Mushroom Barley Casserole

Mushroom Barley Casserole

If your kids don’t like rice, consider trying an alternative like pearl barley. This one-pot dish bakes in the oven slowly, making it a no-brainer, and it will make your kitchen smell amazing.


  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup finely chopped cremini mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a 3-quart baking dish.
  2. Cover and bake at 325 degrees F for 1 and 1/2 hours.

Easy Edible Paint Made with Real Fruit

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Veronika wants to paint every time big brother gets paints and brushes, but I worry still that she’ll put the paintbrush in her mouth. With this fruit paint, there’s no need to fret; these brushes were made for tasting!

To prepare three colors of paint, I pureed a batch each of: blueberries, bananas, and kiwi. For the bananas and kiwi, I thickened the “paint” slightly with a little applesauce from a pouch, and then added a few drops of all-natural food coloring (in yellow and green, respectively) to amp up the color. Here’s the before of the kiwi:

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Versus the after:

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I used frozen blueberries, which pureed into a deep, thick purple that needed no embellishment. If you use fresh blueberries, you may find you also want a squeeze of applesauce and a few drops of blue food coloring.

I set out all three colors in paper cups for Veronika, along with paintbrushes and a thick piece of watercolor paper.

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Say no more, she absolutely loved it! First she just wanted to dip the paintbrush into the blueberry paint over and over. I prompted her to think about her sense of smell as she played, the fresh fruit filling her nostrils.

Then she moved paintbrush to paper experimentally. She loved discovering she could make blobs and swirls.

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I worried that the blueberry would stain little fingers and clothes, so I gently pushed the banana and kiwi into prime position. She was equally entranced!

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She kept busy with this for quite some time before eventually dumping some of the kiwi paint onto the paper.

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At this point I simply moved the paper aside and it was fun for her to smear.

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Did she taste it? Not really, actually! I think she might have gotten a tiny lick of the banana once, but mostly she seemed happy to paint with it.

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It was fantastic to see her so engaged with this artistically, and to know that even a nibble was worry-free.

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Simple Costume Design

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As someone who dresses purely for comfort, it has been a source of endless amusement to me that Veronika loves to accessorize. A spare sock, a random belt; whatever she finds lying around the apartment she immediately drapes over herself and strikes a pose. So today we had some costume fun, starting out with the simplest prop: scarves!

Play scarves can be so many things. I tied one around her waist for an instant “tutu”. You could tell she felt glamorous!

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Then I made a simple medieval hat by twisting a piece of construction paper into a cone and taping a scarf on the top. It was a little wobbly, but she still loved it.

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Scarves are great for further make-believe while your child is in costume. We tied two together and “swam” them through her noble court as fish.

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She recently watched real fish in a tank, so loved saying the word as the scarves swam around us.

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To further engage her imagination, we did then play dress-up with a kit. I stayed away from named characters, knowing that she would love draping herself in lace, beads, and fancy headgear from a generic boxed set. And did she ever!

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Whether it’s as simple scarves or more complicated like purchased dress-up, play clothes are great fuel for the imagination.

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She wanted to dress “Baby” up, too!

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