Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Homemade Baby Food

Why make your own baby food? It's less expensive than store-bought baby food, it's more nutritious because it hasn't been through the high-heat canning process, and you can customize it to the consistency your baby likes. Here are a couple of very simple recipes to get you started.

Fruit Baby Food
This works well for apples, peaches, pears, plums, and apricots.
Wash the fruit well. Remove skins, and steam the fruit for 15-20 minutes. Cool. Remove any seeds or pits. Blend or puree until smooth. Refrigerate what you'll use within a day, and freeze the rest in ice cube trays for easy baby-sized portions.

Baked Sweet Potato & Apples
3/4 cups cooked sweet potato
1 cup applesauce or apples
1/4 cup liquid (milk, formula, or cooking water)
Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Peel, core, and slice the apples. Mix sweet potatoes and apples in a buttered baking dish. Pour liquid over. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Puree or mash with a fork. Freeze whatever you won't use within a day.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Homemade Finger Paints

This makes a fabulous babysitting co-op shift activity (if you warn the other parents ahead of time and ask them to send their kids in "painting clothes") or a thoughtful gift for an artistic toddler or preschooler. ALL toddlers and preschoolers are artistic.

Two recipes:

The Sweet Recipe (that has to be cooked on the stove)
3 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. cornstarch
2 c. water

Combine the ingredients in a small saucepan. Warm the mixture over low/medium heat until it thickens. Cool the mixture and pour it into containers. Add food coloring to create desired colors.

The Salty Recipe (that doesn't have to be cooked)
1 c. flour
1/4 c. salt
7/8 c. cold water (1 cup minus 2 Tbs.)
A few drops of food coloring

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl until the mixture is smooth. Divide into containers, and add food coloring to create desired colors.


Friday, December 7, 2012

White Chocolate Brownies--Perfect for Your Co-op Cookie Exchange

A babysitting co-op cookie exchange is a great event for the holidays. It gives all the parents in your co-op a chance to get together in an informal setting and enjoy one another's company. Any member of the co-op could plan the exchange. It's very easy to do. Just send out invitations with basic instructions (time, place, number of cookies to bring). If you like, you can have everyone bring a snack or appetizer to share and turn it into a longer party. Using an electronic invite service like evite is an easy way to keep track of who's coming and what they're bringing. Once you're at the party, everyone divides up their cookies and goes home with a gorgeous assortment of homemade treats--and all you had to do was make your own specialty.

Here's a recipe for decadent white chocolate brownies that will have everyone asking for your recipe.

White Chocolate Brownies

2 (5oz. each) bars white chocolate
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder


1 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
1 teaspoon shortening

Grease a 9-inch square baking pan. In a saucepan over low heat, melt butter and one bar of white chocolate, stirring until well blended. In a large bowl, combine sugar, salt, and eggs, and beat at the highest mixer speed for about 4 minutes. Reduce the speed to low, and add melted candy bar mixture and extracts. Sift together flour and baking powder, and stir it into the candy mixture until just combined. Break up the other candy bar and stir it in. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Melt the glaze ingredients together and drizzle over the cooled brownies.

Makes 32 small (but very rich) brownies.

Monday, December 3, 2012

5 Fun Pop-up Books for the Holidays

Pop-up books make great additions to your home library. Not only can you enjoy an interactive story time with your children, but you can settle them down with the books to explore on their own while you get something done (like make dinner!). The following pop-up books would make wonderful Christmas or Hanukkah presents, either for your own kids or for your extended family or co-op friends.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Robert Sabuda
Faithful to Lewis Carroll's original story, this pop-up version is gorgeous. It includes a multifaceted foil, special effects like a Victorian peep show, and tactile elements.

The Castaway Pirates by Ray Marshall and Wilson Swain
Five pirates try to avoid being eaten by a shark when their ship springs a leak. You won't be disappointed by the elaborate pop-ups in this book: they grow more intricate with each page.

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore
The paper engineering in this book is incredible. A Santa pops in and out of a chimney, and Rudolph flies directly at the reader. The pop-ups in this book are created entirely from plain white paper, making the shadows and dimensions truly spectacular.

Encyclopedia Prehistorica Dinosaurs by Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart
Young dinosaur fans will love this book. It combines interesting factoids with gorgeous (and scary) dinosaur pop-ups. It's a great mix of education and entertainment.

Eric Carle's Dream Snow Pop-up Advent Calendar
So it's not technically a book, but this pop-up advent calendar will make your countdown to Christmas especially exciting. Each day holds an ornament to place on the pop-up tree.