Monday, October 31, 2011

Muffin Tin Monday, Oatmeal

Oatmeal? Really? Oh, yes, the girls loved it. I helped Audrey cook the oatmeal and then we found fun things to place in the tins so they could spice up the boring breakfast. I portioned out a small amount of oatmeal in a larger bowl so they could spoon, pour or tip the additions into the dish. Audrey had fun mixing and eating, Maurene ate the side items and decided not to try the oatmeal this time. I am not giving up on her.

The girls had raisins, chopped walnuts, plain yogurt, dried blueberries, and cherry jam to flavor their oatmeal. I mixed a little brown sugar into the oatmeal before dishing it out because I did not want the girls to eat the sugar plain. 

Measuring the dry oats.

Adding mixers while the oatmeal cooks.
A fun way to start the day.

This was another fun meal for Muffin Tin Monday. If you are not already you should check out all of the fabulous ideas posted. It can be great inspiration for meals and fun for little helpers to participate in meal preparation.
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Sunday, October 30, 2011

If You Take a Mouse to School

Maurene helped me make cute little turkey and brown rice mice for dinner. We got the recipe from a Weight Watchers book called Eat! Move! Play! about how to raise healthy children. Half of the book contains tips  about ways to stay healthy and active and the other half has wonderful yummy recipes. When I came across this recipe I knew it would be great for a night when we read If You Take a Mouse to School. The girls love this book because the little mouse builds a house for himself and then writes stories for his library. They often get out their blocks and tell me they are building a mouse house.

Turkey & Brown Rice Mice

  • 2 slices whole-wheat bread
  • 1 lb ground skinless turkey breast
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice
  • 4 sliced pitted black olives
  • Carrot slices and strips
Process bread in food processor until crumbed. Mix with next six ingredients. Form into eight small oval shapes and put in a 9 x 13 dish. Add apple juice to dish and bake mice at 350°F for about 45 minutes or until they are cooked through. Remove mice from the pan and let cool slightly. Add carrot slices for ears, strips for tails, and black olives for eyes.

Making breadcrumbs.

Mixing the ingredients.

Adding mouse decorations.

Mice eat cheese.

This is a fun meal not only to make and eat but to tie into any number of books you might want to read about mice. The girls had a lot of fun talking about the mice while eating dinner.

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Local Edition, Pendleton's Pumpkins!

It is officially pumpkin season. Pendleton's Country Market sent an email advertising $1 pick-your-own pumpkins this week. They also have tools to allow you to do your pumpkin carving at the farm and leave the mess for their compost pile. Last year we purchased many winter squash as well as pumpkins for the girls to decorate. 

I think this year we will go pick up several pumpkins to cook so that we can learn how an unprocessed pumpkin puree tastes. Recently the girls helped me make pumpkin muffins and while I was opening the can of pumpkin I thought that we were finally ready to take this next step in our journey toward cleaner eating. It is a slow process for us but one we are enjoying.

Audrey's daddy and several of his coworkers spoke highly of the pumpkin muffins so I thought it would be a good recipe to share:

Pumpkin Pie Muffins
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tbsp raw pumpkin seeds
Mix dry ingredients in one bowl and wet ingredients in another. Add dry to wet and mix until just combined. Spoon into greased or lined muffin tins and then sprinkle with raw pumpkin seeds. Bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes.

My models ready to begin.

Mixing and messes.

Mo's turn to spoon into tins.

Audrey is an old pro at this.

Ready to bake with pepitas.

It really is worth it to get on the mailing list for Pendleton Country Market. They do  not send out many emails and the ones they send are all full of really good information.

We linked this post up with Halloween Traditions on JDaniel4's Mom's blog. There are costumes, recipes, crafts, memories, it is a great link up. She was so awesome to put something like that together. I sometimes wish I had great ideas for link ups and then I realized then I would have to be on top of things all the time, which I am not. Ever.

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Five Fabulous Easy Dinners

This is the toddler/preschool version of meal planning. After cooking together for a long time we have come up with several dinners we love to make. They are not only simple but require few ingredients. When cooking with small helpers it is easier to keep the item list short so the young cooks do not get bored in the middle of the preparation. Here are our five favorites:

  1. Oven Fried Chicken
  2. Muffin Tin Meatloaf
  3. Hawaiian Pizza
  4. Pork Ribs
  5. Easy Pot Roast
With these fabulous recipes on the menu you can plan a great time in the kitchen with your young helper. A great time is sure to be had by all. You get help with the meal and your assistant gets to do fun grown-up activities. With enough practice your sous chef can take over and allow you to put your feet up while dinner is cooked for you. 

Mini Hawaiian Pizzas

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Kansas Pork, It's What's For Dinner

Audrey and Maurene love to go to the Downtown Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. When we arrive Audrey does not wander long before she asks to go see Jeff and Dena. They are our friendly farmers from Hilltop Farms. We have been chatting with them at the market for a long time. Audrey had fun playing with a chicken from Hilltop Farm which I photographed for our header picture. 

Contrary to what is said in Food Inc., we know the names of our farmers and we like chatting with them. I try to plan egg buying from them when we are in town and have recently purchased several different pork products from steaks and chops to sausage. As Jeff will explain, it is worth the price.

We were recently contacted by the Kansas Pork Association and offered some kids pork recipes that I readily accepted. I was pleased to find many items including recipes, a coupon, as well as a magnet with the new USDA temperature guidelines in the package. It is nice to know that pork can be cooked medium rare to 145°F. I am new to cooking pork. Ground pork needs to come to 160°F.

With chops from Jeff and Dena and recipes from the Kansas Pork Association there is no way we could go wrong. Maurene was my helper for this super easy meal.

Pouring Italian Dressing on top.

Mo said she had to close the lid 'by myself!"

Mamma's plate.

We decided to go for simple and fun for this meal. Maurene placed two frozen chops in a bowl to let them marinade overnight. The next day we tossed them into a slow cooker and they were ready for dinner. Cook time on low was about 4 hours. The recipe said to toss the marinade and then grill them but we needed them  ready when we got home. After I pulled the chops from the cooker I added a little raw sugar to the marinade and reduced it on the stove for 15 minutes while I made rice, heated up frozen corn and pulled out a few spinach leaves for salad. Super easy and oh so tasty. 

The girls really like pork chops. And every time I serve Hilltop Farms pork chops Audrey and Maurene's daddy talks about how good dinner was for two days. If you have the option of locally raised meat, give it a try. Go talk to a farmer and see what he says about his meat. Jeff is a true believer and can sell anyone on how much better his meat is for you. That is what you want from the people raising your food.

Next spring we are going to try to make a trip to visit the piglets soon after they are born. It would be nice to get the girls comfortable with where their food comes from, not just the vegetables.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesday, Dessert First

A little ice cream before dinner.

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What's For Lunch Wednesday, New Shapes!

I keep looking at all of the adorable lunches every week and thinking, "I wish I had that shape cutter!" So I took the girls to Micheal's where we purchased way too many shapes to store in our tiny kitchen. And then we rushed home to make lunches for us all out of them.

Audrey is at Montessori school and the older children help guide the younger ones in their work. She is starting to do that at home with Maurene! This time she was showing her how to make strawberry cream cheese and jam sandwiches. I wish I had taken video.

After making lunches Audrey went to ballet class and Maurene and I to the library. I checked out even more cookbooks and then we headed to get Audrey and to the park. It was a blistery day but the girls still enjoyed playing and having a picnic.

Audrey cutting her shape.

Mo's turn to cut.

She asked me to add her into the picture.

And then Mo needed one.

Audrey's flower.

Mo's elephant.

Mom's leaf, positive and negative.

Enjoying the park.

Be careful about checking out What's For Lunch Wednesday. Doing so may cause you to rush to the store to purchase a box of 101 shape cutters. But you will be glad you did when you are able to make fabulously adorable lunches.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Repost: Monster Soup

It is Monster Soup season. I picked up a couple of avocados at the store today and have some local zucchini tucked into the freezer for just this occasion. I love fall! 

From February 7th 2011:

As promised, the Monster Soup recipe. In The Toddler Cafe it is called Swamp Soup. My girls do not know what a swamp is and I thought a name change would work. I told Audrey her daddy killed a monster just so she could make this soup.

  • 4 cups chicken broth, divided
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups thinly sliced zucchini (3 medium)
  • 2 medium ripe avocados
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
In a large saucepan, heat 2 cups of the broth, the onion, garlic, and nutmeg. When it is boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add the remaining 2 cups broth and the zucchini and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook for another 10 minutes, until the zucchini is limp but still bright green. Remove the lid and allow the soup to cool slightly. In a blender, puree the soup mixture with the avocado flesh in batches. Return the blended soup to the pan and warm on low, adding salt to taste. 

Audrey's Tasks:
  1. Chop zucchini
  2. Pour chicken broth in pot
  3. Scoop avocado flesh out
  4. Operate the food processor
Mom's Tasks:
  1. Gather ingredients
  2. Chop vegetables
  3. Heat soup
  4. Assist Audrey
We love this. It tastes like guacamole soup. We did not add any pesto and liked the soup just fine. One day Audrey was busy in her room so Maurene was able to make the soup.

Scooping out avocados.

Operating the food processor.

She loves it!


Dig in!

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Muffin Tin Monday, Fondue

I purchased a Halloween magazine from Taste of Home filled with recipes and ideas to make the season fun. Today we used a recipe for Apple Cider Cheese dip with our muffin tin to make a fun and nutritious lunch. 

When I mentioned we were having cheese dip for lunch both girls climbed up to their chairs and squealed with delight. I almost could not get them to wait to help make this meal. 

Maurene stirred corn starch into 3 cups of cheese while I boiled apple juice on the stove. After we added the cheese to the juice I sliced up a few yummy snacks for our appetizer dip turned lunch. The girls selected their favorite dippers and I added hot cheese dip to their tins. It was a yummy meal!

Stirring the cheese.
Selecting dippers.

Yummy selection.

Digging in.

Audrey and Maurene enjoyed carrot sticks, celery, sweet red and orange peppers, pretzels, pears, and apples with their cheese fondue.

Check out the other fun meals at Muffin Tin Monday!

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National Food Day, Kids Cook Monday

Tearing frozen bread for crumbs.
Today is a special day. It would have been my step-father's 57th birthday. He passed away when I was pregnant with Audrey and broke my heart. I really wanted him to see and hold my baby. It has been a little over four years since he left us and I am trying to find fun ways to celebrate so I don't get sad. I also want to make sure my girls hear about what a great dad he was to me.

On my side of the family there used to be two sets of grandparents.My father and step-mom play a wonderful role in our lives today and we are very grateful they are such good grandparents. I still want Audrey and Maurene to learn about my other parents, both of whom had birthdays this month. 

On to the celebration of birthdays, Food Day, and Kids Cook Monday.

Audrey had her first karate class today so Maurene was my dinner helper. We tried to make beer battered fish like my step-dad used to, but it was not the same. There is no beer in our house so I subbed apple juice; not a good sub. I also had no idea what his recipe was so I just picked one from; it wasn't right.

I have this advice for you. If you love a recipe belonging to an older person, ask for a copy now. My step-dad was a young 52 years old when he died.

Maurene cooking for Kids Cook Monday on National Food Day. We made Beer Battered Fish, Roasted Red Potatoes, and Cheesy Broccoli (wonder where we got that cheese?):

"I can do it myself!"

When she moves the top piece the processor starts and stops.

Spreading oil on potatoes.

Egg for the batter.

Mixing with milk.


We had fun, as usual. If I get a little time I will post the video of Mo playing with the food processor. And I just want to say that this post would have been up before midnight if it were not for Audrey's daddy and

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