Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Fine Motor Fun with Pipe Cleaners

KD won't really sit down and color in a coloring book; his 1 year old brother will, but he refuses.  He did love the popsicle game Lauren posted about a couple of weeks ago, matching the colors and putting them together. So, I've been on the lookout for similar activities that may get him to focus for more than a minute.  When I saw the idea of numbers on pipe cleaners on Pinterest, I thought that it was so simple and great and may actually hold his attention like the popsicles.   Adding color to this activity opens the door to more activities at different levels.  I am using the Fruity Cheerios (taste and smell just like Fruit Loops- I'm not sure what the difference is beyond size) and some regular Cheerios.  While I was setting this up, I made a few patterns with the colors just to see if he could recognize 'what comes next'.  He didn't, but I think that in the future it would be a fun twist to add on.  He does know his numbers and colors and had a great time matching those. 
 I love his face when he's focusing . . .
I did have to make the rule that he could only eat them off of the pipe cleaners- which kept him sitting for a bit longer!
KC enjoyed eating them . . .
 And playing with the pipe cleaners.  Nice hat!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Bananas Foster Oatmeal

Bananas Foster Oatmeal - tastes like dessert for breakfast!
My mother-in-law loves Bananas Foster for dessert.  Here in Houston, Brennan's makes the best Banana's Foster. They share their delicious recipe here, and about once a year I make this as a special dessert that we all enjoy. We usually serve this Banana's Foster over Bluebell Homemade Vanilla ice cream... but I think oatmeal makes a very acceptable breakfast stand-in. It's the buttery-cinnamony-banana topping that is the real magic anyways. (Note: I omitted the rum and banana liquor that the Brennan's recipe calls for and substituted low-fat milk.)

Also... I just signed up for Weight Watchers online. (My son is 2 1/2 - I can't still call this "baby weight"!) I'm still learning their Points Plus system, but I will try to include points in recipes where I have figured them out. 

Bananas Foster Oatmeal
serves 4; 5 WW Points Plus per serving

1 cup dried steel cut oats + 4 cups water (or any prepared oatmeal)
2 bananas, sliced lengthwise
1 Tablespoon butter
3 Tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons low-fat milk

For the oatmeal: I love steel cut oats, but since they are heartier than quick cooking oats, they take much longer to cook. I never have 45 minutes to prepare them in the morning, so I use a shortcut that begins the night before: boil 4 cups of water in a pot. Add 1 cup steel cut oats and simmer 1 minute. Cover pot and store overnight in the refrigerator. The next morning, cook the oatmeal on low for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. (You can even keep leftover oatmeal in the pot, store it back in the refrigerator, and re-heat on the stove the next morning.) Honestly, instant or quick cooking oatmeal would make a fine substitute here. Use whatever oatmeal your family likes. While the oatmeal warms/cooks, prepare the Bananas Foster Topping.

Steel Cut Oats cooked with the shortcut method
For the Bananas Foster Topping: Combine the butter, sugar and cinnamon in a skillet. Place the pan over low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Stir or whisk in the milk until the mixture is thoroughly blended. You will want a smooth, slightly thickened, caramel colored mixture.  Place the bananas in the pan and cook until the bananas soften and begin to brown, about 5-7 minutes. 

Scoop oatmeal into bowls; add 1/2 of a banana and a drizzle of sauce to each bowl.  (Make sure to let this cool enough for little mouths before serving!)

Note:  WP prefers his Bananas Foster Topping mixed into the oatmeal. He also prefers instant oatmeal - I think the texture of the steel cut oats is ‘different’ than what he expects from oatmeal.  

Happy Breakfast! ~ Lauren

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Owl Toast

Have you ever noticed that an 'up-side down' piece of toast is the perfect shape for making a yummy breakfast owl!?  I never had... until this morning!  My little guy is feeling crummy, so I was trying to come up with a breakfast that would make him smile.... this did the trick. He actually giggled and said "Oh, how funny!" when he saw it!  In addition to being cute, Owl Toast is healthy too (approximately 2 WW Points Plus.)

Owl Toast
Egg Whites
Turkey Sausage links (I LOVE Applegate Farms' all-natural turkey breakfast sausage)
American Cheese
Cooking Spray

Toast the bread in the toaster. Turn the toast 'up-side down' and use a small circle-shaped cookie cutter to cut out the eyes (and save the cut-out circles!) Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. Add the toast to the skillet and pour egg whites into the holes. After a couple of minutes, when the egg whites have 'set', remove the toast and eggs from the pan.  Trim any egg white run-off. Add slices of turkey sausage rounds to the eyes and cut out a diamond of American cheese for the beak. Cut each of the toast circles (from the eyes) in half and use the semi-circles for wings and feet. Owl Toast! 

If the toast is flat against the skillet, there shouldn't be any 'run-off'.
Mine obviously wasn't, but I just trimmed it off before serving!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Try a New Cheese: Brie

Brie with sliced French Bread, diced apples and chicken -
ready to be made into a sandwich! 

Does your kid love cheese? Ours do. Grilled cheese. Mac 'N Cheese. Cheese sticks. Cheese enchiladas.   You know who else loves cheese? Me. My husband.  We love to try different cheeses. I'm sad to say that we used to give WP the same few cheeses (American, Mozarella and Cheddar) and buy the good stuff for ourselves (Brie, Fontina, Blue, Gruyere, Parmesan, Kasseri, etc...). It never crossed our mind that our two year old would like the "finer" cheeses. But, one day, he toddled over to Mom & Dad's cheese plate of Brie, grabbed a cracker and dug in. To our surprise, he LOVED it!   Now, trying new cheeses is a fun family thing we share. We have found that by using a variety of cheeses that are new and different to us, meals like Mac 'N Cheese, Pizza, and Grilled Cheese never get old! 

Over the next few weeks, I will do several posts on the cheeses WP has tried and liked. I will share info on the cheese itself as well as a recipe or way to incorporate the cheese into a meal. 

Let's start with Brie. Brie is a soft, cow's milk cheese named after the French Region from which it originated (thanks, Wikipedia). You can buy it in a small, round "wheel", or in a pie shaped slice. Here are some of my personal preferences on Brie:
  • I like a double or triple creme Brie - double creme is soft and delicious, but triple creme is even softer and creamier. It can get pricey, so I recommend finding the softest Brie that fits your budget!
  • I do not eat the rind (nor do I recommend serving it to kids.)  Some people eat the rind, but I find it has a strong ammonia taste that over powers the rest of this delicate cheese.  I think it would completely turn a child away.
  • I serve Brie at room temperature, with water crackers
One way to incorporate Brie into your meals is to spread some on a sandwich as an alternative to grilled cheese.  The Grilled Brie Sandwich with Chicken & Apples was a hit at our house. It satisfied a picky-kid, a hungry Dad, and a foodie Mom. 

Grilled Brie Sandwich with Chicken & Apples
2 Tablespoons butter
6 slices of bread (I use sliced French Bread or Panne Lucianne from the HEB bakery. Sourdough would be good too.)
about 5 oz of brie, room temperature, with rind removed
1 Golden Delicious apple, diced
about 1/4 lb roasted chicken (or turkey) deli lunch meat, diced 

Remove the crust from the bread (for kids.) Assemble the sandwiches by spreading the Brie on the inside of all six slices of bread. Add diced apples and chicken to one Brie-coated slice of bread, then top with the other slice.

Melt the butter in a large skillet (or griddle) over medium heat. Add sandwiches to the skillet (or griddle) and sear on each side until bread is lightly browned and cheese is melty and gooey enough to hold the sandwich together. 

This recipe makes 3 sandwiches - enough for 2 adults and 2 kids. 

Optional: For a little more flavor or kick (for grown ups or adventurous kid eaters) add purple onion, arugula, and deli mustard to the sandwich before toasting. 

Enjoy! Love ~ Lauren

Monday, February 20, 2012

Felt Popsicle Matching Game

Since WP likes playing with these so much, I have made a few sets of sticks
to make the activity last longer (painted sticks, spanish colors, etc....)

This is another one of our favorite activities that came out of our Craft Swap. I am so thankful for my creative friends who introduce me to great learning activities (perfect for 'busy bags') like this one!  WP really likes this activity. He calls it "My Pops!" and gets so excited to play it. I like it because it's easy and very cheap to make AND it is appropriate for several ages.

All you need to make this activity is: felt in several colors, popsicle sticks, and colored markers (or paint.)

Cut out two popsicle-shapes from each color of felt.  Glue the two pieces of felt together around the edges, leaving the bottom unglued.  Write or paint a color on each popsicle stick. What you write (or paint) determines what age-level the activity is best for. Here are some ideas for what you could write on the sticks:

  • write color name in color (for kids learning colors)
  • paint the sticks matching colors (for kids learning colors) 
  • write color name in black (for kids learning to read)
  • write color name in another language (for kids learning a new language)
  • write flavor name in black or color (to teach about tastes and flavors)
Give your child the popsicle sticks separate form the tops and let them match away! Also, check out Etsy for some super cute, pre-made Felt Popsicle Matching Games

Friday, February 17, 2012

Meal Swap

You may or may not have seen us comment on each other's food posts about how much we enjoyed eating them or that we hope to try it next time they make it.  Maybe you think we are sister-wives, living on a compound sharing responsibilities and a husband?!  In reality, we have a pretty sweet set-up that is simple and helps both of us out.

We got the idea from another mom in our neighborhood who was switching meals with her neighbor across the street.  On Mondays, Mama A was responsible for delivering food to Mama B and on Wednesday Mama B would deliver to Mama A.  They often met each other in the middle of the street for the exchange and went home to enjoy.  They loved it because it was little trouble to double a recipe once a week and then they got to enjoy a home-cooked meal with NO work on another day.

We talked about trying it for over a month!  It's kind of important that you have similar tastes and compatible schedules so we wanted to make sure we were on the same page.  Our agreement is a little different than our friends' but it's working out great!  Basically, if one person is meal planning for the week, they'll text and say
'we are having this, this, and THIS on these days.  Would you like to trade this week?' 
And, in general, the response is
'I would love to try THIS on this day.  Here are YOUR choices-' 
It is really easy and laid back and it's been fun getting meal ideas from each other.  Sometimes we'll go weeks in a a row of trading and then weeks without trading.  Sometimes, we even spread it out over two weeks.  There is something so wonderful about playing with your kids at a time when you are normally hustling to get food on the table.  Everyone is just in a better mood.  Then, when we hear the knock on the door, we all answer it together, mom grabs the hot paper bag and takes a big whiff as we move straight to the table.  Heaven!
This had Sausage and Pesto Ravioli, garlic bread, and sliced grapefruit.
Tips to make this work for you:
  • Have a recipe swap! If you don't have someone in particular in mind, having a recipe swap over ice cream may the way to find one!  Ask questions like 'what's you favorite type of food or favorite restaurant.'  This will give you both an idea of what types of foods the others like.
  • Meal time should be similar unless delivering food to-be-cooked.
  • Keep the meal simple, trying to do no more than 2-3 dishes/containers.  Any extras I try to make disposable.
  • Just like in your own home, keep healthfulness in mind.
Red Beans and Rice delivered piping hot! KC had two full servings:)
Still not sure this is for you . . .
  • The openness of our arrangement helps both sides not stress about it.  If this week doesn't work, then you just move on.  If Monday you have dinner out, you don't have to feel like you are letting someone down by not making them dinner.
  • If you work full time, find someone at work who you can switch casseroles etc. with once a week or month.  
  • If you are only feeding one or two mouths in your house, find a couple in the same boat and trade.  It's easy to get tired of cooking for two at the table and then eating leftovers for four days!
  • Even if you don't want to trade with someone else, you could plan to double a recipe once a week and freeze it for the next. 

I hope you can find some inspiration in this! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

And the winner is . . .

our fourth comment, Ms. Cherie Harris!!  Please email us at kideatsco(at)gmail(dot)com so we can get your info to send you a bag.  If we don't hear from you by Friday, we will pick another winner.  Thank you so much to those who left their storage ideas.  I'm always on the prowl for great storage ideas that are tried and true!

My Grandma's Energy Bars

My grandma was a wonderful cook.  Whenever I would tell her that, she would say that she didn't have a lot of recipes, just a few she knew were good. This is one of those recipes.  She called them 'Energy Bars' but they are basically Rice Krispies treats made with crunchy peanut butter, oatmeal, and raisins- all in the microwave!  I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sprinkle Spoons: Guest Post by Mélanger

Valentine's Day is the perfect opportunity to make some sweet family memories that you and your children will cherish throughout the years.  For our family, the heart of our home is our kitchen.  Rather than simply being a room where food is prepared and cooked, for us our kitchen is truly a multi-pupose space.  It's a place where our family and friends congregate during celebrations and get-togethers.  It's a place where discussions happen, values and skills are learned, memories are made, and life is lived.

One of the greatest joys in my life, besides being a wife and mama to an adorable soon-to-be 3 year old little girl, is to bake.  I'm incredibly passionate about baking, confection design, sweet styling and above all, putting smiles on the faces of other people...this brings so much joy to my heart.  Even sweeter than this are the opportunities I have to teach and share this passion of mine with my daughter...I love baking with my little pastry chef!

We've started a really fun tradition in our family...every Valentine's Day my husband, daughter and I mail out a Valentine's Day card (with pictures of our little girl of course!) and include a recipe for a sweet Valentine's Day treat on the back.  The recipes are always easy, fun to make and of course, super yummy and delicious!  This year we decided to try "Sprinkle Spoons".  If you've never heard of these decadent delights, you must try this recipe!  Basically this little treat is made with sprinkles and chocolate.  I'm not sure about you, but somehow I'm automatically happier when I know sprinkles and chocolate are involved!

Sprinkle Spoons
24 Plastic Spoons (Any Fun Color)
24 oz Quality Chocolate (Dark, Milk or White)
Nonpareils, Confetti Quins, Pearl Dragées or any other Sprinkles
Spatula (or a Book) for Resting Spoons while Filling
Cookie Sheet
Parchment Paper
Canola Oil (Optional)
Small Treat Bags (Optional)
Piping Bag (Optional)
  1. Place spoons on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  2. Rest spoon handles on a rubber spatula or book to level them out while filling.
  3. Melt chocolate in the microwave or over a double boiler.  If the chocolate it too thick, consider adding a small amount of canola oil.
  4. Fill spoons about 80% full with melted chocolate using either a piping bag or another spoon.
  5. Add nonpareils, confetti quins, pearl dragées or any other type of sprinkle.
  6. Place in refrigerator for about 20 minutes to set.
For the complete recipe please visit:  This is a fabulous site that has lots of tasty treats and fun ideas!
Mélanger wishes you and your sweeties a very Happy Valentine's Day full of love, chocolate and sweet treats!!!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ranch Roasted Potato Hearts

Ranch Roasted Potato Hearts with a BLT - a great dinner!

I came across some Roasted Potato Hearts on Pinterest, originally from Haniela's blog. I had never thought to use a cookie cuter to make shapes out of potatoes, but I love the idea and incorporated it here into one of my favorite, easiest recipes: Ranch Roasted Potatoes.  The recipe below is for simple Ranch Roasted Potatoes. To make the hearts, just use a cookie cutter after slicing the potatoes and follow the rest of the instructions as listed. Even just a handful of hearts (or any shape) makes these already-good potatoes a little extra special. 

Ranch Roasted Potatoes
This is my ‘go to’ side dish that works with almost any meal. I got the original recipe from my mom, and I make several variations of it. My favorite is to actually omit the ranch dressing mix and season instead with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.  Sometimes I top with cheese (I like parmesan or cheddar on these) before baking. 

So, really, the recipe could go like this: cube some potatoes; put 'em in a Ziploc freezer bag with a little olive oil; toss to coat; add some seasonings and maybe some cheese; bake for 30 minutes at 450. But here's the "official" recipe:

1 packet Hidden Valley Original Ranch Dressing Mix
2 lbs small red potatoes, sliced or cubed
Enough olive oil to lightly coat potatoes - about 1-2 tablespoons

Place potatoes in large plastic (freezer) bag. Add olive oil and toss to coat.  Add dressing mix (or spices/seasoning) to bag and toss again. Bake on baking sheet lined with foil at 450 for 30 minutes or until potatoes are browned. 

I sliced my potatoes on my mandolin at 3/8"

As you can see, I only did a few hearts and then quickly cut up the remaining potatoes.

Love, Lauren

Friday, February 10, 2012

Rice Krispies Treat Heart Pops

A few things inspired me to make these Rice Krispies Treat Heart Pops:
  1. We had a Valentine's Day Party to go to, hosted by one of WP's friends.  I was wanting to take something special, but hadn't planned anything. So, I had settled on taking my quick and easy garlicky hummus, until....
  2. I saw these pink and white marshmallows on special at HEB (FREE when you buy almond bark!)  Of course I got them, unsure of what to do with them. But then....
  3. I found the cutest heart-shaped measuring cups in the $1 bin at Target.  And so....
I got pretty excited to make these, using my favorite recipe for Rice Krispies Treats.  FYI, this is my first time to ever make "pops" because they intimidate me.  But these really weren't too hard or time consuming, and I will definitely be making them again.  I made 24 Heart Pops, start to finish including cellophane wrapping, in under an hour.  If you are allowed to take homemade treats to your kiddo's school, these would be so perfect. 

Rice Krispies Treat Heart Pops
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 10 oz bag of marshmallows (pink & white if you can find it) OR 7 oz marshmallow cream 
5 cups Kellogg's Rice Krispies cereal

1/4 cup heart-shaped mold (or any heart-shaped mold you have. A small dish would work.) 
12 paper drinking straws
24 cellophane treat bags with ribbon and/or ties

Clean, then coat the inside of the heart-shaped mold with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat.  Stir in the salt and vanilla, then add marshmallows.  Stir until completely melted then remove from heat. Add Rice Krispies cereal and stir until well coated. 

Using greased hands, firmly press 1/4 cup of Rice Krispies mixture into the heart-shaped mold. Cool slightly (for just a few seconds.) Remove the mixture from the mold by turning the mold upside down and tapping it on the back if needed. Place on wax paper and allow to cool before wrapping. Repeat until you have molded all of the mixture.

Cut each of the 12 paper drinking straws in half. Insert a straw into the bottom of each heart. Once cooled, insert each Heart Pop into a cellophane treat bag and tie with ribbon. 

Makes approximately 24 hearts (1/4 cup each). 

 Note: this same method of spraying the heart-shaped mold with PAM works for just about any holiday (plastic eggs at easter, etc...) AND... I just saw on Pinterest and here that a cookie cutter sprayed with cooking spray works too!

Print recipe here.

Happy Valentine's Day! 
Love, Lauren

The pink & white marshmallows from HEB.
They made such a pretty color when melted
and even had a slight strawberry flavor to them. Mmmm.

Here is the 1/4 cup measuring cup from the Target $1 bin
that I sprayed with PAM and used as a mold for all of the Pops. 
Paper drinking straws inserted into the hearts to make Pops.
All wrapped up and ready for the party!
I ran out of straws, so wrapped a few plain hearts.