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Archive for June, 2008

I love my Crock-Pot. Actually, I love three Crock-Pots. Yes, I have three. I love them so much I have three different sizes.

Crock-Pots are fantastic for cooking in the summer because they don’t heat up your kitchen. I make everything in the Crock-Pot – from breakfast to dessert. 

My favorite meal from the Crock-Pot is a black bean and brown rice chili. It’s a simple recipe and you can keep all the ingredients in your pantry. It’s also healthy and cheap! In my book, that makes a great meal. 

The recipe is not spicy, which is great for kids. For adults who like some heat, add some hot sauce to individual bowls.

Black Bean and Brown Rice Chili

I make this in my medium size Crock-Pot, and it makes about four servings.

Two 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed
One 14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes with liquid
1/2 cup brown rice, rinsed
1 and 1/2 cups water 
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1. Combine all ingredients in the Crock-Pot. Stir to combine. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Towards the end of the cooking time, you may need to add additional water if the chili looks dry. 

2. Serve with plain yogurt or sour cream, chopped green onions, and hot sauce for the adults. 

This recipe is based on a recipe from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann. Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook is a great cookbook!

What’s your favorite Crock-Pot recipe?

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Columbus has some great farmers’ markets. My two favorite farmers’ markets are the North Market Farmers’ Market and the Worthington Farmers’ Market.

During the summer, I try to go to at least one farmers’ market a week, with my daughter in the stroller. She loves watching all the activity and people. I like supporting local farmers and the food is always great. 

The North Market Farmers’ Market is usually less crowded and chaotic than the Worthington Farmers’ Market. Although, the Worthington Market has a larger number of vendors and more selection. Other buyers tend to get pushy and glare at us as I try to navigate the stroller down the sidewalks in Worthington. People are more friendly at the North Market. We usually try to get to both markets as early as possible to avoid crowds and get the best selection.

When: Both markets are held on Saturdays from April to November. The North Market Farmers’ Market opens at 8 am. The Worthington Farmers’ Markets opens at 9 am. 

Where: The North Market is located at 59 Spruce Street, Columbus. There is usually parking available in the North Market parking lot. Make sure you have one of the vendors stamp your parking ticket. The Worthington Farmers’ Market is located on High Street in Old Worthington. A great place to park is the Methodist church one block south of the intersection of High Street and Route 161. 

What to Take: Take reusable grocery bags to carry your purchases. A stroller is great because you can put the goodies in the basket under the seat. However, a stroller makes it hard to navigate crowded sidewalks. When my daughter was younger, I put her in the Baby Bjorn, which freed up my hands. Cash – vendors only take cash and they always appreciate small bills. Take your sense of adventure – try a vegetable that you have never had before. You might be surprised that you like it. Last week, I bought turnips, which I had never cooked before. I sauteed them in a little olive and they were fantastic, even my little munchkin loved them. 

For more information about finding Farmers’ Markets near you, visit Local Harvest.

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This weekend is Comfest, and it was my first year attending. A friend and I took our two munchkins to the festival. The kids had a blast and the moms end up exhausted. 

Comfest is a free community festival in Goodale Park. The festival has live music, vendors – both art and food, and lots of good people watching opportunities. 

First, we threw down a blanket and let the kids run around while we listened to some good local music. Then, we took them over to the playground so they could burn off even more of their energy. Goodale Park has a great playground. 

After that, we got some dinner from some of the local food venders – falalfal sandwiches from Benevolence Cafe and tea from ZenCha Tea Salon. Both the sandwiches and tea were very good. 

Comfest was a lot of fun. Taking kids involved a lot of chasing, which was difficult because the park was crowded. If you plan on attending, definitely take a stroller, a blanket to sit on and a lot of water. Parking is difficult. Allow time to look for a parking space. We parked in the garage on Vine Street by the North Market and had to pay $8. 

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This week the little pumpkin and I joined the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s summer reading program. Any one, any age can join the summer reading program, which I love. The program began on June 7 and ends August 2. You can register at any branch or online. The program is simple – all you have to do is keep track of how much you read.

At our local branch of the library, there are two long shelves that are usually filled with board books (we only read board books because someone has a tendency to tear the pages of regular books – I won’t name names here). Since the summer reading program began, the two shelves are only about a quarter filled. Which means Columbus is reading this summer! 

This got me thinking about pumpkin’s favorite books…because I was wondering, can I count the same book more than once for the contest since she makes me read them ten times a day? (I decided to only count each book once, regardless of how many times I have read it that day.) Here is a list of some of her current favorites:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Amazing Baby: Night-Night, Baby! by A. Wood 
Time for Bed by Mem Fox and Jane Dyer
Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann 
That’s Not My Puppy: Its Coat Is Too Hairy by Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells
One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss and Theodor Seuss Geisel 
The Going to Bed Book and Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton 
Ten Little Ladybugs by Melanie Gerth and Laura Huliska-Beith 
You’re My Little Love Bug by Heidi R. Weimer 

What is your little one’s favorite book?

[Photo Credit: Book]

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Eating out with a toddler is difficult. It certainly isn’t a relaxing experience. When I’m feeling brave, one of my favorite restaurants in Columbus is the Starliner Diner

The Starliner Diner staff are very accommodating for folks with kids. The restaurant has a kid-friendly menu with a wide selection – everything from burritos to pasta – and an eclectic atmosphere with murals painted on the walls that gives the kids something to look at while eating. 

The food is always outstanding. My favorites are the Cheese and Jalapeno Soup and the Sweet Potato and Corn tamales. The Vegetable Caliente Pasta and BBQ Chicken Pizza are also excellent. In fact, everything I’ve ever had there is great. The prices are also good. Lunch and dinner items range in price from $5.25 to $10.25.

My daughter’s favorite meal there is the Black Beans and Rice (its not actually a meal, but a combination of two side dishes.) They do have a kids menu, but she has never ordered from it. She loves beans! The kids meals are reasonable priced from $3.25 to $4.25.

Their breakfast menu is also excellent. My breakfast recommendation is the Farmers Omelette. Get the Cuban bread for toast – it’s very good. Come early on Saturdays and Sundays, or be prepared for a bit of a wait. However, the wait is worth it.

Location: 5240 Cemetery Road, Hilliard, Ohio It’s in a small strip mall – be careful not to drive past it! 

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I love a good bargain. And kids stuff is expensive! Toys are especially ridiculously expensive, and there is no way to tell ahead of time which toys your kids will love and which they will never play with. That’s why I try to buy as many toys and books as I can at garage sales. 

Last Friday and Saturday, I went to a community garage sale with my daughter. We got some great bargains. (A Little People farm for $3, with all the animals!) After we stopped at a few sales, she began say “out, out” as we drove past sales. She wanted out of her car seat. She has never said this before. She is a bargain hunter like her mama! 

Here are a few garage sale tips:

  • Start early for the best selection, most sales start at 8 or 9 in the morning. However, at the end of the day sellers may be willing to give you a better bargain.
  • Community sales rock! Community sales are great because there is less driving involved. You can find multiple sales in one development.
  • Take cash in small bills. 
  • Start with an empty car – take the stroller out of the car and put some bungee cords in the trunk. (I fit a play kitchen in my car’s trunk, but the trunk wouldn’t shut. Luckily, I had bungee cords in the car! )
  • Check craigslist.org for upcoming sales. Look under the “For Sale” section.
  • Scope out the sales as you drive past. Look for bright colors. In my experience, there are two type of garage sales – ones with only old people stuff and ones with kids stuff (bright colors). There is very little in between. Skip the old people garage sales! 
  • If you see something you want but aren’t sure, pick it up and walk around with it. In the time you are deciding, someone else could walk up and grab it. 
  • Keep a reusable grocery bag with you so if you see lots of little items you want you can stick them in the bag as you gather them up. This is especially useful if you are shopping with a little one in tow.
  • Take some batteries with you so you can test toys that need batteries. You don’t want to get the new toy home only find out it doesn’t work. Also, check the battery compartment to make sure the old batteries haven’t corroded. 
  • Flip through books to see if there are missing pages or if it has been colored in. 
  • If you are buying a CD or DVD, open the case to make sure the right CD or DVD is in the case.
  • Make sure you inspect and all clean all your bargains before you let you child play with them. Check for loose parts that could be swallowed. 
What are your garage sale shopping tips? What is the best bargain you’ve ever found? Happy bargain hunting! 
[Photo credit: Garage sale sign]

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Summer has finally arrived in Columbus! One way to cool the kid down is at the Ballantrae Park in Dublin. The park has a wonderful water area, which is perfect for younger kids. My 18 month old daughter loves the park.

She likes playing in the fountains and having the freedom to run around. The fountains are choreographed so that the water pattern is constantly changing, which is endlessly fascinating to a toddler.

She is too timid to walk under the waterfalls, however, she loves to get as close as she dares and stick one hand under them. We always spend at least two hours at the park before she begins to lose interest.

The fountain area is much larger than the water area at Easton. The park has a parking area and bathrooms. There are only a few picnic tables and large rocks to sit on. So, its a good idea to take a large blanket you can spread on the ground. 

What to take: Swim suits, water shoes (they aren’t necessary but help give the little ones some traction when walking or running in the water), hats, sunscreen, small water toys such as buckets or cups, cold drinks, snacks, blankets, beach towels. 

Location: Ballantrae Park, 6350 Woerner Temple Rd., Dublin

Price: Free

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