Friday, November 21, 2014

Light & Creamy Wild Mushroom Pasta


There's something about cool crisp weather that makes me crave warm and creamy carbs.  But of course, this time of year is also notorious for rich, gluttonous food, so I've been in search of lightened-up pasta recipes that are easy to make during the week in big batches, so we have plenty of leftovers for lunch.  So, when I was asked to create a recipe using the newly formulated I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!® I knew I wanted to create a lightened version of one of my favorite pasta recipes.   
The new I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!® is made from real, simple ingredients – 100% taste, 0% artificial preservatives – and is still unbelievably delicious.  This new recipe is offered in the Original, Light, and Olive Oil varieties.  The new I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!® is made from real, simple ingredients like plant-based oils, purified water and a pinch of salt.  It's the first spread from Unilever in the U.S. to be made from non-GMO sourced ingredients and is available in grocery stores nationwide beginning October 2014. Visit us at www.icantbelieveitsnotbutter.com to learn more.
For this collaboration, I started with a recipe for a wild mushroom pasta and played around with it to lighten it up.  Instead of full-fat butter, I used the new I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!®, cut down on the cream and added some veggies and spice.  I absolutely LOVE the way it turned out (it was just as good, if not better than the original recipe) and despite me making a huge batch, we ate the entire pot and didn't have any leftovers!  I think that's the sign of a good dinner.  Even Mac had a couple bites, despite telling me 600 times that "I no like mushrooms."  
The mushrooms are definitely the main focus of this pasta dish.  The recipe calls for a mix of exotic mushrooms, and I used a blend of baby portabellas/cremini, shikati and oyster mushrooms.  Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free, gluten-free, very low in sodium, and provide important nutrients like selenium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D and more.  When I was pregnant with Mim, I craved mushrooms for months and made this pasta at least a dozen times.   You can probably use any blend/combination of mushrooms you want.  
Light & Cream Wild Mushroom Pasta

Ingredients:
- box of pasta (rigatoni or bowties)
- 12-16 ounces of wild mushrooms (cremini, shitaki, oyster, button)
- 3 tablespoons of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!®
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 3 teaspoons salt, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 2 cups fresh spinach
- 1/2 cup grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Directions:
1. Cook pasta according to package; drain.
2. Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, black pepper, red pepper and mushrooms to pan.  Cook 12 minutes or until liquid evaporates and mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally.
3. Add wine and broth; cook 5 minutes or until liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.
4. Add cooked para, whipping cream, spinach, cheese and 1 tablespoon parsley.  Tossing to coat.  Stir in remaining salt (add more (or garlic salt) to taste, if necessary).  Garnish with rest of parsley and Parmesan.
You are going to LOVE this recipe.  It's creamy, without being overly thick or heavy.  The spinach and parsley give it a light fresh taste and the red pepper flakes give it a tiny bit of spice.  Feel free to add more pepper for more spice or substitute snow peas for the spinach.  The mushrooms give the pasta such a nice earthy nutty flavor. This is a vegetarian dish, but would be great if you added some shredded chicken or maybe a turkey sausage.  Make it your own!  
But of course, serve with wine!  


The new I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!® offers a fresh butter taste to add flavor to any meal, and can be used for spreading, topping, sautéing, cooking or baking.  In stores now!  



Anyone else a mushroom lover?
What are some of your favorite fall meals?


*I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Maxi-Cosi Kaia Stroller Review

Ok mamas, raise your hand if you're a stroller addict...

I know you're all out there.  You cannot hide.  Admitting you have a problem is the first step.  Come on...

My hand is currently raised high in the air.  I am finally admitting it.  I'm a stroller addict.  We currently have four strollers.  Only four.  But if I had my way (and unlimited funds and a second garage), then we'd have a dozen.  Or at least one for every day of the week.  I had no idea how much I liked strollers until I had one. They're amazing.  Strollers are basically a big apparatus that contains/restrains your wild unruly child, holds your beverage and stores all your crap so you don't have to carry anything. What's not to love?

We currently have a designer "jogging" stroller (that's not a jogging stroller), a double stroller, a real jogging stroller and a car seat carrier/stroller.  What I didn't have was a lightweight, fully-collapsible stroller (umbrella stroller).  So naturally I was thrilled when we got the chance to review the Maxi-Cosi Kaia, as part of their new Bohemian Blue line of products.  Yes please!  
The box arrived at our house a few weeks ago and from the moment I saw it, I was in love.  I am so pleasantly surprised at how light and compact the stroller is.  Compared to all of our other strollers, this one is so lightweight!  To date, I've never taken a stroller with us on vacation or any trips because the ones we have are so heavy-duty, compared to this one.  The Kaia is definitely one that we could easily travel with and take on a plane without a huge hassle.  So bonus points right there.    
I also appreciate how easy it was to put together.  I've left the other strollers up to my husband to assemble because they've been beasts and the instructions are 80 pages long.  This stroller took me less than 10 minutes and was a breeze to do by myself.  Pop on the wheels, the canopy and the cupholder and you're basically done. 
I love the color.  I wasn't sure if this was going to be too loud for me, but I love it.  It's bright, it's fun, it stands out in a sea of boring other strollers, which means I get lots of questions and comments about it from other moms.  The colors are really pretty and I love the stripes on the seat. 
The Kaia is also a breeze to collapse.  One pop of the back foot lock and then just squeeze the handles and the whole thing folds up into a nice compact package, that even stands upright on its own.  This is HUGE because it means that I can put it in our hall closet without it falling all over the place or laying across the floor.  It's so nice having a stroller that doesn't take up massive amounts of real estate in your house.
Mac was thrilled to get a new stroller and so excited when I asked him if he wanted to take a walk around the neighborhood to try it out.  He thinks that all the packages that come in the mail are his, so obviously this is "his" stroller.  And for now it is, so I just let him believe that.  The Kaia fits children 6 months and up (up to age 4 or 50 pounds), so Mim is too little to use it.  However, unlike other lightweight umbrella strollers, this one has the ability to be a travel system and can be used with a Maxi-Cosi infant car seat, with the adapter (which is included).  We have a Maxi-Cosi convertible car seat (which is crazy nice and very plush), but not the infant seat, so we're a bit out of luck there. Although, based on how much we like the convertible seat and the stroller, it's definitely a brand I'd consider if I was purchasing a new infant seat.  
But Mac seemed to really like the stroller.  He liked pushing it, he liked playing with it, climbing on it and even riding in it!  He fit in it really well and said it was comfortable.  A few things to mention...
First, there is a 5 point harness buckle on the stroller that was a bit different than most of the other buckles on car seats or strollers.  This one was interlocking, like a puzzle-piece, which made it much harder for Mac to undo by himself.  I didn't have any problem with it at all and therefore really liked that he had a harder time unbuckling himself.  Maybe this will keep him in the stroller and restrained, which is exactly what I want when I put him in it.   
I also noticed that the seat was a bit more inclined (even in the fully upright position) than some of our other strollers.  I didn't know if this would bother him, but he didn't seem phased by it in the slightest.  I asked him if the seat felt comfortable and he said yes.  The seat does incline with a strap system, but not all the way back, so you can't use it with a small baby or anything. 
This stroller also has an adjustable leg rest, so you can extend it to use with smaller babies or drop it for bigger kids.  There is a foot rest below that which is actually much lower than the foot rests on other strollers. I love this feature because Mac is very tall for his age and even at 2, I feel like his long legs are soon going to outgrow his strollers.  He still has a lot of room to grow into this one.  
Built in cup holder.  SCORE.  It's included.  It stays put.  It doesn't slide around.  It fits most drinks (and my evening cocktail).  It can be put on the other side, if you're a lefty.  Need I say more?
The only thing I'm not really happy with is the sun shield/canopy.  It's small.  I wish it was bigger.  Much bigger.  And I wish it had one of those see-through peek-a-boo windows so I could spy on him from above instead of having to stop and walk around to the front of the stroller.  But really, that's my only complaint.

So, how does it handle?  Really well.  A few days after our initial inspection, Mac, Mim and I took it out for a spin around the block.  Don't let our grumpy faces fool you...we were actually having fun.  I think...you can never be too sure with a toddler.
Mac loves being pushed around in "his" stroller.  We took a long walk this afternoon and he sat in the stroller without any complaint.  The wheels turned very easily, it handled bumps and dips in the sidewalk/street with ease and the foot break was really easy to use.  And while it was easy to push/maneuver while I was hands-free (with Mim in the Bjorn), I realized that I wish it had a crossbar steering handle that you could push one-handed.  
And remember how I said he couldn't undo the buckle?  Well, he still couldn't, but he did manage to slide the shoulder straps off to the side in an escape attempt.  His plan was foiled and he remained my prisoner.  Bahahahahaha!
And here we are again!  Another day, another stroller ride.  Mac can't get enough.  I wasn't even going to take pictures this time, but he was just too cool for school this day and it needed documenting.  
Who is this kid?  And again, we put the stroller to good use.  Mac decided that the cup holder was the perfect place to store dead crickets he found. 
And he showed me just how many sticks we could fit in the storage basket below the stroller (which is very big, by the way, since I haven't mentioned that yet).  I asked him how many sticks could fit and he said two-eleven o'clock...which I think is a lot in toddler-speak.
So there you have it.  All in all, we're big fans of the Maxi-Cosi Kaia.  This coming from a stroller addict, herself.  I hope this might help you make up your mind if you're in the market for a lightweight umbrella stroller or travel system.  Welcome to the family, Kaia!  
Pros:

  • lightweight
  • easy to collapse
  • 5 point locking harness
  • large undercarriage storage basket
  • stands upright when collapsed
  • cup holder included 
  • car seat adapter included
  • foot-operated brake
  • long foot-drop for taller kids
  • adjustable leg rest
  • bright fun color

Cons:

  • small sun canopy
  • no peek-a-boo window
  • double handles instead of crossbar handle
  • seat is pretty reclined, even in fully upright position

Anyone else a stroller addict?  
How many do you have?
What are you favorite or must-have features?


* I was provided with this stroller free of charge for purposes of a review.  All opinions expressed, commentary and bad jokes are 100% my own.  

Monday, November 17, 2014

Little Tigers

In honor of my alma mater being in FIRST PLACE in the SEC East (what?!), I figured it was about time we showed some Mizzou Tiger spirit around these parts.  

I took these photos a few weeks (months?) ago, so forgive me for just now getting around to posting them. Life of a momma of two is busy!  Also, how is it already mid-November?  And snowing!  
Anyway, time is flying and since these photos were taken, Mac had another haircut and looks at least 8 years old.  Mim has since doubled in size and is growing some serious thigh rolls and a finally getting a neck.  
We're so proud.  

She's still totally bald though.  I love me some fat bald buddha baby. 
Taking photos of two kids together is proving to be much more of a challenge that I expected.  I don't know how "real" photographers ever manage to get sibling shots with both kids looking in the same direction, yet alone smiling.  It took me twenty minutes and 135 Skittles just to convince Mac to put on the shirt, yet alone sit for a photo and hold the baby he despises. 
Once he was hyped up on sugar (and knew he had the upper hand), he refused to look at me, refused to hold Mim, refused to smile and refused to sit still.  What should have been a 5 minute photo shoot turned into a full-on toddler wrestling match.  I basically had to strap him down and just throw Skittles in his mouth.

Toddlers are SO much fun.
But then the stars align and you get ONE shot that just melts your heart. One shot where they're both looking at the camera, not screaming or spitting up, not falling over or running away.
  
Totally worth that inevitable sugar crash to come.
Even if the baby is falling over and licking her arm.  Whatever. 
Speaking of sugar high...yep.
This is Mac showing me how big and strong football players are.  
And this is how tall you have to be to be a football player.
And you have to be LOOOOOOUUUDDDD!!!
(Actually, I think he was just yelling at me for more Skittles.)
How you do say no to this face?
(Seriously, if someone knows, please fill me in,)
Or this face?!  
Those blue eyes and the chubby cheeks.  I could eat her up.
Could they possibly be any cuter?

Yep.
Is he GQ or what?
Toddler Ryan Gosling.
Hey girl...
Anyway, what the hell was my point?
Oh right.  
MIZ!
Go Tigers!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Chugga Chugga Chugga

Is there anything that toddler boys love more than trains?  Well, other than bugs, dirt, poop and throwing things?  Oh, and jumping off furniture.  And dogs.  And candy.  Ok, so trains are definitely probably in the top 10.  Right? Or is my toddler just extra crazy?  Don't answer that.

Anywhoo, Mac loves trains (and anything huge and insanely loud with wheels).  He especially loves Chuggington (Disney Jr. for the win).  Actually, he really just loves the Koko train on Chuggington. You know, the cute and zippy purple girl train with a heart of gold. He's got a major crush on Koko that little tramp.  He has a little Koko train that he sleeps with every night.  Not kidding.  As I've mentioned before, he doesn't really sit still long enough to watch much TV, but he does like the Chuggington episodes featuring Koko.  I think I've seen the "Can't Catch Koko" episode about 600 times.  And the one where she's waiting for the baby giraffe to be born and her light goes out.  He loves that one.  

So, when we got the opportunity to try out the new Chuggington train set - Chuggington StackTrack Brewster’s Big Build Adventure Playset - you better believe I was all over it!  Mac was SO excited to get this in the mail and kept asking whether Santa or Papa sent it. 
Because we've just completely given up on trying to have nice things or be grown-ups these days, we swapped out our living room coffee table for a train table.  Again, not kidding.  Yes, it's tacky and obnoxious, but if it keeps the toddler entertained for 5 minutes while I'm making dinner, it's a win in my book.  So we set up the trainset right in the middle of the room and let Mac have at it.  
The playset comes with an elevator, an escalator, a working mega crane, a trick bridge, a tunnel, and two engines. It has 4 levels of elevation and multiple layouts for extended play (so when he gets bored with one, we can switch it up).  With so many cool features, he didn't even mind that Koko wasn't included.  (Okay, so that's only partially true...he brought his Koko train down from his room, but she's too big to fit on the track so he has her in his pocket. Silly obsessed boy.) 
Needless to say, Mac loves it!  He's played with it every night since we set it up and it's kept his attention longer than most of his other toys.  He really likes the tunnel, turning the crank on the escalator, the elevator that moves the crane arm and racing the trains "really fast" down the track to the bottom.  (He also loves driving the trains off the side of the track, where they crash and burn on the table and everyone aboard dies a horrible death, but we'll just stick to the niceties here.)
Ryan had the whole thing set up in a few minutes and said it was really easy to assemble.  He set it up according to the instructions, but there are three other configurations that you can do as well.  And it's compatible with other Chuggington trainsets, so you can combine them if you want something more elaborate.

I'm pretty happy with the trainset.  I think it's very well-built and sturdy, which is important with a wild preschooler  I really like the fact that the tracks are interlocking and snap securely together and to the elevation stands.  They're sturdy, so they don't come apart with any little movement. We have another train set in the basement that requires constant adult maintenance because the toddler is not gentle with it and the tracks never stay put.  This one's already taken quite a beating and is fine.  Plus, they're like puzzle pieces that snap together, so Mac can do it himself, if they do come apart.
The only thing I'm not crazy about is the "trick" bridge, which collapses when you drive the train over it, so you can use the crane to fix it.  For most kids, this would probably be a really cool feature, but Mac's not really into the whole "fixing" aspect of it yet (he's more of a destroyer than a fixer), so it slows the trains down and he has to manually reattach the bridge by hand.  Not a huge deal, but I do wish there was a way to turn that off.  
This train set is based on the extended new Chuggington TV special airing on Disney Junior this fall, where Brewster (the blue train) rides up an elevator to operate a working mega crane and repair a broken track.  The episode helps your little one discover important lessons about safety, responsibility and teamwork.  We received the "Chuggineers Ready to Build" DVD, with this episode and a few others to watch while we played with the trainset.  Koko made a special appearance in the show, so Mac was happy. 
So, if you're looking for a fun birthday or Christmas gift for a toddler/preschooler who loves trains, definitely check out the Chuggington StackTrack.  You might even get this kind of awesome reaction!

Anyone else have a kid obsessed with trains?


Chuggington StackTrack Brewster’s Big Build Adventure Playset
All new to train play, this Chuggington set features a working escalator that takes your engines back to the top so you can send them speeding back down again and again. Or take Brewster for a ride on the elevator so he can get to the top to operate the giant crane and repair the broken track. There are so many ways to play. Brewster’s Big Build Adventure Set is based on the Chuggington tentpole episode airing this fall, so it’s sure to keep the excitement going as kids play out their favorite scenes from the show. This set comes with an elevator, an escalator, a working mega crane, a trick bridge, a tunnel, and two Die-Cast engines. It even features 4 levels of elevation and multiple layouts for extended play. Take train play to new heights with the Chuggington StackTrack system! SRP $49.99. Ages 3 years+. Available now at Toys R Us and Target.

Chuggineers Ready to Build DVD
The strongest and most dependable construction crew in Chuggington is ‘Ready To Build’ in the newest Chuggington DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment. A brand-new collection of five fast-paced adventures – including the extended new special slated to premiere on Disney Junior this fall, “Chuggineers Ready To Build” recently made tracks to retailers nationwide. In this special collection of hard-working adventures – including the “We are the Chuggineers” music video! – Brewster joins Chuggineers Zack, Fletch and Tyne to build tracks, bridges and tunnels, make repairs, haul heavy loads and more! Featuring new wagons and machines, including the massive yellow Mega Chug Crane, and new friends Payce, the tunnel runner from Tootington, and Cormac, the cheeky forklift engine, “Chuggineers Ready To Build” will help Wilson, Brewster, Koko and little trainees at home discover important lessons about safety, responsibility and teamwork. SRP $14.98. Available now on Amazon.com

**I received the Chuggington Playset and DVD free of charge for purposes of this review.  All opinions expressed are mine (and Mac's).