Thursday, December 18, 2014

happy birthday, baby!

happy birthday, beautiful!
Officially I don't think I'm supposed to call Evie a baby anymore. She's two! Her birthday was yesterday, and we had such a great day.

I made the crazy decision to have a little toddler friend birthday party for her. I know what you're thinking: why have a friend birthday party for a toddler when you can put it off until they are much older and beg for it? Well Evie loves playing with other kids, so I thought she'd enjoy having a gaggle of them over to play on her birthday morning. And she did.

The party went off without a hitch, so I thought I'd share my strategies for a successful toddler party, along with some pictures of the Big Day. Toddlers have low party expectations and are easily entertained, so really it isn't hard!

cute babes in DIY party hats. this lasted for  2.5 minutes.
1. Prepare food your toddler will like. Our party was in the morning, too early for cake, and right in between meals. So I ordered donuts from my favorite grocery store bakery (Harmon's: have you tried their maple buttercream donut?!), and served them with fruit, orange juice, and chocolate milk. I think the fruit was actually the biggest hit. Keep it simple, and plan things that won't require lots of dishes and utensils (I chose all finger foods like baby oranges, grapes, and bananas).

forgot to photograph before we ate. oops!

2. Plan a few simple activities. Toddlers may not be able to stay with you on a treasure hunt, and probably can't whack a pinata with enough force to get any candy. Here's what they do like: loose balloons, playing simple games like ring-around-the-rosie, and listening to an interactive story or song like "Wheels on the Bus" or "If You're Happy and You Know It." I have books of the aforementioned songs, and the kids loved singing/acting along with the stories.

ring-around-the-rosie. they could have done this all day.
interactive story time.
playing with balloons.
3. Be flexible in your schedule. Toddlers march to the beat of their own drum. Be prepared to abandon an activity if it isn't going well, and let the kids just play. Our party group had a lot of fun playing with Little People and a play kitchen, and climbing up on the bed in the toy room. 

just relaxing on the bed, playing with various toys.
playing girls (little kitchen on the left).
The kids played so nicely together that I'm hoping to get the group together again to play. We really had so much fun!
cute party goers! they organized this pose themselves.




Sunday, October 19, 2014

almost two

Evie hit the 22-month milestone a few days ago. I can't believe we're so close to her birthday. We looked back at old pictures and videos today and I had felt some pangs of sadness that my baby is growing up. Her hair is so long now, kissing her shoulders and curling up on the ends. She's still round and soft, but she's bigger. And heavier.

Today at church one of the speakers said, "To quote Queen Elsa, 'Let it go!'" Evie immediately started singing the song "Let It Go," and we shushed her in between laughs. She sings spontaneously quite a bit. Often it is "Give Said the Little Stream," but she also favors us with "Rockabye and Don't You Cry," "Daisy, Daisy," "You Belong To Me," and various songs from the Frozen soundtrack. Her bedtime song of choice lately is "Once Upon A Dream" from Sleeping Beauty. She is particularly fascinated with the dragon in the movie. We picked up several dragon books from the library, which she's been enjoying, and we visit the inflatable dragon next door (part of our neighbor's Halloween display) almost daily.

 Evelyn loves what she calls "spooky things." It started as a way to get her to tolerate shopping. I'd say, "Let's see what spooky things we can find here," and we'd look at pumpkins, witches, skeletons, and various Halloween decorations as we shopped around. Now she notices spooky things (spooty fings) everywhere we go, and she loves it. I so wish we could take baby girl to Disneyland this month. We went once on Halloween as a couple, and it was so much fun. I think she would love all of the spooky things there, and it would be just the right amount of spook without being too much for a toddler. Someday we'll go to Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

We visited a wonderful pumpkin patch for Family Night a few weeks ago, and the girl was in heaven. Every time she sees pumpkins now, usually at the grocery store, she exclaims, "Pumpkin patch!"

Evelyn talks so much. She'll tell you she's almost two, and the names of her parents. Andrew and I often find ourselves looking at each other in amazement at things she says. I'm sure it is a result of living with four grownups that talked to her all the time for the first 18 months of her life, in addition to reading stories together every day. But it is still so satisfying to have little conversations with her. She has picked up some phrases that I do not love to hear repeated back to me, and it has definitely made me reconsider what I say and how I say it.

Evie got scared at church a few weeks ago when a man came into nursery to take out the garbage. He pulled out a new garbage bag and snapped it to get it open. The sound terrified Evie, and even weeks later she tells me about how Eric snapped the garbage, scared her, and made her sad. One morning it was the first thing she told me when she woke up. I just love how her new-found verbal skills have given me this little window into what is going on in her busy little mind.

in the book nook with her beloved cousin

post-nap nap, after a bad night in a hotel with no crib.

we had to take pictures with this both times
we walked by.

the girl loves green ice cream, and is very
independent (Evie do it!).

cheesy smile reading before a wedding. she chose the dress
(green one).

ah, sad this is blurry! nighttime at the pumpkin patch.
she never holds still.

another pumpkin patch moment.

apple picking at grandma's.


she won't drink milk, but she loves hot chocolate.

every time we're in grandma's front yard,
she wants to sit on a rock and have a portrait taken.
I oblige. 

Pumpkin Muffins with Spiced Streusel Topping


Autumn is almost over. Is that even possible? It seems like the seasons always end too soon, and on our last drive up the canyon most of the leaves had already fallen. I'm trying not to be too disappointed about it, trying to savor what is left of this glorious season. And this morning, I was trying to use up the open can of pumpkin that's been staring at me every time I open the fridge for a week (do any recipes ever use a whole can?).

I've made pumpkin pancakes several times already this month, but I wanted something equally quick and easy this morning. I immediately thought to make muffins.

My mom is a muffin maker. She'll whip them up for breakfast (chocolate chip, blueberry, banana walnut), or to go alongside soup on a cold night (apple cinnamon, carrot, oatmeal raisin). They are wonderful: lightly sweet, soft, warm, and especially good smothered in butter or homemade jam.

Mom taught me one important thing about making muffins: don't overmix. If you mix too much, they will be tough and they won't dome up on top. The batter should be lumpy, and there may even be some small patches of dry flour. Another trick from mom: fill the empty cups in your muffin tin with water before baking. Just do it.

So with my heart set on pumpkin muffins, I opened up my good-old Betty Crocker cookbook and found a basic pumpkin muffin recipe. Betty calls for raisins in hers, while other recipes I looked at online include chocolate chips or pecans. I decided to skip the raisins and instead top mine with streusel (we're big streusel fans at our house). I also subbed pumpkin pie spice in a few places to give it that extra autumn flavor.


Betty is notorious for dump recipes, meaning you just dump in all the ingredients and mix it up. This is great for easy, one-bowl baking, but can sometimes lead to problems. This method, in combination with attempts not to overmix, can yield muffins with pockets of flavor like an extra salty bite, or in the pumpkin muffin recipe, some unmixed lumps of pumpkin puree. To avoid these problems, I like to mix all my dry ingredients together, and all my wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Then add the wet to the dry, and mix until just combined and still lumpy. Problem solved, and only one extra bowl to wash.

Now to the point, here's the recipe.


Pumpkin Muffins with Spiced Streusel Topping

Makes 12 muffins

For topping:

1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
3 tablespoons butter, chilled

Mix all ingredients until well combined and crumbly. You can use a pastry blender, two knives, your fingers, or a food processor. I used my mini prep processor, which I love.

For the muffins:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (you can use all white flour too)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (canned)
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare muffin pan by spraying with cooking spray. Mix all dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together all wet ingredients. Add wet ingredients to dry, until just combined. I like to use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Do not overmix (see commentary above). Batter should be lumpy.


Fill muffin cups 2/3 full (I like to use a scoop). Sprinkle generously with streusel topping (you should have enough topping to make 2 or 3 batches of muffins). Bake 18 to 20 minutes. Immediately remove from pan. These muffins are best served warm, but can be kept for a few days in an airtight container or plastic bag (be sure they are completely cool before storing).

Don't skimp on the streusel.

Eat them while they're hot, you won't regret it.


Topping adapted from Betty Crocker's Favorite Coffee Cake. Muffins adapted from Betty Crocker's Pumpkin Muffins.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Birthday Cake Ice Cream

Andrew is a cake batter ice cream fan. So when I saw a no-churn recipe for cake batter ice cream on Studio 5, I just had to give it a try. Their recipe combines whipped cream, sweetened condensed milk, cake mix, and melted butter. The flavor was spot on, but the texture was lacking. I'd even call it weird. It didn't melt like normal ice cream, but instead turned sticky and gooey and gross.

But I didn't give up on homemade cake batter ice cream. Next I tried making Ben & Jerry's sweet cream base, stirring in 1 cup cake mix and 2 tablespoons melted butter. I churned it in my little countertop ice cream maker, and it was delicious! It did have some little lumps of cake mix, which Andrew claimed he liked.

But I knew I could do better. I switched up the order of the ingredients, and the lumps disappeared. It turned out perfectly smooth and creamy and delicious. So here it is, the ultimate homemade cake batter ice cream recipe with an optional birthday cake upgrade, which I made for Andrew's birthday last Sunday.


The Ultimate Cake Batter Ice Cream Recipe


1 egg
3/4 cups sugar
2 T butter, melted
1 cup yellow cake mix*
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk (I used 2%)

In a large bowl, beat egg until light and fluffy. Slowly add sugar, and continue mixing until well combined. Add melted butter and cake mix. Mix well, eliminating all lumps. Add heavy cream and milk, stirring until combined.

Freeze ice cream according to your ice cream maker's instructions. Try not to eat too much straight out of the machine, which will be difficult, because it will be amazingly smooth and delicious and irresistible.

Birthday Cake Upgrade


1 cake mix, plus ingredients needed to bake
colorful sprinkles (if you use the sprinkles from the ice cream isle, the color won't bleed)

Bake cake mix as directed on box. I used a yellow cake mix, and baked cupcakes to decrease baking time. You could certainly bake a from-scratch cake. I'm pro-from scratch cake, but not anti-cake mix.

Break up 6-12 cupcakes. I used two forks to achieve a small-medium crumb. When ice cream is finished freezing and churning, scoop enough into a tupperware to cover the bottom of the container. Layer some of your crumbled cake over the ice cream, and sprinkles if you want (I only put sprinkles on the top of mine). Continue to layer ice cream and cake, finishing with cake and sprinkles on the top. I froze mine overnight, and it was reminiscent of ice cream cake (yum!). And, the husband approved.


*I found that one cake mix is enough to make this recipe 4 times (4 cups of mix/box).

Sunday, September 28, 2014

funny girl.


I feel so lucky to have sweet Evelyn. She is adorable and hilarious. Her spontaneous outbursts of affection melt my heart. She walks up to us and gives us kisses and leg hugs all the time. And sometimes arm zurberts. Sometimes she'll grab my arm while she's in her highchair, just to give me a love and a kiss. She surprises us with her knowledge daily. Today she was looking at a big multi-picture frame, pointing at the frame openings and saying "oval." She knows oval! She's also started to pray. We tell her it is time to bless the food or say nightly prayers and she starts saying "Ah-father, ah-day," meaning Heavenly Father, we're thankful for this day. Sometimes she'll spontaneously pray, or start to pray when someone else is already saying a prayer (like at church).

Andrew had a football game on the other day, and she was convinced they were playing Ring Around the Rosie. She yelled "All fall down!" at the TV. She climbs into her rocking chair and starts to sing "Rock-a-bye and don't you cry, and we shall go to grannies." She loves to play peek-a-boo and hide and seek, especially with her cousins.

She wakes up every day saying "Eat lunch, oatmeal!" But she says wunch, and ohmeal. She counts a lot. Often she forgets nine, or she says tine ten, but she does get several of the teens.

She loves to paint with watercolors, usually with Grandma. The other day I asked her what she wanted to do, and she exclaimed "Paint!" I think I know what she'll want for her birthday.

We were at the store with Grandma the other day, and we we got separated for a few minutes. Totally unprompted, she started calling out, "Grandma! Where are you?" I'm just amazed with how much she absorbs and takes in and understands.

I love it when she says please and thank you and sure. I love how she makes a sour face when she takes a drink of orange juice. I love how she takes a deep breath of excitement when I tell her that we'll be seeing friends or cousins. I love how she toddles over and climbs into my lap, storybook in hand, and attentively listens to me read to her. And I have this thought, that part of parenthood is totally selfish. Because you have this little person who, at least for a short time, completely loves you and depends on you. And as hard as it can be, it is also wonderful.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

21 months

Long time, no update. Sorry about that. It's not for lack of material. Evelyn is saying, doing, and learning more and more every day, we've just been quite busy this summer (update on that coming soon).

So what's new with Miss Evie? She is very much a toddler these days. She talks and babbles and sings all day. When I picked her up from the kids club at the gym yesterday, they reported to me that she was singing and saying the employees' names the whole time. She is very social, especially toward other kids. Tonight we went on a walk and she gave some kids on the street an enthusiastic "Hi!" as we walked by. At the same time, she can be very coy with adults she's unsure about, and gives a mean stink eye when she isn't in the mood to say hello.

While we got ready to move, I admit I let Evie watch a fair amount of television. It was how I was able to get things packed up and ready to go. Now she's to the point where she enjoys movies and asks to watch them. Her current favorite is Monsters Inc., which she asks for multiple times a day. She also loves Frozen, Tangled, and Finding Nemo. The first week post-move I gave in to her asking quite a bit, but this week I've been able to put her off by playing her the music from the movies (a lot of Monsters Inc. theme song around our house), reading her books related to the movies that we've picked up from the library, and just generally distracting her with other activities. I'm not an anti-television parent (obviously), but I do realize its not great for her little brain to watch TV and so we're trying to limit it to family movie night on Fridays. It is pretty cute to hear her say Mike Wazowski, I must admit.

Evie is a good player. She inherited some toy dishes and food from her cousin, and will sit and play with that stuff for long stretches. Its how I get showers these days. She also loves playing with her baby dolls. She does a lot of blanket swaddling, diaper sniffing and changing, and putting to sleep. The babies oblige. Evelyn also loves dressing up. Sometimes its the star-shaped sunglasses, other times a headband becomes a princess tiara. Necklaces, scarves, and bracelets are also favorites, and blankets often become elegant gowns.

It is so fun to talk with Evie. She has started saying yes sometimes (she used to respond no to everything, then get mad when you didn't guess that she meant yes). She also says sure and okay (otay), and we're working on yes please. Sometimes she'll only say please, and leave out the yes. Other new words are quesadilla (quesadida), hummus, Randall-bad guy (see note about Monsters Inc. above), and I can't think of any more. She picks up so many new words. Today she was saying Sleeping Beauty, after reading a library book of the story. She'll repeat pretty much anything you ask her to, much to the entertainment of her cousins.


The girl loves to eat. She often will exclaim "Eat lunch!" which I think she must associate with being hungry. When I ask her what she wants to eat, she usually asks for noodles. Even first thing in the morning. She loves goop soup, a kid food classic from Andrew's childhood (noodles+homemade tomato juice+butter+season salt), and she even slurps up the tomato juice left after the noodles are gone. For breakfast she likes oatmeal with raisins (arguably her favorite food). She also loves Pirate Booty, applesauce, cheese, quesadillas, fruit leather, and grapes (possibly tied with raisins for the position of favorite). Actually she likes most fruit (cantaloupe, apples, peaches, nectarines, bananas, watermelon, berries, etc.). She will usually eat broccoli and green beans, and I can usually get her to try some of whatever we're having for dinner, which is a huge blessing. She drinks from a cup at most meals now, and when I give her orange juice she tells me it is sour. When she likes something (like licking the spatula when we made homemade ice cream tonight) she'll say "Mmmm, good!"

Evie is still very apprehensive about dogs. We tried to socialize her with family dogs as a baby, but to no avail. She gets so scared she shakes, which is sad and hilarious at the same time. We talk about dogs a lot, and she likes dogs in books, and likes to hear them bark, and likes them from a distance, and sometimes even pretends to be a dog. But from a distance is just about the only way she likes them so far. This fear extends to pretty much all creatures, including flies.

Evie loves babies. We were at Ikea the other day (we've been there 1-3 times every week for probably the last month) and she saw a baby that was maybe  6 months old. She and this little guy locked eyes and just grinned at each other for a good five minutes. It was adorable! I'm excited to see her as a big sister someday, I think she will love it. There was also an incident at a park a few months ago where a mother had her days-old baby there and Evie would not leave them alone. It was mildly embarrassing.

Evie is so affectionate. She does say no to kisses sometimes, but other times she just comes up and hugs my legs or my back. She loves to cuddle wrestle, which involves lots of kisses and zurberts and lots of laughing. It just melts my heart when she gives her daddy a kiss goodnight. Tonight it was through the crib bars, which was extra cute.

I remember feeling defensive when Evie was smaller. People would tell me how their favorite stage was 18+ months, and I would tell them that I loved where we were right then. And I have enjoyed this journey, seeing my baby progress and learn. And I won't say this stage is my favorite, because I haven't experienced what comes next. But, I get it now. Evie is so FUN. She really is just delightful.

Tonight, after our walk. Our lawn might be dandelion heaven.

In her new room. She love her monster blankets!

Moving day: this nap was much needed and intensely resisted.

Another moving day shot, in Grandma's front yard. She said, "A picture, me. Sit down." Oh, and gave her a haircut, including bangs.

Someone just loves playing in the hose, as evidenced by this look of sheer joy.

I love that she loves to wear these goofy glasses.

On the terrifying fast ride at Jungle Jim's Playland. The worker asked if she wanted to go again and she said "Sure!" She screamed and loved it!

compound words [or almost sentences]

Things Evie says now:

High five.
Sippy cup.
Bath tub.
Drink water.
Hurt me.
I see you.
Outside.
Papa's house.
Brush hair.
Wake up.
Signing Time.
Hot day.
Stop it.
Shoes on.
Love you.
Car seat.
Thankyou Mama.
Happy Birthday.
Ice cream.
Want it.
Help please.
Diaper time.
Change the poops.
Baby sad.
Read it me.
Take it off.
Watch it.
Yes, please.

Monday, August 4, 2014

18+ months

18 month celebratory coffee cake breakfast
Evelyn is 19 months now, almost 20. A year and a half. In less than six months, she'll be two. It seems unreal to me!

As I mentioned before, the new house project has been a bit all-consuming, and it has been hard. I work on house projects while Evie naps, and after she goes to bed. And I have to remind myself to enjoy the time I have with her while she's awake and ready to play.

exploring the Natural History Museum

She is talking all the time. Recent word additions include princess, teapot, choose, nope, okay, chocolate, pizza, chair, puppet, pickle, and lots more that I can't even remember. I should give some context for these words. She loves chocolate almond milk. She likes to choose the books we read before bed, and she tells us. She wants me to hold her at night and sit in her chair, so she says "Hold you! Chair!" And she just tells us things all the time. Often before bed she starts listing off things, like all her cousin's names.

She also really loves Frozen. A lot. She'll say, "Remote. TV. Elsa, Anna." Sometimes we have dance parties to the soundtrack, and she sings along enthusiastically.


Her favorite foods lately are rasins, string cheese, chips, green beans, blueberries, popcorn, oranges, chinese food, and all treats. She sometimes is a great eater, and will try what we're having for dinner (chili, meatballs, barbeque beef, noodle salads), and other times she is determined not to eat whatever it is we're eating. She loves Goop Soup, a classic from my husband's childhood made from macaroni noodles, homemade tomato juice, and season salt.

She is so busy and curious. She loves to be outside. She likes to draw and paint with watercolors, and always asks us to draw happy and sad faces. She likes to sing songs, especially Once There Was a Snowman, and Popcorn Popping. She loves the water, swimming and baths. She enthusiastically interested in babies, and is very interested in animals, but equally terrified of them. Especially dogs.


We are amazed at how much she understands. She recognizes when we pull up to Grandma and Papa's house or the library. She'll listen to some logic, like how we all have to go to sleep in our own beds (including her). She folds her arms when we pray, and says "amen" at the end. She kisses owies and gets very concerned when someone else is sad or hurt. She is obsessed with brushing her teeth, and hair (thanks, Tangled). She adores being outside and dressing up. She gives us zurberts (what my family calls blowing raspberries) and giggles like crazy.

I feel pretty lucky to be Evie's mama. She's so smart and sweet and funny, and beautiful too. It's pretty awesome.




Tuesday, July 29, 2014

tried it: vanilla sugardoodles


Hey guess what? We bought a house. And wowzer, has it been so much work. We've removed wallpaper, pulled out tile and carpet, removed baseboard and door casings, taken out countertops, removed doors... Essentially we spend every minute we can working on the house. We've had it for just more than a month, and hope to move in in early August.

Well anyway, moving means changing wards, leaving the cute kiddos we teach every week. Andrew teaches 6-year-olds, and I teach the 13-year-old girls. So in commemoration of our last days teaching (even though I'll be teaching one more week), I made cookies.

I don't make cookies often, partially because it is so easy to "just have one more" about 12 times until they are gone. Evie helped me make the dough, which was actually pretty fun, so I may have to bake more cookies in the future.


The recipe is one I found on Pinterest, and it claimed to be the perfect mix between sugar cookies and snickerdoodles (here's the original post). Evie and I mixed up the dough in the evening, and I baked them the next morning. I only made a few recipe alterations: I rolled the dough balls in sugar before baking, like a snickerdoodle but without the cinnamon, and then I smashed the sugared balls with the bottom of a glass so they would spread evenly. They turned out so perfectly! Not too sweet, lovely vanilla flavor, crisp on the outside and pillowy soft on on the inside. And they  looked like bakery cookies. I will definitely make them again!

Soft Vanilla Sugardoodles

Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
2 tablespoons cream or milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour (plus 1/4 cup, if dough is too wet, like mine was)
3/4 cup bread flour (all-purpose flour may be substituted and used exclusively; bread flour yields chewier cookies and is recommended)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste
1/4 cup sugar (for rolling dough)

Directions:

To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on low speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the sugars and beat on medium-high speed until creamed and well combined, 2 to 3 minutes. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the egg, cream, vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the flours, baking soda, salt, and mix until just combined, about 1 minute. Transfer dough to an airtight container (or wrap up the dough ball in plastic wrap) and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, up to 5 days. 

Preheat oven to 350°F, line a baking sheet with a Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mat, parchment, or spray with cooking spray. Using a 2-ounce cookie scoop, scoop the dough into balls. Roll each ball in sugar, and place them on the baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart. Using the bottom of a glass, flatten each dough ball slightly, until they are about 1/2 inch thick. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until pale golden and edges have just set, even if slightly undercooked in the center, as cookies will firm up as they cool. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before removing.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Evie, the little lady.


the happy girl, lunching in park city

People tell me Evie's still a baby. That when she's big and ten, I'll look back and even her kindergarten pictures will look babyish.

But it doesn't feel that way. It feels like my tiny baby is gone, and this little person that holds phones up and says "hewow," who drops things and mutters "oh shoot," who loves to brush teeth, who rocks and shushes baby dolls, and who counts to ten (though she omits one and five)... well it feels like I've got a little lady on my hands.

She goes to sleep on her own now. She loves to go to the library and read new books. Her favorite author is Olivier Dunrea (he wrote Gossie, Evie's favorite character is Boo Boo). She explores everything. She has longish hair. She adores Frozen, and knows a lot of the words to all the songs, which we listen to daily. She likes to scare us by growling and roaring. She loves the water and swimming. She adores animals, but is apprehensive about close encounters (be they dogs or fish in a tank). She picks up anything big or heavy, grunts about it, and hefts it around. She's a pretty good eater, she'll even eat spicy food and hamburgers.

not sure what this glare was all about...

So she seems like a grownup, walking around doing grownup things and getting into mischief. And then there are these moments when it just hits me that she's still my baby. I'm still nursing her twice a day, and while I'm getting to the ready-to-be-done point, there are times when she's curled up in my arms, nursing, and drifting off to sleep. Her cheeks are round and pink. Her eyelashes long and curled. Her chubby little hand rests softly on my neck. In these moments I think,  How can she ever grow up?

the famous squinchy face (grandma judy loves it)

She'll be eighteen months old in just a few weeks. Soon we'll be tracking years, not months (remember when it was weeks, even days?). She's only going to be this inquisitive toddler for a short time, and I need to remind myself of that during the more challenging moments of parenting. Because it really is wonderful.

Friday, April 18, 2014

toast is the new cupcake



Have you heard about this? Apparently gourmet toast is all the rage in big cities like San Francisco. I heard about it on NPR, so it must be true (though now I can't find the story, so you'll just have to take my word for it).

I'm a toast fan, myself. My dad eats toast for breakfast every day, slathered with creamed honey and topped with slices of mild cheddar cheese. As a kid I'd sometimes join him, with jam instead of honey (I'm allergic).

I don't go for the toast-with-honey-and-cheese much these days, but have come up with my own toast concoction that is quite good. And it is easy. And quick.

Here's what you need: good, wheaty bread, peanut or almond butter, fresh fruit, and chia seeds.

Here's what you do: toast the bread, top with nut butter and sliced fruit, sprinkle with chia seeds.

See what I mean? So easy. I like it best with strawberries or fresh blueberries, but in a pinch banana is pretty good too.

Now if you're looking to try gourmet toast, head over to Gourmandise Bakery in downtown SLC for their cinnamon bread sensationale. Think french toast, without the egg/milk mixture. Just buttered and grilled. It is sinfully good. Oh, and for the record, toasted brioche bread is mighty good as well.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Homemade Granola Bars



We ran out of granola bars the other day, and instead of buying some more, I thought I'd try to make my own, sans corn syrup and preservatives.

I found this recipe on Pinterest, and made a few modifications. They taste great, but are a bit crumbly, so I'd recommend increasing the PB and sugar as needed. Next time I think I'll experiment with using dates and other dried fruit as a sweetener and binding agent, or maybe adding coconut oil.

I gave Evie some tastes as I was cutting them up, and she kept asking for more!  She ate more than a whole bar, and still asked for more, so I'd say these are definitely kid-approved. And, I think it would be really easy to make them dairy free (use dairy free chocolate chips) and gluten free (use GF oats and cereal).

Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bars

Ingredients:

2 cups  quick oats
1 cup bran cereal (original recipe calls for rice cereal, but I think any cereal would work. I used some I had on hand. )
1/2 cup ground flax
1/2 cup flax seeds
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 +1/8 cup agave
Scant 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Add all dry ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer. Meanwhile, mix and then microwave the peanut butter, sugar, and agave in a microwave safe dish, 30 seconds at a time, until mixture is smooth and well combined. Add to mixing bowl, and mix on low speed. Add more agave or peanut butter as needed until mixture binds together.

Line an 8x8 pan with foil.

Turn granola mixture into lined pan, and press it in firmly. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the top, distributing them evenly (I used less than 1/4 cup). Press them into the bars using the back of a stiff spatula or spoon.


Refrigerate bars for 1 hour, then lift then out of the pan using the foil lining.  Cut into 12 bars, 2x6. Wrap individual bars in plastic wrap, and further compress them together after they are wrapped.

Monday, April 14, 2014

green smoothie basics

Banana Mango Smoothie: water, apple juice, greens, ice, mango, banana, lime juice, and chia seeds.


If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that I make a lot of green smoothies. I try to have one everyday, and a protein packed one on the days I kill it at the gym. Plus, Evie loves them, and I love getting her to eat vegetables. Sometimes I find smoothie inspiration from recipes on Pinterest, but usually I just improvise. And lately, they've been turning out really well.

It is pretty easy to keep your cupboard stocked with smoothie making ingredients. Some of them you probably already have in stock.

The Basics.


  • Dark leafy greens
  • Frozen Berries
  • Bananas

With these basics, you can make a pretty good smoothie. Add a cup of liquid to your blender (water, orange juice, almond milk, etc.), two handfuls of greens, a cup of frozen berries, and a banana, and voila! A delicious smoothie. Spinach is a great choice for greens. It is the most mild in flavor, and easy to use up in salads and other dishes. As I've said before, I like the Costco mix with baby spinach, chard, and kale. For berries, I alternate between a mix of blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries from Costco, and plain blueberries. And of course, the riper the banana, the better, as banana adds sweetness. If you can't eat bananas, ripe mango is a good substitution (also adds sweetness and creaminess).

Blueberry Protein Smoothie: OJ, yogurt, greens, blueberries, mango, lime juice, flax, and chia seeds.

The Next Level.


  • Protein Powder: I like vanilla. It goes with any smoothie, and this is what I use on the days I go to Body Pump and Total Body Conditioning. When I use protein powder, I use water as my liquid.
  • Add-ins like Flax and Chia Seeds: I put ground flax in pretty much every smoothie I make, and stir chia seeds in at the end. I've found that if the chia seeds are blended into the smoothie, it gets a bit gelatinous, which I don't like, but I really like them stirred in.
  • Fat-Free Greek Yogurt: this is a great way to add protein to a smoothie, as an alternative to protein powder.
  • Orange Juice: great sweetener if you've run out of bananas. I especially love making an orange julius knock off with OJ, a fresh orange, greens, vanilla, yogurt, and mango.
  • Peanut or Almond Butter: another good protein addition, and extra decadent with banana and protein powder (and greens, of course). Make it chunky monkey by using chocolate protein powder, or add a tablespoon of cocoa powder if using vanilla.
  • Fresh Fruit (mango, grapes, apple, strawberries, oranges): use in place of frozen berries, then add 4-6 ice cubes to chill and thicken the smoothie.
  • Cinnamon: I love a "cinnamon roll" smoothie. Combine vanilla protein powder, a cup of water, ice cubes, banana, two handfuls of greens, and a generous dash of cinnamon. Pumpkin pie spice is also delicious.
  • Carrots: carrots are so sweet that they blend into a green smoothie really well. 
  • Beets: while they have a stronger flavor, beets are also quite sweet. Try making a pink smoothie with beets and strawberries. You can find pre-cooked beets at Costco.
  • Oatmeal: if you're making a breakfast smoothie, add a cup of dry oats. Not only do you get the benefits of the oats, but your smoothie will be much more filling as well.
Green Orange Julius: fresh orange, mango, oj, water, ice, greens, vanilla, yogurt, chia seeds, and flax.

Bonus Tips.

Keep it simple. Try sticking to just a few flavors (fruits). I've found that the more variety I put in the smoothie, the less I enjoy it. I like it to have an identifiable flavor: strawberry and banana, mango and orange, blueberry, etc.

Get some good straws. I like to sip my smoothies from jumbo straws like these.

Rinse your blender and smoothie cup immediately. The smoothie residue will turn into cement if left to dry.

Store extra smoothie in a mason jar in the fridge. Smoothies stay good for about 48 hours after they are made.




That's all the green smoothie wisdom for today. What are your favorite smoothie ingredients?


roasted beet salad with gorganzola and walnuts


I have to say, I'm a Costco addict. I totally get roped into trying all new goodies they carry. Lately I've been loving their bagged greens mix with baby spinach, kale, and chard. It is perfect for throwing in a green smoothie, and delicious in salads too. Here's a salad combo from the other night that turned out really well.

Roasted Beet Salad with Gorganzola and Walnuts

Components: 

  • baby spinach, chard, and kale (mix from Costco)
  • 1 roasted beet per person, diced (also found at costco, pre-roasted!)
  • crumbled gorgonzola or blue cheese
  • walnuts, chopped
  • poppy seed dressing (I used some from the superfood slaw mix from Costco, but Brianna's is great too)
Assembly:

Not that you need directions for a salad, but here they are. Assemble this salad directly on plates to ensure no leftovers. Start with greens, then the beets, then cheese, then nuts, and top with a light drizzle of dressing. The strong flavor of the cheese plays really well with the beets, and enhances their sweetness. It is delicious!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

cake bombs (or, what to do with a failed cake)



Have you ever had an epic bundt cake failure? I most certainly have, and it is such a bummer. You put all this effort into mixing up what is supposed to be a delicious and beautiful cake, you wait the allotted baking time, let it cool in the pan for ten minutes, and turn it out onto a cooling rack. Before you even lift the pan, you can tell something is not right. The pan still feels heavy, and as you turn it over, you see the disaster. A ring of cake stuck to the bottom of the pan, and a steaming crumbled half on the cooling rack.

If this has never happened to you, please let me in on your bundt baking secrets! As for the rest of us, I have a remedy to your broken cake dilemma. Remember the cake truffles recipe I posted last October? We're going to revisit that, and this time the recipe is more precise, since I used 1 cake + 1 frosting recipe.



First, mix up a batch of your favorite buttercream frosting, one that will go well with your cake. My failed bundt cake was a chocolate one, so I made cocoa buttercream from Betty Crocker (same recipe used for the cake truffles, recipe below). When you've finished mixing the frosting, add the broken cake into your mixer, and continue mixing until the cake and frosting are evenly combined. If you don't have a crumbly bundt cake, you could sub any chocolate cake.

Using a cooking scoop, scoop your filling onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. I used the scoop I usually use for cupcakes, but you could choose any size. Mine are larger than traditional cake pops, hence the name cake bombs, and I got 32 out of my cake.

Cover your baking sheets and freeze the scooped "bombs." An hour or two would probably be sufficient, or you can do what I did and leave them in the freezer for a few days. I use these cookie sheet covers, which are great because you can stack your baking sheets, and avoid having your creations stick to foil or plastic wrap.



When you are ready to dip, start melting your chocolate. As I've said before, I prefer to use candy coating (like Apeels, Merckens, or Wilton) because it doesn't burn as easily and will not bloom. For these I used dark chocolate Apeels. While the chocolate is melting, prepare your "bombs." I used these sticks that are intended for caramel apples, but you could use sucker sticks or cake pop "straws." The sticks I used have a pointed end, so they were easy to poke into the bombs. They felt very secure, so after inserting the stick I went ahead and dipped the bombs, set them back on the foil-lined pan, and sprinkled with rainbow wafer sprinkles. Notice that these do have a flat side on the bottom. They are not hand-shaped like cake balls (I don't like the idea of that much food handling). The stick goes in the domed side, and they sit flat-side down with the stick pointing up.

I added some little ribbon and lace ties to my cake bomb sticks. Washi tape flags would also be adorable.



Cocoa Buttercream:

1/3 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons milk (plus more, as needed)

Mix chocolate and butter. Add powdered sugar. Beat in vanilla (or flavoring of choice) and milk. Add milk as needed until frosting is of spreading consistency.

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