Friday, December 23, 2011

Nursing Accessories?

"Do you know of any accessories for nursing in public?"

Last week during our visit from Preggers at our Community Corner, we couldn’t get enough of Maternal America’s Original Nursing Scarves. Even the girls without babies were inquiring about this super soft and stylish accessory. As a mom myself, I can tell you that convenience is its best feature. You can wear it all day long, and it's right there when you need to nurse to give you and your little one some privacy. Even better, you can look super chic and feel comfy while you are nursing anywhere, anytime!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chalk Polar Bear

Brrrrrrr! It's so chilly outside in Chicago. I suggest making a large cup of hot cocoa to drink while you paint your watercolor polar bear! This is an easy winter art project that looks great on the fridge!

Supplies:
  • 1 piece of watercolor paper
  • Blue watercolor paint
  • Paintbrush
  • 1 piece of white chalk
Directions:
  1. Paint watercolor paper blue. Let dry. 
  2. Draw on top of paper with chalk the design of your choice. Have fun!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Week EIGHT: Recap!

It was a holiday fiesta in Taste Buddies today. We made veggie chimichangas, nachos, and seasoned popcorn. We even took home candy canes for an extra surprise! Thank you to everyone for a great session.  I can't wait to see you next year!


VEGGIE CHIMICHANGAS:
I love this recipe because you can use any veggies you have in the fridge. You can substitute whole wheat tortillas for an extra healthy meal!

NACHOS:
We talked about about the difference between kidney beans and black beans today with our Taste Buddies. We also learned about cumin and how to season nachos with it. What a tasty snack!

SEASONED POPCORN:I love this recipe for children. They have so much fun shaking the popcorn bags to mix the seasonings. It's also fun to make lots of different flavors and have your child pick their favorite! Seasons' greetings!

Week EIGHT: Veggie Chimichangas, Nachos and Seasoned Popcorn

VEGGIE CHIMICHANGAS
Ingredients:
  • 1 chopped squash
  • 1 chopped zucchini
  • 1 chopped tomato
  • 1 diced onion
  • 4 whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 cup of salsa
  • 1 cup of shredded Colby jack cheese
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
Directions:
  1. Brush outside of tortillas with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. 
  2. Sautée onions, zucchini, and squash in remaining olive olive oil until soft.
  3. Place sautéed veggies and tomato inside tortillas. 
  4. Sprinkle with cheese.  
  5. Pour on salsa. 
  6. Bake at 400°F for 10 minutes. Enjoy!

NACHOS
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup whole tomatoes, strained
  • 1 cup corn kernels (or canned corn)
  • 1 cup kidney beans, strained
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin, ground
  • 1 teaspoon paprika, ground
  • 1 teaspoon onion flakes
  • 1-2 bacon strips, diced
  • 1-2 cups cheddar, monterey jack, or Mexican blend cheese
  • 1 bag corn chips
Directions:
  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F, spray an oven tray with cooking spray and line with corn chips.
  2. Cook the diced bacon until warmed through and set to one side.
  3. In a large bowl, add strained tomatoes and crush with your hands to make a lumpy sauce. 
  4. Add corn, beans, cumin, paprika onion flakes, salt, pepper and bacon pieces.
  5. Give the mixture a good stir. You may need to drain a little of the liquid off, depending on your tomatoes.
  6. With a slotted spoon, place mixture on top of the corn chips, then follow with cheese.Pop into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until the cheese melts.

SEASONED POPCORN
Ingredients:
  • 4 cups hot, popped, plain popcorn
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 pinch dried oregano
  • 1 pinch dried basil
  • 1 pinch dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste
Directions:
  1. In a large Ziploc bag, drizzle popcorn with olive oil.
  2. Add cheese and spices.  Seal bag.
  3. Shake until well-mixed.  Enjoy!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bubbles Staff Picks for Holiday Stories

It's the Holiday Season!  The halls are decked and we're surrounded by sugar plums here at the Academy.  No matter what holiday you celebrate in your house, there are great books out there for your little bookworm, and lots of ways to make reading a tradition in your family.


In the Emmerich household, we all snuggled into bed with our brand new "embarrassing Christmas pajamas" to read The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg every year.  We started that tradition when I was just a wee one like your bookworm, and we still read it to this day.

I asked the rest of the staff at Bubbles about some of their favorite holiday reading recommendations.  Here's what they said:

  • Art guru Miss Meghean always associates Puss in Boots and Angelina's Christmas by Katharine Holabird with the holidays.
  • Our Office Manager, Miss Kate, recommends Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric A. Kimmel.  She couldn't believe she remembered it, but has many fond memories!
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is a favorite of our Bees teacher, Miss Victoria, and her siblings.
  • "I remember I really liked the pictures in the The Snowman [by Raymond Briggs]," says our Art and Music Teacher, Miss Sam.
  • Our Membership Coordinator, Miss Megan, loves The Biggest Christmas Tree Ever by Steve Kroll.
  • Bubbles Academy's owner, Gregoire Klees-Johnson, loves the classic tale of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  There's a great picture book version of the claymation classic!
Feel free to comment and let us know your holiday book favorites. Happy Holidays, and happy reading!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Mimijumi Bottles at Urba Baby

"What's this new Community Corner all about, anyway?"

Our new Community Corner at Bubbles Academy is committed to connecting moms and dads with local organizations to meet the needs of their family.  We invite local vendors to bring items from their stores to share with our families so parents can meet local businesses while their children have a blast in Open Play! 

During a Community Corner visit from Urba Baby last week, I was struck by how carefully they have chosen the product lines they carry in their store.  One product in particular that I thought I should highlight is the Mimijumi Bottle.  It was obvious to me that these bottles were created with the help of a mother. Both “The Hungry Bottle” and “The Not So Hungry Bottle” were designed to look and be as soothing as a mother’s breast, which make the transition from breast to bottle much easier.  Of course they are BPA and latex free, and they even have a bit of style.  They also have a specific ventilation system to help babies with colic.  Best of all, they are dishwasher-safe! 

You can come see Urba Baby at our Community Corner on Monday, December 19, or visit their store at 1117 W. Armitage Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Glitter Menorah!

Happy Holidays! We are celebrating Hanukkah today at Bubbles Academy, and next week we will be celebrating Christmas. Today in class we learned about dreidels and menorahs. We celebrated the Festival of Lights by making our very own menorahs out of tissue and construction paper. Happy Hanukkah!

Supplies:
  • Yellow and blue construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Multi-colored tissue paper squares
  • Glitter
  • Glue
Directions:
  1. Using a pencil, sketch an outline of a menorah on yellow construction paper. 
  2. Cut menorah out with scissors. 
  3. Glue menorah onto construction paper and decorate with tissue paper. 
  4. Make small glue dots above menorah and sprinkle with glitter to represent the flames. 
  5. Have fun with your sparkly menorah!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Week SEVEN: Recap!

The gloomy rain in Chicago could not stop us from cooking today in Taste Buddies. We bake rain or shine! It was a cozy menu today with hummus salad, spaghetti cupcakes and thumbprint cookies. We even served a little bit of hot chocolate at the end, just for kicks!

HUMMUS SALAD:
I love, love, LOVE hummus. Rather than just eating it by itself, I prefer to dip veggies in it so I can get some vitamins at the same time. We dipped carrots and celery into hummus and served it on a lettuce leaf.  I think hummus tastes wonderful with radishes as well, and using a dip is a fun way to introduce a new veggie into your little one's life.

SPAGHETTI CUPCAKES:
This is a great way to change up an everyday meal. Kids love to eat cupcakes, so why not make them a main meal instead of a dessert? You can do this with any pasta, but spaghetti and macaroni are great to use because they mold easily into the cupcake wrappers.

THUMBPRINT COOKIES:
I think these are a great winter dessert with hot chocolate. You can put jam or a chocolate kiss in the middle as well if you want to make them extra sweet. We just served them plain with hot chocolate today. They are great cookies for dipping in a hot drink!

Week SEVEN: Hummus Salad, Spaghetti Cupcakes and Thumbprint Cookies

HUMMUS SALAD
Ingredients:
  • Lettuce
  • Hummus
  • Carrots
  • Celery
Directions:
  1. Spread hummus on lettuce leaf. 
  2. Chop carrots and celery. 
  3. Lay veggies on top of hummus. Enjoy!

SPAGHETTI CUPCAKES
Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces spaghetti, cooked and drained
  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups pasta sauce
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded                
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Grease 12-cup muffin pan; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine spaghetti, eggs, parmesan cheese, and pepper.
  4. Press mixture into muffin cups to form a crust.
  5. Top each cup with pasta sauce, then mozzarella cheese.
  6. Bake 15 minutes or until bubbling. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

THUMBPRINT COOKIES
from food.com 
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 lb butter
Directions:
  1. Cream butter and sugar.
  2. Add flour, mix well.
  3. Roll out and cut into desired shapes, place on parchment paper.
  4. Bake at 350°F until pale golden.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Tacky the Penguin" by Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

Let's face it: ever since the movie Happy Feet, penguins are "in"!  They are also at the top of the list when I poll my classes for "favorite animal."  Who doesn't love those dapper little tuxedos?  I personally think that toddlers find a kinship with penguins because they share that adorable waddle!  If your little bookworm is penguin-crazy, this week's book is for you.  It's one of my absolute favorites:  Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger.  It's a great book about being yourself!

Bring your little waddler out to Bubbles to hear Miss Becca read Tacky the Penguin at Open Play Storytime on Thursday at 4:00!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Child-Friendly Theatre?

"Can you recommend any cultural events around the city that are fun for the whole family?"

One of my favorite places to take little ones is the theatre! You should not miss this season's Chicago Children's Theatre musical version of the beloved story "Goodnight Moon" by Margaret Wise Brown. Fun tunes will be played by live musicians, and of course, beautiful, colorful scenery will bring the
pages of this book to life onstage at Victory Gardens Theatre.
  It promises to keep the entire audience awake!

For more info, visit:

Victory Gardens
2433 N. Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, 60614
(773) 871-3000
October 27 - December 23.
Tuesday through Friday at 10:15 A.M.; Saturday and Sunday at 11:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M.                              
Cost: $25 children; $35 adults

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Week SIX: Recap!

We explored new terrain in Taste Buddies today with a menu that consisted of Falafel, Roasted Sweet Potato Salsa, and Cheesecake Bites.  Everything was delicious, but I have to give a special shout out to the Roasted Sweet Potato Salsa. It is my new favorite dish, and would be a great recipe to make for a holiday party!

ROASTED SWEET POTATO SALSA:
I absolutely adore this recipe. I think the lime juice really adds to it, and the cilantro complements the flavors, too. This is one of those dishes you can make for any occasion. I highly recommend it, and so do the Taste Buddies!

FALAFEL:
We tried a new dish in Taste Buddies, and it was so fun to make.   We rolled it into balls, which reminded me of playing with play dough! This is a great dish that your kids can help you make.

CHEESECAKE BITES:
These are so delicious, and they are a great crowd-pleaser. The only problem with this recipe was that the wafers kept disappearing before we were able to pour the cheesecake on top.  I can't imagine where they went!

Week SIX: Roasted Sweet Potato Salsa, Falafel and Cheesecake Bites

ROASTED SWEET POTATO SALSA
Ingredients:
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 red onion, diced small
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium tomato, diced small
  • 1 avocado, diced small
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • Juice from 2 limes
  • Coarse salt
  • Pita chips
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Toss together sweet potato, onion and olive oil. Roast until sweet potato is tender (20 minutes).  Let cool.
  3. Add tomato, cilantro, lime juice and coarse salt. Toss mixture. 
  4. Serve with pita chips!

FALAFEL
Ingredients:

  • 1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Ranch dressing (optional)
  • Olive oil
  • Lettuce
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F with a baking sheet in it, to ensure the underside of the falafel balls get browned.
  2. Combine chickpeas, garlic, onion, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper (to taste) in medium bowl. 
  3. Add flour and tahini and combine well.
  4. Mash chickpeas, making sure to mix ingredients together into thick paste.
  5. Form the mixture into small balls, about the size of a ping pong ball.  Flatten slightly.
  6. Paint falafel balls with olive oil.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until falafels are a nice golden brown. 
  8. Let cool before serving in lettuce wraps topped with tahini sauce (or a little ranch dressing).

CHEESECAKE BITES
Ingredients:
  • 16 vanilla wafer cookies
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  2. Line muffin pans with cupcake papers.
  3. Place one wafer cookie in the bottom of each cupcake paper. 
  4. In a medium bowl, cream together cream cheese and sugar. 
  5. Beat in eggs and vanilla until smooth. 
  6. Pour over wafers in cupcake papers.
  7. Bake in preheated oven 15 minutes, until golden and set.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"Polar Bear and the Rainbow" by Moira Butterfield, illustrated by Sanja Rescek

I saw snow today!  That means that winter is finally here.  Winter is the perfect time of year to snuggle up with your little Bookworm, a cup of cocoa, and this week's book: Polar Bear and the Rainbow, written by Moira Butterfield and illustrated by Sanja Rescek.

This sparkly book follows Ben the polar bear, who is tired of being the same color as his mom, his sister, and the snowy world around him.  In his quest to be anything but white, he finds himself pink like the sunset, but only until the sun goes down.  He turns blue in the ocean, but is white again when he hops out on shore.  Despite his rainbow dreams, Ben has little hope of being anything but white.  Then the discovery of a happy white snowman, his natural skill at hide-and-seek, and the beauty of snowflakes makes Ben realize he likes himself just the way he is!  

While Moira Butterfield's story is simple and heartwarming, it is Sanja Rescek's illustrations that make this book snuggle-worthy.  The lovely watercolor illustrations are whimsical with a soft cartoon feel, and to top it off, they're embellished with glitter on every page!  I know your little one will enjoy rubbing his or her fingers on each page to see where the bumpy glitter is.  Worry not, this special sealed glitter stays on the page, not on your hands.  My favorite page features the animal friends staring at the beautiful falling snow.  At first glance, the page appears plain, but if you run your finger along the tiny flakes, you'll feel the bumpy glitter.  A simple tilt of the book makes each snowflake shine- a magical book for a magical time of year!

Warm up at Open Play Story Time when Miss Becca reads Polar Bear and the Rainbow this Thursday at 4:00pm!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Stress-Free Clothes Shopping

"Shopping with little ones can be so difficult- how can I find cute clothes for my child without the stress of shopping?"

If you know me, then you know that there is nothing more enjoyable for me than buying clothing for my little girl.  I have scoured the web looking for cute frocks for her to wear, and by far the best site I have found is A Child's Closet.  They have just about every designer out there for boys' and girls' clothing and shoes.  They have great sales, too- and shipping is always free!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Glitter Polar Bear!


Did you know that polar bears' skin is really black?
They are covered in protective transparent hairs that reflect the sun, making them appear white. This is slightly difficult to mimic in a craft, so we decided to cover our polar bears on glitter instead. Glitter + polar bear = awesome.

Supplies:
  • 1 paper plate
  • Silver glitter
  • Torn newspaper squares
  • Glue
  • 1 piece of white construction paper
  • 1 piece of black construction paper
  • 2 sticker eyes

Directions: 

  1. Cut two ears out of white construction paper and a black nose. 
  2. Cover paper plate with glue. 
  3. Glue newspaper squares on plate and cover them with glue as well. 
  4. Sprinkle with glitter and glue on eyes, ears, and nose. 
  5. Let dry. Put on fridge for some holiday cheer!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Week FIVE: Recap!

Today was a huge success in Taste Buddies! We had lots of new friends who were instant chefs. Together, we made Zucchini Boats, Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars, and Stacked Fruit Treats. What a fun day!

ZUCCHINI BOATS:
This is a great, easy recipe to sneak some zucchini and vegetables into dinner. We added tomatoes and peppers, but you can add any other leafy green or vegetable. Just make sure to make a sail!

PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY BARS:
This is one of my favorite desserts to make! We used soy nut butter instead of peanut butter, and it worked just as well in case your child has a peanut allergy. This is a great after school treat, too. Delicious!

STACKED FRUIT TREATS:
Cookie Cutters + Fruit = Lots of Fun!

Week FIVE: Zucchini Boats, Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars and Stacked Fruit Treats

ZUCCHINI BOATS
Ingredients:
  • 1 zucchini, halved
  • 1 chopped red pepper
  • 1 chopped tomato
  • 1 cup of tomato sauce
  • 2 cups of rice
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
Directions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. 
  2. Hollow out center of zucchinis. 
  3. Combine remaining four ingredients and scoop into zucchini halves. 
  4. Sprinkle cheese on top. 
  5. Bake for 15 minutes or until zucchini is tender.

PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY BARS
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups Bisquick mix
  • 1/3 cup strawberry jam or preserves
Directions:
  1. Heat oven to 375°F.  
  2. In large bowl, beat sugars, peanut butter, shortening and egg with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly.  
  3. Beat on medium speed 1 minute, scraping bowl occasionally.  
  4. Stir in Bisquick mix until blended.

STACKED FRUIT TREATS
Ingredients:
  • 1 pineapple sliced
  • 1 watermelon, sliced
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup raspberries
  • Cookie cutters
Directions:
  1. Cut fun shapes out of watermelon slices. 
  2. Stack pineapple rings and watermelon on top of each other, alternating. 
  3. Top with blueberries and raspberries. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"Shiver Me Letters: A Pirate ABC" by June Sobel, Illustrated by Henry Cole

I tried to pick a book this week about the upcoming winter season, but I was pulled in another direction. I just couldn't pass over one of my favorite "seek and find" books. On first glance, this doesn't seem like an ideal story time book. However, considering it's not only "seek and find", but also an alphabet book, Shiver Me Letters: A Pirate ABC written by June Sobel and Illustrated by Henry Cole is too charming to pass up!

Unlike the traditional ABC book (which uses the order of the alphabet, not a plot to drive from page to page), this book follows a motley crew of animal pirates searching to expand their vocabulary beyond the letter "R".  Cute concept, right? Their adorable alligator captain tells them, "We need other letters/ to help make us tough/ Let's sail far away to find ABC's/ Bring back D's, E's, F's, and G's."

Sobel's rhyming text leads the pirates to a treasure island where the letters they seek are highlighted in bold red text and found hidden in clever places: the "A" is an anchor, the "K" is on key, and "O" rolls into the ocean as a life-preserver! Henry Cole's charming and cartoon-like illustrations will amuse your little bookworms as they search for a "T" on a Turtle and the "X" that marks the spot. Best of all is the final location of that pesky "Z" as the tuckered out pirates snore in bed, "zillions of Z's" zoom overhead. A great story, and a great introduction the ABC's!

Bring your little pirate to Bubbles Academy this Thursday at 4 p.m. during Open Play Story Time to hear Miss Becca read Shiver Me Letters: A Pirate ABC by June Sobel, Illustrated by Henry Cole!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"Airplanes: Soaring! Diving! Turning!" by Patricia Hubbell, illustrated by Megan Halsey & Sean Addy

If you're traveling with your little one this holiday season, you know you're going to need lots of entertaining reinforcements to keep them happy on the plane, train, or automobile. I have a book that might help you! It's one of my favorite transportation books. Airplanes: Soaring! Diving! Turning! by Patricia Hubbell, illustrated by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy.

Your little bookworm will be captivated by all the different types of flying machines there are in this whimsical book. Ms. Hubbell's simple, but engaging rhyming text makes reading aloud a breeze and the charming illustrations by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy are truly noteworthy. While most of the pages are horizontal, your little one will be delighted by the surprise of several vertical pages. As Hubbell's text leads you through the different varieties of planes, the illustrations transport you to humorus locations with a wide cast of characters: a water buffalo on a cargo plane, a school of fish on a hydroplane, and rabbit piloting a pirate plane! It's a fun read that will keep your bookworm busy on his/her own plane ride. Enjoy!

If you aren't flying with your little one, but traveling in a different way,  check out Ms. Hubbell's other books: Trucks: Whizz! Zoom! Rumble!, Trains: Steaming! Pulling! Huffing!, and Cars: Rushing! Honking! Zooming!


We have no planned Open Play Story Time this week for the Thanksgiving holiday, but we'll be back next week. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Music everyone will like?

"Can you recommend some music that my child will enjoy, which won't drive me crazy!?"

Both as a mother and a music teacher, I am always on the lookout for children's tunes that are actually something that I wouldn't mind listening to myself! I was thrilled to stumble upon Charlie Hope. Her CD is the perfect mix of both lullaby and get-up-and-go tunes for the toddler and baby set. You can check her tunes out here.

You can also check back here at the Bub Hub blog each Monday for a new "Music For Talls and Tinies" pick. Those songs are hand picked to be fun and suit the musical tastes of the whole family!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Car Painting

I love finding new things to paint with other than brushes! Sometimes you just have to take a look around your home for some inspiration. One of my favorite paint brush substitutions is a toy car.

I made a mixture of one part glue and one part purple paint in a container, and then I had my class roll toy cars through the paint and onto the paper. You can just paint with the cars for an abstract work of art, or do what we did and add to it. We made trains out of construction paper and stuck them right on top of the paint/glue mixture.

This is a great project with minimal supplies... but be prepared to get a little messy!

Supplies:
  • Glue
  • Paint color of your choice
  • Plastic toy car
  • Messy mat
  • Construction paper
  • Cotton balls
Directions:
  1. Mix half glue and half paint together. 
  2. Roll car through paint and onto construction paper. 
  3. Cut your construction paper to your design of choice. 
  4. Stick onto car tracks.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Week THREE: Recap!

Happy Thanksgiving! We started the celebration a little bit early with our Taste Buddies friends. Today, we made Turkey Pies, Glazed Green Beans and Carrots, and Pumpkin Pie. I always ask our Taste Buddies friends what their favorite part of class was, and I was thrilled today when most said the vegetables were their favorite part!

These are great recipes that you can make for your friends and family next week as well. Hope it is a wonderful holiday season for all!

TURKEY MASHED POTATO PIES:
This is a wonderful recipe for leftovers! You can throw everything into a mini pie dish and serve it as pot pies. We used dressing, turkey, gravy, and potatoes in our pot pies. You can even put leftover vegetable dishes into the mix as well. Serve with cranberry sauce for a delightful leftover meal!

GLAZED CARROTS & GREEN BEANS:
This is one of my favorite ways to serve vegetables during the holidays. One of our Taste Buddies tried carrots for the very first time in class, due to the delicious glaze! A little brown sugar and butter goes a long way, so don't feel like you have to use the full amount the recipe calls for.

PUMPKIN PIE:
We made homemade crust in class with butter and graham crackers mashed together. You can even serve pre-made pumpkin pie mix on a graham cracker with some homemade whipped cream for an after dinner treat. Yum!

Week THREE: Thankgiving Feast!

TURKEY MASHED POTATO PIE
Ingredients:
  • Precooked bacon
  • Mushrooms
  • Fresh thyme leaves
  • Leftover turkey meat
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Gravy
  • Salt and pepper
Preparation:
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Fill ramekin with precooked ingredients. Stir in salt and pepper.
  3. Spread potatoes over turkey mixture.
  4. Bake 20 minutes or until mixture is bubbling and potatoes are golden in spots.
  5. Broil until potatoes are evenly golden, 2-3 minutes.
  6. Let cool 10 minutes.

 
GLAZED CARROTS & GREEN BEANS
Ingredients:
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 1/2 pounds baby carrots and green beans
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
Preparation:
  1. Boil water.
  2. Toss carrots and green beans with thyme, butter and brown sugar.
  3. Add carrots and green beans to boiling water, reduce heat.
  4. Partially cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Uncover and gently toss often, until tender and glazed.
  6. Season with salt and pepper.


PUMPKIN PIE

Ingredients:
  • Graham cracker crumbs
  • Butter, melted
  • Prepared pumpkin pie custard
  • Whipped cream
Directions:
  1. Mix graham cracker crumbs with melted butter to create a thick, crumbly mixture.
  2. Press into pie pan.
  3. Fill graham cracker crust with prepared pumpkin pie custard.
  4. Serve with whipped cream.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Boredom-Busting Art Projects

What are we going to do to keep our toddler busy all winter?

Winter can seem to drag on when you have a bored child at home, looking to you to keep them occupied. For some 24-hour inspiration visit Enchanted Learning, a fabulous arts and crafts website for children! 

There is a huge wealth of information here, and many of the projects are created especially for the younger set. Plus, all the projects require simple materials that we all have at home!

I'd also like to point you towards the "Glitter Bubbles" section of this Bub Hub blog... Miss Meghean posts a new fun art project for families each Thursday!


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Peppermint Playdough

I am a huge fan of homemade playdough. It's great because it's like two projects in one -- first you get to make it, and then you get to play with it! 

You can have your little ones help stir the mix together before adding the boiling water and then knead it once the water has cooled. Store in an airtight container in the fridge to stay fresh (my most recent batch lasted three weeks!). You can skip the peppermint oil if your little one thinks it smells a little too tasty. Have fun!

Supplies:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 drops of peppermint oil
  • Food coloring
Directions:
  1. Mix and knead together. 
  2. Mold into your favorite shapes!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Week TWO: Recap!

The rain is pouring down in Chicago today. However, we were nice and cozy in Taste Buddies class with a cup of hot chili, slaw, and chocolate chip cookies! What a great rainy-day menu!

CHILI:
I love using lots of different types of beans in chili. We used pinto beans, black beans, and kidney beans today, but you can use any beans in your pantry! Chef Marc added a splash of balsamic vinegar to our recipe to sweeten the chili, and I think it made a huge difference in flavor.

BRUSSELS SLAW:

Brussells sprouts are not always at the top of my shopping list at the grocery store, but I am now a huge fan of Brussells slaw! This is such a great side to any meal, and you can let your kids go crazy with shredding veggies.

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES:

This is one of my favorite cookie recipes. The batter is slightly dry, so use your heat from your hands to form the cookie dough balls. These cookies rise really nicely -- and they are delicious too!!

Week TWO: Chili, Brussels Slaw and Chocolate Chip Cookies

CHILI
Ingredients:
  • 1 can of kidney beans
  • 2 cans of black beans
  • 2 cans of pinto beans
  • 1 (20-ounce) can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 chopped sauteed onion
  • 1 chopped sauteed bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of cumin
  • 1 (16-ounce) can of beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 minced cloves of garlic
Directions:
  1. Combine above ingredients and bring to a boil. 
  2. Let simmer for thirty minutes.


BRUSSELS SLAW
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups of Brussels sprouts
  • 1 cup of carrots
  • 1 cup of red cabbage
  • 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper
Directions:
  1. Shred Brussels sprouts, carrots and red cabbage.
  2. Combine remaining ingredients and mix in with vegetables.


CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
from foodnetwork.com
Ingredients:
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups chocolate chips, 2 Hershey's chocolate bars, chopped or M&M'S
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. 
  2. In a bowl stir together flour, salt, and baking soda. 
  3. In another large bowl stir together butter, both sugars, eggs, vanilla and cocoa. 
  4. Gradually stir flour mixture into butter mixture and mix until combined. 
  5. Stir chocolate chips and walnuts, if using, and stir to distribute evenly.
  6. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto greased baking sheets and bake about 10 minutes. 
  7. Cool on a baking rack.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Book of the Week: "I Ain't Gonna Paint No More" by Karen Beaumont, Illustrated by David Catrow

"Yuck!" That's all I can say about the Chicago weather right now. Rain, rain, rain! If there was ever a week to cuddle up with a good book, it's this week!

Books and art projects are the only good things about cold, rainy days. So this week's book is all about art. It's one of my favorites, I Ain't Gonna Paint No More! by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow. This book is a perfect storytime book. It starts with a "Mama" catching her little one "paintin' pictures on the floor/and the ceiling/and the walls/and the curtains/and the door" and just about everything else! She dunks the little artist in a bath tub and hides those paints on the top shelf of the closet. Our little hero promises that "I ain't gonna paint no more, no more, I ain't gonna paint no more." But, with a few boxes, a stool, and amusingly, a bowling ball, the paints are rescued from the closet.  

Reunited with his paints, this little guy can't resist taking some red and painting his... head! Each page turn reveals a new part of our artist's body turned a rainbow of colors! Catrow's quirky illustrations really compliment Beaumont's amusing rhythmic text. The story is based on an old folk song, so it flows nicely and is fun to read out loud! It's a great book for body part and color recognition for our littler bookworms, and for our big readers, it's great for talking about right/wrong and cause/effect. Hope this cheerful book brightens up your rainy day!

Get your playtime in despite the rain at Bubbles Academy's Open Play! You can hear Miss Becca read I Ain't Gonna Paint No More at Open Play Story Time this Thursday at 4 p.m. See you there!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bedazzled Leaves

In my efforts to extend fall in Chicago into November, we made beautiful leaves in our Art + Music Class! Hopefully, the winter will not come too quickly -- I am already shivering in my boots! Brrrrr! I actually laminated the leaves from class to give them a shiny finish, but they still look great on their own if you don't have a laminating machine handy! Have fun making beautiful fall leaves!

Supplies:
  • Feathers
  • Cut up tissue paper squares
  • Sequins
  • Orange paint
  • Elmer's glue
  • Paintbrush
  • White construction paper or watercolor paper
  • Scissors
  • Messy mat
Directions:
  1. Cut out a leaf shape out of white construction paper. 
  2. Mix half orange paint and half Elmer's Glue together. 
  3. Cover leaf with paint mixture. 
  4. Add tissue, sequins, and glitter. 
  5. Let dry. 
  6. Put on fridge!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Week ONE: Recap!

We had a great start to the session today in Taste Buddies Kids Cooking class with Corn Tomato Pizza, Salad Parfait, and Muddled Berry Juice! We had so much fun chopping, mashing, and mixing with our tools today. I know we are going to have a delicious time this Winter Session!

CORN TOMATO PIZZA:
We shucked our own corn today and used our choppers to remove the corn from the cob. You can also just buy a can of corn at the grocery store if you are low on time. Pesto and tomato sauce both taste great on this pizza. It was a hit with the Taste Buddies! 

SALAD PARFAIT:
The recipe we posted to go with this earlier today is for a fruit salad, but a parfait cup also serves as a special dish to serve a salad in. We used lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and sweet peppers. Delicious and nutritious, and what a fancy presentation!

MUDDLED BERRY JUICE:
This was my favorite part of class today because the Taste Buddies got so excited when their drinks fizzed up! We mashed berries with potato mashers (a fork also works). We then poured club soda, simple syrup, and lime juice on top of our berries and watched them fizz. This is a great party drink or even just for an extra-special snack!

Week ONE: Corn Tomato Pizza, Fruitini and Muddles Fruit Soda

CORN TOMATO PIZZA
from Southern Living
Ingredients
  • 3 small plum tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 (14-ounce) package pre-baked Italian pizza crust
  • Parchment paper
  • 1/3 cup refrigerated pistou
  • 1/2 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh whole or torn basil leaves
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Place tomato slices on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; let stand 20 minutes.
  2. Place pizza crust on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet; spread with pesto. Stir together corn, Parmesan, and sugar. Top pizza with corn mixture, tomatoes, and mozzarella slices.
  3. Bake at 450°F for 14 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden. Remove from oven, and top with basil leaves.


FRUITINI
from Southern Living
Ingredients

  • 1 banana, peeled and sliced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cantaloupe, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
  • 1/2 pound grapes, halved (about 1 cup)
  • 2 kiwi, peeled and sliced
  • 1 navel orange, peeled and sectioned
  • 10 strawberries, sliced
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, divided (about 2 lemons)
Directions
  1. Toss together first 6 ingredients, 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a large bowl.
  2. Pour remaining lemon juice into a saucer. Dip rims of 6 parfait, wine, or martini glasses in remaining lemon juice; dip rims in remaining 2 tablespoons powdered sugar.
  3. Fill glasses with fruit mixture.


MUDDLED FRUIT SODA
Ingredients
  • Assorted berries
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Mint
  • Club soda
  • Simple syrup
  • Crushed ice
Preparation
  1. Muddle berries and mint at bottom of glass.
  2. Squeeze lemon/limes.
  3. Stir in simple syrup and club soda.
  4. Add crushed ice.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Book of the Week: "Once I Ate a Pie" by Patricia MacLachlan & Emily MacLachlan Charest, Illustrated by Katy Schneider

If you've ever been to Bubbles Academy, you've seen "Charlee," our friendly stuffed dog. If you look really carefully, you can also find Charlee painted into all of our classrooms. Bubbles Academy loves dogs! And so do our students... so much that Charlee can often be seen, dragging behind an adoring toddler or two.

So what better book for this week than Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest's adorable book of canine confessions called Once I Ate a Pie. This book, lovingly illustrated by Katy Schneider, is a MUST READ for all dog lovers.

Each page is a new puppy poem, covering the gamut of doggy personalities: the puppy, the cuddler, the herder, the yipper, the destroyer, the inseparable duo, and the loyal companion. Perhaps my favorite, from which the book gets it's title, is the over eater. It's a heart-melting, portly pug named Mr. Beefy. In his poem, he confesses that "I am not thin, but I am beautiful. When no one is looking, I steal tubs of butter off the table..." and finally, "Once I ate a PIE."

With the holidays coming up, I kind of know how Mr. Beefy feels. I love this book! With a new canine character on every page, it is a perfect read-aloud book. With big and little dogs, it is the perfect opportunity to get your little one barking.

As a side note, if Patricia MacLachlan's name rings a bell, it may be because she's the author of Sarah Plain and Tall, a Newbery Award winning book for young readers.

You can hear all about these goofy pups when we read Once I Ate a Pie at Bubbles Academy during Open Play, this Thursday at 4 p.m.

Woof Woof!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween Wreath

You've bought candy. You've bought a costume. You've even bought a blow-up Frankenstein to stick in the front yard. But wait... what about the front door!? 
No worries! You can make this adorable Halloween wreath with your little one so your Halloween decorations will be complete.

Supplies:
  • Black, white, orange construction paper
  • Halloween stickers
  • Googly eyes
  • Glue
  • 1 pipe cleaner or ribbon
  • Popsicle stick
  • Green marker
  • Puff balls
Directions:
  1. Cut a large circle out of the orange construction paper. 
  2. Fold circle in half and cut a smaller circle in the middle of it. (The smaller circle can be used for your pumpkin.)
  3. Cut out a black cat head and white ghost.
    Glue on eyes and puff balls and attach stickers. 
  4. Glue on popsicle stick for pumpkin stalk. 
  5. Poke holes on top of wreath with pipe cleaner and thread pipe cleaner through. 
  6. Hang from your door!

Finger Paint a Fall Tree!

This time of year I try to soak up every bit of fall beauty I can get my hands on! To bring the colors of the autumn leaves inside (and for a token of fall you can enjoy all through the impending Chicago winter) I suggest making a fun and easy finger-painted fall tree. This is an easy project to do at home with very little supplies involved. The sensory experience of fingers in paint is one your child will surely enjoy! For this one, change out of good clothes... and don't be afraid to get a little messy!

Supplies:
  • Orange, red, and yellow paint
  • Brown crayons
  • 1 white sheet of paper
  • Messy mat

Directions: 
  1. Lay messy mat on table. 
  2. Draw tree trunk and branches with brown crayon on paper. (Grown-ups, you might need to help your little one during this part of the project.) 
  3. Start finger painting the leaves onto the tree! 
  4. HAVE FUN!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Week EIGHT: Recap!

Happy Halloween! Today in Taste Buddies we celebrated a little early with some Pizza Mummies, Spider Cupcakes, Halloween Fruit Kabobs, and Swamp Juice! It was spooky and delicious!

PIZZA MUMMIES:
English muffins make the yummiest pizzas. Using English muffins instead of pizza dough is a great way to portion out the size of the pizza for your little one, plus it's quicker! We used string cheese to give the pizza a mummified look. For the eyes, we used olives. Surprisingly, quite a few Taste Buddies thought the olives were very tasty!

SPIDER CUPCAKES:
We had the Taste Buddies use a plastic bag filled with chocolate frosting with a hole cut in the corner to frost the spiders. The chocolate frosting was most people's favorite part of class... I can't imagine why!

HALLOWEEN FRUIT KABOBS:
These are a great party food. You can use any black or orange fruit to make it festive for Halloween!
 
SWAMP JUICE:
I think anytime a juice is green it's bound to be hit with kids! Green smoothies also make a great Halloween treat.

Special thanks to Laken today, for being such a great helper!!!

Week EIGHT: Pizza Mummies, Swamp Juice and Spider Cupcakes!

PIZZA MUMMIES
from Family Fun Magazine
Ingredients:

  • English muffins
  • Pizza sauce
  • Black olives
  • Scallions
  • Red or green pepper
  • Cheese sticks or slices
Directions:
  1. Heat the oven to 350ºF. For each mummy, spread a tablespoon of pizza sauce onto half of an English muffin (toast it first, if you like).
  2. Set olive slices in place for eyes and add round slices of green onion or bits of red or green pepper for pupils.
  3. Lay strips of cheese (we used a pulled-apart string cheese stick) across the muffin for the mummy's wrappings.
  4. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the muffin is toasty.


SWAMP JUICE
from Family Fun Magazine
Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup small tapioca pearls (found in the baking aisle of most grocery stores)
  • Food coloring
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 8 gummy fish
  • Seltzer water
  • Lemonade
  • 8 gummy worms
Directions:
  1. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil and add the tapioca pearls. Reduce the heat slightly and boil the pearls, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes. 
  2. Divide the pearls, with the remaining water, between two bowls. Add 4 drops of food coloring (we used 3 drops of yellow and 1 drop of green in one bowl, and 4 drops of blue in the other) and 2 tablespoons of sugar to each bowl. 
  3. Stir the mixtures, then allow them to sit uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes. 
  4. Drain and rinse the pearls with cold water.
    Spoon 2 tablespoons of pearls into each glass and drop in a gummy fish. 
  5. Fill the glasses with seltzer water, then add a splash of lemonade. 
  6. Place a gummy worm around a spoon.


SPIDER CUPCAKES
from Family Fun Magazine
Ingredients:

  • Chocolate cupcake (body)
  • Canned chocolate icing
  • Chocolate sprinkles (hair)
  • 2 pieces of eye-type candy (we used Bassett's Liquorice Allsorts)
  • Clean scissors
  • Ruler
  • 1 package of black string lace licorice (legs)
Directions:
  1. Frost the cupcake with chocolate icing and cover with sprinkles.
  2. Press the eyes into place.
  3. Use scissors to cut eight 4-inch pieces of licorice for the legs.
  4. Holding all of the legs together in a bunch, bend them in half and crease. 
  5. Push the end of each leg into the cupcake, four on each side, to assemble the spider.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Halloween Must-Read Books!

Hooray, it's Halloween! Last week, I shared my favorite seasonal book. This week, I'm sharing a whole list of other GREAT Halloween stories, so that you can find a favorite too! Check out my list below of must-read books for the Halloween season:

  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak: Wolf costumes & wild things, it's a classic!
  • There was an Old Witch by Howard W. Reeves &  David Catrow: Based on the well-known story of "There was an Old Lady..." only this time, she catches a bat instead of swallowing that icky fly.
  • A Very Brave Witch by Alison McGhee: An adorable young witch's view on Halloween!
  • Black Cat Creeping by Teddy Slater: Great for little ones, this follows some kids and a lonely cat to a Halloween party.
  • Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper: This beautifully illustrated book stars a cat, duck, and squirrel as they prepare pumpkin soup, yum!

Join Miss Becca on Thursday at 4 p.m. for our Open Play Story Time. She'll be reading these and other howl-iday tales!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Halloween for Babies?

"My little one is too young for pumpkin carving or haunted houses... are there any fall bonding activities you can recommend for the younger set?"

I can recommend a great Halloween finger-play activity, “Five Little Pumpkins”
. Both toddlers and babies alike will enjoy learning this, and so will mom and dad! It's one I remember from my childhood, and that I had the pleasure of teaching to my own daughter when she was younger. It's a true classic, and a tradition that I hope is passed on for generations to come in my family. I've attached a video below, so you can learn how to do this with your child!

Based on this finger-play is a wonderful book with vibrant, bold pictures illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. Pick it up at your local bookstore or here online, to further enhance your "Five Little Pumpkins" activity.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Self Portraits

I have a confession... I absolutely adore butcher paper! You can use it to cover a table to finger paint. It can be put on walls if your child has a knack for "decorating" with crayons. It can even be used to make a giant coloring book!

I like to use butcher paper in my classes frequently. We recently made self portraits out of butcher paper. I covered the walls with butcher paper, and I had the grownups trace their child's outline on the paper. We then used dot paint, (you can find it at your local craft store) crayons, and construction paper to create our own soccer team with uniforms and all! This is a great rainy day craft. You can trace your whole family!

Supplies:
  • Butcher paper
  • Red construction paper
  • Black construction paper
  • White construction paper
  • Dot paint
  • Sticker eyes
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Tape
Directions:
  1. Tape Butcher paper to a wall. 
  2. Trace the outline of your child with a crayon. 
  3. Cut out red shirt, black shorts, and white number for soccer uniform. Glue to child's outline. 
  4. Add eyes and facial features. 
  5. Using dot paint, fill in the hair and decorate!

Week SEVEN: Recap!

I am going to go straight home today and make what we made in Taste Buddies for dinner. It was so good I am going to eat it twice! We made lasagna roll ups, a simple salad, and a pear and apple crisp. It was a classic, comforting, yummy food day in Taste Buddies.

LASAGNA ROLL UPS:
These are such a great, kid-friendly twist on a classic pasta dish. We shredded Parmesan cheese, and then we used our hands to spread the cheese on a precooked lasagna strip. We then rolled them up and dipped them in marinara sauce. This was one of my favorite dishes we have ever made in class!

SIMPLE SALAD:
This salad makes a great side to any pasta. You can even use your leftover Parmesan cheese from the lasagna to sprinkle on top. Yum!

APPLE AND PEAR CRISP:

This dessert just feels like fall to me. Don't worry if your mixture is really crumbly. It will solidify once the shortening is poured on top.
The best (and worst) part of this crisp is that it will make your kitchen smell so wonderful, you'll have to use some major self restraint to leave it in the oven for the full bake time. Top it with a scoop of ice cream and enjoy it while it's still warm for a truly blissful dessert moment.

Week SEVEN: Pear & Apple Crisp, Lasagna Roll Up and Simple Salad

PEAR AND APPLE CRISP
from Cooks.com
Ingredients:
  • 5 to 6 cups sliced, pared apples (about 6 tart, firm apples) 
  • 1 cup sifted flour
  • 1/2 to 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 unbeaten egg
  • 1/3 cup melted, cooled shortening
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Directions:
  1. Place apples in a greased 6 x 10-inch baking dish.
  2. Mix the next 5 ingredients together with fork until crumbly, and sprinkle over the apples.
  3. Top your apple and crumble mixture with shortening and cinnamon. 
  4. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in a 350°F. Serve warm with cream or ice cream.


LASAGNA ROLL UP
Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces dried lasagna noodles (do not substitute a no-boil version)
  • Handmade ricotta (or 16 ounces store-bought ricotta)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil or Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 jar tomato sauce
Directions:
  1. Boil noodles according to package instructions, they should be barely al dente.
  2. Once cooled, lay out on foil or parchment lightly coated in cooking spray.
  3. Mix ricotta with Parmesan cheese, basil, and garlic.
  4. Spoon 1/4 cup cheese mixture onto the noodle, spreading out evenly.
  5. Add additional fillings such as cooked sausage or fresh spinach now.
  6. Roll up the noodle and serve with tomato sauce for dipping.


SIMPLE SALAD
from AllRecipes.com
Ingredients:
  • 1 large head romaine lettuce - rinsed, dried and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 large head iceberg - rinsed, dried and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • 1 cup sliced red onion
  • 1 (4 ounce) jar diced pimento peppers, drained
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Directions:
  1. In a large bowl, combine the romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce, artichoke hearts, red onions and pimentos. 
  2. Toss together.
  3. Prepare the dressing by whisking together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and cheese. 
  4. Refrigerate until chilled and pour over salad to coat. Toss and serve.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book of the Week: "When a Monster is Born" by Sean Taylor, Illustrated by Nick Sharratt


Bubbles Academy is being transformed... to a spooky, sparkly, magical Halloween fun house! In celebration of the upcoming howl-iday, this week's book is When a Monster is Born, playfully illustrated by Nick Sharratt and wittily penned by Sean Taylor.

If you've read my bio, you've already heard of When a Monster is Born, since it is listed as one of my favorites, but it's worth mentioning again! The story is all about choices, so much in fact that every page is a new choice for the title character. It begins,
"When a Monster is Born, there are two possibilities... either it's a far-away-in-the-forests monster, or it's an under-your-bed monster..."  
We find out with the turn of the page that if it's a forest dwelling monster, then"that's that", but if it's an under-bed dweller, there are two more possibilities. In this case either it "eats you" (accompanied by a truly entertaining and not-at-all scary illustration) or "you make friends and take it to school".

This book is the perfect opportunity to talk with your little reader about how the choices we make shape our lives. It follows the monster choice-by-choice as he falls in love, gets married, and even has a baby of his own. It ends full circle with the newborn's choice of the far-away forest or under the bed.

Throughout the book, Sharratt's illustrations delight and entertain, they are the perfect companion to Mr. Taylor's text. It's the kind of book that makes it easy to read aloud, since the page turns allow for perfect comedic timing. It is on my must-read list for all the little bookworms in my life. Hope it delights your Halloween reader, too!

For some fun help getting into the Halloween spirit, join Miss Becca at Open Play Story Time this Thursday at 4:00 p.m. for the reading of When a Monster is Born!
Then, join us as we celebrate Halloween all next week! Be sure to bring your little one out in costume to all of our classes October 24-29th.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Apple Picking and Making Memories

I have already mentioned my favorite pumpkin farm, but I'd like to share with you now another place that has captured the hearts of some other local families. County Line Orchard, located in Hobart Indiana (about an hour drive from Chicago), seems to be a real hidden gem!

With a hayride that brings your family out to pick their own pumpkins in the patch, age-appropriate rides, and apple trees at just the right height for picking with your children, this place seems created for families with young children in mind. I've heard it's a "must see" from several parents, with a few jokingly referring to it as "their little secret." However, it sounds so good I just couldn’t resist sharing it with you! For more information, visit their website here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Week SIX: Recap!


We had a wonderful class today in Taste Buddies, learning how to make pretzels! They looked just like the soft pretzels you can find at a baseball stadium. We also made banana roll ups and chicken stew. It was a tasty menu today, and we all left with our stomachs full!

PRETZELS:
I had no idea pretzels were so easy to make. You can even use pre-packaged pizza dough if you don't have all of the ingredients at home. I would suggest having some mustard handy for dipping!

CHICKEN STEW:
This recipe makes enough to feed the whole family… and then some! If you make the full recipe, you can always freeze some of it for later. Just leave the potatoes out until you are ready to eat it. This is a great meal to feed a bunch of people and it's super healthy! 

BANANA ROLL UPS:
The original recipe says to melt the chocolate chips in the recipe. We just sprinkled them on top of our soy nut butter, and they tasted great! This is a great snack, I sometimes even eat it for breakfast.

Week SIX: Soft Pretzels, Chicken Stew and Banana Roll Ups


SOFT PRETZEL
Ingredients:
  • 1 cake of compressed yeast or envelope of dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups of warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 cups of flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. In bowl, dissolve cake of compressed yeast or envelope of dry yeast.
  2. Add water, sugar, salt and flour (enough so the dough is not sticky).
  3. Knead dough until smooth.
  4. On lightly floured board, cut off small pieces of dough. Roll in ropes and twist.
  5. Bake on a lined cooking sheet until golden brown.

 
CHICKEN STEW
from Cooks.com
Ingredients:
  • 1.5 pounds cooked chicken (no bones)
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1 can vegetable broth
  • 3 cans of water
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 6 potatoes, chunks
  • 2 stalks celery chopped
  • 1 onion chopped
  • Green beans
  • Yellow beans
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Peas
  • Corn
Directions:
  1. In a large pot, sauté the celery and onion in oil until soft. 
  2. Add broths, chicken and water (use chicken broth can to measure 3 cans of water). Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer.
  3. Add potatoes. Let simmer for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. 
  4. Add vegetables; any favorite will do, frozen or fresh.
  5. Simmer an additional 10 minutes until vegetables are tender.
NOTE: Corn starch can be added as a thickener.

 

BANANA ROLL UPS
Ingredients:
  • 1 banana
  • 1 whole wheat tortilla
  • 1 tablespoon soy nut butter
  • 1 tablespoon melted chocolate chips 
Directions:
  1. Melt chocolate chips in microwave for 30 seconds or until soft.
  2. Stir chocolate mixture with soy butter.
  3. Spread on to tortilla.
  4. Slice banana in half length wise, and put one half on tortilla.
  5. Roll up like a burrito.
 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Book of the Week: SuperHero ABC by Bob McLeod

Want a book that's going to grow with your little one? Check out SuperHero ABC by Bob McLeod. You guessed it, I LOVE THIS BOOK. It is consistently a favorite among our young Bubblers. It's your standard A-B-C book, but with a classic comic book twist. Mr. McLeod is an experienced comic book writer and illustrator, and it shows in this heroic journey through the alphabet. You meet a new alliterative superhero on each page: starting with Astro-Man who is "Always Alert for an Alien Attack" and ending with The Zinger who "Zanily ZigZags through the Zero Zone!" I know your little hero will enjoy the heroic surprises on each page and will learn her ABCs at the same time!

A-B-C books generally don't make my "worthy of Story Time" list, but McLeod's clever details, and amusing character thought-bubble quotes make this engaging to read aloud. His details are truly worth a forth, fifth, or four-hundreth look at the pages!

Zoom out to meet all the heroes of SuperHero ABC at Open Play Story Time this Thursday at 4 p.m. It's going to be a SUPER time!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fall Reading Recommendation!

"What's the best Halloween book to read to my little one?"

Without a doubt my favorite Halloween book is The Ugly Pumpkin, written by Dave Horowitz. Just like in the classic story of the The Ugly Duckling which we all know and love, this is the story of an "ugly pumpkin" who is rejected by other Halloween creatures. We find out at the end that the pumpkin is actually a squash!

With its colorful illustrations and cute anecdotes, it is a book that relays a nice message that the entire family will enjoy. It's also a perfect read for this fall season! You can find it for purchase online here.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pinkie Flamingo!

If your fridge is looking a bit drab this fall, you could be in need of a flamingo! This easy craft is a great way for you and your child to be creative together. Plus, it looks great on the fridge. Have fun!

Supplies:
  • 1 pink sheet of construction paper
  • 1 paper plate
  • 2 sheets of ink tissue paper
  • Pink paint
  • White glue (Elmer's works well!)
  • Pink glitter
  • Pink feathers
  • 2 sticker eyeballs
  • Messy mat

Directions:
  1. Lay down messy mat.
  2. Mix half pink paint and half white glue together.
  3. Cut out flamingo head and legs.
  4. Paint paper plate with paint and glue mixture.
  5. Stick on tissue paper feathers.
  6. Sprinkle with glitter and add eyeball stickers.
  7. Let dry and stick on the fridge!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Week FIVE: Recap!

We had a lovely tea party today in Taste Buddies class! We made mini cucumber sandwiches, deviled eggs, and sugar bear cookies. We also enjoyed some iced tea and milk to wash down our snacks.

SUGAR BEAR COOKIES:
These are super cute and easy to make. Try variations on this with different types of prepared cookie dough, like oatmeal or chocolate chip! You can also change your cookie shape to suit your season, like using dough balls and raisins to create a flower for spring, or snowman for winter.

MINI CUCUMBER SANDWICHES:
We used mini toast from Whole Foods Market in class today for our cucumber sandwiches. We topped our toast with cucumber and cream cheese. Whipped cream cheese works best because it is easier to spread. This is such a fun, easy treat, with just a few ingredients!

DEVILED EGGS:
We made the tastiest deviled eggs I have ever eaten today in Taste Buddies! We used a plastic bag to put our filling in and then squeezed it out of a snipped-off corner, like icing. They looked beautiful and tasted wonderful!