Mummy Enchiladas

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Today was the first day of Dia de Los Muertos, a Mexican holiday in honor of one’s ancestors. Travis dove into his Frightful Fiesta-themed recipes from Raddish Kids in honor of the holiday, and first up were these impressive enchilada mummies!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons + 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon + 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 zucchini
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 (15-ounce) drained and rinsed can black beans
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 cups shredded vegan pepper jack cheese
  • 8 (8-inch) flour tortillas
  • 5 slices vegan cheese
  • 16 slices black olive
  1. To prepare the enchilada sauce, whisk together the tomato sauce, broth, water, tomato paste, cornstarch, 2 tablespoons chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Pour 1 cup sauce into the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the onion, bell pepper, and zucchini. Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the vegetables, along with the remaining 1 teaspoon salt; cook for 12 minutes, until tender.
  3. Add the beans, remaining 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, cumin, and garlic powder to the skillet. Cook for a final 2 minutes.
  4. To assemble each “mummy”, spoon 1/4 cup cheese and 1/3 cup bean mixture onto each tortilla. Wrap up and place, seam side down, in the baking dish.Mummy Enchiladas (3)
  5. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the tortillas. Cut the vegan cheese slices into strips and arrange on top of the enchiladas like mummy wraps. Add 2 olive slices to each tortilla for eyes.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees F for 22 minutes.

To round out this fearsome feast, the recipe card featured a few facts about Dia de los Muertos, as well as a breakdown of other ways (taquitos! burritos!) that tortillas can be prepared in Mexican dishes.

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Exploring Pumpkin Guts

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Pumpkin carving is an obvious Halloween activity, but don’t neglect what a fantastic sensory experience the whole process is, even before you get to that spooky carved face. And that goes not just for toddlers, but for big kids, too!

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First, I set out our biggest pumpkins, along with newspaper underneath, a tray to catch all those insides, and a few zip-top bags. The kids had eagerly awaited this moment, as we’ve decorated smaller pumpkins here and there in anticipation. I invited them to explore the giant pumpkin first: the texture, the color, the smell, etc.

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Then we cut off the top (grown-up step!). Now, the lid is like a puzzle piece that kids could take off and fit on over and over again.

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Time to scoop! Pumpkins are fascinating inside, starting with those stringy guts and slippery seeds, and then scraping down to the firmer flesh. I spooned some of the insides onto a tray for Veronika to explore with bare hands.

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She also wanted to smell it!

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I also sealed some in a zip-top bag in case the goop made her squeamish, but she actually preferred the stuff on the tray!

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She also loved stirring through the mixture with our pumpkin scoop, which we could also tap against the pumpkin to play it like a drum!

Exploring Pumpkin Guts (9)At last it was time to carve. We shifted a bit from sensory mode to learning mode, because as I popped out the first eye, Veronika said, “A triangle! I want a square.”

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So now I was on the spot to carve a square nose!

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The final sense to explore in a pumpkin is taste of course. We rinsed the seeds (which easily separate from the stringy stuff). Pat dry, then toss with about 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. (Note: We had one cup seeds, so use more or less oil and salt depending how many seeds your pumpkin yields).

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Roast at 400 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes, then enjoy!

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A Sweet and Safe Halloween

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Halloween is here! After the anticipation of a month-long countdown, I had to make sure our safely socially distanced trick-or-treating didn’t disappoint. To wit, there were three ways the kids got candy tonight.

First up, instead of knocking on neighbors’ doors, consider every door in your house as a new spot for candy. Bathrooms and closet doorways count! The kids knocked on each one and a bag of candy was waiting inside.

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Bonus points if you can rig up a way to make each door eerily open on its own. I’m going to ponder that for next year…

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Second, hide treats in the backyard. So that kids can spot them in the dark, add a glow stick to each one. The glow sticks were arguably more exciting than the candy!

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Finally, our neighborhood held a costume parade, which was a great way to let kids see each other’s get-ups but stay six feet apart.

Halloween (8)My little trick-or-treaters came home with quite the haul. So it’s safe to say, Halloween did not disappoint.

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Halloween Countdown Day 30: Reverse Trick or Treat

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We’ve reached the penultimate day in our month-long countdown to Halloween! That meant it was time to teach the kids about giving back this year, not just taking all the treats for themselves.

This is a project we actually started two weeks ago. Since Travis loves animals, we decided to host a cat food donation drive (get it, for black cats in honor of Halloween?), but truly you can pick any charity or cause and start collecting donations toward it.

We printed up a flyer and distributed it in Travis’s grade at school.

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Within one day, the donations started pouring in. His teacher even made a donation bin decorated to look like a black cat!

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We were overwhelmed by his schoolmates’ generosity. In ten days, Travis collected 172 cans of cat food (plus one huge jar of treats!).

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Now all we needed to do was deliver. We bagged the cat food (while listening to our favorite spooky tunes of course), turning it into a whole family affair.

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The next afternoon, we drove over to make the delivery. The sign on each bag read Happy Halloween to the cats!

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This activity was so purr-fectly rewarding that we might just make it an annual event.

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Which organization would you reverse trick-or-treat? Please share in the comments!

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Pumpkin Risotto

Pumpkin Risotto

If you’re looking for new pumpkin recipes to add to your seasonal repertoire, this savory recipe is a nice alternative to sweet pumpkin desserts.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Earth Balance butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a 3-quart casserole dish over medium heat. Add the sage and garlic; cook for 1 minute.
  2. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover, transfer to the oven, and bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour.
  3. Stir before serving!

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Birthday Memory Book

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Veronika’s birthday has come and gone, so we thought it would be fun to put together a memory scrapbook. Not only is this a perfect art activity for toddlers (markers! glue! glitter!), but you’ll have a wonderful keepsake at the end.

I put together several sheets of construction paper and folded in the center to make a crease. Together, Veronika and I went through all her cards and photos from the day and we taped them into the book.

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She loved looking back at party images. “There’s the sheep!” she said, remembering her tractor-themed tour at a local farm.

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Now it was time to decorate each page. Don’t worry about making this scrapbook look professional; messiness is encouraged here!

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Veronika then wanted to dribble glue all over the cover. “More glue!” she kept insisting.

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When we had a nice big goopy layer, we sprinkled glitter on top. Shake off any excess and let dry.

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A few more stickers and scribbles inside completed the book.

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I love knowing that she can leaf through this booklet for fun memories in the years to come.

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Video Time Capsule

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Veronika turned 2 years old today, and it was a fun reminder to look back on the videos we took last year when she turned 1. We had footage of the expected big moments (blowing out the candles, opening up her first present), but also a birthday dance party with dad and big brother Travis that I had forgotten all about. We loved it so much that we decided to make it a tradition!

So we staged a fun dance video to the same music as last year. The goal is to make this a tradition so eventually we can string together a video time capsule over the years.

Similarly, you can pick anything big or small on your child’s birthday (a tour of your child’s room, asking him or her what their favorite toy is, blowing out candles) and take a clip each year that becomes a time capsule over, well, time!

We also filmed snippets throughout the day, which we know will be fun to look back on. These included opening up gifts…

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…a special trip to a local children’s museum…

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…and of course, cake!

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What are the go-to birthday traditions in your family to film? Please share in the comments!

Happy Birthday Sensory Bin

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For toddlers who don’t entirely understand what it means to have a birthday yet, here’s a beautiful way to greet them the morning of their big day and introduce some of the items they’ll be seeing now and in years to come!

I filled a craft bin with bright and birthday-themed items. Birthday goodies included cupcake liners and candles, lots of bows and ribbons, and birthday-themed stickers. I also added neon pipe cleaners and a huge pile of pom poms, just for pops of color.

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Veronika barely let me finish setting up before getting her hands in the mix! She loved pouring the pom poms from one cupcake liner to another. Then we started baking pom pom cupcakes! Fill the liners and add a candle in the center for an introduction to the tradition of making a wish.

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The ribbons were so fun for to pull at or twist apart.

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Or to place on Veronika’s head like a birthday crown!

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At one point, she realized she could walk all the way around the apartment while unraveling a strand of gold ribbon, which was a pure delight to watch.

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I also set down some construction paper so she could peel off stickers (in fun shapes like cupcakes and balloons), and sticker all over the paper at will.

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In sum, you’ll have a very happy birthday boy or girl on your hands if you start a toddler’s birthday with this activity!

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Jack-o’-Lantern Quesadillas

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Spook your little ones for Halloween lunch with quesadillas carved to look just like pumpkins! The filling ingredientsbelow can be used as a guide. Swap in roasted bell peppers for the zucchini, for example, if your little monsters prefer.

Ingredients:

  • 4 tortillas
  • 2/3 cup shredded non-dairy cheddar
  • 1/4 cup chopped vegan chick’n
  • 2 tablespoons black beans
  • 2 tablespoons shredded zucchini
  • Salsa, for serving
  1. Place two of the tortillas on a baking sheet. Sprinkle each with 1/3 cup cheddar.
  2. Divide the chick’n, black beans, and zucchini evenly among the tortillas.
  3. Using a sharp knife, cut jack o’ lantern features out of the remaining two tortillas; place on top of the filling.
  4. Bake at 450 degrees F for 5 minutes. Serve with salsa on the side for dipping!

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Just be careful; we thought these looked even creepier after we cut them up for serving!

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Halloween Countdown Day 29: Do the Monster Mash

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If you need to pump up the volume in the final stretch before Halloween, then simply queue up the Halloween tunes! It doesn’t matter what spooky song your crew listens to, as long as everyone does the boogie(man) boogie!

Veronika was soon obsessed with the Ghostbuster’s theme song and paraded around singing “ghost busters!” at the top of her lungs. Monster Mash was also a fast toddler favorite.

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Travis wanted super spooky, which meant we had to dig deeper into the Halloween vault. Michael Jackson’s Thriller and the overture from Phantom of the Opera upped the ante!

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We soon decided we needed ghost dancing partners, so put together classic ghosts: wrap a cotton ball in a tissue and secure with yarn. Add marker eyes and an 0 mouth to each, and then break out the spookiest dance moves you know!

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