Category Archives: Uncategorized

BFL – Emily Always Cooks

Fun enough for the kids. Just grown up enough for the adult palate as well. So simple to make. Ready for it?  Sure you are.

I’m Emily, the gal behind Emily Always Cooks.  Most of my time is spent in my small Chicago apartment kitchen, whipping up simple, tasty, family friendly recipes. The kind that make your friends jealous.  Seasonal ingredients and whole foods are my staple. Healthy, with just the right amount of indulgent comfort food.  Follow my blog to see what I’ve been cooking up lately. The pictures are pretty. The food is delicious.

This is a fun twist on macaroni and cheese. I like creating an opportunity to introduce children to new foods and expand their palates, while simultaneously eating something with a sense of familiarity.  Stove-top Gnocchi (not Mac) and Cheese with Peas … does just that.  It’s a rich, decadent cheese sauce. Move over kiddies, I’m diving in too.


If you’ve never cooked gnocchi (small potato dumplings) before, the time is now. Your family will love these little potato pillows.  Just bring a big pot of salted water to a boil (as you would for pasta).  Then add the gnocchi, give it a stir, and wait until they rise to the surface. About 3-ish minutes.  Once they’ve floated to the top, just strain out the water and you’re ready to go!  Easy peasy!

Prepare your ingredients ahead of time. Shred your cheeses and have your milk and seasonings out and ready.  The thing about cheese sauce is that things happen fast. Because you’re working with milk, butter, cheese and heat – this sauce can burn easily if you’re not careful.  By getting everything prepared ahead of time, you can focus on the cooking.

This dish comes together in under 30 minutes. Being prepared in one pot means minimal clean up. (We love that!) Happy family. Easy clean up. Delicious meal for the whole crew.

Stove-top Gnocchi (not mac) and Cheese with Peas


2 17.5 ounce boxes potato gnocchi
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp flour
2 cups whole milk
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
2 cups freshly shredded cheddar cheese
1 cups freshly shredded fontina cheese
1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
(Optional toppings: chopped fresh basil, extra Parmesan cheese)


Bring a large heavy-bottomed stock pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the gnocchi and cook according to package directions. Drain, set aside, and reserve.  Make sure to toss the cooked gnocchi frequently so they do not stick together when preparing the cheese sauce.

Next, make the béchamel sauce.  In the same pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Stir in the flour and cook the mixture, stirring constantly until light brown in color with a slightly toasted aroma, about 3 minutes. Add the milk slowly into the flour and butter mixture, whisking constantly so you get all the lumps out.  Bring sauce to a low boil, whisking constantly, then simmer,  still whisking occasionally, for 3 minutes to thicken.  The sauce should thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Stir in cheeses, mustard powder, salt and pepper until smooth.  Note: Do not add your cheese too fast or too soon as this could result in clumpy, greasy chaos instead of creamy, cheesy deliciousness.  Instead, wait for your béchamel to reach the right thickness.  Then, add the cheese in three batches, making sure each batch is completely melted before adding more cheese.

Add the gnocchi and peas, stirring to combine, and cook over low heat just until warmed throughout. Serve immediately with fresh basil and additional parmesan cheese.

Note: It will originally seem that there is too much cheese sauce for the amount of gnocchi. Trust me – the sauce will continue to thicken and you will be happy with the extra creamy, cheesy deliciousness.

Servings: 6
Cook time: 30 minutes

The finished product...yum!

The finished product…yum!

BFF – Finding a Nanny

Finding a nanny to join your family can be a long process; lucky BFC is here to help. We’ve pulled together a list of guidelines for families seeking nannies to help manage everyones expectations and ensure the process goes smoothly!

  1. Think through your family’s situation before looking for a nanny. Consider the following things when you’re searching for a nanny:
    -Do you want someone to live in-house or commute?
    - How many hours a week would you like your nanny to be with your children? After school, full-time, weekends?
    -Will you require overtime hours ever? Travel with the family?  Babysitting for nights out? Holiday coverage?
    -Will you require your nanny to run errands? Drive the kids anywhere?

The list goes on, and we can provide a full list of considerations when working together to find a nanny; the most important thing is to think through daily, weekly, and monthly routines and make sure you are asking for the right type of coverage for your family!

2. Discuss and write down expectations for benefits, salary, vacation time, and sick leave. Your nanny may fit in just like a family member, but remember this is her job! Having a written contract with all of this information makes sure there’s no room for confusion down the line.

3. Make sure your nanny and children get along. Even dynamo nannies sometimes aren’t the right fit for certain kid personalities. It’s a good idea to meet the nanny in person while interviewing (if possible) and also do a test day or event where you can watch your children interact with the potential nanny.


4. Stay flexible! Expectations may change if your family grows, moves, changes schedule, or your nanny’s life situation changes. Make sure communication remains open, whether that’s through regular performance reviews, check-in calls, or meetings for big life changes.

Impromptu Child Activities

Parents sometimes have to bring their kids to places where there isn’t readily available entertainment or are running low on fun ideas. Our BFC sitters are experts in drumming up ideas, so we figured we’d share some impromptu child activities:

  • 1. Host a Hoola Hoop & Limbo contest with the neighborhood kids! Have the kids make signs & promote the contest.  Invite parents to attend, set up & play!
    Props: hoola hoop & some music
  • 2. For the car ride, play rounds of “I Spy”
    Props: Nothing necessary!
  •  3. Play a game of Keep it Up!  This is classic, get a balloon or pool ball & play rounds of keep it up. This game can be played anywhere & it can go on for hours.  Make teams, play-one-on-one & more.
    Props: Balloon or pool ball
  • 4. Duck, Duck, Goose.  Okay another classic.  This gets the kids outside or can be played indoors & encourages them to be active!
    Props: Nothing necessary!
  • 5. Hot & Cold Treasure Hunt.  Designate one person to be ‘it’ & direct the other person to go find the hidden treasure by following the map.  ‘It’ is responsible for telling the other when they are ‘hot’ or ‘cold’
    Props: Treasure map style-hide toy(s) through the house & then map it out for them to follow

shannon Smith photo

If you do not have any props/toys to work with here are some other fun ideas!

  • 1. Read books (maybe rent a few from your local library to bring with you on your outing)
  • 2. Color (bring crayons and construction paper if you have on hand)
  • 3. Dance parties (a Bell Family  favorite). Download kidzbop on pandora for an instant dance party; they also have a children’s sing along station which could be fun!



BFL – Baby Bumps

It’s no secret that my husband and I are trying to get pregnant. This has been my master plan since I realized I could have my own baby. It is definitely an inexplicable feeling once you are ready…really ready!

Even though I already feel immersed in the mommy/baby world, I am still constantly learning new things. There are so many resources out there, but one convenient spot I like to get new information from is The Bump. They do a good job of informing, and I like how the content is non-judgmental, just recommendations.Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 12.03.40 AM

Every woman’s body and life is so different between different stress levels, financial means, hours worked, etc.; I think its fair to say that each woman makes the best decisions for her body and should follow her gut. However, there are some generally accepted practices surrounding pregnancy. I knew when a woman is trying to conceive that she should start taking prenatal vitamins, have one glass of wine instead of two, not smoke, lay off tuna, etc.

Here is a shortened list (because I know you don’t have time to read an epic article, nor do I have time to write it!) of what The Bump recommends paying attention to  as you prepare:

  1. Caffeine in moderation
  2. Don’t smoke. (I don’t know anyone that does anymore anyway…)
  3. Repeat: have one glass of wine instead of two
  4. Keep your weight stable
  5. Did you know there are foods that make you most fertile? This one was my favorite
    -Men: eat ketchup, lycopene is your friend!
    -Ladies: eat spinach, you want lots of folic acid
  6. Make a dentist appointment and keep it!
  7. Be active, but don’t overdo it. Try 5-10 minutes of yoga every morning; even something small helps!
  8. Don’t drink out of plastic bottles (as I have a plastic bottle in front of me)…I just threw it away.
  9. DON’T STRESS!! I have not figured out this solution yet, but I’ll get back to you
  10. High mercury fish-just say no!


-Lindsay Bell Wallace is Bell Family Company’s fearless leader. Lindsay has been a mom-in-the-making since childhood, where she was charged with babysitting her four younger sisters. Lindsay and husband Brad are hoping to add a new member to the Bell Family soon! 

BFL – Annie Riley Fashion

Sometimes being a mom can be equated with less than glamorous looks (think: diaper bags, sweatpants, and sneakers), but we say it doesn’t have to be that way! One of our Chicago sitters, Annie Riley, shares some awesome fashion for moms. Annie has been featured on WGN Chicago, Fox News Chicago, and Fox Magazine addressing “how to make the most of your wardrobe” and “what styles to look for when shopping.” Annie popped in to style five weekday looks for moms:

Day 1: Toss on your favorite dress with a blazer, patterned scarf with a heel or bootie.



Day 2: This is a fun way to layer with a short-sleeved sweater, your favorite blouse, a patterned scarf (pattern on pattern is OK), a skirt with heels or booties.



Day 3: This is a great way to be warm enough with the transition into Spring – pairing a patterned top under a tweed blazer, camel colored pants with a heel or flat.



Day 4: Now that Spring is nearing, you can try this look without tights and just your favorite tall boot or bootie – go monochromatic with an oversized top and pencil skirt.



Day 5: A patterned blouse adds a funky flair with a textured pant and a blazer-pair with a fun earring or necklace, roll up the sleeves a bit with a heel, bootie, or oxford.


-Annie credits her love of fashion and the arts to her Great Grandma Breed. She has carried “Grandma Breed’s” vibrant spirit and passion from her days after school with her grandma into her adult life and career. While obtaining her BA in Psychology at Loyola University, she worked for Anthropologie and the Chicago based Julie Rowland Showroom.  During her studies obtaining her MA in Counseling; Art therapy, she worked at J Crew for 6 years both in Chicago and New York City. While in New York, she styled for J Crew’s Blog and was featured in J-Crew training videos to demonstrate styling tips for other associates. Annie has also worked as a stylist on commercials for Verizon, Yoplait, Mercedes, John Varvatos, and others.  

BFL – St. Patrick’s Day in the City

St. Patrick’s Day is a fun holiday celebrated around the world. Everyone loves leprechaun coloring books, green top hats, Lucky Charms, and of course, green food coloring in everything!

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 1.31.10 AM

The big to-do in NYC is the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, but there are plenty of other activities as well if you can’t make that!

When in doubt, green food coloring can be added to almost anything to make a festive treat! Enjoy St. Patrick’s Day week!  

BFF- Meet Lindsey G.!

Lindsey was our amazing Bell Family Company intern this past semester. She assisted with the nanny/sitter screening process, drafted content for social media, specifically the twitter, supported business development and performed administrative tasks.

Aubrie, Lindsay, and Lindsey at last week's Sitter Mixer

Aubrie, Lindsay, and Lindsey at last week’s Sitter Mixer

She is currently a sophomore at Fordham University in the Bronx, NY. She is studying Communications with a concentration in Journalism and a minor in Marketing. In high school, Lindsey worked for a pre-k classroom for 3 years and continues to do so on breaks from school. She has babysat for many families in her town, and taught tennis to Elementary school children. Lindsey enjoys reading, cooking, and running in her free time.

We will miss Lindsey so much in the office! Best of luck with your last two years and make sure to come back and visit!


BFL – Motherlode

Parenting in the age of the Internet is hard, especially since parents are raising a new generation of digital natives. A recent blog on “The New York Times” site caught our attention. The author states her child “asked the internet” for answers to a number of daily questions, such as whether or not there is a frozen pizza left in the fridge.

She brings up the point: “What do children, especially young children who are just starting to make sense of the world, think about the Internet — what it’s for, where the information comes from, how reliable it is? And how do these notions change over time?”

Studies show children are good at using computers to provide facts, but not as useful for making moral judgements or deciphering the veracity of claims made on the internet. Children are fairly predictable in their internet behavior: they trust sources that have been correct before and discredit those that have been proven wrong.  

This means children will be increasingly looking to the internet to solve knowledge gaps. The author closes with a great point: with our children immersed in the Internet practically from birth, we need to know what they understand, and more important, what they don’t, so we can fulfill our parental duty of filling in the gaps.