Embracing Motherhood My Favorite Preschool Playlists on YouTube

My Favorite YouTube Playlists for Teaching Kids Ages 0-6

These are our favorite playlists that we have used with our four children (currently ages 1-6)  to help them learn the basics such as their letter names, letter sounds, numbers, shapes, colors, nursery rhymes, and more. The repetition of the songs combined with the simple and engaging graphics in these videos have helped our children to develop oral language which is a precursor to learning how to read.

I absolutely love using technology to help our children learn! Some people don’t think that children under 2 should be watching any sort of TV at all, but I strongly disagree. Check out my blog about why I don’t think we should ban screen time for young children AT ALL here. Basically, if you’re using technology to teach, if you’re watching it with your children before you leave them to watch it alone, and if you’re purposeful about how you use it, technology can be an amazing tool that really benefits young children and helps their brains to develop neural pathways that will help them to be more prone to learning in the future.

*Keep in mind that these playlists (and technology in general) are just one modality of teaching. Kids benefit from many other strategies as well. Check out my blog: How Children Really Learn to Read to see how all of these parts come together.

The Right Set Up

You can certainly show your children these playlists on any computer, but for an optimal viewing experience, I recommend connecting your TV to your computer to use the following playlists (and to become more purposeful about what you watch).

  1. Connect Your TV to a Computer (or Laptop): Basically, you can connect your computer or laptop to your TV using an HDMI cable. Read more about how to do this here and what other resources we like watching instead of cable TV here.
  2. Download the Chrome Browser: The reason why you want this browser is so that you can download Ad Blocker (which I’ll get to next). I also like it because I can customize it with my favorite bookmarks and have it look the same on all of our computers and devices. This is especially helpful for the kids once they learn how to navigate computers on their own. Click here to download the Chrome browser.
  3. Download Ad Blocker: Without Ad Blocker, this whole playlist plan just doesn’t really work. The reason why I like my kids watching playlists custom designed for their interests and needs is that unlike TV, they aren’t getting bombarded with commercials. When we’ve had Ad Blocker off, it’s really a horrible experience because some commercials go on for 30 minutes if you don’t hit “skip this ad”. So without any further adieu, download Ad Blocker here.

How to Save Playlists

Before I share my favorite playlists with you, here are the steps you’ll need to follow to save them.

  1. Make a YouTube Account: In order to save any playlists, you first of all need to have a Google account. (Get one here.) Then, you use that to create your own YouTube account where you can subscribe to your favorite channels, upload your own videos, save playlists, and create playlists.
  2. Finding Playlists: You can certainly just use my playlist recommendations, but if you find a single video that your child really likes, type the maker of that video plus “playlist” into the YouTube search. Sometimes I’ll just play the longest playlist and sometimes I’ll select the playlist from the maker of the videos. These playlists are typically more up to date and predictable with their content than a random user who creates them.
  3. Save a Playlist: Once you  click on a playlist that you like and want to save, look in the top right hand corner for a plus button. Once you select it, it will turn into a check. Now you can go to your channel, look under “saved playlists” and you can see all of the playlists you’ve saved.
  4. Subscribe: Instead of saving all of your favorite playlists, you might just want to subscribe to the channels that you really like. Look under the “playlists” tab of your favorite channels, and browse the playlists they’ve created.

My Favorite Preschool Playlists

There are a TON of resources on YouTube that you can use to help your child learn, and I don’t presume to have found the be all and end all of all learning videos online. The important thing is to find videos that resonate with you and your children. I find it helpful to always watch videos WITH my children repeatedly before letting them watch them on their own. This way, I can determine what they like, help them to decipher and interact with them, and make sure there is nothing inappropriate or confusing.

These are the playlists that our children have been mesmerized by, learned from, and the ones I haven’t minded having on in the background on a regular basis.

1. Kids TV 123

This educational playlist of songs about the letter names and sounds, basic counting, brushing your teeth, animal sounds, planets and more has been ridiculously popular with all of our young children. (It has been especially helpful with teaching our children their letter names and sounds.) The animations are very simple and everything is personified with little sets of eyes, arms and legs.

kidstv123 youtube web pic

The elusive creator A. J. Jenkins (read an interesting article about him here) records simple songs with just his voice, guitar, and sometimes keyboard and light percussion that are very cute and catchy. Go here for all of his playlists and here for some free printables that go along with the videos.

2. Super Simple Songs

The team over at Super Simple Learning have done an amazing job of creating videos designed to help children develop oral language. These videos are specifically designed to help children who are learning English as another language and who are special needs, but they are amazing for all young children! Most of the songs encourage movement and motions and our children love watching these videos over and over and over again. (*We have a shortcut to this playlist on our desktop and watch it every single night as a part of our bedtime routine.)

super simple songs

Our children have all especially loved this Twinkle Twinkle Little Star video, and my dad loves using it to calm down little ones and help them fall asleep. Last I checked, this video had over 500 million views! Go here to see all of their playlists and here to download TONS of free printable resources such as coloring pages and flashcards.

3. Storybots

These cute little robots and catchy songs aren’t just good, they’re great! The music is very well produced with kind of a Beatles rock n’ roll feel to them, the lyrics are clever and well thought out, and they have been VERY captivating for our young children. They have songs about letters, numbers, shapes, planets, professions, behaviors, emotions, and more that are educational and fun!

storybots

Unlike the first two playlists I’ve recommended, this one doesn’t have an “All Videos” playlist. Maybe someday I’ll create one (or maybe you can!), but for now, here’s the link to all of their playlists for all of their videos. They also have a website where you can get some printouts for free and others for a subscription fee and some apps. Our kids love the ABC app!

4. Mother Goose Club

This channel has just about every nursery rhyme you could ever imagine! They also have a variety of different playlists to choose from.

mother goose club

Our kids love these simple classic songs and the way they are acted out by children using minimal props and special effects. Learning basic songs and nursery rhymes is great for oral language development!

5. Busy Beavers

This playlist is great for teaching all of the letter names and sounds in addition to many great nursery rhymes. The simple animations and repetitive songs are designed to teach children who are learning English, but they are great for teaching oral language development for ALL children! You can also watch these playlists to teach your children French, Chinese (Mandarin), Korean, and more.

busy beavers

These videos can be a little annoying, but the fact is that kids love them and they are a great teaching tool. They will also invite you repeatedly to pay money to subscribe to their channel to get the videos ad free, but if you’re rocking Ad Blocker, you won’t need  to worry about that! You can get some free printables to go along with the videos here or get full access to all of the printables for a monthly subscription fee. Go here to see all of their playlists.

6. ABC Kid TV

There are a lot of different ABC playlists designed for kids out there, and it feels like we have watched them all! For some reason, these particular videos have been a favorite with our 2 year old daughter Ophelia recently. I think she really likes the combination of real children and cartoon graphics.

abc kid tv

The playlist is about an hour long and covers all of the letters of the alphabet with simple graphics and several examples as well as the ABC song. See all of their playlists here.

My Playlists

While I was writing this blog, I decided to just go ahead and create my own favorite playlists. Creating playlists is a bit time consuming, but so worth it to have custom designed lists that are just write for your children. In order to create your own playlist, just look for the “add to” button on the bottom left of the screen of the video you want to save (make sure it’s not on full screen), click it, and you can add the video to an existing list or create a new list. Once you make a list you can edit it by changing the order of the videos, adding videos, deleting videos, changing the title of your list, and adding a description. Go here to see all of my playlists. You can subscribe to my channel to keep informed of new videos that I upload and the playlists I create.

  1. ABCs: This collection starts with basic ABC songs, then transitions into videos that focus on each letter, and finally ends with some compilations so that my children will probably lose interest before I run out of videos!
  2. Nursery Rhymes and Familiar Songs: American children will grow up hearing these songs over and over and over again. The repetition of these rhymes and songs encourages oral language development, which is a precursor to reading.
  3. Simple Songs: Children may not automatically know these songs like they may possibly know nursery rhymes, but if you watch these videos, they will quickly become just as beloved. Many of these songs incorporate movement and motion. They are also great for developing oral language, which is a precursor to reading.
  4. Preschool VocabularyThese songs facilitate the development of language through their catchy melodies, intriguing yet simple images, and use of vocabulary that helps children to understand their world. Learning the names of things is a big aspect of oral language development and a precursor to learning how to read.
  5. Learning to ReadChildren are capable of learning to read at a much younger age than we give them credit for. Once children are able to sound out a word and commit it to memory, they don’t need to sound it out every time. Being able to sound out words is a great strategy for when children encounter new words, however, and this playlist is designed to support the strategy of sounding out words and to encourage the memorization of simple words.
  6. Preschool Science and Social StudiesLearning about science and social studies happens in layers just like reading. The younger children are when they are exposed to the ideas of maps, planets, how the body works, and more, the more they will understand it later. These videos are cute and catchy and will help children to learn about these higher level concepts with ease.
  7. Preschool Math: Learning that counting means each object is counted only one time (the one-to-one principle) is as fundamental to math as learning the letter names and sounds is to reading. It is not a concept that is easily or automatically learned, but through lots of repetition, exposure, and practice, children can master it. Another foundation of math is learning the names and attributes of shapes. I’ve also included other basic math concepts.
  8. Learning LanguagesThese simple songs are great for exposing children to the sounds of other languages. By the time children are one, the phonemes they can pronounce are pretty much hard wired into their brains. Exposing children to other languages at a young age leaves the door open for further language development. There are longer playlists (I like the ones through Busy Beaver) of just one language, but I like having this hodge podge mixed together.
  9. Favorite Preschool Videos: This is a compilation of all of my favorite preschool videos spanning all topics and subjects. This is the playlist I go to when my kids are fussy or for a time when I want them to watch a hodge podge of things to keep them entertained rather than to just teach.
  10. Our Kids Learning How to ReadBeing a teacher, I have always been fascinated by children and how they learn. Now that I have four of my own and am a stay at home mom, I have enjoyed teaching them how to read. I have been fascinated by how young they have been able to read. All of our children have learned to read at a young age (2 being the youngest). This is a collection of videos of them reading over the years.

How to Make a Desktop Shortcut to Your Favorite Playlists

I like having access to my favorite playlists at the click of a button, so I like to create shortcuts on my desktop to find them. For some people, you might think, “Oh, that is so easy!” But for others, like me until I did some research, we may have no idea! So, here’s how you create a shortcut on your desktop to your favorite playlists:

  1. Right click anywhere on your desktop.
  2. Select “new” –> and then “shortcut”.
  3. You will then see a blank space to add a url called “Type the location of the item”. (You can browse to choose an existing file, but don’t do that right now!) Copy the address of your favorite playlist and copy it into this blank space. Then click “next”.
  4. Now you can name your shortcut whatever you’d like.

In Conclusion

I think that one of the most fundamental and most helpful things to teach young children is the alphabet. By teaching the letter names and sounds from young age, we are helping children’s brains to be wired in a way that makes learning to read easy and fun. (Read more about how children’s brains are wired for learning here.) These playlists are just one way of doing this. Check out my blog: Tips, Tricks, and Resources for Teaching the ABCs to see all of the ways I have enjoyed doing this with our children.

Happy watching and happy learning!

Embracing Motherhood What We Watch Instead of TV

What We Watch Instead of TV

Ok, so you’ve connected your computer to your TV, now what? Is it possible to be entertained without a paid subscription to cable? Yes! You can certainly connect your TV to your computer and still enjoy your local channels or even a cable subscription, but when we got rid of those things, we found that we were much more purposeful about what we watched, we didn’t waste time flipping channels, we weren’t inundated with commercials, and we spent a lot less time in front of the TV. If you already have Internet in your home, choosing a couple of these options could even save you money!

Most of the following are things that we use, but I’ve also included a few other sources that I would recommend nonetheless and marked these with an *.

1. YouTube

YouTube usually has full length features of the programs we like watching like John Oliver on Last Week Tonight. We also like watching Ted Talks and basically videos about whatever we’re interested in learning about. And of course, who can resist funny cat videoshilarious Japanese pranks, and our favorite music videos! We love showing the kids educational videos like this preschool playlist and now YouTube has a YouTube Kids app that we put on our tablets and phones.

In order to enjoy watching videos on YouTube without ads, you will first want to download the Chrome browser and then download Ad Blocker (Chrome is the only browser that will support Ad Blocker). Without blocking ads, I’m not really sure how good of an experience this would be.

They are now promoting YouTube Red where for $9.95/month, you can have an ad free experience as well as download your favorite videos to watch anytime.

2. Netflix

For $9.95/month, we enjoy streaming movies, TV shows, documentaries, and more on Netflix. I love how when I’m not sure what to watch, I can check out a certain genre and browse for ideas. The kids love using the kids login page, and they get great ideas for new shows to watch based on shows they have already enjoyed.

3. PBS

On PBS, you can watch any program (like my favorite, Call the Midwife) under programs, and check out other great programs sorted by topic. You can create an account (for free) that will let you save your favorite programs and keep a viewing history. Go to PBS Kids to watch all children’s programs. It’s laid out so that children can navigate very easily and there are games to play as well. Everything is educational, fun, and there are no commercials!

4. Other Network Stations

You can go to any network affiliate such as ABC, NBC, FOX, as well as pretty much any other station, and watch all current episodes online. If you want to watch older episodes, you’ll have to have a paid cable subscription, and in any case, you’ll still be bombarded by commercials, but at least you won’t be forced to watch your favorite program only at the time it is “on the air”.

*5. Amazon Prime Video

We have Amazon Prime (free 2 day shipping for $99/yr), and so while we get do Amazon Prime Video for free, we never really use it because it’s just not as kid friendly as Netflix. But I do know many people who enjoy watching it.

*6. Hulu

We don’t personally subscribe to this, but I know other people who have given up their cable subscriptions and enjoy this instead. Not only can you get your favorite TV shows, but Showtime originals and popular movies as well. You can check out a free trial here, otherwise, you’ll pay $7.99/mo. for limited commercials and $11.99/mo. for no commercials.

7. Pandora

No, we don’t watch Pandora, but we love having it on in the background and watching our itunes visualizer (on mute). It makes for a nice background, kind of like a fireplace. 🙂

8. Free Streaming Sports

Most people who don’t want to give up their cable TV will cite “sports” as the number one reason why. This page shows all the televised sporting events happening on any given day. At the top of  the page you can sort this enormous list by type of sport (or you can just hit ctrl+F and  search the whole page to find the event you are looking for, i.e. ‘Lions’ or ‘Olympics’).

This site is pretty wild, though. It doesn’t like AdBlocker, so you should turn it off  before visiting this page. Of course this allows the page to blow up all kinds of pop up ads. The trick here is to find the little “x” on each pop up over the video stream so you can remove all the ads between you and the free stream. This is kind of a cultural adventure as well, since most of these stream come from broadcast stations in other countries, so you can experience their commercial and local news bumpers, as well as their native commentary on the game (which in the case of, say the Super Bowl, is pretty entertaining).  Vipbox Sports pretty much does the same thing.

9. Kodi

Kodi is on the more advanced side of things. It is basically a free media player/server, but most of the functionality of this program is unnecessary for most home users. The reason I am even mentioning it is that it has an amazing array of  free TV channels from the US and around the world where you can browse on-demand videos on your computer. This is how we first discovered “Dora in the City” (Dora grown up) and HGTV shows like “Cake Boss” and “We are shopping  for a house in the Virgin Islands” or something like that – totally fun!

In Conclusion

I highly recommend connecting your TV to your computer and getting rid of your cable subscription (or keep it and do both). It’s not as hard as you think it would be, and once you get through the set up and adjustment period, you will love it! There are TONS of resources online and once you start doing this, you will find that you become more purposeful and more selective about what you and your family watches. In an era where technology threatens to take over all of our free time and interactions, this is definitely a good thing.

Embracing Motherhood How to Connect Your TV to a Computer

How to Connect a TV to a Computer

Connecting our TV to our computer is something that we have been doing for so long that sometimes I just assume that everyone else does it too! Yes, my husband is a techy computer guy, but this is so easy anyone can do it! Not only that, but most people have 99% of what they need to make this work in their house right now.

But why would anyone want to connect their TV to their computer anyways?

Here are the benefits we have enjoyed:

  • Not paying for a cable subscription
  • Not wasting time with channel flipping
  • No exposure to commercials
  • Ability to watch all of our home movies on our TV
  • Ability to access all of our downloaded files
  • Ability to be purposeful about what we watch with Netflix, YouTube, PBS, and more (Check out what we watch instead of TV in my blog here.)

How to Connect Your TV to Your Computer

If you have a newer laptop or desktop computer (post 2007) and an HD TV (post 2005), this will be a very easy set up. I am going to explain the two basic set ups which are:

  1. Connecting your TV to a laptop
  2. Connecting your TV to desktop computer

If you have an older TV or computer/laptop, I will cover some of your options in the FAQs and/or you can check out this very handy tutorial that will walk you through exactly what you need to do, and this article can help to fill in the gaps.

Option 1: Laptop to TV

If you have a newer laptop and a newer HD TV, all you need is one cable and you’ll be set to go!

 

Laptop to TV Connection

Laptop to TV Connection

Pros: Very easy set up with just one cable, easy to disconnect and use as just a laptop again meaning that you only need one computer, doesn’t take up much room, won’t turn off if the power gets turned off

Cons: Can be more expensive, ties a laptop down instead of letting it roam free (albeit temporarily), not the best permanent option, this is not the option we use…see the next section

Materials Needed

  • Suggested TV:  This is just a sample of what you might want to get. You can really get any HD TV and it will work perfectly fine. Just make sure it has an HDMI port, which just about any newer TV will have, and stay away from LG Electronics, they display computer graphics terribly. Also, don’t waste your money buying a computer monitor for this purpose. It’s not worth it.
  • Recommended Laptop: This Lenovo 100s will do everything you need and more. While this is the best and cheapest option currently available, you can make just about anything work. Just make sure any laptop you get has an HDMI port.
  • HDMI to HDMI Cable: You can get a shorter or a longer cable depending on your needs.
  • *For Mac Users: If you have a Mac with a mini display port/thunderbolt, you’ll want this cable.
  • Keyboard and Mouse: Or get a wireless keyboard and wireless mouse if you want to get really fancy.

Directions

  1. Laptop HDMI: Connect the HDMI cable to your laptop.
    hdmi port on a laptop

    HDMI Port on a Laptop

  2. TV HDMI: Connect the other end of the HDMI cable to your TV.
    HDMI Port on TV

    HDMI Port on TV

  3. Using Just the Laptop: The easiest thing would be to use the keyboard and mousepad on your laptop to navigate, unplug it when you’re done, and there you go!
  4. Adding a Keyboard and Mouse: Plug in a keyboard and mouse or get a wireless keyboard and mouse. (The wireless option is MUCH more convenient, but you WILL lose them from time to time!)
  5. Permanent Set Up: For a more permanent set up, adjust the power settings on your laptop to allow it to stay on while it’s closed. (Learn how to do that here.) Close it, and put it somewhere out of the way. (*Note: We have used laptops with broken screens for this, and it totally works.)

Option 2: Desktop Computer to TV

If you have a newer desktop computer and a newer HD TV, all you need is one cable and you’ll be set to go.

This is the set up we have in our living room. We put the TV on a table (so the kids can’t touch it) and cover it with a big piece of fabric so that everything is concealed. We built a little table to make storage more organized and keep all of our gaming stuff under here too.

Our TV Connected to a Computer

Our TV Connected to a Computer

Pros: Very easy set up with just one cable, perfect for a permanent set up, easy to keep external hard drives connected for more storage, cheapest option

Cons: Turns off if the power goes out, not ideal if this is your only computer…unless you go with a much smaller TV, and/or set up a dual monitor system

Materials Needed

  • Suggested TV: This is just a sample of what you might want to get, and it’s the same recommendation for a laptop set up. You can really get any HD TV and it will work perfectly fine. Just make sure it has an HDMI port (any newer TV will have this) and stay away from LG Electronics, they display computer graphics terribly. Also, don’t waste your money buying a computer monitor for this purpose. It’s not worth it.
  • Recommended ComputerThis mini desktop computer has everything you need and more! It’s small, has 32 GB of storage, has bluetooth, and plenty of USB ports for connecting to an external hard drive if you need more than 32 GB of storage.
  • HDMI to HDMI Cable: You can get a shorter or a longer cable depending on your needs.
  • *For Mac Users: If you have a Mac with a mini display port/thunderbolt, you’ll want this cable.
  • Keyboard and Mouse: Or you can get a wireless keyboard and wireless mouse if you want to get really fancy.

Directions

  1. Computer HDMI: Connect the HDMI cable to your computer tower.
    hdmi port desktop computer

    HDMI Port on a Desktop Computer

  2. TV HDMI: Connect the other end of the HDMI cable to your TV.
    HDMI Port on TV

    HDMI Port on TV

  3. Keyboard and Mouse: Plug in a keyboard and mouse or get a wireless keyboard and mouse. (The wireless option is MUCH more convenient, but you WILL lose them from time to time!)
  4. Speakers: The TV speakers should work just fine in this set up, but you could always get some even better like these speakers…your choice!

FAQs

  1. What if my laptop or desktop computer doesn’t have an HDMI port? Look to see if it has a DVI port, and if so, get a cable like this. The DVI (Digital Video Interface) cable does not carry sound, so you’ll also need an audio cable to connect to your TV speakers.
    dvi and vga ports on computer

    DVI and VGA Ports on a Computer

  2. What if my laptop or desktop computer doesn’t have an HDMI or DVI port? All laptops and computers will at least have a VGA (Video Graphics Adapter) port. Unfortunately, there is no VGA to HDMI cable, and even if you find one, it won’t work. Basically, the VGA port is outdated and won’t work in this situation. What you’ll need to do instead is either just buy a new laptop or desktop computer or buy something like this that you can plug into your USB drive and create an HDMI port, but it’s $60, and for $150 you could actually buy a basic computer that has everything you need.
  3. What about those TVs for sale that have computer options built in? You can get a “Smart TV” like this, and if all you want to do is watch Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube, then it’s a pretty good option. But if you want to watch any of your own files, you’re better off just wiring a regular old TV to your computer.
  4. Are there any wireless options?  Just like with the “Smart TV” options, if all you want to do is watch online TV and none of your own files, this is a pretty good option. You can get the Amazon Fire TV Stick for $40, a Roku Streaming Stick for $40, Google Chromecast for $35, and Apple TV for $150 if you have a Mac just to name a few.
  5. Is there any way to keep my cable AND connect my TV to a computer? Yes. All you have to do is hit the input button on your remote to select the correct input and you can have both! Your cable should come in as “TV” and your computer will come in as “HDMI 1” (or something like that). This is also how you would select your gaming system.

In Conclusion

I highly recommend connecting your TV to your computer. It’s not as hard as you think it would be, and once you get through the set up and adjustment period, you will love it! There are TONS of resources online and once you start doing this, you will find that you become more purposeful and more selective about what you and your family watches. In an era where technology threatens to take over all of our free time and interactions, this is definitely a good thing.

*Check out my blog: What We Watch Instead of TV to see how we stay entertained without a cable subscription.

Embracing Motherhood Homemade Guacamole

Homemade Guacamole

Avocados are ridiculously healthy! Along with their monounsaturated fat (mostly oleic acid), they are naturally nutrient-dense and contain around 20 vitamins and minerals. I love slicing up avocado and using it on sandwiches or toast (check out my friend Lindsey’s simple and delicious recipe for avocado toast here), but I just love, love, LOVE making homemade guacamole!

Ages ago, before I attempted making most of my food from scratch, I would simply pick up one of the avocado packets from the store, but now I skip that msg laden pouch and instead make my own mixture that tastes WAY better and is better for you too.

Ingredients

  • 4 Ripe Avocados (Avocados are on the clean 15 list, so you don’t need to worry if you can’t find some that are organic.)
  • 1 Lemon (or lime)
  • 4 Cloves of Garlic (minced)
  • *1 Tomato (optional)
  • 2 t. Real Salt
  • 1 t. Cumin
  • ½ Pepper
  • *Cilantro (optional)
  • *Cayenne Pepper (to taste if you like a little spice)
Guacamole Ingredients

Guacamole Ingredients

Directions

  1. Open the avocado. Cut the avocados length-ways and pinch the skins to expel the soft buttery flesh of the fruit (yes, it’s a fruit). Discard the skins and pits and dump the avocado into your bowl.

    Avocado Flesh

    Avocado Flesh

  2. Mince the garlic. 4 pods will give the guacamole a noticeable garlic flavor and give you some garlic breath to boot, but feel free to just add one or two pods for less of a garlic effect! I like to press the garlic pods with the side of my knife until they pop and then easily remove the skins. Then I chop them as fine as I can with my big knife. Sometimes I like pulling out my hand chopper or mini food processor to get the garlic minced really fine. *If I were to add cilantro, I would put it in the food processor with the garlic, but I didn’t have any this time around, so I didn’t add it.

    Minced Garlic

    Minced Garlic

  3. Squeeze the lemon. I love using this handy lemon squeezer. (I actually kind of prefer the taste of a lime, but we usually keep more lemons on hand, so that’s what I used.)

    Squeezing Lemon on Avocado

    Squeezing Lemon on Avocado

  4. Add the seasonings. I don’t usually like measuring my seasonings. I just add some (usually less than I would think), taste it, and add more until I get the right flavor. I’m really generous with the salt here, sparing with the pepper, and appreciative of the cumin, which is really the key ingredient and gives the guacamole its distinctive flavor! I love adding cayenne to just about everything, but my kids don’t like it, so I just add it separately to my portion.
  5. Mash it up. Use a fork to mash up all of the avocado onto the sides of the bowl. Keep spinning and mashing until you’ve gone over all the avocado flesh. I think that it looks and tastes better if left a little lumpy.

    Mashed Up Avocado

    Mashed Up Avocado

  6. Chop up a tomato. This is totally all about your personal preference. I like adding just one tomato for a little color and extra flavor, but if I’m running ow on avocados and want to stretch things out, I’ll add more tomato. When I chop up the tomato, I like to get rid of all the seeds and extra juice so that it doesn’t make the dip too watery.
  7. Set and serve. The longer this sits, the more the flavors can sink in, and the better it tastes. It also tastes better room temperature. So I like to make mine the day before I need it, let it sit in the refrigerator overnight, and make sure it sits out long enough to get to room temperature before serving it.
    Holy Guacamole!

    Holy Guacamole!

    *This guacamole is so much more than just a dip! Sure you can enjoy it with some tortilla chips, but it also makes a great topping on a burger, a delightful edition on an egg sandwich, and a must have for tacos too!

Embracing Motherhood Panera Bread Style Broccoli and Cheese Soup

How to Make Panera Bread Style Broccoli and Cheese Soup

I love, love, LOVE  broccoli and cheese soup, especially the Panera Bread style of broccoli and cheese soup that is all puréed and creamy. Since I’m not going to run out to Panera Bread every time that I want some of this delicious soup, I decided to make my own. I searched the Internet for copycat recipes and compiled my favorite parts into this recipe which includes all of the wholesome ingredients I love cooking with such as bone broth, raw milk, and organic vegetables!

Ingredients

  • 2 c. Chicken Stock (I always like making extra and keeping some in the freezer, but you might need to roast a chicken to make some fresh. If you do this, you could even purée some chicken to throw into the mix to make it an even heartier soup.)

    Frozen Chicken Stock

    Frozen Chicken Stock

  • 2 c. Raw Milk (I like letting the cream rise to the top and using that mostly, or I’ll get some organic half and half from the store.)
  • ¼ c. Flour (I like mine freshly ground.)
  • 1 Stick of Butter (½ c.) plus 2 T. (to sauté the onions)
  • 2½ c. Shredded Cheese (I like Colby Jack)
  • 1 Onion
  • 3 Pods of Garlic
  • 2 Head of Broccoli (Or you can substitute with 2 c. of other vegetables such as carrots and celery.)

Directions

  1. Sauté the 2 T. of butter with the garlic and onion. I like peeling the garlic (crush with the side of your knife first for easy peeling) and mincing it with a knife or my handy dandy hand chopper (if I feel like cleaning it). You’ll be puréeing all of this later, so don’t worry about chopping it up super fine. Cook at a low to medium heat until the onions are translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Set aside until later. (I put mine in a little bowl because I always need my cast iron skillet available!)

    Sautéd Onions and Garlic

    Sautéd Onions and Garlic

  2. Steam all of the vegetables. By steaming the vegetables first, it will make them a lot easier to blend later! (*Note: When making this recipe, my sister skipped this steaming step by using her food processor to chop up all of the vegetables raw. She said it turned out great!) Coarsely chop up the broccoli (and the carrots and celery if you’ll be using them) and steam. Check out my tips and tricks for perfectly steamed broccoli here! Put in a big bowl to cool. *My steamer isn’t very big and I made a double recipe, so it took two batches of broccoli and one batch of carrots and celery to get the job done.
    Steamed Broccoli

    Steamed Broccoli

    Steamed Carrots and Celery

    Steamed Carrots and Celery

  3. Make the roux. Melt the stick of butter in your soup pot. Once it’s melted, add the flour and stir. Cook at low to medium heat (nice and bubbly) and continue stirring for about 3-4 minutes.

    Roux

    Roux

  4. Add the milk. Add slowly, stir often, and keep at a low to medium heat.
  5. Purée the vegetables with the chicken stock. While the milk is heating up, add small batches of steamed vegetables into the blender. I like blending my onions (that we set aside from earlier) too. Top off the blender with the chicken stock to make it blend easier. Add to the soup pot.
    Steamed Broccoli, Carrots, and Celery with Chicken Stock Ready to Blend

    Steamed Broccoli, Carrots, and Celery with Chicken Stock

    Turn the blender off and on repeatedly so that it is puréed, but blended as little as possible if you’re like me and want there to be a few little chunks in there to chew on!

    Pulse on Low

    Pulse on Low

  6. Add the cheese. Wait until the soup is good and hot before you add the cheese. You want it to melt right away.
  7. Cook for 20 minutes. Cook on a low to medium heat and continue to stir often. If it starts to bubble, turn the heat down a little bit. Let cool and serve. I find that this soup tastes better the longer it sits. This gives everything a chance to thicken and the flavors to really soak in.

    broccoli and cheese soup

    Broccoli and Cheese Soup