All posts by Lindsay Bell

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.

BFL – Nanny Whisperers

I had a chance to talk with Nanny Whisperer Tammy Gold, LCSW, MSW, CEC, whose book was reviewed recently on these pages. As founder of Gold Parent Coaching, Gold is one of the most sought-after parenting and childcare experts in the country, and is a frequent guest on TV’s Good Morning America and Today.

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From your background in child development, what have you discovered about the importance of quality childcare?

As a therapist who worked with children, and a supporter of Attachment Psychology, I knew that quality childcare is critical to a child’s well-being. Two things occur: First, as a child’s brain is growing and developing (90 percent of brain development occurs by age 3), caregivers can have a large effect on cognitive development. By talking, laughing, engaging with and simply responding to a child’s needs, caregivers literally help create neural pathways in the child’s brain.

Second, according to Attachment Psychology (Dr. John Bowlby) and Psychosocial Development (Dr. Erik Erikson), caregivers literally shape who children become. During infancy and the early years, having a loving, responsive, regular group of caregivers allows babies to become attached to others and feel secure. Erikson describes this as learning “trust versus mistrust.”

Babies who have an uninvolved, unresponsive caregiver lose trust and cannot move through each developmental stage. Every developmental stage requires a devoted and loving caregiver who can stimulate and support the child’s developmental milestones. If the caregivers are not paying attention-often on their phone, unsupportive, or not fostering a child’s ability to play, explore and learn-they hinder developmental advancement.

What are some of the common pitfalls parents fall into when they look for a caregiver?

Parents often rush to hire a caregiver and fail to zero in on the important items. Whether it’s choosing a daycare center, a nanny or a babysitter, parents need to allow themselves plenty of time (ideally 3-4 weeks) so they can outline their needs and make good choices.

Studies show that stress interferes with clear thinking, so if parents are stressed and pressed for time they can overlook qualities they are uncomfortable with-such as a nanny who may be too quiet or a daycare center with not enough staff-because they feel pressure to choose.

Parents also tend to look first and figure out later what they need in a caregiver, which wastes time and causes stress. Parents also tend to push themselves to make their hiring decision during the interview phase, but decisions are best made after conducting daycare trials or nanny trials to really assess if the child and caregiver are a match.

Finally, parents often choose a friend’s or relative’s nanny. But just because a nanny was great with another family does not mean that person-or a daycare location-will be right for their own needs.

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What would an ideal nanny look like?

The ideal nanny is someone who loves children, has a positive and happy attitude, and is receptive and attentive. Parents tend to focus on a candidate’s education (which can be a plus), but a nanny can have little education and still possess the essential skills to promote cognitive development-such as engaging with children, having the patience to handle and support tantrums and disappointments, and most of all, having a flexible and devoted attitude toward the entire family unit. An ideal nanny is never cranky or snappy; as a paid caregiver, nannies must maintain a personal and professional demeanor for a child’s continued well-being.

If a babysitter comes only occasionally to care for children during hours when they are mostly sleeping, parents need not be as discerning about the babysitter’s manner or level of interaction. However, a nanny who comes regularly from week to week must be warm, upbeat, loving and receptive so that the child feels safe, loved and stimulated.

In my book, Secrets of the Nanny Whisperer, I present a detailed, step-by-step process parents can follow to find, interview, hire, and manage a caregiver who is ideally suited to their child and to the family’s needs.

BFL – Womentrepreneurs

The Bell Family Company brand is built on the leadership of our fearless leader, Lindsay. But we’re not the only ones who like hearing from Lindsay!

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Check out this awesome feature on Business Buff to hear Lindsay’s thoughts on being fearless and aggressive in order to grow the brand, building a family care business, and providing value to an ever growing market: 

Meet Our New NJ Nanny Coordinator, Paige!

Paige has been working with kids for as long as she can remember. She got her start in childcare working as a summer camp counselor in her hometown of Rockland County, New York, but has been a resident of Hoboken for the past 4 years where she continues to babysit.

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She is a graduate of the University of Connecticut with degrees in English and Human Development/Family Sciences. During her time in college she mentored middle school students as well as incoming freshman.  She also had numerous leadership roles within the Kappa Kappa Gamma Sorority, which is an exciting connection, that Paige and BFC President, Lindsay, discovered when Paige began sitting for Bell Family in 2012.

After college, Paige continued her education earning a Masters Degree in Secondary English Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. This launched her career in education, as she is currently a 7th grade Language Arts Teacher in Cranford, NJ. She is so excited to become a member of the Bell Family as the Nanny Placement Coordinator in New Jersey!


Teething Toddlers: What to Expect

“Teething is the pits!” my friend told me.  I had no clue what an understatement that would be.

As a first time mom, I had no idea what to expect when it came to teething.  The pediatrician said I will detect excessive drooling but that’s it.  She failed to warn me of hunger strikes.  I was thoroughly confused when Kermit, at 6 months adjusted age, abruptly stopped nursing and drinking from a bottle.  Complicating matters, his teething directly coincided with introduction of solids and doctor mandate for him to gain more weight since he was falling off his growth curve.  My pediatrician, who I totally respect and value, instructed me to make a “valiant effort” to feed Kermit 30 oz of milk and 3 solid feedings of diluted rice cereal.  Seriously, I spent every ounce of energy trying to feed my child.

I would wake him up two times in the middle of the night because that’s when I found him to be more amenable to drinking larger volumes.  Until he stopped.  I would sit for an hour at every solid feeding waiting for him to open his mouth.  I would sing and dance, make crazy sounds by smacking my lips, and tickle him for any opportunity to shove the spoon into his mouth.  He got smarter:  he’d laugh with his mouth closed.  I laughed and cried to the point of exhaustion.

I finally figured out he was teething when I heard loud shrieks in the middle of the night.  For an infant who loves his sleep (he could sleep 12-14 consecutive hours throughout the night at 4 months old), something was amiss.  After three weeks of his food strike and interrupted sleep, Kermit cut his first tooth on New Year’s Eve.  His second tooth emerged three days later.  He had mild discomfort for the next two weeks and then the symptoms reappeared with great force.  His uppers came in—4 at the same time!  Let’s just say feeding and sleeping was even more miserable for both of us.

I almost cried when I learned babies grow 20 primary teeth by age 3.  TWENTY!  According to Baby Center’s website, this is the order of appearance:
1.  2 lower central incisors at 4-7 months old
2.  2 upper central incisors at 8-12 months
3.  2 upper lateral incisors, right and left of center, at 9-13 months
4.  2 lower lateral incisors, right and left of center, at 10-16 months 5.  2 upper first molars, the wider teeth second to the back of the mouth, at 13-19 months
6.  2 lower first molars at 14-18 months
7.  2 upper canines/ cuspids, which fill the gap between the incisors and first molars, at 16-22 months
8.  2 lower canines at 17-23 months
9.  2 lower second molars at 23-31 months
10.  2 upper second molars at 25-33 months.

If you pay close attention to the age of each tooth’s appearance, there is a lot of overlap.  Like I mentioned earlier, Kermit got his upper central and upper lateral incisors all at once.  I suspect he is getting his upper and bottom molars simultaneously as I write.  Poor little guy.

Most reference guides list drooling, gum sensitivity, irritability, gnawing behavior, refusal of food, and sleep problems among teething symptoms.  One must read between the lines, though, to understand the extent of the experience.  Sleep problems translate to sporadic deafening shrieks in the middle of the night; refusal of food can last for weeks; and irritability demands constant attention to baby’s clingy-ness.  In addition to these symptoms, Kermit would tug on his ears and cough a lot before a tooth cut through the gums.

The one thing I wish someone told me at the beginning of this process is:  your baby will not go hungry for the duration of the food strike.  He will definitely eat when he’s hungry.


Treatment for teething pain include:  cold things, pressure, topical medicine, painkillers, and homeopathic remedies.  I tried all of these suggestions except for topical medicine (e.g. numbing cream or gels) because, as one friend warned:  what numbed the front can numb the back of the mouth resulting in gagging.  Of course, this was my personal decision.

Kermit predominantly found relief in iceys and anything cold.  I would make flavored ice cubes out of puree and milk.  I also would feed him cold milk on some of my more exasperated feeding days.  My friend made cold or frozen washcloths for her twins’ comfort which Kermit also loved.  To soothe his growing discomfort throughout the day and particularly at night, i would preemptively give him homeopathic chamomile drops every 6 hours.

On really really bad days when he would awaken every hour in pain, I gave him half doses (that the pediatrician recommended according to his respective weight) of acetaminophen only at night time.  I also made the personal decision to give him painkillers for a maximum of three consecutive nights followed by at least two nights of no administration.  My rationale was I did not want him to be too reliant on acetaminophen because he may have a lower threshold of pain when the molars and canines appeared.

Currently, Kermit has 6 pearly whites and, I think, 4 molars cutting through the gums.  He will not let me near his mouth.  He will sometimes eat solid chunks only if he can administer the feeding himself.  He likes to test his teeth while eating puffs and wafers and gnawing on his crib rails.  We await for another 10+ teeth.  God help us.

Despite the hardship, it’s undeniably cute when he smiles his little chipmunk gap toothed grin.  It melts my heart every time.


To Be or “Nut” to Be?

I have been away from my blogging desk to be a part time nanny to my twin granddaughters. I hope I’m not too rusty. One day, with my daughters okay, I gave a slight amount of natural peanut butter on a cracker to the twins. Her pediatrician said to try it after 2 years. Within a minute, hives developed on one twin’s face and quickly moved to the tummy area.

Out came the Benadyrl and slowly the rash cleared up. Why did this happen? There is no one we know of in the family lineage that has a food allergy and  why to one child and not the other? Off to the doctor I went with my lil’ peanut to get some answers.



Unfortunately, the answers were vague or nonexistent. The test given to her determined the allergy and a future blood test will tell its severity. We left the office with the epi pen prescription, a pile of light reading on the topic, and the direction not to eat any nuts at all. I did learn that peanuts were a legume and even candy sprinkles have tree nuts in them. I will also add nutritionist/dietician to my resume as I am becoming proficient in label reading!

From one nut to another,

Mama Bell

How To: Set up PayPal

One of the main reasons a credit card might be rejected is if the credit card has been used in the past and is associated with a PayPal account. PayPal assumes that if this is the rightful user of the credit card they would log-into PayPal to use the stored card, and since it is being used without the log-in credentials, the assumption is that it’s fraud and the card might have been lost or stolen.

If would like to use the same credit card that is associated with an active PayPal account, the option “Don’t have a PayPal account” will not work unless you use a credit card that is not associated with any active PayPal account.

Being that PayPal defaults to the users associated bank account as payment, sometimes you might not want to log in to PayPal to pay. However it is really easy to change the payment method that PayPal is using to process your checkout request.

  1. On the Bell Family Company “Family Checkout” screen click on “Confirm”
  2. Select the “Log in to your PayPal account” toggle menu as shown below:


3. Log-into PayPal with the associated email address and password. *THIS IS NOT THE SAME EMAIL AND PASSWORD THAT YOU USE TO LOG-INTO BELL FAMILY COMPANY

4. Once, you are logged in, click on the link that says “change” as shown below:


5. When you click the “change” link, you will be able to select a different payment method other than your Bank Account.



In conclusion, if you have a credit card on file with PayPal and want to make purchases with that credit card, you need to do it by logging into your PayPal account and selecting it as a payment method. If you try to use it without logging into your PayPal account, chances are it will be declined.

-Greg, CTO, Bell Family Company

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!