Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites

Behold the Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites. Photo credit: Angela Liddon.

The Oh She Glows Cookbook snapped me simultaneously out of both cookbook malaise syndrome and late winter gloom-funk. It’s Angela Liddon’s Oh She Glows blog in book form, and it is filled with food to make, eat, and love right now.

The blog started in 2009, but it's new to my life this spring, and it is a drug. Just reading the recipes makes me feel like I’ve had in intravenous solution of miso, angels, and love. It’s not an especially desserts-oriented place, but what got me hooked on the blog were these bars.

The book is like the blog, but with seventy-five (75!) new recipes and an even more enchanting layout, printed on creamy paper. Almost every recipe is illustrated with a vibrant photo–important when you’re in need of inspiration after a winter of one million tikka masalas, or if you can’t read and your mom wants you to choose something to make for dinner.

Angela’s recipes are all vegan and almost all are gluten free. And they’re creative, combining nutrient-rich ingredients in unexpected ways plus enough other stuff to keep the recipes from veering into sanctimony. Life-Affirming Warm Nacho Dip features baby spinach, soaked raw cashews, as well as crushed corn chips. The Glowing Mojo-ito Green Monster is a smoothie featuring avocado, apple, spinach, lime, mint, and gentle encouragement to add white rum.

Lots of recipes in this book will appeal to children, in terms of both making and eating. One obvious example, reprinted here with permission, is the recipe for Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites. These can–of course–be made with any nut butter if peanuts aren’t your scene. These yum balls are gluten free, raw, refined sugar free, soy free, and can be made nut free as well.

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites

When I was growing up, my best friend, Allison, and I used to split an entire package of store-bought cookie dough for a snack. Yes, as a snack! We’d slice the plastic cookie dough package down the middle, grab two spoons, and go to town eating the raw dough. Ohh, to be kids again! I’m happy to say that my love for cookie dough has never dwindled, but I now make my own using all-natural ingredients. My health, arteries, and waistline thank me. Best of all, these cookie dough bites are still very much kid-approved.

Makes 14 small bites

Ingredients:

1 1⁄2 cups (375 mL) gluten-free rolled oats
2 tablespoons (30 mL) coconut oil
2 tablespoons (30 mL) smooth peanut butter, almond butter, or sunflower seed butter
1⁄4 cup (60 mL) pure maple syrup or other liquid sweetener
1 teaspoon (5 mL) pure vanilla extract
1⁄2 cup (125 mL) almond flour or almond meal
1⁄4 teaspoon (1 mL) fine-grain sea salt
2 tablespoons (30 mL) mini dark chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate

Method:

1. In a high-speed blender, blend the oats until a fine flour forms. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine the oil, peanut butter, maple syrup, and vanilla and beat with a hand mixer until smooth. Add the almond flour, oat flour, and salt and beat again until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

3. Roll the dough into small balls (about 1 tablespoon/15 mL of dough each). If chocolate chips fall to the bottom of the bowl, press them back into the dough when rolling. Place the finished bites on a plate lined with parchment paper.

4. Freeze the bites for 5 to 10 minutes, or until firm. Store the bites in the freezer in a freezer bag for quick and easy snacks.

Tips: For a nut-free version, simply swap sunflower seed butter for the peanut butter and more oat flour for the almond flour (add a splash of nondairy milk if the dough is a bit dry). Both versions work just fine. For a soy-free option, use soy-free chocolate chips (such as Enjoy Life brand).

The details:
The Oh She Glows Cookbook
By Angela Liddon
March 2014 by Avery, $25

Reprinted by arrangement with AVERY, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © GLO BAKERY CORPORATION, 2014.

Editor's note: Avery sent a review copy of this book for our consideration. Kidoinfo never accepts payment for reviews and only runs reviews of things we’ve tried and liked.

Recently my family got really into a card game: Anomia. And I got kind of evangelical about it. It's easy to carry, so I brought it in my bag whenever we were invited somewhere, just in case I might find players.

anomia_red-cardsI have played this game with adults, schoolchildren, and college students. Everyone* loves this game. Adults can play their hardest and lose to kids, and it only takes a few minutes to play an entire round. The only required skill is a tiny bit of reading. [*That is not true. Some people are naturally bad at this game (my husband), and people like that do not love it.]

To win at Anomia, all you need is the ability to name (kind of bagel) things, and fast. Why is this fun? We do not know. There is something about being put on the spot that makes it very, very difficult to name (three letter word) a thing quickly, and it is somehow giddy fun to feel your brain stutter while you try to come up with (book title) a thing before your opponent does. Anomia repeatedly forces you into what is commonly known as a brain fart, and this is somehow amusing to people of all ages. SESAME, DOG, PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY.

To play, you'll need at least three players, and the more you add (the box recommends up to 8!), the faster and more fun it gets, and there's never any boring waiting-for-your-turn part because you have to be ready to blurt the whole time. Anomia is easy to learn, and the instructions are written in a way that invites you to learn to play while you are reading the instructions, so you don't have to suffer through any boring learning-to-play time.

One caveat might be that Anomia can get loud. People who can't think of a word to say usually wind up going oh, oh, oh at increasing volumes as they try to churn something up. For us this was part of the fun. But being neither quiet nor subdued, a round of Anomia might not be a good choice for the Amtrack quiet car or strict old-fashioned library.

I'm still carrying Anomia around with me, in case I find myself in a situation with a table, some people, and some time. The basic set comes with two decks of cards. You need only one deck to play, but it's nice to alternate decks so your answers soak back into the depths of your brain before they're required again. Otherwise, whenever your opportunity to name some specific thing (article of clothing) comes up, you'll be screaming SOCKS before you have the chance to fall back into the thrilling, mysterious, wordless part of your brain.

Best-Lunch-Box-Ever-COVFor a few weeks back in September, I get gung-ho about packing lunches. My interest evaporates in October. It's the drear of wiping mustard from a rejected sandwich's turkey slices (up side = dog gets treat) and dumping miso soup out of thermoses (up side = to be determined) that overwhelms me. The bathos of turkey-wiping type activity is why I need to read so many books about packing lunch.

This year, my favorite is Best Lunch Box Ever. It's small and cute, but not too cute; the ideas inside are inspirational, but never ridiculous. Categories include sandwich-y things, wraps and pizza kinds of things, salads, salty snacks, jazzed-up leftovers, goodies, dips, and more. Mmm: try the coconut granola bark.

One genre I rehash each fall is pinwheel sandwiches. In Best Lunch Box Ever, medjool date-spinach caught my eye. And then, almost immediately, the sting of last year's rejected pinwheels came back in a heart-bruising wave. Roast beef with boursin glue, almond butter with apple. You held so much promise. Alas.

The next page I flipped to practically twinkled: smoked salmon & caper finger sandwiches. A ray of hope! We love smoked salmon. I'll cut crusts off of pumpernickel bread the night before! I already have the never-ending jar of capers from BJ's! This sandwich feels like fate. The black-brown bread and pinky-orange fish will be so pretty, and if it boomerangs home uneaten, it will taste great with a beer.

Other fun: lots of the paleo cookbooks published this year include solid/inspiring/do-able lunch box ideas. Because I am debilitatingly dependent on peanut butter, beans, and afternoon Diet Cokes, I'm generally a bad sport about paleo. However, it's impossible to deny that the paleo people are wizards at cramming maximum nutrition into a small space. And a lunch box is not large.

practical-paleo-bookThe best-looking paleo book I've read is Practical Paleo. This includes lots of science/nutrition preamble, and recipes for vegetables and meat galore, plus frills like carrot-ginger muffins and bacon brownies. Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook has a section of paleo lunch menus for kids, and has me convinced my kids would love to gnaw on cold spareribs in the cafeteria. Bones at school might be too weird (risk: ostracism); on the other hand, bones could be cool (perk: jump on table, use bone as air guitar, become hero). For supreme paleo-kid inspiration, grab a glass of lemon water and look here.

Each year at this time, I beg for lunch box ideas from friends and Anisa's readers. If you are inclined to share, please leave strokes of genius and/or medium so-so things that work OK for your family in the comments.

The details:

Best Lunch Box Ever
by Katie Sullivan Morford
2013 Chronicle Books $25

Practical Paleo
by Diane Sanfilioppo
2012 Victory Belt $40

Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook
by Sarah Fragoso
2012 Victory Belt $30

Maybe it’s our close proximity to the prestigious art school Rhode Island School of Design, or perhaps it’s because our towns are situated on their own little corner of the “sparkling sea”–but the East Bay of Rhode Island is a mecca for children’s books authors and illustrators.

One jewel among working artists in our community is none other than the gracious and talented author-illustrator Mary Jane Begin.

I have the great good fortune of being Ms. Begin’s neighbor–and friend, as well as the event-planner for Barrington Books, so when she pitched me the idea to host a launch party for her all new picture book, My Little Pony: Under The Sparkling Sea at the store, she barely got the words out when I said, “Yes, yes, and YES!” my wheels immediately turning about how to make it a magical event.

After all, a brand new original My Little Pony picture book is a BIG DEAL!  My Little Pony characters are held dear in the hearts of children. Their stories of friendship and adventure have captivated fans across the globe, from the hugely popular line of toys to the highly acclaimed “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” animated series, created by Hasbro Studios currently airing on The Hub TV Network in the United States.

The new book, My Little Pony: Under The Sparkling Sea, published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, brings to life a new underwater My Little Pony realm, “Aquastria” where an Annual Race is underway.  The book incorporates many best-loved My Little Pony characters, and introduces some all-new under-the-sea friends.

MLP_lowres.jpgEach page is a feast for the eyes, with vibrant color and Begin’s signature stunning detail.  Readers will pour over every page of this gorgeously illustrated book, which officially releases on April 23, 2013.

As fans eagerly await its release and the fabulous launch party planned at Barrington Books on Saturday April 27, 2013 from 1-4pm, Mary Jane opened the doors of her sunlight-filled Barrington studio to talk about her creative process with Anika Denise, and how this magical My Little Pony adventure came to be.

ANIKA: What initially drew you to the project?

MJB: “This idea of creating an original story for some of the Hasbro branded characters was the brainchild of a classmate from RISD, Ed Lane, Senior Art Director at Hasbro. He told me he had this idea about creating a unique, beautiful series of picture books…and he thought I would be perfect!  That was seven years ago over lunch at the Providence Art Club…things in life take twists and turns, but finally, that conversation turned into a reality two years ago and now the dream is about to land on the book shelf !!”

ANIKA: What was it like to approach the story and art for such a well-known, well-loved brand and cast of characters?

MJB: “My initial concern was that I wouldn’t be able to bring my own voice into the world of My Little Pony…I feared that my artistic vision would run headlong into the expectations of the fans, and I thought it might be too restrictive to work with a corporation on a tightly controlled property.

What I discovered, in working with the Hasbro Publishing team, was that they were so supportive of my work, and trusted me as an artist and writer so very much, that I was allowed to explore with utter freedom. I read all of the scripts for the show, looked at both the toy and the animation style for the ponies…and then, quite literally, fell asleep. I was camping, napping in a tent a few feet from the lakes edge…and the water sound and the ponies merged! I woke up, jotted down the story in my head on a wrinkled piece of paper…and knew it would be a wonderful adventure, both the book and the story.”

ANIKA: How long did it take you to complete the art?  

MJB: “The whole project took about 18 months, from writing the story, laying the book out, creating the sketches and then final paintings.  The paintings for the double pages are quite large for my detailed style and each one took from one week to three weeks to complete. All of the paintings were made in my little sunny studio in Barrington…a stone’s throw from Barrington Beach.  If I needed watery inspiration…I would just take a walk!”

ANIKA: What materials did you use?

MJB: “I used watercolor, pastel, colored pencil and some acrylic gloss medium on colored pastel paper to make the paintings.  I wanted the colors to pop and shimmer, like a jellyfish in the sea, iridescent, sparkling and jewel like. I wanted the book to feel like a place you’d love to visit! I created characters in colors that would play off the brand’s bright hues…that’s why Nar Wally, the Narwhal character is shimmery white, to reflect the ponies vibrant tones. The paintings will be on exhibit, opening the last weekend in June at the National Museum of American Illustration…http://www.americanillustration.org. My Little Pony: Under the Sparkling Sea will be on display in Rhode Island’s City-By-The-Sea seems like a good match to me!”

MARY JANE BEGIN is a Rhode Island—based award-winning illustrator known in particular for her acclaimed and much-beloved picture books, including Before I Go to Sleep, The Wind in the Willows, A Mouse Told His Mother, Little Mouse’s Painting, and The Porcupine Mouse. She has also done work for Hasbro, Milton Bradley, See’s Candies, The Franklin Mint, Celestial Seasonings, Disney, and many other companies, and she is a professor at Rhode Island School of Design. Visit her website www.maryjanebegin.com for more information on her books.

Details:
Premiere Book Launch Party of My Little Pony: Under The Sparkling Sea by Mary Jane Begin
Saturday, April 27 from 1-4pm
Where: Barringotn Books, Barrington, Rhode Island

Featuring

HASBRO and its logo, MY LITTLE PONY and all related characters are trademarks of Hasbro and are used with permission. © 2013 Hasbro. All rights reserved.

Alphabet soup: solved.

Alphabet soup uncluttered

This must be the feeling that keeps the niche porn industry afloat. What fun–and what a relief!–to see your private psychopathology transformed into beauty. We love Swiss artist Ursus Wehrli's new book The Art of Clean Up: Life Made Neat and Tidy.

Anyone on the rigid order-lust spectrum (with mild interest in The Container Store on one end, and clinically diagnosed OCD on the other) will get sucked right into Wehrli's work. He alphabetizes his alphabet soup (above); dismantles a Christmas tree into a pile of needles, bundle of sticks, coil of tinsel, and precise rows of ornaments; and arranges laundry on a clothesline in Roy G. Biv order. Parking lots filled with cars, beaches filled with people, and other messy situations are divided into components and arranged according to Wehrli's intoxicatingly soothing rules. There's no text. Each situation includes a before shot and an after, the ordinary jumble of life made manageable within each double-page spread.

Wehrli tidies up Paul Klee's mess

Fruit reorganization

These images are funny, surprising (even the stars and planets in the night sky get organized into tidy rows), and deeply peaceful.

klee

Wehrli tidies up Paul Klee's mess. I'm sure there's a reason why the yellow isn't between the orange and the green.

Wehrli tidies up what Paul Klee left a mess.

A better branch.

After our first reading of The Art of Clean Up, my ever-so-slightly OCD son was inspired to take apart a Lego model and arrange the pieces by size, then by color, then by color and size. Gorgeous. I was moved to gather up every disembodied Minifigure head I could find on a small tray. My not-at-all OCD son thought the book was fun; however, immediately after reading it he went down the street to play basketball, so–not to worry–The Art of Clean Up does not appear to turn an unaffected person into an obsessive-compulsive.

Ursus Wehrli's very funny TED talk on tidying up modern art is here.

The details:
The Art of Clean Up: Life Made Neat and Tidy
by Ursus Wehrli
March 2013 by Chronicle Books $15

 

Reviewed by Maura Keating

This review has been brought to you by the (divine?) intervention of the product that I am reviewing. Hallelujah! My hands are completely free!

http://www.mylittlejuel.com/prodimages/easyexpressions/main2.jpgLast year, I reviewed the Medela Freestyle Hands-Free Breast Pump and I loved it--I still love it. The pump is light, portable, and rechargeable. The breast shields have fewer pieces and are easy to clean. But the hands-free contraption that comes with the pump never quite worked for me. When I am at work, I have to pump at least twice a day, and after a while, I gave up the long process that was required to use the Medela pump hands free. It was easier and less stressful to stare at a wall. All that time staring at walls got me thinking--and wishing there was a product that would enable me to utilize the time I spend pumping. Luckily, there is.

The Easy Expression Hands-Free Bustier is a simple idea that works. The Bustier is a tube of fabric that zips in the front. The Easy Expression Bustier is designed to be form fitting. There are no straps to worry about, no snaps or ties to adjust. There is no need to remove your shirt and the Bustier can be worn over a traditional nursing bra--just undo the flaps of the nursing bra. Two holes in the Bustier stretch to support the breast shields of your pump.

The fabric is a cotton/Lycra blend that feels soft against the skin and has just enough stretch to make minor adjustments easy. I put the Easy Expression Bustier in the washing machine for a test run in a mesh delicates bag and it survived. However, since I can't imagine pumping without this, I would recommend hand-washing to ensure a long life.

Not only did the Easy Expression Bustier make pumping easier, it also improved my production. With my hands free, I am able to relax. I am no longer juggling two bottles, while trying to operate a breast pump and hating every minute of it. The Easy Expression Bustier also may improve positioning. Once you get set up, the bustier keeps everything where it is supposed to be.

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Editors Note: Maura has done a fabulous job test-driving and reviewing a number of double strollers recently, hopefully to help in your search to find the perfect one–or as close to perfect as possible. I never found "the perfect one" when my children were stroller-age because until just a few years ago there were fewer choices, especially ones that adapted easily to my growing children–from accommodating them in their car seats to when they could sit up on their own–yet still small enough to fit into the back of my car.

bumblerideindietwinspice1Parents today have many more options. You can now buy one that grows with your children, easy to collapse, lightweight and available in modern patterns and more color options. However what one urban mom considers to be the perfect stroller may not be same for a suburban parent. A mom of twins may need a different type of double stroller than the parent of mixed-age kids because of weight and balance. Depending on the number of children you have, how often you use it and your budget will also factor into your decision process.

I hope you find this guide helpful in your search for the "perfect" stroller(s). If you plan on buying more than one or would rather not pay full price, shop for a used stroller from a friend,  on craigslist or at your local second-hand or consignment store. A well-made stroller that holds up with repeated use or a rarely used stroller  may be a great buy, secondhand.

Double Strollers reviewed by Maura Keating

Everyone knows that life is a gamble. When you've got two kids, the cards change. These five double strollers will get you back in the game–no matter what kid combination you have got on your hands. One double stroller does not fit all. When choosing a double stroller, you must take into consideration the age and temperament–as well as the height and weight of all riders. Are both of your kids nappers? Does one child like to get in and out of strollers frequently? Do you frequent the zoo, a city park, or the beach?

The Phil and Ted's Dash and the UPPAbaby VISTA are single strollers that include optional add on adapters that transform your stroller into a double. They are perfect for the first time stroller owner who is pretty sure that more children will follow. They are also ideal for parents who have two, but sometimes travel only with one child. With both strollers, the change from single to double (and back again) is quick and painless. The compact design of the Dash and the VISTA make them perfect for city dwellers who will be navigating busy city streets.

The Bumbleride Twin and the Valco Baby Tri-Mode Twin are traditional side by side double strollers with unconventional twists. Both fit through standard doorways and have enough flair and finesse to make you forget your load. The Joovy Ergo transports two in style with its limousine styling and its ability to grow with you as your kids grow in size and stroller needs. These strollers make every stroll a walk in the park.

If two isn't enough, the Valco Baby Tri-Mode Twin offers an optional Toddler Seat that attaches to the top of the Twin or a Hitch Hiker that allows a toddler to hitch a ride in back. UPPAbaby offers a piggyBACK that attaches to the back of the VISTA to transport toddlers+ up to 50 pounds.

Buckle up! With two+ on board, you've always got to be ready to roll.

Follow Maura on Twitter!

The Companies mentioned above provided review samples for these articles. Neither the author nor Kidoinfo has received any monetary compensation for this review and we have no undisclosed relationship with these companies.

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