A tall glass of sunshine

I’ve never been much of a juice or slushie person — I prefer to get my calories from something I can chew, rather than drink — but this booze-free strawberry-watermelon daiquiri might bring me around. It’s from the Summer ’14 issue of Kraft’s What’s Cooking magazine, which arrived in the mail this week.

strawberry watermelon drink

The recipes I’ve tried from past issues have all been really good and (bonus!) we often have many of the ingredients already in the house. I was able to use up some boxes of Jello for the rainbow layer cake from the Spring ’14 issue, which I made not once but twice in one week. (It was that good!)  And I’ve ear-marked the pages of several issues to try more recipes in the future, like these strawberry-lemon cheesecakes in a jar made for Kraft by La cuisine d’Hélène. (Everything she makes is gold!)

Oh, but we were talking about drinks.

This one got me through a warm afternoon earlier this week when I was cooped up at home with a sick little boy. I could only pop outside for a minute to snap a quick pic, and when I came back inside the drink was like a tall glass of sunshine.

*slurrrp*

Ahhh.

My brother-in-law makes a similar drink that he bumps up with lime. I bet some muddled mint leaves would also work well.

What are some of your favourite summer drinks?

Gazpacho for one

It’s mostly greens at the farmers’ market this time of year, so the plump red tomatoes stood out among the baskets of asparagus, cucumbers and herbs when we visited yesterday. A couple of those beauties made their way into our basket, along with a bunch of fresh basil and some Lebanese cukes.

Together they’re the base for this gazpacho for one.

gazpacho-for-1-2

Because I didn’t add any liquid it’s more smoothie than soup, but you could easily add some tomato juice if you prefer it more wet.

It’s refreshing and healthy and smells so good. Shall I whizz one together for you too?

Gazpacho for 1

Makes one generous serving.

Ingredients

1 large ripe tomato

2 medium Lebanese cucumbers, 1 field cucumber or 3/4 of an English cucumber

1/2 stalk celery

1/4 red pepper

3 fresh basil leaves

salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives

a dollop of plain Greek yogurt

a slice of lime

Directions

Whizz first six ingredients in a food processor and pour into a fancy glass.

Garnish with yogurt, chives and lime.

Similar recipes also call for garlic, onion, olive oil, tomato juice and Worcestershire sauce. Add or take away as you like.

Five things

My daughter had her first sleepover last night. We thought everyone would be tuckered out after running around at a super fun indoor playground in the afternoon and staying up past their bedtime to watch Peter Pan but they giggled and chatted until almost 11 (well past my bedtime!), then were up with the birds before 6 this a.m.

sleepover large

Before 6! On a Sunday! It’s not like they had a flight to catch or chickens to feed.

Where do they get their energy?

BeFunky_pickles lily.jpg

Yay, cucumbers are in season! These easy refrigerator pickles take all of 15 minutes to make and keep for about a month.

thyme and weeds

One of our neighbours has a cute sense of humour.

(If this was our yard the signs would say “WEEDS” and “DIRT”. What would your signs say?)

books for five things

I’m well stocked with books for the summer thanks to recent freebies and contest wins. Penguin Books sent me these two new releases when I became a blogger’s 5,000th Twitter follower.

I’ve also won Romance is My Day Job Listen to the Squawking Chicken, The One and Only, Jason Priestley’s memoir, and Unbridled.

What’s on your summer reading list?

zuke salad for five things

Last week I tried my first recipe from Sweet Paul Eat & Make, this zucchini salad with goat cheese.

If you think it looks a lot like my strawberry spinach salad, you’re right.  I used the rest of the spinach, goat cheese and walnuts I had from this one to make that one.

Both were delicious!

Strawberry spinach salad

One of my favourite design bloggers is launching her second collection at Target next week. The first one had all kinds of pretty essentials for a spring party, while the second has everything under the sun for a picture-perfect picnic. I am in love with the striped picnic basket and the multicoloured bento boxes in perfect serving sizes for one. And the gold-dipped condiment squeeze bottles? I die!

This strawberry spinach salad would look so pretty served on the coordinating melamine plates. The berries and fresh greens say summer!

strawberry spinach salad

I’m not much of a dressing person so I’ve just squeezed a little lemon juice on top. Do you have a dressing to suggest?

Strawberry spinach salad

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

4 cups fresh spinach

1.5 cups sliced strawberries

1 cup blueberries

1/2 cup walnuts

1/3 cup goat cheese

Sprinkle of lemon juice

Directions

Toss the spinach, strawberries and blueberries together.

Pinch off small pillows of goat cheese and sprinkle on top. (The goat cheese will schmear if you stir it in; plopping it on top is more appetizing, I think.)

Sprinkle with lemon juice or your own dressing.

Enjoy!

 

A fresh take on fruit salad

I love a salad all year round, but usually stick to your typical green. Boring? Maybe. But I likes what I likes!

This week I’m tossing things up (pun intended) with my spin on a few salads I’ve seen here and there, starting with this fresh fruit one inspired by a recipe in the June ’14 issue of Fitness RX magazine.

 

fruit salad blue plate

It’s so simple there’s really no need to include a “recipe” per se, just cut up your favourite fruits, toss with a few torn basil leaves and sprinkle a little lemon juice on top.

I splashed out and included all kinds of fruits, but I bet it would be equally delicious with just two or three. Here we have fresh cantaloupe, grapefruit, strawberries, blueberries, oranges, kiwi and canned pineapple because I was too lazy to cut up a whole one.

I’d never tried herbs with fruit and the taste surprised me. It’s refreshing and light and anything but boring.

Birthdays

Funny how birthdays happen the same day every year and still manage to sneak up on you. My kids turned 5 and 7 in the past two weeks and I’m wondering how they both got another year past me.

How did they get so big?

BeFunky_three balloons

Next weekend my daughter’s having her first sleepover. I know she’s ready for it but I’m not. Seven seems so young. To me sleepovers are about making prank phone calls and renting Chippendales movies and putting each other’s bras in the freezer, all of which I’m sure I didn’t do until I was at least 14.

Now 7-year-olds are walking around with cell phones and ipads and singing along to Miley Cyrus. Dammit, why couldn’t she stay Hannah Montana forever?

I think it’s the chicken. They pump it full of so many damn hormones and it’s messing with our kids. Is that chocolate milk on my 5-year-old’s face or the hint of a mustache? And why are they making press-on nails for little girls?

The whole thing makes me want to stuff myself with birthday cake. This is a good one.

They’re Not Getting Any Younger Chocolate Birthday Cake

Makes two 9-inch cakes or 22 cupcakes.

Ingredients

1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 and 1/2 cups sugar (I didn’t say it was healthy!)

3/4 cup cocoa powder

1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup full fat coconut milk

1 cup boiling water

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C. Grease cake or cupcake pans.

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add wet ingredients and beat on slow speed for 2 minutes to combine. Batter will be thin.

Pour into pans. Bake cakes for 30 to 35 mins; cupcakes for 18 to 20.

Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans.

What’s Swedish for delicious?

Have you ever been to IKEA on a weekday? I was there on Monday with my father-in-law — he to pick up a second side table for his living room; me to get another cushion cover and pillow for mine — and oh my gosh, it was positively peaceful. All kinds of room to walk through the store, no line-ups at the cash and plenty of chairs and tables free in the bistro to sit and have a frozen yogurt before leaving.

I almost managed the impossible — leaving the store with nothing but what you came for — but the food section called to me on the way out and I found myself picking up a multigrain bread mix too. (Our freezer is already well-stocked with meatballs.) I’ve wanted to try it for a while and it looked like a fun thing to make with the kids.

Why there’s one of my little sous-chefs now!

bread mix 2

ikea pouring

You pour 20 ounces of water directly into the carton, shake vigorously for 45 sections, then pour into a loaf pan and let rise for 45 minutes before baking.

We shook the heck out of that thing but couldn’t get the flour out of the bottom of the carton so we poured the contents into a bowl to stir with the mixer like we would any other bread dough.

ikea pour

The mixture was awfully wet so we added about a cup of flour until it came together like a dough, then left it to rise.

It didn’t grow except for in the oven, where it rose into a dense, seedy loaf.

ikea bread

What’s Swedish for delicious? One thick slice of this bad boy and you’ll be ready to climb a mountain or assemble a bookcase.

It would be so good with jam or thinly sliced with smoked salmon, but it stands up perfectly well as is.

Have you tried IKEA’s bread mix? What can’t you leave the store without?

Chocolate avocado fudge

This week I’m all about satisfying cravings in a healthy way. And ‘tho we know a little dark chocolate can be good for you, sometimes it just doesn’t satisfy. Sometimes you want something rich and chewy and decadent and bad. This chocolate avocado fudge satisfies that deep dark chocolate craving and (bonus!) it’s good for you too.

fudge ingredients

I adapted a couple of recipes from the Interwebs to come up with this one, replacing Stevia with a little brown sugar, doubling up on the vanilla extract and simplifying the cooking method so you can make it all in one pot. I used pistachios but any other nuts would probably be just as good.

fudge

Fudge isn’t the most photogenic, but that didn’t stop my five-year-old from asking for seconds. Which totally blew me away. Avocado and coconut milk and nuts and he actually liked it?

We have a winner here, people. Try it and see.

Chocolate avocado fudge

Makes 12 satisfying pieces

Ingredients

1 large avocado

1/3 cup coconut milk

3 oz/100 grams 70% dark chocolate

1/3 cup brown sugar (next time I’ll try 1/4; the fudge is quite sweet)

1/3 cup pistachios

12 walnut halves

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

Directions

Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.

Peel, pit and puree avocado until smooth.

Simmer coconut milk until warm; break chocolate into chunks and stir into coconut milk until melted.

Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Continue to stir on low heat for 2 to 3 minutes.

Pour into loaf pan and chill in the fridge overnight. (The fudge will be fairly soft; freeze overnight if you like it more firm.)

Remove fudge from pan (keep it on the parchment paper to slice) and cut into 12 portions. Garnish each with a walnut half.

Satisfying cravings

Although I try to eat healthy foods for the most part, at that time of the month, things completely fly off the rails. Salty, fatty or sweet — if it isn’t nailed down, it’s going in my mouth. And I usually feel terrible for it. Satisfying cravings

How I stay (relatively) sane

Oprah says your house should rise up to greet you. Most of the time my house smacks me in the face. The floors are littered with toys that crunch underfoot in the night, the dining room table strewn with school notices, artwork and bills, the walls and doors sullied with fingerprints and and “washable” crayons that didn’t quite wash off. It’s not that we don’t clean — sometimes we’ll scrub ’til the house sparkles — but that we live. And more often than not, living is messy.

It’s taken me a long time to accept and I don’t even fully, but I have found some ways to keep my sanity. Namely, by tidying the areas where I spend most of my time. For me that’s the kitchen (the sunniest spot in the house) and a corner of the living room by the front window where I curl up to blog and read and try to come up with clever things to tweet on Twitter.

chair looking down

I’ve got just enough room on the table (a Target find, surprise surprise) for a giant cup of tea and a stack of books and magazines to inspire. (I’ve just finished All My Puny Sorrows to review for Brazenwoman.)

books

Our poor old chairs have taken a beating over the past couple of years. Eventually I’d like to replace them, maybe with something like these. And replace the throw with one that matches the couch. But it’s plenty cozy for now. And most importantly, it’s mine.

Do you have a corner or a room to call all your own? How do you use it? What makes it special?

Super hippie wraps

There’s a wonderful little vegetarian bakery/restaurant an easy walk from my house that makes you feel virtuous just for walking in the door. Fresh loaves of spelt and gluten-free bread cushion the warm wood walls, buckwheat salads and carob cake fill the display case and tofu soups and vegetarian chili bubble under chafing dishes with gleaming ladles to serve yourself to stay or go. The shop bustles with students and SAHMs and DINKs and local artists (vegetarians and non), all sharing an appetite for fresh, healthy food.

This super hippie wrap from The Family Cooks is just the kind of nutritious lunch you might grab there to go. It’s filled with hummus, avocado, cucumber, grated carrots and sprouts, sunflower seeds to give it crunch and a squeeze of lemon just because.

super hippie wrap 2

It’s the first recipe I’ve made from The Family Cooks and so healthy and satisfying and easy to make. Win win win!

Will you try it and let me know what you think? What are some of your favourite quick and healthy meals?

Papier-mâché balloon bowls

Between homework and dinner and baths, weeknights don’t leave much time to play. But if you’ve got 20 minutes here and there you can make this fun craft over a couple of days.

They’re papier-mâché bowls from Project Kid: 100 Ingenious Crafts for Family Fun. Today’s Parent posted the how-to in their latest issue.

You’ll need balloons, newspaper, 1 cup of flour, 2.5 cups of water and paint for decorating.

papier mache 1

Blow up the balloons (as many as you’d like to make — we did four to start), rip newspaper into strips and whisk water and flour to use as your glue.

If the mixture seems too thick (lumps are okay), dilute with more water.

papier machier 2

Coat the strips of newspaper with the flour/water mixture (run each one through your fingers to remove some of the excess) and cover the top of the balloon.

Some kids might find this gross (check out my son’s face). It’s messy, but press on!

Let dry overnight and apply a second coat.

painting

When the newsprint is dry, paint away!

painting 2

Kids might find it easier to set the balloon in a pail like we did here. A hole cut in the bottom of an overturned box also works.

Set the balloon aside until it’s dry, then pop and remove the balloon. Trim the edges.

Now you’ve got a bowl for all kinds of things!

bowl

james bowl

What are some of your favourite crafts?