Vegan Pork and Beans

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Here’s a fun way to dress up vegan pork from the freezer aisle and make it a little more gourmet!


  • 2 (10-ounce) packages Gardein porkless bites
  • 3/4 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1 (12-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Corn tortillas or whole wheat buns
  1. Cook the porkless bites in a large skillet according to package directions, omitting the sauce.
  2. Stir the barbecue sauce and beans into the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the beans are heated through.
  3. Warm buns or tortillas according to your preference and serve.

With buns, these are almost like Sloppy Joes.

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With tortillas, it’s more of a fun spin on taco night!

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Finger Paint with Pudding Cups

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We love making “paint” that’s good enough to eat, and today’s version was super-quick. Use store-bought vanilla pudding and the cups themselves make the perfect paint pots!

Zen company makes vegan pudding cups, though in a pinch, you can whip up a homemade batch and divide among ramekins. Still, I preferred store-bought here because of those individual pudding cups.

I wanted rich, deep colors for the paint, so used 20 drops of food coloring for each pudding cup. For purple, mix 10 drops of red + 10 drops of blue.

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I then laid down a big sheet of craft paper as Veronika’s canvas and set the pots around my little artist.

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She instantly asked, “Can I eat it?” Needless to say, the eating of the paint was way more fun than the painting with it. I quickly switched from paint brushes to spoons once I realized she wasn’t going to stop taste-testing.

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I did show her how to draw a few images with the paint, like flowers and a blue sky, but snacking won out.

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To mix it up, next I taped construction paper to the high chair tray, and this time I poured on blobs of the pudding paint.

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She dipped her hands in and did some swirling around.

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Needless to say, though, she still preferred to snack than to paint! So this was a delicious activity, if not a terribly artistic one.

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Packing Peanut Indoor Sandbox

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I rarely see packing peanuts anymore, so when we received a batch in a recent package, I instantly knew I needed to save them for an activity instead of tossing them. An indoor sandbox fit the bill!

I thought about how best to use the big puffy layers of peanuts to my advantage, and decided the material would be most fun to shovel through.

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To set up, I placed a few of Veronika’s Duplo toys in the bottom of a bin, then covered with the packing peanuts. Colorful pom poms added some visual pop!

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I handed over a sand shovel, and it was time to dig. Veronika loved the way the peanuts felt (they are a recyclable material, not Styrofoam, and squished nicely if pressed in the hand).

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She liked the feel so much that she was soon more interested in using her hands than the shovel.

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She was quite determined to find her Duplo people, since she had seen me bury them, so I helped her dig down.

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Peek-a-boo toys!

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Then she loved having the toys either “sleep” or take a bath in the bin of puffy peanuts.

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This was a nice way to keep her busy at least for a little while on a lazy Sunday morning.

Leaf Scrunch

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Unseasonably warm and dry weather has meant the leaves are slow to change this autumn. Finally we’re spotting the first of the fall color, and we celebrated with a nature walk and leaf activity!

First up was a walk in the woods. We brought along a paper bag to fill with leaves, and Veronika loved dropping in our treasures.

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She also discovered the delightful crunch that the leaves made if she scuffed her feet through them!

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Once home, we dumped out the bag of leaves so they filled an old box. I showed her how she could simply scrunch her hands through the leaves…

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…or toss them out and then fill the box back up again.

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The drier leaves crumbled in her fingers, to her delight. Or, she could rip up the softer ones into small pieces, which kept her busy for quite some time.

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Thanks to a gentle breeze, she soon had the idea to toss the leaves off our patio. I loved watching the wheels of her brain turn as she discovered that leaves don’t go as far as other things she can throw, like pebbles and acorns!

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Then we picked up armfuls and tossed them over her head, where they scattered to the patio.

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Or landed right in her hair.

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As a final component of the activity, we took some of the prettiest ones inside and I showed her how to press them onto sticky contact paper.

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Fold the paper over itself, and you have an instant autumn placemat!

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In sum, there was so much joy to be had in this first batch of fall leaves!

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