Thursday, July 19, 2012

National Ice Cream Day

Sunday, July 15 was National Ice Cream Day. Did you miss it this year? No worries, July is ice cream month. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month and specifically the third Sunday of July as National Ice Cream Day. So if you missed celebrating ice cream on the 15th, you still have the rest of the month to make sure you get at least one family celebration in.

This year I decided to make an ice cream cake with my kids. Picture this, Sunday morning about 9 am I say to my kids, "Who wants to help mommy make an ice cream cake? Do you feel like eating some ice cream?" The screaming and "yum yumming" that ensued after those two questions was loud enough that I was sure that the neighbors were wondering what was going on at my house. It was at that point that our family's celebration of one of our Nation's treasured days began.

I explained to my kids and my husband that it was National Ice Cream Day. My son wanted to know if we were going to eat ice cream all day long. I said that is not exactly the approach our family was going to take when celebrating this year, but we were going to start the day with making an ice cream cake and eating some along the way. Then that evening we were going to a neighbor's house and we were going to share our ice cream cake with our friends.  

Family recipe for Ice Cream Cake and Family Fun

1 package of Oreos (use one row for each of your three layers: bottom, middle, and top)
1 half gallon of _______ (ice cream of your choice) 
1 half gallon of _______ (ice cream of your choice)
Spring form pan (I used 9 inch)
Tin foil
Ziplock bags
Toy hammers for your kids
Bowl of warm water to place spatula in (helps spread ice cream)

This is where the fun begins. I gave each of my kids a hammer and a Ziplock baggie filled with Oreos and told them to smashing the cookies. You can picture how that went -- they loved every minute. Prior to the announcement of this holiday, I put the two half gallons of ice cream out on the counter so they would start to get soft. Don't leave the ice cream out long enough that it melts completely -- you want it soft not back to a liquid state.

Once the cookies are smashed, it is time to start to layer your ice cream cake.  I used a spring form pan so that it would be easier to serve.  I placed some tin foil under the pan in case there was any leakage, which there was not.  Start by putting some smashed cookies on the bottom of a spring form pan to form the crust of the cake.  Then I put one of the ice cream flavors (we used mint chocolate chip)
on top of the cookie crust. I used a spatula to spread ice cream out evenly.  Use a bowl of warm water to dip your spatula in to help spread the ice cream.  Top again with smashed cookie crumbs (middle layer).  Add your second flavor of ice cream and spread again. Lastly, top with remaining cookies.
Place some tin foil on top of your cake and refreeze for a few hours before serving.  If you used a spring form pan, it is super easy to serve.  Take spring form off --- dip your knife in warm water, slice, and serve.  Lastly, look around the room at all the happy faces.  Maybe President Reagan was right -- our Country needed a National way to honor ice cream.

Make sure you put National Ice Cream Day on your calendar for next year -- remember it is the third Sunday in July.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pasta, Potatoes, and Yogurt for Babies

Here is an excellent question I recently received:

Dear Mommy Plus Two- I hope you don't mind me asking you a few more questions... So, my little guy is now 8 months and the baby food recipes are getting a little bit more substantial (but enjoyable). Many of the recipes call for yogurt, potatoes and/or pasta. So, for yogurt and pasta (stars), do I just buy the general "people" kinds? Are there certain baby yogurts to mix in? I know my pediatrician said he could have food with milk products, but just not actual milk... Also, I have seen potatoes on the "dirty dozen", so I am assuming I should go organic for those. So far, I have only found organic sweet potatoes, but I will check the farmer's market tomorrow. If you have used organic potatoes, where have you found them?
Thanks again for your time, Cate

 My answer is based on my research, my personal opinions and my personal experiences. I do not represent any company or product.

I don't mind you emailing, calling, texting -- I love talking about little ones -- I am glad my research can help another mommy out. Really -- anytime. As far as pasta, I would use any tiny pasta you want. The stars are good for you to feed the baby. If you want your son to practice feeding himself, I would buy a bit larger pasta –penne or small farfalle (bowties) -- the stars are too hard to pick up, and he will not be able to use a spoon at first. I would put some butter and Parmesan cheese on the noodles -- he'll love it.

As for the potatoes -- If you are just doing potatoes as a side, I would stick with organic sweet potatoes like you have been doing. They have more vitamins -- and he'll move on to white potatoes as he gets older -- everywhere you go out to eat, there are white potatoes. If he is still eating pureed food, this is how I would make the sweet potatoes. Wash them, stick a few holes into them, place them on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour (until fork tender). Once cool enough for you to handle, peel skin off, and puree (might have to add a touch of water if it is too thick). Then you can serve some to your little one and freeze the rest in ice cube trays. Once it is frozen, pop them out and store in a freezer Ziplock bag.

But when you want to move on to pieces of potato for him to feed himself (I am not sure if he is there yet), I would roast the potatoes. My kids are 3 1/ 2 and 2 and they still love these. I even make them for family dinners – adults love it too. Wash the potatoes, peal them, wash them again, cube into bite sized pieces, place some tin foil on a baking sheet (for easy clean up), place potatoes on foil/ baking pan, drizzle with olive oil, dash of salt, dash of cinnamon spice, and maybe even a bit of maple syrup (organic grade B Trader Joe's house brand—it’s the best). Mix potatoes with your hands to season fully. If you are not sure you want to try cinnamon and maple syrup, you should know they are both good for you and help to make the potatoes super tasty. Maple syrup contains manganese - good for antioxidant defense. Roast potatoes in a 400 degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes, until fork tender. He will be able to feed himself these super yummy potatoes.

One last note about potatoes. If you are using potatoes in a recipe and not as a side, the recipe is probably calling for a non-sweet potato -- a white potato. I would buy organic white potatoes. I have found them at Whole Foods. If you are looking for a great recipe for lentils and potatoes, I can share that with you -- just let me know. I would also say – look at my blog entry that highlights the chicken soup recipe. This was a staple for my children. I always had ice cubes of chicken soup on hand. I would toss 4 cubes in a bowl and microwave them – instant homemade soup for dinner. I made my regular recipe – but for the kids I would really dice up the chicken, potatoes, and carrots.

As far as yogurt, I would not buy baby yogurt; there is usually too much sugar. I would buy organic, plain yogurt. I love Brown Cow yogurt (you can find it at Whole Foods). Little guys can eat the full fat version. Another brand that is a bit easier to find is Stonyfield. I would go with plain yogurt. There is plenty of time in your little one's life to eat fruit sweetened yogurt. I figure you cannot go backwards; after you eat fruit yogurt or vanilla yogurt, you cannot teach someone to eat plain. Both of my kids loved plain -- they don't know the difference when they are young. Now they eat flavored yogurt, but I still feed them plain because I don't want them to lose the taste for it and you can always add some fresh or frozen blueberries. Yogurt is such a good source of dairy and protein. My daughter has never been a big cow milk drinker -- so yogurt has always been a source of dairy for her.

Hope that helps – once I get to talking about feeding the little ones it is hard for me to stop. If you have any other questions, let me know – I love sharing. Happy Eating Baby Guy.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Babies Smell So Sweet

When I first met my babies, I couldn't help but notice the warm sweet smell coming from them.  Their breath was sweet. Their bodies had a warm sweetness emanating from their skin. I fell in love with them and their smell.  I still love the way my babies smell.  Aidan is now three and half and Madeleine is two.  When they wake up in the morning or after a nap, they still have that warm sweet smell baby smell; I swear it is better than freshly baked cookies.  I love putting my nose close to their necks and just inhaling them.  I have a feeling this baby smell will not last forever.  Let me correct myself and say, I know this baby smell will not last forever.  So until that happens, I plan on inhaling their sweet baby smell as long as I can.  In the end, I know they will wind up smelling like the rest of us.  Let's just say the rest of us don't smell warm and sweet.

I was talking to my dear friend Bruce the other day about how much I love the way my kids smell, and I was met with a harsh reality.  Not only will the kids lose their baby smell, but I might forget what this smell I adore smells like.   Bruce has two boys that are slightly older than my kids; they are eight and six.  Bruce says his boys smell like boys.  In the morning, they don't have a warm sweet smell; they smell like boys.  He says airing the boy's rooms out in the morning is more along the lines of what he does, not sticking his nose in the warmest part of their necks.  The saddest part about talking to Bruce about the smell of our children is the fact that he says he cannot remember his boys' warm sweet smell.  When he said this to me, I almost panicked.

How could I forget something I loved so much?  How can I bottle that smell?  How can I force myself to remember?  Then it hit me.  I'll write about it.  Words live on forever.  I know I won't be able to relive the smell once my kids have lost it.  Kinda like we cannot relive the shots at the doctor's office.  Or we cannot relive the many times we scrapped our knees as a kid.  Or we cannot relive those wonderful contractions that brought our children into the world.  That is one of God's little gifts - not to be able to relive physical pain. But the flip side of that gift is we cannot relive a sweet smell from the past that is long gone.  But we can RECALL it.  And that is my hope in writing this entry today.  I want to force myself to put this sense in my memory for me to recall when I am old.  That is the power of the written word - it lives forever.

My hope is that I take the time to force these kinds of memories in -- in so they can never be lost. The memories may not be relived, but they can be recalled in my heart. My hope for you is that you take the time to do the same thing with your special memories.