birthday breakfast in bed with a banana cream pancake stack

Banana Cream Pancake Stack

Ingredients:
Pancakes (we used 11 because she turned 11)
5.1 oz box of instant vanilla pudding (follow package instructions)
1 cup whipped cream
4 bananas, thinly sliced
Syrup, optional

To put together pancake stack:
Start with a pancake on the bottom, spread a layer of whip cream on the pancake, add a big dollop of pudding in the center and add a few banana slices around the edge. Repeat for every layer, but alternating the placement of the bananas from around the edge to near the center. This is to keep it evenly stacked as you add each layer. Once you get to the top, spread a layer of whip cream on top, a dollop of pudding in the center with a few banana slices on top. Drizzle the pancake stack with maple syrup.

Our 11 year old got a 11 pancakes to celebrate her new year, and she happily shared her stack with her sisters. Ben makes a little animal (or creature) from fruit or vegetables as part of our birthday breakfast in bed tradition. This year he made her a little poodle out of broccoli with a bowl of food from a slice of serrano pepper. We did have to tell her not to touch the pepper, so that her fingers wouldn’t get spiced up. Ben gets a lot of his fruit/vegetable ideas from the book, Play With Your Food. Also, this tray is similar to the bed tray we use. Ours was a wedding gift that has been going almost 12 years strong. Those trays have served many breakfasts in bed.

After breakfast, we all showered True with some birthday gifts. Soul, Glow, and Brave handmade her little presents. We had to give them a limit of 2 each because otherwise they would have made her 10 each! Ben and I gave her this tin container. She’s my little collector, so this is for her collecting heart for really special (and little!) things. Her collecting (hoarding) tendencies clash with my toss everything and anything attitude, but I do appreciate a good collection of real treasures. Hopefully, that tin will hold some real goodies with stories. Inside the tin, we gave her a vintage, sterling, turquoise bracelet (similar to this). It seemed like time to give her something a little more grown up. The bracelet is an open back and can be adjusted, so it can grow with her. We also gave her a birthday dress (see post about it here), mini instax film (she loves taking pictures!), and vintage camo cargo pants (she had it on her birthday list and I happen to find one of the thrift!).

Breakfast in bed was just the beginning of her birthday celebration. If you follow me on instagram (@cakiesblog), then you know we had a few days of celebrating our oldest gal. Another post and pictures to come soon! #true11x

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salted caramel ice cream

Salted Caramel Ice Cream

Ingredients for the ice cream base:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

Ingredients for the salted caramel:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp butter
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp milk
Coarse sea salt, for sprinkling on top of the ice cream

To make the salted caramel:
In a medium saucepan, over medium-high heat, combine the sugar with 1/4 cup cold water and stir to combine. Without stirring, cook the sugar until it has turned into a golden amber hue, which takes about 10 to 12 minutes (I like it golden, but if you want a more burnt caramel flavor, wait until the color is a dark amber). Meanwhile, warm the cream in a small saucepan. Once warm, whisk in the salt and the butter. When the caramel is ready, remove from heat and slowly whisk in the cream mixture in with the sugar until the mixture is smooth. Lastly, whisk in the milk. Allow the caramel to cool completely before mixing into the ice cream mixture.

Directions for the ice cream:
Place the metal mixing bowl and metal wish in the freezer for about 15-30 minutes. In the meantime, prep the ice cream flavor you plan to mix in. Pour the whipping cream into the bowl and whisk just until the cream creates stiff peaks. Gently fold in the sweetened condensed milk, then continue to gently add about 1/2 cup of the salted caramel mixture (save the rest to if you’d like to drizzle more caramel on top, or to make another batch of salted caramel ice cream), and mix until completely combined. Freeze ice cream in an airtight container (we used metal bowls with lids) and put the mixture in the freezer until it completely hardens.

When you serve your ice cream, sprinkle some sea salt on top. If you want more caramel, drizzle the top with the leftover caramel sauce.

My ultimate favorite ice cream is salted caramel from A la Minute. We often buy salted caramel flavored ice cream from the grocery store, hoping it tastes like A la Minute’s, but nothing ever tastes close. I must say though, this homemade version is pretty close. Ben thinks it’s almost exactly and he said, “Now, we can save money on ice cream!” The girls and I have already devoured this batch of ice cream, so I need to pick up more heavy cream at the store to make more. I think this we will be making this for our Valentine’s Day dessert.

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peanut butter ice cream

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Ingredients for the ice cream base:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
Chocolate bar, optional (if you want to grate some chocolate to sprinkle on top of the ice cream)

Ingredients for the peanut butter mixture:
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup chocolate milk (I used chocolate soy milk)

Preparation for the peanut butter mixture:
In a small bowl, mix the chocolate milk and peanut butter together until combined well. Set aside.

Directions to make the ice cream:
Place the metal mixing bowl and metal wish in the freezer for about 15-30 minutes. In the meantime, prep the ice cream flavor you plan to mix in. Pour the whipping cream into the bowl and whisk just until the cream creates stiff peaks. Gently fold in the sweetened condensed milk. Continue to gently add in the peanut butter and chocolate mixture and mix until completely combined. Freeze ice cream in an airtight container (we used some metal bowls that had lids) and put this mixture in the freezer until it completely hardens.

To top the ice cream, I grated a chocolate bar to make fine chocolate shavings, and I sprinkled it on top. It is so delicious and very peanut buttery! Pic’s Peanut Butter knew my love for peanut butter based on an older post, and sent me a jar of their peanut butter to try, so I decided to make ice cream with it. Trying their peanut butter in ice cream form definitely makes my heart happy (and didn’t I mention it came out delicious?!). Ice cream is my favorite dessert and I love peanut butter everything… peanut butter in my protein shakes, frozen peanut butter banana bites, peanut butter cupcake, and any chocolate candy with peanut butter. Sometimes, if I’m still hungry right before bed, I’ll have a spoonful of peanut butter with chocolate chips sprinkled on top.

Next up, I’m determined to make salted caramel ice cream. That is my ultimate favorite ice cream flavor from A la Minute, which is the best ice cream joint on the planet, and if you know me… #illalwayssayyestoicecream.

Now, hurry up and make some ice cream because it’s so easy! If you want to try lavender or avocado ice cream, see my recipe here.

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our mini thanksgiving 2016

We’ve started doing our own Bratcher Thanksgiving on Wednesday nights (here is last year’s), so we can have some quiet time together to reflect on the holiday and share what we are thankful for. During last year’s Thanksgiving, we learned that the first Thanksgiving, more likely an autumn harvest feast, did not serve stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, or pies (they didn’t have potatoes, wheat, flour, or butter). Thus, we discussed that for our next Thanksgiving, we would do research and serve things that were more likely seen at the first feast.

Ben was in charge of doing the research and he came up with the menu for the celebration…
Starch:
Stewed pumpkins
Sweet pudding of Indian corn

Fruit:
Fresh cranberries (fresh and unsweetened)

Vegetables:
Turnips (roasted, although theirs were likely boiled)

Meat:
Stewed turkey breast with herbs and onions
Steamed clams
Steamed lobster

The stewed pumpkins weren’t super popular. The girls and I were fans of the sweet pudding of Indian corn, but it was so much better the next morning served as a breakfast porridge with fresh fruit in it. Fresh cranberries are tart and take getting used to, but once we adjusted to the tartness, we were popping them in like (sour) grapes. Only half the family liked the roasted turnips, but I threw the leftovers in a soup for tonight’s dinner and everyone like it much better that way. The turnips absorbed the soup and it took away some of the pungent flavor. The stewed turkey was True’s favorite (she had 4 slices!), while the rest of the girls devoured the clams. I think I like this menu for our Bratcher mini Thanksgivings because we celebrate Thanksgiving so many times with our families, so it’s nice to serve something a little different at home. For next year’s meal, I think we will skip the bird and serve mussels, lobster, and striped bass.

For our tablescape, I rolled out kraft paper, set out each plate settings, and then painted their names on the side as the place cards. We’re assuming the original Thanksgiving was likely earlier in the fall because we read they served plums and melons with their meals. The mandarins we placed on each plate definitely weren’t true to geography/era, but since our garden has plenty to share, it added a nice touch to our tablescape. I snipped off a couple vines from my jasmine and that provided our table with some greenery, and the white candles (from Dollar Tree, or order from here) set the mood.

I love our mini Thanksgiving feast tradition, and I especially love hearing what the girls are thankful for. After dinner, the girls read us a story about the first Thanksgiving, and put on a show for us.

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pie party

For our Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow night, we are going the non-traditional route. Ben did a little research on what was likely served during the first Thanksgiving, and pie was not on the list (no butter, flour, or ovens for baking). Also not on the list is stuffing and mashed potatoes. I broke the news to the girls, and they were bummed our Thanksgiving dinner wouldn’t include pie. While Ben is okay leaving that stuff out, us girls certainly aren’t. Since he worked late this evening, we baked some pie in the afternoon, and had ourselves a pie party at night.

Now, my pretty pie crust making skills are sorely lacking, but the pies did not disappoint in taste. I used this oatmeal pecan pie recipe and this pumpkin pie recipe I made awhile back. We put on the movie Paddington, and the girls and I cozied up in bed, and happily indulged in our pie. I say we make this pie party a tradition every year.

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Nutrients Pint-Sized Learners Need More of

Happy October! It’s Ben here and it seems it’s been about 2 years since my last post. It’s always our intention for me to share more in this space, but life gets busy, and Ruby is just faster at this blog thing than I am.

Most children have been back to school for about a month now, and following are a few tips on nutrients our children need to prepare them well for those busy school days…

Plan meals and snacks that best prepare kids for the classroom

Brain, the spinal frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Energize. It’s mission: to supply the nutrients needed to help your child’s attention and memory, to perform better in school, to boldly grow like many other healthy students have done before.

We don’t need to be fans of the show to picture this imaginary scenario in our kids’ bodies… the “starship Energize” whisking around to the tune of the eerie theme song, supplying fuel, vitamins and minerals needed to maximize the brain’s capacity. And while it doesn’t happen quite like that, the truth is that our children’s brains do need necessary nutrition for concentration and academic achievement.

I’m givin’ her all she’s got, Captain!
(Captain Kirk’s response to that? “All she’s got isn’t good enough! What else ya got?”) Research continues to show that when children aren’t receiving the fuel (glucose!) and nutrition they need, correlations can be made to lower grades, absenteeism, and an inability to focus.

Glucose is the fuel that keeps the brain functioning. Children burn through glucose faster than adults—children aged 4-10 double the rate of adults (the pace shrinks down to adult levels by the time they’re 16-18 years of age) *1. Combine this higher glucose usage rate with a longer fasting period overnight (increased sleep requirements), and breakfast becomes, well, the most important meal of the day.

Furthermore, diets deficient in vitamins and minerals are associated with lower grades among students *2. Studies also show diets with inadequate fruits, vegetables and dairy products negatively impact academic performance *2.

Beam, er, eat us up Scotty
So the message is clear about nutrition’s vital role in our children’s learning… breakfast is indispensable, glucose is essential, vitamin- and mineral-rich foods are needed. OK. Glucose isn’t the name of some globular space invader… it’s actually something required by our brains. So how does all this nutrition information compute in the real world?

Balanced meals are one of the keys to obtain steady glucose and adequate vitamins and minerals. A straightforward way of thinking of balance is through USDA’s MyPlate icon. Glucose will be an eventual (eventual is good; too fast isn’t) byproduct of carbohydrates, which come from four of the six groups: grains, fruits, vegetables, and milk. (Choose minimally processed foods for all groups; this will aid in glucose becoming that eventual byproduct). The two remaining groups: protein (lean sources hopefully), and fats/oils (not pictured on the plate, but healthful ones ideally).

Following are breakfast foods to mix-n-match for balance, as you plug them into MyPlate; examples follow. Make the mother ship proud! (More breakfast ideas here; snack ideas here.)

Grains: oatmeal; whole grain cereal, toast, tortillas, whole grain English muffins
Fruit/Vegetables: seasonal and whole; dried/canned – no sugar/minimal salt added; frozen; dried
Milk: skim/1% from the cow, soybean, or almond; light yogurt
Protein: beans, eggs, Canadian bacon, Greek yogurt, low-fat cheese, nut/seed butters, (ex: old fashioned-style peanut butter)

Live long and prosper
To feel confident declaring this phrase as it applies to balanced meals (while giving the Vulcan salute!), there is one, non-food ingredient that is key: planning ahead. Without planning, breakfast and snacks either become (a) non-existent, or (b) highly processed, low-nutrition convenience foods fumbled into the diet’s atmosphere.

Planning ahead involves:
• Having a variety of brain-boosting foods ready to fit your abilities and your schedule. Even if your mornings are filled with meteor shower-like craziness, plan around that! Switching it up is also important for kids since they’re not droids; a constellation of possibilities is fun!
• Thoughtful purchases in that Milky Way of a grocery store. Our role as parents involves the “what,” as in what is served. There will be a domino effect of what you do or don’t select at the market; make it a positive one!
• Ensuring kids have a bedtime early enough to enable sufficient time to eat something in the morning. (And more time could lead to the entire family eating breakfast; family meals have a mass of research to support their importance!)

Our children’s brains need balanced nutrition to give birth to all the brilliant supernovas waiting to ignite. And before launch, we as parents need to make preparations in our internal mission control centers. Changes like these take time… don’t expect warp speed. Experiment. Be patient!

*1. Chugani H. T. (1998). A critical period of brain development: studies of cerebral glucose utilization with PET. Prev. Med. 27, 184–188 10.

*2. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/health_and_academics/pdf/health-academic-achievement.pdf

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