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Monday, April 27, 2015

Yummy Mummy Monday: Fresh Fruit Popsicles

The amazing Spring weather has had me daydreaming about Summer & I thought what's a better warm weather snack than popsicles??? They're a super easy & healthy snack idea perfect on days when you need to cool off (bonus idea: sneak in some kale or spinach for a nutritional punch). They also make a fun little foodie project to do with the kids. I recently discovered kefir (a fermented milk drink, like liquid yogurt) and have been enjoying it with Ari. (Because it's like yogurt, even those with dairy sensitivities can eat it on occasion since the fermentation breaks down the lactose). 



Ingredients:
Fresh fruit of your choice (I used strawberries, kiwis, & pineapples for these)
Coconut milk, yogurt, or kefir

Directions:

For fruit slice popsicles:
1. Slice up the fruits you're using into pieces small enough to fit your popsicle molds.
2. Layer the fruits as desired 
3. Pour in enough coconut milk/ yogurt/ kefir to fill the mold & cover the tops of the fruit; tap the mold to get out any air bubbles
4. Freeze & enjoy!

For fruit smoothie popsicles:
1. Pop your desired fruit & coconut milk/ yogurt/ kefir into blender until fruit is pureed (this is a great chance to sneak in some greens!)
2. Pour mixture into mold & tap it to remove any air bubbles
3. Freeze & enjoy!

Could it get any easier??? 




April posts sponsored by Little Dreamers Consulting


Friday, April 24, 2015

Mother's Day Gift Guide


May 10th is approaching fast & if the man in your life is notorious for leaving things to the last minute, this year's Mother's Day Gift Guide is up nice & early so you have time to scope out the goodies & give him plenty of time to take the hint. ;)

A fun little bonus about this year's MD Gift Guide: All of the items included are offered up by businesses that are run by women. How's that for a shot of girl- power with your Mother's Day gift? #ladyboss ;)

This Mother's Day give Mom...

... some pampering
A good bath can melt away a day of messes, stress, chasing bumpkins... pretty much anything.
Indulge Mom with luxurious milk bath by bebe de luxe made from organic coconut oil & oatmeal that's free from parabens & other nasty ingredients. Pure, simple luxury. There are several options available, but I love the Luxe option that comes beautifully packaged in a glass jar ready to gift to a deserving mama.
$26
Visit the bebe de luxe website to order & find them on Instagram.

... a sweet treat
If the Mom in your house is anything like me, something to satisfy her sweet tooth is always a winning gift idea. And if you're going to gift her a sweet treat, why not support another lovely Mama while you're at it? Mama B's Treats offers up delicious baked goodies and can whip up batches of treats sans gluten/ dairy/ eggs if allergies are a concern. She's offering up adorable homemade & hand- decorated cookie gift sets especially for Mother's Day that Moms will love (add a cute touch & have them personalized with Mom's name for $2/ dozen).
Mini cookies gift set- $15/ dozen
Regular cookies gift set- $20/ dozen
Check out the Mama B's Treats Facebook page to order.


...something to remember
We hear it all the time: they grow up so fast. Whether you have a special occasion you want to remember or just want to celebrate this moment in time with your family, photos make a beautiful gift (and don't have to be super expensive).
I love the candid style the talented ladies at Pacific North Photography have, and as two Moms, they know that the little moments can provide the biggest memories.  
Packages start at $200
Visit the Pacific North Photography website for booking info & find them on Facebook & Instagram.
Book by April 30th to receive a 10% discount.

...a few moments of bliss
It's amazing how something as simple as a few precious moments to relax and a good cup of tea (that's still hot!) can make a Mom feel appreciated.  
The Mom's Moment Bundle by Steeped Tea, includes a glass tea cup, loose leaf Earl Grey tea (one of my faves), and stainless steel infuser. A lovely gift for the tea- loving Mama.
$34 
Available through independent Steeped Tea Consultants, like the lovely Chelle. 
Visit her  website or Facebook page to order.

... some pretty little things
Diamonds might be a girl's best friend, but something sentimental is priceless.
I love the customizable necklaces from Mint and Birch, like these Birds Nest ones (you can add an egg for each of your bumpkins). An adorable accessory for any mama bird.
from $28
Available on the Mint and Birch website & find them on Facebook & Instagram


... some retail therapy
Treat Mom to a day of shopping & send her out for a few hours to enjoy some uninterrupted time at her favourite stores. 
Two of my local favourites are Muse Social Fashion House & MACCS with their gorgeous pieces that won't burn a whole in your credit card (but I can't promise you won't come away spending some $$$- it's hard to pick just a few things to take home! ;) ).
Shown: White lace dress- Muse Social Fashion House
Grey Playsuit- MACCS
Click the links above to check out their latest offerings & find both on social media:
Muse- Facebook- Instagram
MACCS- Facebook- Instagram

I hope all you deserving Mamas have a wonderful Mother's Day full of love & memories made!
oxox TPB

Image sources:
'Dear Mom I Love You'- Carla Aston
Product photos from respective brands

April posts sponsored by Little Dreamers Consulting

Monday, April 20, 2015

Yummy Mummy Monday: Homemade Microwave Popcorn

 Next time you have a craving for popcorn this is a fun idea to try. Skip the store- bought versions with their artificial flavourings and try making your own microwave popcorn. It's super simple and a fun idea for movie nights and sleepovers. Now all you have to decide is what movie to watch. ;)


Ingredients:
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
1 tbsp olive oil or butter (we tried a dairy- free/ vegan butter- style spread made with coconut oil and it was delish)
1/2 tsp salt
1 brown paper bag

Directions:
1. Scoop the popcorn kernels into the bag followed by the oil/ butter and salt.
2. Roll the bag down about 1- 2", leaving a small opening for steam to escape and plenty of space for the popcorn to expand .
3. Put in the microwave for approx. 2 minutes (the timing took some trial and error to figure out and can vary by microwave, so if you're unsure how long start at 1 minute 30 seconds and add time as needed).
4. Remove bag from microwave, sprinkle with any additional seasonings & enjoy!

For anyone who loves buttery popcorn but has to avoid dairy, the spread we used is the 'Zen Budha Buttery- Style Spread' by Raw Foodz a great option that is also vegan/ vegetarian friendly. 





April posts sponsored by Little Dreamers Consulting




Friday, April 17, 2015

DIY Crayons


One of my good friends recently threw her son a safari- themed 2nd birthday & included some adorable homemade crayons in the goodie bags. I affectionately think of this talented lady as a Martha- Mom, one of those ladies whose projects are Pinterest- worthy (see this post for another of the DIY projects she contributed to TPB), and to top off her creativity this sweet lady took photos as she made them & sent me her how- to so I could share it with my readers! If you've been thinking about making some or are trying to think of a way to use up all the broken crayons in your house (multi- coloured ones are cute too!), this simple DIY is a fun project to do with your kiddos and make a great gift/ party favour. Here's Celine's DIY Crayon how- to.

How to make your own DIY crayons:

Materials:
crayons
crayon mold (silicone ice cube trays work great)
exacto knife or other sharp knife
baking tray

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 350 F. Use an exacto knife, box cutter, or paring knife to cut the crayons out of their wrappers.  Don’t mix them up if you’re trying to make single colour crayons. I got a giant bag from Value Village for $2.99. 
Tip: Crayola crayons seem to work the best, I tried others including the dollar store brands and freebies from restaurant chains, but they had way too much paraffin wax in them that would separate during melting and float to the top.  



2) Break the crayons into pieces small enough to fit your mould. You can break them up by hand or use a knife & cut them.  I used a silicon ice-cube mould I found in a thrift shop, which made it super easy to pop the crayons out in the end.

3) Place mould on a old baking tray (just in case you put too much in and the melting crayons over flow) and bake for about 15- 20 minutes. How long the crayons need will depend on your oven and how much crayon you’re using. Tip: About half way through melting, pull them out and top up with additional crayon pieces so that the mould is nice and full. At the end stir with a toothpick to mix up any wax that has separated from the pigment.



4) Remove from oven & allow to cool completely before popping them out of the mould. However long they are in the oven is how long they need to cool before popping them out of the mould. If the crayons break as you pop them out, no worries, just cut them up and re-melt.  I did this several times learning how to get my timing perfect. Tip: If a colour leaks from one space to another in the mould, allow the crayon to cool completely and cut the wrong colour out with a paring knife and then re-melt the crayon so that it’s the perfect shape. 





How cute are these???


April posts sponsored by Little Dreamers Consulting

Monday, April 13, 2015

Yummy Mummy Monday: Baked Broccoli Mac & Cheese

Usually I share recipes that are healthy & allergy- friendly, but today is all about comfort food & satisfying cravings. And really, what meal does this better than mac & cheese? When I go to my parents I usually take the opportunity to indulge in some gluten/ dairy and my Dad's mac & cheese is one of those meals that I can't make at home for my fam anymore, so I made a special request a few weeks ago when I visited. My Dad came through and his mac & cheese hit the spot. YUM. So I thought I'd share this yummy take on a classic for those days when comfort food is what you're craving. 


 Yummy Mummy Recipe: Baked Broccoli Mac & Cheese 

Ingredients:
4 cups macaroni noodles (uncooked amount)
3 cups milk
2- 3 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp mustard (regular yellow or dijon are delicious)
4 cups grated cheddar cheese (old/ sharp is best)
1/2 cup cream cheese
2 tbsp butter
2 cups broccoli florets cut into 1" pieces
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees & bring a pot of water to a boil. When bubbling pop the macaroni in the pot & steam the broccoli above the pasta as it cooks.
2. In a separate pot heat milk until it's almost at a boil; reduce heat to maintain temperature. In a cup mix cornstarch with water to form a paste and whisk into milk, followed by Worcestershire sauce and mustard.
3. When combined, add 3 cups of the grated cheddar and all of the cream cheese to the milk mixture and whisk until combined and creamy.
4. When macaroni & broccoli are ready remove from heat. Set broccoli aside; drain & rinse pasta well then add to the cheese mixture. Mix until combined & add salt & pepper to taste.
5. In a large baking dish (or individual dishes) layer the pasta/ cheese mixture followed by some of the broccoli florets and grated cheddar; repeat this for a second layer, topping with grated cheese to melt on top.
6. Bake for approx. 10 minutes or until cheese has melted. Serve immediately & enjoy.





What are your favourite comfort food meals? For more great recipe ideas hop over to the Yummy Mummy Recipe page!

April posts sponsored by Little Dreamers Consulting


Friday, April 10, 2015

On the Hunt: Taste Testing Gluten Free Snacks

It's one thing to change your diet as an adult and this comes with it's own set of challenges. The same can be said with children who are old enough to have the situation explained to them and an ability to understand and communicate with you (albeit with resistance and different challenges I'm sure). But having to change how your toddler eats at 18 months after finding out she's sensitive to certain staples comes with it's own unique set of grey- hair sprouting inducing challenges. If I wasn't pregnant at the time and had wine as an option, trust me when I say I would have very much enjoyed a glass to mellow my nerves at the end of those days.  

The first two weeks were tough. Brutal. I went from having a toddler who could and would eat mostly anything to having to limit her choices and introduce new versions of foods with varying success; basically repeating history from a few months before when I introduced solids. But this time Ari had already tasted 'normal' food and she has developed a sense of taste beyond the bland rice cereal and purees of those earlier months. Suddenly I had a food critic on my hands who didn't understand why her culinary choices were being changed and why foods she could previously eat were suddenly off limits at play dates and birthday parties (anyone with a little allergy- sufferer can relate to the challenge of having to avoid snack sharing and the tantrums that can ensue). Meal times and snacks suddenly became  a battle zone as I tried to convince my little lady that these new options were not only yummy, but were frankly the only ones she now had. 

So began the hunt for alternatives to foods such as milk and anything containing dairy, bread, bagels (an Ari fave), and anything containing gluten (now what to do with the economy- sized bag of organic oatmeal I'd just picked up? For those with strong gluten sensitivities/ allergies you have to buy gluten- free oats). There are a few other things I have to look out for, but those are the two biggies. Ultimately, I know that reducing the amount of dairy and gluten products we consume is for the better, but as with most diet/ lifestyle changes the initial transition can be a bit of a hurdle. And even though Will has already made this transition, transitioning Ari was a lot tougher, especially since it impacted how I ate her around (think: suddenly something as simple as a piece of toast was off- limits and I'm not willing to buck up for an extra loaf of gf bread just so I can eat it around her. PS- the budget impact of this experience is a post in itself, but that's another story...). Upon getting the feedback from our naturopath about what we needed to eliminate, Will & I knew we'd be making more changes to the foods we had in the house- even if he allows himself some flexibility in how he eats, it's a little tougher with a toddler who can't communicate if she's in discomfort from something she ate. 

There are a lot of options available, but finding snacks that are healthy and have more taste than flavoured cardboard can be tricky. As I go through the trial & error of trying out new options I'm hoping to share my experiences with my readers in the hopes of helping you with your own dietary journeys and save you some time and money in the process. So when I got the chance to try out a box of gluten free goodies generously offered up by Lloyd James Naturals I jumped at the chance. In the box were various snacks, salad dressings, non- dairy butter alternatives, and sauces to try (I'll share about those in a later post). The opportunity to taste- test these products couldn't have come at a better time & we've enjoyed working our way through the products and finding new options that can be enjoyed by Will and Ariana. See below for the snacks we got to try & more info about them.

Coco- Roons

  • Organic, gluten free, vegan, & paleo friendly & made with non- GMO ingredients. These are a nice option for those with food sensitivities and special diets (note: these do contain almonds) when you're craving something sweet. 
  • 7 flavours available (I got to taste test 5 of them): Vanilla, Brownie, Almond Strawberry, Lemon Pie, & Cacao Nib (my favourite was the Lemon Pie flavour).
  • Similar to the coconut macaroons you find in the bakery of the grocery store but without all the sugar (unfiltered organic maple syrup is used to sweeten these & it's the 5th ingredient on the list- yay for not being loaded with sugar!). I also really liked that I could identify all of the ingredients and that there are no preservatives in them. (For example, here's the ingredients in the Lemon Pie Coco- Roons: dried unsweetened coconut*, almond flour*, unfiltered maple syrup*, cold- pressed coconut oil*, lemon zest*, vanilla extract*, himalayan crystal salt) * = organic.


Cheeky Monkey Puffs
 
  • Organic, gluten free, kosher, dairy & casein free, soy free, sugar free, vegan, & made with non- GMO ingredients.
  • 2 flavours: Peanut Butter and Peanut Butter Chili Pepper
  • These have the texture of cheesies/ cheese puffs but the flavour of peanut butter (I loved the unique combo of the Peanut Butter Chili flavour & the kick of flavour the chili added). 
  • Produced in a gluten- free facility, making them an option for those with a strong gluten allergy, but containing peanuts (I know the name gives this away, but thought I'd mention just in case, ya know?). These snacks aren't fried and again, the list of ingredients impressed me in the simplicity and quality of ingredients used. (I'm very picky about certain ingredients such as peanuts and corn being organic/ non- GMO given the amount of pesticides used with certain crops and/ or if they are known to be a common GMO crop unless stated). While these most likely aren't going to be school- lunch friendly given that they contain peanuts, they still make a great option for day trips, play dates, camping, etc. Ingredients (for the Peanut Butter Chili flavour): organic peanut butter, organic corn, organic palm oil. organic ground chili pepper, salt.

Brussel Bytes & Snip Chips
  • Organic, gluten- free, vegetarian, paleo- friendly (note: this refers to the Snip Chips not the Brussel Bytes), & contains non- GMO ingredients.
  • I got to try 2 flavours for each: Chili Pumkin and Tamarind Apple (Brussel Bytes);  Chipotle Lime Cilantro and Cheezy Herb (Snip Chips)
  • I'll start with the Brussels Bytes: I'll admit I'm not huge into kale chips, etc and so was a little hesitant with these but they grew on me. After digging into both and giving them a fair chance I'm not actually sure which flavour I liked more. Even if these don't sound that appetizing, the fact that they're made with nutrition- packed ingredients such as brussel sprouts, kale, carrots, and pumpkin seeds make them worth a shot (again, if you're already into things like kale chips these snacks will be right up your alley). 
  • Snip Chips: Despite the name, with dried unsweetened organic coconut as the second ingredient, these snacks are actually on the sweet side. If you can have cheese/ dairy, the Cheezy Herb flavour is yummy; if not I also really liked the Chipotle Lime Cilantro flavour. I would probably pick these over the Brussel Bytes just because I have a sweet tooth and liked the sweetness of them (note: these contain cashews).
  • As with the other products I've shared in this post, none of the ingredients gave me cause for concern, here are examples for each: Brussel Bytes (Chili Pumpkin flavour):  brussel sprouts*, raw cashews*, kale*, raw pumpkin seeds*, tamari*, coconut nectar*, carrots*, cilantro*, onion*, garlic*, apple cider vinegar*, vinegar*, cumin*, chipotle*, himalayan crystal salt. * = organic; Snip Chips (Chipotle Lime Cilantro flavour): parsnips*, dried unsweetened coconut*, raw cashews*, tamari*, pumpkin seeds*, coconut nectar, cilantro*, raw cumin*, garlic*, chipotle peppers*, apple cider vinegar*, dried onion*, lime juice*, himalayan crystal salt. * = organic). 
If you'd like to try these snacks out for yourself, you can find them in Choices and Whole Foods Markets, among others.

A special thanks to Lloyd James Natural Food Sales & Marketing for providing our family with all of these goodies to try. Visit their website & find them on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram to learn more.

To learn more about the products mentioned in this post, see below: 
Wonderfully Raw Gourmet Delights (Coco- Roons, Brussel Bytes, & Snip Chips)

Cheeky Monkey
April posts sponsored by Little Dreamers Consulting


Monday, April 6, 2015

Yummy Mummy Monday: Gluten & Dairy Free Freezer Meal Menu

When I was pregnant with Ari I wasn't able to stock my freezer as well as I would have liked in preparation for the busy weeks following her arrival. Luckily we had family popping in with meals for us for the first two weeks, making it one less thing we had to find energy to do. But if it hadn't been for them, we would have probably eaten an unhealthy amount of take out due to exhaustion and lack of energy to cook. This time around we have a toddler to feed- and our diets have changed substantially since 2013- so I had to make sure we were stocked with healthy & tasty options that we could all enjoy. Pizza and takeout are just not options, so I was determined to pre- prepare as many meals as possible that could be pulled from the freezer & popped into the slow cooker or oven for those first few weeks when you need to simplify whatever you can. It took me a little while to accumulate a selection of ideas that were both gluten and dairy free- thank you Pinterest!- but I'm pretty happy with the variety of meals I was able to make.


I made these meals over a few days with the help of my Mum & Dad and as I had the time, but it's definitely a great feeling if you're able to put aside a few hours and pump them out all at once. Here's how I stocked my freezer for #2:

Gluten Free Chicken Noodle Soup*


*my Mum's recipe- I'll post soon) :)

Quantities:
Shepherd's Pie *4
Cabbage Rolls *2
BBQ Ribs *2
Chicken Fajitas *1
Mongolian Beef *1
Hawaiian Chicken *1
Asparagus & Salmon *1
Soups & pasta sauce *1 batch each (for the sauce 1 batch= 4- 6 meals for the 3 of us) 

I also made sure to stock up on dry goods like gluten free pasta, rice, rice noodles, etc to serve with the freezer meals that don't already have them included. 

How did you stock your freezer in preparation for baby's arrival? What are your favourite make- ahead freezer meals?

April posts sponsored by Little Dreamers Consulting