You really cannot make everything from scratch, it’s nearly impossible! I whipped up four batches of fun mac and cheese, then popped 3 of them in the freezer for quick and easy lunches or dinners. It will be so easy to grab a bowl and pack for daycare or when you’re in a rush to get dinner on the table!
Here’s a tip: do not use all of the freezer stash in one week! Let the freezer stock up. If you add 1-2 things to the freezer every week but continue to make some things fresh you will have so much success with freezer meals! I will be sharing how I schedule this and how I plan my family and toddler meals around freezer meals. It’s my way of life!
Here are the 3 different versions of mac and cheese I made today. I used Annie’s Mac and Cheese which has a short list of ingredients that make sense to me. I’ve been trying to buy things with less preservatives and one way I know if I feel OK with the ingredient list is if I know what all of the ingredients are. I’m not super strict about this because it’s not only hard to find things that are convenient but it’s also very expensive. I think it’s a balancing act and it’s a good goal to start with. I made the package of mac and cheese and and had the mix-ins ready to go in 4 separate little dishes.
Taco Mac: mix a pinch of taco seasoning with the mac and cheese while it’s still hot. Stir in black beans, diced avocado and a bit of cilantro (optional).
Triple Cheese Mac: microwave a spoonful of cream cheese in a small bowl for about 5-10 seconds at a time. Stir and repeat if needed until soft and creamy then add the boxed mac and cheese that you already made. Mix a spoonful of full fat (4%) cottage cheese, a scoop of cream and top with any shredded cheese you have on hand. I used parm and cheddar on top so it was actually QUADRUPLE mac! 😛 I prefer to serve full fat cheeses because my tot is average sized. The fats will help her body and brain continue growing strong, and since she sometimes only eats 5 bites at one meal, I like to up the calories. I’ve found a “greek yogurt” cream cheese at my grocery store and it has more protein and calcium than the other cream cheeses. Keep your eye out!
Veggie Ranch Mac: stir a dollop of ranch dressing into the hot mac and cheese then add thawed frozen veggies. I used peas and corn but you can use anything that sounds good. Sometimes if I’m thinking ahead I will toss a handful of frozen veggies in a dish with a lid and let them thaw in the fridge. It’s quick and easy!
Remember, ration out your frozen meals! Or, if you need to use them all quickly make 2 boxes of mac and cheese at once.
Great outdoor toys for 1-2 year olds can be hard to come by. Here are some of our favorites! Summer is finally in full swing and we are enjoying every minute of outdoor time. Now that we have a walking, climbing, running, jumping, extremely active 18 month old on our hands we have shifted gears with some of our toys and routines. Hope you have a summer filled with lots of sunshine and minimal scraped knees!
The Little Tikes First Slide, which is a Target exclusive is a great budget friendly option at only $35. Did you know those little playhouses and bigger climbing slides can be $200-$400? :/ We’re going to hold off on that because pretty soon we will have a park at the end of our street! We love this slide because it comes apart and easily stores in our garage… which is quickly becoming a toy room!
The bubble mower is a classic! She loves to help me mow the lawn and chase after bubbles. It’s a great learning toy too because the child learns to press the bubble jar down, then push the mower at just the right speed to make bubbles. It’s also encourages a lot of pretend play which is important for toddlers’ learning.
The baby stroller was a first birthday gift from a dear friend and it really hit the spot for my girlie girl! She loves buckling Ernie up for a neighborhood stroll. Another awesome starting point for make believing and role playing! The baby stroller can also be the perfect toy for those toddlers who are great with their push walker but not yet steady walking independently. Since it’s more wobbly than the push walker it provides more of a challenge while still encouraging a forward walking motion.
The Cozy Coupe has been a great long term toy. We’ve had it for about one year and it started out as a ride for Baby Babe while I pushed, then it became a scooting ride on toy, and now it has evolved into an imagination station! We actually keep it inside most of the time so she can “go shopping at Target” and take her stuffed animals on rides in the house. It is a lot of fun outside too! It’s durable and the scooting leg motions are an introduction to learning to pedal on a bike! Did you know that there is also a version of the cozy coupe that can transform into a outdoor baby swing? It’s really useful if you already have bought an outdoor play swing for any of your other children when they were younger!
Speaking of BIKES! Baby Babe is one lucky girl, her grandparents got her a pretty pink Strider Bike! Have you seen balance bikes around town? They are very popular here in Colorado where everyone seems to bike as much as they drive. I’ve seen tiny, tiny tots scooting around town and it’s amazing because the kids look like they’re just old enough to walk. Well, that’s what Strider says, “If you child can walk, they can ride a Strider!” Balance bikes replace the need for training wheels. The idea is you child pushes with their feet, “Flintstone Style” (thanks Rachel! lol) and they learn to balance the bike without the need for training wheels. I’ve even heard of adults learning to ride a bike by taking the pedals off. It’s really cool! It is really hard for me to show her how to ride the Strider bike but I’ve noticed that she really picks up from watching other kids ride. She also got a great helmet that fits her well. Please be sure to get a helmet that fits properly to ensure great protection. I recommend getting fitted at a bike shop or sporting goods store where the employees are trained and experienced in fitting helmets for littles!
Summer Ouch Kit- It seems like Baby Babe hit the 18 month old milestone and suddenly started scraping her knees and elbows every day. 🙁 She has been pointing to a week old scrape and fussing about it this week but a kiss and a special bandaid can really help take her mind off of it. I quizzed some mom friends and our pediatrician about summer first aid and found out it’s all about bandaids and neosporin for scrapes, and benedryl cream for bug bites. Baby Babe picked out some cool Elmo bandaids and when you open the box you get to hear Elmo talking! How fun. I was kind of hoping she was going to pick Hello Kitty because I liked those ones, but anything to help her feel better after a rough fall!Share it!
I’m so excited to share this week’s Monday Meal Ideas with you! Over the weekend I made a HUGE mess in my kitchen and I whipped up some new recipes for my busy mamas who don’t have a lot of time during the week. I made a few different muffin pan recipes that you can make ahead and then freeze for quick defrosted meals.
On Saturday I cleaned my kitchen and set everything up for some fast meal prep. I’d rather make one big mess and deal with it at once than all throughout the week. It’s easy to rinse out a mixing bowl and cutting board with hot water and move on to the next recipe. Imagine doing that every day of the week, over and over again. I think this make ahead cooking is worth the investment! I set out my trash can, dish towels, ingredients, cutting boards and opened the blinds so I could watch the snow. Baby Babe played in her Go Pod for a little bit and Daddy played with her until nap time. I recommend eating out on the night that you do freezer cooking. After all of the work you deserve to have someone cook and clean for you!
I made 3 different Healthy Toddler Cup Recipes for the Freezer: Quinoa Kale Chicken Cups, Veggie Quiches and Easy Cheesy Brown Rice Chicken Cups.
I started out by cooking two chicken breasts in a pan with olive oil. I also got the brown rice going (it takes 45 minutes). For each recipe I used silicone muffin liners. This made it so easy to pop the muffins out without them breaking apart.
Quinoa Kale Chicken Cups
- 1 chicken breast cooked and shredded
- 1 cup of quinoa
- 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 1- 1.5 cups of shredded cheese
- 1 bunch of chopped kale
- 4 beaten eggs
Directions: Bring stock to a boil. Add quinoa, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Add all of the kale, cover and simmer for another 5-10 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and the quinoa “sprouts”. (When raw quinoa looks like a tiny bead. Once it is cooked, you will see a little sprout uncurl from the grain.) Allow quinoa to cool completely. Stir in cheese and eggs until incorporated. Scoop mixture into muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes or until set and slightly golden.
Veggie Omelet Cups
- 6 eggs
- 1/4 c of water
- 1/2 roasted red pepper
- 1 cup cottage cheese
- 1 cup chopped sautéed mushrooms
Directions: Beat eggs with the water, then mix in veggies and cottage cheese. Pour into muffin cups and bake for 20-30 minutes or until eggs are set.
Easy Cheesy Brown Rice Chicken Cups
- 1 chicken breast cooked and shredded
- 1 cup of shredded cheese
- 3 beaten eggs
- 1/2 c cottage cheese
- 1 c frozen peas and carrots
- 3 cups of cooked brown rice
Directions: Be sure that the chicken and rice have cooled completely before mixing all of the ingredients gently in a large bowl. I rinsed the frozen veggies to wash away any ice crystals and speed up the baking time. Scoop mixture into a muffin pan and bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until slightly golden and set. (I live at about 5,000 ft so it might take you less time to bake.)
I allowed all of the cups to cool completely then I placed them on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and put them in the freezer. One frozen solid I put the cups in gallon sized freezer bags. Now it will be so east to defrost the cups for our meals! I call them “Toddler Cups” but I will definitely be eating them, too! So yummy!
Hurray for October! We might try to hit up a pumpkin patch this weekend. Our front porch is yearning for a few pumpkins! Have you thought of any plans for celebrating Halloween with your kids?
Baby Babe and a lot of her friends aren’t old enough to eat candy yet, and most of them don’t walk so Trick or Treating would be kind of silly. I have decided to organize a neighborhood Halloween Parade!
Our neighborhood has tons of babies and toddlers so I think it will be a hit. We will set up little stations along the greenbelt for the tots to explore different age appropriate activities. I’m expecting a crowd of infants to 2 year olds. A 3 year old would probably go trick or treating, right? I didn’t grow up celebrating Halloween so I’m kind of new at this!
I will be responsible for a few stations that I will not have to tend to. Some ideas would need an adult helper, but I know I will be busy with Baby Babe and we will be welcoming and directing our friends towards the festivities so I think it’s a good plan for me to provide unmanned stations.
My stations will be:
- 3 Play Tunnels for the tots to crawl through
- Bubbles I have one bubble gun and containers of bubbles, but if I can borrow a bubble machine that would be really cool!
- Play Dough Table I will have orange, purple and green play dough and little Halloween objects for them to squish in the dough.
- Music I’ll bring my iPod filled with fall time songs including some that have little dances that go along with the music. “Scarecrow turn around, scarecrow touch the ground…”
Other neighbors have volunteered to provide:
- Halloween Sidewalk Chalk
- Jack-O-Lantern Bean Bag Toss
- Balloons provided by Edge Optics
Thank you Edge Optics for your balloon donation!! I am in the process of contacting more local businesses for donations. Some mini pumpkins, bales of hay, an ink pad with rubber stamps for paper or hands, and maybe some outdoor decor for in between stations would be perfect! I would also love to see if anyone has a pop up awning that we can borrow. That could mark the beginning of the parade and we could hang streamers or spider webs from above. At the end of the parade we will have a special thank you sign to recognize all of our friendly local businesses who have donated to the parade!
The event is scheduled to run from 4:00- 5:00 (that way the tots can get home for dinner and PJs). That means I’ll probably be busy from 3:00- 6:00. I would love to start a family Halloween tradition of a slow cooker dinner that night. Maybe something with squash or pumpkin. I’m thinking this Slow Cooker Pumpkin Chili might be perfect! It has browned sausage, canned pumpkin, beans, and diced bell peppers.
Do you have any tips or recommendations for our parade? Remember there won’t be any bobbing for apples or eating doughnuts off of a string. The kids are newborn- 2 years old! I would love to hear your ideas! I can’t wait to see how it turns out! It’s going to be too stinking cute. 🙂