Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What's Cookin' -- Porcupine Meatballs

Check out my mother-in-law's recipe for Porcupine Meatballs over at my other blog Life with a Dairy-Free Toddler.  Yummy!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Zen Music

Here is a great cd for background sound or white noise.  Reflections of Nature: Zen and the Art of Relaxation is what I used when our daughter was an infant.  It is also was a cd we used at a child care center I worked at.  The music is quiet and doesn't get loud or peppy like some classical music can.  I highly recommend it!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Gotta question

It happens to me all the time that I am halving a recipe and can't remember half of 1/3 cup or some other measurement.  I found this website True Knowledge that allows you to type a question and it generates an answer.  I like this site because it is much more helpful than Yahoo Answers  or other message boards where people give answers that tend to confuse or even insult.  You just get an answer and it's precise as well.

I have yet to use it for anything else, but it is sure nice to have answers at your fingertips.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Website Review -- Coupon Chief

Recently, I was asked to do a review for the website Coupon Chief.

Coupon Chief has a very simple focus -- to give coupon codes for discounts to online retailers. You can search by store or common tags, such as jewelry, clothes, or health.  For example, you can search codes at a store, such as Target or a tag, such as toys.  This is helpful in finding exactly what you are looking for.  It is easy to navigate and the coupon codes are in large font.  You can simply copy and paste the code as you checkout at an online store.  Codes include discount offers, percentage off and free shipping. The site doesn't seem to get distracted with other discounts or money saving tips, which keeps the website clean and focused.

Sign up free for Coupon Chief and you can receive even more benefits. In Coupon Chief's "Pays 2 Share" program users are allowed to submit a coupon code and earn 2 percent of the sales made from the coupon.  Users can also comment on the coupon codes and click whether they worked or not.  I especially like this feature because sometimes codes expire and no longer work.  With other coupon code sites I've read, it can be very hard to find current deals.  Coupon Chief appears to stay current and allows the users to relay pertitent information about each code to other users.

I like the video tutorial of how the site works.  It is simple to understand, especially for visual learners. It's helpful to know exactly what the website is about without having to sift through pages and pages of small type.  The video is informative and gets right to the point

Coupon Chief will be useful for anyone who shops online and wants to get a discount in the process.  I've been to other coupon code sites that don't offer such ease or comphrensiveness.  Coupon Chief is your one-stop shop for online coupon codes.

Note: “ invited me to peruse their vast supply of coupons in March 2010.  I received compensation for this review, which reflects my opinion.

Thrifty Tip

If you print online coupons then you a plagued with the proverbial almost half sheet of paper that gets wasted.  Instead of tossing the bottom portion, I save them.  I take several with us along with some crayons when we go out to restaurants.  That way our little 2 1/2 year old can create a picture when we are waiting for our food.  Yes, many restaurants have crayons and menus to color, but some don't.  And even the ones that do, we find that after a couple minutes she's ready for a new piece of paper.  Short attention span in a highly stimulated place, or something like that...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What's Cookin' -- Eggplant Parmesan

Do you have one of those dishes you've always heard about, but have never tried?  For me that was Eggplant Parmesan.  I've seen in on cooking shows, seen it on restuarant menus, read about it in cookbooks, but until a few weeks never tried it.  It was so good.  I can see why many people call it a "comfort food."

When making something new, I always consult my favorite cookbook -- America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. In true Test Kitchen form, this has many, many steps.  I tried to simplify the steps a little, but follow directions exactly.  Don't let the length of time or steps deter you.  It is worth all the effort!

Eggplant Parmesan
(time: 40 to allow eggplant to soak, 30 minutes to bake, 15 minutes to prep, 15 minutes for final bake)

1 eggplant, sliced in 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 cup flour 
2 eggs
2 cups breadcrumbs
3/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups tomato sauce (jar or homemade)
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
5 basil leaves (optional

1. Toss eggplant with salt and let drain in colander for 40 minutes.
2.  Place rimmed baking sheet (or use foil to create a rim) in 425 degree oven.
3. Combine flour, 1/2 tsp pepper in large ziplock bag and shake.
4. Beat eggs in shallow dish.
5. Combine breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup parmesan, 1/8 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper in second shallow dish.
6. Press firmly on eggplants with paper towel to dry.  Wipe away as much of salt as possible.
7. Place 8 eggplant slices in ziplock bag with flour and pepper.  Shake to coat.
8. Shake off excess and dip eggplant in eggs.
9. Remove excess and coat evenly with breadcrumb mixture.  Press to adhere. 
10. Lay breaded eggplant on wire rack.  Repeat with remaining eggplant slices.
11. Remove preheated sheet from oven.  Pour 3 Tbsp of oil on sheet.
12. Spread eggplant on sheet in single layer.
13. Bake for about 20 minutes.  Eggplant will be well browned and crisp.
14. Flip, rotate sheet and bake for about 10 minutes later.
15. Spread about 1/2 cup of sauce on bottom of 9 x 13 baking dish.
16. Scatter eggplant on top of sauce.
17. Place 1/2 cup or so on top of eggplant.  (I spooned a little onto each eggplant).
18. Sprinkle on half of mozzarella.
19. Place remaining eggplant on top, scatter.
20.  Add sauce on top of eggplant.  Sprinkle on remaining mozzarella,
21.  Sprinkle top with 1/4 cup of parmesan.
22. Bake until cheese bubbles and is well browned. About 15 minutes
23. Sprinkle with optional basil and cool for 10 minutes.
24.  Serve with leftover sauce and extra parmesan.

For more great recipes go to the Grocery Cart Challenge!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Blog with fun crafts

Go check out Rambling from a Crazy Woman to see some great Easter crafts!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Game for Toddler

Since I've been behind on Tuesdays lately, here's an early post.  I brought out Easter items yesterday.  It's funny how a a couple of "new" soft toys can really excite a 2-year-old.  I always put away a number of toys for the holidays only. She really liked these stuffed peeps that I bought when she wasn't even crawling yet.  I found them at a thrift store in the packaging for next to nothing.  Yesterday, we were playing together and created a really fun game with the peeps.  You can easily use eggs, other stuffed animals or laminated pieces in replacement of peeps.

First we asked her to sort the peeps.  First she did it by color and then by character (chick and bunny).  I noticed when she sorted by chick and bunny she also lined them up by color -- so interesting to see that mind work.

Then Daddy hid the peeps while she and I were out of the room (counting to 20).  She came back and "hunted" for her peeps.  When she had found several, we asked to count how many she had missing.  She lined them up and looked for the ones she hadn't found yet.  What an great way to watch her think!  We gave her clues to help find the ones missing.  It was so much fun for her.  I'm guessing it's going to be a regular game around here for a couple weeks.

Skills to focus on:

  • Counting
  • Sorting
  • Figuring out clues
  • Listening to directions
  • Figuring out what's missing
  • Fun
I also want to mention that this is math (shhh, don't tell).  I think many times we focus so much on literacy with young kids that we forget to work on the math skills. And it's crucial to know that math is more than numbers.  Maths with little ones include counting, sorting, number recognition, comparing, sizes, shapes, measuring, patterns, colors, opposities.  For some really simple math ideas go here!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Slow again this week

It's been a week of daylight savings, a new gymnastics class, storytime and oh my goodness awesome weather. Not to mention a little leprechaun came to visit and played some tricks on us yesterday.  I've been behind not only in blogging, but with housework, too.  But it's been no jacket weather and when you live in snowy, cold Wisconsin you have to take advantage of it in March.  It's pretty rare to get such nice temperatures and we've been spending hours outside in between everything else.  They are predicitng snow in a couple days, so gotta get outside.

In the meantime, I remind you that going to the park is free and a great time for kids.

Also, I read this blog, Fed up with School Lunches last night. It chronicles a teacher who is eating school lunches while making her observations about nutrition and taste.   It's a very fair blog and she has some really interesting observations.  You must take a read through it and send her a comment to show her support.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

My latest plan

After our last move (4 in 2 years), I unpacked as quickly as I could.  But I did just put things in closets and drawers with the intent of reorganizing later.  Not messy or anything.  I just knew it might not be a permanent spot. That organization began last week.  In order to make the task lest daunting, I have made a schedule of one or two rooms to evaluate, reorganize and deep clean a week.  This way I can get to it when I can without it consuming my days.  I figure if I can devote even 20 minutes a day and finish by the end of the week, it will be much easier to accomplish.  We spend a lot of time away from home and the afternoons are devoted to quiet time.

My cleaning schedule looks like this:

Week 1: Master Bath, Second Bath and Linen closets -- clean shower curtain, organize drawers, etc
Week 2: Spare bedroom/craft room/office-- organize craft ideas, coupons, file bills, etc
Week 3: Daughter's bedroom - outgrown clothes, toys, closet, etc.
Week 4: Kitchen/Master Bedroom -- clean pantry, reorganize drawers, donate clothes
Week 5: Basement -- whatever can get done until we finish it
Week 6: Living Room

I figure this can be a regular schedule rotating schedule.  Maybe all the re-organizing won't need to be done each time, but the extra cleaning will be needed.  The main reason I started this is to fit something extra into the day-to-day tasks of cleaning and cooking.  Also, with summer coming we will be spending much of our time outdoors and the last thing I want to do when I'm inside is trying to figure out how to stay on top of the clutter.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Never Underestimate

For a few months now, we have been playing "real" games with our daughter.  We've been loosely playing matching games since she was barely 1-year-old. She is now 2 1/2 and loves to play games.  Granted all children develop at different rates and not all are ready when other kids are.  But I suggest giving them a try because you might be pleasantly surprised. Our little one hardly sits still for anything, so the idea of her sitting for a game for almost 10 minutes seemed hardly possible.  Hint:  let them wiggle a little or play the game at coffee table or children's table where they can stand.  As far as concept of the game, let them figure it out with guidance.  After a few times playing you may notice they want to make it their own game with their own rules.  If you are okay with it, let them play with the game on their own after playing with you.  That is how creativity develops.

You can find a lot of easy and fun games at the Dollar store.  Here are some we have found there:

  • Character Dominoes (these are cardboard, but very sturdy)
  • Memory Games
  • Lots of card games, such as Go Fish, Crazy Eights, Snap, Old Maid, etc.
  • Puzzles
Other games we play with our little one:
  • Candy Land
  • Chutes and Ladders
  • Countless games I've made

Monday, March 8, 2010

Fun Napkins

We are not (I repeat, not) a paper-free kitchen family.  Our daughter has food allergies and the risk is too high to not use paper towels, napkins or paper plates.  For a long time I was feeding snacks with half of a paper plate.  That got a little wasteful and expensive.  Now, I will use napkins instead, unless it's yogurt or something messy.  I have found that after the holidays that decorative napkins go on sale very cheap.  After Valentine's Day, I found several at different stores for just a quarter each for a pack of 20 or more napkins.  Hearts are good year round and make snack time a little fun, too.  I also bought disposable heart plates for 37 cents for a pack of 10 at Wal-Mart for our little one's birthday, which is in August.  I spent just under $1.50 for 40 plates.

I would be willing to bet there will be some nice flowers and spring-type napkins available after Easter.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Coupon Giveaway -more than $20 worth of savings -- Closed Winner E-mailed

Sorry, I've been a little behind this week.  I try to write posts ahead of time, but I just haven't been able to catch up lately.  I have, however, been getting coupons via snail mail that I won't be using.  Thus, another coupon giveaway!


  • $1/2 Bisquick 40 oz or larger, exp. 5/30/10 
  • $1/2 Betty Crocker Warm Delights, exp. 5/30/10 
  • $1/2 Betty Crocker Potatoes, exp. 5/30/10 
  • $1/2 Betty Crocker Brownie mix, exp. 5/30/10 
  • $1/2 Betty Crocker Frosting, exp. 5/30/10 
  • $1/2 Fruit by the Foot, exp. 5/30/10 
  • $1/2 Betty Crocker Cookie Mix, exp. 5/30/10 
  • $.75/1 Quaker rice snack, exp. 12/31/10 
  • $.75/1 Quaker True Delight Bars, exp. 12/31/10 
  • $.50/1 Quaker Grits, exp. 12/31/10 
  • $.55/ Quaker Oatmeal to Go Breakfast Bars, exp. 12/31/10 
  • $1/1 Downy liquid fabric softener, exp. 5/31/10 
  • $1/1 Bounce dryer bar, exp. 9/30/11
  • $4/1 Swiffer Wetjet starter kit, exp. 9/30/11
  • $1.50/1 Pantene Pro-V Expressions or Restorative, exp. 9/30/11
  • 3 coupons for Buy 2 Get 1 Ziploc Bags, exp. 8/31/10 
  • $1/1 Tampax, exp. 6/30/10 
  • $1.50/1 Tampax, exp. 6/30/10 
  • $1/1 Carefree product, exp. 6/30/10 
To enter:

  • Tell me which coupons you are most looking forward to getting in a comment below.  
  • Please leave a blog link or e-mail address so I can contact you if you win.  
  • I will choose one winner on March 15 with and will e-mail the winner.  Good luck!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Food Allergies -- My approach

Our daughter has several food allergies.  Talk about a challenge. She is allergic to milk, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts.  But she can have milk and egg in baked goods.  In fact we have found out recently that she can have milk in cooked meals, as well.  But give her cold milk and there's a rash of hives on her face.  She's not allergic to all nuts but we have found that nuts are all processed together.  So, we avoid all.

Having to think "way" outside the box (at least for me) has given me the opportunity to explore so many new options for food.  Not just for her but for my husband and myself as well.  It has been very time consuming to research and try allergen-free foods.  It's nerve racking to give her something new and hope she at the minimum takes a bit, especially when it takes a half hour to make it.  I'm grateful to have been a stay-at-home mom during this time for my daughter.

Here's been my approach to figure out what to feed her.

Cooking from Scratch:  I make many, many more meals from scratch.  I hardly use pre-packaged because allergens sneak in.  I've been forced to teach myself how to cook and try new techniques.  And I'm so glad I've learned this.  When I met my husband five years ago, I had about 10 meals I could make.  At last count it was more than 80 and that doesn't count the many baked goods (dairy-free and not). I can pretty much tackle any recipe.
Trying new products: Finding new products that don't contain milk or nuts is really hard.  And they tend to be expensive.  Some brands I really like are Enjoy Life, Tofutti, Silk, Rice Dream, So Delicious.
Trying new ingredients:  Using ingredients such as rice milk, soy milk, nutritional yeast flakes, dairy-free margarine all include a little learning curve.  But seeing my daughter eat nutritious food is worth it.
Reading blogs: So many great blogs our there share tips on dealing with food allergies.  I learn something new all the time.
Writing a blog:  Writing my own blog, Life with a Dairy-Free Toddler, motivates me to try new things and also helps others with similar problems.
Reading message boards: Real people write on message boards and give really great suggestions. I read message boards on BabyCenter and Cafe Mom.  You have sign up for both.
Reading cookbooks:  Cookbooks tend to be a little more precise that message boards or blogs.  I love flipping through the pages and watching my jaw drop as I read something so easy.  Most recently read-- Go Dairy Free by Alisa Marie Fleming.
Keeping an open mind:  So she can't have milk or nuts, so what?  I can figure anything out, right?
Feeling happy: When I gave our daughter her first bites of chocolate chips or ice cream, I was so happy to find products she can safely eat.


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