8 Tips for Gardening with Kids

gardening with kids

I love getting outside with the kids and digging in the garden. They love getting out there and putting their hands in the dirt, planting their seeds and then watching attentively each day waiting for that first bit of green to come up.

They get so excited when it peeks through and though I sometimes have to tell them things like not to overwater their plants, they love the experience and enjoy the success of producing their own flowers or food.

Benefits of Gardening with Kids

mud activitiesGardening with children provides many benefits and learning and you can start involving them at a very young age. It builds upon their innate curiosity to learn and ask why, learning by doing and of course nurturing their love of playing in the dirt (playing in the dirt is actually good for you!)

It teaches them responsibility, environmental awareness, patience and developmental benefits such as fine motor skills and planning and organizing. There’s even scientific and math concepts that you can teach through gardening which I always find so amazing how nature can teach us just by being involved with it. Plus it’s a fabulous bonding experience and it’s fun! Not to mention that your outside getting exercise and soaking up the sunshine.

Gardening with kids can be super easy and with these tips you’ll have success in no time.

Tips for Gardening with Kids

Give them their own spot – this is the most important thing. The kids need to feel like they have their own spot that they can garden in and that you are ok to relinquish control over! You should certainly work with them and guide them on what to do, but you really want to allow them to do it and try a few things as that is how they learn. It’s ok for them to plant a seed too deep and have it not come up or to over water an area. Yes you want them to experience success but it’s also ok for them to experience something not working. Then there’s the opportunity to discuss and explore why. And if you don’t have a lot of space try container or pallet gardening.

IMG_0900Give them their own gardening tools – set them up with their own kids size gardening gloves, garden shovel, knee pad, etc. which are easily found at your local garden center or online sites like Amazon. When they have their own tools to work with it makes them feel more important and that they have more control. Also make sure their tools are durable and strong, invest in the metal ones, not plastic that can break easily.

Start from seed – one of the best learning experiences in the garden is to start right from the beginning. I know in some climates the growing season is short and it’s easier to buy seedlings and plant those. Children will learn more by seeing the growing process right from the beginning – plus they get so excited when they see that first shoot of green peeking through.

In those situations start your seeds earlier inside and then transplanting them to the outdoor garden once it’s warmed up (here in Calgary rule of thumb is nothing until after May long weekend). You could do a combination, some from seed and a few of seedlings, which is what I tend to do, which provides both experiences.

Let them pick what they want to plant – if they get to choose what plants they want then this not only empowers them it gives them a more vested interest in what’s happening. As the parent give them choices that would work in your garden space and that will provide the kids with the most success. Choose from this Top 10 list of Crops for Children which are easy to grow, have short growing seasons and are fun to harvest.

gardening with kidsLet them decorate their garden – let the kids add a little bit of their own flare to the garden by making their own garden stake or scarecrow. Adding a fairy house or some other decorative item to a corner of their garden. Let them be creative!

Show off their work – when showing off the garden – either physically or through pictures – make sure to highlight the kids garden. This will ensue a sense of pride and accomplishment and creates a motivator for them to continue.

Encourage them to work it right to the end – work with the kids to see the garden season all the way through. Get them to help care for the garden even after the fruit has been harvested and teach them how to prep it for the winter and next growing season. This is a valuable lesson in teaching them the importance of all the steps and how each step supports the fruit that they produced and enjoyed. As well as all about the circle of life.

gardening with kidsModel what you want them to do – the easiest way to get them started is to be gardening yourself. Kids watch and learn from the adults in their lives so if they see you doing it they are going to want to do it to. Encourage them when they come over and ask questions, give them small tasks to get them involved and take time to answer their questions.

When I was little my aunt had a huge beautiful garden (and still does) that she worked and enjoyed every year. I loved going to her place and helping her, asking questions. Even as a family we had a small garden plot – and as a result all 3 of us girls love gardening and do so in our adult lives.

Starting with these simple tips will ensure the most success for gardening with kids. As you get going and the kids get older, with more experience you can then introduce concepts like rain barrels and why they’re beneficial, planting specific plants to attract pollinators like bees, humming birds and why that’s helpful to the earth. It doesn’t mean you can’t talk about them now (as you are likely doing some of those things in your garden already) but you can use them as ways to expand and build on their knowledge as they go and so as not to overwhelm them with a lot of information at once.

The best tip though is to enjoy yourself! Get out there and have fun with the kids and reap the benefits as a bonus!

gardening with kids

Have some great tips for gardening with kids? Share in the comments below.

DIY Mother’s Day Gifts with Essential Oils

diy essential oil gifts

Pamper Mom this Mother’s Day with these easy DIY Essential Oil gifts. These gifts will not only relax and pamper her but she’ll appreciate the love that was put into them when they were made specially by you.

Mother’s Day is another holiday where we can go a little crazy with the spending and the gifts (average spending in Canada is about $100) because we want to show Mom how much we love and appreciate her. Of course as we Mom’s deserve it! We do a lot and we work hard. But if you’re looking for a loving gift for Mom that shows you appreciate her and that’s easy and affordable then try one of these DIY Essential Oil gifts that she’s sure to love!

Not only are these gifts a great way to pamper Mom and tell her that you love her, the essential oils in them provide many benefits that will support her physical and emotional health, naturally.

DIY Essential Oil Gifts for Mom

Gardener Hand Soap

If Mom loves to putz in the garden then this is the perfect gift for her. This easy-to-make Gardener’s Hand Soap exfoliates, cleanses, and moisturizes all in one use! Clary Sage is an oil that has relaxing and soothing properties that help with rejuvenation and calming of the skin. While Melaleuca known for its purifying qualities, is also good for cleansing the skin and promoting healthy immune function.

diy essential oil gifts

Lavender Myrrh Cuticle Cream

A homemade cuticle cream is a great way to bring moisture and health back to your nails. Add a little extra to your gift for Mom and help her apply it with a mini hand massage! This cream can also be used on your hands, lips, or anywhere you have dry spots. If you choose Lavender to add in be ready for calming and relaxing benefits, if you choose Myrrh it’s soothing to the skin and promotes emotional balance and well being.

diy essential oil gifts

Essential Oil Body Wash

Help Mom wake up her senses in the morning or calm them down at night with a scented body wash. Using essential oils can provide valuable nourishment to your skin, if it contains the right ingredients. For an energizing body wash choose oils such as Peppermint, Grapefruit or Lime. For a calming body wash choose Lavender, Bergamot or Roman Chamomile.

diy essential oil gifts

Ginger Lime Brown Sugar Scrub

Mom can exfoliate and soften her skin with this easy to make body scrub. The Ginger essential oil creates a balanced, grounded and feeling of empowerment, as well as supporting healthy joint function. While Lime purifies the skin and positively effects mood.

diy essential oil gifts

Strawberry Lime Sugar Scrub

If Mom likes to smell like dessert than this is the body scrub for her. Super easy to make and with all the uplifting benefits of Lime essential oil.

diy essential oil gifts

Essential Neck Wrap

Help Mom relax and soothe sore muscles with this easy to make neck wrap. When used with essential oils, they can provide additional relief and benefits. Incredibly easy and affordable, just add in your favorite essential oil.

diy essential oil gifts

Fizzy Bath Bombs

Bath bombs are a fun gift as they add excitement to your senses and a little entertain as you watch it fizz as it dissolves in the water. Add your favorite essential oil to invigorate – like Wild Orange and Spearmint or relax like my favorite Lavender, Cedarwood or Frankincense.

diy essential oil gifts

Lavender Bath Salts

These bath salts may be the easiest of our do it yourself gifts for Mom. Simply take 2 cups of Epsom salts and add 10-15 drops of Lavender essential oil – mixing them together in a glass jar or bowl. If you want to get fancy add some dried lavender pieces (I’ve seen them at the Bulk Barn) for a little added color. Store in an airtight container, wrap a bow around it and give it to Mom! Have her add it to her bath to soothe the skin and relaxation.

diy essential oil gifts

Lime & Mint Foot Soak

This easy to make foot soak will energize, uplift and refresh. Let Mom soak her feet and take it easy for a bit. Maybe even bring her a nice glass of wine or coffee to sip while she soaks.

diy essential oil gifts

Orange Creamsicle Lip Balm

No list of pampering for Mom would be complete without a moisturizing lip balm. A common must have this natural lip balm is full of health benefits and yummy flavor! The fresh, sweet scent of Wild Orange is energizing and provides immune support.

diy essential oil gifts

No matter what gift you choose to make for Mom this Mother’s Day, she’ll definitely know that you love and appreciate her! Whether you make one or two I’d recommend you make enough for yourself to either join in with her or enjoy yourself later, might as well. I know for myself that I love the scents of essential oils and when I’m working with one of my favorites I can’t get enough! Plus it’s a great excuse to go take some me time later – can’t waste what I’ve made. May you enjoy your day as a Mother or spending time with yours in some way. Happy Mother’s Day!

Interested in learning more about essential oils or have a question? Drop me a line I’d love to chat with you.

 

Intro to Essential Oils – Top 5 Essential Oils for Beginners

essential oils

When I was first introduced to essential oils it was through an aromatherapy session, an optional add on during a massage I was having a few years ago. At that time, I didn’t really think that it would do much for me other than smell nice and add to my relaxing experience. Since then I have been introduced to essential oils in so many different ways, through chocolates, cooking, energy healing – reiki sessions and used to clear chakras and blockages and now everyday use, prevention and healing.

In fact, as I was slowly introduced to and learning about essential oils and what they could do for us, I was absolutely amazed that there was so much they could do and didn’t understand why I was not using these in my life. There were natural substances, extremely effective and had been around for centuries.

History of Essential Oils

Essential oils have been used by many cultures around the world for centuries. Their uses varied between cultures from religious purposes to healing the sick. Though it is hard to pinpoint exactly when essential oils gained notoriety as effective healing agents there is early evidence of their use in Lascaux, France dating as far back as 18,000 BCE. Medicinal plants were used in everyday life and had many uses and benefits.

Somewhere along the way, we lost the knowledge of essential oils and they did not see as much use as they had in the earlier centuries. Now we are rediscovering their uses and benefits to aid and support our health and well being – as well as fantastic healing properties.

The Next Step in My Journey

essential oilsLast year when I started learning more about essential oils and their uses I took a look at what I wanted to adjust in my life and which oils would best support that. For me sleep was a huge issue, being able to go to sleep quickly but not being able to stay in a deep restorative sleep through the night. I woke up each morning exhausted.

So my colleague recommended that I rub lavender oil on the bottom of my feet each night before I went to bed (you rub it on the bottom of your feet because it has quick absorption and delivery to the body). I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical but decided to give it a go. I was amazed at the results – they weren’t immediate that night – but within a week I was already sleeping better, deeper and feeling more rested in the mornings. This was enough to propel me forward in my learning and exploration of essential oils and their uses (other than diffusing it and it smelling nice – though diffusing is highly beneficial as it puts the properties of the oil into the air and you benefit through inhalation).

Top 5 Essential Oils to Get You Started

Now there are so many oils out there and there is so much to learn. So when you are just starting out it can certainly be overwhelming! As a result I have put together my top 5 list of essential oils to start with, play with and learn about, which will provide you with a good foundation of knowledge and how to work with the oils.

Lavender

 doterra lavender One of the most popular essential oils in the world, lavender I thought that other than helping with relaxation/ sleep and that it smelled good was as far as it goes. But then I discovered that lavender has many other benefits such as

  • Reduces anxiety and emotional stress
  • Heals burns and wounds
  • Restores skin complexion and reduces acne
  • Slows aging with powerful antioxidants
  • Improves eczema and psoriasis
  • Alleviates headaches

The one I found most fascinating was that it heals burns. A coleaugue of mine told us a story about how she had badly burned her hand one year making Thanksgiving dinner and instead of running cool water over it, as many of us have been taught, she went straight to her lavender oil and rubbed that all over her hand. By the next day it was as if the hand had not been burned at all. Since then if I burn myself I go straight for the lavender as well and have experienced phenomenal results.

Lemon

essential oilsOne of the most versatile oils, lemon is commonly recognized for it’s fresh scent and non toxic cleaning. It is also known to have many cleansing and digestive benefits for the body (you know that glass of lemon water they recommend you drink in the morning?) The downside of the real lemon in your water is that too much lemon can cause deterioration of the gums, while using the essential oil instead you reap the cleansing benefits and are not in danger of bleeding gums (this is because the oil is extracted from the outer peel and not the inner fruit). Lemon is also

  • Very uplifting and energizing
  • Improves mood
  • Can be added to food to enhance flavors of desserts and other dishes
  • A Thirst quencher
  • Provides cough relief
  • Nourishes the skin
  • Provides Immune support

Melaleuca or Tea Tree

essential oilsMy first exposure to tea tree oil was when my kids got head lice and I wanted a more natural alternative to the toxic shampoo they recommended. I learned that tea tree was not only effective in getting rid of lice but was also a great preventative measure to avoid getting lice. I also knew that this oil was effective in managing acne but that was about it. As with all my other explorations I learned that Melaleuca could do so much more

  • Effective against infections (fungal, bacterial)
  • Anti-microbial laundry freshener
  • Insect repellant
  • Natural deodorant
  • Acne face wash
  • Removes foot order
  • Removes mold
  • Household cleaner

Frankincense

essential oilsEvery time I hear about Frankincense I think about the 3 Wise Men who brought the gifts to the baby Jesus – and up until recently that was about all I knew about it. It turns out that Frankincense is one of my favorite oils, not just because of what it does, but I love the scent. There’s just something about that woody, spicy scent that I love. Bonus is Frankincense has many healing properties

  • Supports healthy cellular function
  • Promotes feelings of relaxation
  • Reduces the appearance of skin imperfections
  • Anti-aging and wrinkle reducing
  • Helps relieve inflammation or pain
  • Supports wound healing
  • Is grounding
  • Eases digestion
  • Natural cold or flu remedy
  • Works well with other oils

Oregano

essential oilsMy first introduction to oil of oregano was when I had a horrible sore throat and was told that oil of oregano would knock it out of the park quickly. All I can remember was how horrible this stuff was, but I took it anyway because it seemed to work. What I have now discovered (not all oils are created equal) is that there are much better ways to use this oil and in a more comfortable manner (the oil of Oregano you purchase from the health food store is also not the same as the pure essential oil). Oregano essential oil is often used in cooking but is also

  • Powerful cleansing agent
  • Antioxidant
  • Immune Boosting
  • Supports healthy digestion
  • Prevents and treats infections
  • Natural insect repellant
  • Relieves muscle and joint pain

For many people often times the smell can determine which oil they will use – as many of the oils have common properties and not one oil fits all. And sometimes a blend of different oils together will provide even more benefits to you and dampen the smell that you may not like as a single oil. So if you can’t stand the smell of lavender but need support for sleep do not despair, there is another oil to try or a blend that will do the trick.

Another thing that is important to note is not all essential oils are created equal. Make sure you purchase high quality oils as many drugstore and mall brands contain synthetic derivatives and additives which do not have the same properties. They may be less expensive but you are not getting the same quality and may need to use more. With pure essential oil you only need a drop or two to make a difference.

What is/ are your favorite essential oils to use? Share in the comments below

Easy Healthy Chocolate Fondue

healthy chocolate fondue

Chocolate Fondue is one of those easy fun desserts or treats that everyone can get into. Dipping fresh fruit in chocolate (or other yummy things like rice krispie bits, cake, pretzels, marshmallows) is delightful and delicious.

A lot of people find though that chocolate fondue can be a little messy and a little bit too much of a sugar rush – with the chocolate burning if your fondue pot is not just right, or it getting too thick to dip in. Not to mention all the sugary treats you are dipping into an already sugar filled chocolate.

The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way – you can create a healthy chocolate fondue with the yummy treats for dipping (also healthy) and no burning or thickening of your chocolate. And it’s super easy! even the kids can do it.

healthy chocolate fondueYears ago I learned how to make raw organic chocolate, made from cacao butter and cacao powder, then naturally sweetened with your sweetener of choice. It is quick easy and very good for you. Cacao is an ingredient that is considered a superfood, as it is very high in vitamins and minerals like calcium, magnesium, sulfur, copper, iron and zinc, vitamins E, B2, B1, B5, B3 and B9. And it is super high in antioxidants, healthy fat, fiber and protein. Plus when you use a natural sweetener you are now adding in the benefits of that natural sweetener as well (like honey, pure maple syrup, stevia).

You might think well I can just use cocao it’s the same – the fact is it’s not. Though both cocao and cacao come from the same bean they are processed very differently which is why one product (cocao) is stripped of most of it’s vitamins and minerals, while the other (cacao) preserves them.

When you’re making raw organic chocolate, you use a double bowl where you place boiling water in the bottom bowl and place another smaller bowl (that sits on the rim without falling into the bottom one) on top. You simply make your chocolate in the top bowl, using the heat from the water underneath to do your melting and create your chocolate. It’s like a double boiler method without using the stove and creating the risk of burning it!

Once you’ve made your chocolate, you simply keep it in the liquid form for your fondue (as opposed to putting it into molds or a pan to set), by leaving the top bowl on top of the hot water. Place it in the middle of your table or serving area and voila! you are ready to dip and indulge. You do have to be conscious of the lower bowl being hot though and advise those who are sharing the fondue to not touch the bottom bowl (especially important with kids). The chocolate will stay liquid as long as the water is hot and will not burn. As the water starts to cool, the chocolate will set, but all you have to do is add fresh boiling water to your bottom bowl and the chocolate will melt and return to liquid quite quickly. One thing to note is you do need to be careful that you do not get any water into your top bowl with the chocolate as this will ruin your chocolate, so just be aware of that when you’re moving things around.

Otherwise, grab your fork and favorite dipping items and enjoy!

Healthy Chocolate Fondue (this will make enough for 4-6 people and ready in 10 minutes!)

3/4 – 1 cup Cacao butterhealthy chocolate

2-6 tbsp. Cacao powder

1 Vanilla Bean

2 tsp. to start Natural Sweetener of choice (honey, pure maple syrup, etc.)

  1. In a medium metal bowl add boiling water about halfway up the bowl. *a metal bowl is best as it retains the heat well but can get hot to the touch Place second smaller metal bowl on top of large bowl so that it sits on top.
  2. Put desired amount of cacao butter into top bowl. Cacao butter will start to melt.
  3. While cacao butter is melting slice vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the inside seeds with a spoon. Put seeds into melted cacao, it is ok if cacao butter is not completely melted yet. Stir.
  4. Sift cacao powder into a separate bowl. Once cacao butter is completely melted add 2-4 tablespoons of cacao powder. Taste for desired level of chocolatey-ness. If you’d like it richer add more cacao powder.
  5. Once satisfied with amount of cacao powder add natural sweetener of choice. Start with 3 teaspoons and mix. Taste, if desired level of sweetness has not been reached, add 1-2 more tablespoons and taste again. Once level of desired sweetness has been reached you have your base chocolate.
  6. Leave in liquid form and bowls on top of each other and serve. Use pot holder or oven mitt to transfer bowls if moving to another spot.

*Be very careful not to get any water into your chocolate as it will not work if you do. If your second bowl sits nicely on top, this should not be an issue as you do not need to lift the second bowl off the one with the water in it until you are done making your chocolate. 

Items for dipping:

Basically you can dip whatever you want into your chocolate (some people love chocolate dipped bacon 🙂 Fruit is the most popular and the quickest to prepare as it is most likely on hand – but if you’re feeling adventurous or just want to change it up a bit try out these other options – which can be healthy and sugar free too! below

Fresh fruit of choice – banana, apple, orange, strawberries, pineapple, cantalope, etc.

Pretzelshealthy chocolate fondue

Healthy sugar free marshmallows (yes these can be healthy to! make your own here)

Sugar free cake bits

Sugar free rice krispie square pieces

Nuts

Make sure you have forks or other utensils to facilitate dipping without items being lost in the chocolate. Fondue forks work great but are not required as regular forks work just as well.

This is super super easy to do with kids and is always a hit. I did it with my Mini Chefs class, 3-5 year olds and they loved it! There were many chocolate faces that day and I did not send them home to parents on a sugar high.

I’ve also succesfully done this with adults many a time and I usually have someone licking the bowl at the end 🙂 The nice thing is you can make as much as you want and if you run out you just make more!

Ok I’m off to make my own chocolate fondue now… all this talk about it is making me crave some…

What are your favorite things to dip in chocolate fondue?

Earth Day Crafts for Kids

earth day crafts

I love taking kids outside and teaching them about nature. It’s so simple too, especially when they are young. They love being out there anyway and I love to nurture that wonder and curiosity, fostering that appreciation for the world around them.

It’s one of the reasons I really like celebrating Earth Day – though I believe we should be doing things every day to save and protect the Earth, it’s a great opportunity to enhance that experience and perhaps expand on it a little more.

One of the things I like to do is find ways to create natural or environmental crafts that either highlight nature or are created from recycled/ reused materials to demonstrate that there are other uses for things we have around the house.

I also find that it encourages them to expand their mind and look at things a little differently. Like I need a watering can but don’t have one. What can I use that I have or create in order to meet that need? Or how can I take this natural item and turn it into something else, learning a little more about it at the same time?

Plus it reduces our impact on the planet by reusing things creatively (and teaches children to do so as well).

Try these Earth Day Crafts from Recycled Materials

Children of all ages enjoy making crafts, and it is an excellent way to teach them about reusing and recycling. Make these fun and easy crafts with items from around the house.

Plastic Jug Watering Can

What is needed:earth day crafts

  • 2 litre plastic milk jug
  • small nail
  • hammer
  • stickers

Wash milk jug out thoroughly. Using nail, poke holes in the lid of the milk jug; this should be done by an adult. Have the child decorate the jug with stickers. Child may also decorate by painting the jug or gluing on buttons, beads or yarn instead of or in addition to the stickers. When finished, fill the jug with water, put on the lid and show the child how to tip the jug to water the garden.

Ladybug Rocks

What is needed:

  • smooth, round, oval rocksearth day crafts
  • acrylic paint in colors of choice
  • 2 googley eyes per ladybug
  • black sharpie marker
  • acrylic matte sealer
  • white glue

Wash and dry rocks. Paint the rocks in desired colors, let dry. Paint 1/4 of the rock black for the head and let dry. Using the black sharpie, draw a line straight down the center of the rock. Dip the paintbrush in black paint and paint dots on the back of ladybug. Once paint is dry spray with acrylic sealer. Glue on the eyes when the sealer is dry.

Coffee Ground Fossils

What is needed:

  • 1 cup of used coffee groundsearth day crafts
  • 1/2 cup of cold coffee
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1/2 cup of salt
  • wax paper
  • mixing bowl
  • some small objects to make impressions in dough
  • empty can or butter knife
  • toothpicks
  • string to hang fossil, optional

Mix together coffee grounds, cold coffee, flour and salt. Knead dough and flatten it out on to waxed paper. Use the can or knife to cut out circles of dough large enough to fit “fossil” objects. Press objects firmly into the dough. Take object out. To hang fossil, poke holes into the edge to hold string. Let fossil dry overnight.

Paper Plate Earth (makes a nice keepsake)

What is needed:earth day crafts

  • small paper plate
  • blue paint
  • green paint
  • red construction paper – cut in shape of heart
  • white paper
  • paint brush
  • marker

Place the white piece of paper on table or counter. Make sure they child will be able to reach it easily. Paint one of the child’s hand green. Have them place their hand on the white paper, press down and then lift straight up to make a print. Let the hand dry.

Paint the paper plate blue, covering it entirely, so it looks like the Earth. Write the name of the person making the craft on the heart (if the child or person is old enough they can write their name themselves). While the paint is still wet place the heart on the left side of the plate – the wet paint will act like glue and it will stick. Cut out the green hand print in a circle shape, stick the hand on the blue plate on the right side. Let the whole thing dry.

I also recently found this Stained Glass Earth and Earth Day Balloon Stamping that I really enjoy. In fact, love the balloon stamping! Can’t wait to try it with the kids.

earth day crafts

Whatever you choose to make the kids will love it, and though they may not connect all the dots today about what it’s all about, an impression will have been made and you’ll be surprised what they remember and appreciate! And if your child’s not the crafty type you can always try out some of these great Earth Day hands on nature activities.

What are your favorite Earth Day or Recycled Crafts?

Blueberry Pancake Mini Bites

pancake mini bites

I really didn’t think a pancake mini bite would be a big hit. What was the big deal it’s like a small bite of a pancake and wouldn’t you rather have a whole one? But that’s just it! It’s a small bite of a pancake – and you can have just a bite not waste a whole one!

Now there are tonnes of recipes for pancake mini bites, from maple bacon (I am definitely going to try that one) and pumpkin chocolate chip to your whole wheat and more traditional pancake. I decided that a blueberry one would be a great place to get started.

I honestly whipped these things up in 15 minutes, they are super easy to make, and I adjusted the original recipe slightly – as I like experimenting! At first I thought they looked just like a mini blueberry muffin and that they would simply taste like a muffin, but they do not taste like a muffin at all and definitely like a pancake. Besides I don’t know how many muffins you are dipping in maple syrup!

These are also a fantastic on the go breakfast. Super easy to grab and take with you, more so than a regular pancake. They’d be fun in kids school lunches as well for a little variety.

Blueberry Pancake Mini Bites

1 c. flour (I used white the first time I made them as honestly I wasn’t thinking, but could easily use whole wheat instead to make them more healthy)

pancake mini bites1 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. coconut sugar

1 beaten egg

1/2 c. almond milk (or other non dairy milk of choice)

1/2 tsp. vanilla

2 tbsp. Earth Balance vegan spread, melted

1/2 c. blueberries

Dash of cinnamon – optional

1/2 tsp. ground flax meal – optional

Pure maple syrup

In medium size bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and coconut sugar. In another bowl, stir together egg, vanilla, almond milk and Earth Balance.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well. In a well greased mini muffin tin scoop a tablespoon of dough into each hole. Bake for 10 minutes at 375F or until slightly browned.

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then gently remove bites from muffin tin. Serve immediately with a side of pure maple syrup.

Makes about 20 mini bite pancakes

pancake mini bitesThese are also easily frozen ready to grab later or on those mornings you’re a little rushed. Freeze in an airtight container with a piece of wax or parchment paper between layers.

The fun thing about these mini bites is you can basically take any pancake recipe and simply put it into a mini muffin tin and bake it. And if you want to play with shapes a little and make them round, you can use a donut hole pan, which is super fun, like little mini donuts.

And like anything, there’s so much variety for what you can do! Because I don’t know about you but even though I like the traditional pancake I do like variety every once in a while. It keeps things interesting.

Have a favorite pancake recipe? Share in the comments below

Quinoa Pizza Mini Bites – Dairy & Gluten Free

pizza mini bitesDefinitely my favorite mini bite recipe so far are these Quinoa Pizza Mini Bites. At first when I looked at the recipe I thought having quinoa in it was weird and probably not very tasty, but it turned out to be delicious!

The quinoa gives it a nice texture and does not make you feel that heaviness in your belly that pastry does. And it doesn’t take away or overtake the other flavors in the bite, it enhances and allows them to stand out.

pizza mini bitesQuinoa, considered a plant food, is also super good for you. It is one of the most protein rich foods we can eat, as well as high in fiber, iron, magnesium and many other vitamins and minerals. It is also gluten free which is great for those who are looking for or in need of that option; and even contains antioxidants. On it’s own, quinoa is quite plain but is a fantastic healthy addition in salads, baked goods, warm breakfast cereals and more!

These pizza mini bites really do taste like pizza and with the quinoa in them they are super healthy. I was amazed at how good they were and how much they actually tasted like pizza. And like pizza you can add in your favorite pizza ingredients. I used small pieces of pepperoni but you could easily substitute ham, add peppers, chopped up mushrooms, etc.

They are also fantastic for kids – they can easily help make them and they are a nice healthy option to put in their lunches or even for a snack. Yes you have to put in 3 or 4 but that’s ok this recipe makes a lot! They are even a great appetizer or snack for your next gathering or party.

Quinoa Pizza Mini Bites

2 cups cooked quinoa*

2 large eggspizza mini bites

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup Daiya shredded mozzarella

2 tsp minced garlic

1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped

1 cup chopped pepperoni sticks (3-4 sticks)

1/2 tsp seasoning salt

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp dried crushed oregano

pizza or tomato sauce for dipping

Mix together all ingredients, except pizza sauce, in a medium mixing bowl. Using a tablespoon, scoop the mixture into a well greased mini muffin tin, filling each cup to the top. Press down gently to compact.

Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly (about 5 minutes). Gently remove bites from muffin tin and serve immediately.

These are also very good cold. So if you’re putting them into kids lunches or your own, there’s no need to heat them if not able to do so.

Makes approximately 40 bitespizza mini bites

*How to Cook Quinoa

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

Thoroughly rinse quinoa in a colander (make sure the holes are small enough that the quinoa does not go through). Once rinsed place in a small pot with water.

Uncovered bring to a boil, then cover and lower heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes. Let quinoa cool slightly then fluff with a fork and either serve or use in desired recipe.

What are some of your favorite quinoa recipes? Share in the comments below

Miss last week’s mini bite recipe? Check out Dairy Free Macaroni Mini Bites

Mini Bites that Delight – Macaroni Bites

mini bitesI love mini bites! You know those cute little bite size foods that you pop into your mouth in one bite and are often bursting with flavor? How do they get all those ingredients into that tiny little compact dish anyway?

I had often wondered why people would want to take the time to make these itsy bitsy bites, other than the fact that they are cute and look pretty (and may possibly even impress your guests when you’re hosting a party). Making them looked like a lot of work and that I thought I would need to eat at least 5 or 6 to feel full.

Then I discovered how fun they were and came to the understanding that they are meant to be served as appetizers, which you are not supposed to fill up on anyway, and not full meals. They are also great for kids, especially ones who have smaller appetites as they can have one or two and feel full without having any waste – instead of having a bigger portion and not eating it all. It is also a great way to introduce new foods to kids as you are giving it to them in a fun way and again with the smaller portion size, if they do not like it the waste is minimized.

mini bitesAnd there are so many different mini bite recipes to try you’ll never run out of ideas. You can come up with almost any combination and likely be successful. So I’ve been on the lookout this month for mini bite recipes to try. Looking for combinations that I knew would work and then considering how I might create one on my own.

This week I started with macaroni bites, which are one of the more popular and common mini bite recipes out there, and usually a hit with kids. I loved this recipe as it has a super cheesy sauce and is simple to make. Also easy to make dairy free, these delicious bites will have you easily gobbling two or three!

Macaroni Mini BitesDairy Free (can be made gluten free if you use brown rice or other gluten free pasta)

1 c. elbow macaroni

2 tbsp. Earth Balance Vegan Spread

2 tbsp. flour

1 1/2 c. almond milk (or non dairy milk of choice)

mini bites2 c. Daiya cheddar shreds

1/4 c. vegan cream cheese

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 egg beaten

Optional additions: bacon, cayenne, paprika

Grease well your mini muffin tin (like really well. This is the one downside of mini bites is those muffin tins, they stick and are hard to clean. Greasing it well does help but sometimes you have to scoop around them very carefully to get them out. If you can find mini cupcake liners you could use those and it would make getting them out and clean up a little easier. This may not work though if you want a certain look without the papers on them).

Cook pasta according to package directions, rinse and set aside. In a medium size pan whisk the vegan spread and flour together until melted and smooth.

Slowly add non dairy milk and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, add 1 1/2 c. of the cheese, vegan cream cheese, salt and pepper. Stir until smooth and creamy. Remove from heat.

mini bitesIn a large mixing bowl carefully stir pasta, cheese sauce and well beaten egg until pasta is evenly coated and mixed in.

Using a teaspoon, spoon mac and cheese into prepared mini muffin tin, topping each with a small bit of cheese.

Bake bites at 400F for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes, then gently remove bites from tin.

The first time I made these I made the original plain recipe but I felt that they were missing something. So I would highly recommend adding in real bacon bits, or a dash of cayenne or paprika to add a little zest.

These are also a fun and easy recipe to make with kids. They can easily help with mixing it all together and scooping the pasta into the muffin tins. Kids love to help and research shows that if they help make it they are more apt to eat it!

Don’t miss next week’s recipe Quinoa Pizza Mini Bites.

What is your favorite mini bite recipe? Share in the comments below.

Winter Adventures – Snow Activities for Kids

Blog custom Snow Activities for Kids

Winter is one of those seasons that you tend to either love or hate. The cold, the snow, the blustery wind and ice. Yet there is a beauty in winter that is unrefined, undiscovered and definitely under appreciated.

Think about how the kids light up with delight when they see those first snowflakes falling from the sky, excited to get home and play in it, even if it is just the tiniest fluff. They’re not thinking about how they have to shovel it or how the roads are going to be. My kids often can’t wait to build a snowman or make a snow angel, and sometimes I have to tell them there just isn’t enough snow. But they go out anyway and try it or create something else.

I believe the key to appreciating winter is going out and doing fun activities that you enjoy, as well as knowing how to dress and how long to stay depending on the temperature. Because you don’t want to get frost bite or hypothermia no matter how much fun you’re having!snow activities for kids

Also exploring winter in different ways allows you to appreciate the unique things that the season offers, as well as providing some knowledge and understanding. Winter is a really beautiful season full of wonder. Think about the sunshine sparkling off the new fallen snow, glimmering in the the sunlight. The beauty and intricacy of a snowflake and how no two are ever alike.

It’s important to teach our children about the season and how to get out and enjoy it. Because let’s be honest, winter is not going to go away. It will always be here and unless you move – it’s happening. And with the growing rates of inactivity in children, it’s even more important to get them active and outside.

8 Fun Snow Activities for Kids

Use these snow activities to teach children about the beauty of winter and how to appreciate it. Children are naturally creative so these snow activities capitalize on their imaginations while using materials that are common in winter. It also helps them learn and question about what’s happening in the season.

Snow Painting 

snow activities for kidsA very simple but creative activity for children is painting or coloring in the snow. I did this with my preschool class at Trico and they were very engaged in it. We only had about 20 minutes that day but we could have easily doubled that time and kept them interested.

Mix a few drops of food coloring and water in a spray bottle and mix together. Pick a spot of undisturbed snow and spray the color on the snow. Sometimes we use plastic cookie cutters as a pattern and create a design. Do this by placing the cookie cutter on top of the snow and then have the child spray their color inside the cookie cutter. Gently lift the cookie cutter off the snow and voila! a perfect shape. You can also buy snow markers which comes with a colored powder that you add water to and mix in the marker bottle. This is a great idea but it is a one use for the mixture. The great thing about them is you have the marker container after the mixture is gone, which you can reuse again and again. Just add your own food coloring and water mixture.

Ice Castles

snow activities for kidsThis is one of my favorite snow activities for kids. It is like building a sand castle but you’re using ice instead! You have to plan ahead slightly to have your ice pieces ready but it is super fun, especially when you have beautiful colored blocks.

In a number of different sized containers, fill them with water and put in the freezer to freeze. If desired add food coloring to your water before freezing – this makes beautiful colored ice to use. Freeze a variety of shapes and colors – from ice cube trays to small yogurt containers.

Once frozen pop the ice out of the containers and let the children start building. They can create towers, cities or different kinds of sculptures. Encourage them to use the snow to help the ice stick together when needed.

Blow Bubbles

snow activities for kidsHave you ever blown bubbles outside in the winter? This is a really cool activity as the bubbles actually freeze. When the bubbles freeze you get amazing crystals of ice forming with unique designs (something you would’t see in warmer temperatures). It’s very cool because children can actually watch the bubbles freeze and the crystals form in the bubble. It’s a fascinating experience and one that will be different every time.

Snow Obstacle Course

Set up a small obstacle course in the snow. Pile up snow to make hills to go over or around, add in things like hula hoops for hopping or smaller piles of snow for weaving in and out of. Get the kids to help you create the obstacle course and then try it out!

Go Hunting for Tracks

snow activities for kidsGo exploring and look for animal tracks with the kids. Winter is one of the best times to see tracks as you have a great surface to create imprints. Help the kids identify the tracks and even create some of your own. This is best done in an area that is undisturbed by human traffic but to get started could be done around your neighborhood to discover dog, cat and bunny tracks.

Tic Tac Snow

Create a giant tic tac toe board in the snow. Use natural items like pine cones or twigs for the x’s and o’s. Taking turns one at a time each, each child places their natural item in a square, alternating until the board is full or one of them gets three in a row. The goal is to get a line of three of their natural items to win.

Snoball Throwing Contest

snow activities for kidsDraw a large circle in the snow. Have the children each create a pile of snowballs. Depending on the number in your group and the age of the children will depend on how many snowballs. With 3-5 year olds I would suggest they each make 2 or 3 each. Children 5 and up 3-5 snowballs. Draw a line in front of the circle for them to throw from. Again where you place this line will depend on the ages of the children. Have each child take a turn one at a time, throwing their snowball aiming to get it into and as close to the middle of the circle. Each child throws one snowball and then the next person goes, rotating until all the children have thrown all their snowballs. Whoever is closest to the middle of the circle wins.

Variation: Draw a circle in the snow for each child participating. Make sure the circles are all the same size and the ‘throw line’ is the same distance from each circle. Each child then throws their snowballs into their circle one at a time. This reduces wait time and allows each child to only compete with themselves, which is often more ideal with smaller children as they remain more engaged.

Explore with a Magnifying Glass

snow activities for kidsI find a magnifying glass to be a wonderful thing. It is very cool to see the world up close and even more so to make it a little bigger. Children often discover things they may not have before by just looking at something through a magnifying glass. In winter, let them explore by looking at snow, ice, tracks, and other natural items. Enhance this activity by getting them to look at different forms of ice and noticing the differences or similarities, like icicles or a sheet of ice over water (like a puddle). You can do this with snow (fresh undisturbed snow, compared to compact walked in snow) and other natural winter items.

If you want to take it one more level, get the children to draw what they saw through their magnifying glass on a piece of paper or journal. (Either have clipboards and pencils ready to do it outside or get them to do it once they return inside. If possible best to do it outside in the moment as they can not only see the item but their memory is the freshest).

Enjoying the snow can be more than the traditional snowmen, snow forts, skiing, toboganning, snow tubing, etc. Not that their is anything wrong with those activities but in some cases they are not always accessible. Expanding children’s horizons and understanding of winter in a unique way makes them love and appreciate this beautiful wonderous season. Plus there are minimal materials and equipment needed and are easy to do in your own backyard. These activities are great for adults too! so get out there and enjoy it with them.

snow activities for kids

What is your favorite snow activity and why? Share in the comments below.

Savor Signature Hot Chocolates at the YYC Hot Chocolate Fest

yyc hot chocolate fest

It’s here again! The YYC Hot Chocolate Fest celebrating it’s 6th year serving delectable signature hot chocolates in a friendly competition all over Calgary and supporting Calgary Meals on Wheels.

This is one of my favorite times of year! Savoring, tasting, testing and indulging in various signature hot chocolates, created specifically for this event. Whip cream, marshmallows, chocolate and caramel sauce; with flavors such as Marble Coconut, Maple Bacon and Theatre Hot Chocolate. Each dripping with flavor and chocolatey goodness. Every year I try to get out and try them all but since I only have 28 days to do it, it makes it pretty tough!

This year there are 77 businesses participating, doubling the participants from last year. That would mean that I would have to have about 3 hot chocolates a day for the entire month in order to have them all. I guess as a hot chocolate connoisseur it’s a must!

yyc hot chocolate festI love the creativity and flare in this competition as the businesses create their own signature hot chocolates. Not only with their combination of ingredients but with the names for them as well. Like the Light Cellar’s White Chocolate Matcha Kiss or Blenz Will You Accept This Rose? There are traditional or classic hot chocolates as well as spirited ones that have that little extra kick. And if you’re dairy free not to worry there are a number of businesses (not all sadly) that do offer a dairy free option which means you can also be in hot chocolate heaven. Can you imagine? Where to begin?

The event runs from February 1-28 and people are encouraged to vote and rate each drink they try which is then used to determine the winner for best hot chocolate. Social media feeds such as Twitter and Instagram runneth over with pictures and comments on all these hot chocolates. Not only luring you out to try it yourself but helping to spread the word about the festival. And some of those pictures… yum! I just want to lick the screen.

There are also prizes for those who try the hot chocolates. You grab a passport from any of the participating businesses and when you go to each vendor and have their hot chocolate they cross off their square. Submit a photo of your completed passport and you could win a fabulous prize pack – even if you’ve only had one. I’ve always been one to ‘complete the whole thing’ (it’s like a scavenger hunt) so I am totally into this.

yyc hot chocolate festI also love going around Calgary and discovering some of the local businesses and coffee houses. It is a great way to promote those little tucked away spots that you may not have found otherwise. And you discover some neat tidbits too. I was at Blanco Cantina on the weekend, who offer a lovely spirited hot chocolate, Blanco’s Chocoloca, and discovered that they are the second largest carriers of different tequilas in Canada. In fact, from where I was sitting the whole wall in front of me was lined with many different kinds. I would have never stepped in there otherwise (and this fact was actually very exciting to my friend who loves tequila).

It also takes you to a lot of places in the downtown area, which for me personally is not a place I go to that often, but again encourages people to go and explore your own city a little more.

I think my definite favorite so far is the Saucy S’more Hot Chocolate at Sauce Italian Kitchen & Market, while the Corbeaux at Analog (basil infused Lindt white chocolate) is a very close second. I don’t know if it’s that big dollop of marshmallow meringue, all that expresso chocolate sauce or the yummy graham cracker crumbs… but with this one I was literally in heaven. So good.

Still, there are many more to try and I only have one more weekend left to get out there! On my list is the Guiness Hot Chocolate at the Fairmont Palliser and the Citrus Ginger Orange at Monogram Coffee. It’s doable right? Of course I’d love to try more but I need the festival to be a little longer! Or perhaps they might deliver? then I could just line them up at my house.

So grab the fam this weekend and get out there and try a few hot chocolates, maybe a Parisian or Lavender Love. Take lots of delectable pictures to put on Instagram and vote for the ones you like the best! It’s a great way to discover what’s in your own backyard and support a local charity while indulging in some delicious hot chocolate!

yyc hot chocolate fest