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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Roast Beef Hash

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This was one of my father’s favorite dishes, so it seems fitting to post it today.  He loved all things Irish and was quite proud of his Irish heritage.
I’m pretty sure my youngest inherited her fieriness from that line ;)
In the month of March I always make a big Irish dinner and it remains one of my favorite meals to cook.  If you want to make one, you can find my favorite recipes here.
This is a great recipe to use up leftover corned beef (or roast beef if you don’t enjoy corned).  I’ve made this even with some cubed leftover Canadian Bacon, or crumbled bacon too.  It’s delicious any way!   If I’m thinking ahead I cook the potatoes even a day or two ahead of time to make these super easy and quick to cook.  Happy St Patrick’s Day!

ROAST BEEF HASH

3 lbs gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes (Should be 5-6 cups)
2 T oil
1 large white onion, diced (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 lbs leftover cooked roast beef or corned beef, diced (about 3 cups)
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add potatoes and cover.  Cook 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.
Uncover and add onions.  Cook about 5-10 minutes longer.
Add beef and spices, cook until heated through and potatoes and onions are golden and tender.
If desired, serve with a poached or fried egg and fresh parsley.

SHORTCUT VERSION: Boil or bake your potatoes, peel on, ahead of time.  Cook until barely tender.
Chill, then peel and cut into cubes.  Cook in an uncovered skillet along with the oil and onions until golden, then continue as above, adding meat and spices.

Super Fizzing Eggs

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This is one of the funnest sensory activities we’ve done.  Both my girls thought these were amazing.  You know those “hatching eggs” they sell? You know, those “eggs” that “hatch” when you put them in water for a couple days… and cost $10 for a flimsy plastic toy you probably want to throw away?
Every time my 7 year old sees them she thinks they are the coolest thing ever and wants to buy one.
These totally save the day.  Not only are they cheap to make but they are a really fun activity.  I used some small dinosaur figures but of course you could use larger ones as well.

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SUPER FIZZING EGGS
makes 4 to 5 small eggs

Small plastic figures
1 cup baking soda
food coloring, optional
2 T citric acid
1 T oil

Mix together the baking soda, coloring, and citric acid.
Add the oil, using just enough to get it to stick together when pressed.  Add more, a 1/2 tsp at a time if needed.  Just be careful not to add to much, this shouldn’t be a wet dough.

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Form dough around small figures, we used dinosaurs, and leave on a tray to dry overnight at room temperature, uncovered.

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Now comes the fun part! You can even put these in the bathtub, or in a tray of water.  We had the most fun spraying them with vinegar.  While the citric acid will create fizz with water alone using vinegar will REALLY make them fizz!
Slightly adapted from Fun At Home With Kids

Cheddar and Green Onion Chicken Burgers

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These are our absolute favorite chicken burgers.  You can also make them with ground turkey but we all prefer the flavor of ground chicken.  Try to use a good quality chicken as well.  I buy mine locally from Butcher Boys.  Buying meat from a butcher with quality product makes a total difference how your meat will taste, there just isn’t a comparison.  I actually save money as well.
I’ve made them with shredded swiss, gruyere, medium or sharp cheddar, or Irish cheddar.  Our favorite is the sharp cheddar or Irish cheddar.  Since there isn’t a lot of cheese in them using a stronger flavored cheese makes sense.
I usually serve them with slider buns, lettuce, tomato, etc.  I don’t mind them without a bun even, but I’m weird like that. :)
While you could grill them I wouldn’t recommend that since ground chicken can be a little trickier to grill.  Since it has a lower fat content it tends to fall apart and stick more on a grill.

CHEDDAR AND GREEN ONION CHICKEN BURGERS
makes 7 (3 oz) sliders

1 lb ground chicken
1/2 cup shredded cheese (We like cheddar or Irish cheddar)
4 green onions, thinly sliced
2 T breadcrumbs
2 T dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
drizzle olive oil

Combine all ingredients except the oil in a bowl, mixing gently.
Form into patties.  Heat a pan with a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat and cook patties, flipping once.  Be sure to cook all the way through, this is chicken not hamburger.
You can always check the temperature if you’re unsure and don’t want to overcook them.
Serve hot.

Recipe adapted from Everyday Food

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