Eggplant Parmesan

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Tonight’s recipe from Raddish Kids culminated in a very special event – a dinner date with Daddy!

But first, Travis and I needed to cook. “Is this our next Raddish?” he asks excitedly now when I invite him to join me in the kitchen. This particular Eggplant Parmesan was the vegan replacement to the kit’s Chicken Parmesan. I briefly considered using a chicken filet such as Gardein, but decided we’d stay true to Raddish’s dietary modifications, since they so considerately include one for every recipe.

First, I sliced a 1-pound eggplant into 1/2-inch thick slices. Travis was in charge of placing these on a paper towel, quite proud to do so.

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We salted both sides of the eggplant using a scant 2 teaspoons salt (Note: This meant we later omitted the salt when it would have been added to the chicken). Let stand for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, we prepped three bowls. Into the first went 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.

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We made three flax eggs in the second bowl. Travis loved whisking! The final bowl received 2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs and 2/3 cup vegan Parmesan sprinkles. Travis mixed the ingredients together, pretending they were potions or medicines.

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He loved the 3-step breading technique that followed. The eggplant first went into the flour mixture, then in the flax eggs, and finally in the breaded topping.

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We arranged these slices on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil and coated in cooking spray.

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Top each eggplant slice with 2 tablespoons marinara sauce. We had previously whipped up a quick homemade batch, using Raddish’s recipe:

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 2 minced garlic cloves (Travis got to use his garlic rocker!). Cook for 1 minute.

Add 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, 4 minced basil leaves,  and 1 teaspoon salt. Simmer for 15 minutes.

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After adding the marinara, we sprinkled each eggplant slice with about 2 tablespoons shredded Daiya mozzarella. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes.

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Now for the special date! Travis and I used the provided Set the Table guide to make his dinner table extra special.

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What a neat trick it included for remembering where things go: bread on the lower case b side and drinks on the lower case d side, formed by your fingers.

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A few final touches and it was time to invite Daddy over to eat!

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Mirror Magic

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At four months old, Veronika is much more aware of the face in the mirror than she was when we began mirror games, so she and I had some fun with our reflections today. Mirrors seem magical to babies; they still don’t quite understand that they are seeing their own reflection, and yet are starting to notice that the mirror image moves when they do. So play up that magic!

Make sure that you play with a mirror that is nonbreakable for babies this young. I set one up in front of Veronika during tummy time, and got down right next to her.

First, I simply made a neutral face and let her notice us both, but from there I moved on to emotions. As you make each expression, name the emotion. “Happy face!” I cooed to her.

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You can move on to sad faces or silly faces; the latter got a giggle!

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Now mommy’s surprised!

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Add other conversation pointers as you play. “This is your mouth,” I pointed out to her, or “Look at mommy’s mouth.”

Mirror Magic (2)Then it was time to use the mirror for some real magic: making Veronika disappear and reappear. I placed a scarf over the mirror…

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…then peek-a-boo!

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What other mirror games do you play with baby? Please share in the comments!

Rattle Choice

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One of the best ways to build your baby’s self-awareness is to give him or her choices. Obviously baby can’t make too many decisions at only three months old, but here’s one great game to set the foundation for future decision-making and a sense of self.

First, I gathered together all the rattles in the house; it was a motley collection, ranging from soft toys that make a gentle shake, to plastic ones that clatter, to more complicated ones with moving parts and lights.

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I sat Veronika up comfortably, and offered her a choice, going with two similar soft ones to start. She had an obvious preference right away. Her eyes turned to the lion instead of the apple, and this was the one she reached for.

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So next I tried lion versus a more visual rattle, where she could see the pieces that clicked and clacked. Lion was abandoned for this one.

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But it turns out she likes watching tiny beads more than bigger clicking pieces.

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Hmm, light-up puppy versus lettuce. She wasn’t quite sure which she liked here…

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…but light-up puppy won.

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As she chose a toy in each round, I praised her selection: “Great choice Veronika!” I cheered her on, and her big brother chimed in, too. She looked so pleased with her ability to decide.

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And some toys always trump others; to wit, blue puppy has been her absolute favorite toy for about a month now, and her whole body shakes with glee for it.

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It’s a nice reminder how early on your little one will have a definite personality, and definite opinions!

Foodie Family Dice Games & Game Design

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In conjunction with our latest Raddish Kids recipes, tonight was family “date night”! The activity: board games, charades, dice games, and a game of our very own creation!

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First, we did a little investigating; Travis and I talked about games in general, and the way they teach concepts of fairness, taking turns, and following the rules. More specifically, I then showed him a clip about the history of dice in this suggested video (Note: There are some bleeped out curse words, but they went right over Travis’s head). If you want to skip the video, just share some fun facts, like how dice have been around for 5,000 years (wow!).

Next, we cut out and folded up the two foodie dice provided in this month’s crate and played a round of “No Tomato.”

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The rules are simple: roll the dice and rack up a point for every food tossed except… if you roll a tomato you lose your points for that round!

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Travis loved taking a risk and giving one more toss on his turn, daring to inch his score closer to the 12 points needed to win.

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The game was also a great lesson in score-keeping. He loved being in charge of our tally sheet, and erasing when someone lost their points.

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Now it was time to design our own game! We settled on a few basics, using the helpfully provided Game Checklist as a guide. The theme of our game was Travis’s much-loved Spiderman. The goal was to reach the end of the path first. As he happily colored in decorations for the board, I drew the path and set up pitfalls.

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Oh no, Spiderman’s enemies could make you lose a turn or get stuck until you rolled a certain number.

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Lego men were our playing pieces, and we used a dice to move players around the board.

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We played so many fun family rounds!

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We followed up with another game using the Raddish dice, “Rad Yatzy”, a take on regular Yahtzee only using the foodie dice instead of pips.

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Cap off your family “date” with any other board games your kids love, or a round of charades.

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Update: We had to wait until we had a large enough group of family members (6 people or more!), and then we could play a final foodie dice game: Catch the Radish!

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Two people opposite each other toss the dice, but must pass it to the next player if they roll a radish. The first person to have both dice at the same time wins!

Join a Local Music & Movement Class

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Children are drawn to music right from the start, which is why it’s literally never too early to start a music class. Perhaps that’s why my favorite program, Music Together, (available across the country), bills itself as appropriate for age birth to 5 years.

Veronika and I joined when the winter session began in January, and admittedly she was the youngest in the class. Now at three months, I already see a difference. She’s alert for the entire 45 minutes, so clued in to the teacher’s movements and sounds, and fascinated by the visual of the instruments and the bigger kids (most of them 1 to 2 years old).

My first tip for a baby this young at a music class is to bring a blanket; you’ll want to lay him or her down on the floor at times. Here’s Veronika, ready for class to begin!

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Just as a sample, today’s session included movement and rhythm play through the form of a bouncy ride on mommy’s lap…

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Getting to shake bells…

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And learning to tap or rub rhythm sticks.

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Don’t worry if instruments end up right in the mouth! Babies learn so much about the world this way, and any reputable class for children will have a designated “wet bin” for the germ-y toys.

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In sum, if you haven’t already taken your child out for music play, it’s a great time to start. Check your local library for offerings at little or no cost!

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Wall Mural

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I didn’t decorate the nursery with either of my children, which had more to do with my disinterest in interior design than anything else. And since we rent an apartment, I always felt I couldn’t do too much to walls or windows.

But it seemed a shame to let the chance pass me completely by, and I loved this cute idea to project an image on just a small portion of a wall, trace with pencil, and then fill in with paint.

The activity book I found this in is so old that it recommended an overhead projector for the task. (!) Do they even make those anymore? Failing to have a projector, I was at a loss for how to trace an image onto the wall until shown a neat technique, no artistic skills required:

Print out the image you want (we went with a farm animal theme) and make a heavy layer of pencil on the opposite side of the paper.

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Now hold the paper up to the wall, and trace all lines with pencil – the graphite will transfer through!

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Soon we had four little farm animals to color in.

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I chose a spot on the wall that was fairly low, so it will be at eye level with Veronika once she starts to crawl or toddle about.

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I used acrylic paint, and decided that it looked neater with the outlines of the animals painted, but not filled completely in.

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Little blue sheep was too adorable!

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Veronika was my eager audience, her eyes wide as I worked!

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And ha, then there was the problem of explaining to my four year old why mom was suddenly allowed to paint on the wall. So I let him make a design of his choice in a tiny portion of the corner. Behold his red bird:

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I can’t wait for Veronika to enjoy this beautiful little portion of her room!

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Clothesline Sensory Adventure

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Okay, this activity is probably best done on a warm late spring day, when the air feels good against your skin, and the sun is shining bright, and baby can have bare arms and legs. Not on a winter day with wind gusts up to 60 mph! But I had been wanting a new sensory activity to do with Veronika for some time, so we headed outside anyway!

If you have a clothesline, string it up between two trees or fence posts in your yard. Lacking a true clotheslines, I strung up a length of twine, which worked just fine.

Add a few soft towels and sheets, securing with clothespins.

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Now take baby out for a sensory adventure. (You’ll notice a very bundled up Veronika!).

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First we just walked up and down the line, as I showed her the colors and let her feel the textures. She had quite the grip on the green towel!

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Next we played a sort of peek-a-boo through the sheets, having the fabric drape over her before she emerged with a “pop!” I was hoping this would get big smiles, but she looked a little alarmed by the wind more than anything!

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Perhaps we’ll do this again in the springtime… But oh well, we still had a little sensory adventure today.

Garlicky Green Beans

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Travis opened up his new Raddish Kids box tonight. This month’s theme? Family date night! The kit was intended to overlap with Valentine’s Day, and quite cleverly; these days, Valentine’s is more about the kids than just the grown-ups! But we received our box too late for the holiday, so were happy to settle in for a family cooking night here later in the month.

As with all Raddish recipes, I loved that even my pre-reader could help gather the ingredients, based on the bold, bright pictures.

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First, we prepared the topping (a gremolata, I recognized, although that wasn’t specified). Travis got to help with big boy steps! Together,  we chopped a bunch of parsley. Two tablespoons went into a bowl.

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Next he grated the zest from one lemon; that joined the parsley in the bowl.

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I smashed three garlic cloves for him, and he carefully peeled back the white paper.

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Then we got to use this month’s keepsake: a garlic minced. I’d never seen one quite like this before that rocks back and forth,  and to be honest, I found that it didn’t mince a clove as well as a knife. But for kids, it’s great, since no knife is required. The recipe card also featured a run-down of all the ways to mince garlic.

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As he worked, we read the facts about garlic and its history of medicinal use on the recipe card. “Is lemon good for me?” he asked after. “Is parsley going to keep me strong?” I love that he already has an understanding of the connection between what we eat and our health.

Next up, we heated 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet. Add 3 tablespoons panko and the minced garlic; cook for 4 minutes, until lightly browned.

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Add the garlic mixture to the parsley mixture, along with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons vegan Parmesan sprinkles.

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Next up we trimmed 1 pound green beans, using scissors to snip off the pointy ends.

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(Note: For all of these advanced kitchen skills, Travis loved helping for a moment or two, and then preferred to watch me finish. I recommend the same if you also have a young chef, but big kids can take on more ownership of the recipe).

We cooked the green beans in a pot of boiling, salted water for 7 minutes, which was the recipe card’s suggestion for medium tenderness. Drain the green beans in a colander, then transfer to a bowl; drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil, and sprinkle with the gremolata.

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Proud chef! This is actually his happy face saying “Garlic!” though it looks like a grimace. He devoured every last green bean, and the grown-ups, too!

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Visual Discovery

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A relative praised Veronika’s strong eyesight over the weekend, a nice compliment and a reminder of why I take the time to play little games at each stage that strengthen her vision. At three months old, we’ve moved beyond black and white and beyond bold colors, and now she can start to enjoy complicated patterns.

I sat her down comfortably and pulled out a variety of household objects with colors and contrasts for her to enjoy. First up, a ball of multi-hued yarn.

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Then I showed her one of daddy’s ties. I talked about what the item was, as well as descriptions of the color and images on it.

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This bandanna from big brother Travis was a hit!

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So much so that we tied it in her bassinet for visual fun later in the day.

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Even a two-tone hairbrush can be fun in this game.

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Just be careful; unlike some games we play, items from this one weren’t meant to end up in the mouth!

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If you’re stumped for what items to show your baby, head to the closet. There are sure to be racks full of interesting colors and patterns.

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She especially loved one of mommy’s dresses!

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Energy-Boosting Smoothies

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This past week, I noticed my energy levels flagging a little; it’s right around this point that breastfeeding takes a lot out of you! Baby isn’t quite ready for solids yet at three months old, but needs upwards of 600 calories a day of milk alone. With my son, I hadn’t realized how many calories go into producing milk each day, and soon found myself underweight. Smoothies were my life saver.

So feeling like my supply has been a little low for Veronika, today’s activity was to make some energy-boosting smoothies to keep us both healthy and strong!

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I played around with a few variations, and here are three that I loved. For all of the following recipes, simply combine the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. You can add ice if you like, but I prefer my smoothies without it.

Smoothie 1:

  • 5 ounces vanilla non-dairy yogurt
  • 1/2 cup fresh mango
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup carrot juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

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Smoothie 2:

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1 cup chopped Granny Smith apple
  • 1/2 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves

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Smoothie 3:

  • 1/2 cup rice milk
  • 6 ounces apple juice
  • 1/2 cup avocado
  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach or watercress
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds

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This last was my favorite, rich and creamy from the avocado, and an instant energy boost. Feel free to play around with the above suggestions. Use oat milk if you like it better, or pumpkin seeds in place of the sunflower etc. If you have a recipe you like best, please share in the comments!