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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Taste of Summer - Peanut Butter & Jelly Popsicles

As the heat is rising and it's finally starting to feel like summer, the blender gets more and more action at our house. We love to make smoothies with fresh and frozen berries, and whatever is left over goes straight into the popsicle mold. Not only is it a tasty healthy snack (or breakfast!) but it freezes even faster as it's cold and thick to begin with. In the spirit of impending summer, I'm sharing this post from last year, for peanut butter and jelly popsicles!

Making your own popsicles is fun and frugal - we love smoothies at the problem solvin house, and I always make big batch so there is extra for making into popsicles. When fruit isn't in season locally, frozen and canned fruit work wonderfully as well. We decided to mix things up a bit by adding peanut butter, and the results were delicious!

While peanut butter isn't something we want to overdo, the addition of some protein is nice and tasty. We call these peanut butter and jelly smoothies/pops. Everyone gets one small glass of smoothie and the extra gets poured into molds and become peanut butter and jelly pops. One added bonus to making smoothies into popsicles is that they freeze faster - every little bit helps when you have an anxious preschooler who can't wait to eat her frozen treats!

Recently I saw a tip about how to make spinach smoothies when you don't have a fancy blender - if you've seen it please let me know so I can give credit. Basically you want to add the spinach and liquid and let it mash up for a bit before adding anything else. Here is a good basic spinach smoothie recipe, though we have to omit the yogurt for now since I'm dairy free. We add spinach anytime there is some in the house. It works well with any fruit combination and adds a subtle flavor without being overpowering. Sweetpea loves the bright green color and mama loves the added nutrition. We come up with seasonal names for the spinach mash that starts out each smoothie - it's been leprechaun juice and is now spring green power juice!

*Edited to include one of our favorite veggie PB&J combinations*
I had a few requests for specifics, so here is one of our favorites. My recommendation if you're new to smoothies is to start here and adjust to your taste. Plain yogurt is great in smoothies too, though this recipe doesn't include it.

PB&J Fruit and Veggie Smoothie

2 handfuls of washed baby spinach
1 cup 100% fruit juice
1-1/2 cups frozen strawberries
1 banana
1 cup watermelon, cubed
1/2 cup peanut butter

We have successfully used spinach, kale and cabbage in smoothies, and by successfully, I mean my kids love them. The trick is to put the greens in the blender with all of the juice and blend together for a minute or two until the greens are well blended. Once that is done, we add the banana and watermelon and mix some more, then the frozen strawberries. Once the berries are blended in (you won't hear them knocking around in the blender anymore when they are well incorporated) we add the peanut butter. One more good blend and they are ready to serve as smoothies or pour into popsicle molds and freeze. This amount will make 6-8 popsicles depending on the size of your molds. I find a smaller batch like this works well with the greens and peanut butter, so when we are having smoothies and want extra to freeze I make two batches one right after the other.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Many Blessings, Big and Small

The fabulous Miss Kate took time out before having her precious little boy to take some pictures of my girls with their great grandparents. Each time I look at this picture, the breath catches a little bit in my throat. So much love- I am so blessed!

As the girls have grown quite a bit while I've been neglecting things here, I'll share several more of these pictures soon, but I think this one stands alone, don't you? :)

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Splash Madness with Nakano

You may recall me posting about Nakano Rice Vinegar previously - one of the keys to healthy cooking is bold flavor - a splash of Nakano vinegar adds flavor without fat or preservatives, and compliments the natural flavor of food without overpowering it. I love that their flavored vinegars have half the sodium of competitive brands as well! In addition to offering flavor to your food this spring, the folks at Nakano are offering you a chance to win a new refrigerator with their Splash Madness campaign!

To enter, like the NAKANO Facebook page and enter a favorite splash tip for using NAKANO's Seasoned Rice Vinegars. Here are some examples of splash tips, and here are some recipes using Nakano vinegar from the website if you need some inspiration. (as if the thought of a new refrigerator isn't inspiring enough?)

More contest details:

The sweepstakes ends on 5/17/11

Click here to enter - first you will like Nakano on facebook, and then there is a short sweepstakes form to fill out, including a “splash tip” (a tip on about how you “Splash On” Nakano rice wine vinegars to add flavor to your meals)

Grand Prize~New, top of the line refrigerator

Second Prize~ Juicer or Blender

Third Prize~Selection of Nakano Vinegars plus a cooking accessory (i.e. garlic press or lemon zester)

Limit one (1) Entry per person and/or email address per day. Full contest rules can be found here.

Good Luck, and happy splashing!

Disclosure: Nakano provided compensation for this post. As always, all opinions are my own. For more information, see my disclosure policy.

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Monday, May 9, 2011

5 fun ways to practice counting and number recognition

We've been working on number recognition through play lately - and Sweetpea is really learning! I'm not sure she would tell you we've been practicing, but I hope that she would tell you we've been having fun.

Here are some of the games we've been playing:

Hopscotch: good for muscle control and coordination, added a step where we say the number our rock lands on. Another option is to choose the number you're going to try and land on.

Go Fish: I found some fairy playing cards in the dollar spot at Target and Sweetpea was so excited to play with them! We played the first few weeks with an "open hand" where we could see each other's cards and talk about which cards were matching, and what numbers were on each card. We are now to the point where we don't look at each other's cards, and only occasionally will she ask me to confirm a number.

Memory: We made our own cards for this, which was a fun project I'll share soon. I love memory for practicing any number of concepts in addition to card location - colors, numbers, words, patterns, etc.

Board Games: Our favorite for practicing numbers is The LadyBug Game. Here are some things I love about it - first, the number is printed big and bold on the card, and below there are the same number of squares (or aphids, depending on the type of card) so while kids are learning to associate numbers with counting they can count if they need to. Also, there are several entertaining characters in the game- ladybugs, aphids and a praying mantis. Sweetpea wanted to learn more about them, so we did some investigating online. Now when we see ladybugs, praying mantis and aphids in the yard or garden she recognizes them and we can talk about what we learned!

Taking advantage of everyday opportunities to count and identify numbers: obviously it's possible to overdo this, but when we are looking at signs, birds, flowers, etc or reading books I encourage Sweetpea to count the number of various things and to identify numbers.

How do you practice counting and number recognition? I'd love to hear what's working for you!

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