Roasted Beet Salad with Beet Greens and Feta

Beets and feta.   I’m kind of addicted to the combination.  I think it’s the sweetness of beets with the salty briny flavor of feta that makes it so good.  If you haven’t tried it before you have to.
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The greens will wilt up to much less than you thought, so if you want more greens in the salad I would add in some kale or other sturdy green and saute with the beet greens.
And if you don’t like/have feta, it’s still delicious without it. :)   You could totally do a citrus vinaigrette on this as well, but beet and beet greens are really flavorful and I think a simple olive oil and balsamic dressing is perfect for them.
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ROASTED BEET SALAD WITH BEET GREENS AND FETA

2 bunches beets with greens attached
Olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and Pepper
Feta cheese, crumbled
Balsamic vinegar (blackberry balsamic is my favorite!)
Sunflower seeds

Trim and peel beets.  Cut into quarters, then each quarter in half, so you have 8 skinny wedges per beet.
Toss with a drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast at 425 degrees for about 25 minutes or until golden and cooked through.
About 5 minutes before they are done start on the greens.  Trim out the stem from the greens and cut into 1/2 inch strips.
Heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium high heat in a skillet.  Add garlic and cook until just starting to become fragrant.  Add greens and toss in skillet, cooking for just a couple minutes until wilted.
Put the greens in the serving dish and top with roasted beets, feta, and sunflower seeds.  Serve with balsamic vinegar.

BBQ Bacon Burgers

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Not going to lie.  I could barely eat half of one of these.  Next time I might make them slider style.  My hubby had no problems polishing one off though.
My Dad couldn’t cook many things but he was the grill master at our house.  Summers were BBQ season at our house when I was a kid.  We didn’t have AC and if it was hot out he would grill dinner to keep the house cooler.  So I always feel like making BBQ food when the weather starts to warm up.  These are over the top burgers, great to make for Father’s day or a BBQ.
There is a trick to making the onion strings I’m going to share with you.  After you coat the onion rings in the buttermilk and seasoned flour let them rest for a bit on a tray.  The buttermilk starts to absorb the flour a little bit and you’ll get a better crunch.

BBQ BACON BURGERS

Green leaf lettuce
Sharp cheddar
BBQ Sauce
Onion strings (See recipe at end)
Hamburgers, grilled, or cooked in an iron skillet
Bacon, cooked crisp (Homemade for extra points!) :)
Hamburger Buns (Homemade for even more extra points!)

Form 1/4 to 1/3 lb ground beef into a patty, making an indent in the center of the patty.  Cook on a grill or in a cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Flip after a few minutes, when the first side is well browned.  After a couple minutes on the second side top with cheese and cover to melt.  Make sure to lightly butter the inside of the buns and toast in a skillet.  I usually do this before cooking the hamburgers and then set aside while the hamburgers cook.

For the onion strings:
1 onion, thinly sliced (white or yellow is fine)
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Oil, for cooking

Pour buttermilk over the onions rings and toss to coat well.   Combine the flour and seasonings in a shallow bowl.  Take a small handful of onion rings and coat in the seasoned flour, shaking off excess.  Place on a tray while you repeat with remaining onions.  Set aside while you heat a couple inches of oil over medium heat (or use a deep fryer).
Cook in batches until golden brown.  Place on a wire rack over a baking sheet when cooked, repeating with the rest.

DIY Bagel Dogs

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I have a secret to tell you… soft pretzels and bagels.. basically the same thing, just in a different shape.  Honest.  I have another secret.  Bagel dogs are the secret to a happy life.  Well, happy kids and that’s basically the same thing. ;)  I keep my freezer stocked with these at all times and they are a total life saver for crazy days when you need something quick for the kids (okay, some adults too).  When we have company over for dinner, no matter how nice of a meal it is, I will have some of these out for the kids too.  Often times kids won’t want to eat something new, especially when they are having fun playing at a friends house.  They are super easy and way better than what you’d get at the store.  Best part is you control the hot dog component so if you want them to be organic, chicken, turkey, heck even vegan, you can do that.  This dough is the same as the soft pretzel dough so you can even make some of each.  I usually make a double batch, and make half into bagel dogs, and the other half into soft pretzels.
Now let’s make some!
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DIY BAGEL DOGS

For the dough:
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 T sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
1 pkg active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups flour
2 oz butter, melted

10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
egg wash (1 egg yolk mixed with 1 T water)
pretzel salt, optional
24 hot dogs

Combine all the dough ingredients in the bowl of a standing mixer (you could mix this by hand as well of course).
Mix until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.
Place in an oiled bowl and cover for 1 hour.
Heat oven to 450 degrees and bring the water to a boil with the baking soda (A wider pot will come in handy here too).  While the water is heating form the bagel dogs.
Divide the dough into half, then each half into 12 equal pieces.  For each piece of dough stretch into a rectangle and shape around the hot dog, leaving the ends exposed, and pinching well to fuse the dough together, making sure the dough is snug around the hot dog.
Place on a greased baking sheet and repeat with remaining hot dogs and dough.  (I used 2 baking sheets)
Working with a few at a time (I use a big pot so I can fit about 6, just make sure they have room and are single layer) place in the boiling soda water bath for 30 seconds.
Remove with a slotted spoon and place back on the baking sheet, leaving some room around each one.
Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with pretzel salt if using.  Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until golden brown.

To freeze, cool first then place in freezer bags or containers.  I’ve never flash frozen these and have never had them stick together.  Reheat in oven or microwave.

Strawberry Honey Cream Soda

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We are having an early strawberry season this year, and nothing makes me love living in the Pacific Northwest more than fresh berries! :)  Okay, there’s a few other reasons too.  But we are seriously spoiled when it comes to berries.  I’m not a fan of soda, but homemade sodas are a different story all together.  This one tastes like summer in a glass.  Honey and strawberries go so well together, it reminds me of this amazing cheesecake.   It’s super fast, and while I haven’t made it with frozen berries yet they should work just fine as well.  Just thaw them first.   There is no sugar in this, so it isn’t overly sweet, and of course you should adjust the honey depending on the sweetness of your berries and how sweet you want it.  I don’t like super sweet drinks so sometimes I use even less honey.  Happy (almost) summer!

STRAWBERRY HONEY CREAM SODA

1 pint strawberries, washed and hulled
1/2 cup milk (I use fat free, but any is fine)
1/4 cup honey (more or less to taste)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Seltzer water, to serve

Combine the strawberries, milk, honey, and vanilla in a blender and puree until smooth.  Strain if desired to remove the strawberry seeds.
To serve put about 1/3 cup puree in a glass and pour about 1 cup seltzer water over puree.  Refrigerate remaining puree.  Will keep a couple days in fridge.

Recipe adapted from Homemade Soda by Andrew Schloss

Favorite Places: Art Ala Carte

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My youngest loves anything… anything involving art.   Especially when she isn’t instructed and can just be free to have fun.  Enter her mothership: Art Ala Carte.

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It was created in 2012 by this genius, Aria Leighty.  The Vancouver location is newer, but there’s a Portland one as well that’s been around longer.  The Vancouver location is getting a bigger store soon (yay!)  and we are excited to see what they do with more space.
Basically how it works is your kid gets a tray and goes down the “art bar” and picks out what weird odds and ends (they take donations of all kinds, plus you get a discount for bringing a donation!) and art supplies.  Then they go to a table and create!  The first time we went I whispered to my daughter “Lucy… do you really need all those pipe cleaners?  Save some for the other kids.”
Then about 5 minutes later an employee came up to her with a pile of more pipe cleaners.. “I found more for you!” :)
Kids are free to create, find their own voice, glitter and all.
The open studio is open tomorrow so send your hubby and kids to create something for you for Mother’s Day and they can leave the mess behind!
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Art Ala Carte Vancouver is located at 5305 NE 121st Ave Unit #306 Vancouver, WA

 

Zucchini Noodle Caprese Salad

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I love raw zucchini.  I’ve put shredded zucchini on salads for years, practically using more zucchini than lettuce.  I even won my hubby over.  It adds great crunch.  Since the spiral cutters have become so popular I could see the potential but always found myself disappointed with them.  We bought a popular one and I used it once, it was so awkward to use and the design was flimsy.   Then I came across this one on Amazon, the Mueller Sprial-Ultra 4 blade spiralizer.   It is so much easier to use and works so much better!  I’m finding all kinds of uses for it and this is one of my favorites.  Super easy, quick, and I’m sure will be on the table often this summer, especially when our tomatoes are ready in the garden.

ZUCCHINI NOODLE CAPRESE SALAD

Tomatoes, sliced
Green zucchini, cut into noodles with spiral cutter
Marinated mozzarella, I used my homemade recipe found here
Fresh basil, cut in chiffonade
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil (I use the flavored oil from the mozzarella marinade
salt and pepper to taste

Lay the tomato slices out in a single layer then top with the zucchini noodles.
Sprinkle some mozzarella on top, followed by basil, balsamic, olive oil, then salt and pepper.

Where have all the manners gone?

Soooo, April is autism awareness month.  I feel like I should acknowledge that but I want to keep this to the point and short.
Many people I meet are divided into 2 groups.

GROUP #1: You’ve seen commercials about how autism is some thief that comes in the night and is the ugliest, scariest thing you can imagine.  The very mention of the word sends chills down your spine.

GROUP #2: Your neighbor’s cousins son has high functioning autism and you think you’re an expert.  And bonus for me, you want to bestow all your knowledge and advice, and more importantly, your judgement,  on me.  Yay!

To group #1: Autism makes life kind of difficult at time.  But my daughter is not a scary ugly monster.  She’s sweet, loving, and the first to give someone a smile.

To group #2: Every situation is different.  And the most valuable gift you can bestow on almost anyone is withholding judgment and keeping your advice to yourself.  A simple smile and greeting will go much further, trust me.

To the world: Where have all your manners gone?!  As my daughter is getting older I’ve seen a shift in the way she is treated by those we meet.  When she was younger it seemed people  either ignored her or passed off odd behaviors more.  (Not always, of course.)
But now she is almost 12 and taller than me.  My Amelia is social, friendly, and loves to say hi to new people.  In fact, if she had her way, she’d probably hug every person she came across.
She loves to run errands with me (depending where we are going, of course.).  Often times, in the grocery store, or wherever, she will stand in the middle of someone’s path and smile at them, say hi.    I’m saddened to say this is very rarely met in a positive way.  And I understand somewhat.  There is a stranger, tall enough to be an adult, with puppets on her hand and big smile on her face, standing directly in your path.  Maybe you are uncomfortable.  I get it.  I even have family members who are uncomfortable with autism.  We rarely see them, or when we do they avoid Amelia and ignore her greeting.  It breaks my heart.  Because you know what you miss?  You miss out on the best, most contagious giggles you’ve every come across.You miss the chance to have THE BEST hug of your life.  You miss the chance to hear her say “Nice to meet you!”    And we only worked about 4 years on that sentence.  Amelia didn’t speak until she was over 6 years old, and I’m talking about one word here or there.  Any language she has now has been due to years of tears and hard work.

So I have  simple request.  If you meet someone who seems different from you, bestow them a gift.  Withhold your judgement and just mind your manners.  Say hi.  Smile.  It won’t hurt, I promise.   (Oh, and adults? Your kids are watching.  When you are uncomfortable and judgmental, your kids will surely be as well.)
Children AND adults with special needs should be treated as what they are.  People.  With feelings.  Every person you meet started out the same, someone’s baby.  Maybe not yours, but that doesn’t mean their feelings matter any less.  So if someone with special needs makes you uncomfortable ask yourself why and figure that crap out.  Because you are being rude to the very group of people who are most likely to accept you exactly how you are, and the first person to give you a hug.

Besides, WHY ON EARTH, would anyone see this smile and not want to return a greeting?!
amelia

 

Greek Kale Salad

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Kale may be an old food fad, but it remains one of my favorite foods.  The trick with kale is it needs some time to soften up.  The best way to do this is to chop it finely and dress it with an acidic vinaigrette and rub it into the leaves.  Then let it sit for a bit while you prepare the remaining ingredients so it can continue to soften up.
This is especially good served with homemade Naan bread and some lemon grilled chicken… and maybe some hummus too. :)

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GREEK KALE SALAD

1 bunch kale, stem removed and finely chopped
1 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (if using canned, drain and rinse well)
1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes (or halved grape or cherry tomatoes)
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1/2 cup sliced olives
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Place vinaigrette ingredients in a jar and shake well to combine (You can also blend in a blender or whisk together in a bowl).
Toss the kale with the vinaigrette and massage into the leaves.
Prepare the remaining salad ingredients while the kale softens.  Toss all together.

DIY Lego Cart!

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It was a long standoff, but I finally caved.  I mean, they weren’t going anywhere and waiting them out was useless.  The Lego’s are here to stay.
But before I surrendered I made a compromise.  If these little weapons of foot pain are going to stick around they need to have a home… besides the floor where they lay in wait like little grenades of destruction just waiting for you to step on them and cause excruciating pain… or the dog eats them.
I loved some of the ideas I’ve seen using Ikea’s trofast system, the trays are a good size for sorting colors and since they have a large opening you can easily sort around and find that elusive piece.
But I had a clear idea of how I wanted it to look, and wanted it to be on wheels… and out of wood, not particle junk.
So we made it ourselves! From scrap in the garage, even better!
I used plywood for the sides, dividers, top, and bottom.  1 by 3 for the bottom trim, 1 by 4 for the top trim, and trimmed the front of the sides to hide the plywood edge.  1 by 2′s worked well for the ledge for the trofast bins.  Added some wheels and perfecto!  We’ll probably add some Lego base plates to the top sometime, but for now it’s working great as is.
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We even have a drawer for those directions that always get lost.
Lego cat was so excited she had kittens! Yay!
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Easter Treats

Are you ready for Easter?  Here are some of my favorite Easter treats and desserts to make!

Spring Garden Cake
spring garden cake

Homemade Peeps

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and
Marrshmallow Fondant carrots

Blackberry Jellies

Bunny Munch

Bird’s nests with Chocolate Eggs
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Toasted Coconut Cake with Lime Curd Filling

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Peanut Butter Truffle Eggs

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Rice Krispy Panoramic Eggs
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Daffodil Cake
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