Earthy Egg Embellishment

Searching for eggs around the yard is an annual tradition for many families in the Spring, but first there is decorating to be done. Dyes are easy enough to find in stores this time of year. No special trip to the store is necessary this year. All the things you need are in or around your house.

Decorating eggs has various historical roots. Eggs are a symbol of Springtime, and new life. The ancient Zoroastrians painted eggs for their new year’s celebration, which falls on the spring equinox. Sculptures on the walls of Persepolis, capital of the Achaemenid Empire, show people carrying eggs to the king. Jewish Passover Sedar calls for hard-boiled eggs called Beitzah dipped in salt. Thanks to craft.com, we have a homemade recipe for your own beautiful eggs.

This year start a new tradition at home by playing with flowers, clovers and pretty leafs as the inspiration for your beautiful eggs. So many things can be used as dye like berries and veggies – yep, a fun way to play with your veggies!

You’ll Need
White eggs
Flowers and leaves to decorate eggs
Pot of water
Dye (onion skins, blueberries, asparagus / spinach…)
1 tablespoon white vinegar to intensify the dye
One pair old nylon stockings (in a color that won’t bleed)
Thread

Here’s How
Cut up your stockings into 4-5″ sections. Tie off one end.

Wash the eggs in mildly soapy water to clean off any oils or residue that might keep the dye from being absorbed.

Dry off the eggs and place them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use.
Choose leaves and flowers carefully, looking for interesting and distinctive shapes. Plants that can be pressed flat create interesting two-dimensional graphics.

Carefully place the egg in the stocking pouch. Be careful, your plant could move around. This will get easier with practice.

Tie off the other end of the stocking, making sure the stocking is stretched tightly as possible around the egg to hold your natural inspiration in place.

Add the dye material – blueberries, raspberries, spinach, asparagus – with vinegar and eggs to the water. Boil for 20 minutes. Remember to do the dyes separately. Or, mix blueberries and strawberries and see what happens.

Remove the eggs, cut off the stocking and leaves. Then rinse your eggs. Rub vegetable oil on for a nice finish.

Lastly, share any really special designs with me in the comment section below!

It’s all about the dressing

Summer salads are a great way to explore what’s in season while introducing your little one to new flavors. Dips, dressings, that little something extra is what makes a difference from the little one turning his or her nose up to diving right in. Dressing doesn’t need to come in a bottle. It’s something you can make at home with your little ones. Get them involved. See which flavor they like. Then, try mixing the dressings with produce. What do you like with the raspberry vinaigrette? Is there something that the balsamic is better with? (Try strawberries, feta and spinach with the last one. It’s a simple, warm weather healthy addition to any meal.)

Today, it’s all about the dressings. Maybe you end up with a variety of them in your home to meet individual tastes. That’s OK!! These are homemade and fresh. Each recipe makes enough to dress salad for four. If you find one that everyone likes, consider doubling or tripling the recipes and storing it in a mustard or jam jar. Before to shake before serving. These dressings should stay fresh for a week.

Citrus vinaigrette

  1. In a saucepan, simmer ½ cup of orange juice, ¼ cup lime juice and 2 Tbsp. lemon juice for 4 minutes or until 1/3 cup remains. Pour into a bowl.
  2. Whisk 1 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar, minced red chile, a large minced shallot, chopped mint, ½ tsp. each grated orange and lemon zests, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, kosher salt and black pepper.
  3. Whisking continuously, slowly add ¼ cut extra-virgin olive oil until emulsified.

 

Balsamic vinaigrette

  1. Whisk together 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar (white or dark), 1 ½ Tbsp. warm water, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard and ½ tsp. of each minced garlic, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Whisking continuously, slowly pour in 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil until emulsified.

 

Mustard-herb vinaigrette

  1. In a blender, puree 1 hard-cooked egg yolk (this makes the dressing extra creamy, 3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar, 1 Tbsp. each grainy Dijon mustard and water, and ½ tsp. each of minced garlic, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. With blender running, slowly add 5 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil until emulsified. Pour into a bowl; stir in 2 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon, chervil, basil or parsley.

 

Fresh raspberry vinaigrette

  1. In a blender, puree ¾ cup fresh raspberries with ¼ cup reduced sodium chicken broth.
  2. Scrape puree through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl and discard seeds.
  3. Into the puree, whisk 2 Tbsp. canola oil, 1 Tbsp. each of apple cider vinegar and minced shallot, 2 tsp. Dijon honey mustard and ¼ tsp. each of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper until emulsified.

 

Sesame-ginger vinaigrette

  1. Whisk together 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger, 1 tsp. each of minced garlic and sugar, and 2 Tbsp. each of rice vinegar and soy sauce.
  2. While whisking, slowly add ¼ cut peanut or canola oil and 1 Tbsp. toasted Asian sesame oil until emulsified. Stir in 1 Tbsp. snipped fresh chives and 1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds.

 

Chipotle-honey-lime vinaigrette

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk 3 Tbsp. lime juice, 1 minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce, 1 ¼ tsp. each or honey and ground cumin, and ½ tsp. each of minced garlic and kosher salt.
  2. Whisking continuously, slowly add 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil until emulsified. Stir in 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro.

Ice cream waffle sandwiches

You know when you pass by an ice cream shop, there is an intoxicatingly delicious smell that gets you, right? It’s not like ice cream has a scent that travels. It’s the waffle cone – fresh pressed waffle cone – that makes you take an extra second. A big deep sniff in and then you smile; that smell means tasty relief from the warm weather that’s just starting to descend on us now? (I guess that depends on where you live but the Bay Area is on a definite warming streak.)

That’s the kind of thing that makes you think about ice cold ice cream and tasty waffle cones. You know, the fun of trying to eat it fast enough that it doesn’t melt, creating a sticky mess on your hands, but not too fast as to create a headache. It’s a tough world out there. These are the real problems.

One delicious solution is the ice cream sandwich. Have you ever considered making your own waffle to go with the frozen treat? That’s what we’re doing this week. Thanks to a craft from ComeTogetherKids.com, we’re making cake and ice cream sandwiches. It’s a simple concept: Take chocolate cake mix – from the box or the scratch recipe below – and use it to make waffles in a waffle maker. Let the waffles cool the spoon vanilla ice cream on one side. Add a second waffle and enjoy. It’s that simple.

You’ll Need

1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup superfine sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup best-quality cocoa
1 1/2 sticks soft unsalted butter
2 large eggs
2 tsp. good-quality vanilla extract
2/3 cup sour cream

Here’s How

Take everything out of the refrigerator so that all ingredients can be room temperature.

Preheat the waffle iron.

Put all the cake ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, cocoa, butter, eggs, vanilla and sour cream into a food processor and process until you have a smooth, thick batter. If you want to go the long way around, just mix the flour, sugar and leavening agents in a large bowl and beat in the soft butter until you have a combined and creamy mixture. Now whisk together the cocoa, sour cream, vanilla, and eggs and beat this into your bowl of mixture.

Once you have the mixture, use it the way you would a waffle batter. Pour it into the waffle maker and follow the cooking instructions for your personal machine.

Allow the chocolate waffles to cool. Once cold, take a couple spoonfuls of ice cream – your choice in terms of flavor – and spread it on one waffle. Once you have enough, place another chocolate waffle on top. Then, enjoy!

Planning healthy habits

Did you ever notice how difficult it is to eat healthy when hunger strikes? Your little one wants a snack; you go to the kitchen and start looking around. Often we find ourselves in this situation. The key to keeping it healthy is planning. I know! We’re all busy. In the spirit of spring cleaning and getting organized, consider organizing snacks with a snack station.

Inspired by Realsimple.com, today’s idea is a grab-and-go snack stashes.

Using a larger bin – consider Tupperware, something that can be cleaned easily – place a variety of snacks that can be mixed and matched for treats. You can use snack size sandwich bags to portion out orange slice, baby carrots, celery sticks, pepper slices. You can even rotate these treats to showcase whatever is seasonal, like berries. Include grapes, lunch meat roll-ups (like turkey and Swiss of ham and cheddar), yogurt, string cheese and, for dipping, a jar of peanut butter and hummus.

Make a habit of refilling your snack station one day a week, say Sunday night. Once it’s ready, you can tell your kids to grab something when you’re busy without worry. And, you can pick up a small bag on your way out to the many baseball and soccer games going on. Those chips are tempting, but not the best option for your little one – or you.

How will you personalize your snack station?

Veggie hide-and-seek

Are your little ones eating enough veggies? They probably aren’t specifically asking for extra peas and carrots. That could change by hiding them.

Investigators at Columbia University recently gave this a go. They enlisted 68 elementary and middle school children and gave them two samples to try. One was labeled broccoli gingerbread spice cake and the other simply gingerbread spice cake. The kids didn’t know the cake was the same but they loved the gingerbread spice cake that didn’t have broccoli in the name.

While children were more likely to eat products that didn’t have veggies listed on the label, doctors did encourage parents to introduce their children to a variety of vegetables to find one they like. Then the hiding won’t be necessary.

Let’s give it a try with sweet potato cupcakes with toasted marshmallow frosting. Thanks to Better Homes and Gardens and Lovin’ From the Oven for the recipes, respectively.

Ingredients
For the cupcakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
16 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups sugar
3 large eggs
17 oz. sweet potato puree
½ tsp. vanilla extract

For the frosting
8 large egg whites
2 cups sugar
½ tsp. cream of tartar
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; stir together with a fork and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Mix in the sweet potatoes and vanilla extract, beating just until combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.
  3. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners. Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes; then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. To make the frosting, combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in the top of a double boiler. Heat the mixture, whisking frequently, until it reaches 160 degrees with an instant-read thermometer. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk starting at low speed and gradually increasing to medium-high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form. Mix in the vanilla until combined. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.
  5. For a fun extra touch, you can use a kitchen torch and garnish with a sprinkle of brown sugar, if desired.

Mac and Cheese surprise

All kids love macaroni and cheese. Well, not just kids… let’s be honest. Cheese and noodle casseroles started appearing in medieval cookbooks – so yeah, you’re not alone in a love for this wonderful dish. Even Thomas Jefferson was a fan, serving “macaroni pie” at a state dinner in 1802. The recipe by today’s moniker appeared in 1824.

But it doesn’t need to be a completely unhealthy meal. With this Food and Wine recipe there’s some good news: mixing carrot puree with the cheddar cheese creates a wonderful source of vitamin A while reducing the amount of fat in the recipe. And, it’s still tasty.

 

Ingredients

3/4 pound carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
Zest and juice of 1 navel orange, zest removed in strips with a vegetable peeler
Salt
3 cups penne rigate (9 ounces)
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
1 Tbsp. chopped tarragon
Freshly ground white pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, combine the carrots with the zest and juice and 1/4 cup of water. Season with salt and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over moderate heat until the carrots are very soft, about 30 minutes. Discard the zest. Transfer the carrots and any liquid to a blender and puree until very smooth.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
  3. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the reserved water and the carrot puree and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the pasta is coated with a thickened sauce, about 5 minutes. Stir in three-fourths of the cheese and cook, stirring, until very creamy, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Stir in the tarragon and season with salt and white pepper.
  4. Transfer the pasta to a medium baking dish and top with the remaining cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted and lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Coffee Cup Cake

Have you been using your mugs for coffee, tea and hot cocoa? Boring!

In five minutes that cup could be holding delicious, super hot coffee cake. This could be a fun weekend morning treat to make with your kids. Even better, there’s no fighting. Everyone can make their own and personalize it. Do you love cinnamon? Add in some extra. Top it off with some fresh berries from the local farmers market.

Making a five-minute breakfast cake in a cup has been extra popular on Pinterest lately. We’re using a recipe is by the lovely ladies at PrudentBaby.com. It’s also great because it allows you to start your morning with a classic without facing days of leftovers.

Ingredients

Cake
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 egg
2 Tbsp. sour cream
Vanilla
¼ cup flour
1/8 tsp. baking powder

Crumb topping
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon 

Instructions

  1. Start with a coffee mug. Using a small one will result in a cake that puffs over. A taller one will allow you to really dig in. Whatever you prefer – or have lying around the house – make it happen.
  2. Add a tablespoon of butter. Then soften, don’t melt, it in the microwave. This should take 5 to 10 seconds.
  3. Stir in 2 tablespoons of sugar until it’s fluffy and creamy. Then you can add egg if you’d like. Without egg, the cake will by more crumbly. You can add a whole egg or break the egg into a ramekin, stir it up and split it between two cups of coffee cups.
  4. Stir in 2 tablespoons of sour cream and a few drops of vanilla. Be sparing with the vanilla.
  5. Stir in ¼ cup of flour and 1/8 teaspoon of baking powder.
  6. If you want crumb topping – which, let’s face it, is the best part so of course you do! – use a separate bowl or ramekin and put in 1 tablespoon of butter, 2 tablespoons of flour, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Then, using your finger, mix it all together.
  7. Since you’re coffee mug cake mix is finished, top it off with your new crumbly mix. Then, start it in the microwave for 1 minute. Then, do it for 10 second increments until the cake is cooked to your liking.
  8. Then, enjoy! It will be really, really hot! So be careful. Little hands may need to put something like a towel around the coffee cup at first.