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

A Valentine’s Tea In the Woods

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Last year we had a “Bee Mine” Valentines Tea and it was so much fun we had to do another one this year!  My girls love the “Stranger in the Woods” books and videos, and that was the inspiration for this one.  Everything was really pretty simple, and my girls had so much fun helping to make everything.

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Here’s what we did:

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“Forest Flower Nectar”  This is just 7 up and cranberry juice.  Very well received! I debated on what to make for the girls to drink, as some like the hot herbal tea but not all.  This was an easy fix, they could have either and still drink out of the teacups.

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I love the log cake platter, I bought it at Cost Plus World Market and was happy to have a perfect occasion to use it!

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I made each setting an acorn cap necklace by making felt balls and gluing them inside acorn caps.  Beforehand I drilled a hole in the cap for a wire loop to put the string through. I wrapped one around each napkin.

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For place settings I used these woodland animal valentines, found here.
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Fairy bread, of course, for the girls.  It’s just peanut butter or frosting on bread, dosed in sprinkles.  I used the woodland animal cookie cutters as well.

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For “twigs” I made chocolate dipped pretzel rods.  With them are walnut cookies.

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For the cookie mushrooms I just used the sugar cookie dough I used for the other cookies (You just make a ball of dough, dip a bottle top into cocoa powder, then into the ball of dough.  I froze mine for about 45 minutes so they would keep their shape better, then baked.)

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For the snails we swirled chocolate and regular sugar cookie dough and used sprinkles for antennas.  Again, I froze them for about 45 minutes to help from spreading.

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The log cake was a big hit!

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I decorated the cake with marshmallow fondant, using martha stewart molds for the ferns and leaves, a little cookie cutter for the daisies, and freehanded the toadstools.

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The green moss is made by mixing graham cracker crumbs with green food coloring.  We added some candy rocks we found at the amazing Candy babel store.

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Last minute I remembered we had some deer picks so I added those the mini cupcakes.
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The cookie cutter set was from Ikea I believe, though the deer was just the bear modified.
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More sweets, of course!
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Even if you just break out some cookie cutters and make simple pb sandwiches with juice, have a tea party (with tea cups of course!)  I promise you won’t forget it, and your little for sure won’t!

 

Chocolate Dipped Cinnamon Caramels

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I made these for our Christmas treat boxes this year primarily for my hubby and a dear friend who both love chocolate dipped cinnamon bears (all though, I never did get to dipping them in chocolate for the boxes).  I made a double batch and seeing how many we had after cutting it up I put them in all the boxes.  Much to my shock they were THE HIT.  Not even a close call.   More than one friend said their kids were fighting over them!  I thought they would make a great Valentine’s Day treat as well, and if I wasn’t so busy raising people maybe I’d make a cute card you could print to go with them, you know, something witty like “You’re red hot, valentine!”  I don’t know, you can figure that part out. :)
In the meantime, make these.  Give them to your cute hubby.  Or sweet friends.  Or eat them yourself.  Either way.
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CHOCOLATE DIPPED CINNAMON CARAMELS

3/4 cup butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup corn syrup
2 cups sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 to 1 tsp (depending how strong you want them) cinnamon oil candy flavor*
1 tsp red food coloring gel, optional
Chocolate or candy melts, to coat, optional

Grease an 8 inch square pan (I actually put mine in a larger pan, this just depends how big you want your pieces to be).  Set aside.
In a heavy pot over low heat, combine the butter, salt, corn syrup, sugar, and 1 cup of the cream.  Gently stir until the butter is melted.
Raise the heat to medium-low and clip on a thermometer.  Stop stirring at this point.  Watch the heat, you just want a gentle simmer.
At 236 degrees add the remaining cup of cream and gently stir just barely to mix in.  Allow cooking to 245 degrees without stirring.
Remove from the heat and gently stir in the cinnamon and food coloring if using.
Poor into pan without scraping the pot.  Cool at room temperature before cutting into pieces.
If desired, dip in melted chocolate or candy melts.

*1 tsp is equal to 1 fluid dram, which is the size of the jar the candy flavoring comes in.
Recipe slightly adapted from Mels Kitchen Cafe

Smoky BBQ Seasoning Blend (And Smoky Chicken Cobb Salad)

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I found myself reaching for the same mix of spices everytime I made BBQ.  I finally made a blend that’s just how we like.  I buy all of my spices from Penzeys Spices, and once you try them you won’t want to buy them anywhere else either.  Their toasted onion powder alone has changed my cooking.  I love that stuff!
This is a smoky blend and while I use it on things I grill outside because it has a smoky flavor all ready I love it for things cooked on the grill pan inside.  Sprinkle on burgers, or my favorite, on chicken breast, shrimp, or vegetables.

DIY Smoky BBQ Seasoning Blend

1/4 cup smoked paprika
2 T brown sugar (leave out if you want a sugar free version)
2 T garlic powder
2 T toasted onion powder
2 T kosher salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp chili powder (increase for a spicier blend)

Mix all together well and store in a spice jar.

And now for a recipe using it!  This is my favorite way to make cobb salad, but of course you can omit what you want or throw in whatever else you have.
I love the flavor of the chicken so much I don’t even use dressing, or if I do I’ll use a simple oil and vinegar dressing.  The chicken can even be made a day or two ahead of time and kept in the fridge.
SMOKY BBQ CHICKEN COBB SALAD

Chicken breast
Smoky BBQ Seasoning, to taste
Green leaf or romaine lettuce, chopped
Hard boiled eggs, quartered
swiss chesse, cubed
Bacon, cooked and crumbled
Olives
Avocados, chopped
grape tomatoes, halved

Coat chicken breast liberally with seasoning and cook in a grill pan, flipping once, until cooked through.
Let rest for a few minutes, then slice into strips.  Serve with remaining ingredients.

Buttermilk Chalk Painting

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One of the things I love about home schooling is incorporating more hands on activities and art into my girls’ education.  But of course you don’t have to home school to enjoy some messy time with your kids!
I love the Art Lab books for help when I want to give them something new to try for art time.
We have 3-D Art Lab for Kids, Art Lab for Little Kids, and Art Lab for Kids.  Each book showcases many different techniques and a basic way to use them, and an example of a professional artist and how they apply the technique.  Many of the supplies needed are basics, but you will find some that you’ll have to venture to the art store to find.  I actually make a list occasionally of techniques or projects we want to try and make a materials list, then the next time Blick Art Supplies has a good sale I stock up so we’re all ready to go.
This is a super simple activity but my girls love this one.  LOVE.  Just drop some colored chalk into small containers of buttermilk and give your kids some cardstock.  They’ll figure out the rest.  :)   As the chalk sits in the buttermilk it gets more and more smooth and semi soft and glides on the paper.
This works well on dark paper as well.  You can also use one container of buttermilk and just dip the pieces of chalk into it as you go.  I have these old baking trays that work great though.  Only down side is, you need to toss the chalk when you’re done.  I’ve tried rinsing it off to reuse… but it grew.. fuzzy stuff.  So I guess it’s art and science in one! :)
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Lucy loves making “Sink or Float?” charts. :)
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Amelia loved how smooth it was.
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