Valentine’s: Food + Art

Valentine's Pasta Art

Here’s what I had on hand today. Heart-shaped pasta. Glue. And sprinkles.

Valentine's Pasta Art

I thought, nothing beats good old fashioned macaroni art.

Valentine's Pasta Art

Ok really, I’m just running low on craft supplies…

Valentine's Pasta Art

But surprisingly, this worked out really well. And Els had a blast.

Valentine's Pasta Art

And she really took care in staying within the lines. It was very cute.

Valentine's Pasta Art

The sprinkles kind of got out of hand. I mean, they were everywhere.

Valentine's Pasta Art

But, what can I say? Sprinkles makes little ones happy. And it totally beats glitter clean up. Fun fun all around!

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

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Memories of Pink Popcorn…

Valentine's: Dye-Free Pink Strawberry Popcorn. Made with real strawberries.

Once in a while, I come across a person, who by ways of off-tangent, or trigger-reference, will suddenly shift their eyes past my shoulders, gaze longingly, and then speak out loud about their grandmother’s homemade cherry pie, or their mother’s fresh baked chocolate chip cookies warmly greeting them as they come home from school. Their look lingers, even in afterthought.

I have those moments too.

For… THIS:

Lucky Elephant Pink Popcorn
Picture Courtesy Of: pacificcandywhsle.com


Lucky Elephant Pink Candy Popcorn.

I didn’t grow up with a mother who baked cookies. But who needed homemade cookies when I had an entire grocery store filled with every kind of candy you can imagine, owned by my parents, all for my taking?

My go-to sweets: Sour Keys. Bubble Gum. Popsicles. And Pink Popcorn.

 

So naturally, for this Valentine’s I wanted to recreate this magical popcorn of my past for Els and her friends. However, after looking up a few recipes online, I decided to forgo using red food coloring, sacrifice the original taste and like my strawberry buttercream frosting, use freeze dried strawberries instead. So instead of Pink Elephant, we have strawberry pink popcorn. But it tastes just as good, if not (dare I say it?) better.

I used:

1/2 cup of un-popped popcorn
1 1/2 cups of marshmallows
2 tbsp of butter
1 tbsp of ground freeze dried strawberries

Valentine's: Dye-Free Pink Strawberry Popcorn. Made with real strawberries.I wanted to do a very light coat, with subtle pink and subtle taste. I suggest if you wanted a heavier coat with more strawberry flavor to use:

1/2 cup of un-popped popcorn
2 cups of marshmallows
3 tbsp of butter
2 tbsp of ground freeze dried strawberries

To grind the strawberries, I thew a handful of strawberries into my food processor and ground until a very fine texture.

Valentine's: Dye-Free Pink Strawberry Popcorn. Made with real strawberries.

It should look like this.

Valentine's: Dye-Free Pink Strawberry Popcorn. Made with real strawberries.

To pop the popcorn, I added 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large pot. On high, I moved the pot back and forth rapidly holding down the lid until all the popcorn popped.

Valentine's: Dye-Free Pink Strawberry Popcorn. Made with real strawberries.

You can add a little salt if you wish. I then melted the butter on low. Added the marshmallows stirring slowly. Once the marshmallows were almost melted, I added the ground strawberry.

Valentine's: Dye-Free Pink Strawberry Popcorn. Made with real strawberries.

It came out a nice pink color.

Valentine's: Dye-Free Pink Strawberry Popcorn. Made with real strawberries.

I then swirled it onto the popcorn in a tray.

Valentine's: Dye-Free Pink Strawberry Popcorn. Made with real strawberries.

Carefully mixed it together while the mixture was still hot.

Valentine's: Dye-Free Pink Strawberry Popcorn. Made with real strawberries.

And tada! Pink strawberry popcorn.

Valentine's: Dye-Free Pink Strawberry Popcorn. Made with real strawberries.

All packaged and ready to go.

Valentine's: Dye-Free Pink Strawberry Popcorn. Made with real strawberries.

What do you think? We thought it tasted mighty good. I hope Els’ friends think so too.
Happy Valentine’s Day! (soon.)

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No Sugar. No Butter. Healthy Muffins for Toddlers.

I never thought I’d be one of those people who had to hide vegetables in my baby’s food to get them to eat it. I love vegetables. My husband loves vegetables. And really, what’s not to like? Vegetables are delicious.

But I must do what I have to do. And that is exactly what I did with these:

No sugar. No butter. Healthy muffins for toddlers.

Healthy muffins for my toddler. No butter. No sugar. Sweetened with bananas and applesauce. Two added veggies. And shaped like hearts because everything tastes better shaped like a heart.

No sugar. No butter. Healthy muffins for toddlers.

Ingredients: (Yields 12 muffins)
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1/2 cup of oat bran
1/3 cup of Organic cold-pressed canola oil (Can use safflower oil OR Coconut Oil as well)
1/2 cup of organic no sugar added applesauce
2 ripe bananas
1 cup of shredded carrots
1 small zucchini
2 eggs
1 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of cinnamon
1/4 tsp of ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp of ground ginger
1/4 tsp of salt

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Mix together canola oil, applesauce and eggs in a large mixing bowl.
3. Put carrots, zucchini and bananas in a food processor and chop fine. (I did this, because if Els found a long shred of carrot in the muffin, that would have been the end of the muffin.)
4. Once chopped, pour into mixing bowl with the applesauce, oil and eggs.
5. Stir in dry ingredients: whole wheat flour, oat bran, baking soda, cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground ginger and salt.
6. Spoon in muffin batter 2/3 full. And bake for 15 minutes.

No sugar. No butter. Healthy muffins for toddlers.

I have to say, these muffins are DELICIOUS. Subtly sweet and very moist. And it feels good to know, that my toddler is eating something wholesome. Because let’s face it, most muffins out there are nothing more than ‘glorified cupcakes.’

No sugar. No butter. Healthy muffins for toddlers.

Healthy snack.

No sugar. No butter. Healthy muffins for toddlers.

Healthy Breakfast.

No sugar. No butter. Healthy muffins for toddlers.

Have a healthy Valentine’s Day!

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A Heart-y Pasta

I think that I have the only toddler on the planet who doesn’t like pasta. We’ve tried different sauces, (maybe it’s our cooking) we’ve tried different restaurants, a plain marinara, a more complicated bolognese, it doesn’t matter.  She just shakes her head and says, “I don’t like it.” Plain and simple. But I’m not giving up yet. Because I, LOVE PASTA.

And look what I found! (World Cost Plus Market.)

Valentine Heart Pasta

I thought, perhaps this heart-shaped pasta will trick my toddler’s brain, even if it is a hard brain to trick.

Valentine Heart Pasta

Els’ perfect world. Plain pasta. Not a color, not a speck, not a hint of something or anything. But what’s the fun in that? And more importantly, what’s the nutritional value in that?

Valentine Heart Pasta

But still, I met her halfway, and put only a tiny bit of sauce on it. Just enough to coat each one.

Valentine Heart Pasta

And I made a side spinach salad with balsamic and olive oil dressing. A sprinkle of sunflower seeds and some freeze-dried strawberries.

Valentine Heart Pasta

So…Did she like it, you ask?

YES! Kind of! Yes! I would say yes! And the salad too!

Valentine Heart Pasta

Who knew shapes could make all the difference. And guess who ate the apples too?

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Toddler Play Date Valentine Gifts

I think my favorite part about this age, (two years) is watching Els start to play with friends. I mean, beyond the scoping, judging, side-by-side playing, tugging and crying and warring – but really interacting and conversing, building sand castles, asking questions, playing — together. It’s a huge milestone, and it makes me smile every time I see it.

But what I find even more satisfying than watching her play with playmates, is watching her give them presents. The exchange, the smiles, the giddiness — you just want to squish them.

Els’ going to go nuts giving these out. Either that, or she’ll try to claim all of them as her own.

Toddler Valentine gift ideas

*NO SUGAR ADDED.* Because sugar makes toddlers go bonkers. It does to my toddler anyway.

Toddler Play Date Valentine Gifts.I bought little clear bags and filled it with crackers, Pom Poms and googly eyes, and beads with valentine themed pendants. Some pink feathers. Heart shaped crayons. And I also bought some mini play dough in pink. These came in a package at Target, but you can easily make your own. Here’s a link for a homemade organic play dough recipe.

I decided to keep it simple. Didn’t want to overwhelm the little tots, and also wanted it to keep with the ‘just a little something’ vibe.

Toddler Play date Valentine Gifts.

Toddler Play date Valentine Gifts.

Some other ideas, while keeping it light and simple:

Heart shaped crayons.
Valentine foam heart boards and foam stickers.
Valentine Stamps.
Heart bubbles.
Pirate’s Booty snacks with a pink ribbon.
Freeze-dried fruit snacks.
Heart beads and pipe cleaners.
Pink feathers, beads and clay.
Homemade dried strawberries.

Or just a nice homemade Valentine’s card, saying:
I like being friends. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Toddler Play date Valentine Gifts.

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