About Allie

Author of bakingamoment.com, wife and mother.

SAHM Style- for DailyBuzz Moms 9×9 Fall Into Autumn!

What the whah?  Did she just use the terms “stay at home mom” and “style” in the same sentence???

Oh yes she did!

You might think that those two terms are mutually exclusive, but I beg to differ.  You have to wear something, right?  So why shouldn’t it be something cute?  Nobody likes to look at a shlumpy mess, especially when that shlumpy mess is in the mirror.

I think we’ve all been there, I know I have.  We sold our old house and moved into our current home right after my little one was born, and between the barely two-year old, the infant, and the sale/purchase/move, I don’t think I put on a drop of makeup or wore anything but a nursing tank and yoga pants for a good six months.  It was depressing.

But a new season is upon us!  It’s the perfect opportunity to turn over a new leaf (maybe a colorful autumn one?) on your style.

Fall has always been my favorite time of year, and I think that stems from when I was a kid and my mom would take me back-to-school shopping.  What better way to get ready for the season?!  Come on, let’s go shopping!

Now, there are some issues of practicality to consider.  As a stay at home mom, you are likely to be spending a lot of time on the floor, as well as coming into contact with a lot of messes, so comfortable, durable, and machine-washable fabrics are key.  I am also kind of a cheapo a bit frugal with certain things.  And if you are like me, and spend most of the day on your feet, then you’ll be wanting good quality, flat shoes.  But that doesn’t limit you to sweats and ratty tee shirts!  You can have lots of fun and feel good about yourself, while still getting the job done, with these super-stylish tips and tricks.

Let’s start at the top, with hair.  In my humble opinion, bangs are a SAHM’s best friend.  With two little ones, I don’t have a lot of time to mess around with styling my hair, so a longer length that I can throw up in a ponytail, messy ballerina bun, or side braid works best.  Bangs elevate this look from, “I just finished three miles on the treadmill,” to “I just had breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

1/2/3/4/5

Start with a good cut from a pro (I have mine done just two or three times a year), and when the bangs get a little long, sweep them to the side or trim them yourself, it’s easy!  Just follow this tutorial:

Next comes bra.  I know they feel good, but sports bras are for the gym, ladies.  They are not flattering and they will not make you feel your best.  I just picked up this jazzy little number and it couldn’t be more comfy.  It’s so cushy and soft!  It holds everything in line so nicely, without a single pinch, and the straps are U-shaped and padded, so they don’t slip off the shoulders.

Bali Intimates One Smooth U

A good bra will make you stand up a little straighter and look more polished.  And a little lacey embellishment goes a long way towards making you feel pretty.  Ok, now that everyone knows what kind of underwear I have on, let’s move along, shall we?

As for tops, I mostly stick with jersey knits that can be layered and/or topped with a cardigan as the months get cooler.

jersey knit tops and cardigans

But lately I’ve been eyeing some cutie-patootie button-downs with a little bit of stretch, like these:

Collared Button-Ups & Sweaters

I think they’ll be perfect for fall, and when it gets even cooler, they’ll look sweet under a sweater with the cuffs and collar peeking out.

Don’t forget the accessories!  They do make the outfit, after all.  It only takes a few extra moments to pop on some cute earrings, a watch, and a bracelet or two, and those extra moments make all the difference.
watches, bracelets, and earrings
Bonus points for a statement necklace!
statement necklaces

Or, another great option for fall is the drapey scarf.

drapey scarves for fall

So warm and comfy, and a fun print will liven up your whole look…

As for bottoms, I love a good pair of leggings for days when you really want to be as comfortable as possible, and sometimes I’m known to rock a pair of sweats, but only if they’re dressed up on top, with a little bling and some cute shoes.  But I mostly find myself in jeans.  A good dark skinny, a comfy boyfriend pair, a trouser style, and a couple of fun colors, and you’re off to the races.  Although I have been loving the sixties mod pant for this season!  I may have to indulge myself…

Jeans and Pants for Fall

Add a fun belt for an unexpected hit of color, pattern, or texture, and you will look so polished!

belts

Which leads me to my favorite topic, SHOES!  In the early fall, I’m all about a cute sandal or some ballerina flats.  Definitely look for something with some embellishment: some sparkle, pattern, or a contrasting hit of bright color.

early fall shoes

As the weather cools down, I look for something that comes up a little higher on my foot, so I can wear some little no-show socks under, for extra warmth.  I’m loving the oxford/brogue style, as well as some sparkly Toms, or a little loafer or moc.

Mid-fall shoes

And when things get blustery and cold, it’s nothing but a cozy boot for me.  I love the moto style, the riding boot, or a little cowboy bootie, especially with those leggings I’m so partial to.  I’m also considering a pair of Sorel’s for the snowy season… wouldn’t want to slip and fall in the car line at preschool dropoff!

late fall shoes

It’s amazing how much warmer you feel with a little leather around your ankles!

And finally, for the bag.  Don’t neglect the bag, SAHM’s.  You have a lot of essentials to carry around with you, so you need a good bag.  It can be an afterthought, or it can be a thing of beauty that elevates your whole look.

fall handbags

I’ve carried a lot of slouchy totes and hobos in this past, but now I’m all about structure.  Besides having a cleaner and more polished look, it keeps your junk more organized!  I love a classy, understated neutral, or a bright color that complements the other items in your wardrobe or completely contrasts.  I just ordered the little turquoise number and I can’t wait to see how it pops against all my navy and red…

Mix and match your picks from this post and you can’t go wrong.

plum, leopard, and gold

You’ll be turning heads at the grocery store…

stripes, red, turquoise

…taking compliments from all the other moms at school…

hot pink, black, and kelley green

…and putting a smile on your hubby’s face when he walks in the door at the end of the day.

red, white and black with brown accents

** just click on the little thumbnails below the collage if you want to purchase any of these featured items.  I won’t get paid, but I’ll still thank you for making the world a prettier place. **

dressed-up sweats

FYI, none of the clothing items in this post are more than $90.  The most expensive watch is $135.  The shoes, boots, and handbags are all under $200.  And none of these outfits will get mad if you do a little light housework in them.

Green, Gray, Navy, with Orange

Here’s to a great fall!

And don’t forget to check out DailyBuzz Moms on Thursday, September 27th, 2012, for a special “Top 9” featuring YinMom YangMom plus eight other bloggers’ awesome ideas to help you Fall Into Autumn!

Advertisements

Homemade Pudding Snack Packs

So, I recently made this variety pack of homemade pudding snack packs, for my kids’ lunchboxes, and, they were such a huge hit that they didn’t even last more than a day or so.  Even Mr. Allie got in on the action, and was eating pudding packs after dinner and sneaking them for afternoon snacks!

These are miles apart from that junk you can buy at the supermarket, which shall remain nameless, but begins with a “J” and ends with an “-ELLO.”  Or that other junk that begins with an “H” and ends with an “-UNTS.”  Or that other junk that begins with an “S” and ends with a “-WISS MISS.”  Or that other junk that begins with a “K” and ends with an “-OZY SHACK.”

Sorry.  You get the idea.  They’re seriously yummy and you need them in your life.  Now.

I developed this recipe for a YinMom YangMom recipe series, called “Lunch Lady Land.”  If you missed the big intro, shame on you.

Just kidding!  Haha.  It is to laugh.

The series is basically all about homemade foods that are lunchbox friendly.  It’s easy enough to grab a bunch of prepackaged stuff off the grocery store shelf, but it adds up to a lot of garbage in the landfill and a lot of questionable ingredients in your kids’ growing bodies.  I’m finding that it only takes a little bit of time and extra effort (and loveAwww…) to create lunchbox foods that are soooo much healthier, and they taste so much better too!


Here’s what we’ve done so far:
Homemade Gummy Fruit Snacks and Juicy Jiggles
Nut-Free (and Healthy!) Reese’s Cups
Corn Dog Muffins

If you are like me, and you often stare mindlessly into the fridge for way too long, hoping for a bolt of lightning to strike and inspire some genius food idea you can pack for your kiddies, be sure to check ’em out.  They’re easy to keep on hand in the fridge, freezer, or pantry, and you can just chuck ’em in the old lunch box and know that your little ones are getting good nutrition and a little taste of some homemade deliciousness.

And for todays installment, you will first need some single-serving containers.  I like this kind:

because they stack neatly and the lids snap together and to the bottoms of the cups, so I never have to hunt around my train wreck of a plastic-ware cupboard looking for a match.  (One of these days I really need to organize that mess!)  Also, they are BPA-free.

You will also need the following ingredients, which shouldn’t be too difficult:

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 3/4 cups whole milk, or 2 cups lowfat milk and 3/4 cup cream
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (buy here) or vanilla extract
1 tablespoon butter
1 additional tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup butterscotch chips
1/4 cup chocolate chips

In my house those are staples that we pretty much always keep on hand.

Making pudding from scratch may seem like a crazy idea to you, but, truthfully, it really isn’t any more difficult than making it from a mix!  One day my boys were pestering me for pudding and I didn’t have a box on hand, so I just made it this way, and it was so easy and quick!  Not to mention way yummier.  It thickens up while it’s still hot so you don’t even have to wait for it to chill before shoveling it right in (I’m evil)…

Put the sugar and the cornstarch in a pot and stir them together with a whisk.

Then pour in the milk/cream in a steady stream while whisking.

Put it over a medium-high flame and keep whisking.  Right as it starts coming to a boil, it thickens.  Magic!  Right before your very eyes.

Remove it from the heat and stir in the cold butter, and then add in the vanilla extract or paste.

Can we talk for a minute?  It’s about vanilla bean paste.  Ok, I bought this stuff on a whim, and it’s turned out to be kinda life changing for me.  Seriously.  It is a lot cheaper and easier to use than a whole fresh vanilla bean, but the flavor is every bit as intense!  When you want some serious vanilla flave, (and let’s be honest here, when would you not?) this is what you should be reaching for.

Set up three small-ish bowls.  Into one, place the additional tablespoon of sugar.  Into another, 1/4 cup of butterscotch chips.  And into the third, 1/4 cup of chocolate chips.

Divide the hot pudding equally among the 3 bowls and stir to melt the chips into the pudding.

Chocolate Pudding, Butterscotch Pudding, Vanilla Pudding

Place the contents of each bowl into the reusable containers and chill in the fridge.

Vanilla Pudding, Butterscotch Pudding, Chocolate Pudding

I have a five-year old who tends to be a little bit uncooperative when it comes to drinking milk.  This pudding is so silky smooth, thick, creamy, lightly sweet and delicious, he just can’t resist it.

And neither can anyone else in the family!

If you are a big pudding lover, (is anyone not?) I also did a little series earlier in the year called “More Pudding If You Please.”  It was part of a story on 2012 Food Trends for the Home Cook.  Check out these posts for some more great pudding recipes:

S’mores Pudding
PB&J Pudding
Rice Pudding Comfort

Thanks for reading!  And stay tuned for more great ideas from Lunch Lady Land!!!

Corn Dog Muffins

Welcome back to Lunch Lady Land!  In case you’re new to YinMom YangMom, we are in the midst of a multi-part series on fun foods for your kids’ lunch boxes, with a little bit of healthy sprinkled in…

This is Episode III of Lunch Lady Land, so here are two other great posts, just in case you missed them:

Homemade Gummy Fruit Snacks and Juicy Jiggles

Nut-Free (and healthy!) Reese’s Cups

For today’s installment, we are featuring a “main course,” that old fair-food-favorite, corn dogs!  What kid doesn’t love???  My three- and five- year olds never pass one up!

Here’s what I love about the YinMom YangMom version:

-They’re baked, not fried
-There’s actual corn in them
-They’re made with low-sodium, low-fat, nitrate-free turkey franks
-They’re perfectly portioned
-The fun factor: you can get fancy with the wrapper
-They are perfectly delicious at room temp

So let’s get started!  Here is what you will need:

Corn Dog Muffins
(makes 18 muffins)

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 turkey franks
3/4 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
2 eggs
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 cup milk
1/4 cup (half a stick) unsalted butter

Begin by melting the butter.  I like to do mine in the microwave in a glass measuring cup, and then I just add the rest of the liquid ingredients right in there and save myself from having to wash another bowl.

I’m pretty smart.  And lazy.

Ok so if you are a bit challenged in the baking department, the liquid ingredients are: melted butter, milk, agave nectar, and eggs.

Next you can combine the dry ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl.

Dry ingredients are: flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking powder.

Cut up the hot dogs.  I usually cut them into quarters, lengthways, and then into little bites.  As much as kiddies love hot dogs, they can be a choking hazard, so you can never be too careful about cutting them up small.

Throw the dogs into the dry ingredients along with the corn, and toss everything around a bit.

Now just pour in the liquid ingredients and stir until combined.

Divide the batter equally among 18 muffin cups with paper liners, and bake for 18 minutes at 350 degrees.

Easy!

And it’s even easier when you can just pop one or two from your freezer into a lunchbox on a busy morning!

Just add a juice box and a piece of fruit and there you have it!

Yum!

If you liked this idea, stay tuned, because there will be lots more like it!  But in the meantime, be sure to check out the homemade gummy fruit snacks, and the healthy reese’s cups!

And if there is something in particular that your kids jones for, that you aren’t exactly thrilled about, leave me a comment at the bottom of this post and I’ll see if I can come up with a healthier version!

Healthy Reese’s Cups

Hello there!  You’ve just landed yourself square in Lunch Lady Land!  Welcome!

In case you are new to YinMom YangMom, we are doing a multi-part series on healthy treats for kids that are perfect for a packed lunch.  Sneak in some extra nutrition with this recipe that’s not nearly as naughty as it tastes!

When I came across Baker Lady’s Reese’s Bars on Pinterest, I just knew I had to give it a twirl.  My five-year-old has just recently discovered the joy of peanut butter cups and he is so excited about them!  We made them and he LOVED!  They were gone within a few days and he didn’t waste any time asking for more.  Sneaky devil that I am, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to bait and switch his new favorite for another version that bumps up the whole grain, protein, and omega-3’s, makes it school cafeteria friendly by using a nut-free substition, and has just enough chocolatey sweetness to satisfy his sweet tooth.

I nixed the two sticks of butter to lower the fat.  I replaced the powdered sugar with agave nectar, which is just as sweet but has a lower glycemic index, so it’s less likely to cause blood sugar spikes, ie: hyperactivity/crash and burn.  I’ve also subbed in whole wheat bread crumbs for half the graham cracker crumbs, which lowers the sugar and increases the protein and whole grain content.  Finally, a bit of vanilla protein powder and ground flax seeds bump up the nutritional value even more, to make this treat something you can really be happy to give your little ones.

This is sunflower seed butter:

You can find it at the regular supermarket, right next to the peanut butter.  You could also try using soy nut butter, but some feel that soy is a bit questionable health-wise, and sunflower seed butter is soooo yummy!  It’s so much like peanut butter you almost can’t tell the difference!  And it is nut-free so it’s perfect for school and especially for kids with tree-nut allergies.

Sneakily Nutritious Nut-Free Reese’s Cups
makes about 18 min-cups
(adapted from BakerLady.wordpress.com)

3/4 cup sunflower seed butter
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
2 tablespoons protein powder
2 tablespoons ground flax seed
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

Throw all of the ingredients, except for the chocolate, into a bowl…

…stir until it’s all combined.

Drop by the tablespoonful into a mini-muffin tin with paper liners.

Squoosh it all down flat.

Melt the chocolate.  In my microwave, it takes a minute and a half on 70% power.  They come out looking like this:

which is deceiving because they look like they aren’t melted.  But when you stir them around a little…

…surprise!  They’re perfect.  Dollop about a half-teaspoon of chocolate onto each cup and smooth it over with a little spatula or a butter knife.

Chill in the fridge for half an hour or until the chocolate is set.

We like ours in mini-muffin cups.  This makes it really easy to pop a perfect portion into your little one’s lunch box, but if you don’t have a mini muffin tin, you can use a glass baking dish and just cut it into squares.

The little fella had no idea that these were anything but the real deal.  MWOO-Hoo-Hoo-Ha!

If you liked this post, be sure to check out my recipes for Homemade Gummy Fruit Snacks and Juicy Jiggles!  And, stay tuned for lots more kid-friendly brown-bag ideas from Lunch Lady Land!

Easy Way to Clean Silver

Today is a special day; my dear little Choochelah is off to his first day of kindergarten!

Tucked away in my jewelry box is this little tourmaline ring.  I hold it close to my heart.  It was a birthday present from Mr. Allie, purchased on a trip to Bar Harbor, Maine, very shortly after little Chooch took up residence in my tummy just over five short years ago.  I always remember that trip (our last before becoming mama and dada) when I look at that ring, and it somehow makes me feel even closer to my precious boy.

I dragged out the little treasure this morning, but before I could put it on my finger, I noticed with dismay that it was poorly neglected and terribly tarnished…

Do you guys know this trick already?  I wish I could say I invented it, but I think it’s actually been around for a long time…

Gather up your sad and dirty sterling silver…

…line a glass dish with aluminum foil.  Sprinkle baking soda all over the surface of the foil.  Is there anything baking soda can’t do?

Lay your silver out on the baking soda/foil.

Pour boiling water over.

By the time the water is cool, you will see a lot less tarnish.

Buff the baubles with a paper towel to shine them up even more.

My tourmaline precious is practically as good as new!

It really helps, and it’s nice to not have to mess around with a chemical-ly silver polish.  But if you have something really gross it might not completely do the trick.

You are on my mind and in my heart today, and every day, sweet ChoochooBear…  Happy Kindergarten, baby!

Homemade Gummy Snacks and Juicy Jiggles

To celebrate the beginning of a new school year, I’d like to kick off a new YinMom YangMom series I’m calling:

“Lunch Lady Land”

Let’s begin with a musical interlude:

Some pretty background music while you read…

“Lunch Lady Land” will be a recurring theme over the next few months as I share some fun ideas for kid-friendly foods that are perfect for a packed lunch.  My goal is to present foods that are

1) kinda healthy, but not so much as to not also be
2) yummy and appealing to the average kiddo.

It’s a very fine line.

My own two little ones definitely have their favorite munchies, most of them being store-bought and loaded with preservatives, artificial colors and flavorings, high fructose corn syrup, transfat, and God only knows what else.  I’m trying to keep them as “once in a while” treats, and offer more natural, chemical free options, with a few nutritious and healthy additions snuck in, on a more regular basis.

So, without any further ado, here is our first offering from “Lunch Lady Land”:

Did you know you can actually make your own fruit snacks?  Did you know that it’s really not even that hard and it only takes two ingredients?

I found these adorable molds at Walmart, for 99 cents, people!

Give them a little spritz with some non-stick baking spray, (ok, three ingredients), and wipe out the excess with a paper towel or dishrag.

Gather up the healthiest juice you can find, that your kid would still want to drink.  I’m using V8 fusion Strawberry Banana 100% juice, because there are veggies hiding in there, and Welch’s 100% Grape Juice, because grapes are full of polyphenols, and also it was the purplest thing I could find with no artificial anything, and color is really important to kids.  We eat first with our eyes, and this is especially true for the little ones!

Measure out 1/2 cup of juice, and pour it into a little pot.

This is unflavored gelatine.

You can find it on the same grocery store shelf as regular jello.  Be not afraid.

Sprinkle two packets of gelatine over the juice and let it dissolve.  It will get all slushy-looking.

Warm it over a low flame and it will go all liquidy.  When it looks smooth and clear-ish, pour it back into the measuring cup and then dribble it into the molds.

Let it set in the fridge for a half hour and there you have it!

These are perfect for my kindergartner, but, I also have a three-year-old.  His preschool is very strict about the foods they allow, and gummies are considered a choking hazard.

So, here is my way around that, which also allows me to sneak in some anti-oxidant rich fresh berries.

1 cup of white cranberry juice, warmed with
1 packet of plain gelatine

Pour it into a lightly oiled square glass baking dish and chill for about 15 minutes or until set.

Arrange fresh berries on top.

Now, do it again:
1 cup of white cranberry juice, warmed with
1 packet of plain gelatine

Pour it over the berries and chill for a half hour.

Unmold it onto a cutting board and cut it into shapes with a cookie cutter, or just cubes with a knife.

These are the kind of fruit snacks I can feel good about giving to my kids.  They are loaded with fresh fruit and 100% fruit and veggie juice, with no unwanted additives.  They have no added sugar.  They are full of good nutrition.  Even the gelatine is healthy: it’s full of protein and collagen for healthy hair, skin, and nails.

What kinds of foods do your kids like to eat in their lunches?  Would you like to see a homemade and improved version of it?  Leave me your thoughts in the comment section and I’ll see what I can come up with!

White Peach and Blueberry Pie

I’m sure I’ve made it pretty obvious, over the last 100 or so posts I’ve written, that I *kinda* like to bake.  And I do it- A LOT.  So, I get a lot of practice.  And because of that, I’ve gotten pretty good at it.  But there has always been this one little baking subcategory that I just haven’t been able to master…

I live in Pennsylvania Dutch country.  For anyone who is not familiar, the Pa Dutch are pie experts.  Mavens!  Magicians…  If you’ve never had the pleasure of sinking a fork into a ground cherry pie, freshly baked by someone’s bitty little nana in her prayer cap, then you really haven’t experienced what pie is meant to be.

I will never live up to the pie standard of someone’s bitty little nana in her prayer cap, but that won’t stop me from trying.

These are some beautiful white peaches we picked up at a roadside stand in New Jersey.

White peaches burst with that same juicy nectar that dribbles down to your elbows, but are a little milder and sweeter than the regular kind.  Less floral-y and more sugar-y.

Few things in New Jersey could be more delicious than white peaches and blueberries in August…

For the Crust:
(from bake at 350)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup unsalted butter
approx. 1/3 cup ice water

Flour and salt in a big bowl.  In goes the butter and toss to coat.  Take it back out and set it aside.  Cut the shortening into the flour until crumbly.  Now flatten the butter with your hand until it’s about half an inch thick.  Break it into one inch pieces and add it back into the flour.

Dribble in ice water a tablespoon at a time, while stirring with a fork.  When it can be pressed and hold it’s shape, divide it in two, wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll the rested dough out to a thickness of 1/4 inch.  Fold it into thirds, and then again into thirds.  Refrigerate for another 30 minutes.

While the dough is having nap #2, pit six or seven peaches and cut them into thick wedges.  Place in a large bowl with a pint of blueberries, 1/3 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract, and the juice of half a lemon.

Toss to coat.

Roll the dough out and place in the bottom of a shallow pie plate.  Pile in the fruit mixture.

Dot the filling with 2 tablespoons cold butter.  Roll the second piece of dough and cut into wide strips.  Lay them over the fruit in a woven lattice pattern.

Twist/roll the bottom crust up and over, pinching with the lattice and cutting away any excess as you go along.

Brush with egg wash (one egg beaten with a tablespoon of water), and sprinkle with sparkling sugar.

Bake for 90 minutes at 350 degrees, and cool completely before serving (so all the juices don’t run everywhere!).

A side note: baking a proper fruit pie is what I like to call a “labor of love.”  There needs to be some planning ahead.  I suggest you begin early in the day.  (You know that’s what the nana’s are doing!)  There are a lot of steps, but there’s plenty of down time in between.

Mr. Allie is a barbecuing fool and he smokes his ribs all day long.  I made this while he tended his barbecue.  It was that sort of a Sunday…

look at those flaky layers!

After gnawing away at Mr. Allie’s smoky ribs, we devoured thick slices of this fruit-laden, honey-sweet pie, and it was summery wonderfulness.  Wonderful summeriness.

But if there are any nana’s in prayer caps out there, I’d love to get some pointers…

Here is a 4×6″ printable recipe card for you to tuck away: White Peach and Blueberry Pie Recipe Card