Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter - Making new traditions...

This Easter was our first time not eating the traditional Ham meal, complete with an array of salads and casseroles.  The short story is, after my dad was diagnosed with Leukemia this past summer, he made some HUGE changes in his diet and is no longer eating any processed foods, added sugars, meat, or dairy.  My family has followed suit with the 80% rule.....meaning....most of the time we eat this way, but we do incorporate small amounts of these things on occasion.  Dad, being the one with cancer, does not.

Once you have adjusted to this new way of thinking and eating, daily meal preparation doesn't take much thought......However, what about traditional holiday meals?  Easter was our first since we all have changed our eating.  So, our dilemma.  What do we do? Do we make the traditional ham meal, and fix something on the side for dad? Or.....do we just take the plunge and try something new altogether?  We chose the latter. 

We decided to make a fresh, Spring inspired meal to celebrate Easter.  And, it was quite fun coming up with a menu plan.  To keep it exciting, my mom and I decided to dress up the table, get out the crystal, and make it a 4 course, full service dinner.....complete with Easter attire and classical music. The kids always love this, and it was fun to do!

 
Menu
 
Strawberry Lemon Basil Salad with Toasted Coconut and Almonds
 

Deviled Eggs
(Sorry Dad, but when you boil and color 18 - you need to eat them! He managed. :-)
 
Bunny Munch Carrot Soup
served with a Whole Grain Roll from Bob's Red Mill
 
Vietnamese Salad Rolls with Black Sweet Rice & Hoisin Dipping Sauce
 
Intermission for an Easter Egg Hunt
"Yes", Papa hid the eggs, and "No" Rooftops aren't off limits around here... :-)

What a great big sister!!!
 
Carrot Cake with Whipped Coconut Cream
 

The end result?  We had a fun, memorable day celebrating the most meaningful day of the Christian faith...the resurrection of our Lord.  And, come to find out, it didn't really matter what we ate - it just mattered that we celebrated with a fun time together as a family. 



 

 

 

 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Peanut Butter Power Balls

 
 
 
A friend recently shared a version of this recipe with me in our mutual quest for trying to find the perfect "healthy and filling but oh-so-yummy" afternoon snack.  The original recipe called for honey, but in my attempt to reduce all things "added sweetener", I subbed in dates for an equally sweet flavor that includes the whole of the fiber and plant nutrients....and makes them far less sticky.  The kids went crazy for them!  And, they have been subbed in for a breakfast on the go a time or two! 
 
I have brag for a moment before sharing the recipe (and I already have your attention if you're reading this!) Today was Gracie's first "official" day in the kitchen - complete with her own little apron!!!  In the past two days, she has had a near complete transformation into the interactive, playful, and sense-full land of words. I wouldn't have even considered leaving her out of our baking adventure today, whereas a week ago, I wouldn't have thought twice about it. So, here she is with Bobo and Sissy, getting ready to dive into our project!


Ingredients:
 
2 Cups Natural Peanut Butter (no sugar added)
2 Cups Dates, covered in warm water (keep reserved)
6 Cups Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
1 Cup Flax Meal
1 Cup Walnuts (or combination of favorite nuts and seeds)
1 Cup Dried Cranberries (or dried fruit of choice....OR chocolate chips!
 (*I have a chocolate chip, *issue*, so I can't keep them in the house.  Otherwise, they'd be in these Power Balls!)


 - Soak dates in warm water for a few minutes, then remove pits and stem end (if applicable) and add to your food processor. Add about half the soaking water, and process to create a date paste.

 - Add peanut butter to date mixture. Process until it begins to clump, then add more date water as needed to ensure the peanut butter - date mixture has a smooth consistency.

(*Note: It does not need to be runny.  You just don't want a large ball to form in the food processor.)

 
 Place all dry ingredients into a stand mixer and mix together.
 

Pour the peanut butter / date mixture into the oat mixture, and stir on low speed. You will have to scrape down the bowl a couple of times. 
(* Alternatively, place them in a large bowl to manually mix, but be ready to work those arms!
This makes some pretty thick dough!)
Ultimately, I end up mixing the last portion with my hands anyway. :-)

 
Time for a spoon licking break!  No eggs here, so even Papa would approve. :-)

 
After having the kiddos wash their hands *again*, their favorite part began.....rolling the dough into "Power Balls".  Little G didn't get to participate in the rolling, but she definitely was fed a few scraps by her older sister. :-)

 
The kiddos had a blast.  I would say it was the highlight of their day.


OK. For any type A personalities out there, you may want to stop and take a deep breath.  When rolled by small children, Power Balls are not going to take shape in any sort of uniformity. 
No, they're not.  There will even be "Giant Power Balls" and "Itty Bitty Power Balls", named amidst much giggling.  That's ok. Breathe. These are the memories we'll have years from now, and the size of the Power Balls won't play into that memory. I promise.
 
(*Yes, if you're wondering, I had to talk myself through this as well.  :-)

 
 
Pack away in a container and keep refrigerated.
 
 
 
We hope you enjoy these little "Power Balls" as much as our family has!

(*Note: To make Gluten Free, just switch out the Oats for Gluten Free Oats.)
 


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I've come a long way...

Today marked the one year anniversary of our family's first trip to Disneyland.  One year ago today, my four children set their eyes on the Happiest Place on Earth and drank in the wonder and excitement of it all.

Today, one year later, a typically drizzly and rainy day in the Pacific Northwest, seems far from the magic of our trip.  My eldest son is home from school with a cold and all are feeling under the weather. So today, I wanted to do something to remind us of our happy memories, and for some reason the Mickey Mouse shaped soft pretzels they sell at the park came to mind.  The kids seemed enthusiastic, so we jumped into the project, finding a recipe on Food.com, after finishing our chores.

There would have been a time in my life when I could not have handled seeing the above, misshapen Mickey Mouse heads (yes - that IS what they are supposed to be) and other such blobs of dough go into my oven.   I would have wanted to control the shaping and creation of each ball of dough.  After all, a Mickey Mouse project was supposed to produce Mickey Mouse shaped pretzels, right?

Yet, if being a Mama has taught me one thing, it's that I don't know all that much.....and my ideas often aren't the best ones.  Nothing beats having my kiddos beside me in the kitchen, actually wanting to help make things.  They argue over who gets to grind the wheat berries in the blender, who gets to dump the flour into the mixer, who gets to proof the yeast, measure, pour, turn on the blender, etc. I find myself flattered that they want to be doing these things at all!  Yet....here they are, right by my side.  And, I don't really believe this is unique to my own children.  Children typically just yearn for their parents' attention and love to be included whenever possible.

If you're new to bringing your kids in the kitchen, or feel you're not a good enough cook to teach them anything....you have nothing to worry about.  It doesn't really matter what you make, so long as they get to help you in some small way.  It will take more time and likely yield a larger mess, so consider making a goal to involve them just once a week at first.  Choose a simple recipe such as soft pretzels, or simply involve them in what you already planned to make for dinner. Honestly, it won't even matter what it tastes like....odds are, if they helped make it, they'll like it!

As for the perfectly shaped Mickey Mouse pretzels?  Well, as you can see - they did turn out perfectly shaped.....just the way they were intended to be!

Happy cooking, friends!  Enjoy your family today! 

SOFT PRETZELS:
1 package dry yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp)
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups flour
1 large egg, beaten
coarse salt, to taste

Directions:

1 Dissolve yeast in water, add salt and sugar. 
2 Blend in all the flour and knead until smooth.
3 When smooth, cut dough into small pieces and roll into ropes, and twist ropes into shapes
4 Place on Silpat or other paper-lined cookie sheet. 
5 Brush pretzels with beaten egg, sprinkle with coarse salt.
6 Bake in a 425 degree oven for 12-15 minutes, or until brown. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Kids' Kale Pesto

Kale. You've heard the word a million times and have probably noticed it's becoming a buzz word in the world of nutrition for it's "Nutritional Powerhouse" qualities:

.....more iron per calorie than beef
.....filled with cancer fighting antioxidants
.....high in Vitamins C, A, K, and Calcium
.....has anti-inflammatory properties
.....promotes cardiovascular support and liver health
.....full of fiber and very low in calories

AND....it's a dark, green (and rather tough and chewy) leaf with a flavor that resembles, to me at least, a cross between broccoli and cabbage.  

Hmmmmmm. This doesn't exactly evoke the same excitement as when you learned about the benefits of dark chocolate, does it? Yet, I'm guessing I'm not alone in wanting to maximize my family's intake of such beneficial food.....especially in the midst of cold and flu season!

Well, what can you do with this green, leafy veggie besides tossing it in soup?

Enter: Kids' Kale Pesto.  Why do I call it this?  If you are a parent.....you know that oftentimes, kids can be picky eaters.  I typically have 2 of my 4 rebelling against whatever I'm offering for lunch or dinner.  Yet, all 4 of my kids gobbled up the Kale Pesto pasta we made. Hence the name. In fact, my second son proclaimed he likes Kids Kale Pesto better than Macaroni & Cheese!!! (If you know my son at all, you would realize the value of this statement.  Macaroni & Cheese is his all time favorite food.)

There may indeed be some magic in involving your kids in the preparation of meals.  I gave a very short lesson on the health benefits of nutritious foods.....how they are "fuel" for our bodies and "powerful warriors" to fight sickness and disease.  Then, we watched a You Tube video on the benefits of Kale and making Kale Pesto. That was all it took.  They were excited and ready to dive in!

Ingredients: 

1 Medium-Large Bunch of Kale

1/2 Cup Toasted Walnuts

1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil + 2 Tbsp (reserved to add at end if needed)

3 Large Shallots (or 5-6 small ones)

4 Cloves Garlic

1 Tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice

1 tsp sea salt (or other finishing salt)

1/2 tsp pepper

***
Bring approximately 4-6 quarts of water to a boil.

 Remove skins from garlic and shallots and place into boiling water for about 5 minutes.


Meanwhile, wash Kale thoroughly and trim off tough, fibrous stems, as they have a stronger, bitter flavor to them.
(Note: If you do not own a power blender, such as a Vitamix, you may want to remove the center ribbing of the Kale entirely.)



Lightly toast walnuts in a frying pan over low-medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.



Push all of the Kale into the pot of water.


Make sure it is all immersed in the boiling water.

Boil for 15-20 seconds, or until it begins to wilt. 


 Remove Kale, Garlic, and Shallots from water and place into blender.  
(Note: These do not need to be drained or dried. A little extra water is fine.)

Add remaining ingredients (olive oil, lemon juice, walnuts, salt, and pepper).


 Blend until smooth.


 Taste and add additional olive oil, sea salt, and pepper for desired finished consistency and flavor. Toss with your favorite pasta, meat dish, or as a spread for sandwiches or dip for pita and veggies. 
It's also delicious sprinkled with Parmesan cheese for an added dimension of flavor.


Freeze any leftovers in your Flexipan Tray, place in a Glass Lock container, and have perfect pesto portions ready for your next meal!


Enjoy knowing you just fed your family an extremely nutritious and delicious meal!

Inspired by Barbara Mendez at www.rootsandseeds.com 
- a great resource for healthy and delicious recipes!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sugar Rimmed Glasses

Here is a quick and super easy idea for entertaining.....a small amount of effort for a big visual impact: Sugar Rimmed Glasses.

This can be done with plastic or stemware. Given the circles I entertain typically involve large amounts of children, I often choose the nicer plastic glasses with the "crystal effect".

And sanding sugar, available at most craft warehouses or specialty cake shops, comes in a variety of colors.  You can do several colors, or even mix sugars for an added dimension.

Ingredients:

Sanding Sugar (color of choice)
Lemon Juice or Water

*Note: You can use water instead of lemon juice, but I find lemon juice to adhere a bit better to the sugar. Feel free to experiment with this. Also, only in the specialty cake shops did I find sugar actually labeled "Sanding Sugar". Any colored sugar should work. However, if the granules are too large, you will have trouble getting them to stick to the glass.


Put water in a bowl, to the height you want the rim to be on the glass.  
(Water height will determine thickness of rim.) Pour colored sugar into bowl, deep enough to dip the cup rim past the water line. 

Dip the cup first into the water bowl.


 Next, dip the cup into the colored sugar bowl, making sure to twist, and ensuring that sugar is on both the outside and inside of the cup rim. As you pull the cup up from the sugar bowl, give it a couple of shakes to rid of excess sugar, and store upright to dry for at least an hour before using.


Now, as you can tell from the next picture, you will need to keep a watchful eye on any children assisting you....at least if you plan to serve the cups for guests!


Also, for the benefit of your party guests, we will include the following demonstration:


Once the sugar becomes wet from liquid, the color can seep out....especially if the cups have not had time to properly dry. If it has plenty of time to dry, it doesn't bleed a lot, though some colors seem to do this more than others. You can also choose to do just a partial sugar rim.

So, if you don't allow the sugar to dry long enough.....or find your guests are drinking as follows:

 
Their faces may then resemble the below:


Or, you can always suggest they drink like this: :-)


Seriously, however, colored sugar rims can greatly impact the visual display, with little added cost or time. The below pictures are from a friend's 50th Birthday celebration....they mixed purple and pink sugars and dipped the stemware (no this is not plastic) in water.  The effect was stunning.

 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

20 Minute Peppermint Plate

I'm about to show you one of the funnest and easiest projects I've ever done with my kids. One of those projects that looks magazine worthy.....yet truly can fit into the busiest of schedules. The entire project took 20 minutes WITH the kids helping!  Have fun!

Ingredients

1 10oz bag Round Peppermint Candies




Unwrap the Peppermint Candies.


Place Peppermint Candies evenly inside of Medium Round Flexipan
(Note: If you are not using a Flexipan, you will need to use parchment paper or similar.)


Place Flexipan onto perforated baking sheet into an oven preheated to 350 degrees.  
You will bake for 8-9 minutes.  


(Check at 8, if it is finished, all shapes will be completely flat.  If you bake for too long, bubbles will start to form on surface of candy.  Regardless, a few minor bubbles will likely appear.)


Let cool for at least 10 minutes.  
Unmold from Flexipan.


And.....good luck trying to keep your kiddos away from it! 
Insert lollipop stick during baking process, and you might just go down as the best Mama ever! 
(But don't worry, they'll think you're pretty awesome just for making a giant Peppermint Plate!)


 Your Peppermint Plate is ready to use!  Keep in mind the surface will be slightly tacky to the touch, so if you are planning to use it as a base for small desserts, consider using paper candy cups.


The Medium Round Flexipan is one of my most versatile Flexipans.
It is in this pan I steam all of my veggies, make kettle corn, popcorn, melt butter, etc. in the microwave with the addition of an Octagonal Silpat as my lid. It's great for ice cream cakes, cheesecakes, marinating meat, baking anything.....the list goes on.  It may be plain, but I call it my "work horse" Flexipan. The Large Round Flexipan would perform the same function with an Octagonal Silpat. I recommend a round mold of either size and a lid for anyone just beginning with Flexipans, and they are both available in Demarle's most popular beginner kit, 5 Key Ingredients.