Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Colored Water Play

Now my boys may be a bit young for painting with water colors, but man do they love playing with some colored water.  This super simple and almost mess free art project keeps them occupied happily for up to an hour some days.

To get the fun started I set the boys up in their boosters at the kitchen table (which I cover with a sheet) and I give them each a white utility towel to use as a canvas. I add a few drops of food coloring to small ramekins of water.  Each boy gets two ramekins each of colored water, a spoon and a liquid medicine dropper (I use the ones from our old Poly Vi Sol vitamin containers).

They go to town sprinkling colored water onto their white towels and making abstract masterpieces.  After a while they start adding water from one container to the other and watching the colors change. And they just love just pouring the water back and forth as well, trying not to spill. :)

The final works of art....

The colored water doesnt stain anything and the excess water is easily mopped up with the sheet. Happy creative boys make a happy Mama but even more so when there is no mess!  I hope your toddlers enjoy this simple play idea as much as my little guys.  Have fun out there!

This post is linked to:

Artsy Play Wednesday with Capri +3

Head over there for even more great play ideas!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Black Beans Cakes with Eggs

So, our first "ethical" food shopping trip went well!  On Saturday morning we packed up the kiddos and headed to Whole Foods where we loaded up on organic fruits and veggies, cage-free eggs and grass-fed meat.  Rather unexpectedly, we didn't pay that more than usual.  A bit more, but nothing catastrophic as we had feared. We have some great recipes planned and we are happy to know that those meals are going to be a little healthier this week.  (For us and the planet).  Ok, tree hugging over.  :)

Well, sort of... as promised I've got a great new vegetarian recipe to share today.  I'll admit that black bean cakes and eggs don't necessarily sound super delicious and full of flavor... but these are!  The cakes are super simple to make. The garlic, cumin and cilantro give them a lot of flavor (no bland beans here) and the panko coating give them some crunch.  We topped them with some creamy avocado and ate them with a runny-yolked egg and some salad with a fresh vinaigrette.  Delicious.  Made in about 15 minutes.  And only 322 calories per serving (without the avocado....but I think the avocado is worth a few extra calories).

I'm really happy this first new recipe was a hit.  Easy, inexpensive and definitely something we won't mind eating again sometime soon.  The only one who wasn't a fan was Aaron, my picky little guy.  His brother liked the cakes and eggs which wasn't surprising since he likes most everything.

image from here

Black Bean Cakes with Eggs, adapted from Cooking Light
2 tablespoon of canola oil, divided
1 egg
1 (15oz) can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup panko, divided
1/4 cup chopped green onions
2 tablespoons cilantro
3/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons canola oil
4 eggs

Put the beans, 1 tablespoon of canola oil and the egg in your food processor and pulse about 20 times until the beans are fairly well chopped and making a sort of paste.  Transfer that to a bowl and stir in 5 tablespoons of the panko and the rest of the ingredients for the cakes.  Shape the bean mixture into four patties.  I made up my cakes during naptime so they were ready to go when it was time to cook dinner. Around here, minimal prep around toddler twins is always best! I just kept the patties covered in the refrigerator.

If you have the luxury to prepare your meal all at once, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat.  Put the rest of the panko on a small plate and dredge each cake.  Put the cakes into the pan and cook them 3 minutes per side until crispy and golden brown.

For the eggs, heat the oil in another pan (or just use the one from the cakes, wiped clean) over medium-high heat. Crack the eggs into the pan and then cover them and allow them to cook about 3-5 minutes.  Eggs cook quickly so keep an eye on them.  I like mine runny so it only took me about 3 minutes but cook them to your preference.  No need to flip them, just remove from the pan when the whites are cooked and the yolks looks done enough for you.

Plate and serve your cakes and eggs with a little fresh salad greens and (if you are willing to take on a few more calories, half of an avocado.  Enjoy!

This post is linked to:

multiples monday with capri +3

Go check out what other families with multiples are up to!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Changing the Way We Eat Around Here

For the last week or so Mr Pears and I have been watching too many food industry documentaries and examining our buying/eating tendencies.  We have decided that we want to make some major changes.

Before last week we were buying mostly whole foods (those on the outer-rim of the supermarket, not pre-packaged or processed) but those whole foods were not usually locally or ethically grown.  We rarely bought anything organic and we were buying meats from animals that were factory farm raised.  

We told ourselves that organic foods weren't much better than conventional, and that they were too expensive.  

But then we started investigating and decided a lack of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides in our diet was important.  And a quote in Food, Inc made us recognize that we could afford better quality foods, if we wanted to.

I cant quote it word for word, but the gist was that "we" stand in the dairy aisle complaining about $3 organic eggs while we hold a $1 soda in our hands.   I think that guy went easy on us.  What about a $2 energy drink or a $3 cup of Starbucks?  Are 12 eggs really worth less than a caramel macchiatto?  I don't think so.  But it is hard to swallow when the regular eggs are sitting right next to them for just a dollar. 

And then there are the environmental impacts of our current food system and the living conditions of the animals. So many reasons to consider making a change.

So, yeah, we are going to make a change.  But we are going to try not to be all preachy about it.  We know we won't be perfect by any means but we are going to try.  We are going to try shopping for more ethically grown foods.  Meats that are vegetarian fed and cage/crowding free, with no antibiotics or homones... veggies and fruits that are organic and/or local and in season.  We are going to start by shopping Whole Foods and local farmer's markets.  Then we are going to think about joining a CSA.  We are going to pay more for our meats and veggies but we are going to buy even less processed foods (and energy drinks and Starbucks) to help balance out the costs.  We think it is worth a small sacrifice in other areas to bring home healthier foods for our family.  

Lastly, we will be eating less meat.  Mr Pears and I both went through vegetarian "phases" that lasted several years when we were in our twenties so we arent strangers to vegetarian eating.  Neither of us feel that a dinner isn't dinner without meat.  So we are going to eat at least two vegetarian dinners per week.  I think this is better for us nutritionally, and it will certainly help us to maintain a reasonable grocery bill all while making more ethical food choices.

It is going to be hard.  I'm not sure what I'll do the next time a McDonald's craving hits me.  But we are going to try because we really feel like it is the right thing to do.

So what does this mean for the blog?  Not much.  Maybe just a few more vegetarian recipes...and some more homemade staples.  (I am making some great strawberry jam these days)  I hope you enjoy them and continue to follow us on our journey.

The little faces that make a life without Starbucks ok.  :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Summer Disappearances

I feel so bad I keep disappearing from around here!  I usually like to post 2-3 times a week but lately my "free" time has just seemed minimal and though we've been keeping busy traveling, eating and playing, I just haven't been so great at documenting.  Or blogging.  Sorry!

Here are a few pictures of what we've been up to...

lots of running

and dressing up as Pirates!

 Lounging in the baby pool with cool drinks...

and enjoying popsicles.

Unfortunately somewhere along the way (cough...inflatable bounce place...cough) we picked up one too many germs so now we are nursing our colds.

I hope to be up and running (after my kids) very soon.  And hopefully I'll have something yummy for you on Friday.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Blueberry-Lemon Whoopie Pies

I made my first whoopie pies over the weekend.  What a cute little dessert!  Apparently the whoopie pie is the "state treat" of Maine.  I, personally, had never had a whoopie pie but I have been noticing recipes for them for awhile and really who can resist a cute little cookie-sized cream-filled cake?  Not me.

The traditional "whoopie pie" is apparently a chocolate cake with a vanilla cream filling (which sounds delicious) but I decided to try some blueberry-lemon ones instead.  On a side note, Maine's state dessert just happens to be blueberry pie so this could be a marriage made in Maine-heaven.

Anyway...I love blueberry and lemon together (such as in this lemon blueberry bread) so I was excited to try this particular recipe out.  The cakes are fluffy and filled with sweet blueberries and the filling has cream cheese and a bright lemony flavor to compliment.  This is a great individual dessert to serve at a party, forks are totally optional since this is one cake you can pick up with your hands. :)  I can't wait to try some other versions of the whoopie pie.  If you have a good recipe, let me know in the comments below.

Blueberry-Lemon Whoopie Pies, Food Network Magazine, September 2012
makes 6 pies
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
5 tablespoons butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/3 cup milk
3/4 cup blueberries
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar 

To make the cookies/cakes, whisk together the dry ingredients and set them aside.  In the mixer beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla until nice and fluffy.  Add the egg and mix to combine.  With the mixer on low, alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk until the batter is combined and then stir in the blueberries.

Drop the batter (2 tablespoons each) on two parchment paper lined baking sheets.  There should be six cakes per tray.  Smooth the mounds with your wet finger. Put the trays in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to firm them up.

Position one oven rack in the center and one in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375 F.

Bake the cakes until they are light golden on top, 10-12 minutes.  Rotate the two trays half-way through the baking.  When they are done, let them cool on the trays for 5 minutes and then remove them to wire racks to finish cooling completely.

While they are cooling, make the filling.  Mix together the butter, cream cheese, lemon zest and juice, vanilla and salt. Once that is smooth, put the mixer on low and slowly mix in the confectioners' sugar.

To assemble the pies put 2 tablespoons of the filling on the underside of six of the little cakes and then sandwich another on top.  Serve immediately or refrigerate them until you are ready to serve them. You can even make them ahead and store them overnight.  Enjoy!

Friday, August 10, 2012

DIY Slime/Gak

Ohmygosh it is sooo hot here.  I have always loved summer and the heat, especially here in Las Vegas because even though it is 105, you aren't sweating.  Because, of course, "It's a dry heat!"  Yeah.... but then I had kids. And then I realized that playing outside when it is 110 is miserable.  And playing inside with two two-year-olds can also be pretty miserable.

Yesterday, to beat the heat with a fun new indoor activity, I made some homemade gak (slime) that I had pinned a while back.  My little guys are pretty fond of playdough so I thought they would enjoy this one, and they did!  Gak is sort of like playdough but it is smooth and slightly wet feeling.  It oozes and stretches and if you just set it in a ball on the table it will slowly sort of melt until it is flat.  Fun!

This stuff is really easy to make and the cleanup is pretty know I like that!

Gak, found at Brown Paper Packages
2 (4oz) bottles of Elmer's school glue
Warm water
Food coloring
1 tsp borax 

Empty the glue into a medium sized bowl.  Next fill the empty glue bottles with warm tap water.  Gently shake them and then pour the water into the glue.  Add some food coloring and then stir to combine.

In a glass or measuring cup, stir the borax into 1/2 cup of warm tap water until it is dissolved.  When it is, add that to the bowl and begin stirring.  Once it is kind of tough to stir start mixing with your hands.  Keep kneading until it is a nice gooey consistency.  Then play and enjoy!

PS.  This post is linked to Artsy Play Wednesday over at Capri +3, go check out the other great play ideas!

Artsy Play Wednesday with Capri +3

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Roasted Corn Soup with Tomato

Hi there!  I'm back home again from a little mini family vacation.  Over the weekend we took the kids to the beach for the first time.  We headed over to Huntington Beach in California (only 4 hours from here) for some fun in the sun/sand.  Unfortunately, though the kids seemed so excited when we first got there, they were tired of being covered in wet sand after about 2 hours.  Ah, toddlers.  So instead of trying the beach again, the next (and last) day of our trip we went to Disneyland instead!  We had a great time.  The kids enjoyed themselves and we enjoyed ourselves in the happiest place on Earth. :)

 Doesn't Alex look happy on his very first amusement park ride?  Don't worry, he got happier. ;)

 Aaron loved every minute.

Mouses Ears!

Twin sleepyheads in their rental-rides.   

Before we left for our trip, another momentous thing occurred.  It Las Vegas.  Woo hoo!  I took advantage of the rare occurrance and made a soup I had seen in the Williams-Sonoma flyer. Click here for the recipe.

I rarely make soup in the summer  (except for Gazpacho of course) but this one is full of great summer ingredients so it is perfect for a nice rainy summer day.  It may seem a bit labor intensive to you but believe me, roasting tomatoes is simple and easy, and you can buy roasted red peppers in a jar if you want to cheat.  I made up my veggies ahead of time (nap time) so I could throw the soup together 10 minutes before dinner.  Serve with bread or a yummy grilled cheese sandwich....enjoy!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Easy Ribbon and Paper Wreath

Are you a wreath person?  I never was but then I made this pretty heart one for Valentine's Day and now I'm thinking I need a new wreath for each season.  Maybe wreaths are addictive?  But I'm a little weird about my wreaths I don't hang them on the outside of my front door....if I did I'd never see them because we always use the garage to go in and out of the house.  So I hang them on the inside.  So I can admire my handy-work.  This also works out nicely since my door is 10 ft tall and it just looks kind of plain when it is naked.   I think I'm going to do a monogram letter of some sort for the outside.  So my neighbors can enjoy that handy-work. ;)

I got the idea for this wreath from Landee See, Landee Do.  Me and this Landee have something in common even if she doesn't know it (or me) because I love to see things and then do them.  This is why I love Pinterest!  Lots of inspirations, a few tutorials, and here I am making things I'd never have thought up myself.  

This wreath is super simple.  It is only my second wreath so simple is good.  Easy is also good.  Landee said it took her 20 minutes to finish.  It took me 30 but I'm just a yeah, it's easy! Nothing better than a project you can whip up during nap time. I also love that you can customize this to fit any decor or season simply by changing ribbon colors and paper patterns.  I did this wreath for summer but I could have easily done this for fall or winter or whatever.  Endless options.  

Here is what you need:
scrapbook paper
glue or tape or something else sticky
round foam wreath form  (mine measures 14 inches from top to bottom)
some way to hang it.... I really like this over-the-door wreath hook I bought for $3 at the craft store.

Wrap your ribbon around the wreath form, barely overlapping until the entire thing is covered.  Secure with glue. This is now the back.

Make your paper flowers next out of various colors/patterned scrapbook paper.  My three flowers are 4", 5" and 6". (Landee also has a tutorial for these, click here.  She does hers a bit differently but "the more you know" and all that.)

The formula she gives for paper sizes is length equals 1.5 times the width.  So...
4 inch = 4" x 6" paper
5 inch = 5" x 7.5" paper
6 inch = 6" x 9" paper
and so forth....

I used 2 pieces of paper for my flowers, here is how.

Fold each piece of paper like an accordion, widthwise.

Cut rounded edges or straight diagonals (or don't cut them) to vary the look of the flowers.

 Fold each piece in half and secure with glue to make a half fan, then glue both "half-fan" pieces together.

Glue a small square of paper to the back of each flower to make a base and then glue the flowers onto the front of the wreath form.

Here's a close up of the flowers on the wreath.  The middle has rounded edges and the other have straight diagonal cuts.  I also cut a little scrap of paper to look kind of like a leaf and glued that on as well.

Ta Da!  Done.  So easy.  And cute, huh?  :)