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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Primary Science Shining Stars Projector: A Portable Universe in Toy Form!

I love it when learning toys come in cheerful interfaces that inspire imagination. A perfect example is the Primary Science Shining Stars Projector.

It has a wonderful combination of tech fun with a retro design that is extremely kid-friendly and brings back memories from my own childhood. It's smooth, lightweight, and easy to carry.

Speaking of the design, it's very simple. You insert the disc in the front slot and push the button. It can sit on its base and act as a projector, or it can be picked up and moved around like a camera. My kids preferred the latter.

Because of that preference, we had ample opportunity to test the durability of the Projector, and I can attest that it handles being dropped on hard surfaces well.  I wouldn't use it as a hammer or anything, but it'll hold up to playtime nicely. The images are varied and keep things interesting, and it works in dim light, as well as darkness. If your kids are like mine and leave things on until the batteries die, never has an automatic shut-off. That means if they want to take it to bed with them (and that is quite probable), there's no need to check back in on it. Just be warned that the actual sleep part might take a bit longer than usual.

Want to see it in action? Here's a quick peek!

You can find this fun item here, and on other online retailers. It does require three AAA batteries, not included.

I received a free product for review purposes. My opinions and creative kids are my own.

Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Muffin Mix: Lose the Gluten, Keep The Nom!

So I'm a fan of both natural products and baked goods. Like, seriously. So when Moms Meet gave me the chance to try out Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Muffin Mix, I was excited about getting the best of both worlds.

First, let me just say this is a super easy mix to put together. You can add anything you want to it, and it mixes up in minutes.  Caveat: it does have a sweeter flavor, so that's the best way to go. So I got into creative mode. I started with a staple, and easy way to use up overripe bananas.

Sweet, tender, and flavorful, these were a huge, immediate hit. So time for another standard, blueberry.

I used frozen berries, and found that it increased baking time, but there weren't any other issues. So I decided to up my game and go for a cinnamon streusel. This was my personal favorite..I really felt the cinnamon flavor melded beautifully with the mix.

Simple process there...mix up a basic streusel, pour part of the batter in the cups, sprinkle some in, more batter, then a coating on top. Delicious.

The instructions say that you can use either oil or butter in the process. I tried both, and had great results each time. There wasn't a textural difference that I could discern, but I did get a slightly richer flavor using butter. It worked well with margarine as well, and with a dairy-free butter substitute, so it's pretty diverse. That's a plus, as the mix itself doesn't contain dairy, and is RS-ELISA gluten tested, which makes it very allergen-friendly.

Oh, and they taste AWESOME. No joke. Even my pickiest kid begged for more. They're sweet, but not overpowering, and work well with so many flavors. I went on to try chocolate chip and strawberry, and they were also a hit. The ease of the mix makes it a simple thing to whip up fresh homemade muffins on a whim. You gotta try these.

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I received products for review and sharing purposes. My opinions and happy kids are my own.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Canned Carrots and Baked Goods: It Can Happen.

We like to stock up for emergencies, everything from water to canned food.. In the process, we discovered two things.

1. Nobody in our house likes canned carrots.
2. Canned goods expire faster than you think.

I found myself with eight cans of carrots nearing that not-so-fresh feeling, and no takers. What to do.

Well, first, I pureed all of them, and drained it in cheesecloth, ending up with a texture similar to pumpkin.

I searched for recipes using cooked carrots, and found one for cookies, but that was it. I had already made that recipe, and wanted something new. After pondering, I figured it would be a fun experiment to swap it into a pumpkin bread recipe and see what happened. Carrot bread totally happened, a spiced, sweet taste treat.

Curious? Here's the recipe.

2 cups sugar
1 cups canola oil
4 eggs
2 cups carrot puree
3/4 cup water
3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. table salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease loaf pans with butter or non-stick spray.
2. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat sugar and oil together until blended. Add eggs one at a time mixing after each addition. Add carrot puree and water and mix until blended.
3. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and allspice. Add to the mixer and mix only until just incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pans.
4. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes. The loaves are done when center springs back when touched.
Not bad, eh? But I still had a lot left, so I got more creative, and we have carrot bars. Sort of like a cross between cake and pie, with a tender texture and cinnamon-spice flavor.

I added a light vanilla glaze to pep it up a bit, but it's also very good plain. Try it for yourself the next time you find yourself with a plethora of carrots.


2 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
2 cups mashed cooked carrots
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease a 13" X 9" pan.
2. Mix shortening, sugar, eggs, and carrots.
3. Blend in flour, baking powder and salt. Pour into pan.
4. Bake until center springs back when touched, 35 - 50 minutes. Cool and frost with vanilla glaze, or just enjoy.

Both were happily enjoyed by my family, particularly the "carrot cake", as my kids called it. I had requests for more, in fact.

So if you find yourself with a whole lot of canned carrots that your family barely gives the side-eye to, sneak them into some delicious baked goodies, and all will be well.