Spring Returns

Winter came back this past week - lots of cold and gray.  But today the rain blew on and the sun came out and it was spring again.  Yeah!  Katherine had an appointment in Wichita and we had time to kill before dinner, so she begged to go to the park.  I turned randomly to find a park somewhere and found one almost immediately - never knew it was there, but it was cool!  Katherine had a wonderful time.  She's a little scared of heights and was so proud when she finally found the courage to climb to the very top of the "spider web".  Here are a few pictures of my beautiful girl on a beautiful day.

Pasta Peperonata

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs we have started a new season cooking with a new chef, Jamie Oliver. I made Pasta Peperonata, this is the first Jamie Oliver recipe I've ever tried and it was a hit! I found the recipe here at his website and it sounded too good not to try, especially since I had six bell peppers in the fridge, and was not quite sure what to do with them.

Pasta Peperonata

recipe from Jamie Oliver -- my adaptations in italics

2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced

2 yellow peppers, deseeded and sliced

extra virgin olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 red onions, peeled and finely sliced --I left these out and added in two orange bell peppers in their place, so 6 peppers total for me

2 garlic cloves, peeled and grated

2 handfuls of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves finely chopped, stalks reserved -- I used a few shakes of dried parsley

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar -- I used pomegranate infused red wine vinegar -- seems like I always buy these flavored vinegars but don't often find uses for them even though I love vinegar

2 handfuls of grated Parmesan cheese

optional: 2 heaped tablespoons mascarpone cheese or crème Fraîche

455g/1lb rigatoni, penne or spaghetti

Put all the peppers in a large frying pan over a medium heat with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Place a lid on, and cook slowly for 15 minutes until softened. Don't rush this too much, as cooking the peppers slowly like this really helps to bring out the flavour.

Add the onion and cook for a further 20 minutes. Then add the garlic and parsley stalks and toss around, keeping everything moving in the pan. Cook for about 3 minutes most. Have a little taste, and season with a bit more salt and pepper.

Add the vinegar - it will sizzle away, so give everything a good toss. Then add one handful of the grated Parmesan and the mascarpone or crème fraîche if you are using it and turn the heat down to minimum while you cook the pasta.

Meanwhile put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the packet instructions. When cooked, drain in a colander, reserving some of the cooking water. Put the peppers, pasta and parsley leaves into a large warmed bowl.

Give them a good toss together, then add a little of the pasta cooking water and a few good lugs of extra virgin olive oil to coat the pasta nicely. Serve straight away sprinkled with the rest of the Parmesan.

~~~ end of recipe ~~~

This was so delicious! I love peppers but usually like them better just slightly sauteed and still crunchy, so I wasn't sure if I would love these or not but I did. The vinegar was just wonderful in this, and all of the flavors went together so well. Even though I added an extra two peppers (six total instead of four), I think I could have added a couple more (maybe two greens?) -- this has me thinking this will be a perfect recipe in the summer time with all of the garden fresh bell peppers!
So, my first Jamie Oliver recipe was a huge success, and guess what? Even the kids liked this! Can't wait to make it again.

the jacket project day 25

Bright fuchsia yoga jacket from Lucy. I purchased this around Valentine’s day when Lucy’s had 25% off anything pink. Like the turquoise yoga jacket, it has thumb slots, which are so awesome for keeping your hands warm after a workout.


Almond Butter Cookies

Perfect Almond Butter Cookies
Aunt Joan gave me some Rycraft cookie stamps for like my 16th or 17th birthday, and I still have them.  With the stamps came a recipe book for all kinds of shortbread.  This recipe is my favorite from that book, and when I make them for people, these always get rave reviews.  They are so simple, it's hard to believe they're so loved, but they have just the perfect amount of sweetness and their texture is perfectly melt-in-your-mouth crisp.  I like mine to be clearly browned on the edges in order to get the full flavor of this buttery cookie.
Cookie stamps from Rycraft and Almond extract from Penzy's Spices

Almond Butter Cookies

Preheat oven to 350°. Cream butter & sugar.  Add extract.  Add salt & flour.  Chill dough.  Form one-inch balls & roll in sugar.  Stamp with cookie stamp.
Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

* These cookies are also great with ½ cup finely chopped macadamia nuts.

Carol Rhodes' Crescent "Goodie" Rolls

These little "rolls" have to be one of my very favorite things to eat on this earth.  I'm not even exaggerating.  When you look at the ingredients, though, you'll see why I try to only make them once every year or two.  Fortunately (or not, depending on how you look at it) I have two little guys who will be my eating buddies for these.
Carol Rhodes happens to be one of my mother's very best friends, and a woman who was like an aunt to me as I grew up.  She always had a smile for me, and her laugh is still awesomely contagious.  I'm thankful for her, and for her recipe.
Carol's Crescent "Goodie" Rolls are buttery, flaky and slightly crisp on the outside and tender chewy and cheesy on the inside.  They're best eaten just after the point when they will burn the flesh in your mouth.  Don't get me wrong, I will eat them at room temperature as well.  I have NO problems with that.

Carol Rhodes’ Crescent “Goodie” Rolls

Preheat oven to 425°
In a medium bowl with a wooden spoon, mix butter and cottage cheese. 
Add flour and salt and mix until combined.  Divide into 6 balls. 
Dust ball with flour and place between two sheets of plastic wrap.  Roll into about a ¼ inch thick circle.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Cut circle into 8 wedges. 
Roll each wedge from the base to the tip and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.*
Bake at 425° for about 15 minutes.
*Unbaked rolls can be placed on a wax paper-lined baking sheet and frozen, placed in a zip-top freezer bag, and baked later.  They taste just as delicious as when they're made fresh.

the jacket project day 24

Military style jacket by Trouvé. Probably not an essential item, but I like it. It has a zipper around the collar that goes nowhere. Good with jeans or a skirt and boots.

'The sun has got his hat on' - puppet show.

Today our plain wooden hammer house transformed into a beautiful puppet theatre. Whilst looking for music that we could use with the puppets and theatre, the children came across a 'love to sing' CD with the song 'the sun has got his hat on'. This became the inspiration for the rest of the morning.

Making new puppets became an important focus for the children, look at the wonderful bees and beehive stick puppets the children made.

"Puppets have united people of the world through a language unique to puppetry... it is a language that conveys feelings, ideals and passions" (Burn, 1989).

Puppets are great for fostering social interaction, communication, role playing, imagination, listening and much more. They develop leadership, performance and at times the courage to stand in front of our peers. Using puppets makes risk-taking feel a bit safer for children.


Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread Cookies

My Aunt Joan is the queen of shortbread, as far as I'm concerned.  She makes lots of different kinds, and lots of them are even wheat-free and dairy free.  I prefer the wheat and butter ones, and this is one of those recipes.  These shortbread cookies (also from Aunt Joan) have replaced Aunt Joan's Almond Butter Cookies as my favorite shortbread, but just barely.  I like these cookies because they are so tender and melty on my tongue.  They're on the dry side, so maybe that's why my husband doesn't care for them, but with a nice light brown edge and lots of macadamia nuts, they satisfy a butter & sugar craving any day.
Oh, and if you try these, the "shaken to level" instructions are because the first time I made these they spread too much, so by shaking the measuring cup to level the dry ingredients, you get just enough body so that the cookies don't over spread and loose their cute stamp design.

Shortbread Cookies

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Step 1: In a small mixer bowl, cream together until light and fluffy

  • 3/4 cup real butter, softened but still cool
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (shaken to level)
Step 2: Add

On low speed, mix until blended well, scraping bowl. 

Step 3: Shape dough into 1-inch balls.  Roll each ball in ½ cup very finely chopped nuts (or in granulated sugar if you’re not trying to keep to less than 6 ingredients). Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Flatten with a greased cookie stamp or flat-bottomed glass.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.  Remove shortbreads to wire racks to cool.  Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen 2 1/2-inch cookies.

Making Rock Candy

I'm secretly attempting to build up a little stash of treats for the girls' Easter baskets, shh! So we're making some yummies, and each time a few of them mysteriously disappear... so far unnoticed. Kaia had yet to make rock candy, and hasn't everyone got to make rock candy at least once? So we started there. We poured 3 cups of sugar and 1 cup of water into a pan.
Over high heat, Kaia stirred it until all the sugar dissolved.
While we waited for the water to boil, Kaia prepared food colouring and flavouring in jars.
We used lime juice in the green, lemon juice in the yellow, spearmint in blue, and orange oil in the orange. (Okay, it ended up being pretty red... Kaia got a little overzealous with the red food colouring.) They smelled sooo delicious, Kaia couldn't stop sniffing each jar over and over while we waited. I had to convince her that they wouldn't taste very good to drink.
When the sugar water mixture came to boil we removed it from the stove and poured it into the jars. We gave them a stir and set them in the fridge to cool. While they were cooling, we prepared some cotton kitchen twine by tying it to sticks, dipping the strings into the sugar water mixture, and taping them to the counter to dry. 
 When the mixture seemed a bit cooler than room temperature, we took the jars out and hung the strings in them so that they didn't touch the bottom or sides. The following picture was taken the next day, and we knew something was wrong. Most of the sugar was separated from the water.
We waited anyway, and a week and a half later we had these pretty funky looking rock candies. Not the prettiest rock candy I've ever seen, something is definitely amiss, but tasty none the less!
We are now the proud owners of an actual candy thermometer, so I think we shall be trying this project again with a bit more precision.

the jacket project day 23

Eddie Bauer, Girl on the Go raincoat. This one is essential for rainy weather when I need a coat that goes with anything. It’s rain and wind proof and works well with both jeans and skirts.

Art work

We really enjoy engaging in the creative arts at Mairtown Kindergarten. Last week, Kim gave back to the children some of their completed art work.  Re-offering children their art work provides opportunities to build layers, create depth and add new ideas as they develop their awareness of colours, shapes, forms, texture and lines.

Creating with paint and dyes.


Adding depth and layers with gold pen.

 Some of the finished masterpieces