September 11, 2017

A Parent's Guide to Cooking with Kids

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post, A Parent's Guide to Cooking with Kids, are affiliate links, and I will receive a small commission if you click on one of those links and make a purchase but it comes at no cost to you.

A Parent's Guide to Cooking with Kids

When I'm chopping and dicing and mixing and stirring I get an overwhelming sense of pride, not necessarily because what I'm making is so delicious or even noteworthy, but because I know that my work directly affects my family's health, well-being, and nutrition. I know that the care I take when I whip up a coffee cake or roll together a pan of Jumbo Chicken and Onion Enchiladas will benefit my family. I take special care with my meal planning and recipes every time I cook because I'm aware of their impact. I like to share this meaningful experience with my readers, and I do so by sharing many of my recipes, but more than anything, I love to share the experience with my children.


My kids are not strangers to the kitchen. In addition to watching my favorite cooking shows, they have also been my little kitchen helpers since they each were big enough to stand. They are accustomed to seeing me bake and cook, they enjoy being taste testers, and they fight over who gets to claim mixing duty each day. I try to include them in the entire cooking process from menu planning and choosing items from the farmers market or the grocery store to preparation before the cooking begins and then kitchen cleanup.

My husband and I developed a love for cooking together while we were dating, and we try to now include our children in the experience whenever possible. It's an understatement to say having kids in the kitchen can be challenging. There are the obvious safety precautions that always need to be considered. Additionally, they are unable to do the math for recipe manipulation, so you have to be prepared ahead of time if you plan on doubling or halving anything. Plus, and maybe most challenging, their tiny frames can't see or even reach the top of the countertops.

Over the years I've learned a couple of tricks to help make your time in the kitchen with your children fruitful for everyone. I'm sharing some of those hard-won lessons with you.

Choose the right recipe and explain everyone's individual role before getting started. Julia Child's book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking is not a good starting point for adults who don't know how to cook, let alone children. Start simple and work your way to more complicated recipes. If you're working with multiple children, it can be beneficial to clearly outline who will manage each duty, so there isn't any confusion once you start cooking.
Here are several cookbooks with kid-friendly recipes options. I have used many of these and included some of my personal favorites:

The best cookbooks for kids - a collection of tried and true cookbooks all with kid-friendly recipes. This is the perfect addition to any parent's cookbook collection if they desire to spend time with their children in the kitchen.


Make it fun. Turn a mundane, everyday task like cooking, into something fun and extraordinary, so your kids look forward to their time in the kitchen. You can do this many ways. For example, one afternoon my oldest son asked to play with play doh, after some quick thinking and an inventory of my cabinets I decided to make homemade noodles instead of playing with play doh. A little flour and eggs and two tiny but messy hands later, we had homemade noodles for our dinner that night and boy were they delicious! My son never missed playing with play doh. Making meatballs, meat loaf, and kneading bread are also fun ways for kids to get their hands messy while being helpers. These dipped peanut butter bananas are also a good introductory recipe.

A Parent's Guide to Cooking with Kids

Prepare ahead of time. Some kitchen tasks are just not appropriate for young children. If you can, try to have those things done before having the kids join you in the kitchen. Consider dicing, chopping, and butchering all necessary ingredients before you invite your little ones in to help. Make sure all the ingredients are handy once you get started so that your children are not waiting around as you gather mixing bowls and ingredients. We all know the attention span of kids is much shorter than adults and they need to remain stimulated throughout the process if you want to keep them interested.

Keep things interesting. Another way to inspire alertness and participation from children is to keep things interesting. Change up recipes, so your little ones aren't always helping with the same meal over and over. Experiment with flavors and textures. This is easy to implement even at the grocery store. Let your children pick a new fruit, grain, or vegetable and do some research on interesting ways to include it in your families diet. During the summer I let my kids pick new fruits like star fruit or dragon fruit, and when we come home, we sit down and taste it together.


Patience is key. I'm preaching to the choir here because having patience is a pretty obvious ingredient to parenting, but one of the things I really struggle with both in and out of the kitchen. Mistakes and messes will happen - remember that you are teaching your children a life skill, take a deep breath and try to fix what you can or improvise to make the most of a bad situation.

Have a backup plan. Keep a frozen pizza or some extra lunch meat available in case things don't go according to plan. Children are unpredictable, and you never know when they are going to dump the entire container of black pepper into the White Beans and Ham recipe instead of just a sprinkle. Opps!

The right equipment is essential. Certain items are beneficial if you want to be inclusive of little helpers in your kitchen. My boys both love to wear aprons and I'm a big proponent of them since they help keep their clothes a little tidier. I like to make sure each one of my kids has their own unique spatula, and I try to use bowls with spouts so that it is easy to pour things from one bowl to the next. A small egg timer is nice to have around because it allows them to get a better understanding of timing and a thermometer is a must to teach them early the healthy internal temperatures of various meats for safe consumption. Of all the tools and gadgets in my kitchen, my absolute favorite thing for cooking with kids is our kitchen caddie. It is a collapsible wooden contraption which the boys stand on so that they can easily reach the counter. Unlike a step stool or a kitchen chair, there are raised sides all the way around so that the kids are less likely to fall. We have the Guidecraft Kitchen Helper, and I swear by it.

Now that I've shared some of my secrets for cooking with kids, I'd love to know your favorite kid-friendly recipes. Please share recipe links in the comments below and let me know if you have any tips that I left out.

Be Blessed
Brittany
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August 15, 2017

Plan the Perfect Me-Day

Disclosure: "Plan the Perfect Me-Day" is a sponsored post from Red Dress Boutique, and I received compensation for publishing it. The opinions expressed in this post are not my own but I felt like their products align with my brand and I want to make sure I'm always keeping my readers updated on the latest trends in fashion, food, parenting techniques, and prayerful practices. I hope you enjoy! 

Plan the Perfect Me-Day with Red Dress Boutique

When it comes to crushing it, you are an expert. Emergency presentation at work to land a big client? On it. Last minute babysitter when your sister goes into labor? Have crayons, will travel. Best gal pal caught her no-good-BF texting with another girl? You’re the first one there with a bottle of Prosecco and a download of Lemonade (not to mention the baseball bat in your trunk).

You’ve been busting that cute little booty so hard doing everything for others that you hardly make time for you. Don’t worry, girl, we got you. Sit down, relax and open up that Google calendar (as if it’s ever closed). It’s time to schedule some much deserved ‘Me Time’ to regroup, recharge and rest that beautiful soul of yours. Check out our list of ideas for the Perfect Me-Day and claim some time for you.

1. Nailed It

Plan the Perfect Me-Day with Red Dress Boutique

It’s not easy clawing your way to the top – and it’s definitely no picnic on your cuticles. Take a time out from your corporate climbing and schedule yourself a mani-pedi at your favorite nail salon.

Fight the urge to go basic on color. This is your day, and you are feeling fun, flirty and adventurous. Try a poppy pink or neon blue for a change of pace and wear your cutest romper and comfortable (yet chic) sandals to complete your now uber-fun look. Not sure if you should spend the extra bucks for the paraffin wrap and extra foot massage? Girlfriend, yes. The answer is always yes.

2. Garden Party
Use your day off from the hustle and bustle to take in the beauty of nature at your local arboretum or botanical garden. The peace and quiet of the gardens will rejuvenate your soul, and all of the gorgeous plants and flowers will make an excellent backdrop for your selfie pic portfolio. Wear something equally beautiful like a trendy floral print dress and enjoy the inevitable compliments (and new Instagram followers).

3. Namaste
With a life as busy as yours, it’s important to remain flexible. So put down your iPhone and pull on your favorite (and cutest) black leggings for some serious yoga therapy. You may be a slayer in the boardroom, but your warrior pose could use some serious work.

4. Take in a Double Feature
Life’s been a bit bumpy lately, but there’s no doubt in our mind you’ll get your happily ever after eventually. Until then, however, there’s no shame in living vicariously through the silver screen for a little cathartic retreat.

Slip into something more comfortable, like anything from the always stylish and comfortable brand Everly, and take in a movie marathon at your favorite theater. There’s no better date than Y-O-U, and you don’t have to worry about sharing the popcorn.

5. Table for One
Lose yourself in fantasy during your much needed R&R with a tasty lunch for one and the company of a good book. If you’re a little nervous about dining alone at a restaurant, pick a place with lunch time bar seating or a patio with a view. There’s no need to be self-conscious when you treat yourself to a nice meal. After all, in a sexy jumpsuit like this, we’re pretty sure you won’t be dining solo for long.
6. Beat the Heat with a Summer Treat
Enjoy the summer being a tourist in your own town. Put on your biggest sun hat and your favorite summer outfit and pretend like you’re on vacation for the day. Walk downtown, shop for cheesy souvenirs and definitely (definitely!) get yourself some ice cream.

7. Catch Some Rays
Plan the Perfect Me-Day with Red Dress Boutique

We’d be bad friends if we didn’t tell you to make time for a beach day or two this summer. And a beach day all to yourself – well, that’s just about heaven. Pack light for this easy breezy day of relaxation. Just your favorite two piece, a towel, and some SPF will do.

If beaches aren’t your thing (or not an option – sigh) then you can easily have just as much fun at a pool. Either way, do your best to catch some rays this summer, and we’re sure your daily stresses will quickly fade.

8. Spa Day
The most obvious Me-Day of them all is a good old fashioned spa day. It may not be the most creative way to get some time to yourself, but it is certainly the most relaxing.

Schedule yourself a massage/facial/seaweed wrap/sugar scrub and take full advantage of the ‘quiet please’ policies to get the most out of your day of solitude. After a day like this, you’ll come out looking like a million bucks and ready to rock a smoking hot maxi dress to wherever (or whoever) the night takes you.  

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How do you find time to unwind and refresh your mind, body, and spirit? Are there any pieces you're loving from Red Dress Boutique?


Be Blessed,
Brittany
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August 9, 2017

Elmo Birthday Party

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post, Elmo Birthday Party, are affiliate links, and I will receive a small commission if you click on one of those links and make a purchase, but that comes at no cost to you. 

It seems almost impossible to believe that my youngest is now a two-year-old. He has brought so much love and light to our family, and it feels like he's been with us since before I can remember. He is such a natural extension of our family and the perfect addition. My little guy is always smiling and is incredibly laid back. He loves doggies and choo choos and most of all, Elmo. So it was only natural that we hosted an Elmo birthday party to celebrate him turning two. 

After scanning Pinterest and the rest of the interweb for Elmo birthday party ideas and inspiration, I was able to put together some relatively simple party favors and decorations to enhance the Sesame Street theme. You can check out my Elmo Birthday Party Pinterest board here or just keep scrolling to see some of the actual decorations.

Overall, the party was a big hit with the kids, and my little guy had a fantastic time. Even though he is not normally one to relish in the spotlight, he loved that everyone was singing happy birthday to him and he loved being surrounded by his favorite character, Elmo.

Elmo Birthday Party - Sunny days ahead sideway chalk

When guests arrived, they were greeted by balloons on the mailbox and some sidewalk chalk paint, similar to the chalk drawings at the beginning of each Sesame Street episode.

Elmo Birthday Party - Elmo head decoration made with red fiber and a styrofoam ball

A little trip up and down the aisles of the craft store, lead to the inspiration for this Elmo head. This is simply a styrofoam ball covered in red fibers. I used styrofoam glue to attach the fibers. The eyes are large google craft eyes and the nose was created from an everyday drink koozie - talk about being resourceful. Then I simply inserted a dowel rod so it would stand upright. 

Elmo Birthday Party - Sesame Street Tow Truck Sheet Cake from Publix

I purchased a quarter-sized Sesame Street Tow Truck sheet cake from Publix and added these Elmo candles. I love that the decorations are real toys so the kids can play with them long after the cake is gone and the party is over. 

Elmo Birthday Party - Red Balloon Wreath

This wreath was made of red balloons and another orange koozie nose and google eyes. I used a hot glue gun to adhere all the materials to a straw wreath form. 

The party favors were my favorite. I made two different takeaways, Cookie Monster Oreo packets and individual Dorothy fish bowls. 

Elmo Birthday Party - Cookie Monster Oreo Favors

Elmo Birthday Party - Dorothy Fish Favors
The Dorothy favors are small mason jars filled with blue jelly beans in two separate tones. I put one goldfish snack in each jar to represent Dorothy. The big fishbowl is filled with blue fish tank rocks. I found a goldfish image online which I printed out and taped to a dowel rod. The Dorothy sign can printable can be found below, and I also taped that to a dowel rod. 

Click here for free printouts of Dorothy sign, cookie monster heads, and bathroom signs. 

Elmo Birthday Party Ideas - sidewalk chalk, Dorothy fish favors, Cookie Monster Oreo favors, Elmo wreath and much more.

What are some of your best party-throwing tips?

Be Blessed,
Brittany
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August 4, 2017

A Season of Change

A Season of Change - One parent's reflection on approaching her child's first academic year.

My life seems to constantly be in flux, always moving, changing, and evolving. Every morning feels the same until I reflect back on it at the end of the week and realize each one was completely different from the next. At bedtime, we read the same books over and over again until one day we don't and the book changes. I get lost in my busyness and become blind to these changes. The changes seem to happen gradually - one day I'm holding my infant, then he's walking, and before I can take a breath he is climbing stairs and writing his name. We've gone from diapers to pull-ups, to big boy underwear and I've managed to shield myself from the changes - never really breathing them in and acknowledging that change is just as much a resident in my home as any of the members who have a place at my kitchen table.

A calendar helps me count the days that tick by, and I sometimes stop and pause when a big event like a birthday or holiday bear down on me and remind me once more that this time with my children is ticking away. It's not often though that I sit down and capture my thoughts, but today there is a line in the sand, one I knew was approaching, but I've been too emotionally shut off to really grasp. Today is the last day of daycare for my oldest. Today marks the last day before he is considered a school-aged child.

After today I have one year of preschool, one of kindergarten, five of elementary school, three of middle, and four of high school. After today, our house is officially on a school schedule and I, like many other parents, will measure growth in academic years and summer vacations as opposed to vaccination visits and episodes of Sesame Street.

A Season of Change - One parent's reflection on approaching her child's first academic year.

Every parent warns you that time slips through your fingers and to cherish these moments - and I'll add to the choir, this is true. I've only been at this four and half years, but it feels like yesterday that I held my skinny, all-to-small premature baby and prayed with a conviction I've never known to allow him the opportunity to be a healthy, happy baby boy. And here he stands today, a beautiful product of my husband and I's efforts, of God's faithfulness, and of his powerful little will. He is a smart and vivacious little boy, who just wants a new backpack and some books to take to his new school. He has no idea of what lies ahead of him, and I'd be foolish to think I do either. We are on this journey together, and we are in a season of change.

Today, I'll likely shed a couple tears, have a glass of wine, and say an extra prayer but I'm determined to approach this new era with a joyful heart, knowing it has the potential to be even more fruitful. Now I just need to hold my breath and jump in.

A Season of Change - One parent's reflection on approaching her child's first academic year.

Cheers to all you parents who are facing a season of change. How are you managing the epic, but significant moments that push you and your family forward?

Be Blessed,
Brittany
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July 25, 2017

Cooking with Kids: Dipped Peanut Butter Bananas

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post, Cooking with Kids: Dipped Peanut Butter Bananas, are affiliate links, and I will receive a small commission if you click on one of those links and make a purchase. 

Cooking with Kids: Dipped Peanut Butter Bananas - topped with mini M&Ms, mini chocolate chips, and bacon. Easy summer treats that kids can help make. Plus they can be frozen if you want to make a lot ahead of time and save them for later.


Those who know me well, know that I enjoy spending time in the kitchen, especially with my little ones. My four-year-old has become accustomed to setting himself up so he can reach the counter to help pass, mix, and assemble whatever might be on the menu. He has made homemade noodles, meatloaf, tacos, sherbet, and many other culinary inventions. My one-year-old, on the other hand, loves to eat and could be metaphorically compared to a bull in a china shop when it comes to helping in the kitchen. He wants to get his hands dirty, but with unrefined motor skills, his presence always means I'll have more than a pint-sized cleanup after the meal is prepared. These differing abilities can be limiting if I want to cook with both my kids, so I am always trying to come up with fun ways we can all spend time together in the kitchen.

Pro tip: If you have little ones in the kitchen this Guidecraft Kitchen Helper is an amazing way to support your little one and help them reach the counter (my youngest is in it below).

Cooking with Kids: Dipped Peanut Butter Bananas - topped with mini M&Ms, mini chocolate chips, and bacon. Easy summer treats that kids can help make. Plus they can be frozen if you want to make a lot ahead of time and save them for later.

I was recently thinking back on my college days in Memphis, and my mind wandered to Elvis and then seamlessly drifted to his favorite sandwich, the peanut butter, banana, and bacon sandwich because food is always on the forefront of my mind. I started to conceptualize different ways to recreate this unique sandwich and hence these Dipped Peanut Butter Bananas were born. This recipe is perfect for little chefs, and it is a go-to recipe for a rainy day activity.

Ingredients:

4 Bananas, peeled and cut in half
8 popsicle sticks
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 pieces of bacon, chopped
1/4 - 1/2 cup pecan pieces
1/4 - 1/2 cup mini M&Ms
1/4 - 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preparation Instructions:
Put one popsicle stick in the cut end of each of the bananas. Spread peanut butter over half of each banana.

Cooking with Kids: Dipped Peanut Butter Bananas - topped with mini M&Ms, mini chocolate chips, and bacon. Easy summer treats that kids can help make. Plus they can be frozen if you want to make a lot ahead of time and save them for later.


Put the bacon, pecans, mini M&Ms, and the mini chocolate chips each on their own separate paper plate.

Cooking with Kids: Dipped Peanut Butter Bananas - topped with mini M&Ms, mini chocolate chips, and bacon. Easy summer treats that kids can help make. Plus they can be frozen if you want to make a lot ahead of time and save them for later.

Now is when the fun begins, let your kids roll the bananas in the toppings of their choice.

Cooking with Kids: Dipped Peanut Butter Bananas - topped with mini M&Ms, mini chocolate chips, and bacon. Easy summer treats that kids can help make. Plus they can be frozen if you want to make a lot ahead of time and save them for later.

The toppings should stick to the peanut butter on the bananas and viola, you're done. These make beautiful, colorful treats and they can be frozen to help them last longer. Dipped Peanut Butter Bananas make are a healthier dessert option, and they can be customized for the most discerning palate. 

Cooking with Kids: Dipped Peanut Butter Bananas - topped with mini M&Ms, mini chocolate chips, and bacon. Easy summer treats that kids can help make. Plus they can be frozen if you want to make a lot ahead of time and save them for later.

These kid-approved snacks are a unique recipe which allows me to spend quality time in the kitchen with both my boys. What are some of your favorite recipes for cooking with kids? 

Cooking with Kids: Dipped Peanut Butter Bananas - topped with mini M&Ms, mini chocolate chips, and bacon. Easy summer treats that kids can help make. Plus they can be frozen if you want to make a lot ahead of time and save them for later.

Click here more mouth-water recipes.

Be Blessed,
Brittany
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July 18, 2017

The Hiding Place - Book Review

Disclosure: Some of the links in this review of The Hiding Place are affiliate links, and I will receive a small commission if you click on one of those links and make a purchase, but this at no cost to you and all opinions are my own.


The Hiding Place The Triumphant True Story of Corrie Ten Boom

Over a year ago I posted a review of some of my favorite World War II Page Turners, and it was shortly after that, a follower suggested a book called, "The Hiding Place" by Corrie Ten Boom with Elizabeth and John Sherrill. Since I always come back to World War II novels, I added the book to my must-read list, where it sat for far too long. I finally decided to read the true story of a Dutch spinster turned Jewish sympathizer and later concentration camp survivor when I downloaded "The Hiding Place" on my Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

Corrie Ten Boom and her sister Betsie Ten Boom were among the hundreds of thousands of prisoners detained in the Ravensbrück women's concentration camp during World War II. The difference between the Ten Booms and most of the other inmates was apparent as the story unfolded. The Ten Booms were devout Christian women. Their faith poured over into their every action, not withstanding the time they prayed for the Lord to use them to protect his sheep. Shortly, after that Corrie found herself at the center of the Dutch underground, working diligently to aid in the protection of Jews and young Dutch men. Little did the Ten Booms know they too would soon be hiding fugitive Jews in their home.

The Hiding Place The Triumphant True Story of Corrie Ten Boom

The middle-aged, unmarried sisters learned to be living examples of their devote faith from their Father. He would read aloud from his Bible daily for anyone who would listen, including his family and the employees of his small watch shop. His son Willem also developed a vigorous and unwavering faith, and he grew to become a pastor, and he ran a nursing home where he helped protect the feeble-minded and old of age. The entire Ten Boom family was convinced that their faith and love of Christ meant that they were to be his tools. Their actions were driven by a mission to bring the Word of God to all how would listen.

Throughout the story, there are several instances of miracles described which can only be attributed to God's glory and faithfulness. It was in one the darkest places, and during such a tumultuous and terrible time, that the Ten Boom women were living witnesses to God's promise of faithfulness and love. They were able to hide a bible in the concentration camp and read to the other women, who desperately yearned for the promise of better days and an ever-faithful and loving God.

As a modern Christian, this book is full of practical takeaways. I was most moved by the Ten Booms ability to see every situation as an opportunity to minister the Word of God and how their faith in Him kept their spirits lively in the darkest of circumstances. However, the most profound lesson was told through Betsie's story; it was her incredible love for the enemy and her constant prayers for their change of heart that I found most moving. In the mists of the most inhumane treatment, Betsie prayed for her captors.

This true story ends with a lasting legacy when Corrie Ten Boom is released from the concentration camp and later starts and runs rehabilitation centers for those affected by the war. This outreach was a dream she and Betsie shared during their quiet moments together in the concentration camp, and their mission helped hundreds of battered souls regain their place in society.

If you are a lover of WWII novels, nonfiction, historical fiction, or Christian novels, this book is a must read. I give this one a hearty 4.5/5 stars.

What are you currently reading? Please share in the comments below so I can add it to my must-read list.

The Hiding Place The Triumphant True Story of Corrie Ten Boom


Be Blessed,
Brittany
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