Saturday, January 17, 2015

Mexican Tuna Macaroni Casserole

We're generally not big casserole eaters in our house. Not because we don't think they're delicious, it's just not something we usually think of when trying to make up our weekly meal plans. There was no plan for dinner tonight and I wanted something Mexican themed, and I knew we had some tuna in the cupboard just asking to get used. So I started doing some searching on the web for a Mexican Tuna casserole and was pretty disappointed at what I found. So I went "off book" and made up my own recipe.

And OMG. It was delicious and it smelled soooo good! And it was also super easy and an incredibly cost effective meal to boot. It made five adult servings, but you could easily get more if it was served with a side salad or something. There was supposed to be some black beans in there too, but I thought we had some so I didn't pick any up at the grocery store, and then got home and realized we in fact did not. I'll try adding them next time, but it was amazing without them, so maybe I won't bother!

Mexican Tuna Macaroni Casserole:


- Approx 3 cups of cooked elbow macaroni (al dente, since it will cook more in the oven)
- 1 can of cheese soup (you could use a low fat cream soup as well if you preferred)
- 1 cup salsa
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 1/2 cup diced celery
- olive oil
- 1 cup corn
- 1 can diced green chilies
- 1/2 TBS taco seasoning
- 1 can flaked tuna, drained (or chunked broken up, etc.)
- grated cheese 


1. Cook macaroni according to directions on the box, but only cook till al-dente since the pasta will cook more in the oven and you don't want it to get mushy.
2. Add the diced onion and celery to a pan with a bit of oil to soften.
3. Transfer onion and celery to a large bowl. Add in soup, salsa, corn, green chilies, tuna, and taco seasoning. Mix well to combine.
4.. Pour tuna macaroni mixture into oven safe casserole dish. Top with grated cheese and bake at 350 degrees for approx 25 minutes, or until cheese is browned and bubbly.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Craft Ideas: Handprint Christmas Tree

We've got our decorations up and the house is full of Christmas. The boy-o has been busy making some Christmas art, and one of them has been hung up in his play corner. We made a Christmas Tree out of his handprints, with his name written in block letters as the "stem" of the tree. I'm really pleased with how well it turned out, and the boy-o had a blast painting.

We simply painted his hand in one colour and stamped all of that colour of handprint, and then switched to the second colour and did all of those prints together. After we finished our specific painting project I just let him have at it with the paint which resulted in lots of smiles. 

This was a super easy craft to make and would be a great gift for those hard to buy for grandparents or aunts/uncles that you don't get to see very often. It also looks really cute framed up on the wall. Just remember to write the date on the back so years from now when you're looking at it again you remember when it was made. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas Musings: 24 Books for Advent

I have to admit that in the last several years I've really lost that "magical" Christmas feeling. As a kid it was amazing of course, but as I got older I became rather disenchanted with Christmas and the crazy consumer culture that exists around it. I don't like accumulating "stuff" just for the sake of it and I really struggle with the idea of making up Wish Lists filled with things I don't need.

I've noticed this year though now that the boy-o is old enough to have at least some idea of what's going on I'm a little more excited about Christmas than I have been in past years. We've decided to start a new "Advent Calendar" tradition with the boy-o and rather than opening a cheap cardboard chocolate calendar window every day, we've decided to wrap up 24 books (some of them books we already had, and some of them new ones) and every night before bed the boy-o will get to unwrap one to read as our bedtime story that night. There will be one book for each of the 24 days, with the 24th book being "Twas The Night Before Christmas."

Most of the books are winter or Christmas themed but not all of them since we used some books we already had mixed in with some new books. Next year we'll by the second half of them so that they're all winter/Christmas themed. After the 12 Days of Christmas are over we'll put the books away again to save them for Advent next year. We're all big fans of reading in our house, and the boy-o loves books, so this seemed like a perfect way to keep that excitement about books going for as long as possible!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Kid's "Busy Bag" Items: Part I

I've decided to take up a new creative enterprise and make up some portable activities for toddlers and young children to use in the car, on planes, at restaurants, in doctor's offices, or any other place kids are expected to sit quietly. I've decided to make up several different little activities that I can put into these "Busy Bags" and then sell them at local craft shows.

The first one that I've made up is something that you might have seen floating around the internet already, and that's the DVD case turned into portable drawing/colouring station. The first one I made was definitely a bit of an experiment, but I think it turned out quite well and is something that I can work with to perfect the pattern for the next one.

I also really love the concept of upcycling and giving old materials new life--especially when it comes to kids stuff since they grow and change so fast.

I think the idea of having something like this to tuck away in your diaper bag/purse/stroller is genius and would definitely make life a little easier sometimes. What do you think?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Beef and Sausage Slow-Cooker Stew

When it gets chilly outside nothing beats throwing dinner together in a slow-cooker and letting it simmer away all day. It's such a relief to come home to a hot dinner that's filled the apartment with delicious smells and is ready when I am. We're trying to use the slow-cooker more, and part of that has been venturing out into stews. I'm not a huge fan of stew because I don't dig chunks of meat like that, but making it myself was a much better experience. I was able to trim the meat to my preferences, and I made sure to dice it into smaller bite sized pieces (rather than the huge chunks you often see--which, I'll admit, gross me out.)

This is the recipe that we used this week:

Beef and Sausage Slow-Cooker Stew:


- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 2 TSP salt
- 1 TSP black pepper
- 3 lbs beef for stew
- 1 can diced tomatoes in juice, undrained
- 1/2 lb smoked sausage, diced
- 3 potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 cup chopped leak
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 4 stalks of celery, diced
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 3 gloves of garlic, minced
- 1 TSP dried thyme


1. Combine 1/2 cup flour, salt, pepper, and beef into sealed bag and shake to coat.
2. Place beef in slow cooker, and add remaining ingredients. Sir well and cover. Cook on low 8 to 12 hours, or on high 4 to 6 hours.
3. If stew is too liquidy before serving, add a TBSP of flour to stew and stir well. Simmer until stew thickens and serve!

This delicious stew will go perfectly with a nice big hunk of zucchini and cheese damper too! The meat was so tender it essentially fell apart in the stew making it almost more of a ragu than a stew and it was delicious. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Popsicle Stick Matching and Slot Game

We've been doing lots of activities to work on the boy-o's fine motor skills after hearing that many 2 year old no longer have properly developed fine motor skills from spending so much time playing on phones and iPads. He doesn't get any screen time yet (TV either) but it still concerns me that this could even be a thing, so we do lots of sensory stuff to work on his fine motor skills anyway!

He really likes to match things, and he's quite good at it actually. So our newest game is to take a pile of coloured Popsicle sticks and hand him a colour, and then he finds all the other sticks that are the same colour. (Not colour blind-check!)

I converted an old ice cream bucket into a slotted sorter, and once he's matched up the colours he pushes the Popsicle sticks through the small slots on the lid into the container. Once he slides them all in he likes the sound of shaking the bucket and then asks for them to be dumped out so he can do it over again.

The slots in the lid are just barely bigger than the Popsicle stick, so he has to line them up just right and push them to get them through. For little ones who are just beginning to work on motor control you could make the slots much bigger.

This fine motor activity is great because he'll sit there for 30 minutes sliding the sticks in, dumping them out, and starting over again. There is no mess to clean up and the sticks can store inside the ice cream tub for next time. It simultaneously works on colour recognition, matching skills, and fine motor skills. Eventually I'll get around to decorating the bucket, but for now, it works just the way it is! It's the first toy he's gone for the last couple of mornings after waking up, so it must be a keeper!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Moon Dough/Cloud Sand

After posting my last recipe for play dough, I had several people asking me about Moon Dough (also sometimes called Cloud Sand) so I figured I'd try that out with the boy-o today. You can buy Moon Dough from most toy stores, but really for what you're getting it costs a fortune! Moon Dough is spectacularly easy to make at home, and when stored in an air tight container it lasts for many re-plays.

Not only is Moon Dough super easy to make, it only requires two ingredients (three if you want to get fancy), but it's a wonderful in-expensive sensory activity to do with your little. Moon Dough acts very similar to wet sand, but has a much softer and velvety feel to it. We added a tiny bit of food colouring to the oil when we made ours, and since oil and food colouring don't mix well we ended up with flecks of blue colouring in the sand rather than all blue sand which made a really neat effect.


Moon Dough (like sand) can be quite messy, so we played with it in one of our trays and we put a smock on the boy-o. We had him strapped into the highchair and put the metal tray on top of his highchair tray. It worked out really well and sweeping the spills off the tile floor was quick and easy. 

We added a few Tablespoons and some dishes from his kitchen to enhance our play with the Moon Dough. The boy-o loved scooping it up and dumping it into another container and then dumping it out and starting all over again. He played well by himself for a bit while I finished up making supper, and then I joined in for a bit too. He loved watching it "snow" when I dropped it between my fingers making little flakes of it fall.

Moon Dough Recipe:


- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup oil
- Food colouring (optional)


1. Add a few drops of food colouring to oil if desired and mix.
2. Add oil mixture to flour and using your hands work the Moon Dough until the oil has touched all the flour and made a crumbly mixture that sticks together when pressed firmly together. 
3. Play!
4. When finished store Moon Dough in an air tight container for another day of fun.

Another great rainy day activity or boredom buster!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Super Soft No-Cook Play Dough

Play dough is one of my favourite kid's toys to play with. I love squishing it and making little sculptures with it, and then rolling it all back into a ball to play with again another day. The boy-o had never played with it before so I figured it was definitely time to make some for him to try out. I wasn't sure how well he would like the texture, but since we've been trying to focus on sensory activities the last little while, it seemed like a great time to test it out! Making your own play dough is also so simple and cost effective that once you try out this recipe you'll never bother buying it again!

The Cream of Tartar is the secret to making super soft play dough that will still that way for months.

No-Cook Play Dough Recipe:


- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 TBSP vegetable/olive oil
- 1/2 cup salt
- 2 TBSP cream of tartar
- Up to 1 1/2 cups of boiling water
- Food colouring


1. Mix the flour, salt, cream of tartar and oil together in a large bowl.
2. If using food colouring, add desired amount to the boiling water.
3. Slowly add water into dry mixture and only add enough to combine all the dry ingredients together.
4. Allow play dough to cool down for a few minutes and then remove from the bowl and knead with hands several times until the dough becomes workable and the stickiness is gone. If dough is still too sticky add more flour.
5. When you're finished playing, you can store your play dough in a sealed container for up to 6 months. (6 months!)

As I predicted the boy-o was a little unsure about the texture of the playdough, and did his little dance routine where he sort of pokes at something new really quick and then hops around it, and then pokes at it again, and does some more hoping around. (It's pretty adorable and hilarious to watch...) But once he saw mama and daddy playing with it and we grabbed one of his hands and stuck it in the play dough he warmed up pretty quickly.


Once he got comfortable playing with it we brought one of his trucks into the mix. We drove the truck back and forth over the play dough looking at the tire tread marks that it made, as well as whether it rolled better on the play dough or on the floor. 


Then once he was comfortable playing with his truck in the play dough we added in some of the plastic play knives from his kitchen to cut the play dough with and carve pictures and letters into it. In total he sat and played with it for about 30 minutes, and if it wasn't dinner time I'm sure he would have happily sat and played even longer!

This play dough will keep for about 6 months in a sealed container though, so we'll have many more opportunities to play with it another day!