Thursday, April 6, 2017

2017 Spring Break in Portland,OR-LINKS, IDEAS, and PICTURES

This year we have decided to stick around Oregon for our vacations. Our first stop was Portland, OR.
This is a place that Cory and I have visited many times as a teenager and when we were a young married couple.  We took the older kids but we wanted to also share this amazing city with our little girls. The hardest part about going on vacation with a 10-year-old and a 3-year-old is there is a huge gap in age. What one can do, the other can not. I had to be really picky about the types of things we planned for this vacation.

Our first stop was EVERGREEN MUSEUM and WATER PARK in McMinnville. The reason we stopped here is because it was on our way. We traveled on 99W from Corvallis and we drove right past it.  This park was a great decision. It met everyone's needs and we all had a very good time.

Things to note:  You can not bring any food inside but you can leave and return to the water park. They have a small restaurant upstairs that has basic fast food.  Towels are not provided. Bring your own. Get there early to get chairs or a table. 

The Oregon Zoo located in Portland was up next. Again, this is a place that is pretty age friendly to accommodate all ages and abilities. The girls loved seeing the animals. I believe their favorite part was the carousel. The train came in second.

A bonus of the zoo is that it is attached to Washington Park. This includes the Japanese Gardens and the Rose Gardens.  You can walk, take the metro or the train (when in service).  We drove and parked closer because the walk was too far for Finnley's little legs.  If you get a chance walk to the park below the Rose Gardens. It is wonderful. We brought bubbles. This was a nice place for MOM and DAD to sit and rest and let the little girls play hard.

NOTES:  This area is hilly. Prepare to wear comfortable shoes and hit the hills. Layer your clothes because you will find the need to remove a few (especially after a few hills are under your belt).

We attempted OMSI but the lines were too long. We made a last minute decision to go to the Portland Art Museum downtown.  Finnley was bored. We did the best we could keeping her occupied.  This translates to walking through it as fast as possible.  Isabella found it interesting and it held her interest.  Personally, Cory and I thought it could be have been filled with more interesting art collections. Our favorite was the first floor and all of the ancient pieces from China.

The primary reason we chose to Portland, Oregon in March is specifically to see the Cherry Blossoms. They were beautiful. The girls loved walking around the trees and exploring the blossoms. We saw pink and white almost everywhere we went.

We took the girls to 23rd street. This is a great walking district filled with restaurants, shopping, and scenery. We went to visit Salt and Straw. This is an ice cream shop. The line is usually out the door. They specialize in unique flavors. We loved our selection and will try to go back again.

We took the RV and stayed at Roamer's Rest RV park in Tigard. The location was perfect.  We were 20 minutes from downtown. It was easy to get to everything on our to-do list. The RV park is in pristine condition. It is on the Willamette River and can support very large rigs. I do not believe they have any tent camping. The management was helpful too.

While at the RV park we found a few parks nearby. Roamer's did not have a playground for the kids. We visited Cook Park.  Amazing!  Lots of trails, toys, and restrooms.  We tried to go back but our schedule was too full.

Are you getting tired yet?  LOL  we were!  Our last day in Portland we visited Multnomah Falls. The kids did great until we passed the falls and started the 11 switchbacks to the top. We made it to 4.  It's steep and narrow. Not to mention, we ran into rain and it made the hike a bit more uncomfortable because we were really, really wet.  We turned around and promised ourselves we would return.

Did I mention the rain?  We had a bit of rain on our Portland trip.  We had originally planned on staying until Friday, but the weather suddenly turned beautiful and I couldn't return home just yet. We booked it over to Champoeg State Park to try and get a spot. We were lucky enough to get two more nights. This, for me, was my favorite part of the trip.  We finally returned to a slower pace and found the most gorgeous location to park the RV. It is a wonderful park to visit.

The park used to be a city that was washed away by a flood. The family that owned the property has several buildings to explore. They have a living museum/barn to visit. The trails are numerous. They have a disc golf course.  A cool play ground.

This trip was busy but so worth the planning and the packed days. I ended the day with this view. I long to return to this position: feet crossed and a gorgeous view to boot.

I will be blogging about our travels.  I will try to provide links too. If you have any questions, please ask and I will try to answer them for you. Oregon is an amazing place to visit.

Our next RV trip is to the Tulip Festival in Woodburn, Oregon for my birthday.
Stay tune for those updates.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Veggie Puff Pastry Pockets

Did you know that Puff Pastry does not have any animal products in it?  There are a few foods that are vegan by chance and this happens to be one of them. I found the information on several other sites but this link will show you the specs so you can see for yourself.  Partridge Farm Puff Pastry

We don't eat a lot of puff pastry in our home because we do strive to eat more whole foods than processed food, but let's get real.  I go to school full time, hubby works full time, and we simply don't have a lot of time to prepare long and laborious meals.  This is a quick meal on those extra busy family days.
I make this veggie mix that we often eat on grilled sandwiches or separately as a salad. You can find the recipe  at this link

Basically I have combined onion, cauliflower, carrots, and celery along with salt, pepper, and your favorite mayonnaise.  I am currently in love with Wildwood Aioli which is egg free!

These two items, the puff pastry and the veggie melt mix, happened because I had both of them on hand and the stove was already preheated from baking something else.

I adjusted the heat to 450 degrees to accommodate the Puff Pastry temperature requirements.  I had a bit of fun experimenting with different shapes and styles. I wasn't sure which way would work best. In the end, I went with the smaller hand held size and kept all of the veggie mix inside. I took my fork and stabbed a few holes to let the steam out as they cooked. You can see from the photo below that the cheese oozed out on a few but each bite still felt cheesy to me.

I will tell you that one recipe of the Veggie Melt  mixture will make more than one box of Puff Pastry can handle. I would recommend halving the cauliflower mixture.

To prepare the Puff Pastry I let it sit out on the table for 40 minutes to thaw. I opened each piece and cut them into thirds and then cut those pieces in half. Each sheet of Puff Pastry gave me six pieces to fill.

The Veggie Melt recipe did not have cheese in the recipe. I added a cup of cheese (vegan, cheddar, jack, etc...) and grated a little bit more to add inside each pastry pocket.

Holding the puff pastry in my hand, I gently put a spoonful of filling a bit more cheese, and folded it in half. This can be messy!  Seal the edges and take a fork to cross the edges too.  This secures them nicely.  Stab a few holes in the top of each one.  Add to the cookie sheet. Bake until golden brown. I baked them for 20 minutes, rotated them and added 10 more minutes.  (Honestly I think my oven needs to be looked at.)

The pockets came out perfect and we gobbled them up!  They reheated really well the next day too.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Pasta with Grilled Brussels Sprouts

I can't resist a bargain in the produce section. If something is on sale then I feel like this is the best way for me to save a little bit of money for my family. We love most veggies and these brussels sprouts screamed at me to take them home.

Honestly, it felt weird buying them this time of year. I usually buy them in the fall. These sat in my fridge for a few days because I wasn't sure how I should prepare them or if I should just freeze them for a later date.

I came home from school starving last week and they fell onto the floor when I opened the refrigerator door. I thought, "Okay-this is our dinner."

Along with the brussels sprouts I had some fresh green beans that desperately needed to be cooked up as well.  I made two different vegetable options for my family to add to their bowls of pasta: the grilled brussels sprouts or the green bean vegetable combo.  I also had fresh diced tomatoes, sliced green olives, and grilled artichoke hearts (from a jar).

I guess it was kind of like a pasta bar.  For me and how I like my pasta, I want texture and a good combination of flavors: salty, sweet, and tangy.  This is why I always include the olives and/or artichoke hearts to my pasta dishes.

To grill the brussels sprouts I rinsed and sliced them in half. I added some oil to a hot cast iron pan and started to lay them in a single layer. I grilled them until brown and flipped each one. I personally think the added browning and grilling flavor raises the bar for brussels sprouts. I even like them when they are charred. I added salt and pepper to the final few minutes and these were ready to go.

For the green beans I rinsed and chopped them into one inch pieces, added red onion, and a few zucchinis.  Again, I heated up oil, tossed them in to start grilling. I added salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. I also squeezed half a lemon and cooked until al dante.  I added this to the other side of my serving bowl so that both vegetable options were available and my family could mix and match.

I prepared the pasta. I personally did not add anything to the pasta. I did this because the oil from the artichoke hearts and green olives added enough to the dish. You can always add a bit of olive oil or fresh lemon if you don't have the artichoke hearts on hand.

This pasta dish tasted fresh and clean. The overall meal took me about 30 minutes to prepare. We had the vegetables the next day on their own for lunch.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Pineapple, Mango, and Banana Smoothie

We have been making smoothies for years.  The kids like them and we love them!  It's a great way to use up fruit in our home. Maybe we are the only family that has half eaten apples, left over banana pieces, unpeeled oranges, and pineapple bits.  Our little girls love to eat the fruit but most of the time they can't finish the whole thing. I take the leftovers and add them to a bag in the fridge. When we make smoothies I take all of the pieces and add them to the next big smoothie surprise.

For this smoothie I had a quarter of a ripe pineapple and some frozen bananas, along with a half eaten banana, in our basket. I bought frozen mango chunks because Isabella loves all things mango.

This smoothie came together like a small tropical escape.  I do have a secret ingredient that I like to add to smoothies.  This ingredient makes our smoothies smooth and creamy.  The best part is I make extra smoothie and store them in the fridge and they are just as smooth and creamy as the morning I made them.

What is this secret ingredient?

Raw Cashews.

I buy them in bulk. Store them in the freezer. Every time I make a smoothie I had a handful.  The texture of our smoothie is very creamy.

I will note that I make our smoothies in a high speed blender. This allows me to add hard nuts to our smoothie and still get a very creamy and smooth texture. I'm not sure how this works with a regular blender or an appliance like the Magic Bullet.

This smoothie was made with: 1/4 of a fresh pineapple, 3 bananas, 2 cups frozen mangos, 2 tablespoons flax meal, 1/3 cup raw cashews, and rice milk.  I really wanted to add some coconut but forgot. I will do that next time.

Blend for a few seconds.  Add more liquid to make it the right consistency for your family. We like ours thick so I work with just a little bit of liquid.  Other liquid choices would be coconut milk, coconut water, water, or any juices that you prefer.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Cipollini Onion Vegetarian Sandwich

This sandwich is my new favorite. Why I never added these little sweet/tart onions before I don't know.  But I do know now and they are added regularly to all of my vegetarian sandwiches.

These little onions are pronounced (chip-oh-lee-knee) and are naturally sweet and white. The onions in my pictures are marinated and have an added flavor profile with tart and sweet results. I buy my onions from our local grocery store. They are found in the olive section. I have bought these before at Whole Foods too.

If you decide to buy these little morsels be prepared to encounter some peeling issues. Cooking Light has a nice piece about how to deal with the skin.

You can see from the picture below that adding them to your sandwich is easy. They are a little bit slippery-so be prepared. I slice the amount I need and then add them to the bread first. The bread kind of holds them on the sandwich.  I also use my favorite plant based mayonnaise. Recipe coming soon for the mayonnaise.

Of course, add as many as you want but I like to add a few more options to my sandwiches. For this sandwich I added: avocado, tomato, spinach, red onion, crispy jalapeno's, and orange bell pepper. Basically I want to eat the rainbow so I choose the ingredients that reflect that.

For the bread, I buy from our local bread shop a sour dough variety that is delicious. The name of it is Panini and the shop is small, smells amazing, and has really good baked goods.

This sandwich is not hard. I just wanted to share with you my new found obsession for these little onions.  They are an easy addition to any sandwich or bagel.

Eating vegetable sandwiches can get boring if you stick to the same basic ingredients and this is why I am always on the hunt for additional toppings.



Sunday, February 12, 2017

Black Quinoa Tamales #Plantbased

Who doesn't love tamales? Well, everyone at my house can't get enough of them when we make them.  The problem is that we don't eat them that often because we don't eat a lot of meat anymore. I got to thinking why couldn't I make them with a plant based filling?  Guess what?  You can.

I recently had black quinoa for the first time. It has a milder flavor profile to me. The white quinoa seems bitter even after I rinse it multiple times. This became my base. I added a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas, sauteed red onions, a bit of green onion for color, cumin, chopped cilantro, chili powder, salt, fresh minced garlic, fresh lime juice, and pepper. No recipe was used. I literally added, tasted, added some more, and tasted again. See picture below.

Honestly, the filling could be eaten on its own as a salad. I made the masa using the recipe on the package of Masa Corn Flour. It worked like a charm.  If you want to see a recipe for the dough this site will help you: HERE for the tamale dough.

I make the filling, soak the cornhusk, and make the dough about the same time. The cornhusk need time to soften a bit, the flavors in the filling can sit and marry, and then the dough can rest for a while too according to directions on package.

When your ready to assemble, gather a few things: a cookie tray to stack them up, your masa dough, your filling, and find a work space. I use a cutting board. Take a few cornhusk and shred them into smaller pieces to use as ties on the end of each side of the tamale. See picture below.

Spread the dough on the cornhusk. Add the filling. This is how I do it: I roll from one side until the sides meet and then make sure they are sealed. It works.  Wrap the cornhusk around the tamale and secure the ends.

I have a huge stock pot to steam the tamales in. I add enough water to sit below a rack that I place in the bottom. I layer the tamales so that the steam can easily get around each of them. See picture above.  I let them steam for a few hours. I add water about every 30 minutes to make sure that my pot does not go dry.

I remove the tamales when they are done. I serve them on the cookie tray. We like ours with ketchup.

These tamales reheat well the next day.  For our family of six I usually make about 30 tamales.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

DIY Cornhusk Dolls

Last week we made these cute corn dollies.  We made them as part of our celebration of Imbolc. This was my first time making these and they were so much fun!  I was surprised by how easy they were and how much you could do with the cornhusk to add your own touch to each doll.

I remember my grandmother having these around the house. I never paid much attention to them until Isabella and I made them this past week and I am convinced that the ancestors who made these dolls found great joy in making them too.

We set the dolls up next to the DIY Beeswax Candles that we also made last week.  The color combinations worked great together.

I had extra cornhusk from when we made tamales.  You can find my recipe on the blog.

Pork Tamales--I have also made the tamales vegan by using black quinoa, chick peas, and veggies.

I think this is definitely an older childs project. Isabella is 10 and she had trouble tying some of the knots and holding the cornhusk parts together. Dexterity with both hands helps because you have to hold and tie things and this was frustrating for her because things kept slipping.  The other option is to have a helper that can hold the doll while the other is tying the head, the skirts, and other pieces onto the doll.

Below I am sharing several of the many instructions that I found to make the dolls. The basic concepts were all the same. Start with a head, add arms, and then the body or skirt.  You can embellish the dolls with capes, bonnets, braided arms, fancy dresses, criss-cross bodices...the list of ways to make your final doll are endless.

I bought a large bag of cornhusk pieces from my local grocery store. They sold it in the ethnic section. I put what I thought I would need in a large bucket of warm water and let it set for one hour. Get more than you think you need wet. The reason I say this is because you can layer the skirt so its very full, the husk rip, some are thinner than others and tear, etc...

We pulled the pieces apart and spread them out according to size.  Some pieces are great for the skirt because they are long and wide.  Other pieces are smaller and work well for arms, bonnets, or the head.

I bought thin twine to help secure the heads and the skirts. You can use thin pieces of the cornhusk but with the kids it was easier to have something sturdy.  Sometimes the cornhusk strips break.

We used the instruction sheet from the Iowa newspaper and made our doll.

The project took us an hour to complete. Not because it was hard but the initial decision of how we wanted to make our dolls took some time.

Overall, I will be doing this again. Our dollies dried quickly and they look adorable set out.  We will keep them up until fall when we harvest our vegetables and then burn them as a thank you for watching over our crops.



Tuesday, February 7, 2017

DIY Beeswax Candles #kidfriendly

Having kids is awesome. I get to do all the things I never did as a kid or young adult. This is our first time making candles and it was very easy.

I would say this project works well with kids starting at age 3 and up. I think some 2 year olds could do this with adult supervision.

I ordered a kit off of Amazon.  The kit included flat pieces of pastel colored wax panels and a long string of wick.  THIS IS NOT AN AD. I have not been paid to talk about this product nor was this product given to our family.

The reason we decided to make candles is because Imbolc was this week. This is a pagan holiday that celebrates the half way mark between winter and summer. We light a lot of candles in our celebrations. The bees wax represents the bees that we need to pollinate our future seeds. This is a way to pay homage to their services and remind us that we need to cherish the bees that we have in our area.

We are also making corn dollies, dutch babies, and enjoying the sun and its beautiful rays of light as they fill our home. The days are getting longer and we love this.  Our kids can't wait to run on the beach and splash in the water again.

Below I will share some of the pictures and steps that we used to make our candles.

Supplies Needed:

Beeswax sheets (I ordered ours off of Amazon but craft stores may have them too.)
pizza cutter-to cut the wax sheets in half
scissors-to cut the wick
cutting board-to roll wax
hair dryer-to soften the wax to seal edges and shape the ends

To start, I cut each sheet in half. Our sheets of wax were about 18 inches long.  If you roll the whole sheet the candles will not fit into most candle holders. 

Measure the wick by placing the wick across the cut wax sheet and leave about 1/2 inch above the wax sheet (it should over hang).

Gently start to roll the wax over the wick string. This might take an adult to get this part started. I just inched my fingers up the one side and pressed the wax into the wick to secure the wick. Pressure is key because you don't want to press too hard and ruin the honeycomb design on the wax.

Finally, you or your child can start rolling. Isabella is showing you below how she does it. I find it easier to use both hands and to roll evenly.

The goal is to roll the wax sheet so that the edges line up when you get to the end. If this does not happen, unroll, and start again. You also don't want a lot of air or gaps.  See the picture below. This shows you how tight we rolled our candles.

When you are happy with your candle, you can gently press the edges to seal it. I found that if we use a blow dryer and warm up the seam, then press it closed, this works great.  Isabella was able to do this herself but younger kids might need help because the heat is hot.  The other thing we did was to warm the end without the wick. This allows you to shape the bottom of the candle so that you can place it into a candle holder. Our candles were too thick but this simple step made it easy for us to insert them into the candle holder.

Our candles look beautiful in our 5 candle holder. Isabella is thrilled with her color choice.

2017 Spring Break in Portland,OR-LINKS, IDEAS, and PICTURES

This year we have decided to stick around Oregon for our vacations. Our first stop was Portland, OR. This is a place that Cory and I ...