Thursday, June 30, 2011

Stuffed Peppers with Moroccan flavors

Wow, I served my family a vegan meal for dinner tonight!
(Note-- we're not even vegetarian)

As you may expect, it was super healthy, packed with nutrients, and completely balanced.  However, we were surprised at how filling and satisfying it was.

Living in Portland means high exposure to lots of alternative types of dining experiences, including vegetarian/vegan.  We used to live near the Blossoming Lotus, which is a well known completely vegan restaurant.  We first stopped by on a whim on one of our too-lazy-to-cook evenings, and got hooked on the complex interplay of textures, flavors, and fresh produce.

It seems the lack of meat as a protein is a great incentive to get creative with your ingredients.  Usually the meat-free protein comes from beans, tofu (soybean), seitan (wheat gluten), or nuts.  There is a much shorter prep time, and no worries about the dangers of being undercooked.

What I made tonight, and completely made up as I went, was stuffed peppers with a twist.  While definitely a savory dish, the fruit and the cinnamon give it a sweet taste as well.

See recipe below if you want to try it for yourself, it's too delicious not to share!

Moroccan Inspired Stuffed Peppers

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sign Language for Babies

Teach your baby to sign.  You'll be so glad you did!

If there's one thing I recommend parents teach their infants besides how to eat, sleep, and snuggle with you, it's this.  Sign language is the best form of communication for babies and toddlers who aren't fully verbal yet, and it makes them smarter too!

Babies are more clever than you might think.  In the first year of life they go from crying anxiously for their every need to toddlers who are anticipating the day and interacting with others.  During this time their brains are primed for soaking up knowledge about this strange and marvelous new world.

This is the best time to learn one more super valuable new skill.  There are so many great benefits to be gained from this small investment.  Caregivers can easily work the signs into their ongoing interactions with their little ones, and use them in conjunction (as opposed to in place of) with words.

See this wonderful example of signing between mom and child.

Here's a simple breakdown of the advantages:
1) Your baby will be smarter because of the language stimulation.
2) Baby will be happier once his his needs are communicated effectively.  This means a LOT less frustration, and a lot less crying.
3) Parents will be reassured in knowing what baby wants instead of having to guess.
4) Your toddler will be able to "read" a signing book to himself, and to you.  So darn cute.
5) Your child will make up signs, sparking his creativity.

Examples from our own daughter:
- at 9 months old, telling us when she wants milk, and when she's tired.
- at 12 month old, excitedly signing elephant when she sees them.
- at 13 months, using her all-done sign to let us know when she's full.
- at 15 months old, using the hurt sign after falling down, instead of crying.
- at 16 months, using the potty sign to tell us that she's soiling her diaper (first step in potty training).

Now, to get into more detail about signing and why I am such a strong supporter.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Banana Molasses Bread

If you like banana bread, you've GOT to try this variation!  It's the most delicious quick-bread I've ever invented (and first).  I basically merged two different recipes together, then added my own twists such as replacing the egg and changing to whole wheat flour.

Here's the recipe for you to enjoy.

Banana Molasses Bread

Mix together:
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1/3 cup oil
- 3/4 cup molasses

In a separate bowl mix dry ingredients:
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix all of above together, then in a separate bowl mash and mix:
- 3 very ripe bananas
- 2 tablespoons milk

Stir all ingredients together until blended, then pour into greased loaf pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour (toothpick should come out clean).

Serve immediately, or my favorite way- sliced then toasted then topped with cream cheese.  Delicious!  And also healthy as far as desserts go!  See below (thanks to this website where you can calculate nutrition based on ingredients).

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Toddler-Proof iPhone

I've done it!  I figured out how to make my iPhone safe and fun for our little toddler to play with.

Here's what was the problem.  

As a baby, our daughter was happy to look into the phone, hold it, and flip it from front to back.  The best apps were those that would hold her attention, make interesting sounds, and not escape when she touched a certain part of the screen.  (see "iPhone apps for babies")

As she grew older, she learned how to hit the "home" button.  The little round button on the bottom of the phone that allowed you to escape any app you were in.  This caused frustration for her when the game would end sooner than expected, leaving me to jump in every few seconds to fix it.  The home button also made my phone vulnerable to her accidentally placing phone calls, moving things around, or even deleting programs.

So I searched high and low for the solution.
I figured all we needed was a way to temporarily block the home button, perhaps with a special case.  Simple, right?  WRONG.
Many google and amazon searches later, I had come up empty handed.  I even visited those phone kiosks at the mall, the Apple store, and the AT&T store.  They all said the same thing: "There's no iphone case that covers the home button, that would make the phone useless!"