Monday, January 28, 2013

mmmmm, mondays: italian five layer dip

believe it or not, i just had someone write me a message today asking me for this recipe. it was meant to be that it was also on the recipe docket for the day. this dip is amazing. it is great warmed up or cold. i eat it with every sort of bread or cracker i can find. i served it at a book club meeting, a neighborhood bunco game and it will probably be on the super bowl snack roster as well. it's a great way to switch up chips and salsa to something a little more delicious. enjoy

italian five layer dip

1 cup pesto sauce (if you've never made your own pesto, click here for an easy recipe or pick some up at 
         the store. )

6 oz. goat cheese

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 cup marinated roasted red peppers (in a jar)

1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes (in a jar)

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

1/2 cup pine nuts

in a small bowl, combine softened goat cheese and ricotta cheese. mix until smooth and spreadable. 

dice the roasted red peppers and sun dried tomatoes. mix the red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, garlic and red pepper flakes into a thick paste. if the mixture seems dry, add a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil.

layer the dip in a glass dish for the prettiest effect. begin by spreading out a layer of pesto sauce, completely covering the bottom of the dish. layer the goat and ricotta cheese mixture over the pesto, spreading carefully so the pesto doesn't get mixed in. thirdly, add the sun dried tomato and red pepper layer. top with a layer of parmesan and then a layer of pine nuts. serve with bread or crackers for a crowd pleasing snack. enjoy!

Friday, January 25, 2013

friday fun finds: the top 10 ipad apps for toddler and preschool age kiddos

i have an ipad. scratch that. i *had* an ipad but once i learned what an amazing learning tool it is for my 2 and 4 year old boys i reluctantly quickly handed it over to them. 

i have some rules. there are no games on the ipad that are not educational in some way. there are no movies or tv shows. it is also not something that they have access to whenever they want. it is a special treat that they earn by making good choices or being a good listener and helping mommy. they will do *anything* in order to earn 10 minutes with it before bedtime. it helps me *and* helps them. i am amazed at how fast they are learning. it is not a substitute for spending time with your kiddos and teaching them and it certainly doesn't come close to being an actual teacher *but* it reinforces all of the things that they are learning at home or in school and makes learning fun for them.

first of all; i strongly suggest that you protect your ipad with a case before handing over to your little ones. here is my personal favorite:

i also *love* this number 2 pencil stylus. they are thick and easy to hold and are the *perfect* tool to help with the writing apps that are among my favorites.

and here it is.....the list that you have all been waiting for.....the *best* apps for toddler and preschool aged children:

what are *your* favorite apps?

note: i did not receive payment or any free product in conjunction with this post. all products and apps are ones i love and have purchased on my own and tested. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

mommy 411: feeding your older baby

snack time

one of my friends recently posted a question on facebook. she is a first time mother of a 12 month old little boy and she was asking which foods she could/should be feeding her son. my initial snarky self wanted to respond "steak" but then i reconsidered and tried to remember what it was like to be a first time mom having to learn everything by trial and error.

i'm no expert. i'm not a doctor. i do, however, have five kids and they are all healthy and happy. that being said, here's my advice regarding feeding finger foods to your baby.

my children's pediatricians have told me with each child that by the age of one, the goal is to have your child eating what you eat...just cut into small portions. with that as my goal, i start working with finger foods at about 7 months. you'll have to gage for yourself if your baby is ready for finger foods or not. if they can sit up by themselves and can hold their heads up well, they should be ready to start.

here's my first tip: don't freak out. it takes practice for your baby to learn how to eat solid foods. they will gag. they might even cough. don't panic. resist the urge to hit them on the back. just let them work it out. they will figure out the swallowing thing with time. think about how we chew and swallow. we don't chew until our food is pureed. we chew until the food is small enough to swallow. we had to learn that as well. be patient and try to let your baby figure it out.

i like to start with baby foods that nearly dissolve in the mouth. there are a lot on the market that are specifically for infants who are just starting finger foods. i like any kind of puffs and the yogurt/creme bites to start. they get the mechanics of eating finger foods down but still dissolve some to make swallowing easier.

once your child has mastered the dissolvable finger foods, it's time to move them on to the next phase. if you have fed them something in pureed form, try it in a finger food. just remember to cut up each item into pea sized pieces to make swallowing easier.

here's my list of go-to items for my now 11 month old son.

  • oatmeal - i use quaker at this point. it's a lot cheaper and i can mix it with anything i want.
  • bananas - at first i cut the bananas up into pea sized pieces. i still do sometimes. now, however, he likes to take half of the banana himself and take bites out of it.
  • raisins - i use raisins all the time. he love them and they are quick and easy.
  • other fruit - almost any fruit will do if it is cut up small enough. my favorites are strawberries, grapes and melons because they are usually soft and easy to swallow. firmer fruits like apples are better when your child is a little older or steamed a little to make them softer.
  • toast - if the other kids are eating toast, my baby will want some. i just cut it up into small pieces or i'll give him a piece of it cut in a strip and he'll work on it bite by bite.
  • whole grain frozen waffles - these are great for a child who is teething...just give it to them frozen. in the mornings, my son likes one toasted. he gnaws his way through it.
  • muffins, pancakes, waffles, french toast - these i have to cut up into small pieces so he can get it down but he absolutely loves these!
  • cheerios or other bite sized cereal
  • scrambled eggs - you are technically supposed to wait until your baby is one to try these. they are a great finger food once your child is ready.
  • baby yogurt
  • cheerios
  • raisins
  • cheese - any type will do if you cut it into pea sized pieces
  • fruit
  • puffs & yogurt bites
  • i feed my baby whatever i am eating - this might sound harsh but i want to expose my kids to all the foods i am eating. if we're having fish, so is the baby. tonight we had a roasted turkey so the baby got little pea sized pieces of turkey. vegetables like peas and corn are perfectly bite sized and ready to serve. green beans and other veggies can be cut up. most side dishes can be made baby friendly as well.
  • slightly modify what you are eating - if we are having fajitas or something hard to eat, i might give the baby a piece of meat cut into small pieces, some black beans, a quesadilla cut into small pieces, some diced, cooked, bell peppers. there are very few meals that cannot be converted to feed your baby as well. 
  • don't be a short order cook - the sooner your child can learn to eat what is served, the easier your life will be. get out of the habit of cooking special meals for your baby as soon as possible. trust me, you'll thank me later. 
here is my biggest and most important tip of all. purchase a good broom and remember, this stage will pass. i have heard stories of parents who are still spoon feeding their three year old because they don't like to clean up the mess after each meal. trust me, i get it. i'm not going to lie, it sucks to clean up a high chair and the floor after every meal. it is the only time i wish i had a dog. still, you are working to create independent children and you don't want a kindergarten aged child who cannot use a spoon or a fork. let them learn, try and make a mess in the process. get a great vacuum. my three year old is a pro at vacuuming up cherrios with our dyson. the stage will pass and you'll have successfully created an independent eater...yet one more unsung accomplishment of mothers and fathers everywhere. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

mmmmm, mondays: monster cookies

these cookies are so good it's stupid. they are like crack. seriously...i think i ate them for breakfast several days after convincing myself they were good for me. i determined that anything with peanut butter and oatmeal in the ingredients list must be healthy. i was justifying my addiction. if you have a new year's resolution to lose weight, don't make these. seriously, they are that good. you won't be able to stop.

monster cookies

3 eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon corn syrup

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter

4 1/2 cups oats 

1/2 cup flour

1 cup milk chocolate chips

1 cup peanut butter chips

1 cup m & m's

preheat oven to 350 degrees. mix eggs, sugars, vanilla, corn syrup, baking soda and salt. add the peanut butter and melted butter. mix well. add the flour, oats, chocolate chips, peanut chips and m & m's.

spray baking sheets with non-stick spray. scoop out dough by heaping tablespoon. form into a ball and press down lightly onto the baking sheet. bake for 10-12 minutes. 

let the crack addiction begin.
pressed down before baking

Monday, January 14, 2013

mmmmm, mondays: ham and bean soup

okay, i know...the picture of the ham bone looks disgusting. it's the remnants of a ham my family picked through. i managed to get most of the meat off of it but a good chunk still hung on. i also had left over ham cut up in the refrigerator. as gross as it looks, i can remember being a little girl and eating ham and bean soup at my grandmother's house. in fact, both of my grandmothers made it back in the day. i decided it was my time to give it a try. it turned out pretty fantastic and the kids loved it. it also is a great way to use up all the meat from a ham dinner. waste not, want not and all the jazz.

so, if you have a ham bone leftover, give this one a try. enjoy!

ham and bean soup

one ham bone with some meat still attached

3 cups of water

5 cups of chicken broth

2 teaspoons of minced garlic

1 diced onion (i used one bag of frozen onions)

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped celery

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1 tablespoon "emeril's essence" (thank you emeril)

2 teaspoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

1/2 teaspoon ground thyme

1 cup corn kernels

1/2 cup chopped spinach (frozen, thawed, water rung out)

2 cans navy beans or northern beans, rinsed and drained

2 (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes

1 cup extra diced ham

in a large saucepan, combine ham bone, water and chicken broth. add the garlic, onion, celery, carrots, pepper, parsley, emeril's essence, and thyme. bring to a boil. cover and reduce heat. simmer for 2 hours. remove the ham bone. cut off all the ham from the bone and dice it into bite sized bits. add the corn, spinach, beans and tomatoes to the soup. skim off the fat from the top of the soup. add the ham cut from the bone and the extra ham. simmer for 45 minutes to an hour more. top with parmesan cheese and serve with your favorite dinner roll. enjoy!

Monday, January 7, 2013

mmmmm mondays: diy microwave popcorn

i am a sucker for popcorn. it is my comfort food of choice and my favorite way to make it is on the stove.... no other method tastes quite the same. 

cooking popcorn on the stove is a fairly simple process, but it does make a bit of a mess to clean up so i always keep a few bags of microwave popcorn handy. there are desperate times when i don't have the energy to deal with making stove-top popcorn and the microwave version will just have to do....but it tastes gross in comparison, right? that and it's simply not good for you...

i recently learned how to make my own microwave popcorn and now i am hooked! not only is it a healthier option, but it is so much more cost effective as well!  hope you like it too!

all you need is:
a brown paper lunch bag
1/4 cup popcorn kernels
salt & butter (optional)

measure out 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels. 

pour popcorn in the brown paper lunch bag.

fold top of the bag over a few times (about a 1/4-1/2 inch fold or so). be sure to crease tightly as you fold.  

place in microwave for a bout 2-3 minutes. do *not* use the "popcorn" setting on your microwave.

simply listen to when the popping slows to approximately 3 seconds apart and you're done!

take your popcorn out, watch for steam when unfolding and then pour into a bowl and enjoy!

use butter and salt or keep it fresh and plain--either is yummy!


Friday, January 4, 2013

friday fun finds: the amazing brica super scoop

when you have a kiddo you learn pretty fast that toys make bath time much, much easier.....however, the mess they create all over the bathtub is complete chaos.

when I had my first-born I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a certain amphibian looking bath toy organizer (you know which one I am talking about, right?!) i don't know how to put it any other sucked. I don’t know if it is because I have beveled subway tiles in the boys bathroom or what, but the suction cups that were supposed to hold it to the wall failed again and again and it fell down almost daily. The only other option was to use an adhesive strip that comes with it, but that sounded awful to me (think a nightmare to clean and remove when done with the product).

along came the brica super scoop. it retails for only $14.99 and has a simple to use push-lock suction cup. not only has this product stayed put, but the mesh netting fabric of the basket is easy to clean, provides more breathable space so the toys dry and don't get stinky and plus it holds a *ton* of toys. in my opinion, there is no need to try another bath storage product--i have been using mine for over 6 months now and it has stood the test of time.....the super scoop is truly a *must have* product!

disclaimer: I was provided with a product sample from the amazing people at brica (thank you *so* much) but all opinions are solely mine.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

our best of 2012

happy new year! it is hard to believe that 2012 is over and 2013 is upon us. we thought we would do a quick recap of some of our favorite posts from 2012. if you didn't read them the first time, here's your chance. we are forever blessed by you, our readers. may you have the best of years.



laughable moments

the profound

fun finds

here's to 2013...and a year full of wonder, laughter, writing and sharing. cheers!