For The Love Of Freshly Baked Goodies: Let Mickey Mouse Cookie Cutters Transform Weekends!

schoolbus

As the yellow school bus dropped off the kids a couple of months back, realisation dawned on me that it was the weekend all over again! For mums like me who try to keep the kids away from screens and junk most of the times, weekends can get really challenging. There are tantrums and meltdowns because little Becky at school had her meal box stacked with crisps and cakes and mine had pasta in red sauce. To make the time more productive and less of a monotony for me as well as them, I plan a lot of activities well ahead of the weekend. I either plan to drive down to the nearest activity centre for games and fun or plan play dates with kids of the same age. Now that it is getting colder outside, I try and arrange for indoor entertainment. Among all other things, what my kids really enjoy is helping me bake healthy cookies and muffins and later stuffing their faces with them till they start feeling sick.

childrens cookies

I have often been asked how to include kids in the kitchen. At the risk of jinxing it, I will dare to confess that my babies have been keen contributors to the kitchen from a very early age. Now that they are 4 and 6 respectively, they are active participants in almost all my sessions. There is no trick here; children love emulating adults and they will want to copy everything that they see. I have often heard this at get-togethers that I must be baking all the time because my children have more baking supplies as toys than what a regular person would, in the kitchen.

childrens cookies 2

After the kids were done with their projects, I announced our activities. “We are baking cookies today and dinnertime has been postponed!” Their faces gleamed with happiness and they rushed to take out their aprons and cookie cutters from the drawers. As mentioned earlier, I prefer using whole-wheat flour and sugar substitutes in my baked goodies, and I always look for recipes that can be tweaked to make them kid-friendly.

mickey mouse cookies

I laid out the ingredients of the day: peanut butter, cocoa powder, brown sugar, chocolate chips, eggs, vanilla pods, whole wheat flour, cookie cutters, cling film, baking trays and cooking spray. After helping me to fetch these, my children asked me enthusiastically as to what cookies I planned to bake. “Peanut butter cookies and chocolate chip cookies”, I said out loud and they broke into a jig because both of them loved these flavours. While they read the labels on the bottles, I took out the star of the day; the Mickey Mouse Cookie-cutter by Baking-Equips.com that had arrived yesterday and I couldn’t wait to try it! Their joy knew no bounds and both of them wanted to try using the cutters even before the dough had been made. So we started off by mixing peanut butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla in a bowl. By turns, I made them use their fingers to lightly crumble the sugar and butter. It is very essential to use your hands while cooking and I have always exemplified the same in front of my impressionistic children. After the dough was rolled into balls, I flattened them and laid out four discs each for the two to cut into shapes using the brand new cutter.

Thankfully, to save us mothers from insanity, the manufacturer was kind enough to provide two cutters of different colors in the same pack. Jim took the classic logo design while Ryan took to the one that was shaped like Mickey’s head in profile. While they used their creativity to shape and sort the cookie dough, I quickly reviewed the cutters in my mind. Measuring at around 3”*2.5”, they were perfect for tiny little hands. They were made of food grade plastic and looked durable to me. In between shaping dough and drinking water from a jug, Ryan accidentally spilled some on himself and while he was away changing clothes, I joined Jim in his activity. While using the cutter, I was amazed at how clean the cuts were! There was no blurred line, no stickiness; they released easily and the shapes came out perfectly. The cutters were quite safe to handle by children, owing to the fact that they had no sharp edges and the material was non-toxic too. To add to all the fun, the cutters came in with a decorating book filled with kid-friendly recipes and design ideas! I could imagine hours of unlimited fun with these cutters.

mickey mouse cookies 2

For the next few weekends, we tried a number of things with the Mickey Mouse cutters. We used it for sandwiches, brownies, cakes and steamed rice cakes. Any kind of food can be transformed with them at hand and children enjoy every moment of using these. No prize for guessing what the theme for Jim’s 5th birthday would be. I plan to buy these cutters in bulk and encourage all the children attending the Mickey Mouse themed party to make their own cookies and egg sandwiches. They will remain engaged and let us mums enjoy a drink or two. For the mean time I will be popping down the new shop that has opened which seems to have a good selection of baking goodies.  Its the first place on any high street I have so far discovered that actually stocks Sweet Elite tools – so should be interesting.

But remember holidays will soon be here again. Stock up on quirky sweet treats with these cutters. If you do not plan to bake, you could always roll out bread dough and hand it over to the kids along with the cutters and relax while they toil away on a lazy weekend. At the end of the day, you will have jars full of special treats made out of everyday items, and very happy kids as a bonus. Who says weekends are difficult? Try cooking with your kids around!

 

Baking With A Fresh Hint Of Mint: Holiday Cheer And More

There is no denying the fact that festivities call for special treats: for kids and adults alike. To add to all the tantrums, school holidays are on in full swing and the cake-lovers spend all day demanding new things to munch on; especially the ones that involve ingredients unavailable at home. Last week was all about shopping for groceries so that before Christmas holidays begin, I can keep the refrigerator stacked with supplies of all kinds.

xmas1

Being a mum of a picky eater and a chocolate lover, I always keep a few essentials ready so that easy muffins and cookies can be baked in a jiffy but this time around, Kyro has been going on and on about peppermint. He has recently been to a birthday party where these peppermint flavoured cupcakes caught his fancy. I remembered to buy a vial of peppermint essence just to avoid last minute hassles. Unfortunately, I had never incorporated this flavour in any of my recipes and I was a little wary of the amount to be used and the procedure to be followed. While surfing through known and unknown websites I came across The Pioneer Woman that had a number of dessert ideas on offer. Here I was contemplating peppermint cupcakes; and there they were, suggesting incredible layer cake ideas to irresistible pretzels and brownies. I had to immediately bookmark the website for future reference and after taking bits and pieces from here and there, I came back to my chocolate cake.

chocolate1

I came to know from this site how peppermint extract is highly concentrated and should be used in a very small amount. Thank Heavens for that piece of information or else I would have ended up with a major blunder. Our family of three loves semisweet chocolate so I generally keep a bar or two at home. I had already baked a plain chocolate cake and had cooled it before preparing the frosting. Four ounces of semisweet chocolate, half a cup of cream and half a teaspoon of peppermint extract were the ingredients that I had to bring together for the most perfect frosting for a fresh dessert after a rich Christmas roast dinner. Chocolate and cream were boiled together and peppermint extract was stirred in. I strained the mixture to get rid of lumps and stirred until it was smooth and ribbon-like in consistency. I couldn’t resist the temptation of tasting this new-found frosting and I was amazed at how fresh it tasted! It was light, airy and in no way overpowering as people generally feel peppermint is like. I’ll have to confess that I sandwiched two tiny pieces of leftover cake with a generous helping of the frosting and treated myself to it for this piece of art that I had just discovered.

christmas baking

Christmas special meals are always looked forward to. I can’t wait to try my hand at streusel bars, Pecan pie tart, creamy casseroles and the colourful salads from The Pioneer Woman. Mealtimes have become a lot more adventurous; especially since we have started experimenting!

 

Have You Considered Dumping Your Cereal Bowl? Here’s How To Do It The Delicious Way!

Has a mother ever told you how incredible and versatile eggs could be? I’ll do if you have been spared this conversation earlier. I could write a book on how eggs have and will continue to save my day when all that a teething toddler wants is an egg for every meal. Toddler eating habits can drive you up the wall if you are into following routines. They are anything but predictable. For a mum who almost always feels unproductive at the end of the day, it is quintessential to find peace with something- after a year and a half of parenting; I have found my peace in eggs.

versatile eggs

With that in mind, I always look for recipes that have eggs in them and to ensure that she is getting her favourite ‘eggy’, she keeps a close watch while I cook. It has been six months since a mum on a parenting group had suggested checking out Smitten Kitchen; an exhaustive resource of amazing recipes which do not necessarily include exotic ingredients. This is where I came across new and innovative ways to use our everyday eggs. Earlier I would either do an egg sandwich or a cold egg salad for snacks. Now that I have been smitten by what’s on offer, I do add some chopped spinach or crispy bacon to egg salads for that extra crunch.

egg salad

I can proudly say that I have revolutionized breakfast. Instead of spooning up cereals with milk every single morning, I actually look forward to cooking up a storm in the kitchen! Would you believe if I told you how we often have pizza for breakfast that is not necessarily unhealthy? Smitten Kitchen has breakfast recipes that can blow your mind away! From baked eggs with mozzarella topping and crispy bacon bites to fried egg salad that does not need too much cooking but plays havoc on the taste buds; there is something for everything.

perfect pizza

After all the fun is done with, there is a tiny bit of concern regarding nutrition. Although I closely follow my baby’s lead in her food habits, I do end up asking myself if she has had enough. When the nutrition bug bites, I usually resort to the three finger rule: Whole grains, protein and veggies. I try and include these at mealtimes and recipes like spinach and smashed egg toast, mushroom stuffed with eggs and egg drop noodle soup keep us on the right track. With recipes from this website, I don’t struggle with fruits either. There is always a doable backup if Becky rejects a fruit. So we often have apple tarts, apple and oats pancakes, blueberry pancakes, apricot crisps and have noticed a significant change in behaviour since mealtimes and recipes changed.

pancakes

I can’t thank Smitten Kitchen enough for the way I have been able to make meals more interesting and have been able to share my experiences with the world. There is a whole world of recipes, ideas, tips and more here, just for you to explore and apply!

Husbands Sitting Vegetables Turned into Disappearing Vegetables

steamedvegDonna, one of my good friends, found that her husband did not eat all of his vegetables when she made them from a can. She wanted to make sure he got his nutrients and looked at the vegetable steamer baskets when she went shopping. She was hoping if she made him steamed vegetables he would eat all of them like he did when he would get them at a restaurant. Donna liked the vegetable steamer baskets that had a nice distance between the water and the bottom of the basket. When looking at local department stores, kitchen stores, and even online she got a good idea of what she wanted. She also liked the newer versions of the vegetable steamer baskets that had popup grips.

When Donna went grocery shopping, she picked up a few fresh vegetables thinking she would test her theory before she bought a bunch of fresh vegetables. That evening she steamed green beans and pearl onions. Her husband had a second helping of the vegetable dish and she knew she would have to try out some more recipes.

The next night Donna made steamed corn on the cob using her vegetable steamer basket. Her husband loved her BBQ ribs and she had seen a time where he only ate half of his corn on the cob but this night he ate two full cobs. He told her he did not know what she did with the corn but it was great as he reached for his second ear of corn.

The third night Donna used her vegetable steamer basket to make fresh broccoli with snap peas. When the vegetables were finished, she put a dab of butter on them and set them on the table. When she went into the kitchen and looked over at the table her husband was sneaking one the broccoli blossoms and she was amazed at the disappearing vegetables.

She had finally figured out the trick to getting her husband to eat vegetables. Cooking them in a vegetable steamer basket was so simple she had to giggle at herself for not realizing it sooner. This is the same thing I do for my own family now.

Hopefully becoming a less distracted parent

happy kidsAs a mother of two young children I struggle to give them my undivided attention where everything else seems to take my attention away from them. I notice that it is not just me who is having a tough time but parents around me are also as distracted. It is not just working parents; but also parents that are primary caregivers, taking care of children at home for the entire day, who are going through such turmoil.

Let us start with self. “Learning to say no” and “Care for self” are very important in parenting. These remind us that parenting is not an easy job and as a parent, even though we need to take care of others, we need to put ourselves first. We cannot fill another cup from an empty cup! By setting healthy boundaries we are teaching our children to do so when they grow up. If we can give ourselves some time to relax and do what we need to do for ourselves we will have energy and time to give without harbouring negative feelings for the rest of the family. By taking time off for ourselves, even if it is just half an hour a day, we are not being selfish but we are helping ourselves to be a better parent. We shouldn’t feel guilty about doing things for our own good.

Another important thing to remember is to stop ourselves from worrying about every consequence! I think nearly every parent goes through this at some stage. We all do things and then worry about the after effect that the situation will have on our child and also about the worst consequence that it can lead to. For example “What if I don’t spend time with my child now, will he/she become an antisocial person?” This makes us feel guilty and we start blaming ourselves more than ever before. It does not help in any positive way whatsoever! I personally go through this a lot. Once in a while we need reminders that it will all work out in the end and that we are doing the best we can. With this comes the concept of modelling positive thoughts and positive talk. In a way, making positive talk a habit helps with talking ourselves out of the guilt factor too!

The most important points for me, though, are accepting yourself and the emotions of both yourself as well as your child’s. I think it is extremely important to accept oneself first. Only when that happens we can handle our emotions calmly and accept our child’s emotions. We need to be able to get rid of all the “I can’t do it” and “I am not good enough” thoughts. They can bring us down and bring down the child too in the process. We have to understand that it is normal to cry, feel angry or sad, for us as well as the child. I have to work a lot on this as I have a lot of baggage from my own childhood which I need to unpack before I learn to understand my child’s emotions. It is important for me to see to it that my child doesn’t grow up with the same baggage as I did.

We all try and compare our child to the rest of the world and wonder why our child is not like somebody else’s child who will eat what is served on their plate without complaining or a child that will do all the homework by herself and so on. Half the problem is solved when we just accept the child that we have as he or she is. Once we accept what is normal then we can work on other things. It is not as frustrating as before anymore. We know what we have and we are ready to work with it.

We have always been told that children follow what they see and not what they hear. I think we all need a reminder about that every now and then. When we know someone is watching we tend to behave as a better role model. Being mindful and paying attention is quite important and we have to learn to do it without jumping to conclusions or trying to avoid the unpleasantness sometimes. This will help us to understand what the child is trying to communicate.

We have to learn not to rush, find time to be unplugged every day and under schedule the children. We try to fit everything into our children’s childhood so that they do not fall behind in the rat race. We also need to have hands free time to connect to the family every day. Also, lesser the toys for the children the better it is. It brings out their creativity and connectivity with the world around them.

On the whole it is not about just connecting with our children but it reminds us to connect with our inner self too which is important to become a focussed parent.

When Your Little One Wants to Eat a Mickey Mouse Sandwich Everyday, You Get Hold Of Children’s Cookie Cutters!

childrens cookie cutterTo you, it’s a Brontosaurus. To another, it could be an iguana. Perhaps a lizard?
Is that an eagle? Or a parrot? A hawk?
Look! A horse. Maybe a mule.
Is it a crocodile? Oh, wait! I found another one with a rounded snout. This one must be the lizard. Or newt. Or even a gecko.

While my mind is going over the possibilities of this guessing game with my cookie cutter set, my three year old is busy munching on a chocolate chip teddy. She cut the cookie dough with the teddy shaped cookie cutter and beamed with pride when it came out of the oven; warm and crunchy. Her breakfast sandwich was a Mickey Mouse. My four year old boy likes his cookies in Batman style. The Batman symbol stainless steel cookie cutter is just the thing I need for his eclectic tastes. The various shapes of children’s cookie cutters make it possible to ensure a daily diet of interesting shapes for my kids.

We use cookie cutters not just for cookies but to make shapes using play dough, turning boring toast into a fun breakfast and to decorate cakes. They are durable enough to be cleaned in the dishwasher. Some of the brands offer color coded shapes – like pink stars or green animals. This makes it even easier while sorting out what shape my child wants. Sometimes my son goes wild with green shapes – his favorite color. Animal cutters come in child friendly 3.5 inches by 3.5 inches.

Choice of Material

  • Plastic – Please ensure you get food grade plastic as it should not release toxins in to the dough or sandwich when it comes in contact with it. Plastic cookie cutters also come flat on one side which is easier to fill by children. These are easier to dispose off as well.
  • Stainless steel – Somewhat rougher to use than plastic, these will not bend and can be used to make vegetables more interesting to eat by cutting them into fun shapes.

childrens cookie cuttersShape sets

  • star
  • heart
  • flower
  • fluted round

Shape colors

  • blue
  • green
  • pink
  • orange

Animal Pals set

What do we have in Purple color?

Bee Brontosaurus  Bunny  Butterfly  Cat  Cow  Dog
Fish  Horse Lizard  Octopus  Owl Peacock  Sea Horse
 Shark  Stegosaurus  Duck Salamander Rooster    

Because Some Kids Love Green!

Alligator  Camel  Dove  Elephant  Frog  Giraffe  Goose
 Hippo  Kangaroo  Lion  Pig  Seal  Squirrel  Turkey
 Turtle  Whale          

What Do We Find In Orange?

Angel Fish  Bat  Crab  Dolphin  Flamingo  Gorilla  Caterpillar
 Parrot  Penguin Pterodactyl  Rhino  Sheep  Snake Teddy Bear
 T-Rex  Wild Cat  Song Bird        

What Moms like me are saying about cookie cutters!

“I made a fun panda pizza and a really popular Frog Prince sandwich without even looking at the instructions. I feel like a rock star lunch packer. My next creation is waiting to pop up in my head!”

“They come in a good assortment of shapes, with good quality thick plastic. It’s easier on the hands when you press down with them. This is especially nice for children to get involved in baking.”

“We made cookies and sandwiches in the shape of Mickey’s head for my little brother’s party and he LOVED them!”

“I create snacks that are just like mini munchies from the store, but healthier. I cut up meat, soy cheese and cucumbers or carrots and whole grain crackers!”

“Children’s cookie cutters work great and are a snap to clean.”