Thursday, October 25, 2012

More Toys We Love and Simple Lives

I was reading a parenting website recently (something I'm trying to do less and less of, honestly) when I saw this quote: "The more a toy does the less the child does" and I really appreciated the sentiment. Around here, we prefer open-ended simple toys that require imagination and creativity from our little one.  We are very lucky that E has always enjoyed playing on her own for extended periods of time and loves discovering new things.  I thought I'd share some of our favorite simple toys in the spirit of Simple Lives Thursday.  
I've posted before about two wood toys we really love, the teether from Schoolhouse Naturals

and blocks. 

 Elle has gotten very good at stacking the blocks!
Other wood toys we love right now include a big set of blocks in different shapes (like these) which I found used and revived with some homemade spoon butter.
I picked up these wooden spoons at farmer's market for our fifth wedding anniversary.  We use them all the time and the baby loves the way they feel.  She uses them with her play kitchen.  I use the spoon butter to maintain these, too.
Last Christmas my parents made a trip to Ikea and we requested this push cart for Ellie.  She loves it so much.  She was using it very well before she was a walker and now likes using it to carry things around and sometimes as a chair when she's feeling silly.
Playsilks. Man, where were these when I was a kid?!  They are so much fun.  Ellie was lucky enough to get two play silks for her birthday (including one with a wood teacher attached to three dyed silks!) and she has had so much fun playing with them.  Two of her favorite activities are wrapping things around her neck (seriously) and putting cloth over her face and running around the house. Both of these things are considerably safer with the silks.  

This rainbow silk is from Sarah's Silks.
We've been slowly introducing Montessori-style 'work' into Ellie's play routine.  Her favorites are these two:  a cheese shaker with toothpicks that she has to insert into the little holes
And craft boxes that require matching and getting lids on. This was too complicated for her so she has just been doing one box at a time.
My husband and I are both major music lovers so Elle has more instruments than I can count.  Her favorite is her little wooden piano.  (Again, she's learned that sitting on it is pretty fun, too.)
Finally, the outdoors.  This girl has never ever been bored when I let her sit outside. She is in love with plants, just like her mama.  Being in the fresh air is so calming to children.  We just roll out a blanket and stare at everything we can see. I can't wait until we can take long walks around the block and collect treasures.
What are your favorite toys from your childhood or for your little ones? I'd love some more inspiration.
I should note that we rotate Ellie's toys so she never has too many at once.  It works great for us because she gets bored with toys less quickly and is very happy to see her old friends return.

Finally, it's Simple Lives Thursday!  Check it out and link up!  **PLEASE be sure to link back to my blog when you add your post!***

 1. A Healthier Organic Caramel Apple Recipe by Whole Lifestyle Nutrition. "Wow... that is the first word that comes to mind when I describe these delicious caramel apples."
 2. Extending the Harvest-- Hot Bed Style by City Sister Country Sister. "...the Tribune Review wrote an article about a hot bed, and that got me thinking. For less than the cost of lettuce for the winter I could grow my own."
 3. Cilantro Pecan Chicken by Holistic Kid. "There is nothing like turning a classic cuisine staple into a pretty little, nutrient dense show stopper like this Cilantro Pecan Chicken."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Healthier Blondies and Simple Lives

It is fall.

The nights are crisp and cool, and though it's too late to help my garden, the drought has broken and rain has come.  Maybe it's just me, but I think the sky is somehow bluer when the weather turns cold.
There are still plenty of times during the day when it's warm enough to have the widow's open.  The big kid has really enjoyed sitting in her high chair and eating in front of the open window, staring into the backyard.  This photo is a couple weeks old and now that maple tree is bright yellow.
I forgot to share this sweet photo earlier. This is Ellie enjoying her first birthday cake! She was quite dainty about it, actually, and thought the sprinkles were the most interesting.
She's really eating like a big kid now.  She drinks out of a cup and uses a fork and spoon.  (Not that she does those things properly all the time, of course.)  She's actually getting sick of this high chair (which, by the way, was made by my great grandfather and used by all the children in my family including me) so she's spending more and more time at her weaning table. 
Playing with the last of the chard from our CSA.
Stem is less than tasty though.
We've been doing lots of stacking and pouring exercises. I'll show you those sometime soon.
I love this kid.

 But for now I'd like to share this recipe that we've been enjoying since I first made it a few weeks ago.  It's for blondies and is made with garbanzo beans.  The result is a healthier treat that's high in fiber.  It does have a bit of sugar, though, so eat in moderation.  Each bar has around 200 calories if my calculations are correct.  Use dried beans, dark chocolate chips, and the least processed sugar you can find.  I haven't tried substituting honey but I bet it would work.

Healthy Blondies
by Chocolate Covered Katie

1.5 c. chickpeas
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. sugar (I used organic evaporated cane juice)
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. old fashioned oats
1/4 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. chocolate chips

Whir everything but the chips in your food processor.
Process until smooth.  Then add the chips.  If you want them to stay whole, stir them in. If you don't care, pulse a couple times in the processor. 
Smooth it all out into an 8x8 pan and dot a few chips on the top.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  It will probably look underdone.  Let them cool before digging in.

Finally, it's Simple Lives! Link up and check it out!

1. Make lip balm! (all natural, of course) by Thank Your Body. "Ready to make lip balm? This all natural, tinted lip balm is so lovely"
2. Leftovers: Potato Edition by Eliza K. "With only two people in the house and bulk sizes being a better deal, we end up throwing away a lot of food that has gone bad. I've decided to be more pro-active in what I put into the fridge and ultimately where that food ends up. "
3. The Granny Style Washcloth by The Parsimonious Princess. "The washcloths look like something my grandma would have made if she knitted ."

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Silver Dollar Pumpkin Pancakes and Simple Lives

I have a confession to make: I am not the kind of blogger who tests her recipes time after time before posting them on my blog.
I obviously don't post the majority of the things that I make and I try to be selective about what I do post, choosing dishes that will be easy for lots of different cooks and hopefully contain a new or good idea about food.
For me, this is a space to share my love of cooking healthy seasonal food and sharing it with my family.  This little one is starting to catch on, by the way. 

 Last weekend I threw together a batch of pumpkin pancakes. They weren't perfect but they tasted amazing, even my pancake-hating husband liked them.  They were tough to flip so I made them into smaller silver dollar pancakes.  They still didn't flip perfectly but the taste was worth it, and knowing that they were made with such healthy ingredients made up for their less-than-perfect appearance. I used organic wheat flour and coconut oil, local milk, eggs, and honey.  Be sure that your baking powder is aluminum-free.
I hope you'll give these a try to celebrate fall.

Silver Dollar Pumpkin Pancakes
a drastically altered version of this recipe

1.5 c. milk
1 c. canned pumpkin
1 egg
2 tbsp. coconut oil (warm in hot water until it's liquid)
2 tbsp. vinegar
2 c. whole wheat flour
3 tbsp. honey
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2.5 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (make your own)
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix the first five ingredients in one bowl and the remaining ingredients in another.  Combine and let sit for 5-10 minutes to thicken.
 Cook in a cast iron pan over low heat with lots of butter. Don't flip until it's ready.  It will look like this, bubbling all the way through and opaque on the edges.  Your butter shouldn't brown.
 The tiny silver dollar size makes them easier to flip.  Even so I had some smooshy pancakes, but they tasted perfect.
 Serve hot.
 With a lot of butter.  This recipe makes a ton, especially of the smaller size, so freeze whatever is left and reheat in an oven.  They get warm and the edges get nice and crispy.
Finally, it's Simple Lives Thursday again! Check it all out after the jump.

1. How to Make Savory Muffins (Freezer Cooking) by Intentional by Grace. "One of our favorite to freeze is a big batch of savory muffins. They are perfect for a quick breakfast, mid-afternoon snack, or as a bread to go with dinner."

2. DIY Kitchen: herbal immune syrup by 6512 and Growing. "This immune syrup is our first defense against coughs, sour throats and sniffles."

3. Sprouted Grains for Chickens by A Life Unprocessed. "Chickens will get fat and malnourished on a diet high in grains so what I do is sprout the grains for a few days ."

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Only Egg Salad Recipe You'll Ever Need

When it comes to the basics, quality ingredients are key.  Over the years, I've found a few products that I love and share often here on the blog.  This morning, I threw a few of them together to make the perfect egg salad.
This is not so much a recipe as a collection of ingredients that you should put together to suit your tastes.

Perfect Egg Salad

6-10 hard boiled eggs, roughly chopped. local/pastured if you can.   (I do 9 minute eggs so they're not dried out but are still cooked through for the little one.)
one big blob of Vegenaise  (1/4-1/2 c.)
one small blob of Boetje's Stone Ground Mustard (1-2 tbsp.)
1 minced shallot
1-2 Bubbie's Pickles, diced.
a few shakes of Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning (it has a little heat)
pepper to taste

The Tony's is spicy and salty and somehow actually great on everything, just like it says, but especially eggs.  
Bubbie's are the best grocery store pickle out there, hands down. They're made without vinegar and have a perfectly salty bite.
Boetje's is the perfect basic mustard, which is a pantry/fridge essential. I always have at least two jars on hand (I'm not kidding) so that we never run out.  It's the basis for so many things I make, especially salad dressings.  It's also incredible on sausages or sandwiches.  
And whether you're vegan or not, Vegenaise undeniably has the best flavor of any prepared mayonaise I've ever tried. It's expensive, but worth it.

Chop the eggs small enough to stack on a cracker, and dice the pickles small so there's never too much in one bite.  
Serve with crackers if you're a grown up, or grapes if you're a little.

Give it a try and tell me what you think!
If you're looking for a less traditional egg salad recipe, try my curried egg salad here.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Good News, Preserving Herbs in Oil, and Simple Lives

I come bearing good news!
Ariel was sent home after her contractions stopped and her situation stabilized.  Baby has decided to stay put for the time being.  Ariel will be on bedrest for the remainder of her pregnancy, which is hopefully a very long time.  Thank you all so much for your kind words and thoughts! They meant a great deal to the couple and me.
Something else happened recently:  This little girl turned 1.  ONE!  Ah!

I wanted to share a quick idea for preserving fresh herbs in oil.  We got a freeze recently so I had a bunch of fresh herbs in the garden that I didn't feel like taking the time to dehydrate.  (Also, some, like basil, don't dehydrate well anyway.) So I pureed them with a couple roasted tomatoes and a lot of olive oil.  It made a really thick and fragrant paste, which I spooned into an ice cube tray, froze, and then stuffed into a freezer bag.  Over the winter, we'll throw these into pasta or quinoa, or melt them for dipping with crusty bread.
Lastly, it's time for Simple Lives.  Join us under the jump for featured posts from last week and a linky where you can link up your posts and share them across all three fabulous host blogs.

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