Apple and Sweet Potato Mini Muffins

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These adorable mini muffins are the exact right fit for your toddler’s hand, and are perfect for snacking on the go.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup frozen apple juice concentrate
  • 1 and 1/2 cups grated sweet potato
  • 1 cup grated apple
  1. In a bowl, combine the flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the applesauce and remaining 1/2 teaspoon baking powder.
  3. Stir in the flaxseed, canola oil, vanilla, almond milk, and apple juice.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, then fold in the sweet potato and grated apple.
  5. Divide the batter evenly among 42 mini muffin cups, about 1 tablespoon per muffin. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes.

These are delicious warm, with just a little pat of Earth Balance butter!

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Roll It Out

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One thing I love to do with the kids is find items around the house that aren’t actually toys, but that can easily be used in play. Large exercise balls fit the bill perfectly, and here’s some simple fun Veronika and I had with one today.

First, I tapped on the ball; it made a perfect vibrating drum. Have fun with this, alternating the rhythm fastfastfastfast and slow    slow    slow.

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Then I placed Veronika on her tummy on the ball and rocked it ever so slightly.

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This is a fantastic way to build muscles if our little one is still doing tummy time, but even as a “big kid” Veronika loved it.

What’s your favorite “non toy” toy around the house? Please share in the comments!

 

Monster Balloon Decorating

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Blow up these “monsters” to decorate the house on the eve of Halloween! The LED lights should last about 48 hours.

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Travis was thrilled with the little balloon lights (you can find these at party stores). Turn one on and slip into an uninflated balloon, then blow up.

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I had pre-cut a few monster features for Travis on sticky-back black craft foam. As an alternative, you can make mouths, eyes, and noses on black cardstock and use a glue stick to attach to the balloons. But we found that the sticky backing made things very easy!

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Our monsters were wiggly and wobbly as we decorated them; it was ultimately easier to hold them between my legs than to tape them onto a table, which we had tried first.

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The darker it gets, the more your monsters glow!

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Travis loved having these creatures around to set the mood for Halloween.

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Haunted Hummus and Pita Chips

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Here’s a final spooky recipe to thrill your kids this Halloween! This was the last recipe in Travis’s Spooky Kitchen kit from Raddish Kids. He was less interested in the cooking for this one, but did enjoy the eating, especially when I called it Vampire Dip instead!

Ingredients:

For the pita chips:

  • 3 large pitas
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the black hummus:

  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. To prepare the chips, cut each pita into 8 wedges. Transfer to a bowl. Drizzle with 1/4 cup olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt, mixing well with your hands.
  2. Arrange the pita wedges in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet (use two sheets, if needed). Bake at 375 degrees F for 12 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the hummus: drain the black beans in a colander and transfer to a blender.
  4. Smash and peel the garlic clove; add to the blender.
  5. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze over a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons juice to the blender.
  6. Add the tahini, 3 tablespoons olive oil, water, cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; blend until creamy.
  7. Scoop the hummus into a serving dish and arrange the pita chips around it.

Travis loved the spooky madlibs we put together as he snacked, a great mini lesson on parts of speech with a silly Halloween dinner party as the result.

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You can also read facts about hummus on the recipe card, and solve a Spooky Word Ladder if your kids are readers. Happy haunting!

First Birthday Party: Apple of Our Eye

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This is the last time I’ll throw a First Birthday Party, and I knew what theme I wanted for Veronika almost from the moment of her birth. With big apple cheeks that were a constant topic of conversation all year, she was instantly the “apple of our eye”. The theme also fits perfectly with my autumn baby’s birth date, with apples and apple picking in the air!

It was so fun to play around with the theme for a first birthday party. Rather than inviting baby friends, it’s nice to keep this celebration partially about the parents, inviting those relatives and close friends who have helped you come through.

A beautiful Apple of Our Eye template (from Etsy) was personalized for the event to set the stage.

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Next up were the outfits, brand new ones for the family!

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Mama dress from Cotton Rose Boho, baby girl dress from SmockedALotbtq and brother’s shirt from 7ate9apparel.

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Now it was time to set up Veronika’s orchard! I filled bushels from the craft store (Michaels) with fake apples. Some were set up inside, and another bushels greeted guests next to a cheery chalkboard sign.

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Inside, the apple colors continued with a red-checked tablecloth, burlap napkins, and red and white balloons.

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I strung red pom pom garlands and glittering red dot streamers (both Party City), and hung up folding red fans which quickly morphed into giant apples thanks to a pipe cleaner stem and a construction paper leaf.

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I also strung a banner made of photos adhered to red construction paper (with Mod Podge), featuring one image for each month of her life.

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A birthday slate with an apple background was a great centerpiece for the food table.

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We kept the food to light nibbles for this mid-afternoon gathering. Apples were everywhere, including a kid-friendly serve-yourself station of applesauce pouches, apple cereal bars, and apple juice.

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Add Babybell cheeses (round like red apples!), caramel popcorn, a scattering of apple lollipops, and a few platters of antipasti for the grown-ups.

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On tap: local cider for the kids, and apple sodas and hard cider for the grownups.

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Kids at the party ranged in age from 14 years down to 3 months, so we need a variety of activities!

Activity 1: Apple checkers

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Cut a slab of wood (from Home Depot) into a 20 x 20 inch square. Divide into 8 squares per side, each measuring 2.5 inches, and paint in alternating squares of green and red.

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Add green apples for one opponent and red apples for the other and place the board atop hay bales (Michaels craft stores).

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A framed image of the rules served as a quick reminder for anyone who needed it!

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Don’t be surprised if the kids make up their own rules or just play around with the apples, though… And that’s just fine!

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Activity 2: Apple stamping

Set out pie tins, various paint colors, and apples cut in half. Poke a fork firmly into each apple.

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Show kids how to press the cut apples into the paint of their choice and then apply to a blank tote bag. These make great keepsakes to take home; in fact adults might want to stamp one, too!

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Activity 3: Apple faces

This was the biggest hit with younger children at the party. Cut apples into 1/4-inch thick slices and brush with lemon juice to prevent browning.

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Set out cups with nut butter for “glue” and decorations like raisins, cashews, chocolate chips, and o-shaped cereal. Now each child can make an adorable little face on their apple slice.

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The kids will love eating their creations!

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Aside from that, the affair was very laid-back and unstructured. Then came the big moment for her cake. We served Happy Birthday Vanilla Cake with Cider Glaze. Add cider doughnuts for older guests and everyone ends on a sweet note.

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Again accounting for the big age-range in guests, we sent kids home from the party with a simple goodie bag: fall-themed stickers and apple lollipops.

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Veronika, you are the apple of our eye!

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Celebrate Cats Four Ways

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In addition to Veronika’s birthday, it’s National Cat Day! So Travis and I took a moment out of the festivities to celebrate these amazing animals in four fun ways.

First up, have you can drew (or color in) pictures of cats. Make up a story to go along with these. Travis is having a bit of a mummy phase, so his story was about a magical mummy cat!

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Then of course we dressed up like them: simply twist pipe cleaners around a headband for cat ears. We made a matching mom-and-son pair.

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If you think it will work, consider teaching your cat a new trick!

And most important, consider visiting a shelter. Whether you bring treats or food, or make a monetary donation, or just donate your time and snuggles, the cats will thank you for it!

Birthday Celebration

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It’s Veronika’s birthday!

Whether you’re celebrating with lots of family and friends or just a few close loved ones, if you have been following along on this first-year journey, then happy birthday to your little one, too.

Veronika seems to know she’s one now, no longer acting like a baby. She wants to walk, is full of impish personality, and tries out new sounds, words, and ideas daily.

A few ways to make this day special, even though your little one won’t understand the hype:

When big brother and I entered her room this morning, we came bearing balloons and a gift she could open right in the crib. She might not know what a birthday is, but she certainly understood this was different from our usual routine!

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I also took the time to pen Veronika a letter in a journal. Hopefully this is a ritual I will continue to follow each year, for a treasured collection of words she can look back on.

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You might also consider taking a trip to the bank together to open an account in baby’s name. Chances are your baby will receive a gift or two in the form of cash. Whether it’s a regular checking account or something more forward-thinking like a 529 or UTMA, this will be a birthday gift that keeps on giving!

Finally, take a moment, at this milestone, to celebrate yourself as parents. You made it one year!

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Here is to treasured memories for the year ahead.

Strawberry Ghosts

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Scare up this quick snack for any Halloween parties or meals this week! If you prefer, try a version using melted vegan white chocolate; microwave until melted (about 30 seconds) along with 1 teaspoon canola oil. Dip in the strawberries and let set on parchment-lined baking sheets.

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Ingredients:

  • Vanilla non-dairy yogurt
  • Strawberries
  • Mini chocolate chips
  1. Dip the strawberries in the yogurt, swirling slightly to coat. Transfer to a baking pan.
  2. Place the strawberries in the freezer for about 30 minutes, until the yogurt is slightly set.
  3. Decorate each strawberry with 3 mini chocolate chips for the eyes and ghost mouth.

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Happy Birthday Vanilla Cake with Cider Glaze

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This apple juice and maple syrup sweetened birthday cake is just right for a baby’s first dessert. Line up those cameras for the big smash cake moment, and enjoy!

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoons baking powder, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup thawed apple juice concentrate
  • 1/2 cup vanilla soy milk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting:

  • 6 tablespoons Earth Balance butter, softened
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons boiled apple cider
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  1. To prepare the cake, combine the flour, oat flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Whisk together the applesauce and remaining 1/4 teaspoon baking powder in a large bowl. Add the apple juice concentrate, soy milk, canola oil, maple syrup, and vanilla, whisking until combined.
  3. Add the flour mixture to the applesauce mixture, stirring until combined. Spoon into a greased 9-inch round cake pan.
  4. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25 minutes; a wooden pick inserted in the center should come out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack before turning out onto a cake plate.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the frosting: Combine the butter, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and cider in a stand mixer; beat until combined.
  6. Add the powdered sugar gradually, beating well after each addition. Spoon onto the cake. Store loosely-covered in the fridge until ready to serve.

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Jack-o’-Pot Pie

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Kids will go crazy for this pot pie designed to look like a jack o’ lantern. Serve it up with some history of why we carve pumpkins at Halloween, including how the Irish brought the tradition over, and how the original jack o’ lanterns were made from turnips and beets. Then dig in! This was a great follow-up to the Boo-Nana Bread Travis and I recently cooked up from Raddish Kids’ Spooky Kitchen crate.

To start, Travis helped dice one onion, and to peel and slice carrots into rounds. It’s the first time I let him do the peeling without any assistance, what a milestone!

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Melt 4 tablespoons Earth Balance butter in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and 1 teaspoon salt; cook for 8 minutes, until soft.

Add 1 (8-ounce) package sliced mushrooms; cook for 5 minutes.

Stir in 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon sage. Cook for 1 minute.

Add 1 and 1/2 cups vegetable broth, 1/4 cup plain non-dairy creamer, and 1/2 cup frozen peas. Bring to a boil; continue to cook for 2 minutes, then remove form heat and set aside.

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Meanwhile, we needed to make our jack o’ lantern face! Roll out pre-made pie dough (check out Immaculate Bakery for a vegan option) and cover with a 9-inch pie plate. Trace around the circle and trim the excess dough.

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Travis loved selecting which pumpkin face we should “carve”.

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I carefully cut out the features with a knife. Older kids can tackle this step themselves!

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Place the pie pan on a baking sheet and spoon in the hot filling. Carefully place the dough on top. Bake at 400 degrees F for 17 to 18 minutes, until browned.

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Obviously the effect won’t last once you spoon in for servings… but the pumpkin sure looks spooky this way!