Unicorn Pancakes

I have one kid who will eat anything and another who won’t. What’s a mom to do but find a way to secretly sneak healthy food into something they both love; pancakes. It’s pink, it’s sweet, it’s got a great ratio of carbs, protein, and fiber. Am I also right when I say that kids will eat anything if you call it a unicorn?

Fresh from the griddle, my boys just grab and go. They jam them down without any butter or syrup!

So many of my friends have asked for this tasty stealthy recipe. Technically it’s a two-for-one post here because I will give you “Mama’s Pancake Mix,” which I always keep on hand. I’ll give you the recipe for making a classic buttermilk pancake with the mix. Then I will give you the alteration make it a UNICORN!

Side note, I use organic ingredients because I am paranoid about pesticides and wheat. Can I just say, if you make this mix the organic way,  the 5lb bag of organic flour will cost you as much as one of the organic mixes in the store. If you make the mix, you save so much casholla. Don’t feel any mom-guilt either way!

MAMA’s PANCAKE (dry) MIX (give credit where it’s due, Alton Brown, we love you)

  • 6 cups all-purpose organic flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (check expiration date first)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons organic sugar

The wet ingredients for when you are ready to make a Buttermilk Pancake

  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter at room temperature

The wet ingredients for when you are ready to make a Unicorn Pancake instead!

  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup full-fat original Greek yogurt
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter at room temperature
  • 1 4oz  beet/mix baby food
  • 1-2 tsp chia seeds (or ground flax if you want)

UNICORNS! UNICORNS! UNICORNS! (chanting)

Directions (makes 20 pancakes)

Grab three bowls; two large mixing bowls and one smaller one. Also grab a whisk.

In the small bowl, melt the butter and set aside for a quick minute. TIP: I use a silicone bowl.

In a large mixing bowl, add 2 cups Mama’s Pancake Mix. Set aside.

In the other large mixing bowl, add the milk, yogurt and baby food. Mix well. Add egg whites and mix well. Add chia seeds and mix well. Set aside.

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To the bowl of butter, add your egg yolks and mix well. Add them to the large wet ingredient bowl and mix.

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Mix yokes with the melted butter

Add the wet to the dry and mix together until combined. It can be a little lumpy. If you feel like it’s too thick, add one tbsp of milk at a time.

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Child anticipating pink unicorn pancakes

Set it aside for another quick minute.

 

Heat up your skillet. I like using the electric version and set it for 325 degrees.

Once it’s reached temp, you will see that your pancake mix is much more fluffy! Use a ice cream scooper to dollop onto the skillet. Cook like a traditional pancake; about 2 minutes each side.

TIP:  Freeze what’s left after the savages have eaten their share. Unicorns for days, literally.

 

Honey Bear Files: Everyone Has a Seat at the Table

I’ve been asking moms and dads for stories, and while I wait and edit, I have started a project of my own. I’ve started a podcast for my boys. Jack calls me Honey Bear, so alas, here is the Honey Bear Files. This first one is on a topic close to my heart: Everyone Has  A Seat at the Table.

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If you would like to submit a story for us to post, email me! mariah.cook@gmail.com

Should I Take My Kiddos to the Crocker this Summer? Yes!

With four kids under the age of seven, I’m always looking for new ways to get out of the house AND beat the heat. Tired of splash parks and not wanting to go to an indoor play place, we found ourselves at the Crocker Art Museum. I had been to the Crocker once before, many […]

via Mom of Four Small Children Braves the Crocker Art Museum and Leaves with Very Happy Kids — Family Fun in Sacramento

Mama’s Fridge Pickles

This year, I grew my cucumbers vertically. The result was that they have been able to protect themselves from the Sacramento heat and will not stop producing. It’s been the summer of Mama’s Fridge Pickles!

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This is my personal recipe that I’ve tailored from a few trial and error attempts with multiple recipes. I love it because the cucumbers are jared in less than 15 minutes and the pickles are ready after 6 hours! They only keep for 6 weeks in the refrigerator, so make a note on the jar.

Here is what you will need:
4-6 cucumbers (I used 4 lemon cucumbers for this)
1/2 cup white vinegar
3 tsp Kosher Salt
3 springs fresh dill
1 smooshed garlic clove
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or a leftover pack from the pizza place)
1 quart Mason Jar
Mandoline (optional)

If you gather all you need first, this will go very quickly. If you have impatient kids who want to help, this is a bonus step.

First, wash and slice your cucumbers. I use a Mandoline because it’s fast and consistent. I do not recommend this as a kid job. It’s definitely a grown person job (for fingers sake). The goal is to have enough slices to reach the top of the mason jar.

Speaking of your mason jar, take two or three stalks of dill (or half of a dill package from the store) and cut off the stalk leaving the beautiful leafy part. Discard the stalk. Give the dill a little squeeze with your hands and place them in the bottom of your mason jar.

Smash a clove of garlic and drop it in.

Toss in your salt. Throw in your vinegar. Sprinkle in your pepper flakes. Tighten the lid back onto the jar and give that mason a good shimmy shake for about a minute.

Here is where you have to trust me. You will look at this mixture and then look at the cucumbers and want to shake your head. It’s going to be okay. Science is going to do the rest of the job and we just get to observe.

Place your cucumbers in the jar in the mixture. Some of you are great at making things pretty. I applaud you. Although this is a present for my friend Brit (you can see her art here), this is about as adorable as I can get. You do you. I’ll be me. It all tastes the same in the end.

After I fill it all the way up with the cucumbers, I tighten the lid back on. I flip it over one time to let all the liquid come to the top, just for a moment, then flip it back right-side up. Then I pop it in the refrigerator.

It only needs 6 hours. Come back to it. Flip it again if you want to, although you don’t have to. I often can’t resist the urge. The longer you let it sit, the more your stack will shrink.

In the end, your jar will probably be only three quarters full of pickles. This is a good thing!

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Don’t forget to add the expiration date and enjoy!

Written by Mariah Cook, Sacramento local and toddler mom with another baby on the way (any day). Pregnancy brain motivated her to write her recipe down somewhere otherwise it would be lost for good.

 

 

 

DIY Infused Local Honey

Ever thought of making your own line of honey without becoming a beekeeper? Need a project to do with school-aged kids while making gifts for friends this season? Today is your day!

This year, I decided to infuse Sacramento honey with garden herbs! To gift 12 special people in my life, I spent about $2.50 a person.

Here is what you will need:

  • 5 days lead time
  • Honey (I got 5 lbs because I wanted extra, talk to the honey people)
  • 12- 4oz mason jars
  • Dried Herb – choose one herb type per jar. If possible, dry the herb on the stem
  • Large soup pot
  • Tea kettle

First, stop by Sacramento’s famous Sacramento Beekeeping Store, located near X & 21st Street. Did you know they have a tasting area? For real though! You can taste all sorts of local honey and decide which one would go best with the herb of your choice. Also, they can help you calculate how much honey you will need. Why is that important? Because honey is very dense and is measured by weight verses ounces. For a 4oz jar you need 5oz honey. Honestly, my brain cannot even handle the calculations and lucky for me the beekeepers are there to help.

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When you see this, you’ve come to the right place! My kid is cute, right?!

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Tasting area! All were delish!

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Sacramento Wildflower honey has a strong and wonderful taste.

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I chose Delta Wildflowers! It’s more mellow. Who knew?!

Okay, a note about your dried herbs. The jar will look cuter when the herb is dried on the stem. A trimming of rosemary or mint can be dried upside down in a paper bag. You can also use a dehydrator but be careful with your delicate babies.  The key is to have completely dried herbs that are fresh (if not dried all the way, they will mold).

I wanted to use lavender but quickly learned a couple facts from reading up on it. First, only English Lavender is edible. That’s important, right? Second, only the flowers have enough flavor to infuse. My plants at home are not in season so I made due with purchasing local buds from my honey friends.

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Local herbs and instructions. Better safe that sorry.

So you’re ready? Let’s do this!

Sanitize your mason jars and lids. I boil the pieces for about 5 minutes and then let air dry.

Put a sprig of herb in the bottom of your container or along the side. I used flower buds so I put 1/2tsp in the bottom of my jar. Meantime, warm water in your kettle until  it’s screaming. Then pour water into a soup pot. Place the honey (in the container you purchased it in) into the hot water to warm it until it’s nice and syrupy. The runnier the honey the better. Add more water as needed.

Once the honey is warmed, pour it into your jars. You will notice that the herbs want to rise to the top. That’s okay!

Close them up and store them upside down for 5 days.

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For flower buds, flipping them doesn’t matter; however, for sprigs it does.

All that’s left is to make them cute and give them away!

Side note, if you want to infuse more flavor than what this recipe suggests, a drop or two of edible essential oil of your herb will do the trick. Just warm the honey jar in a water bath, add and stir.

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My cute honey pots ready to go to their new holiday homes. I added a note stating it was Sacramento Delta Wildflowers for an “oooh-aaah”factor.

Did you know that honey never goes rancid? If it crystalizes, you can just warm it up in a water bath and it will be as good as new.

That’s about it. Have fun giving your one of a kind honey to your friends!

Written by Mariah Cook, Sacramento mom and lover of bees everywhere. After making and giving this honey, she was was asked if she has her own bee hive. She thinks the beekeepers in Sacramento are doing a mighty fine job and she will gladly support their work. 

Homemade Wooden Ornaments

If you have a miter saw and a tree branch, then I have a craft for you that goes beyond coasters (And a great project for older kids).

I started a tradition last Thanksgiving of giving my nephews and my son Christmas ornaments. This year, I wanted to also incorporate some branches I saved for crafting. I experimented with both birch and redwood for this craft. Overall, the birch was easier to work with verses the redwood, however, in the end I chose redwood primarily because I thought it was prettier.

Here’s what you need:
Miter saw (also known as a chop saw)
Drill and wood drill bit (to make hole)
Tree ranch that is consistent in size and is straight
Chalk board paint
Pencil and eraser
Ruler
Wood burning tool with ball point and calligraphy tips
Chalk pencil or permanent chalk marker ( I ended up using a metallic marker)

I chose to cut my rounds 1/2 inch thick from a branch that was about 3 inches in diameter. Just a suggestions, cut as many rounds from your branch as possible regardless of how many you will actually need. For example, I needed four rounds, but the branch I chose was long enough to make ten, so I cut all ten. This is because wood isn’t perfect and you never know what kinds of imperfections or colors you will discover once you slice into it. Afterwards, pick your favorite pieces for your project and use the rest for practicing ideas or coasters for your table (A pack of 6 makes for a great hostess gift).

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This piece of birch has water stains, soft spots and pink marks. Each round is one of a kind!

Drill a hole at the top of your round. Paint one side with the chalk board paint. For me, it was easier using my finger to paint because I didn’t want to get any on the bark.

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Example of a redwood round drilled and painted.

You remember those extra rounds? Ok! Bust them out to practice using that wood burner! Every piece of wood is different and you want to get the feel for what you are working with before you do your final piece. Why? Because you cannot erase burnt wood, LOL, so you have only one shot! No pressure…

I cannot free-hand anything. For real though. So I used printed images to to inspire me. Remember, these aren’t perfect circles, so centering images can be tricky. I sketched my image with a pencil so I could erase if needed and clean up when done.

After, and only after, feeling confident in practicing with the burner, I went to work. I found that the calligraphy tip worked great for straight edges and the ball point was perfect for rounded ones.

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Imperfect and adorable!

Then came the hand lettering on the chalk side. Again, I need ideas in front of me and to pencil out what I want to do ahead of time. I used this book:

I went over the penciled areas with a chalk pencil, but ended up using a metallic paint pen instead based on my own personal preference.

My nephews loved their gifts and I know I was happy with the one I made for my son. Mine aren’t fancy enough for etsy, but I know some of you could probably make money off your mad skills! Enjoy!

Written by Mariah Cook, AKA Auntie MoMo.

FAQ: What to Wear at a Photo Shoot

You want answers; we get it! One of your FAQs has been: Any ideas on how I should dress my family for a photo shoot? What if I’m a pregnant? Sacramento mom and professional photographer, Jillian Gorman, has heard you and has some tips.

There are a ton of things that go into the process of planning a photo shoot: Finding the right photographer, scouting locations, checking the weather, etc. But the question I get asked the most is, “So what do we wear?”

FAMILY PORTRAITS
Unless clients have some crazy, fun, and colorful inspiration already lined up, I usually start by telling my clients to choose one or two colors to incorporate into everyone’s outfit. From there, go neutral. Grays, blacks, navy, denim, creams, and whites perfectly pair with any color. For example, Mom wears the chosen color on top, Dad wears neutral. Kids can go neutral with pops of color in accessories, like hairbands, scarves, ties, shoes, or whatever! Or wear a patterned top. Have fun with it!
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Going all-neutral ain’t a bad idea either. I love the boys in black leather and Mama all glammed-up in her creamy sweater and light-peach tulle skirt.
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Most importantly, dress comfortably and have options. Put a couple different looks together and decide as a family! If you have little ones, just keep in mind that the more comfortable they feel in their clothing and accessories, the better your chances of them cooperating. There also may be a long walk or uneven ground involved, so putting them in those ridiculously fancy shoes could make for a bad time.

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MATERNITY PORTRAITS
Styling pregnant women has to be the highlight of shooting maternity photos. Stick mama in an amazing unique location and bam! Perfection! Most mamas go straight for the maxi-dress, and I’m not complaining. It’s a genius way to show off the bump and it’s easy for wardrobe decisions. Also, a lot of maternity clothing can be pricey and you probably won’t wear most of it after baby comes. Thus, maxi-dresses are a definite go-to in my book! Both mamas pictured below got their dresses at Forever 21 and can wear them again post-baby.

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Don’t be afraid of getting a little creative accessory-wise! Throwing in a cute hat or a bouquet makes your photos stand out from the rest.

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If you’re not feeling the dress, that’s alright. Although finding an outfit may be a bit more of a task, it’s definitely doable. This mama did a great job of choosing a cute floral and flowy top for her spring pregnancy.

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Above all, dress as your best “you” and you won’t go wrong. I hope this helps you busy parents achieve stress-free decision-making when it comes to styling your wardrobe at your next photo shoot!

Jillian and her husband live in Sacramento with their three daughters. For more information about her work visit:  jilliangormanphotography.com or on instagram: jilliangormanphotography.

Hidden Falls Family Hike

Just in time for Father’s Day comes a Mother’s Day story to inspire your weekend as you plan for the dads in your life. A day trip to Hidden Falls Regional Park in Auburn.

I have an 8 year old. Wait, he’s 8 and a half. That half is very important. He’s in training to become a Beastie Boy. All ragers, pranks, loud music and fighting for one’s right to party. I have no idea where he gets this from.

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So for my 9th year as a mother, I requested a pretty simple itinerary to celebrate. I wanted to start the day with a little breakfast, a bloody mary (or two), a nature walk with my little family and dogs, then finish the day with an afternoon nap. No biggie right? Well everything was going to go as planned, but the week leading up to Mother’s Day, sickness struck our household like lightening! My son came down with a very vague illness whose primary symptoms were a low-grade fever, cough and the intense need to play hours of Minecraft. Then my husband got a stomach bug where all he could do was lay in bed and read the entire internet on his phone. It was a dire time in our house and our Mother’s Day plans were touch and go there for a bit. Fortunately by Sunday, the fog of sickness lifted just enough for my guys to pull themselves together and treat me to a lovely day.

On Mother’s Day morning, my son gifted me with flowers and a decoupaged plate with an adorable poem on it. It was enough to swell the heart with love. If this is what he thinks of when he thinks of mom, I’m very happy.

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Then we had the aforementioned breakfast at home and then hit the road for our nature walk. One of our favorite spots to wander around on nicely groomed trails is Hidden Falls Regional Park in Auburn. I think it’s maybe everyone’s favorite spot now because weekends draw out Disneyland sized crowds on the trails there.

It’s California-beautiful with rolling yellow hills and green, green oaks and fluffy Ponderosa pines.

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Golden poppies for days.

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And they allow leashed dogs. Even cute little hellions like this one. I’m joking, this dog is very well behaved. She is the only living thing in our home that actually does what I tell her to. [There may or may not have been random animal droppings under that pink paw icon.]

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There’s a newly refurbished overlook deck for the Hidden Falls waterfall. It’s very pretty.There are a ton of different trail loops of varying length and difficulty. Our 8 year old with his boundless energy and enthusiasm for nature can do about 4 or 5 miles so long as we keep him topped off with the right balance of snacks, water and distraction. Otherwise I’m carrying a kid 10 inches shorter than me on my back which looks about as ridiculous (and kind of precious) as you can imagine. Lol. I’m kidding! Dad carries him. It’s still precious. Thanks babe.

After the hike I was feeling positively parched! So my loves took me to Knee Deep Brewing Company just down the highway.  Knee Deep allows dogs in their tasting room, so we brought in our two, snorty old Boston Terriers who lazed about the cool concrete floors. I just looked at that snoozy heap of Bostons and suddenly a nap seemed like the greatest idea ever, so we headed home. Falling asleep is the best feeling in the world and my Mother’s Day nap was just glorious.

I’m a lucky lady to have this husband and son! They did a great job in making it a fun and mellow Mother’s Day for me. Good job guys. This effort will be duly noted with Father’s Day and somebody’s 9th birthday approaching in the coming months.

Written by Niki Ortiz Levy. She has some pretty funny stories and thoughts on her life as a parent, which you can find on her blog (CLICK HERE).

Day Tripping to Napa With a Kid. It Can Be Done!

I had one last three-day weekend before summer started and I wanted (needed) to get out of dodge for one day. My mission? To plan and execute a day trip to Napa, CA with a 1 yr old and a husband who likes wine, food, and fun.

People in Sacramento don’t really think about it, but Napa is only about an hour away. If there is traffic, it’s still only a couple of hours away at the most. We should really go there more often.

We planned our driving around naps, because we don’t hate ourselves that much.

8AM – Hit the road

9AM – Breakfast in Napa

We chose to go to the Boon Fly Cafe. Besides being popular with both locals and visitors, this place is very kid-friendly. Yes, there will be a wait. Yes, they offer free coffee while you wait or you can order a Mimosa or Bloody Mary. In addition, they have porch swings to sit in while you wait on the porch too. My kid loved this. I loved the kids’ menu, their attitude towards my kid, and the free crayons. You probably won’t even be the only one with kids; which is saying a lot for Napa.

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10:30AM – Walk and Shop

Go to the Oxbow Public Market, you will thank me later. There are lots of families there and it gets crowded. I personally love that about this place. It is a treasure trove of goodies, specialty items, and more food. Nothing says “Napa,” quite like this place. Locals love it.

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After about 30 minutes you will be asking, “What now?” Well, since you are already parked at the market, take a walk up 1st Street to downtown Napa. Across the river bridge you will see a little park, but it’s not much. From here, you have the opportunity to take yourselves on a walking tour of the city and scout out where you might want to have dinner.

12:00PM – My kid needs to play and eat before his nap

Grab your car and head to Fuller Park. It’s just your standard park and jungle gym, but it gets the job done.

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1:00PM – Nap Time/ Scenic Drive

Go to Google Maps. If you find the Best Western at The Vines, you will also find the start of Silverado Trail Road (on the corner of Soscol Avenue and Silverado Trail Road). Take Silverado Trail Road all the way to St. Helena! It’s a beautiful drive and is the path less taken, so you won’t deal with bumper to bumper traffic.

P.S. I love stopping at Mumm

1:45PM – Pit Stop for Napa Valley Olive Oil Mfg Company in St. Helena

From Silverado Trail Road, turn left on Pope Street. Then left on Allison Avenue. Park in the shade. Leave one adult in the car if the kids are still sleeping. No need to wake them up for this. The owners will let you sample the oil, vinegar and cheese. Over 100 years in this location and they still only accept cash and personal checks. If you bring your kids into the shop, just know the owners love kids and will talk very sweetly to them in Italian accents. Adorable!

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2:30PM – Picnic at a Park

After a nap, your kid(s) will need some snacks and some play time. Very close to the Olive Oil place is Jacob Meily Park. Here is the cool description from their website:
Located on Pope Street, the four-acre park is named after General Jacob Meily who, in 1880, established his vineyards on the park site and winery in the adjacent barn across Sulphur Creek from the park. The park amenities include parking, restrooms, turf area, picnic tables, playground, and a paved walking trail along Sulphur Creek.

3:30PM – Drive down Main Street back to Napa

Endless wineries, eateries and shops to stop along the way. If you are having a hard time finding Main Street, put Dean & DeLuca into your GPS and you will be on your way. I love stopping there on my way out of town. Their food is scrumptious and there is an outside fountain and grassy area for additional romping.

6:00PM – Drive on home!

Written by Mariah Cook. She and little family live in Sacramento, obviously.