Monday, December 26, 2011

Great gift for Teachers or save them for you!

I have many teacher gifts to hand out each year.  Since we like to bake, I like to make something special, delicious, and decadent for each one.  The teachers work so hard and spend so much time with my kids. I want to give them something from the heart.  Well most of my kids teachers are awesome and this year I made a new recipe, Pistachio Chocolate Chip Cranberry Mandelbread.  Yes, it is a mouthful to say, but it is oh so good to eat.
I have not one picture to post.  As soon as I made a batch of these biscotti like cookies, my kids would try to eat them.  I had to only bake teacher gifts while the kids were in school, then quickly box them up and hand them out.
Try this recipe. It is so good, dipped in hot tea!
Pistachio, Chocolate Chip, Cranberry Mandelbread
1 and 3/4 cup flour
1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 T. butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar, reserve some for dusting on top
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 375
In a bowl, combine flour baking powder and salt.  Stir in the pistachios, chocolate chips and cranberries till well blended.
Beat butter and sugar on medium speed. Save a little sugar fro dusting on top at the end.  Add in eggs.  Add in the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for a minute or so.  Take dough out of bowl, make sure your hands are well covered in flour.  Divide dough into 3 pieces and form into three long, fat sticks.  Place the sticks on a baking sheet, they will not grow much, so dont worry if the sheet is crowded.
Bake 20-25 minutes till brown.
Let cool about 30 minutes.
Gently cut the cooled loaves on an angle into 1/2 inch slices using a bread knife.  But the cut sides up on the baking sheet and sprinkle on the remaining sugar.  Bake 4-6 minutes more until lightly browned.
Serve with a hot cup of tea or coffee.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Protein Pie

Today is my baby girl's 4th birthday. She is such a joy and I cannot imagine how boring life would be without her.
While I am typing this post, her cake is in the oven. It is a totally unhealthy marble cake with icing that I know she will love. But you know what is crazy, she loves healthy foods so much.  I know I could have made something much healthier and she would have loved that too.  Her brothers though, say birthdays should be about bad foods, so I made an unhealthy double layer cake and we will celebrate tonight all together.
On Sunday my 7 year old wanted a pie, so I set out to make him a protein pie. It had to be a pie that tasted delicious, looked unhealthy, and had a little hidden ingredient that no one would hopefully notice.  I made this recipe because I had a 1/2 cup of evaporated skim milk left over from a recipe I made last week.  The hardest part about making sneaky protein packed foods is that the kids are usually watching me in the kitchen, so it is hard to sneak foods they dont need to know about.  My teenager was in the room when he saw me putting the butter into the mix, and he commented, "This recipe looks good, happy to see you using butter Mom!" And he later ate 4 slices!
So here is my recipe for the super secret Protein Pie.

Protein Pie
Any crust you like, I used a healthy graham cracker crust
1 cup sugar
1 TB flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup evaporated milk or half and half, I used fat free evaporated skim milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1 TB vanilla
1 can white beans, I used organic cannelini beans

Heat oven to 350
Prebake your crust if you are using a pastry crust. I used a graham cracker crust that was premade.
In a food processor add sugar, flour, and cinnamon and pulse for a few seconds.
Add in the milk, butter, eggs, and vanilla and pulse till combined.
Add in the can of beans(rinse it well first!)
Keep mixing it till it is very well combined.
Pour filling into the crust. Place the pie on the bottom shelf of the oven.
Bake until the edges puff up and the center is fairly firm. It can still wiggle a little when you gently nudge the pan.  Bake it 40-50 minutes.
Place the pie on a cooling rack and let cool 20-30 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
We had a little whipped cream and sliced strawberries on top and really loved it!!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Healthier Snacks

So I have 5 kids and each kid has a different eating issue.  Not really an issue, but each kid likes different foods.  This is most challenging when trying to plan one meal that will make everyone happy.  Basically I have given up on that.  I try to make things that are healthy, delicious and nutritious and will also please the largest number of people in my house.
My most recent idea is to make a "treat" or dessert type food that will have some added protein in it.  I have been experimenting for weeks and I will post for you my best attempts.
Today my 7 year old, basically the world's pickiest eater, and also a vegan,  is home sick.  He was hungry and I asked him if he would like a chocolate chip bar.  He smiled and said YUM!  So off I went to create something he would love and would also sneak some good stuff in.
Since I dont have a picture of the bars, I put in a picture of  my 7 year old when he was feeling good.

Oat Hemp Seed Healthy Bars
1/2 cup oats, not quick ones
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
1/4 cup hemp seeds (if you dont know what these are, scroll down, these are packed with omegas and tons of protein!)
1 scoop of protein powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup non dairy milk
1 whole banana mashed up well
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 cup chocolate chips
you could easily add raisins, dry cranberries, nuts, or coconut to these bars too!

In one bowl combine oats, both flours, hemp seeds, protein powder, baking powder, cinnamon and brown sugar. Stir well.
In a separate bowl mash up the banana well. Add in almond extract and non dairy milk(I used almond milk).
Stir wet ingredients into dry ones.
Once mixed up, add in your chocolate chips or other mix-in that you like.
Dont overmix it!
Put in an 8x8 pan and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
My son ate them slightly warm and had 4 pieces in a row!
Hope your kids enjoy these too.

Stay tuned tomorrow for my vanilla protein pie that my teenage picky kid ate 4 slices of!!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Real Parents Review of the New Muppet Movie

Do you remember who the Muppets are?  Odds are your kids probably don't!

<a href='' target='_new' title=''The Muppets' movie trailer'>Video: 'The Muppets' movie trailer</a>
It has been a long time since The Muppet Show was on tv, or a new Muppet movie has come out.  So you may be wondering if your kids will still enjoy this movie, even if they do not know most of the characters.  The good news is, they will love this movie!

The story is about two brothers, one who looks suspiciously like a Muppet (Walter), and the other (Gary) who has been having trouble making a commitment to his girlfriend of 10 years.  They live in a picture perfect small town, where the townfolk break into song and dance numbers at the drop of a hat.

Walter has always been a huge fan of the Muppets and had wanted to go to Los Angeles to go on the tour of the Muppet Theater.  His brother and his girlfriend are planning a trip to Los Angeles for two weeks to celebrate an anniversary, so Walter asks if he can go along.  The girlfriend is reluctant, but before she knows it, they are on their way.  They arrive in Los Angeles to find the Muppet Theater in complete disrepair and not a Muppet character in sight.  While going on the tour, they overhear a plot by Oilman Tex Richman to take over the property in order to drill more oil wells.  The only caveat is that if the Muppets raise 10 million dollars, they can purchase the theater and keep it for themselves.  This leads the brothers on a hunt to find Kermit and save the theater.

To answer some questions Mom and Dad might have:
*This movie is very funny, for kids and adults!  There are a number of musical song and dance numbers that are really well done and so entertaining.  As a parent you will not be bored or annoyed to be dragged to another terrible kids movie.
*All of your old favorite characters from The Muppet Show are included in this movie, which is great for us old timers.
*There are a ton of guest stars including:
Jack Black
Neil Patrick Harris
Selena Gomez
Amy Adams
Jason Segel
Donald Glover
Zac Galifianakis
Jim from The Office
Whoppi Goldberg
Sarah Silverman
Manny from Modern Family and many more I am forgetting!  You never know where the next star will pop up.  It is so funny finding Sarah Silverman as a hostess at a little diner they visit.
*There are many 80s references and one of the common threads throughout the movie is that no one knows who the Muppets are anymore
*We found ZERO scariness in this movie.  Even the character who is supposed to be evil and mean, still sings and dances with the others.
*There is no SEX, no SWEARING, nothing offensive for a child of any age!
*You will all be singing Mahna Mahna song after this movie for days, even if you did not see the movie!
*This movie is 2 full hours.  There are some slow parts, especially in the beginning as they set up the movie, but overall it went by really fast.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Two Recipes and a review

Where has the time gone? I cannot believe it has been so many weeks since I last posted on my blog.  I have been busy cooking, taking my 2nd son to millions of doctors appointments, and trying to keep the peace.  My 13 yo has some sort of mystery illness. He has felt sick for the past six weeks with no dr knowing what he has.  He has missed tons of school, feels like he has the flu, has no appetite, cant sleep, feels lightheaded at times, and itches all over.  Does this sound familiar to anyone?  Every blood test comes back negative including celiac, lyme, strep, and mono.  The allergist we saw on Friday seems to think this could be a mycoplasma infection.  But that blood test will not come back for two more weeks, so we wait.
So on to happier things like cooking!!!
I was sent a great surprise in the mail to review.  A huge container of Jasmati Rice by Rice Select.  The best thing about this container is that it is so secure.  No bug or little hands can get into very easily.  It also looks very nice on the shelf, and is easy to find!  As soon as the Jasmati Rice arrived I decided to make one of our favorite dinners.  Vegan Seitan Stirfry over Jasmati Rice.  This is the easiest and healthiest dinner.  Take your favorite veggies, chop them up small and saute them in a pan with a little EVOO.  For our dinner I chopped up onions, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, and zucchini.
After they saute for about 5 minutes, add in some chopped up seitan.  If the word seitan scares you, you are not alone!  I had seitan about 6 years ago and I hated it!  But once my husband went vegan I gave it another try and it is sooooo good! It seriously tastes just like pieces of meat.
So once your seitan is in, add in a little bit of soy sauce or any other sauce that you like.  Saute 2-4 more minutes so everything is nice and hot.  Serve it over your Jasmine rice and enjoy!!  Yum! Fresh, healthy, delicious!  I like to make my rice, steel cut oats, quinoa, wheat berries, or any other grain in my rice cooker.  It is so easy, set it and forget about it! No stirring, no checking. Comes out perfect everytime.
Here is how my Jasmine Rice looked in my rice cooker.
I quickly have time for one more cool recipe!
As I have written before, my kids love pizza.
So today I tried something new, pizza braids and boy was it a hit!
I used 2 loaves of Trader Joes white pizza dough, pizza sauce, shredded cheese, parmesan, and oregano.
It is a bit hard to describe how to make it and next time I do I will take step by step photos.
You stretch your pizza dough into a rectangle.  Cut little strips on each side of the dough so that you can make the braid.  Put the sauce and cheese, and any veggies or meat that your family likes in the center, then braid up your pizza. Once the braid is done, spray the top and sprinkle oregano and parmesan on top.  Bake at 325 for 15-30 minutes.  I thought it would be done at 15 minutes but I kept it in the full 30.  Just keep an eye on it.  I let mine sit outside the oven for 25 minutes and then it was easy to slice and the kids enjoyed it just a little bit hot, not burning.
Here is a picture of what it looked like at the end.
Next time I will be making a vegan pizza braid with sauce, veggie pepperoni and daiya cheese.  I am sure it will be amazing!
Have a great week everyone!
I hope to be back soon.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Best Pizza Dough Ever

I love to eat healthy.  My teens HATE to eat healthy.  My 15 yo told me he thinks he is allergic to healthy food.  So what do I do? I make healthy foods and the teens turn their nose.  Until today.
I made a new pizza dough that was healthy.  I did not tell anyone it was healthy though.  I added the ingredients, let it rise twice and then baked it up.  While it was cooking my 15 yo came upstairs saying, something smells amazing, I need to EAT IT NOW!  And then he did. 8 slices he ate, and when he was done, he would have had more.  But it was all gone. Every last crumb, slice, morsel of pizza was gone.
So if your kids are picky eaters I think you should try this recipe too!  No pictures were taken of this pizza because the kids ate it up before I could take out the camera,  Enjoy!!

Pizza Dough, makes six 10-12 inch pizzas
1 envelope dry active yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 cups warm water
2.5 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp coarse salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
Dissolve yeast and sugar in water in a large bowl and let stand about 5-10 minutes.  If yeast does not proof(get bubbly) throw it out and buy new yeast!  Add 2 cups of all purpose flour and salt.  Stir in slowly. (I use my dough hook on my kitchenaid)  Stir in whole wheat flour and wheat germ, then remaining all purpose flour 1 TB at a time.  Dough should begin to come away from the bowl but still be slightly sticky.
Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and springs back when poked (about 10 minutes).  Place in a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until it doubles in size, about 2.5 hours.  Cut dough into 6 pieces and roll into a ball shape.  Cover the balls and let rest 30 more minutes.  Stretch out each dough onto a pan or stone, add sauce, cheese and any topping.  Bake on a pizza stone or in a pizza pan at 450 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

One of My Favorite Websites, Jasmere

I love to do a lot of online shopping these days.  Dragging 1, 2 or 5 kids to the store is not my idea of fun!  So online shopping is where it is at.
One of my favorite sites is
At first, Jasmere looks like one of those typical, get your 12:00 noon email with the deal of the day sites.  But Jasmere has a really cool edge to it.  As more and more people purchase the deal of the day, the price goes DOWN!  How awesome!  So if you like the deal of the day, convince your friends to buy it too, and then you all get a better price.
Jasmere used to only offer each deal for 24 hours.  At 11:59AM the next day I would often scramble to remember to check the price of the previous day's deal. (There is now an email me if it gets to xxx price too)  But since many customers said 24 hours was not long enough to purchase the deal, Jasmere has extended many of its offers to 2-3 days.  One more thing you should know, no matter what price during the deal you buy at, you only get charged the lowest price that it ends at!  So basically we all win!
Another reason I love Jasmere is that everything is very clearly spelled out for each deal.  Many of these daily deal sites do not tell me how much shipping will be.  I hate to find out the hard way as I redeem my gift certificate that my deal was not so great since $20 shipping was just added.  If you click on the more shipping and info box for each deal, you clearly can see exactly how much you will have to pay.
Finally, the last awesome thing about Jasmere is that they are local to me!  I was able to meet the founders of Jasmere last month at a pizza place and we had so much fun.  They are such nice people and it only made me want to buy more Jasmere deals.
For you my loyal readers I have a special offer!  You can have 20% off one order on Jasmere using the code SF2017D30E1B.  This code only lasts until Spetember 17th.  So hurry, find your deal and with my extra coupon code, you will save at least 50% off, if not more  Today's deal looks really cool if you have ever wanted to whiten your teeth at home.
If you do not belong to Jasmere yet, please send me an email at and I will send you an invite.
Or, leave me a comment below with your email and I will send you an invite that way.
I would love to hear what deals you buy.
I am buying the, such a cool idea!! Especially if you have teens who often lose expensive items!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chuck & Friends App & Giveaway

When I am trying to make dinner, do dishes, or clean up some mess that someone has made there are few things that keep the little ones busy and teach them at the same time!  One of our favorite new apps is Chuck and Friends by Ruckus Media.  If you have not heard of Ruckus Media it is really time that you check them out.
Ruckus Media Group has many apps that are geared to the preschool age child. Spot the Dot and Andrew Answers are two of our favorites.  Recently Ruckus Media Group teamed up with Hasbro and they now have a great app called Chuck and Friends.  I think this app would really appeal to little boys.  But my 3 year old girl keeps going back to it and enjoying it too!
Here is a quick clip of what the app looks like.

Ruckus Media Group was nice enough to offer FIVE of my readers a code to get the Chuck and Friends app to try out for themselves!  I will randomly pick 5 comments using to win the 5 codes.
You can earn up to 5 entries
1. Follow me on twitter at
2. Follow Ruckus Media Group at
3. Leave a comment telling me your child's favorite app!
4. Tweet about this giveaway and leave me a comment that you did.
5. Follow me above on Google Friend Connect

Winner will be chosen on September 1st at noon.  Good luck!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Earthquake and a Giveaway

Today we had an earthquake.  It was a really big earthquake for an East Coast girl like me.
Today was a beautiful day, about 75 degrees, sunny, not a cloud in the sky.
My husband and I were both at home working on our computers at opposite ends of the house.  Our 5 kids were all playing happily running around the house as usual.  We had 2 neighborhood friends over too and all was good.  Until it happened.  I felt the floor rumble first and the wall start to shake and I immediately thought, OMG is this an earthquake and then it stopped.  I then decided I had imagined it all and maybe a big truck had just gone by.  My husband also thought maybe a big wind was blowing his windows.  Then after about 30 seconds of quiet it happened again.  This second time it was much harder.  The doors started to rattle, the windows were shaking, the pictures were falling.
I ran towards my husband, he started to run towards me and we both screamed EARTHQUAKE!!  I then had a brain drain and said, should we go down to the basement? NO he said EVERYONE OUTSIDE NOW!  All the kids ran after us into the front yard and then it stopped shaking.  One elderly neighbor also was outside and walked towards us and said, what the heck was that? We said, it was a pretty strong earthquake, are you ok?  I know a 6.0 earthquake is nothing for those of you who live in California but for us it is quite big.  We had a small earthquake last summer, a 3 or a 4 and I remember it clearly.  It was 5:30 AM and I was lying in bed awake reading a book and my bed shook a little and I went to Facebook and posted, Earthquake??? and then realized, yes, it was a small earthquake.  But today it was totally obvious and really scary.  I am still freaked out a bit.  I fixed all the pictures upstairs, picked up the things that fell down, but deep down I wonder, will there be aftershocks? will there be another one that is bigger??

On a happier note I have a local giveaway.
In a few weeks we have a very exciting week long event called Rockville Restaurant Week (September 10-18 2011).  You can read more about it here  Many different restaurants are participating.  It is a great chance to get out, take the night or afternoon off from cooking, and try some of our local places you have never been before.  Each restaurant will have a Prix-fixe menu for lunch and dinner.  Prices are $8 or $15 for lunch and $15 or $30 for dinner. I have a $25 gift card to Phillips Seafood on Rockville Pike to give to one reader who would like to go out during Rockville Restaurant Week.
If you would like to enter to win this $25 gift card please leave me a comment and tell me your favorite restaurant in Rockville.
For 3 extra entries:
*follow me on twitter @cookwith5kids and leave me a comment here that you do.
*and follow me on google friend connect above and leave one more comment.
*retweet or tweet about this giveaway and you will also got one more entry!
Winner will be chosen on September 12th at 6 PM and I will mail you the gift card.
Good Luck and lets hope for no more earthquakes!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Back To School Giveaway

I still cannot believe this summer is coming to an end. Where did the time go? I feel like the school year just ended. I am completely not ready for making lunches, homework, and washing smelly PE clothes.
We still have 12 more days of quiet left to enjoy.  So that is what I will try to do.

MyBlogSpark has a new giveaway for you.  My 2nd grader has fallen in love with this prize. He has claimed the cool whiteboard for his locker and might be the tiniest bit excited to hang it up in there.  He also loved the lunch bag.  The best part is that I have an identical prize pack for you, my lovely readers, too!

This prize pack is really cute.  One winner will receive
  • One box of Lucky Charms® Cereal Treats Bars
  • One box of Golden Grahams® Cereal Treats Bars
  • Lunch bag
  • Locker whiteboard
  • Colored pencil set in a really cool round case with nice recycled colored pencils inside
We had a back to school food drive at our local grocery store so our 2 boxes of bars went to their local collection for snacks for kids when they go back to school.
But these bars look great!  They are new from General Mills.  The Golden Grahams treat bars have 130 calories, 4 gm fat, and 1 gm protein.  The Lucky Charms Treat Bars have 100 calories, 3 gms fat, and 1 gm protein.  6 bars come in each box and 2 box tops for education are also included on each box!

You can read more about these bars at the Betty Crocker Website
and you can also become a fan of Betty Crocker on Facebook here

For one entry in this giveaway, leave me a comment telling me what you will send for your child as a snack this year.

You can earn 3 additional entries:
* follow me on twitter @cookwith5kids
* follow me above on Google friend follower for 1 extra entry
* tweet about this giveaway using hashtag #myblogspark
* please leave a comment for each entry, thank you!
If you already follow me on Twitter or Google just leave that in the comments as well.
Winner will be chosen on August 24th at noon, so leave your comments today!

Disclosure: My prize was provided by General Mills through MyBlogSpark but the opinions provided above are completely my own.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Peanut Butter Pie

I just read about Jennie's husband Mikey passing away earlier this week.
and I feel so sad for Jennie and for her children.
I just put my peanut butter pie in the fridge and through my tears I will serve a piece to my family tonight.  Hug your loved ones tonight and every night because you never know when you will serve your last piece of peanut butter pie.
 Vegan Peanut Butter Pie
I bought a chocolate crust at Whole Foods
16 oz tofu, soft silken
1 cup creamy Peanut Butter
3/4 cup sugar (I used organic zero)
2 TB almond milk
2 tsp vanilla
I put all my ingredients in my Vitamix and blended it all really well.  I put it in the prepared chocolate crust and refrigerated it for 2 hours.

Fiber One 80 calorie cereal Giveaway!

As a part of MyBlogSpark I was sent a gift pack from General Mills.  Inside there was a box of their new Fiber One 80 calorie cereal, a pedometer, and a cool orange armband that can hold an ipod.
There are many great things about this new cereal
*Slightly sweet, honey flavor
*Only 80 calories per serving
*Keeps you feeling full all morning
*Extra fiber keeps you feeling full which helps you lose weight
*Each 80 calorie serving has 40% of your daily fiber, wow!
*Feel full without adding too many calories

MyBlogSpark and General Mills is nice enough to offer one of my readers a giftpack exactly like the one I got.  You will receive a box of the new FiberOne cereal, a sensor pedometer with USB connector, and a neoprene Ipod or Smartphone armband.
For one entry in this giveaway, leave me a comment telling me how you try to add fiber into your diet.
You can earn 3 additional entries:
* follow me on twitter @cookwith5kids
* follow me above on google friend follower for 1 extra entry
* tweet about this giveaway using hashtag #myblogspark
* please leave a comment for each entry, thank you!
If you already follow me on Twitter or Google just leave that in the comments as well.
Winner will be chosen on August 15th at noon, so leave your comments today!

Disclosure: Fiber One 80 Calories cereal, information, and giveaway have been provided by General Mills through MyBlogSpark.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hershey Pennsylvania.... bring the big bucks with you!

Our family went to Hershey PA this past weekend, yes, we chose the hottest weekend of the summer so far, but overall we had a great time.  I am here to warn you though, bring along the big bucks if you plan to visit.
So we were lucky enough to get tickets from Chevrolet for 4 admissions.  Tickets to enter HersheyPark are $53.95 per adult.  WOW, this is close to Disney prices for the day.  The most important tip I can tell you is to take advantage of the Preview Plan.  If you buy a regular price admission you can get FREE admission to the whole park the night before for 2.5 hours before it closes.  This worked out really great for us.  On Friday night my husband took the 3 oldest kids to the park from 7:30-10 and it was EMPTY! Literally they rode all the rides 5 times in a row, they did not even need to get up and get in line again.  They said this was the most fun night of their lives!!!!  One more tip, bring along lots of extra clothing.  They came back from the park soaking wet every single visit.
The preview night is awesome, try and do it if you can.
We stayed at an awesome hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn in Hummelstown.  It is about a 5 minute drive, located near many good and reasonable restaurants, and was a clean, comfortable place to sleep.  We used our HHonors points to stay here and got 2 rooms for 2 nights.  If we did not have points to stay here it would have been about $230 a night.  Breakfast was included for us, but I think it was still worth the $10.95 per person.  Made to order eggs, pancakes, omelets, waffles, fruits, cereals, breads, pastries. 3 kinds of cold beverages, many hot beverages.  All the usual breakfast foods were easily found here.  Lisa greeted us each morning with lots of great tips and helpful hints for us!
So HersheyPark is right next to Hershey's Chocolate World.  One thing I did not understand was why Chocolate World was always so CROWDED!  Literally impossible to walk around at times.  Day, night, afternoon, always a mob scene.
There is a very cute ride which shows you how Hershey makes chocolate. This ride lasts about 5 minutes and is free.  Enjoy this freebie, because it is the last one I can tell you about.  My 2 younger kids did not go to Hershey Park.  Instead we hung out at the hotel, played games, and spent some time at Hershey's Chocolate World.  The big things they both wanted to do was make their own chocolate bar.  This would have been really fun and so cool if we actually were going to make our own bar.  Nope, we did not make anything.  All we did was scan our $14.95 ticket 5 times and choose what items we wanted the robot arms to put into our candy bar.  But the biggest scam of them all is that you cannot accompany your child into the chocolate making without paying to make a chocolate bar for yourself too!!!  And if you have a 2.5 year old, yup, she has to pay and make one too.  So for the four of us, including my little girl and myself, who did not want to make a bar we paid $60 for a 45 minute "tour" of the chocolate bar.  Total ripoff!

As soon as you walk into chocolate world you can choose to buy a ticket to your left or your right.  On the left you can buy a ticket to the Hershey 3D show.  We did not see it, but if you want to it will be 5.95 per adult and 4.95 per kid.  On the left side you can also buy a ticket for the hershey trolley at 12.95 per adult and 5.95 per kid.  Every time we saw a trolley go by, it was full, so get those tickets early!  On the right side you can buy your 14.95 make your own chocolate bar experience ticket and also a chocolate tasting tour, 9.95 adult and 6.95 per kid.  We did not do this either.  We just did the chocolate bar making.

So you are given a time for making your bar and you greet a Hershey worker wearing a hard hat who gives you an apron that you must put on right away.  You enter the doors with your group and then you are immediately handed your hairnet.  The factory worker kept us back because my little girl had teeny pieces of hair sticking out, she made us all put our ears and all our hair under the hairnet and wasted lots of time doing this.
And for what?? We did not touch anything, nor were we near anything.  But wait, we are not done making you look ridiculous Mom.  You are wearing a ring on each hand so now you must put on these uncomfortable and sweaty gloves to keep the chocolate out of your rings.  I was excited at the time, thinking I would be making my own chocolates, but no, this was all just for show.
Now that we are covered up head to toe, we watched a short movie showing us how they make the chocolate.  Then we entered our first room of touch screen computers.  Each of us had a ticket with our name on it and we each had to scan it then choose our components.
After choosing the items on 4 screens, there you go, you just made your chocolate bar.  Now you can stand back and watch the machines do all the work.
The first screen option was for the base of your chocolate bar.  Today we chose from milk, dark and white.  You also need to know that if you chose dark or white chocolate base, you will still have a milk chocolate top because that is all that the machine can do.
Second screen is to choose UP to 3 choices for inclusions.  These inclusions will be sprinkled into your bar base by the machines.  Some bars get a lot of each inclusion, others get 2 or 3 pieces.
And for your final option, do you want the machine to sprinkle colored sprinkles on the top of your bar? yes, or no, and if you choose yes, you will get about 10 sprinkles on top.  If you say no, you still might get a few, this is a machine after all.
So now the excitement is over and you walk into the "factory" and scan your ticket again and watch your magical bar being made.
As the machine works on your bar it says each person's name under their bar, just in case you can't keep up. 
Here is one of our bars getting one of the inclusions sprinkled in. Exciting no?

Each bar goes through the chocolate bath and gets coated with the milk chocolate topping.  The kids did love watching this step, but with so many people in the room, you get pushed along and cannot sit there watching the chocolate for very long.
So your bar is done, now you can design your own wrapper.  There are a few choices.  You can use their samples or be a bit more creative and design your own.  Even if you try to get creative, there are limits to your options and you are not really making an original design, you are choosing from their available clip-art pictures.
So while you are wasting time in the package design room, your chocolate bar is in the cooler tunnel.  It spends about 5 minutes in there, hardening up so you can have a bar that does not melt immediately.
This cool laser writes your name on the box and then puts the bar in the box as well.  Kind of cool to watch the laser working.
So there you have it.  And here is a very happy 7 year old, thrilled to have made his own bar.  He loved every second of it and I enjoyed watching him.
Any questions, leave me a comment and I will respond asap.

Monday, July 18, 2011


My kids love toast and bagels for breakfast.  But even that simple breakfast gets boring.  While shopping in the dairy aisle last week and grabbing my usual tub of Land O Lakes butter I noticed a new item tucked away among the regular butters.  It was called cinnamon and sugar butter.  Simple enough idea.  I next checked the ingredients.  All clean!  The ingredients are cream, sugar, canola oil, water, cinnamon, salt and citric acid.  One serving of 1 Tbsp is 70 calories, 6 gm fat, 2.5 gm sat fat, 4 gm sugar and 4 mg carbs.  Not too bad for a butter!
Many recipes can be found at
The package says that you can use this delicious spread on toast, hot cereal, baked apples, vegetables and more!  The taste of the spread is really mild but strong enough to make an impact.  My teenager loves this spread on basically anything! He has used up a whole tub himself in about a week.  His one word description is AMAZING.
I was sent a wonderful giftpack by MyBlogSpark to try out this new product.  I had previously purchased 2 tubs of cinnamon sugar butter myself before joining this campaign.
And guess what, I have a gift pack to giveaway to you, my loyal readers too!
This giveaway will end Friday July 22 at noon.

Please leave me a comment and tell me:
What would you like to do with this new cinnamon butter?  Worth 1 entry
You can earn 3 additional entries:
* follow me on twitter @cookwith5kids
* follow me above on google friend follower for 1 extra entry
* tweet about this giveaway using hashtag #myblogspark
* please leave a comment for each entry, thank you!

Dislcaimer: I was sent a giftpack from Land O Lakes and MyBlogSpark to review.  The opinions I have provided above are all my own.  Winners must live in the US. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bethany Lakes a quiet spot near the beach!

Our extended family visited Bethany Lakes in Bethany Beach this past week.  We stayed in a house through and our house was on May Dr.
This house is in an excellent location!
Grocery store, 30 seconds away
Beach 5 minutes away (by car)
Farm Stand with amazing veggies 5 minutes away
Bethany Beach Boardwalk and shopping 5 minutes away
Total drive time from our house outside of Washington DC 2.5 hours
The house we stayed in had some good points and some bad points:
*Pool was a 1 minute walk, and was always empty!  (Just so you know, there is no lifeguard)
*Great workout space near the pool, lots of new equipment and usually pretty empty!
*Pond right behind the house had great fishing and kept the kids so happy!
*Grocery store so close and carried everything
*6 bedrooms, all nice sizes and comfortable mattresses.
*Kids bedroom had 2 full size bunk beds, so 8 small kids could easily sleep in there. Plus, there was tons of floor space for sleeping bags or blow up beds.
*Lots of places to bike and walk
*Cute playground next to the pool as well as tennis courts.  Nice amenities!!
*Nice front loading HE washer and dryer, which we used everyday!
*3 Nice tvs, wish there were some in the bedrooms, 2 in family space and one in the Master Bedroom
*Only 3 full bathrooms for 18 people.  Lots of waiting around to take showers after the beach.
The dining room was empty when we arrived. Apparently the owners are getting new furniture but in the meantime they left it empty! Long and Foster was nice enough to rent us a round banquet table with 6 folding chairs to use during our stay.
*Trash pickup is Tuesday morning. So, when we arrived on Friday afternoon, the trash can was overflowing, with 5 extra bags net to it, with millions of ants and bugs all around. NOT the way you want to be greeted as you walk into a rental house.
*No outdoor shower! We really missed that and most other houses have it.
Overall, the house was great.  Nice beds, comfortable mattresses, and a great spot to spend with family in Bethany.  Bethany Beach is such a nice family place to visit. Cute shops and restaurants on the boardwalk.  We go to Bethany almost every summer and it never disappoints us.
Leave me a comment if you have any questions about this house or Bethany Beach itself!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cereal, a great way to start breakfast!

A recent study shows 77 percent of D.C. parents believe maintaining a healthy body weight is important to ensuring their child’s health!  I agree completely.  I want my kids to enjoy breakfast, I want my kids to eat a healthy breakfast, and I want to ensure a long healthy life for each of them too.

When it comes to fighting childhood obesity, there is a lot to love about cereal!  Frequent cereal eaters tend to have healthier body weights. That’s true of men, women, and children who choose sweetened cereals.  
*Teen girls who eat cereal are less likely to become overweight than non cereal eaters. 
*Boys’ cereal consumption is associated with lower body mass index (BMI) 
is a great place to read more about the healthy benefits to eating cereal for breakfast.
I have one final giveaway for you, my loyal readers.
It is a great giftpack from general mills. You will receive 6 mini cereal bowls as well as a to go container that will hold some cereal and milk.  I plan to send this to go container with my son to 2nd grade.  He is allowed to have a morning snack and this will be perfect, no thinking about what that snack will be.  He will fill up his cereal container by himself and I will pour in the milk and we will be all set!
**********************Would you like to win a cereal giftpack of your own from General Mills?
Please leave me a comment and tell me:
What information would be valuable for parents to get from cereal companies to help understand the benefits of cereal?
You can earn 3 additional entries:
* follow me on twitter @cookwith5kids
* follow me above on google friend follower for 1 extra entry
* tweet about this giveaway using hashtag #myblogspark
* please leave a comment for each entry, thank you!
Winner will be chosen on July 12th at noon.
Dislcaimer: I was sent a giftpack from General Mills and MyBlogSpark to review.  The opinions I have provided above are all my own.  Winners must live in the US. 

Congrats to Lesley Mitchell my week 4 cereal winner!  Check back soon for a Land O Lakes cinnamon butter gift pack giveaway!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cars 2 Real Parent Review

I took three of my kids to see Cars 2 this weekend.  We left really early, hoping to be able to get a seat.  But wow, I guess other people had read the reviews, our theater was empty! Literally, a Sunday afternoon show and there were maybe 5% of the seats taken, pretty poor showing.
So I had with me my 3 year old girl and a 7 and 10 year old boy.
Our grades for this movie are
3 year old girl:F
7 year old boy:A
10 year old boy:A-
I want to begin this review by telling you DO NOT BE LATE FOR THIS MOVIE!  I don't want you to be late, because you will miss the cutest part of the movie, the 5 minute Pixar skit by all the Toy Story characters.  The toy story part is so cute, I am wanting to see that part again.  My kids were laughing, I was laughing, we were all ready to enjoy a great movie.   Too bad the cars part of the movie was awful.
The Cars 2 movie was really not enjoyable.  Since my 2 boys loved it, my little girl and I found ourselves playing on my phone during most of the movie.  Seriously, this movie was boring, annoying, confusing, and pretty violent.  My little girl was scared in a few parts and she is not usually scared during movies. 
The strangest part of the movie was, there was very little car racing!! I thought that was what cars do, they race around!  Nope, not in this movie.  In this movie they talk and talk some more.  They also spy on other cars, try and scare other cars, and insult other cars.
I do not know who created the idea behind this movie.  Obviously they knew what they were doing because my 2 boys walked out saying this was one of the best movies they had ever seen!  So if you have a little boy, maybe he might like it too! I would definitely wait until this movie comes out on DVD, because movie prices are crazy these days and this one is just not worth it!

Zevia is a great refreshing drink!

Having two sweaty teenage boys in the house means they are thirsty all day long.  I really do not like them drinking soda all the time.  Most of us eat very healthy and the teenagers really do not enjoy the healthy foods.
Last month I was sent from Mambo Sprouts 6 flavors of Zevia to try.  We had bought Zevia from Whole Foods a long time ago, but I had forgotten about this soda.  The 6 sodas arrived just in time, the hottest week of the summer.
The first thing we noticed were the colorful cans.  They were great colors and we could not wait to try the soda inside.  Sometimes the kids really want a cold fizzy drink and the Zevia really hit the spot!
The kids really liked all the flavors very much.  I loved that there were zero grams of sugar.  Zevia is sweetened with stevia and is an all natural soda.  SOOOO much better than your regular can of coke.  The favorite flavor we tried was the cream soda.  It really tasted like a real cream soda.  We poured a little over vanilla ice cream and that made a great float.
The least favorite flavor we tried was the caffeine free cola.  I think just seeing the words caffeine free turned the kids off to it, but they claimed that they liked that flavor the least. 
Zevia comes in 12 different flavors.  We tried 6 and they were all pretty awesome!
My favorite thing about Zevia is that it is 100% natural but yet at the same time it is fizzy and sweet.  Sometimes you just need that soda taste and for now, Zevia will replace all other bad sodas in our house.  If you have not heard of it or tried it yet, give it a try!
Read more about Zevia at

Disclaimer: I was sent a 6 pack of Zevia to try along with a coupon and some other goodies.  The ideas expressed above are all my own ideas and I have since bought many cans of Zevia myself.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Taste and Nutrition is Important!!

Nutrition is not nutrition unless your kids eat it!! I know that is very true for my kids.  Some of my kids really enjoy healthy foods, but others do not.  To me it is more important that my kids eat something for breakfast instead of nothing.
Did you know that cereal is a great breakfast option because it is the number one dietary source of many key nutrients including iron, zinc and folic acid?   Frequent cereal eaters tend to have better nutrient intakes too!
Did you also know that a typical breakfast contributes more than 30 percent of needed calcium, iron and B vitamins while delivering less than 20 percent of daily calories?  In addition, ready-to-eat cereal is the top source of whole grain in kids’ diets.
Big G is the only leading line of kids' cereals to contain at least 8 grams of whole grain (48 grams recommended daily) and a good source of both calcium and vitamin D in every serving. In addition, cereal is an inexpensive but nutrient-dense option. On average, a bowl of cereal with milk is approximately 50 cents per serving
 Just for reading my blog, General Mills would like to offer one winner a great prize this week.  You will get 6 cereal bowl boxes of cereal.  My kids love these, especially on trips when you might not have a seperate bowl.  The cereal dispenser has also been a huge hit in my house! It is easy enough to use for my 3 year old by herself and it encourages snacking throughout the day.  All of my kids are eating more cereal thanks to this dispenser.  Would you like to win one of your own??
*********Would you like to win a cereal giftpack of your own from General Mills?
Please leave me a comment and tell me:
 What are some easy ways you help your child get necessary nutrients like vitamin D, calcium, iron, folate and zinc into the foods they eat?
For a second entry, What tips can you share with fellow parents to make sure their kids take advantage of the nutrition benefits of cereal?
If you would like additional entries, 
* follow me on twitter @cookwith5kids
* follow me above on google friend follower for 1 extra entry
* tweet about this giveaway using hashtag #myblogspark
* please leave a comment for each entry, thank you!
Winner will be chosen on June 30th at noon.
Dislcaimer: I was sent a giftpack from General Mills and MyBlogSpark to review.  The opinions I have provided above are all my own.  Winners must live in the US. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Quick Disney trip report

We just got back from a week at Disney and I will have a few in depth blog posts in the coming days that will include some great Disney info and a very cool Auto Train review.
Some of my upcoming blog posts will be
*Best Disney Buffet you have never heard of
*Disney buses, the true story
*Where is the Disney magic
*Auto Train, family room and roomette up to date report with photos
*Water park tips for Typhoon Lagoon
*Ride updates for Disneyworld
*Our suggestions for staying cool when it is blazing hot outside!

Overall we had a good time. 100 degrees each day made the day less enjoyable than it could have been, but we still had fun!
Stay tuned for some great blog posts, and another cereal giveaway and a great healthy soda review!
If you have any Disney questions please feel free to email me at

Monday, June 13, 2011

The truth behind your bowl of cereal

Here we are, already on week 2 of the share your love for cereal week!
Congrats again to @JoeyfromSC for winning the cereal prize for week 1.
This week I have another great prize for my cereal lovers.

Today I want to talk about the truth behind the bowl, I want to try to clear up misconceptions about cereal.  Dr. Keith Ayoob, an internationally recognized dietitian who has worked extensively in the area of child nutrition, obesity, heart health and family dynamics for more than two decades, has partnered with General Mills to help correct cereal misconceptions and let moms know that cereal is actually one of the healthiest breakfast choices they can make for their family.


"Your child´s favorite cereals may actually help fight childhood obesity," said Dr. Keith Ayoob Ed.D., RD. "Cereal provides key nutrients that are important to overall health and cereals, including sweetened cereals, provide less than 5 percent of a child´s daily sugar intake."
In addition, did you know cereal is lower in calories and higher in nutrition than many other breakfast options like bagels with cream cheese and pancakes?
  • A 2009 study of children aged 6 to 18 shows cereal eaters have healthier body weights than those who don´t eat cereal, regardless of sweetness level.
  • Cereal eaters consume less fat than non-cereal eaters.
  • Not all cereals are equal and it´s important to read the labels -- General Mills is proud of its commitment to reduce sugar in all of its kids´ cereals to single-digit levels per serving.
  • General Mills has more than 30 nutritious cereals with 130 calories or less per serving.  
As you eat or serve your next bowl of cereal please take a few minutes to read the front and side of the box of cereal.  Look at the nutrition facts and ingredient list.  Compare that label with other foods you would typically serve for breakfast. 

**********For one entry into this week's giveaway of mini bowls of cereal, bowls from Crate & Barrel & adorable Zak Design spoons, what did you learn when you looked at your cereal box.  Please leave me a comment below with something you learned from reading your labels.  You can leave up to 3 separate comments for each thing you learned from your nutrition label.
For additional entries
*Follow me on twitter @cookwith5kids
*Tweet this contest to your followers
Leave a separate comment for each one entry. 5 entries max per person!

Disclaimer: I was sent a giftpack from General Mills and MyBlogSpark to review.  The opinions I have provided above are all my own.  Winners must live in the US. Good Luck!