Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Get Your Child Hooked on Spaghetti Squash

It is everything a toddler loves: it looks stringy like spaghetti, it has a great texture, and it is stiff and therefore easy to eat with a fork (or hands).

It is everything a mother loves: easy to prepare, nutritious, and kids love it.

Cut off both ends of the squash. Then cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and place both sides of squash inside down in a baking dish. Add enough water so squash is sitting in ½ inch of water. Cover with tin foil. Roast in 375 degree oven for 45 minutes, then turn squash over, cover, and roast another 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and scoop out “spaghetti” strands into bowl and serve.

You can also scoop “spaghetti” strands into a frying pan with butter. Add oregano and basil and toss – this is how I got my husband hooked on spaghetti squash. He now loves it and will eat it without the butter and herbs!

NOTE: this squash can be pureed into food for an infant or chopped finely for young toddlers.


if you have the oven on anyway - roast your butternut squash for tomorrow night (peel & cube squash, put in dish with some water, season with nutmeg and allspice) Mash as baby food before seasoning.

That is my spaghetti squash on top rack of oven & butternut squash roasting below it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

One more Earth Day post: rain barrels

Can I tell you how much I love my rain barrel? I was so excited when I got it last summer and MANY of my friends laughed, then asked if I was now allowing the hair to grow under my armpits (who ever said I was shaving it in the first place?!). Ha ha ha! Here is the bottom line on the rain barrel:

I have a 3 year old who loves to play with water. Need I say more? Hearing the hose run makes me crazy and half the time he wasn't playing with it anymore, but left it laying in the grass. Now, he has full access and I haven't spent a cent on the water. On top of that, he fills up buckets and waters my flowers, the garden, and of course his sandbox.

This is yet another fun, easy way to help your environment, save money, and simply make the world better for you kids!

P.S. Always supervise your child around water!

Friday, April 16, 2010

It's Earth Day - let's talk compost

Of course the Extraordinary Mother composts! Earth Day and every day.

Naturally we all recycle these days, but do you also reduce landfill waste by composting?!

Composting is one of the least expensive environmentally-friendly things you can do. It is simply the decomposition of plant remains and once-living materials (grass clippings, leaves, and food waste). This organic material breaks down and becomes soil (or in other words, compost). Mature compost can be applied to lawns and gardens to help condition the soil and replenish nutrients, improve the soil around trees and shrubs, and used as soil additive for house plants and planter boxes.

At the same time you are producing all this fabulous soil you are also making a significant reduction in waste to send to landfills. Yard trimmings and food waste make up 26 percent of the municipal solid waste stream in the United States. That's a lot of waste to send to landfills when it could become useful and environmentally beneficial compost instead!

So is this really that easy? Absolutely. Composting can be as easy as putting your leaves, food waste, and grass clippings in a pile on the ground in a convenient spot in your yard. If you would like to contain it you could build a simple cage around it (plywood & chicken wire). Of course there are those of us who do not want to look at the actual grass, leaves, and food waste while it decomposes (and our neighbors may not want to see it either) in which case there are quite a few composting bins on the market to choose from. Check out my recommendations (I use both types and prefer the bin to the tumbler).

So this is good for the environment, great for your lawn and garden, and is as easy as putting waste in a pile. However, you should only put certain waste into your compost and certain things you should definitely NOT put into your compost. First, the no-no’s: here is a pretty good list of what NOT to put in your compost pile and why:

NO – do NOT put in compost:
• Black walnut tree leaves or twigs - they release substances that might be harmful to plants
• Coal or charcoal ash – they might contain substances harmful to plants
• Dairy products (e.g., butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt) and eggs - because they create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
• Diseased or insect-ridden plants – they can be transferred back to other plants
• Fats, grease, lard, or oils – they create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
• Meat or fish bones and scraps – they create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
• Pet wastes (e.g., dog or cat feces, soiled cat litter) – they might contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses harmful to humans
• Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides – they might kill beneficial composting organisms

And here is a list of common items that you can compost:
• Cardboard rolls
• Clean paper
• Coffee grounds and filters
• Cotton rags
• Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
• Eggshells
• Fireplace ashes
• Fruits and vegetables
• Grass clippings
• Hay and straw
• Houseplants
• Leaves
• Nut shells
• Sawdust
• Shredded newspaper
• Tea bags
• Wood chips
• Wool rags
• Yard trimmings

For food waste I recommend getting a compost container for your kitchen. You can put your scraps into the container, then take them all out to the compost bin when it is filled. I also love using biodegradable liners – it makes cleaning up your kitchen container a breeze.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Where Babysmartees Leaves Off

I make it no secret that I own Babysmartees (t-shirts to enhance infant visual stimulation). The Babysmartees Blog is also mine and it has received quite a bit of recognition for the information regarding infant stimulation activities. But what happens when you no longer have an infant? When your baby becomes a toddler and can ask questions and is looking for answers. I say JUMP ON THOSE OPPORTUNITIES! Jump on them as fast as you possibly can.

For example, my son is beyond the learning of "head, shoulders, knees, and toes" not that the song and game aren't fun, but the evolution to that was his question "What's this?" and pointing to his elbow. And, "What's this?" and pointing to the back of his leg. And "What's this?" with his finger on his hip bone. So I thought a book on the musclular and skeletal sytem could help us out.

We started at the library and checked out a rather advanced book for a 3 year old - but it had pop-up pages, a page where you could hear the heart beating, and on the front of the book you pushed a button and there were twinkling lights around the brain. My son cannot get enough of it!! We look through that book every day - with his favorite part being the digestive system (mostly because it ends with going poop!)

However, he has also learned that his lungs fill with air when he inhales, that his skull is bone and protects his brain, and that blood is a good thing. His vocabulary now includes kidneys, liver, pancreas, esophagus, pupil, iris, lobule, and salivary gland (when else do you get to produce spit and your mother smiles!).

Oddly enough we still have not really focused on the muscular or skeletal system, so I have looked up some other books for that. Hope the recommendations help you too!

Here is the book my son just loves. I have returned the libary's book and bought him his own.

I have also purchased this book. It has a child's version of a child's skeletal system that you can hang up and is appropriate for a young mind. The booklet portion is good, but not appropriate for a toddler.

This is a coloring book. I wish it wasn't because the content is awesome for a young curious mind.

This book has two awesome charts in it. It is recommended for children 8 and up and that seems right. I may even buy it sooner if my son continues to show the same interest in the human body.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Unique Baby Shower Theme: Poker

Okay, I started something when a fellow tweeter was asking for baby shower theme ideas. I threw out there the theme of my baby shower, poker. Yes, it is true. At first I refused to have a baby shower at all, but my sister was insistent. I finally said okay on the following conditions: it cannot be a bunch of women spending an afternoon eating macaroni salad, having to make small-talk, and watching me open gifts then oohing and ahhing over them all. We came up with the poker/baby shower party.

The shower was held in the evening when dinner could be served. All of our poker buddies (my husband I played once a week back then) were invited plus family and other friends including husbands and children. My sister had a delicious menu, arranged activities for every age, and even helped me drive home a few guests who had a few too many. Now how many women can say they had to be a designated driver at their own baby shower! But who better than the woman who can't drink!

Here is a look at some of the fun:

Crab Quiche
Spinach Quiche
Broccoli Quiche
Clam chowder
Hot rolls
Green salad
Veggie platter
Chips and dip
Carrot cake


Onesies drying


The Kids

Playing Poker

Baby Bottle Beer Race
This simply does not translate trough photos - the poker players had to take a break and the first to suck all the beer out of these teeny tiny baby bottles won a prize. People were laughing until they cried!

Guess What's in the Diaper
(Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers, Peppermint Patty, Milky Way, Hershey Bar)

Oohing and Aahing Over Gifts

Monday, April 5, 2010

Homemade Fried Rice

This rice is so good that we make a LOT extra to enjoy the next day (and the day after that!). It is also healthy which is due to the "homemade" part - just some extra virgin olive oil, long grain brown rice, and lots of vegetables. . . oh yeah, and tofu!

Shopping List
Brown rice
Vegetables (carrots, broccoli, peas, onion, even a bag of frozen mixed vegetables) – thaw any frozen vegetables; chop veggies into small pieces
Firm tofu – cut into small pieces

Pantry Check
Extra virgin olive oil
Low sodium soy sauce
Ground ginger
Black pepper

Cook rice according to package instructions and then refrigerate. Cold rice works best. How much rice – well, we make enough for 6-8 servings so we have rice for dinner, lunch, and sometimes dinner again. Yes, we love this rice! Adjust your eggs, tofu, and vegetables amounts to the amount of rice you are cooking. Really, can you have too many vegetables??!! Or tofu??!!

Scramble eggs (usually 2-3) in 1tsp of olive oil. Remove from pan. Cut egg into small pieces.

Add 3tsp of olive oil to same pan and add rice and stir to coat with olive oil; add more olive oil if needed to coat rice. Keep heat low so rice does not burn. Sprinkle rice with soy sauce (I give the rice a good dousing!). Sprinkle with black pepper and ginger (I am pretty liberal with both spices).

Stir rice then begin adding vegetables. I add any fresh vegetables first because they take longer to cook. In fact I usually allow them to cook with the rice 5 minutes, covered. Next add any frozen vegetables and finally add tofu and egg. Stir, mix, have a taste, adjust seasoning if necessary and serve!

TIP: If you find your rice is burning 1) lower the heat 2) add a little water to the pan.

Serve with a salad! So good. So healthy.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Easter Brunch - Quiche, Soup & Salad

Spinach or broccoli quiche, carrot soup (naturally), and salad.

Of course this is easy! Simple recipes are The Extraordinary Mother's way. But you can also impress your guests - or at least treat yourself to extraordinary, delicious, healthy meals!


Shopping List
3 Eggs
1 cup cream (you may use half n half)
8oz Swiss cheese (cheddar may be substituted – taste will be milder)
1pkg frozen spinach (or broccoli)
1 frozen pie shell

Pantry Check
Black pepper

Thaw and drain spinach (or broccoli). Chop then sauté onion in butter. In a small bowl combine flour and cheese. In a larger bowl beat eggs then add cream and dash of pepper. Add cheese mixture, onion, and vegetable. Mix well. Pour into pie crust. Bake at 350F for 1 hour. Yes, it IS that easy! Let me know if your guests don’t keep asking you, “You really made this yourself?”

Carrot Soup

Shopping List
2 Apples
Carrots (4 carrots minimum, I use more for a thicker soup)
1 cup white wine
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth

Pantry Check
Black pepper
Ground ginger

The great thing about soup is there is just chopping, cooking, and then pureeing. Easy as pie? No, easier! Also, everything is made in one pot, so choose one big enough and begin by melting TBSP of butter in saucepan. Sauté chopped onion and garlic. Add chopped apple and carrot and sauté about 4 minutes). Add wine and broth. Bring to boil then reduce to a simmer. Sprinkle soup with pepper and ginger and simmer 20 minutes.

Next, an immersion blender is your best friend, but a blender will do. Either puree with the immersion blender or in batches in the blender.

Serve quiche and soup with a salad (green or caesar). For dessert serve homemade carrot cake - that recipe is for another day!


Monday, March 29, 2010

The EM's Easter Egg Hunt

Thanksgiving is loooong over. Christmas is past. Even the excitement of the new year has been swept away by the lingering winter. Well, how about reconnecting with your children’s playdates, their mothers and fathers, and getting everyone outside (at least for a bit). The Extraordinary Mother recommends hosting an Easter Egg Hunt and Brunch! Exchange the winter blues for spring hues (yellow, pink, and purple). Get some fresh air. Eat some good food. Watch the kids get rejuvenated! I did all of the above this past weekend and couldn't recommend it more strongly. It was a blast!

Obviously the Easter egg hunt is the main event. For six little ones (ages 3-4) I filled over 200 plastic eggs. Yes, some had candy, but most had stickers, small toys, and squishy balls. Guests were asked to bring a basket for the hunt.

Caesar salad
Bagels and cream cheese
Fruit (bananas, oranges, apples)
Orange juice
Juice boxes

(Look for the quiche recipe later this week)

The Photo Gallery