often make a healthy, simple version using only apples and peanut butter for an afternoon snack. But we add caramel and sprinkles for special fall occasions! I love how they resemble mini pancake stacks with syrup on top! See photo tutorial below.

Step 1: Wash and slice the apple(s), preferably with a mandolin (grown ups only!)
Apple sliced at 1/8" thick.
I recommend slicing apples anywhere from 1/8" - 3/8".

Step 2: Cut the apple slices into tiny, bite-sized shapes
using cookie cutters or tin cutter. Kids will love to help with this!

Step 3: Fill the pieces with peanut butter and assemble with toothpicks (optional).
For a healthy snack, stop here!

Step 4: Top with caramel sauce and sprinkles (optional). I used the recipe below for home-made caramel sauce, then poured the sauce into a candy-making 'Make 'N Mold' bottle (from Hobby Lobby) to decorate with.

For the caramel sauce: Melt 1 stick butter in a small heavy-bottomed pan. Stir in 1 cup light brown sugar and 1/2 cup heavy cream. Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until all is melted and blended. Whisking helps bring it together.

Money Saving Tip: My 'cookie cutters' are actually tin cutters found at Hobby Lobby. Look for them in the woodwork/craft aisle - not the baking aisle. A set of 3 different sized circle cutters was less than $2. Hand wash them, or they will rust.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Reasons to Tell Your Child 'I Love You' from Becoming Minimalist

The words 'I love you'- it feels good to say and even better to hear. My grandmother rarely said 'I love you'. It almost sounded strange and uncomfortable coming out of her mouth. I can't imagine how my mom grew up not hearing it multiple times a day. As a result, my mom made sure that we always knew how loved we were and was much more forgiving than maybe she should have been. I'm thankful for the affection and hope to pass the same on to my kids!
I love this post from Becoming Minimalist where he lists 15 reasons to say 'I LOVE YOU' to your child. Here are a few of my favorites: