Category: Snacks

A Tree-Hugging Trader Joe’s Review

So. We’re back from vacation. School is about to start. Summer is coming to a close. Things are changing. I should be able to keep up with my blog posts now, right? RIGHT?! Right.

Back to biz.

You guys know I have a serious sweet tooth. It’s well documented. You might not know that I also have a health food tooth (I feel like that’s less sparkly and lovely than a sweet tooth). Is that a thing? I love all vegetables, fruit, tofu, and other healthy fare.

Salad is one of my top favorite foods. I love going to salad buffets. And eating all their yummy veg. I even love beets. BEETS. Even as a kid I loved them. If you don’t like them, I have recipes that will forever change your mind about them.

I digress.

I went to Trader Joe’s this past week to try their healthier food (and some not so healthy food…blog posts on those to follow).

My kids love dried fruit as snacks. My Mom dries her own fruit and it’s delicious. Since I don’t have a dehydrator, I don’t mind buying them (or eating my Mom’s).

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We tried the TJ’s Dried Flattened Banana. I’ve never had this before now. They were really good, like banana fruit roll ups (if you rolled them up). The ingredients were bananas and something to keep them from browning. At $1.29, it was a bargain.

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Organic Banana Chips: They were good, crunchy, and delicious. Like any ol’ banana chips. They were $2.99 and there were a lot. I’d call it a deal.

Dried Sweet New Zealand Apples: These were delicious. Despite only having apples (several different varieties) as the only ingredient, when I opened the bag, they smelled like fall. They were chewy, moist, and full of apple flavor.  And the bag wasn’t skimpy on quantity. Also priced at $2.99, I think they were a deal.

Dried Fruit Mandarins Soft & Juicy: I’ve never had these before either. These were the only dried fruits we tried that had sugar as an ingredient. I’d serve these more for a lunch dessert. When I opened the package, the fresh, bright, citrusy scent of mandarin oranges hit my nose. The flavor copied that. They were delicious and sweet. They cost $2.69. I’d get them again.

Freeze Dried Mango: The only ingredient was mango. I like to see that. They were crunchy and yielded a nice bite, but also melted in my mouth (like most freeze dried fruit). They were also delicious. They also cost $2.69.

Lastly for the fruit and nuts category, we got some slivered almonds. They were delicious and like any other slivered almond. I like to put these on my oatmeal and in granola bars. I got quite a bit for $3.69.

I’d get all of those again.

I also picked up some gluten free pasta. Trader Joe’s has a good selection of such pastas. They offer both brown rice and corn pastas (perhaps more, but those are all I looked for). They had different shapes too – fusilli, penne, spaghetti. It’s great to see GF pasta becoming more mainstream.

I picked up a box of brown rice penne, brown rice fusilli, and brown rice spaghetti. They were $1.99 each (which is comparable to Aldi’s and far better than grocery store prices).

A few nights ago, we tried the brown rice spaghetti.

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It was delicious. I love that they give you a whole pound. Some GF pastas come in smaller packages. It was nice to feed the whole family from this (very cheap for GF) pack.

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It was delicious. We really couldn’t tell the difference between this pasta and flour-based pasta, in the best way possible.

It’s a must-buy for us now.

I also restocked my TJ’s sprouted tofu. I can’t wait to eat that. It, too, was delicious, the last time I made it.

Enjoy your day, go hug a tree, and eat something healthy!

Blessings,

Kristin

It’s Snack Time!

It’s almost snack time around here.

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My boys live for snack time. They act like I didn’t feed them a well-rounded breakfast, small snack and lunch just before. Do you ever run into the old what-do-I-feed-“them” routine? Sometimes, I’ll serve them fruit. Other times, they have store-bought granola bars (sometimes I make them from scratch, but other times, ain’t nobody got time for that), raisins, yogurt, or applesauce. And, sometimes, I will make a snack with them that will sort of go with one of the library books we’ve checked out. It’s fun to tie together snacks and books.

Welll, today, this didn’t happen. But I already know what I’ll be feeding the boys for snack. I made no-bake Cheerios bars for them, earlier in the week.

They came out so pretty!

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It was a wickedly easy recipe, and for once (or twice, but that’s it, tops), I had all the ingredients, even the chocolate covered sunflower seeds!

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Give them a try!

http://www.averiecooks.com/2013/10/no-bake-honey-nut-cheerios-snack-bars.html

I used a mix of half corn syrup and half honey. As the recipe states, they do fall apart a little bit, but they boys didn’t mind. And they taste great. I also used raisins and sunflower seeds. This recipe could be easily adapted to whatever you have to throw in. I did leave them in the fridge to set up for a few hours, so maybe plan to make these earlier in the day, if you want them by nap time. 🙂

Enjoy!

Banana-Rama

Knock Knock.

Who’s there?

Orange.

Orange who?

Orange you glad I didn’t say “bananas”?

I just taught this joke to my four year old. He is super into jokes right now. It’s really cute. He never waits for you to say “Who’s there?” and he always changes something with the telling of the joke or the punchline. It’s great.

We’ve been making banana “ice cream” a lot lately. Like, more than we should. It’s just so good. I know I’ve posted about it on this blog before. It’s just too easy. And refreshing. And it’s SO freaking hot outside.

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It’s just bananas, peeled, chopped and frozen and then mixed in the food processor. I’ve been adding dark chocolate cocoa and peanut butter. It tastes like a Reece’s PB Cup, but with a banana.

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The kids think it’s an extra special treat, and it really is, even though it is entirely healthy and (naturally) sweet.

Do it.

Kristin

When Story Time and Snack Time Collide

We’ve started going to the library every Wednesday now. Bigs is on a big Berenstain Bears book kick. Smalls is on just a regular leg kick (as in, he kicks everything). And I’ve made it a priority to find some time for myself to read (even if it means I stay up later…no wonder I’m so pooped!). Bigs picks out all the new Berenstain Bears books that he’s not yet read or that we don’t own and I thumb through the shelves, looking for books I think they’d both enjoy. I can’t help it, but I am always drawn to books with some sort of food theme or food title. I can’t help it.

I’ve started making snacks that sort of match the food in the books, the best I can. It’s been an unplanned, fun, activity for both me (making them) and the boys (enjoying them). Thus begins my new series, “When Story Time and Snack Time Collide”!

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Last week, I made raisin happy face oatmeal to match the raisin happy face oatmeal Mama Bear made her cubs. Bigs went bananas. Smalls didn’t care. I had enough enthusiasm for him though, not to worry.

Today, we read The Bear Detectives and at the very end, the cubs found out that the missing pumpkin was made into a delicious pumpkin pie. Since I didn’t have enough time to just whip up a quick pumpkin pie (nor did I feel that was a healthy enough snack for them…for me? that’s a different story!), I made pumpkin muffins. I found an easy, one-bowl recipe on one of the blogs I follow. And they were healthy! The only change I made was that I replaced part of the honey with some demerara raw sugar, since I didn’t have the amount of honey it called for.

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It’s not quite nap time yet (waaaaahhh), but the boys are already looking forward to their pumpkin muffins while reading our new library books!

Here is the recipe I used:

http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2009/10/13/recipe-conection-one-bowl-pumpkin-breadmuffins/

Enjoy eating these with your own little cubs!

Blessings,

Kristin

Sticky Black Rice Pudding

I have a TON of cookbooks. I’d like to think that I collect them. I’m sure a lot of my foodie friends out there can relate. I could just sit for hours, thumbing through my cookbooks, gazing upon those glossy pages, my eyes skimming the ingredients, my mouth watering over the perfectly styled pictures. I know that the internet provides a quicker, easier way to look up recipes…but to me? There’s nothing like holding a cookbook in my hand, flour dusting the pages, the smell of a real book (I’m also a real-book-reader, as opposed to giving into a digital reader…is that even what it’s called?).

A week or so ago, I was reading my Vegetarian Cooking: A Commonsense Guide and found a recipe for which I had all the ingredients.

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Sticky Black Rice Pudding

2 C black rice

3 pandan leaves (I left this out)

2 C coconut milk

2/3 C soft brown sugar

1/4 C caster sugar

coconut cream, to serve

diced mango or papaya, to serve (I used mango)

Put the rice in a large non-metallic bowl and cover with water. Let it soak overnight (or a minimum of 8 hours). Drain the rice and place in a saucepan with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Cook on a low boil, stirring, for 20 minutes. Drain.

*I skipped this step* Pull your fingers through the pandan leaves to shred them. Tie them in a  knot.

Pour the coconut milk into a large saucepan and heat until almost boiling. Add the pandan leaves and the sugars and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 8 minutes (no boiling). Turn off the heat and let it sit for 15 minutes. Remove the pandan. Spoon into bowls, and serve warm with coconut cream and mango.

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Mine came out exactly like the picture in the cookbook and tasted DIVINE. I halved the recipe and it still made a ton. My Smalls loved it. <3

Enjoy!

Kristin

PS – More bloggy blog posts to come!

 

Bigs’ Last Day of Preschool

Today is my Bigs’ last day of age 3 preschool (next year will be VPK). I am so proud of how far he’s come this last school year. We will miss our school routine, his teacher, his classmates, and their Mommies. It’s been a wonderful year. I am so grateful for his school.

Today for lunch, I packed “Bigs’ favorite things”.

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I packed some pizza (BBQ chicken pizza from Aldi), an applesauce squeezy fruit, some red grapes, and for dessert, a sugar cookie and a gummy worm. I also packed a no-sugar apple juice box. He loves those, but they are very rare, so it will be a treat. For his snack, I packed fruit snacks and shrimp chips (weird, but both my boys love those!), two of his favorite things.

Wow, what a year of lunches, too! Next year, Bigs will be in school 4 days a week (versus the two this year). I will definitely have to get my thinking cap on. Yikes.

Have a wonderful day!

Kristin

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

This week has not only felt like Summer, with temperatures already reaching over 90 degrees where I live, but it has been filled with summer activities. We’ve been to a Cinco de Mayo pool party, we’ve caught bugs and put them in Bigs’ bug kit, we’ve played on his slip n’ slide, we’ve played with water squirters, we’ve run through the hose water, we’ve had ice cream, we’ve been in the pool. Oh yes, Summer has arrived. While the rest of you are still in Spring, we have, very much, been initiated into the Summer Season.

In keeping with our new Summer theme, I made a really cute ice cream themed lunch for my Bigs this week.

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I made his PB&J into two little ice cream (or cup cup, as we call it in our house – Bigs’ word for it since he was little – it stuck!) shapes, with cherries on top! I packed seasoned corn, grapes, and a little marshmallow ice cream cone for dessert. I used my little ice cream picks for decoration. The bag on the left is his snack. I packed animal crackers and raisins and went cray cray with my ice cream stickers.

Tuesday’s lunch was not as cute.

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It lacked a little finesse theme. I packed a PB-smeared mini blueberry bagel, goldfish crackers, grapes and blueberries, a squeezy applesauce, and one of the little marshmallow ice cream cones.

Loving these fun, summery lunches!

Kristin

The Carnival came to town!

Come one, come all!!

What a big weekend it was for us! We celebrated our Bigs’ 4th birthday. We had so much fun. His birthday celebration started last Thursday, when I packed that fun birthday lunch for him for school. That night, we went out to get some of the food we’d need for his birthday party on Saturday. We found the corndogs at Target. While there, as per the usual, Bigs led us to the vacuum aisle.

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This kid loves vacuums. He always has. I am telling you, I’d not be surprised if he was the inventor of the next big, cool vacuum. What a great way to spend your last night as a three year old – pretend vacuuming the Target aisles in your Woody & Buzz Lightyear boots.

Friday was his actual birthday. Our original intent was to take him on the train after breakfast, but their schedules were not fitting in with our schedules and also it was RAINY. Like, a monsoon-rainy. So we decided to play his day by ear, realizing that our expectations of it might just be higher and more complicated that they needed to be…than Bigs’ expectations. So, we started the first day of his 4th year singing “Happy Birthday” to him and letting him open his present. We’d gotten him a whistle (yay for him, booo for us). That was all he’d asked for. All he wanted was that and to be able to eat a whole vitamin versus the half serving for children under 4. After those two exciting gifts, we went to have a wonderful breakfast. Bigs ordered chocolate chip pancakes (one huge one, in this restaurant). We got the same for Smalls.

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They were giant. Bigger than the boys’ heads. Just the way a birthday pancake should be.

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I’d say Bigs loved it. Those chocolate chips were smeared all over their sweet, little faces.

I ordered the French Toast Monte Cristo.

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It was really delicious. It came with some dressed greens. Husband got eggs over breakfast potatoes.

With our bellies full, we went home for a little while to relax. Our neighbors came over to wish Bigs a Happy Birthday and we visited with them. That’s when the skies really opened up. When we were able to, we finally got back out into the storm to go to Toys-R-Us. Side note: that place, of all places, needs to put sanitizing wipes for their carts. Blech! We surprised Bigs with a water table (yay gift cards!!). We went home and set it up and the boys had so much fun playing with it on the back porch.

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It was nice to be able to be doing something outdoors even though it was pouring outside.

After naps, we went to Ale House, where they have both delicious food AND a gluten-free menu. I ordered the Chicken Cajun Pasta. It was so good and there was so much of it, I got to eat it again at home!

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Husband ordered shrimp, Bigs ordered mini cheeseburgers and fries, and Smalls ate a grilled cheese and fries. We ordered a piece of chocolate cake to take home.

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It was also huge. We knew Bigs would love this as his birthday cake!

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I stuck candles in a little slice for him and we sang! Even Smalls sang along, the best he could. I’ve been teaching him this song for weeks so that he could sing it to Bigs. The boys wore little birthday cone hats and enjoyed their cake.

It was a perfect day.

Saturday was party day! We’d rented a pavilion at our neighborhood park months ago, in preparation for this day. Quite sadly, the weather had gotten even worse than it was on Bigs’ birthday, the day before. All weather reports showed thunderstorms all day long. We didn’t have a back up plan, but we had to make one quickly. Before 7:00am rolled around, we decided to move the whole operation to our house. That would be the only way a birthday party would happen. Also sadly, my house was a pigsty. I’d neglected cleaning it, as I oft do, because I’d been so busy preparing for this outside birthday party. So we cleaned and cleaned and decorated and notified our guests about the change in plans. It was a frantic morning. And an extremely rainy one…we made the right decision.

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Dining Room Table

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Details, upclose

I found almost all my decorating supplies at the Dollar Store. I put the centerpieces on top of red and white tablecloths. For the centerpieces, I put some yellow crinkle confetti in the bottom of a decorative plastic popcorn bucket and then some yellow and white flowers. Since these were supposed to grace eight picnic tables, and we were now partying inside, I put them all over the house. I actually love the way it came out. I also put some ticket stubs (also found at the Dollar Store) around, as a confetti. And for the dining room table only, I put some carnival charms, that I’d found online, and a mason jar filled with gum balls.

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I twisted red and white crepe paper and hung it to look like a circus/carnival top, centering around Bigs’ chair at our dining room table.

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I did a similar thing on the antique desk that is in my foyer….

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…and the same for the top of my TV in the living room.

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I made a “4!” out of tickets on the front door.

And then I set up the games downstairs…

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Pin the nose on the clown (sticker noses)

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Fishing (and a bucket of prizes)

And we also had hula hoops, and three little red baskets where the kids could throw three plastic baseballs.

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Here were some carnival bags for the kids to hold their loot in, as well as some carnival temporary tattoos.

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Then I set up the candy bar and food. For the candy bar, I used bags of Charms Fluffy Stuff cotton candy (dollar store!), licorice (red and black [I LOVE black licorice…I think my Dad and I are the only ones]), candy wax bottles, sugar-coated rainbow strings, watermelon gummies, and swirl lollipops.

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I placed popcorn bags next to the candy bar and popcorn so our guests could easily walk around with their treats. I bought bags of popcorn from the deli at Publix and made (my Mom was on duty) corndogs.

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I think it was a hit!

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I used the same red and white theme with the popcorn buckets and flowers throughout.

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I love how the food table came out!

The cake was DELICIOUS too. I didn’t make it this year, not for that amount of people. I got it at CostCo. Bigs requested chocolate, so chocolate is what he got! I asked for extra sprinkles because…that’s how we roll.

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Fireworks added to cover my Bigs’ name 🙂

It was really, really delicious. I LOVE Publix cake, but this was really tasty and a great deal! Bigs’ GF friend from school brought a GF cupcake for both herself AND for Husband. What great friends! And we served GF hot dogs and buns to them.

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Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to youuuu, Happy Birthday dear Biiiigs, Happy Birthday to youuuu!

It was great party! Thank you to all that helped and attended!

 

Happy 4th Birthday, Bigs!

Four years ago today, my life changed. I became a Mommy for the first time. My son, Bigs, came into this world two days before he was due to meet me. I’d like to think he was as excited to meet me as I was to meet him. I already knew I loved him, even before I met him, that Sunday in May. He was tiny, like a little doll, so incredibly small. He had violet-gray eyes, that later turned into the most beautiful blue surrounded by a navy blue ring. His hair was fine and soft, a beautiful shade of brown, with silvery tips, the type people pay for at salons. He had the softest, wrinkly skin. He was warm and red and new. I felt a love I’d never felt before, a hole in my heart was filled. He was perfection.

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I am so very thankful for him. He has not only given me the gift of being a Mommy, but he has taught me patience (which I am still learning), he has shown me grace in my own off days, and he has given me a deep, true, unconditional love. I love his sweet, shy spirit. I love how empathetic he is towards others in life. I love his clever ideas and funny jokes, the way he makes me laugh. I love his thoughtful nature, the way he thinks hard about things and asks questions about everything.  I love how he plays with his little brother. I love his big, beautiful, blue eyes, framed by long, dark lashes. I love the sprinkling of cinnamon freckles all over his nose and cheeks. I love how he loves Jesus and how he shows Jesus’ love through his own little heart. I love how no matter what meal we’re sharing at our dining room table, our feet are playing footsies. Most of all, I just love who he is. I am so, so, deeply thankful and blessed by him.

Happiest Birthday, my sweet son. May this next year be the best yet, and may you always feel as loved as you are.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above…” – James 1:17

Yesterday, I packed a very special lunch for my Bigs. Instead of using his lunchbox, as usual, I wrapped each lunch item separately, like a gift. I put them in a gift bag with a bow. I even wrapped his spoon/fork! I did the same for his snack.

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For his lunch, I made a PB&J and added Food Writer designs and put a decoration from a past cake. I also packed corn (which he later told me that he and his friends guessed it was a cupcake before unwrapping – what a disappointment!), a fruit salad (grapes, strawberries, pineapple, and blueberries), and for dessert, two Oreo cookies and an after dinner mint. My kid loves after dinner mints as much as me.

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For snack, I wrapped up one of his favorite things – animal crackers!

I think he got a real kick out of this lunch. It’s my favorite lunch that I’ve packed for him so far. So fun!

Have a blessed day,

Kristin

Current Events

Oh, boy! Hello, there! I’ve missed you! It’s been crazy-town lately. I used to have time in the mornings to write before my boys were awake, but now with early swim lessons, things have been shifted…off my radar. So here I am now, catching up on two weeks worth of stuff, and trying to get ready for my Bigs’ 4th birthday this Friday!!! Where does the time go!

So let’s catch up, shall we?

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First Oreo dunk ever!

So for snack one day, I let my boys have Oreos. Probably lots of people have Oreos for snack. My boys have never had cookies as a snack. Despite how much I bake, I am very controlled with the amount of sugar I let my children have. I’d say they enjoyed it. Bigs was loved dipping the Oreo in milk. Are you a dipper? I am not. I do not care (too much) for wet food.

We’ve eaten lots of pancakes since I last wrote, too. Obvi.

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GF DF Cinnamon pancakes with bananas

And I’ve actually made some good dinners!

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I made oven-fried chicken tenders (using corn flake crumbs), fresh corn on the cob and green beans. Yum-o!

And we even met some friends for dinner at this amazing taco restaurant that I’d never been to.

I got a watermelon adult drink. Anytime there is something with watermelon, I’m in!

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We ordered their famous guacamole, made table-side!

Best guac I've had!
Best guac I’ve had!

I ordered three small tacos – a mushroom one, a chorizo one, and a pork one. All three delicious!

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And for dessert, we all shared a piece of Mexican Chocolate Pie and Tres Leches Cake. The cake was topped with meringue. I’d never seen that before!

Mexican Chocolate Pie
Mexican Chocolate Pie
Tres Leches Cake
Tres Leches Cake

The Tres Leches Cake was served with strawberries and bananas. So fresh!

It was a night filled with laughter, great food, and great company.

Then we had Easter. How was your Easter? Ours was wonderful. We had a great church service and ate lots of yummy food afterwards.

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My Mom made homemade biscuits, ham, pickled everything (which I put all together), fresh green beans, mayo-less potato salad, deviled eggs, and fruit salad. Delish!

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And these beauties for dessert – chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream. Serious yumminess.

The Monday after Easter, the boys and I went on a field trip with Bigs’ school. We went to Publix for a tour. They We had a great time!

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They handed out nametags with our names on them and hairnets.

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Bigs would not take his off. It was so cute.

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We saw a cake being decorated, we tasted popcorn chicken, we saw the produce coming in off the truck, we saw the seafood man put a lobster to sleep. It was fun!

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Bigs even got to ring some items up! He loved it! What a fun trip for the kids…and adults. 😀

The next day, we went to a birthday party at a park in the afternoon. It was so much fun to celebrate our little friend turning 2 and eat cake and run around!

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Speaking of running around, I finally updated my Mom Workout Shoes. And I’ve been running even faster in my new ones. I think having “cooler” shoes helps your workout.

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Agree?

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Then on Friday, I made my flourless chocolate cake for a dinner with friends. It is easy to whip up and my husband can enjoy dessert too! I also make it dairy free.

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/flourless-chocolate-cake-recipe

My Bigs had a karate belt ceremony on Saturday. He’s now an orange belt – go Bigs! We had a potluck at the academy. I had found this from Target earlier:

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I love watermelon anything. I almost always make desserts from scratch, but this appealed greatly to me and Bigs, while on a Target run.

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They came out great – very artificially watermelon flavored, like a jolly rancher. I think they went over well at karate.

We went from karate to another birthday party for another friend. This one was at a park too, which also had a splash pad. That was a lot of fun! Hello Summer weather!

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Bigs just loved it. Smalls wouldn’t get so close. He is so fearless with most things, but for some reason, had some major fears about the splash pad. He was like this last year too but by the end of the season, loved it. 🙂

After church on Sunday, I went to a baby shower of one of my dear friends. She is having a girl in July, the day before my Smalls’ birthday. I can’t wait to meet her!

We had so much fun celebrating the Mommy-to-be. We ate and ate.

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There was two kinds of chicken salad, fruit with marshmallow dip, antipasti for days, many different kinds of salads, and rice balls in red gravy. SO GOOD!

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For dessert, there were two kinds of cannolis (one chocolate covered), eclairs, and Napoleons…

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…and her beautiful, delicious, ruffled cake!

And then lastly, I made healthier brownies to take into Bigs’ class this past Tuesday to celebrate his upcoming Friday birthday.

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They were gluten-free black bean brownies. I used coconut oil in place of vegetable oil and that made them taste like coconut chocolate brownies, which apparently lots of kids don’t like! Oops, now I know! 🙂 Bigs loved them though. Here is the recipe:

http://www.mealmommy.com/Recipes/tabid/89/CategoryID/5/List/1/Level/a/ProductID/42/Default.aspx?SortField=ProductName%2cProductName

Alrighty, I am caught up on food, events, and general diary. Next up is fun birthday food and events for my Bigs! I can’t believe he’s turning 4!

Kristin