As a part-time stay-at-home mother of a toddler, two questions I often ask myself are:
- Well, what should we do today?; and
- Hmm, what should we have for dinner?
(Other common questions include: What the h*** am I doing?, What’s that smell?, What’s in your mouth?, and Do you think anyone can tell that these are my pajama pants? But I digress…)
Anyway, if you’re like me, next time you ask yourself those two questions, here are a couple of ideas.
1. Something to Do: Make an Astronaut Costume for your Child!
Although we did this specifically for Halloween, making a simple costume like this would be fun on any occasion. It works for boys and girls alike, and almost any age (seriously, my husband wanted one).
Here are the supplies that you will need:
1 jumpsuit-type sleeper, preferably with just one or two plain colors (blue, black, white, gray, red) as opposed to a pattern (about $8 at Target)
2 coasters and/or 1 piece of thin cardboard
4-6 pieces of printer paper
8-12 small safety pins
Instructions: Google the phrase “NASA logos” in Google Images. Find a few images of NASA logos that you like, and print them onto your printer paper. Cut out the logos with the scissors. Tape the round logos onto the coasters. Tape the other logos on the thin cardboard, which should be cut to fit the shape of the logo. Using the safety pins, pin the cardboard-backed logos onto the sleeper. Put on, zip up, and enjoy! (Optional: Cut off the feet of the sleeper if your child would prefer to wear shoes and socks, or plans to run around it in outside.)
Now, if you are feeling really creative and want to make a space capsule to go with the jumpsuit, you will also need aluminum foil and more printer paper and tape. You can also use glow-in-the-dark stars if you wish. For the space capsule, simply cover an existing car or wagon with aluminum foil. (A large box could work, too.) Use tape to hold the foil in place. Then print out more NASA logos, and tape them onto the foil. Do the same with glow-in-the-dark stars, if you wish.
Then, put your child (with astronaut jumpsuit) in the capsule and the fun begins! As you play, point out the moon or sun and sky, and talk about rockets, airplanes, astronauts, space, planets … and whatever else comes to mind. Yes, this activity is both fun and educational!
Do you have other suggestions for easy, affordable, enjoyable things-to-do with young children? I would love to hear them!
2. Something for Dinner: Make White Bean, Poblano & Chicken Chili!
I created this recipe back when I was about seven months pregnant. You know, back when — in between re-runs of Top Chef, Project Runway, or Millionaire Matchmaker — I actually had time to experiment with new recipes. It was football season at the time, and starting to get cold, so I really wanted something warm and comforting. I also wanted something that would be easy to eat at a tailgate or while watching the game on TV. Here is what I came up with:
White Bean, Poblano & Chicken Chili
Serves 6 to 8
When it’s cold outside, not much sounds better than a warm bowl of chili. This recipe provides a welcome variation to the usual beef-and-pinto bean combo. Even better, you don’t have to spend all day in the kitchen to enjoy this dish! For one thing, the precooked Rotisserie chicken makes things quick and easy. And, although I use dried beans and roast my own peppers, you could use canned beans and diced green chilies in a pinch. Best of all, instead of weighing you down like some chili can, this version is light, spicy, and refreshing, similar to a soothing Mexican soup.
½ lb. dried navy beans, picked over
3 teaspoons salt, divided, plus more for extra seasoning
3 or 4 Poblano peppers
1 or 2 jalapeno peppers, depending on desired heat
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Juice of 1 lime
¼ cup light sour cream
Meat from 1 cooked Rotisserie chicken, shredded (about 3 to 4 cups)
2 to 4 cups water or liquid from the pot of beans
For Garnish: light sour cream; grated cheese; avocado chunks; chopped cilantro
Rinse the beans. Place in a large pot, cover with 3 inches water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat until beans are soft, for about 1 ½ to 2 hours. (Water will evaporate as beans are cooking; add additional water as needed.) Season with 2 teaspoons salt.
While beans are cooking, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the Poblano and jalapeno peppers on the foil.
Broil in the oven, turning once, until peppers are charred. Remove from oven.
Wrap foil tightly around the peppers and set aside for 15 minutes. Unwrap the foil package. Peel the blackened skin off the peppers and discard. Remove the seeds and skin from the peppers and discard. Place flesh of peeled, roasted peppers in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the food processor until the peppers are chopped. (Or you can chop the peppers by hand.)
Heat butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.
Add onions; sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Season with salt.
Add garlic; sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium-low. Add chicken broth, cumin, coriander, lime juice, and sour cream; stir to combine.
Add beans (drained) and shredded chicken; stir gently to combine. Add ½ of the chopped peppers; stir to combine. Taste; add additional peppers as needed until desired heat is achieved.
Add water (or liquid from the pot of beans), 1 cup at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Taste and season with salt. Simmer over medium-low heat until chili is warmed through and flavors are combined, about 10 minutes. Garnish as desired and serve immediately in individual bowls.
- For a quicker version, use 2 cans (14.5 ounces, each) navy beans instead of cooking your own.
- For a vegetarian version (yes this means you, Jason and Sheri :), use veggie broth and omit the chicken.