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“Minimal” is the exact keyword most busy mamas want to hear when discussing dinner recipe options. Our figurative plates are full, and when it comes to planning and prepping meals—the simpler, the better.


So can simple, good-for-you meals still taste delicious? Dana and John Shultz of the popular blog Minimalist Baker proves that yes, they can, in their beautiful new cook book.

That book, Everyday Cooking, holds 101 vegan, mostly gluten-free, never seen before recipes from breakfast and apps, to dinner and desserts.

The best part about their recipes like the weeknight burrito bowl or the handmade hippie cereal is that they all only require 30 minutes (or less!), one bowl or pot, or ten ingredients or less.

We love a good meal just as much as the next gal, but extra time spent snuggling our two-year-old or planting kisses on our sweet newborn—okay, okay, even extra time to do laundry or make a work call? That’s sweeter than any tasty treat out there.

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Less is more, people.

We got to chat with Dana and John of Minimalist Baker about their pantry staples, time-saving tricks in the kitchen, and got the scoop on some of their best recipes.


How did you two decide to start Minimalist Baker?

Dana + John: We started the blog we wanted to cook from back in the summer of 2012. I have always been a somewhat lazy, impatient cook and wanted recipes that required little time, ingredients and equipment. That’s how Minimalist Baker came to be.

Why did you want to create this online space to share your recipes and cooking?

Dana+ John: I am a sharer by nature. When I find—or make—something awesome, I naturally want to share it with everyone. Creating exciting new recipes is a natural thing I want to share about. A blog was the perfect way for me to do so.



What made you decide to take the leap and create a (beautiful!) cook book?

Dana + John: Our fans kept asking for something in print that they could hold and use in their kitchens. The brainstorming started from there!

Can you give us the scoop—how do you soak cashews and make almond meal?

Dana + John: Soaking cashews is incredibly simple. Just put cashews in a bowl, cover with boiling hot water, and leave it alone for 1 hour. Then drain and you have the perfect vegan base for creamy sauces, desserts, dressings and more! As for almond meal, that’s just raw almonds ground into a fine meal which is perfect for making baked goods gluten free and more wholesome!



What are your must-have pantry items?

Dana + John: You can see a whole list here!

Some pantry items include: Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 gluten free flour blend, Bob’s Red Mill arrowroot starch, Bob’s Red Mill brown rice flour, Bob’s Red Mill white rice flour, Bob’s Red Mill tapioca flour, Bragg nutritional yeast, Brown rice noodles.

A lot of your meals take 30 minutes or less to prepare. This is huge for busy mamas! What other time-saving tips do you have for us in the kitchen?

Dana + John: Meal plan on Sundays so you only have to grocery shop once. That way you go into the week knowing what to expect and plan for.

I also think multitasking is a huge time saver when it comes to quick cooking. While your quinoa is cooking, chop your vegetables. Or while your chili is bubbling away, prepare your garnishes. Last but not least, try simple recipes!

Shameless plug, but the recipes in the book are truly easy!


Homemade hippie cereal recipe

YIELDS 21 SERVINGS

PREP TIME 10 MIN. | COOK TIME 25 MIN. | TOTAL TIME 35 MIN.

1 3⁄4 cup (196g) slivered raw almonds (slivered do better than whole)

1 1⁄4 cup (125g) raw pecans

3⁄4 cup (90g) raw walnuts

2 Tbsp (24g) chia seeds

2 tsp ground cinnamon, divided

2 Tbsp (24g) coconut sugar (or sub organic cane sugar or organic muscovado sugar)

1⁄4 tsp sea salt

2 Tbsp (30ml) olive oil or coconut oil

1⁄4 cup (60ml) maple syrup or agave nectar

6 cups (84g) puffed brown rice cereal

OPTIONAL1⁄4 cup (28g) roasted unsalted sunflower seeds

1⁄4 cup (35g) dried blueberries or other dried fruit

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Position rack in center of oven.

2. In large mixing bowl, combine almonds, pecans, walnuts, chia, 1 tsp cinnamon, coconut sugar, and salt.

3. In small saucepan over low heat (or in small bowl in the microwave), warm oil and maple syrup or agave nectar. Pour over dry ingredients in the large mixing bowl. Mix well.

4. Spread mixture evenly onto large baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. If adding sunflower seeds and dried fruit, remove from oven and add at this time. Stir.

5. Increase heat to 340 degrees F and return to oven for another 5-7 minutes, or until deep golden brown.

6. Rinse and dry mixing bowl. As soon as granola is visibly browned and done cooking (about 25 minutes total), remove from oven and let cool completely.

7. When completely cooled, pour puffed rice into large mixing bowl and add remaining 1 tsp cinnamon. Toss. Add cooled granola and toss once more.

8. Store in a container with airtight seal. Cereal will keep 2-3 weeks. Serve as is or with dairy-free yogurt or milk. Sliced banana makes a lovely addition.


Southwest sweet potato black bean dip recipe

SERVES 6

PREP TIME: 10 Minutes | COOK TIME: 20 Minutes | TOTAL TIME: 30 Minutes

2 medium to large organic sweet potatoes (~260g), cubed, skin on

2 Tbsp (30ml) olive oil or avocado oil

2 Tbsp (30ml) maple syrup (or sub coconut sugar)

1⁄4 tsp each sea salt, chili powder, ground cinnamon + ground cumin

1 cup (150g) whole corn kernels

1 cup (60g) cilantro, chopped

1⁄2 cup red onion (55g), diced

1 15-ounce (425g) can black beans, rinsed + drained SAUCE

1 ripe avocado

1 Tbsp (15ml) olive oil or avocado oil

1 lime, juiced (3 Tbsp or 45ml)

1-2 Tbsp (15-30ml) maple syrup or agave nectar

Pinch each sea salt + black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Lightly grease a baking sheet and add potatoes, oil, maple syrup, salt, cumin, chili powder, and cinnamon. Toss to coat.

3. Bake for 20 minutes or until soft and lightly browned, stirring once halfway through to ensure even baking. Sample and adjust seasonings if needed. Set aside.

4. In the meantime, add sauce ingredients to large mixing bowl. Mash/mix to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.

5. Add corn, cilantro, onion, black beans, and roasted sweet potatoes to sauce and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

6. Serve at room temperature with tortilla chips. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, though best when fresh.


Easy weeknight burrito bowls recipe

SERVES 4

PREP TIME 5 MIN. | COOK TIME 25 MIN. | TOTAL TIME 30 MIN.

RICE

1 cup (200g) white rice*, uncooked

2 cups (480ml) water

1⁄4 tsp sea salt

1⁄2 lime, juiced (1 Tbsp or 15ml)

2 Tbsp (8g) cilantro, chopped

BLACK BEANS

1 15-ounce (425g) can black beans, slightly drained (if unsalted, add 1⁄4 tsp salt)

1⁄4 tsp each garlic powder, ground cumin + chili powder

PEPPERS + ONIONS

1 Tbsp (15ml) grape seed oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil

1 green bell pepper (119g), seeds removed, thinly sliced

1⁄2 medium red onion (55g), thinly sliced

Pinch each sea salt + black pepper

CORN SALSA*

1 cup (150g) corn, fresh or canned

1⁄4 cup (37g) tomatoes, finely diced

1 jalapeño (14g), seeds removed and finely diced

1⁄4 cup (27g) red onion, finely diced

1⁄2 lime, juiced (1 Tbsp or 15ml)

1 Tbsp (4g) cilantro, chopped Pinch each sea salt + black pepper

GUACAMOLE

1 ripe avocado

1⁄2 lime, juiced (1 Tbsp or 15ml)

Pinch each sea salt + black pepper

1 Tbsp (4g) cilantro, chopped

1. Rinse rice in fine mesh strainer. Add to small saucepan with water. Bring to boil over high heat, then cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until water is absorbed — about 15-20 minutes. Do not lift lid until it is finished cooking.

2. While rice is cooking, add black beans to saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, add spices, and stir. Then reduce heat to low to keep warm until serving, stirring occasionally.

3. In the meantime, heat large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add 1 Tbsp (15ml) oil, peppers, onion, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, or until tender and slightly browned. Set aside.

4. While peppers and onions are sautéing, add all corn salsa ingredients to mixing bowl and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Set aside.

5. Lastly, add all guacamole ingredients to a mixing bowl. Mash to combine using a fork or potato masher. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

6. Once finished cooking, remove rice from heat. Add salt, lime juice, and cilantro.

7. To serve, scoop rice into serving bowls and top with beans, peppers and onions, corn salsa, guacamole, and any other desired toppings. I love extra red salsa, hot sauce, and tortilla chips.

8. Store leftovers separately (covered) in refrigerator for 3-4 days. Corn salsa will keep 5-7 days.

Notes:

*I like using white rice because it cooks much faster and keeps this recipe under 30 minutes. But you can sub brown rice if you prefer.

*To switch it up, sub vegan refried beans or pinto beans for black beans.

*Instead of the corn salsa, you can also sub your favorite red or green salsa.



Recipes reprinted with permission from Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2016, Dana Schultz.


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There are few kids television shows as successful as PAW Patrol. The Spin Masters series has spawned countless toys and clothing deals, a live show and now, a movie.

That's right mama, PAW Patrol is coming to the big screen in 2021.

The big-screen version of PAW Patrol will be made with Nickelodeon Movies and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"We are thrilled to partner with Paramount and Nickelodeon to bring the PAW Patrol franchise, and the characters that children love, to the big screen," Spin Master Entertainment's Executive Vice President, Jennifer Dodge, announced Friday.

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"This first foray into the arena of feature film marks a significant strategic expansion for Spin Master Entertainment and our properties. This demonstrates our commitment to harnessing our own internal entertainment production teams to develop and deliver IP in a motion picture format and allows us to connect our characters to fans through shared theatrical experiences," Dodge says.

No word on the plot yet, but we're gonna bet there's a problem, 'round Aventure Bay, and Ryder and his team of pups will come and save the day.

We cannot even imagine how excited little PAW Patrol fans will be when this hits theatres in 2021. It's still too early to buy advance tickets but we would if we could!

News

In the middle of that postpartum daze, the sleepless nights, the recovery, the adjustment to a new schedule and learning the cues of a new baby, there are those moments when a new mom might think, I don't know how long I can do this.

Fortunately, right around that time, newborns smile their first real smile.

For many mothers, the experience is heart-melting and soul-lifting. It's a crumb of sustenance to help make it through the next challenges, whether that's sleep training, baby's first cold, or teething. Each time that baby smiles, the mother remembers, I can do this, and it's worth it.

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Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT a NYC-based psychotherapist and author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom, says she sees this in her clinical practice.

"One mother I worked with recounted her experience of her baby's first smile. At eight weeks postpartum, exhausted and overwhelmed, she remembered her baby smiling broadly at her just before a nighttime feeding," Kurtz says. "In that moment, she was overcome by tremendous joy and relief, and felt, for the first time, a real connection to her son."

So what is it about a baby's smile that can affect a mother so deeply? Can it all be attributed to those new-mom hormones? Perhaps it stems from the survival instincts that connect an infant with its mother, or the infant learning social cues. Or is there something more going on inside our brains?

In 2008, scientists in Houston, TX published their research on the topic. Their study, "What's in a Smile? Maternal Brain Responses to Infant Facial Cues", takes data from the MRI images of 26 women as they observed images of infants smiling, crying, or with a neutral expression.

The images included the mother's own infant alternated with an unknown infant of similar ethnicity and in similar clothing and position. In each image, the baby displayed a different emotion through one of three facial expressions; happy, neutral, or sad. Researchers monitored the change in the mothers' brain activity through the transitions in images from own-infant to unknown-infant, and from happy to neutral to sad and vice versa.

The results?

"When first-time mothers see their own baby's face, an extensive brain network appears to be activated, wherein affective and cognitive information may be integrated and directed toward motor/behavioral outputs," wrote the study's authors. Seeing her infant smile or cry prompts the areas of the brain that would instigate a mother to act, whether it be to comfort, care for, or caress and play with the baby.

In addition, the authors found that reward-related brain regions are activated specifically in response to happy, but not sad, baby faces. The areas of the brain that lit up in their study are the same areas that release dopamine, the "pleasure chemical." For context, other activities that elicit dopamine surges include eating chocolate, having sex, or doing drugs. So in other words, a baby's smile may be as powerful as those other feel-good experiences.

And this gooey feeling moms may get from seeing their babies smile isn't just a recreational high—it serves a purpose.

This reward system (aka dopaminergic and oxytocinergic neuroendocrine system) exists to motivate the mother to forge a positive connection with the baby, according to Aurélie Athan, PhD, director of the Reproductive & Maternal Psychology Laboratory (a laboratory that created the first graduate courses of their kind in these subjects).

These networks also promote a mother's ability to share her emotional state with her child, which is the root of empathy. "A mother cries when baby cries, smiles when baby smiles," Athan says.

While there's a physiological explanation underlying that warm-and-fuzzy sensation elicited by a smile, there may be other factors at play too, Kurtz says.

"In my clinical practice, I often observe a stunning exchange between a mother and her baby when the latter smiles at her. A mother who is otherwise engaged in conversation with me may be, for that moment, entirely redirected to focus on her little one," Kurtz says. "This kind of attention-capturing on the part of the baby can enable and cultivate maternal attunement—a mother's ability to more deeply connect with her infant. The quality of attunement in early childhood often sets the stage for one's relationship patterns in the future."

Whether a physiological response, a neural activation, simple instinct, or the tightening of emotional connection, the feeling generated by babies' smiles is a buoy in the choppy ocean of new parenthood.

And while the first smile may be the most magical by virtue of its surprise and the necessity of that emotional lift, the fuzzy feeling can continue well into that baby's childhood and beyond. It keeps telling parents, you've got this!

[This was originally published on Apparently]

Life

Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

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Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

News

Dear fellow mama,

I was thinking about the past the other day. About the time I had three small boys—a newborn, his 2-year-old brother and his 5-year-old brother.

How I was always drowning.

How I could never catch my breath between the constant requests.

How I always felt guilty no matter how hard I tried.

How hard it was—the constant exhaustion, struggling to keep my home any kind of clean or tidy, how I struggled to feed my kids nutritious meals, to bathe them and clean them and keep them warmly dressed in clean clothing, to love them well or enough or well enough.

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Those years were some of the toughest years I have ever encountered.

But mama, I am here to tell you that it doesn't last forever. Slowly, incrementally, without you even noticing, it gets easier. First, one child is toilet trained, then the bigger one can tie his own shoelaces, then finally they are all sleeping through the night.

It's hard to imagine; I really really get it.

It is going to get easier. I swear it. I'm not saying that there won't be new parenting challenges, that it won't be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will be. But it will get easier.

These days, all of my kids get the bus to school and back. Most of them dress themselves. They can all eat independently and use the toilet. Sometimes they play with each other for hours leaving me time to do whatever I need to do that day.

I sleep through the night. I am not constantly in a haze of exhaustion. I am not overwhelmed by three tiny little people needing me to help them with their basic needs, all at the same time.

I can drink a hot cup of coffee. I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I was an octopus, able to help each tiny person at the same time.

I am not tugged in opposite directions. I don't have to disappoint my 3-year-old who desperately wants to play with me while I am helping his first grade bother with his first grade reading homework.

And one day, you will be here too.

It's going to get easier. I promise. And while it may not happen today or even next week or even next month, it will happen. And you will look around in wonder at the magnificent people you helped to create and nurture and sustain.

Until then, you are stronger and more resilient than you can even imagine.

You've got this. Today and always.

Love,

A fellow mama

Life
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