Thursday, August 29, 2013

Breakfast Cups

This recipe is really great when breakfasts are seeming a little "blah" lately, or if you have to entertain. It's gourmet looking, although it's deceptively simple to make! We love that around here!

Serves: 4 people (2 cups per serving) 
Calories: 190 for two cups.

Eggroll wrapers (or wanton wrappers-those will make smaller cups)-8 wrappers
4 Eggs
Splash of low-fat milk (1%)
Oil spray
Several shakes of Garlic powder, onion powder & dried chives
1/4 cup Tomatoes, or other veggie
1/4 cup cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash hands and spray both sides of the eggroll wrappers with spray-oil and spread the oil evenly across the wrapper with your fingers. Do this for all 8 wrappers. Stack the wrappers and cut them down the middle. Spray your muffin pan (only 8 cups) with oil and make the cups by laying one halved wrapper in the cup (press it down into the cup) and lay another half perpendicular to it so that it forms a flower-looking cup. Bake for about 10 minutes, until golden.

Meanwhile, scramble the eggs, adding the milk, salt, pepper, powered garlic, onion, chives and also your veggie(s). Spray the skillet with oil and cook low and slow. Sprinkle on cheese when it is about done cooking and evenly distribute them among the cups. Garnish with another sprinkle of chives.

My kids only eat scrambled eggs or pancakes for breakfast. (Kids will be kids.) So, this was a treat for them because it was something new for scrambies. They loved the crunch from the egg-wrappers.


It almost looked too pretty to eat; like a lotus flower.
I said almost.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sam, the artist.

The boys are a bit young to start preschool officially, so I decided to grab some preK workbooks nonetheless and continue working with them throughout this year.

My son, Sam, is the artist in the family. He will steal what paper he can (sticky notes, notebooks, my music!) and draw lines and say alphabet letters. They don't look like the actual letters, but it was a huge sign that it might be time to teach him how to draw a few of them.

I found this nice alphabet dry-erase board at Walmart to trace letters, and look forward to teaching him and his brother how to hold the pen and trace the little dashes, as well as continue their letter recognition.

Project: Butterfly Transformation

At the end of June, I wanted to do something educational that went along with one of their favorite books, "The Very Hungry Catepiller." Before we started the project, I had them color the life cycle of the butterfly from a coloring page I found online.

The boys and I made our own butterflies out of foam and wooden clothes clips (the ones without the springs). The boys adored this project, and it was a good project to lead into the discussion of how caterpillars transform into butterflies.

This is a great project for children preK to kindergarten under the supervision of the parent(s).

Wooden "Doll Pins"--1 per butterfly
Foam (rectangular pieces 4x6''' long)--2 pieces per butterfly
Foam decorative pieces
White Glue
Glue gun and sticks (please, only for the parents!)
White string (or better yet, fishing wire)
Googlie eyes
Plastic "Craft Lace"(about 3'' per butterfly, 1.5'' per antenna)

Fold the rectangular foam pieces in half and cut out the shape of the butterfly wings (you'll almost be cutting out the shape of the top portion of a heart with one side being smaller/shorter). Double up two wing foam colors of the child's choice and hot-glue them together and into the slit area of the wooden doll pin. Hot-glue the antennae to the top of the doll pin. After that, the child can white-glue their foam pieces and googlie eyes onto the butterflies. Attach the fishing wire or string onto the head and hang.

Another project to go along with the Butterflies is to make a cocoon, which is a good project to lead into discussion about the caterpillar/butterfly transformation while you are gluing the tissue paper strips on, as well as it being a good place to store the butterflies when not in use.

A variety of tissue paper, cut into stripes (do yourself a favor and stack them while you cut)
Mod podge glue (or make your own)
Wide paint brushes
1 Balloon
A piece of string or twine (to hang it while it dries)
Optional: glitter

Blow up the balloon to the size that you want your cacoon to be. Tie a string to the knot of the balloon. Pour the glue into a bowl. Lay a couple of layers of tissue onto the balloon and paint the glue onto the tissue until it is fully coated. Cover the entire balloon with many layers so that the cocoon isn't too flimsy. Hang it to dry. It will take up to 48 hours to dry. Once fully dried, cut a slit into the balloon and cut enough of the top opening off to fit the butterflies in. (Don't over cut the top though.)

We made a catapiller out of green construction paper chain loops and 1 red loop for the head.

This would be a great opportunity to make a caterpillar snack out of cucumbers (body) and tomatoes or strawberries (head). >>>PICTURES to come.

Visit THIS website from Simply Sprout to get coloring pages for the very hungry caterpillar.

Recommended book to read:

Turkey Burger Wrap

This shouldn't be anything new, but ways to lighten up burgers are:
-Lean meat
-No mayo
-Reduced fat cheese
-Lettuce wraps instead of buns

Add onions, tomatoes and the like, and you will wonder why you haven't tried it earlier!

Homemade Chicken Nuggets

Who hates buying expensive chicken nuggets? I do!
Who hates buying expensive chicken nuggets with artificial ingredients, fillers or preservatives? I do!

Now don't get me wrong. this will not taste exactly the same as the store-brand, and that's because there aren't any fillers in them, and you can pronounce all of the ingredients. It's like a cross between chicken nuggets and meatloaf, they are healthy and you know what's in them! Make a bunch and freeze them for quicker meals. Go ahead, puree a little bit of veggies (carrots or broccoli) and sneak them in sometime. Kids love food that is shaped, so grab all of your small cookie cutters.

Serves: about 6 (20+ nuggets, depending on shape)

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs  
  • In large bowl, combine chicken, 1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and pepper. Knead dry ingredients into ground chicken.
  • Sprinkle breadcrumbs onto the rolling surface. Round into a ball, and roll out flat. Press into a cookie cutter for shaped nuggets or use a small round cutter to make circular nuggets.
  • Dip nuggets into bread crumb mixture (1/8 cup Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs) and turn over, patting crumbs into surface to coat evenly.
  •  Preheat oven to 375° F. Arrange nuggets on cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray or lined with parchment paper. Lightly spray nuggets themselves with cooking spray or olive oil for a crispier coating (optional). Bake 20 minutes or until fully cooked, turning once half way through cooking. 
  • You can freeze the leftovers for a quick and easy lunch or dinner.

 The kids seemed to enjoy it.

More Healthy Meal Ideas

Roasted Beet, Walnut and Goat Cheese Salad:

Roast the beets with a little salt and pepper (and a drizzle of balsamic dressing) in the 400 degree oven for an hour until tender, sprinkle on salad with goatcheese, toasted walnuts & almonds and a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Serve with a lean protein (this was a cheesey turkey sausage that I had on hand).

Ham-and-Cheese Noodle Salad: refer to FoodNetwork website for the RECIPE.
 This was very good. Even the husband loved this! It works very well with children/toddlers as well.

BBQ Chicken Packets: get recipe HERE.
My entire family love this, and it was very easy! It's a dinner winner!

Butternut Squash Au Gratin: get recipe HERE.
This was actually supposed to be a Speghetti Squash Au Gratin, but being in a hurry and not thinking things through at the grocery store...I bought the wrong variety. It was still very good.

Angry Birds Snack: make food fun!

My 2.5 year old boys are angry bird fanatics. Le Sigh. I've seen something like this made with strawberries, apples and cantaloupe, but I only had this on hand. It's not the most clear-cut of fruit characters, I know. The point is, make something that your children recognize (or point it out if they can't) and make snack-time fun...especially with fruits or veggies!

Mac 'N Cheesy Broccoli Cups

This recipe is not only great for the kids, but is tasty for the whole family! It's low in fat, but not low in flavor! This is a great way to wean your children into eating more veggies. You can dice or puree the broccoli as much as needed, or even be adventurous in adding more or new veggies!

Macaroni mixture, uncooked in muffin pans.

Servings: 4-6 (makes 12 cups)

2 cups cooked elbow macaroni noodles
1 tbs butter
1 cup low-fat milk
1/4 cup low-fat sour cream
1 egg
1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cup shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese
3/4-1 cup finely chopped broccoli
1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs, plus extra for topping
3 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
dash nutmeg
Spray canola or olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (Cook macaroni noodles if you don't have any leftover.) Beat the egg in a large bowl and mix all the ingredients together. Spray the muffin pan (pan with 12 cups) very well with oil and evenly fill the entire pan with the macaroni mixture. Press down on each muffin mixture well until flat. Sprinkle a little more breadcrumbs onto the top of all "macaroni cups." Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Let the "macaroni cups" cool for several minutes so that they can hold their shape better when removing them from the pan.

Cinnamon Apple & Prune Oatmeal

This recipe is very easy, and certainly beats the little store-bought package of cinnamon & raisin oatmeal. It's cinnamon & apple aroma will remind of all the comforts that come with fall. The best part is that you can control what goes in it when you make it. That means no artificial flavors or preservatives, and you can make it as healthful as you want with fruit and nuts. 

Cut the recipe in half for a single serving or double it to feed the whole family. I think that making an extra serving is great for enjoying a quick and easy breakfast the next day! Just store in an airtight container and nuke for about a minute in the microwave. Add a splash of milk to loosen it up again.

Servings: 4


2 cups whole wheat oatmeal
1 1/2 cups water, plus 3 tbs extra

2 cups milk

1 apple, peeled and diced
4 prunes, diced

Handful of currents or raisins
1 tbs butter 

1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbs honey
1/4 tsp salt

Optional topping: flavored granola crunch cereal

Dice fruit and simmer cubed apples with cinnamon, honey and prunes in about 3 tbs water in a sauce pan until very soft. Add in all the other ingredients and cook until the oatmeal is cooked all the way through. Add more milk if desired. Optional: you can top it with a little bit of granola crunch on the top for extra flavor and texture.

Cinnamon Apple & Pecan Oatmeal

This recipe is very easy, and certainly beats the little store-bought package of cinnamon & apple oatmeal. It's cinnamon and pecan aroma will remind of all the comforts that comes with Fall. The best part is that you can control what goes in it when you make it. That means no artificial flavors or preservatives, and you can make it as healthful as you want with fruit and nuts. 

Cut the recipe in half for a single serving or double it to feed the whole family. I think that making an extra serving is great for enjoying a quick and easy breakfast the next day! Just store it in an airtight container and nuke for about a minute in the microwave. Add a splash of milk to loosen it up again.

Servings: 2


1 cup whole wheat oatmeal
(optional) 1tbs ground flaxseeds
1 cup water, plus 3 tbs extra

1 cup milk

Half an apple, peeled and cubed
Handful of pecans
1 tbs butter 

1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp of pumpkin pie spices (for the topping)
1tbs brown sugar (or more if you like it sweeter)
1/8 tsp salt

Optional topping: flavored granola crunch cereal

Toast pecans for a few minutes on low heat. Take them off the skillet/saucepan. Simmer cubed apples with cinnamon and about 3 tbs water in a sauce pan until very soft. Add in all the other ingredients except for the pumpkin pie spice mix and pecans, and cook until the oatmeal is cooked all the way through. Top with pecans and sprinkle a little pumpkin pie spice on the top. You can also add a little bit of granola crunch on the top too for extra flavor and texture.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Big boy beds

This is a countdown to the end of my sanity. Part one: Big Boy Bed Transitioning
I took of the railing off one side of their cribs and installed a safety railing.
Kind words, stern words and pacifier threatening will not keep them in their beds. It might be a good thing to quit binkies cold-turkey since this is already hard...
Jake is wandering around and Sam is crying.
I'm off to research tips. Shout some out if you have twin secrets on this transition.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Yummy Southwest Breakfast Burrito (under 500 Cal's)

Your family is bound to love this treat! It's relatively fast to make and it is WAY tastier (and heartier) than running through Mc-D's and getting a tiny one for nearly the same amount of calories. It packs a punch because you get the protein from the eggs, filling carbs from the potatoes and tortillas and nutrients from the veggies; especially the avocados, the wonder fruit.

Serves 4-5

Under 500 calories.
>>>You can make it even healthier by using whole wheat tortillas, low fat butter and low-fat cheese.<<<

4 or 5 medium large tortillas (whole wheat preferably for heartiness, but I used white)
4 or 5 palmfuls of (low-fat) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 palmful per burrito)
1'' slice of onion, chopped finely
1/4 green bell pepper, chopped finely
3 small Idaho potatoes, chopped finely
1 TBS butter
About 2 TBS canola oil
5 Eggs, beaten
Splash of milk
1 Avocado (1/4 cubed avocado per burrito)
A few shakes of garlic powder
Salt & pepper to taste

In a small skillet, melt the butter and oil. Add the finely chopped onion, peppers and potatoes, garlic powder, salt and pepper and cook until all the way done.  In a small bowl, beat the 5 eggs together, add a splash of milk and salt/pepper to taste. Turn down the heat to low in the skillet and add the eggs. Cook until it becomes a little solid on the sides and mix. Cook eggs as you would for regular scrambled eggs. Once done, turn off the heat, place the cheese in the middle of the tortilla, running along as a thick cheesy row, add the scrambled egg mixture and top with avocado cubes. Fold in two ends and wrap as a burrito.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Gourmet Snack: Cucumber & Chicken Poppers

Here's a quick and easy snack that is not only guilt-free but tastey!

Cucumber & Chicken poppers

A 1.5-2'' cucumber slice yields two poppers. Double or triple recipe for more popper bites!

Light Cream Cheese
Roughly 2 inches of a peeled & cored cucumber slice
Two thin slices of cucumber using a potato peeler
Several bits of shredded canned chicken--guess who's making chicken salad tomorrow?
A few bits of shredded carrots
A few bits of finely, finely chopped broccoli (use a food chopper)

Cut about 2'' off a peeled cucumber. Cut it in half down the middle so that it later forms a crescent moon shape. Scoop out the seeds. Using the potato peeler, thinly peel some unused cucumber (to be used to act as a "cup" for the rest of the ingredients). This isn't really necessary, but it makes it look gourmet and cute. Spread cream cheese onto the thin slice of cucumber and pile the rest of the ingredients into it. Place it carefully into the cucumber. Sprinkle a couple extra broccoli bits on to to garnish.

Eat your veggies! pt. 3: "Three Little Bears" Finger Sandwiches

Well, it's been several days since the Dino sandwiches, so I felt it was time to experiment with a bear cookie cutter and a couple of different veggies. Watch out, Goldie Locks may come into your home and snatch these up because they are "just right."
Three Little Bears Finger Sandwiches
Hey, how about reading the three little pigs story while they much away!

White or (preferably) whole wheat bread (1 slice renders 1 shape).
Light cream cheese
2 broccoli florets, chopped to tiny bits (use a food chopper)
Shredded carrots (about several baby carrot's worth)
Shredded cheese (about a palmful)
Several Julienned slices of tomato

Cut out your bear shapes. Spread the cream cheese all across the bread. Don't go too skimpy on the cheese...this is the glue that holds the veggies together on the bread, and what gets the kid(s) to love eating the sandwich in the first place. Spread a layer of broccoli on top of the cream cheese for the shirt, and then do a layer of broccoli where the pants should be. Gently spread the shredded cheese over the face. Place a julienned tomato for the belt between the carrots and broccoli. For the mouth, use one carrot shred. For the eyes, use two of the larger pieces of broccoli bits.

It's not going to be shot in a magazine, so don't worry about perfection and just have fun! Maybe let the kids "color" the sandwich themselves!

Did it pass the twin test? Let's find out!
Jake thinking: what's that, mommy?

Ooo...cream cheese! That's the hook & bait!

Sam just grabbed it and plunged in...

And devoured.

Yup, it was a complete mess, but a few bread bits was all that survived!
 What did mommy have?
 The older crowd who'd rather not have animal shapes can have little finger sandwiches. Just cover the bread as you please and cut into 4 squares.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

An idea of a warm supper meal fit for the coldest of winter days: Slow Cooker Beef Stew! I believe these are all of the ingredients I used:

1-1.5 pounds of stew meat (try to get it lean), chopped into large bite-size pieces
4 or 5 red potatoes, diced
4 or 5 celery stalks, cut into large slices
a small bag of baby carrots, cut into halves
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
1 yellow onion, cut into chunky slices or wedges
2 bay leaves
3 cups of water
salt & pepper to taste
A few splashes of Worcestershire Sauce
several good shakes of paprika (for coloring)
A few tbs of flour (to thicken the stew)
You can also add some green beens, though I didn't think to add it at the time
(add even more veggie nutrition: finely, finely chop 1/4-1/2 of a bell pepper leftover from fridge)

Sprinkle the stew beef with salt & pepper and enough flour to coat it entirely. Sprinkle some extra pepper into the water. Throw all ingredients into a slow-cooker, except the potatoes and set on low for 8-9 hours. Add the potatoes after a 3-4 hours into the cooking process. Take out the bay leaf. If the soup liquid is too thin for your liking, add a little corn starch in a few tbs of water and mix into the soup while it is boiling. Serve with crusty french bread.

Serving it to toddlers ages 2-3 : strain the stew so there's barely liquid in the bowl, if they are not as equipped in using a spoon without your help. Let it cool off!! Chop up the veggies/meat so they are more manageable to eat. Otherwise, leave the broth if you plan on spoon-feeding.

Eat your veggies: pt 2 (Dinosaur Finger Sandwiches)

Really, you can make what ever shapes you'd like, but my twins are boys and that's what I had on hand that wasn't Christmassy. This is a great way to sprinkle on a little nutrition while making it playful and colorful. Find a cookie cutter in a shape that your kid adores to make it more meaningful to them. It's best to find ones that are easier to recognize. Like bears. Mine were pretty much incognito by the time I was done decorating. If they like a particular veggie, make that the top layer. I used a food chopper to make my life more simple. The smaller the pieces, the better.

White or (preferably) whole wheat bread (1 slice renders about 3 small shapes). Save the remains for bread crumbs if you feel badly about wasting it.
Light cream cheese
2 broccoli florets
A few slices of your choice color of bell pepper
Several cucumber slices

Cut out your animal shapes. Spread the cream cheese all across the bread. Don't go too skimpy on the cheese...this is the glue that holds the veggies together on the bread, and what gets the kid(s) to love eating the sandwich in the first place. Finely chop the veggies as small as possible. Spread a layer of broccoli on top of the cream cheese, and then do a layer of bell pepper. You can place the veggies in a manner that makes sense color-wise with your shape, like frosting and sprinkles on a sugar cookie. Place your cucumbers last on the sandwich.

Did it pass the kid test?

YUP! That one little sandwich on the plate was all that survived! I'm telling you, kids LOVE cream cheese!