Thursday, April 24, 2014

{Weekly Kid's Co-Op} Birds, Nests and Spring!

Spring Inspired Play! 


I love seeing, sharing and enjoying outdoor and nature play with my kids, especially when Spring arrives. The hills around our house are green. The lavender in our yard is in full bloom, and even weeding the yard as a family is fun! Today's picks from the Weekly Kid's Co-Op were inspired by Spring as was today's Picture Book of the Day.

Bonus Share: Ideas so you can Move, Eat, Draw and Learn with this book.

Kid's Co-Op Post Picks


Click on the description of each activity to go to their site.


Bonus Share: Our Nest Learning Activities

I've enjoyed combining Caterpillar's Tot School (he's 2.5) with PreK Learning Experiences for Wild Thing (whose 4). I use a loose Letter of the Week approach (often stretching out beyond a week), primarily to structure our activities. With the Letter N, we loved exploring Nests. He's a glimpse at what we did:


We collected sticks and twigs outside to add to these craft store nests my mom sent us. Wild Thing also practiced writing the word nest, and we looked at various books about birds so that we could see different types of nests and discovered. Through reading and researching, we also discovered that alligators and turtles also create nests. 


After letting our nests dry, we filled them with plastic eggs and finger puppet birds. Then we made some impromptu chocolate nests using a relatively healthy Cocoa Rice cereal (Mom's Best Cereal is the brand) and some marshmallows we had leftover from some fun marshmallow-toothpick building.

To give our nests an even healthier twist, we filled them with nuts to represent eggs rather than filling them with candy. 

The nuts also tied in with our Letter N focus. We tasted different types of nuts, and Wild Thing practiced writing and reading the word nuts. We compared three words: nuts, nest, and nets noticing how slight changes (one letter or letter order) create completely different words. Check out more of our Letter of the Week sensory experiences here.

Thanks for stopping by to check out what's happening with The Weekly Kid's Co-Op. 
Now it's time to link-up and play!









Sunday, April 20, 2014

Meal Planning Made Easy - This Week's Meals Inspired by Spring!

Savoring Spring - Fresh and Simple Recipes



By focusing on seasonal eating and smart meal planning, I'm able to make the most of a tight family budget and to enjoy the freshness of each season. I love cooking and recently decided to start sharing weekly meal plans (some encouragement from some of my lovely Facebook followers helped). If you want to focus on eating at home more and eating seasonally, you've come to the right place. You'll also want to follow my Seasonal Eats Pinboard and my new Meal Planning Pinboard, where you'll find all of the recipes shared here. In my meal plan posts, I typically just share breakfast and dinner ideas as these are our main "family around the table" meals. During the day, we're grazers. At the end of each meal planning post, I list our typical/favorite grazing items. Occasionally, I'll share a Mommy lunch I might have planned to use up key ingredients. 

Monday

Breakfast - Our Fave French Toast is Back! I often like to start our week off with the boys' favorite French Toast. It sets the tone for a good week, even on a sluggish Monday Morning.

Mommy's Lunch - Since we dyed eggs (using natural dyes made from veggie scraps), I'll be using up our boiled eggs and having a delicious Mayo-Less Open-Faced Egg Salad Sandwich. I despise mayonnaise, but discovered a delicious way to make egg salad using sour cream or plain yogurt. I also add edamame and avocado, which makes the egg salad even healthier and gives it a nice creaminess mixed with a crunch. I'm looking forward to it!  


Dinner - Grilled Chicken and Corn Salad from Mom.Me (Short cut: If grilling corn and taking the corn off the cob seems like too much work, use frozen corn instead). 

Bonus Tip: Grill extra chicken and set aside for tomorrow night's meal. I often use our indoor grill during the week and love that we have it for quick cooking. If you don't have one, you can always roast chicken in the oven instead or buy a rotisserie chicken to make this meal even easier.  

The Real Deal: I have a 2 and 4 year-old boy. They don't really eat salads yet. Instead I'll give them a plate with key items from the salad all separated: chicken, corn, carrots, avocado and some ranch for dipping. 

Tuesday 

Breakfast - Pancake Mini Muffins from The Pioneer Woman Cooks (these can be made the morning of or the day before or even Sunday to have on hand all week). Short cut: Make bacon to go with the pancakes and cook extra to have on hand for dinner. 

Bonus Tip: Save the bacon drippings or go ahead and sautee Swiss Chard in them before you clean the pan. It's another quick cook-ahead technique. 

Dinner - Grilled Chicken and Bacon Wraps from Tastes Better From Scratch (These will be quick and easy since the chicken and bacon I'll have already cooked). If I'm really on top of it, I'll roast up some potatoes to go with it -- perhaps some lovely purple potatoes.


The Real Deal: Again, the boys will probably have a compartmentalized version, and if the roasted potatoes won't happen, we'll just have carrots and chips.

Wednesday

Breakfast - Toast w/apples, cinnamon and honey. 


Dinner - Swiss Chard Frittata from Kalyn's Kitchen (I cook mine in a regular large square Pyrex pan or pie dish.) If you have any salad fixings leftover from Monday or Tuesday, it would be perfect to use them tonight to make a simple side salad to go with the frittata. 

Potential Swap Out: Carrots can be a nice addition instead of mushrooms. 

The Real Deal: I often make a veggie frittata early in the week so that I know I have a healthy food option on hand to throw in the microwave on a hectic day.

Thursday 

Breakfast - Leftover Frittata or Simple Breakfast Tacos (using tortillas that you'll probably have from Tuesday's wrap night). Just scramble eggs and put them in the tortillas. You can add veggies, salsa, potatoes (if you have some leftover) or bacon/sausage. 

Dinner - Little Bites! It can be fun to mix it up and do a dinner comprised of various little bites, appetizers or sides. This Asparagus Wrapped with Prosciutto from iConveyAwareness is divine. I love the idea of also serving Edamame and Pea Dip/Spread from Inspired Taste with Baguette or Pita. Consider also serving cheese slices and fruit, and why not some fun Garbanzo Bean Poppers too! 


Friday

Breakfast -  Bagels at our favorite local coffee shop (it's our Friday tradition). 

Mommy's Lunch - With asparagus, I'm eager to try this Goat Cheese Asparagus Grilled Cheese from Confections of a Foodie Bride.  

Dinner - Cauliflower is in season right now. Jamie Oliver's 30 minute Cauliflower Mac N Cheese is a perfect way to take advantage of this seasonal vegetable and make the kiddos happy.

Short Cut: When I make it, I oven skip the bacon/pancetta (to cut the cost) and use pre-made bread crumbs. Also, you can replace the creme fraiche with sour cream or plain yogurt.

Saturday

Breakfast - With berries in season where we live, I'll take any excuse to eat them, so these Healthy Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits from Saavy Saving Couple seem like a perfect way to start our Saturday. 

Rarely a week goes by when we don't make pizza at home -- it's a major favorite. This week, for lunch or dinner (we'll see how it goes), I'm looking forward to making a Spring Veggie Pizza with whatever spring veggies we still have on hand or whatever looks good at the store or Farmer's Market. 



The Real Deal: Sometime I also make a small cheese only or pepperoni pizza for the boys.

Sunday

Breakfast - We'll see! (Sometimes we go out for brunch on Sunday morning. Sometimes Daddy gets inspired to cook. Sometimes we hit up our favorite coffee shop as we head out on a Sunday adventure). 

Dinner - Daddy's on the Grill and we'll probably have some leftover Mac N Cheese to serve with whatever meat we grill up.

Tip: When we know we're going to grill, I look for clearance items in the meat section that need to sell because they need to be cooked soon. I've gotten some amazing deals on farm-raised 90% lean burgers, steaks and lamb by shopping this way.

Grazing Goodies

Typically day-time grazing items we eat include: carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, apples, raisins, peanut butter sandwiches, bananas, nuts, English muffins with cream cheese, and other seasonal fruits. 

Two other items that are catching my eye to make this week are: Healthy No-Bake Chocolate Cookies from Healthy Mama and Carrot Walnut Muffins (Sugar-Free and Gluten-Free) from iConvey Awareness.

You might also like:
Eating Well on a Budget
How and Why We Eat Local Food
Transforming Leftovers