Thursday, September 18, 2008

'Not-so-guilt-free' Mashed Potatoes

The best thing about fall is all the wonderful, hot and fresh comfort foods on the table at dinner. A family favorite for us is potatoes. Mashed, baked, grilled, sauteed or even in a salad--we eat probably way too many of these. Tonight, just because we all were craving something special, I whipped up some mashed potatoes. Here is the recipe, its very easy to adjust to whatever dinner you are having. Just try not to overdo it since it is soooo rich and creamy.

About 2 lbs of potatoes--peeled and cut into quarter sized pieces
1 pkg. of cream cheese
3-4 large spoonfuls of butter
2 large spoonfuls of sour cream
Salt, pepper, parsley, garlic and other spices to taste

In a large pot cover potatoes with cool water. Bring to boil and cook potatoes until fork tender. Drain potatoes and place back in pot. Mash potatoes with a fork or potato masher. Then add cream cheese, butter, and sour cream. Mix together until smooth. Add seasonings. You may also add fresh cheese, herbs, and garlic.
Tip: Make in bulk and store leftovers in casserole dish. Then for next night's dinner you can cover the mashed potatoes with cheese and bacon crumbles. Bake in oven until cheese is fully melted. Serve as loaded cheesey mashed potatoes. Voila~a new side dish!
--The Unique Mom

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fun and Simple Treats

Every once in a while our family ends up with 4-5 boxes of cereal that no one is interested in eating anymore. Cheerios, Rice Krispies, Chex, Golden name it. So to cut down on all those gigantic boxes of cereal, I make treats with them. Here are two of our favorite quick and easy treats that use things we already have around the house and help us clean out our pantry faster. They are great year round because a couple of changes make them fun seasonal treats for our family to munch on during our favorite holidays.

Monster Trail Mix
Ingredients: Assorted Cereals, Marshmallows; Chocolate Chips; Raisins, dried fruits; M & Ms, small candies

Directions: In a zip lock gallon sized bag, pour in all ingredients. Have kids shake bags to mix everything. Makes great on the go snacks for kids, just pour a little into a small plastic bag or plastic container and take with you.

Seasonal Tip: For a seasonal treat, use colored candies like red/green m&ms for Christmas, or candy corn for fall. Also, if you use marshmallows, pick ones that come in fun holiday shapes like trees for Christmas and ghosts for Halloween.

Cereal Bars
Ingredients: Assorted Cereals (Rice Krispies, Chex, etc), 3 Tbsp. of butter, 1 bag marshmallows or 6 cups of mini-marshmallows, and for optional add-ins: chocolate chips, raisins, dried fruit, m&ms, small candies, chocolate pieces

Directions: Melt butter in a large saucepan on low heat. After butter is melted pour in marshmallows. Stir mixture often. When all marshmallows are melted, you may add chocolate pieces and melt those into mixture if you want it to be extra chocolate-y. Pour in cereal(s) and turn off heat. Stir mixture so all cereal is coated. At end you may also add in candies and other optional items. Then quickly remove to a well greased cooking pan or casserole pan and spread evenly. You may pour additional candies or toppings on top of mix. Let sit until completely cool all the way through (approximately 1-2 hours).

Seasonal Tip: Melt chocolate pieces into marshmallow mixture before adding cereals. This will make bars "black." Then add orange candies or candy corn at the end to make a special Halloween snack. Or around Thanksgiving make as directed but instead of adding in candies, add dried cranberries and your favorite type of nuts. This works best with Cheerios as the cereal. Be creative and make something different every time.

--The Unique Mom

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Creative Play

One thing my son loves to do is to dress up and play pretend. We have lots of costumes and outfits that he likes to try on during pretend time. Creative and pretend play can be really great for toddlers and preschoolers because it gives them the chance use all the new vocabulary and things they are learning. It doesn't have to be very expensive either. Here are a couple ideas you can use to 'build' your pretend play resources at home for your little boy or girl:
  1. Start a pretend toy box or bin. Putting all pretend toys and outfits in place will help your child be creative easier.
  2. Don't throw out old Halloween costumes. Save them and add them to your pretend play bin. If your child has outgrown it, donate it or give it to a friend with smaller children so they can enjoy pretending too.
  3. Buy Halloween costumes on sale. Starting around the last week of October, Halloween costumes go on clearance since stores want to get rid of all those extra costumes taking up space. Often prices are slashed quite a bit and you can find very inexpensive finds this way. Year-round you might also find deals by searching online.
  4. Use things from around the house. Old aprons, worn out Tupperware, extra measuring spoons, old spade and gloves, and even shoes you no longer wear yourself can become great sources of inspiration. Common things around the house can be great for getting children to explore new ideas and new things.
  5. Make your own costumes. This can be as simple as taking an old undershirt or a shirt that you can't get a stain out of and letting your child make their own masterpiece from it. You can let them color on it with markers, tie dye it, or even buy patches or cut out felt pieces and help them attach them. So if your child likes dalmatians, cut out little black pieces of felt or even sew on black buttons.
  6. Don't forget the accessories. Have cheap jewelry you no longer wear? Or broken watches? Things like old purses, ties, hats, shoes, jewelry, or even spare change for older children, can help make creative play more interesting and fun for kids. Kids like to be like mom and dad and what better way to do that than to dress up like mom and dad! Just don't be surprised if your child decides to be your pint-size double after that!
  7. Check out your local party supply stores. We were able to find lots of toy badges and party hats for super cheap that doubled as great dress up costumes. Even small finds like these can be great for kids.
  8. Play with your kids! Dress up is even more fun with a friend. Get involved by dressing up with your child and making up detailed stories about what a fire fighter or a tiger does. Make it an adventure for your child by encouraging all kinds of creativity!

Happy Playtime!
--The Unique Mom

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Back from our vacation!

Well we are back! My husband and I had a nice little vacation in the Caribbean and now its back to everyday life. *Sigh* We are just about back to normal, which pretty much means everything but our laundry is all caught up on. We have a lot going on right now, with my cousin having her twin babies premature, my sister due any day with her first baby, and school in high gear. Plus its thesis prep time so I need to really start hitting the books.
But to keep me sane I will keep this blog going. So look forward to seeing some new posts again very soon. I hope to post some fun things and activities to do this fall for you as well as some very cute baby and toddler trends. Hope you all will check it out!
--The Unique Mom