Solids! (at least in practice)

What do I do with this?

What do I do with this?

The Cricket has her 6 month well check in two weeks and we are fully anticipating the doctor to give us the okay to start solids. So we figured she should be ready and start practicing now. Nothing really exciting or dramatic, just some runny rice cereal.

Huh...not bad

Huh…not bad

Once we get the okay from her doc we’ll start with the interesting stuff. Wife and I cooked up and blended the majority of Sweetie’s “baby food”, and the plan is to do the same with Cricket. That’s when it will get fun, so expect some future posts, especially because I didn’t write about it with Sweetie. This post is mainly for the cuteness factor.

I got you now cereal!

I got you now cereal!

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Nana’s Zucchini Bars

Overall, Sweetie is a good eater. We struggle with food sometimes, but its more toddler power struggle than food aversion. We told her when she was born that Wife and I like good food and we like to eat. So if she was going to make it in our household, she too would have to eat well. Again, for the most part she does eat well.

I am always looking for ideas for meals, though. We have our go-to foods and it is just too easy to eat the same thing over and over. I think continuing to add to the variety helps keep Sweetie engaged with meals and away from boredom. Breakfast has been the most challenging meal for me to diversify. While Sweetie will kill a bowl of oatmeal with fruit, I just don’t feel right giving that to her seven days a week. So here is a recipe that we have seen some success serving to Sweetie.

The back story here is that my maternal grandmother, “Nana”, was the epitome of hospitality. Most grandmas are good at feeding their family but Nana took the blue ribbon. From sandwiches to baked goods to hot meals, you always ate well with her. Part of her legacy when she passed was her book of recipes. Sister Scales-of-Justice gave Wife a copy of the book for Christmas a couple of years back, so our household tries the recipes out every so often. I recently came across this one for Zucchini Bars and tested it on the family. The first time that I served the bars Sweetie ate them, but did not love them. I tweaked the recipe a bit and Sweetie ate one and a half bars in a sitting. I thought that was enough food interest to share. Given the ingredients, it was a surprise that Sweetie liked these bars at all(Okay, one time we had to give her some ketchup too).

Zucchini Bars – Ingredients

  • 3 cups zucchini thinly sliced. (3 medium-sized should do fine. I like to peel it and drop it into the food processor.)
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped green pepper (optional)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons chopped parsley
  • 1 clove garlic chopped fine (or ½ teaspoon garlic powder)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (and/or ½ teaspoon seasoned salt)
  • ½ teaspoon oregano leaves
  • 1 cup Bisquick mix (totally cheater, but yummy!)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 4 eggs slightly beaten
  • 3 Breakfast sausage patties browned and cut up (Not in the original, my addition)

Set oven to 350°. If using breakfast sausage patties, brown them in a pan. When done, set patties on a paper towel and plate to cool. Mix Bisquick, oil and eggs well. Cut up sausage patties and add those to the bowl. Add all other ingredients and mix well. Spread in greased 9 x 13 pan and bake for 30-35 minutes (until lightly browned).

Like I said earlier, I tweaked this recipe for better results – please feel free to do the same. Try bacon, or turkey sausage. Don’t like zucchini? Wife and I are already talking about a broccoli and bacon version. The recipe is on the savory side and I think any changes that stay in that realm will be tasty. Another change that I made was with my pan. I did not use a 9 x 13 (sorry Nana) but instead used a brownie pan from Pampered Chef. That way we ended up with 12 bars already formed and ready to eat.

So fancy!

So fancy!

So try out Nana’s Zucchini Bars and let me know what you think in the comments section. I am currently looking for the recipe to make “Bisquick” so we can remove the prepackaged mix. Other than that, I think this is a fairly healthy recipe (I am not a nutritionist, but I am a biased grandson!). Also, please let me know if you have any breakfast food that your little one (specifically toddler) really digs on. As I mentioned, I am always looking for new good stuff to feed Sweetie. Enjoy!

 

Now that's pretty

Now that’s eatin’

Winter Chicagoland

Last week we found ourselves once again home bound by frigid temperatures and winter weather. I am sure many of you dealt with the same conditions. This post came from my last-minute decision to buck the current attitude in Chicago. I caught myself trying to jump on the anti-winter bandwagon with the majority of the city (and country?) and lament the things that we have not been able to do because of the persistent cold. But I stopped in time and decided instead to celebrate a couple of the things that we have done during this snowy and cold winter.

Truth be told, I enjoy the winter. I was born in December, so of course I am biased. I have long been a fan of sledding and used to snowboard as well. And I am one of those people who do not mind shoveling snow, particularly on a quiet evening. I learned years ago in a Denver blizzard that good gear, i.e. boots, coat and gloves, makes a world of difference. So I am prepared for cold, snowy weather and enjoy it.

Now dealing with a toddler during the winter has been another story. But this year has been a great introduction to all things winter. Sweetie thinks snow is very funny stuff. She does not quiet get what it is, but smashes it around anyway. She too has all of her gear so she can go out to play. (Well, if she could move in the gear she could play – we have had Christmas Story flashbacks all winter!) We found some toddler sleds, so one day Sweetie and Wife and I met up with Big Daddy B, Momma Z and Linda for some sledding.

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As you can see, the dads were definitely the power-sources for the sledding. The new snow was so thick that downhill wasn’t so great, but the sleds went along the flats just fine. So we all enjoyed an afternoon at the park. Of course this was different from summer time at the park, but it was still a fun time spent with friends.

We have taken Sweetie and Linda to some indoor play areas as well. Momma Z and I figured that as long as we can get them in and out of the car safely, then it’s a go! This is the Little Beans Cafe in Chicago.

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It’s an open layout, loft-style play space with five “playhouses” and all sorts of pushing/riding toys. The girls ran around for hours. If you have a place like this near you, check it out. It is a must when playing outside is not an option.

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Another great thing about staying inside for days on end is the cooking (and/or baking )! We have said “Bah!” to plain chicken breast dinners and rice side dishes. I have been tearing through Wife’s cookbook collection trying all sorts of seasonal dishes. Hey, it helps break up the monotony! And don’t forget the sweets!

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Yes, those are Star Wars cookies. There is a funny story about those cookies that you can expect to read later. In all honesty, Momma Z bakes circles around us and has taken full advantage to her time inside. Thankfully, she likes to share and is quick to offer freshly baked cookies and cakes with her play date invitations!

All in all, it has seemed like a Chicago winter to me. I keep telling people, “This is how I remember Chicago winters.” I heard a great report on NPR where they interviewed a woman living and working in California. Her response to all of the winter animosity was simple, she said, “If people aren’t happy living in the cold and snow, tell ‘em to move here.” I agree with her philosophy. Chicago has always had strong winters with cold and snow and wind. I say prepare for it, dress for it and enjoy it. And if you don’t like it…move to California.

1 degree out, can you believe it?

1 degree out, can you believe it?

Brain freeze

Anyone who lives in the Chicagoland area, or really anywhere that 7-11 peddles their syrupy frozen drinks, knows the torture of a “brain freeze”. It’s that terrible event where the slurpee deliciousness over-rides your brain’s warnings for moderation, causing you to drink way too much, way too quickly. This results in a skull-splitting ache that only passes on its own terms. Unfortunately, today is not the day for slurpees. No, it’s way too cold in Chicago for slurpees (but just wait until summer!).

So this isn’t a post about binge drinking frozen treats. This is about the mental effect of being stuck inside with your nineteen-month-old for two days straight because of record low temperatures. The whole time trying to stay creative and active. Then the snack supplies run low. And you’re not heading to the store to replenish supplies until the weather breaks and the temperatures get above zero. So this was more of a metaphorical brain freeze.

You see, this episode started with a good snack idea despite dwindling supplies. The treat here has yogurt, frozen blueberries, honey, and a little ground flaxseed for some added fiber. And really this was shaping up to be an excellent snack. But let’s call this for what it is – a smoothie. Which one commonly drinks from a cup. And I tried to serve it to Sweetie in a bowl, with a spoon.

I got this, Dad!

I got this, Dad!

So there was definitely a disconnect between the good snack idea and the execution of that snack. The idea to write about it hit me when I was looking at Sweetie and found myself thinking, “well, that was a good idea.”

Good idea? No, great!

Good idea? No, great!

So two closing points here: this is Wife’s smoothie “recipe”. At least, these were the ingredients that she put in her drink last night. I totally bit her smoothie style. Also, if I had a more entrepreneurial spirit, this would be the smoothie recipe in the D-3 cookbook. That would be great for a stay-at-home toolbox, no?

Here it is if you want to give it a try:

  • 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt (Vanilla)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground flaxseed
  • Handful of frozen blueberries
  • Blend. Pour into a cup. Monitor closely.

“Never a bad time for a ‘Good Will Hunting’ quote”

Such was the subject line of a recent email from Big Daddy B. Apparently he had some photos of a summertime picnic lunch that he had not yet shared. I thought he was sending me some link to YouTube, instead I opened this treat:

"You're Suspect" (Ben Affleck)

“You’re Suspect” (Ben Affleck)

Enjoy!

Rainbow Cone, the ice cream Voltron

This adventure was one more on Sweetie’s “first time” list. The cool thing is that this was also a first time adventure for me and Wife as well. On a recent warm Chicago Sunday afternoon we were craving a sweet treat. So we loaded los abuelos into the ride and we went to Rainbow Cone for some ice cream.

Ice cream art

Ice cream art

Those of you familiar with Rainbow Cone know that “A Rainbow Cone” is not just “some” ice cream, but more like an ice cream sculpture. For those who have not yet had the pleasure, that’s 5 flavors of ice cream piled on to one cone in a particular order: chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (New York vanilla with cherries and walnuts), and pistachio topped off with orange sherbet. This cone is one of those things that sounds bizarre but tastes just right. I personally would not order most of those ice cream flavors by themselves, but together they form a powerful treat perfect for battling hot weather. It’s kind of like ice cream Voltron.

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Everyone enjoyed their cones, but of course Sweetie stole the show. Just to be clear, she does not eat ice cream with any frequency and this was a special occasion. Even without that disclaimer, I think the pictures of Sweetie slaying her cone cancel any criticism I earn for giving my daughter ice cream. I don’t care who you are, these pictures are great. And I don’t know that “enjoyment” really captures how much my daughter liked the Rainbow Cone.

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I should say a special thank you to Wife, who was nice enough to share her cone with her daughter (unlike most days of the week, I didn’t have to). Located at 92nd and Western, Rainbow Cone is close enough for an afternoon visit, but thankfully not close enough to enjoy regularly. Needless to say, los padrinos want to go for a cone so that means a return visit. Yet one more reason to love Chicago!

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Peary Happy – a bad pun, a good vid clip

I wish it was always this easy to make Sweetie happy. Any of you who have children or have been around children know that their contentment can pass quickly. When you are in that moment though, it’s great. This is a 5 minute video of one such moment with Sweetie and I at snack time. So the back story:

On this particular day, for no particular reason, I plopped down with Sweetie to have an afternoon snack on the floor of our kitchen. I had a bowl of goldfish crackers for her and a pear for myself. Well, one look at my pear and she was all about it! Once she started on the pear I couldn’t help laughing and thought that I had to record it. She jumps right in around the 15-18 second mark with some enthusiastic “ummms” and keeps it up throughout the clip. Sweetie really shows some gusto with this fruit. (My hand makes a couple of cameos around 2:40 and 4:45 to collect some unwanted pear skins – internet fame earned as only a parent could.)

I figure people are entertained by videos a lot more bizarre than this, so up it went on the youtubes. Enjoy, it is only 5 minutes. And I apologize for the strange scraping noise, that’s the bowl of goldfish crackers that were not as exciting!