Semi-healthy brownie cookie bites

brownie cookie bites

I was really craving something deliciously chocolate-y the other day but didn’t want all that butter, sugar, and fat. And I wasn’t sure if I wanted cookies or brownies (yeah, I’m indecisive) so decided to combine the two with an egg-free and semi-healthy recipe that totally took care of my chocolate craving. And this recipe is so easy your kid can make it. Really. Mine basically did.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon applesauce

1 tablespoon plain yogurt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup sugar

Dash of salt

1/2 cup flour (you could use whole wheat or half white and half wheat)

1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup milk chocolate chips (optional – or you can swap with carob chips)

Directions

Measure and add all the ingredients to a mixing bowl and stir until incorporated. While you are getting things ready, preheat your oven to 350˚ F and line an 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread, creating a nice and even layer of goodness. When your oven is ready toss the brownie cookie bites into the oven. For really fudgy bites, bake for 12 minutes. For a crisper crust, and a nicely set brownie cookie, leave in the oven for around 18 minutes, which what I did. Remove and let come to room temperature before even touching them.

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These bake wonderfully, but if you try to cut them right now, they’ll be a big melty mess. Yes, a big melty mess is still wonderfully tasty, but your brownie cookie bites will resemble a warm baked pudding more than a crisp and gooey brownie cookie bite if you cut them fresh from the oven. After around 30 minutes, remove from the pan with the help of the parchment paper and cut into small squares.

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Depending on how big you like your brownie cookies will decide how many you get from the pan. I think we cut around 20, but ate at least four right away. I’ve experimented with healthy brownies in the past, and these totally won out on flavor and gooey factor. And you can make them even healthier by using whole wheat flour and swapping a banana for the veggie oil (they just might be a bit denser with a touch of a nana tang).

 

Lemon egg prints

lemon eggs art

We haven’t really gotten into the whole Easter thing. Our little one isn’t begging for candy-filled baskets or mentioned the Easter bunny yet, so we’re kind of going with it. But I did have a bit of inspiration for an egg-ish art activity using my daughter’s new favorite thing — lemons. After making those tuna cakes, she’s been begging for slices of lemon to nibble on.

This is a simple project that introduces kids to pastels and ovals while creating lemon egg shapes, perfect for decorating during the Easter season. Instead of cutting the lemon in half through the middle, cut lengthwise and then trim to create an oval shape.

lemon eggs

Fold a sheet of paper towel in half, and then in half again, and select a few bright colors of tempera paint with your child for the activity. Squeeze a few big dabs of each color on the paper towel along with a big blob of white paint. Older kids can use a paintbrush to coat the lemon sides with paint while younger tots can simple press the lemon into the paint. While your child is painting, you can chat about all the different things that are oval, like eggs, lemons, footballs…

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Now your child can press the lemon egg on her paper and see what it looks like. For the next coat, encourage your child to paint or press the lemon with white paint to see how it changes its color.

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Keep painting and printing until you’ve got a paper full of pastel colored egg shapes. Once dry, find the perfect spot to display the finished creation.

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And we couldn’t resist a few slices of fresh (unpainted) lemon slices once we were all done with our artwork.
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Celebrate National Pi Day with, um, well, PIE!

Marie Callender's

In celebration of National Pi Day, which falls on March 14th, why not celebrate with the kind you can eat – pie from Marie Callender’s! I love pie, and realized my tot hasn’t experienced the wonders of slicing a fresh piece from a perfectly round perfection. And because Pi is all about numbers, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to learn about basic math while eating something delicious. And sweet pies from Marie Callender’s are made from real ingredients. Really. I had my eye on a chocolate satin mini pie, which was the perfect size for the delicious math activity I had in mind. And if you’re looking for other party ideas, recipes, or how-to’s, check out Marie Callender’s blog.

-keep reading for our tasty math activity and how to get our Marie Callender’s coupon!

The Steakhouse Grill & Bar at Deer Park Villa

It was my husband’s birthday over a month ago and we just never really got around to doing anything about it. We were down south, and while enjoying some time with family, had hopes of going out for dinner on our own one night, but it just didn’t happen. So when we received a generous coupon from the Steakhouse Grill & Bar at Deer Park Villa in Fairfax, California (buy one entree, get one free!) in recognition of his special day, we wanted to make sure to take advantage of it. But, you know, life happens and, before we knew it, the expiration date was the next day. We called to make reservations, checked if they were kid-friendly, and decided to give it a try.

I’ve driven by this place several times and always thought it was a private club or hoity-toity steak house. But, upon arrival, we were drawn into the restaurant by the beautiful grove of redwoods and lovely landscaping.

Steakhouse Grill and Bar at Deer Park Villa1
Steakhouse Grill and Bar at Deer Park Villa2

We chose to sit out on the deck and were walked through the brightly-lit and jovial bar to the outdoor patio area, which was covered for the season. We sat under a wonderfully warm heat lamp and were then left to peruse the menu.

Steakhouse Grill and Bar at Deer Park Villa3

Since the place is a steak house we obviously opted for steak and then sat sipping adult drinks while the tot enjoyed some fresh bread and listened to a guy quietly playing acoustic guitar in the corner. Our waiter was attentive and friendly, even as the dinning area began to fill. We ordered macaroni and cheese for our daughter as soon as we sat down and it was delivered to the table within 10 minutes. And it was wonderfully homemade and seriously ooey-gooey. Our steaks arrived not long after she had become engrossed in her dinner.

I’d love to share pictures of our dinners, but I learned something very interesting while documenting this tasty meal.

Steaks don’t photograph well in low-light.

You’ll just have to believe me. The steaks were delicious. Not just “good” delicious — they were the best-steak-you’ve-ever-eaten delicious. Perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked, and not hidden under sauces, wrapped in bacon, or topped with butter. These steaks were simply the best.

So good.

The dinner was finished with a big scoop of ice cream that came with our tot’s meal, and, by the time the last bit was licked from the bowl, we had enjoyed a fantastic family dinner at a fancy restaurant that lasted just about an hour and a half!

I’ll be honest, if we hadn’t have received the buy-one get-one coupon, we probably wouldn’t have ever checked the restaurant out. The steaks are delicious and the service is awesome, and you’re looking at $10 to $30+ per person for dinner entrees, which means there’s something for every taste. The kid menu was priced very resonably and offered pastas, burgers, and grilled cheese. And what’s awesome is the Steakhouse Grill & Bar has a tasty half-pound Angus cheeseburger that is amazingly priced under $10.

We look forward to eating at the Steakhouse Grill & Bar again sometime soon — and not waiting for a special day as a reason. We’re saving up to head back simply because the food was awesome, the ambiance fantastic, and it’s totally worth it.

*Just so you know, I wasn’t compensated to write this review. I did it because I really enjoyed eating at this restaurant.

Homemade egg noodle ravioli

egg ravioli

While pondering this month’s Shine Supper Club challenge (eggs!) my mind kept wandering to soft and delicate ravioli. I love making homemade pasta, and do it often, and those eggs are the shining ingredient. You just can’t make tasty pasta without eggs. Really. You can’t. And no need for a pasta maker to roll out this easy recipe. This dough comes together quickly, with a rolling pin doing the majority of the work.

Ingredients

For the dough:

1 1/2 cup flour

2 eggs

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon sugar

For the filling:

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 clove garlic

Pinch of salt and pepper

Directions

I like to measure and add the flour directly to my counter top and then make an indentation in the center. After sprinkling in the salt and sugar, crack the eggs right into the center. But if you’re not into making a big mess, you can totally make your dough in a bowl. Use your fingers to slowly mix the eggs and flour together until it forms a ball.

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Spend a couple of minutes kneading the dough, adding flour if things get sticky. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 20 minutes to rest. While your waiting for the dough to chill, mix together the cheese filling.

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Sprinkle your work surface with flour and cut off about one fourth of the pasta dough from the round. Now start rolling until the dough is as thin as you can get it.

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You want the section of dough to be long and wide to create the ravioli. Place a small scoop, about one half a teaspoon, of the cheese filling along one of the edges of the dough, leaving about an inch between scoops.

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Brush a bit of water around each dollop of filling…

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and then fold over the dough, pressing between each round to seal the pasta.

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Use a pizza cuter to cut around out the ravioli, reserving the leftover bits of pasta dough.

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Use a fork to crimp the edges of the ravioli, helping to seal the pasta, keeping that delicious filling where it belongs.

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Place the finished ravioli on a flour-dusted plate while you continue rolling ravioli. When you’re ready, bring a stockpot of salted water to a boil. Pop a few in the water and let simmer for four to five minutes. Remove and serve with your favorite sauce.

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It’s that simple! I’d love to tell you how many ravioli you get out of this recipe, but I lost count. And if you get tired of rolling, simply wrap the pasta dough in plastic wrap and pop in the fridge for another day.

 

 

Look what I made! The (what is that?) preschematic stage of art

preschematic stage of art

At some point your tot’s scribbles turn into something more. They aren’t totally random loops and marks that mix together into a crazed collection of who knows what. My daughter just turned four and she’s finally making the progression into the preschematic stage of art. Emerging from that scribbling during her first few years of art creation are forms, somewhat realistic images, and stuff that actually makes sense when she tells me about her pictures. Yes, there are still going to be delicate moments when you have no idea what is on your child’s paper, but, before you know it, she’ll be seriously focused on details and recreating what she sees around her, also known as the schematic stage of art — or the “dramatic” stage of art. Kids sometimes get a bit frustrated during this time in their budding lives when things don’t turn out exactly how they would like it. But that is a post for the future.

The minute my daughter started actually drawing stuff, I new it was time to offer her lots of praise and encourage her creativity without any judgement. This is an exciting time for little ones, and allowing for exploration is essential. Instead of trying to corral the new talent, take a step back, asking questions later. Leading art activities offers your child new ways of looking at creating, but remember to keep your hands off — and your comments to yourself. I remember a kindergarten student of the past whom had spent a whole class period drawing a picture of a vase of flowers, very loosely based on a Van Gough art lesson. He was so excited about his very colorful collection of buds at the end of the lesson. Sure, there wasn’t much there other than several random circles and lots and lots of green and brown vertical lines, but he was PROUD of it. While beaming and showing it to his classroom teacher at the end of art class, she commented that it “needed a bit of work,” and that, “maybe next time it would turn out better.”

I was crushed.

I’m sure he was too.

This is a precious time for little kids, and most hit this sweet spot around three to four years of age. This creative stage of art lasts until kids turn seven, or even eight, or nine. There’s no definite timeline, and each kid is different. But it’s a great opportunity to do some encouraging preschematic art activities with your child that will hone her budding skills while giving her the opportunity to be creative.

One of my favorites is drawing flowers in a vase. We happened to have several bouquets around the house that were ready for the trash. I popped a few blossoms in a small vase alongside a small potted plant for inspiration. Then I offered my tot a selection of oil pastels. Using oil pastels instead of crayons allows your child to explore using something other than crayons or markers, and they make really vivid dark lines that work perfect for the next step. Without offering your child too much direction, talk about the parts of the flower and what shapes they resemble, while encouraging your child to just draw the outlines of the flowers.

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Once your little one is happy with her flowers (and vase if she’s interested), swap the oil pastels for watercolor paints. If your child is still getting used to dipping and painting, run a drizzle of water over the paints, which will wet them slightly, making it easier to paint. Now your child can start painting the flowers, staying in — or out — of the lines. Let your child make the decisions when selecting the colors for the flowers, if there’s a background, or any other details for finishing the painting.

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When your child is finished, ask her if she would like to tell you anything about her creation. Hey, she might just tell you that it’s a vase of pretty flowers. But if she goes into detail, take a few notes and later, once the paint has dried, you can write all the special things she had to say on the back of her artwork.

Find the perfect spot to display your child’s artwork so she knows you think she’s a fantastic artist.

preschematic art