Monday, February 28, 2011

Meatless Monday: Andrew's Peanut Stir Fry

Welcome back to another addition of Meatless Monday! This is going to be the first recipe I post that uses tofu. I love tofu, Andrew loves tofu, and even Oliver loves tofu (that boy even eats it raw). Still, I know that most non-vegetarians aren't interested in eating or trying tofu. It has a weird stigma, and people seem to think they have to be a health nut to eat it.

Well, if you're willing to give tofu a try, let me give a fair warning and some advice. First, don't expect it to taste or feel like meat. In fact, it feels more like eggs. Second, tofu doesn't taste good raw (to most people, anyway). Actually, it doesn't taste like much. The good news is this: tofu absorbs flavors and sauces extremely well, so it tastes like whatever you cook it in. The less water it has in it, the more it will absorb. So, for your first time using tofu, I recommend buying a firm or extra-firm cube. It's packed in water, so you want to pull out the cube, put a towel over it, and squeeze out the excess water. Some people go as far as weighing it down by placing a cookie sheet on top of it and putting something heavy on the cookie sheet. That's cool, too.

Once you have the excess water drained, you cube it. I make small cubes (maybe about 1cm cubes). It's easy to do, and you can just use a butter knife. Voila, that's all there is to prepping tofu.

This peanut stir fry recipe is one that my husband created. It's our family's favorite meal, and we eat it a few times a month. We buy stir-fry vegetables in bulk from Costco, so for us, this meal is especially budget-friendly.

And, now, for the recipe:

Andrew's Peanut Stir Fry (serves 4)

1 teaspoon vegetable or canola oil
1 package of firm tofu, drained and cubed
4 cups of frozen mixed, stir-fry vegetables, thawed
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup peanut sauce (found in the Asian section of your supermarket)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cups cooked brown rice

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the tofu and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown. Stir in the vegetables. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, whisk the peanut butter, peanut sauce, and soy sauce together. Add sauce to the skillet and stir well. Cook for an additional 3-5 minutes until heated through.

3. Serve over brown rice.

Cost: Under $2/serving
Calories: Approximately 425 per serving
Protein: Approximately 21 grams

16 Months

I'm delighted that Oliver has finally started to walk more than he crawls! This phenomenon just started this week, and I'm so excited! I love seeing our little guy get up and walk across the floor. So far, it hasn't made him any more mischievous as other moms warned.

He's repeating random words upon hearing them. The other day, we got a space heater from Andrew's parents (our furnace died), and Andrew explained to him that we don't touch it because "it's hot." Now, every time he sees the space heater, he points to it and declares, "Hot!" He's also started saying, "Eyes," and, "Head." When the washing machine is done, I yell, "It's done!" and Oliver always responds with, "Sess!" I think that means, "It's done!"

Oliver's new list of words:
It's done

Oliver understands a lot more than he says, of course. He knows commands like, "Close the door," "Put on the lid," and "Hand me the book." He understands words like, "Squirrel," "Buckle," "Milk," "Water," "Light," "Upstairs," "Toes," "Knees," "Ears," "Feet," "Mouth," and "Laundry."

Starting mid-January, Oliver started napping twice a day again. The extra break is nice, but it's hard planning a day around two naps. I'm ready for him to go back to a nap once a day, and I think he's ready now, too. It's taking him about 20-30 minutes to fall asleep. However, I'm going to Miami for the weekend, and I want Oliver to nap twice a day for Andrew. I think I'll wait another week to push him to one nap a day.

Oliver also loves books. He flips through them by himself and constantly brings us books to read to him. His favorites are "Isn't Pig Won't Naughty?" (from Julie), "Jamberry" (from the Thornes), "Animals" (from Uncle Scott), "Baby Animals" (from the health department), "The Littlest Mouse" (my parents), and "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" (Andrew's parents).

Here's a list of his current likes and dislikes:

*Being held
*The Alphabet Song
*The Washing Machine
*The park (especially the slide)
*Squirrels and dogs
*Pointing to things when we name them
*Monkey, Froggy, and Panda (his stuffed animals)
*Putting away dishes

*Being told, "No."
*Being put down instead of being carried
*Leaving the park
*Staying at the grocery store for too long (more than 10 minutes)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Oliver's Sophisticated Palate

Oliver's new favorite toy is the spice rack. He removes a spice/herb from it, takes off the lid, gives it a taste, shakes some on the floor, and grabs another. Then, he puts the lids back on. The lids are labeled with the name of the spice. Now, they are mixed all around. I'm knowledgable enough to determine that the basil is not celery salt, but I am not so knowledgeable as to distinguish oregano from Italian seasoning.

His favorites are basil and coriander. He eats the basil and plays with the coriander.

Every day, I end up sweeping about a half cup of spices from the floor. It's actually pretty funny. As a bonus, the garbage can always smells fresh!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Raw Carrots

Today, I decided to let Oliver try some raw carrots. I peeled a carrot and sliced it into very thin, short strips (so thin that they were bendable). He loves them and is snacking away happily. I think I'll do this regularly, and maybe over the next few months, I'll chop them slightly fatter and fatter so he can learn how to handle them well.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Meatless Monday: Eggplant Lasagna

Happy President's Day, all!

As Meatless Monday ( gains in popularity, it's popping up on news shows and pages. Here's one example:

This week's Meatless Monday recipe is based off of one I got from The Sunflower Market. I frequently tweak recipes to be cheaper, easier, and/or healthier, and I frequently change recipes based on what I have on hand. Feel free to play with this eggplant lasagna recipe. You could certainly add some mushrooms or even spinach, and you can pull the green pepper, if you'd like. This recipe serves 6, costs less than $2 per serving, and comes in at about 175 calories a serving.

Eggplant Lasagna

1 1/2 cups jarred spaghetti sauce, divided
1 sliced eggplant
8 ounces shredded, part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 thinly sliced onion
1/2 cup diced green peppers
2 minced cloves of garlic
1 thinly sliced tomato

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and spray an 8 x 8 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Pour 1/4 cup of the spaghetti sauce onto the bottom of the dish and spread thinly. Add one layer of eggplant slices. Sprinkle with a thin layer of mozzarella cheese.

2. In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Sautee the onion, green pepper and garlic until tender, about three minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining 1-1/4 cup of sauce. Spread half of this sauce mixture on top of the mozzarella cheese in the baking dish.

3. Add another layer of eggplant slices followed by a thin layer of cheese and sauce. Top with any remaining eggplant slices, followed by tomato slices and the remaining cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 15 minutes, allowing the cheese to brown. Let the lasagna set for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Oliver Learns a Fake Laugh

Early Signs of Pregnancy

I won't be publishing this post for months. I want to write what I'm feeling now, but I don't want to share it with everyone until a big announcement is made in a few weeks or months.

Well, Andrew and I started trying for another baby this week. I think it's worked. Even though it's insanely early, I feel like I already have pregnancy signs. Two days ago, I had an upset stomach. I dismissed it as a coincidence or the power of thought. Well, yesterday morning (Saturday), I woke up to get Oliver. As soon as I sat up, my stomach did a flip-flop. I didn't even have pregnancy on my mind, but as soon as my stomach did its thing, I thought immediately of it. Well, this morning, I started to get menstrual-like cramps. I'm not due for my period for nearly two weeks, so I'm wondering if this couldn't be a (very) early sign of pregnancy.

I leave for Miami to visit one of my best friends at 11pm on March 4. We'll take a test the morning before I leave. Hopefully, we'll know for sure when that time arrives!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

How to Get a Toddler to Eat Fish

Oliver actually likes tuna. I worry a bit about the mercury, so I only offer it to him occasionally. I'd prefer for him to eat other fish, but he always rejects it after a bite. Two weeks ago, I bought a little box of fish sticks and served them with Miracle Whip and ketchup. He considered eating more than a bite, but ultimately decided against it.

Well, today, I had an idea. I baked one fish stick, chopped it up, and mixed it with some Miracle Whip and mustard. It was almost like making deviled eggs, and it had the same consistency. Success! Oliver gobbled up the mush and asked for more.

Oliver, the Washing Machine, and Hall of the Mountain King

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Toddler Scales Climbing Wall

Oliver loves climbing the stairs to the tallest slide in the toddler park and sliding down on his belly, feet first. Today, I showed him how to scale the easiest rock wall at the park, too. He loved it!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Grinder Sandwich

Welcome to my second edition of Meatless Monday (! Today, we're making a vegetarian grinder sandwich. At under $2/serving (and under 300 calories), it's affordable as well as delicious.
I based this sandwich off of a recipe my cousin-in-law gave me as well as a zucchini grinder recipe from one of my favorite recipe sites,

I've written this recipe out for two people. However, an 8-roll package of sandwich thins, a package of cheese, a jar of sauce, a package of mushrooms, an onion, a green pepper, a head of garlic, and some oil will allow for 8 servings.

Vegetarian Grinder:

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1/4 cup thinly sliced onions

1/4 cup thinly sliced green peppers

1/2 cup sliced mushrooms

2 cloves of diced garlic

1/2 cup jarred spaghetti sauce (pick your favorite flavor, but I used Ragu's roasted garlic sauce)

2 sandwich thins (I used the Oroweat whole grain sandwich thins)

1/2 cup shredded mozarella cheese, divided

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Tear out two pieces of foil (each large enough to wrap one sandwich) and open up the sandwich thins. Set the bottom of each sandwich thin on one piece of foil. Take 1/4 cup of shredded mozarella cheese and sprinkle it over the sandwich thin bottoms (about two tablespoons on each).

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, peppers, mushrooms and garlic. Cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender.
Stir in the sauce and remove from heat. Spoon the mixture onto the sandwich thin bottoms, over the cheese.

Sprinkle the remaining mozarella cheese over the sauce mixture. Top with the sandwich thin tops, and wrap the sandwiches with foil. Cook in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Allow the wrapped sandwich to cool enough to open comfortably. Slice in half and enjoy!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Oliver Enjoys Chuck E Cheese

We took Oliver to Chuck E Cheese for Owen's first birthday party, and Oliver had the time of his life.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Righty Tighty; Lefty Loosey (Part 2)

Oliver's always had great dexterity. When he was a week old, I mentioned to the doctor that he liked gnawing and sucking his hand. The doctor told me that, if Oliver gets his hands to his mouth, it's a lucky accident. We took a video (which we lost when we switched computers) of Oliver during tummy time that showed him pinning down his hand so he could suck it without it moving. He sucked on his hand (not his thumb) a lot by one week old. By three months old, he was able to reach directly for an object (no sweeping motions) and grab it. He'd grab all his dangling toys without a problem. Again, the doctor told me he is too young to do that; Oliver proved him wrong by reaching out and grabbing his stethoscope. Before six months old, he was pulling off his socks.

Then, by ten months old, Oliver started unscrewing things. This isn't supposed to happen until a child is nearly two years old. At ten months, he didn't do it often, but he did it. Sometimes, he'd unscrew his sippy cup. Sometimes, he'd unscrew shampoo bottles. It would take him a long time to get it right, but he'd work and work and work at it. Starting about two months ago, he'd want to practice screwing and unscrewing lids all the time. By now, he's mastered it. Here's a video of Oliver showing off his skills.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Thank Heaven for Tooth Number Eleven

On Friday, January 28, I went out with my friends after Oliver went to bed. Andrew stayed home, and his friend Drew came over. Oliver woke up every 1-2 hours, screaming and crying. We had no idea what was going on because he always sleeps through the night.

The next morning, I felt his gums, and I could feel a bulge on his bottom right. His top two molars had come through recently, so I knew he was getting his bottom one. I also knew that teething is only supposed to last about five days. We had a week of sleepless nights. Oliver would go to bed at 7:30pm and get up at 9pm, 11pm, 2am, 4am, before getting up for the day at 5am. It was rough. A few of those nights, we gave him a bit of generic infant Tylenol (dye-free), and it would help him until about midnight, but then the wake-ups would continue.

Most mornings, his nose would be stuffy. I figured it was a side effect of drooling and fussing and crying at night. Of course, most pediatricians swear that stuffy noses are not a side effect of teething. He's also been shoving his fingers in his ears and mouth nonstop. He doesn't have a fever, so I felt fairly confident that it's not an infection.

Andrew's not good at feeling the gums. I'd feel them every day and update him, "I can feel the point of the tooth through the gum, but it's not through yet!"

Well, today, I would like to say, the gum has split! I can't feel the tooth yet, but I can see the dark hole where the gum is split. I should be able to feel the tooth tonight or in the morning.

So, to all the pediatricians out there who say teething doesn't cause stuffy noses and only takes a maximum of five days, I would like to say, "Shove it." Oliver teethed for thirteen days, and he had a stuffy nose when he woke up.

It's a relief to know the tooth is here. I'm looking forward to interrupted sleep and a less crabby toddler! I'm also glad I won't have to see him writhe in pain anymore (at least, until the next molar decides to make an appearance).

Monday, February 7, 2011

Oliver Feeds Froggy, the Stuffed Frog

For the last few months, Oliver's grown increasingly interested in pretend play. From articles I've read, I've known it to be early (I read that age two is about the time kids start to play pretend with their dolls). Still, when Oliver tries to put his sunglasses on Monkey or makes Monkey jump on the bed, I know I'm not deluding myself. He really is playing. Plus, he often laughs when I have Froggy or Monkey act out an activity (like brushing their teeth, which Oliver has also mimicked).

Well, today, after he woke up from his nap, I gave him a snack of chopped up turkey dog and Goldfish crackers. Oliver pointed to something on the floor and babbled. I looked down, and there was Froggy, his stuffed frog. I said, "Would you like Froggy?" I gave him to Oliver, and Oliver laid Froggy on his shoulder. I thought it looked cute, so I pulled out the camera to snap a photo of him eating with Froggy on his shoulder. Then, imagine my surprise! Oliver grabbed some turkey dog and held it to Froggy's head! OK, so it was the back of his head. Still! I was so surprised!

"Good boy!" I told Oliver, "Froggy must be hungry." Oliver smiled and held up Froggy to me. I told Oliver, "Froggy might want a kiss. Can you give Froggy a kiss?" Oliver did (that's normal behavior for him). Then, he fed Froggy again. I tried to get a picture, but it wasn't very clear. So, I held up Froggy to him and asked, "Can Froggy have some more turkey dog?" Sure, enough, Oliver fed him for a third time.

This "pretend" play is so much fun! Here are the shots from his shared meal:

Oliver's in Love with India Arie

Meatless Monday: Linguine with Spinach, Tomato, Basil and Pine Nuts

Welcome to my first weekly blog edition of Meatless Monday ( My husband and I eat almost exclusively vegetarian (I say "almost" because there have been rare occasions where I eat a little fish). While I don't believe in pushing our values on other people and never try to push anyone into a vegetarian lifestyle, I think Meatless Mondays are an excellent idea for anyone willing to give it a try. Meatless Mondays are pretty self-explanatory, and they're catching on among everyday Americans. People who want to participate simply don't eat meat on Mondays. It's good for the environment, good for health, and it introduces participants to new ways to cook.

As an lacto-ovo (milk & egg) vegetarian, I thought it would be helpful for me to post a meatless recipe every Monday so that people who want to try it out have a place to start.

My favorite meal that I made this week is one I based off of a recipe from our grocery store. It's linguine with spinach, tomato, basil and pine nuts. Here's a photo of this week's recipe:

The recipe makes four 485-calorie servings and contains 24 grams of protein a serving. It cost me less than $20 at the grocery store, so the dish costs less than $5/person. The pine nuts are the most expensive part of this meal (about $8 for a 4 oz container), so keep this recipe handy for when pine nuts are on sale to make it more affordable. My store was out of whole-grain linguine, so I substituted whole-grain spaghetti this time, and it still turned out great.

Here's the ingredient list:

1/2 (16 oz) package whole-grain linguine
1 cup (4 oz package) pine nuts
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
5 cloves garlic, diced
3/4 t dried red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
12-16 ounces chopped spinach leaves
3/4 cup chopped basil
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 roma tomatoes, chopped

1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute pine nuts until golden (stir frequently so they don't burn)
Remove pine nuts and set aside.
3. In the same pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and saute garlic and pepper flakes for one minute. Stir in spinach and toss over high heat until wilted, 2-3 minutes.
4. Drain pasta and put into a large bowl. Add remaining olive oil and stir in the spinach mixture. Stir in the basil, tomatoes, pine nuts, and cheese. Voila!

Usually, I use fresh spinach, but this time I had a 16 oz package of frozen spinach, so I used that instead. I microwaved it for half the time the package called for and then let it sit in a strainer in the sink for about 10 minutes before continuing with the recipe. Because it was much wetter than fresh spinach, it caused the oil to splatter, so be careful if you use this method. It tasted just fine, though, and it's a cheaper option for those who are watching their budgets.

If you're at a loss for what to eat for other meals on Meatless Monday, here are some ideas for you to try for breakfast:
*A yogurt parfait made with fresh fruit and granola
*A bagel breakfast sandwich made with an egg, cheese, tomato and spinach or an egg, cheese, and a vegetarian sausage patty or vegetarian bacon (these can be found in the frozen aisles of your usual grocery store. I recommend trying Morning Star Farms brand or Boca brand)
*Cereal or oatmeal
*Toast with peanut butter
*A fruit smoothie (try blending 8-12 oz of orange juice with half a banana, yogurt, a handful of strawberries with no stems and ice)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Oliver's First "Time Out"

Oliver was put in his first "time out" today. Andrew was busy working on the bathroom upstairs (pulling out the old toilet and tearing out the floor).

Oliver and I were in the kitchen, and I was shelling pistachios for biscotti. He wanted some, but, obviously, couldn't have them (choking hazard!). I grabbed the bag of Goldfish crackers and handed them to him. He reached in to eat a few before dumping the entire bag on the floor. He's fifteen months old, so that's not a big surprise. I looked around at the floor and sighed, "Oh, Ollie!"

So, I grabbed a large tupperware and started picking them up. I told Oliver, "In!" because he understands its meaning. He started putting all the Goldfish into the tupperare. Then, just as we were nearly done, he grabbed a handful and flung the crackers! I said, "No, we don't throw food." He took another handful and threw it, too! I looked at him sternly, tapped his hand with my finger (not hard, of course, as it wasn't to hurt him--I'm against corporal punishment) to make sure he was listening to me, and I said, "No!" Oliver looked right at me and threw more crackers. I couldn't believe it. I was so stunned, shocked, appalled, and humored all at the same time.

I picked Oliver up and told him, "I said, 'no,' and now you're getting a 'time out!'" I stood him in the corner, and I stood behind him holding him into a stand (as he wanted to sit down to crawl away). I counted to sixty (I once read that a "time out" should be one minute for every year old that your child is). He cried the entire time because he was so confused! Afterwards, I took him back to the crackers, gave him one to eat, and I played "Super Nanny." I told Oliver, "You had 'time out' because you threw crackers after I told you, 'no.'" Then I kissed him, I told him that I loved him, and reminded him that even good boys get into trouble sometimes. He ate a few crackers, helped me pick up the rest, and even put the lid on the tupperware for me.

What a good boy! I'm glad I don't have to punish him often because it's so difficult to do!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Troubles in the Land of Potty

Oliver went nearly a week without his potty when we went to Saint Thomas. When we got back, he got really mad when I set him on it. I really don't want him to hate the potty, so I didn't force him onto it.

It was a few days later when he asked to sit on the throne. I took off his diaper, and it was warm & wet. I knew he didn't have to go, but I sat him on there and told him what a good boy he was for sitting on the potty.

About once a day for these last two weeks, he's asked to sit on the potty (but he doesn't want to sit on it unless he asks). Every time, his diaper is warm & wet when I take it off. Two days ago, we had very cold weather. Our furnace couldn't keep up, and our house was in the high 50s/low 60s. When Oliver asked to go on the potty, I sat him on there while keeping him in his diaper and fleece jammies. My husband commented, "He's going to be so confused." I don't think that it's actually affected him, but time will tell. On the positive side, I think he is associating his pee with the potty. On the negative side, he's asking to go after he pees and so hasn't actually gone on the potty since before our vacation.

I'm not sure how I'm going to proceed. For now, I'm just letting him know that he's a good boy for sitting on the potty. I'll put him on there every time he asks. Next week, I think I'll try busting out the treats again to motivate him to sit on the pot after his nap. Oh, and I also cashed in my Pampers points today to get him a potty seat that attaches to the toilet. I don't think he'll use that for a while, but it'll be nice to have!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Oliver's Diet

What does a toddler eat? On a good day, Oliver eats almost everything I put in front of him; on a bad day, I struggle to convince him to eat a few bites of something before he refuses it.

Yesterday, I decided to keep track of what Oliver ate. If a mom is reading this blog, it gives her a look at what another toddler is eating (quantitatively and qualitatively) in a day. For me, it will be a good reference if I ever have another baby.

Yesterday, he happened to eat pretty well. This is not always the case. My main goal is for his "good" eating days to balance out his "bad" eating days.

6am - Oliver ate about 2/3 of the banana I'd chopped for him, and he drank a few ounces of water.

8am - Oliver ate a frozen Nutra Grain blueberry waffle with about a dozen blueberries on the side and a few more ounces of water (yes, I gave him the waffle frozen--one of his molars is coming in)

10:30am - I made Oliver a "scramble" using 1 egg, 2/3 of a diced turkey dog, 1 diced olive, 2 diced broccoli florets, 1/4 slice of American cheese, and about a tablespoon of diced zucchini. I cooked it in a small pad of butter, and he ate about half of it. He also drank a few ounces of whole milk (organic and fortified with DHA) as well as one diced strawberry.

1pm - I made Oliver fish sticks. He ate two bites and refused any more. He drank some milk and ate a small amount of Cheerios and blueberries.

3:30pm - Oliver ate two Nutra Grain blueberry waffles and drank some water

5pm - I boiled some pasta wheels for Oliver. I rinsed them in cold water and then tossed them in half a container of green bean baby food for the sauce. He loved it and ate about half of it.

7am - Oliver drank some warm milk before bed