Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Delicious High Protein, Whole Grain Banana Pancakes

I'd have to say that these are probably the best healthy pancakes I have ever had. I've had better pancakes, but of course they are the fatty, creamy buttermilk kind topped with all sorts of stuff not so good for you (i.e. syrup). Most healthy pancakes I find to be on the drier side and even sometimes bitter tasting. I love honey whole wheat pancakes, but they still need a dose of syrup on top to make me happy. Well, these pancakes I could eat with nothing on top (although a tad of syrup would only add to the goodness). If you don't like bananas, these won't be for you. While I used skim milk for these, it would be very easy to make them vegan by using a plain or even vanilla soy milk instead (or possibly rice or almond milk as well).

- 4 ripe bananas, mashed
- 2 cups of oat flour
- 1/4 cup soy flour
- 1/2 cup wheat bran
- 2 TBS ground flaxmeal
- 1 1/4 cups of milk (if you like you batter thinner, add a little more milk as mine was super thick)
- 2 TBS olive oil

Mix everything until just wet and cook. Yum! I undercooked mine slightly so that I could freeze them and reheat later without drying them out. Since there are no eggs, there is no worry about eating them undercooked anyway!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Shutterfly Yearbook Reminder

Hello Mom's and Dad's of school kids. I know there are a lot of you out there now! Big Monkey and Baby Monkey are both now "officially" in school, even though that all takes place in our pjs in my home office. I know most of Big Monkeys peers have also begun school and even some of Baby Monkeys peers are now in preschool (how did he get old enough to have preschool friends already??) Sniff...

Since it is a new school year, I wanted to send out a reminder that shutterfly has some wonderful yearbook style photobooks available. I provided a full review on these books back in March. You can find those details just a little ways down this page. The new blog organization makes finding information so much easier now, doesn't it?

With this reminder I got to wondering, do preschools offer "yearbooks" the same way that elementary schools and high schools do? Wait, do elementary schools even offer a year book any more? If not and your a PTA parent, maybe a shutterfly yearbook could be a suggestion for your child's project. Shutterfly has prices as low as $5 on these books, so that would be a small amount for a class to "fundraise" or even have parents contribute for. The Shutterfly interface is easy enough to use too that parent volunteers could put together the books. Just a thought and idea.

Shutterfly is sponsoring my post with some incentives, but I would not post about a company in "My favorite things" if I didn't really love them. This company has been nothing but good to me, and I will continue to order a photo book for each of my monkeys each year (it's their year in summary photo album). I think this year Christmas is going to involve a few other Shutterfly books and products for gifts as well. That's about all I can say to keep from spoiling any presents.

It looks like Shutterfly has expanded the places where you can follow them to find out about new products, deals, and more. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram (Shutterfly), Google +, or their blog.

Happy Shopping!

Baby Gizmo Carseat Giveaway and Carseat Safety Tips!

So I'd have to say that my Britax Blvd carseats are some of my favorite things. I've owned 2 different Britax Blvds and a Britax Diplomat. The Britax Diplomat was great for the compact backseat of Daddy Monkeys car, but has already been outgrown by both monkey babies. Well, Baby Monkey could still fit in it forward facing, but we are an extended rear facing family and Baby Monkey will remain rearfacing until age 4 years if I can find seats that fit him rearfacing that long (he's a big boy). I also own a classic blvd and the new Britax Blvd 70 G3. I LOVE the new G3 seats. They have a great rearfacing limits and Big Monkey can still rearface! They will also fit him well forward facing for a long time once we get to that (he is also still rearfacing as he is not yet 4 and he may not get to turn around at 4 either, we'll see). In addition, the new seats have such deep sides, and I LOVE that extra protection in a side impact crash.

So when I heard that Baby Gizmo Company was giving away a new G3, I thought I'd share the information as well as enter myself, of course. I'd love to win and replace Baby Monkey's classic Blvd with a new G3 so he has the deeper side protection.

Beyond the contest though, this video that Baby Gizmo Company has released a video of carseat tips in honor of Child Passenger Safety Week! If you have a child in a carseat (basically, if your kid is under the age of 8, you qualify), check out this video and see if you learn anything new. If not, then hey, you're doing pretty good with your carseat safety knowledge!

Click here to read the Baby Gizmo's Blog!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Slow Cooker (or not so slow cooker) Potato Leek Soup

This is the best version of this soup that I have made to date, and it couldn't be more perfect! Why? Because it is versatile. Bacon lover? This soup is for you. Vegetarian? No problem. Vegan? Well, I've never tried making this vegan, but I think it could work. The first time I made this I made it in a pot and it worked well (took about an hour or so). Then I adapted it for the slow cooker, which is even better for my days chasing the Monkey boys. I've also premade this soup sans the milk ingredients, tossed it into a freezer bag, and put it in the freezer. Just defrost overnight and place in the slow cooker before starting your day.

This soup is creamy despite containing very little milk with a smokey bacon flavor and a slight peppery aftertaste. The peppery taste is from the leek, which basically looks like a green onion on steroids. I grew the leeks I used for this batch in my own garden, which was quite easy, but you can find leeks in pretty much any grocery store.

I prefer to use red new potatoes (large size) yukon golds because I like to leave the skins on for extra nutritional value and to cut out the step of peeling. Russets can be used as well, but I recommend peeling them first unless you enjoy a little grit in your soup.

I have genetically high cholesterol, which means I must strive every day to keep the saturated fat and cholesterol levels low in my diet (13mg of saturated fat for one day goes quickly). I have not been so good at sticking to this since getting pregnant with Big Monkey. My goal is to get back to that kind of healthy eating. So I used turkey bacon this time, but I really like the depth of flavor and saltiness that real bacon adds. For these same reasons I used half and half, although I should have just used nonfat or low fat milk like I have in the past. These milks provide a less creamy soup, but I usually just add a little less liquid and let the potato act as a natural thickener. It hasn't seemed to change the taste much in the past. You can also use heavy whipping cream for a thicker and creamier soup. Up to you.

Potato Leek Soup

- 8 large red new potatoes, washed and quartered
- 1 large leek (or 2 for more leek flavor), green parts sliced into thin ribbons (discard the white bottom)
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 a package of bacon of your choice, chopped into bits
- 1 cup half n half, heavy whipping cream, or milk

In a pan crisp the bacon. Add the leeks and cook with bacon until tender (just a few minutes). Add to crock pot. Add in potatoes and chicken stock. Cook on low for 8 hours (I'm sure you can cook on high for 4 hours, but I have not tried). When finished mash and stir potatoes in the crock pot and add the cream/milk. If you are using milk rather than a thicker cream, then add the milk slowly and stop when soup reaches the desired consistency (you're aiming for creamy and not watery). It may take less than a cup (I often cook by sight, so many of my measurements are approximate). Enjoy!

If you would rather cook this soup in a pot. Follow the directions above but simmer all ingredients except the milk for 45-60 minutes until the potatoes are soft and are starting to fall apart and make the soup thick. Then add the cream/milk and serve.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Blog Expansion

So I've decided to expand my blog because, lets face it, many of you are not all that excited by my wacky homepreschool ideas. Besides, most of my friends' kids are now in preschool, so there is less need for entertainment ideas. There will still be homeschooling posts, but I'm also going to include other things like my cooking successes (and sometimes failures), favorite things, stuff we've been up to, and anything else that comes up along this journey. Truthfully, I can only get so excited about photographing and writing about "prewriting" and "poke pages" so many times before I just want to sit back and enjoy what we're doing.

I'm guiding little monkeys through this life and that involves so much more than just education. Not to mention the fact that I need to work on my creative writing skills a little. My writing has become so "blah" (boring) in recent years (several years of training in scientific writing probably did not help any).

Very soon I'll be adding my first recipe post for my Slow Cooker (or not so slow cooker) Potato Leek Soup. Yum!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A new (and full) school year

Alright, so the truth is that we started our homepreschool journey last fall, but had to put everything on hold last January. Baby Monkey was just not at the right age to be able to be present and allow Big Monkey the attention he needed. He was just really good at destroying things. This year is going to be different, and it's going to be a full year!

Things have started out full, that's for sure We've actually been doing school for two weeks now, but there just hasn't been enough time to post anything. I'm hoping to be able to somehow keep up with at least a post a week, but we'll see how that goes.We wrapped up summer with a trip to the beach and local aquarium. The boys loved watching the wild seals, dolphins, and pelicans. Big Monkey and Baby Monkey really are turning into two peas in a pod.

A lot of the summer also consisted of some curriculum planning. I decided that this year Big Monkey would use the Letter of the Week Curriculum from Confessions of a Homeschooler. I bought her lesson plan and full set of worksheets for $10, and what a great deal! It comes with everything you need including a daily lesson plan. The reason why I had more work to do is my own fault. Her plan is based on a 5 day school week, but I really need a few days to do things like buy food and clean the monkey household. Overall school only takes us about 1.5 - 2 hours each day, but we use up the boys' best time of day for school on those days. So we settled on a 3 day school week - Monday, Wednesday, Friday. So far it's working great, although week 2 was adjusted to allow for the holiday and a Tuesday trip to the zoo. So instead, we did school on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Ahh, the flexibility of homeschool.

We're starting with vowels. So week 1 was A is for apple and week 2 was E is for elephant (hence, the zoo trip). Baby Monkey is quite the ham when I take out the camera. Big Monkey was placing building blocks on the letter A.

Baby Monkey has his own "curriculum" as well. I downloaded some Tot School Letter Printables from 1+1+1=1. We use the printables mostly for coloring and "cutting" (Baby Monkey holds the scissors, but usually resorts to just tearing the papers to bits), but there are a few sheets each week that have photos of various items/animals/etc... I am using these images to help Baby Monkey learn different words. He has a much smaller vocabulary than Big Monkey did at this age. He's also focusing mostly on gaining fine and gross motor control, sensory exploration, and color and shape recognition. I'm sure he'll pick up a lot more as he listens and imitates his brother. 

I broke down and spent a little more money and purchased some power magnets from amazon. These things are really cool! They are just magnets, but both boys think they are fun. We stick them to the circles on our magnet pages, but the boys also got a lesson in magnetism as they tried to find the "buddy" for each magnet so they would stick together.  

We attempted a rice sensory bin for the first week with a few problems. The bin contained some sweet black rice (it had been in the pantry too long), some hotwheels construction vehicles, 2 glass baby food jars with lids, a funnel, 2 ice cube trays, and some scoops. I put the bin on a towel, but I would recommend that a rice bin either be placed on a hard floor surface (I have it on the carpet here as I really wanted to run on the treadmill while they played) or a much much bigger blanket (the blanket I tried the second week was better, but still not big enough). I think I will forever be vacuuming rice out of our high pile carpet. Second problem - Big Monkey has some allergies as well as super sensitive skin, and for some reason the rice made him break out in hives from his neck to his forehead. Sigh, he was dosed with benadryl for the day after this...

Big Monkey tackled color by number this week and did a great job! He's even learning to color inside the lines. Baby Monkey scribbled some, but spent more time asking Mommy to color his page.

Big Monkey used Scrable letter tiles to match to lower and uppercase letters on our elephant letter page. He did pretty well, although he had a hard time identifying which little letter went with some of the big letters.

Baby Monkey enjoyed lining up the tiles like his brother was doing as well. Look at that concentration! This is how this kid works all the time. It amazes me.

Lacing Blocks...

Our second attempt at a rice sensory bin! I threw out the old stuff, washed the bin, and washed all the toys and supplies. I laid out a larger blanket and we tried again. I replaced the rice with brown rice that we regularly eat around here in hopes that since Big Monkey can eat it, he could also play in it. We lost a little less rice into the carpet and Big Monkey remained hive free! 

Next week is I is for inchworm!