Baked Kale Chips

Alright--I admit it. I made these because they've been kind of "trendy" lately. I wanted to know what all the hype was about! But I was pleasantly surprised by their flavor, and the crunch-factor was great. A bit strong in taste, they're certainly not for everyone, but if you're new to kale? Give these a try. They're fun.

You'll Need:
One bunch of kale--around six ounces
About 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
Sea Salt

To Make:
Wash your kale, laying it out on a clean towel to dry thoroughly.
One leaf at a time, gently "rip" the leafy part away from the more coarse, center part of the leaf, tearing into bite-sized pieces as you go.
In a medium bowl, toss the bite-sized pieces of kale with about 1 Tbsp. olive oil.
Spread the kale onto parchment-lined baking sheets in a single layer. You'll need two baking sheets.
Sprinkle the kale with sea salt, and then bake for about 20 minutes at 300 degrees.

Store your kale chips in an air-tight container to preserve their freshness and crunch.

Gooey Green Slime

Today, we made a batch of gooey, green slime. It was a big hit, and kept the little guy entertained for quite some time! Making the slime didn't even take ten minutes, which is a WIN in my book. Quick, homemade toddler entertainment? You betcha!


I couldn't help but pass this recipe along. If you make your own slime, will you let me know how it turns out?

You'll Need:

Equal parts {I used one cup of each} starch and Elmer's-style glue. The cheapie stuff will work just fine!
Food coloring {you choose the color! for a pale, slime-like green, I mixed three drops of yellow with one drop of blue}

To Make:
Pour glue into a medium glass or metal bowl.
Mix food coloring in with a metal spoon.
Add a bit of starch at a time, mixing each time you add more. I was able to stir the starch in until I had added about 1/2 cup, and then needed to knead the mixture by hand so that it would incorporate well.
The last time I added starch, I panicked a bit because I thought I had overdone it with the starch and ruined my slime. Simple kneading the ball of goo remedied the problem though!

Store your slime in an air-tight container when not in use. Because we made our slime for the first time today, I cannot tell you how long it will last. Look for an update later!

NOTE: This was a big hit with my three-year-old! He did manage to get a bit onto his jammies, which I'm sure will wash out, but use your best judgement around upholstery and things. This is a sticky, messy kind of fun!

Liquid? or Solid? {make an oobleck}

Have you ever heard of an oobleck? I hadn't either. Until I stumbled across the idea on, of course, Pinterest!

An oobleck is a "non-Newtonian fluid." When it is being poured, the oobleck acts as a liquid, and when force is applied, it acts like a solid. That, friends, makes for some serious toddler fun! Lots of giggles and gasps came from our kitchen while the little guy played with his bowl of... stuff.

I really think you should give this a try. It's so simple to make, and guaranteed to entertain even the choosiest of little ones. How simple?

Mix two cups of CORN STARCH with one cup of WATER.
{add a couple of drops of food coloring to the water if you'd like.}

Yep--that easy! It's hard to stir and blend, but go with it. Work it into a consistent mixture with your hands, if necessary.

Call the kiddo{s} in, pass out some spoons, and go for it. Also suggested: try punching or smacking the oobleck!

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

I put this salad together last night while I was working on dinner so that I'd have something other than graham crackers to munch on during the day. It was so simple, and could definitely be altered to suit your tastes. Use this recipe as a base, and then add or subtract as you'd like... perhaps some corn or diced avocado? Pine nuts? Sunflower seeds? Tomatoes? Anything goes, really!

You'll Need:
1/2 Cup Quinoa {cook according to package directions}
1 Can Black Beans {drained and rinsed}
1 Red Bell Pepper {diced}
1 Small Onion {diced, and I did not add a whole onion as I prefer less raw onion}
Cilantro {I probably used 1/3 cup, stems removed and chopped}
Olive Oil
Lime Juice
Chili Powder

To Make:
Cook quinoa according to package directions.
Transfer quinoa to a medium bowl, and add the black beans, diced red bell pepper, onion, and cilantro.
Drizzle a bit {and I do mean a very small amount! nobody likes oily quinoa!} of olive oil and lime juice over the mixture, stirring to combine.
Season lightly with chili powder and salt, tasting to see if the flavor suits you.
Store in an air-tight container in the fridge.

I like to dip my salad with tortilla chips, but it's also great on its own, or served over lettuce.

This post shared at: Traditional Tuesdays

Gluten, Dairy, and Soy Free Graham Crackers

I cannot tell you how excited I was to pop these into the oven! I was even more excited when they had {barely} cooled enough for me to take a taste.

That first bite? It *tasted* like a graham cracker. A real, honest-to-goodness graham cracker. I haven't had one of those in a year and a half!

They were a hit with the rest of the family too.

2 1/2 Cups Gluten-Free AP Flour Blend
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1 tsp. Xanthan Gum
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
7 Tbsp. Shortening, chilled {I use Spectrum}
1/4 Cup Honey {I believe agave would work here, for a vegan recipe}
1/4 Cup Cold Water
1 tsp. Vanilla

To Make:
Combine the flour, brown sugar, xanthan gum, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of your food processor.
Add the chilled shortening, honey, cold water, and vanilla, pulsing to combine the ingredients. You'll wind up with a very solid ball of dough.
Turn the dough out onto your {clean} counter top, and knead it just a bit to form a ball. Divide the ball into two equal parts.
Roll each ball of dough out onto a piece of parchment paper, to a thickness somewhere around 1/4 to 1/8 of an inch. The thinner your dough, the more crunch your finished treat will have, especially the next day. {I like to use a sheet of plastic wrap between the top of my dough and my rolling pin, as gluten free dough tends to STICK to the rolling pin.}
Using a small knife or your pizza cutter, score the dough to create squares. Use the tines of a fork to poke holes in the crackers, giving them the "look" of graham crackers we're all familiar with.
Slide each piece of parchment, with the rolled dough, onto a cookie sheet. Refrigerate the dough, on the cookie sheets, for about 30 minutes.
Bake the crackers, one sheet at a time, in a preheated oven set to 325 degrees. On my air-bake cookie sheet, 25 minutes was perfect. On my non-air-bake, 25 minutes was a touch too long. Experiment with your own oven and cookie sheets, watching for golden brown edges and a bit of dryness on the top of the crackers.
Immediately after removing the crackers from the oven, sprinkle them with a bit of sugar. You could also add some cinnamon on top, for cinnamon-sugar graham crackers.
When you remove the finished graham crackers from the oven, you'll likely need to re-cut the squares. I found this to be easiest with a small paring knife.

Store your cooled graham crackers in an air-tight container.

Weeknight Chocolate Cake

The name of this cake might sound a little bit strange, but that's what I call it because, well, it's a perfect weeknight treat! Because it is so quick and unbelievably simple to prepare, you won't mind whipping it up on a Thursday evening.

You'll Need:
1 1/2 Cups Gluten-Free AP Flour Blend
1/3 Cup Cocoa Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Xanthan Gum
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Oil {Canola, Grapeseed, etc.}
1 Cup Cold Water, Brewed Coffee or, my favorite, Chai Concentrate
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 Tbsp. Cider Vinegar

To Make:
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Add all of the dry ingredients directly into an 8x8 inch glass baking dish and stir to combine.
Combine the oil, chai concentrate {or other liquid}, and vanilla, and then add to the dry ingredients.
Mix thoroughly until the cake batter is smooth. Remember to check the corners of the dish!
Add the cider vinegar on top of the batter, and then stir briefly, just until white swirls form in the batter.
Bake the cake for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

A Place for Everything...

...and everything in its place. Right? Not so much, in this house. We're working on that, though! I've been hard at work on decluttering one day at a time. I really love the simple, daily tasks. I'm free to go on about my day when I'm done, but I often find that I'm so motivated that I keep right on cleaning!


Not the point of my post.

The point of my post is to say LOOK! Lookie what my hubby built! I found the plans on Ana White's blog (here), and within a week, the bench had materialized in my living room. Ok--maybe it didn't appear out of thin air. But it wasn't very complicated, either.

Building was simple, and took only a few hours spread over two afternoons. For the next few days, I took over. I filled holes one morning, and sanded them that evening. Each day this week, after putting the little guy to bed, I put on another coat of paint.

Last night, we finally got to "move in" to the bench!

It really turned out well, don't you think?


Our weekend was a quiet one, spent mostly at home. We all worked and worked on different parts of a project that I'll be ready to share with you soon.

Carpentry skills were used, and a love for the Kreg Jig was formed.

The cookies, though not a part of the construction project, were a sweet treat to end the weekend. I'm thrilled with the way this recipe turned out, by the way.

It never hurts to wear a hard hat when you're constructing, now does it?

How to Clean your Dishwasher

This is the picture I posted on my personal Facebook page a few weeks ago. At this point, I had developed a habit of stuffing a dishtowel under the front edge of the washer any time I turned it on. If I didn't, I inevitably wound up with wet socks!

Many friends replied, each with a different suggestion. Change the detergent, use less, make sure there hasn't been any hand-wash dish soap put into the washer... and so on.

Following some of the suggestions resulted in fewer leaks, but didn't remedy the problem entirely. It also didn't help the fact that the inside of my dishwasher was looking really, really gross! 

{Let's be honest, here. This is a cheap dishwasher. It is several years old, and, like the rest of our appliances, was purchased via CraigsList when we bought the house. There wasn't a single appliance in this house, and we needed them fast! and cheap!}

After a few different google searches, this is what I came up with:

Open your dishwasher and remove the bottom basket so you've got room to work. My little guy discovered the removed basket in minutes, and was promptly rolling around IN it. If you're worried about that, put it up high!

Locate the place in the bottom of the dishwasher where the water drains. I had to remove the spinner/water sprayer piece to get to mine. Yours might not require this step.

NOTE: Please remove these parts and pieces very carefully. You shouldn't have to force anything that is meant to be removed. If you break your dishwasher, don't blame this girl!! 

There will probably be a small "filter" or basket-looking piece over the drain. Remove it {try not to gag} and wash it in hot, soapy water.

In the picture above, I have removed the little filter attachment. I still had lots of gunk {and stickers, and grape stems, and chunks of wood, and a bread bag closure tab, and...} to remove by hand. I won't lie--it was gross!! Wear gloves if you're feeling particularly squeamish. 

NOTE: Please be very careful with this step! I found several pieces of broken glass while I was doing this step.

Next, I was able to remove the entire circle you see at the bottom of the above image. It was a plastic, mesh-like sheet... and it was GUNKY! Scrub, scrub, scrub this one too. Also scrub the edges of the dishwasher where filters and covers sit. I had a build-up of slimy goo to scrub away.

Satisfied that I couldn't remove anything else, I reassembled these pieces before I could manage to forget which piece went where. 

This is the steam vent in the door of my dishwasher. Some of the posts I read suggested removing and scrubbing this area as well, but that wasn't possible with my particular dishwasher. If you can remove yours, give it a scrub.

When everything had be reassembled, I used my kitchen sponge to clean away the dingy spots you can see in the previous photos. I also took the opportunity to clean the seal of the door, the door itself... you know, all of those little nooks and crannies we so easily overlook.

When you're satisfied that you've scrubbed all you can, add about 1/2 cup of this beastly cleaner to your empty dishwasher {I poured mine into the soap dispenser, but left the doors open} and run a full cleaning cycle. It will help clean away mineral build-up and anything else you might have been able to clean by hand. 

I'm so worked up over this whole ordeal, and was so excited to SHARE it with YOU, that the wash cycle is just now finishing. I plan to run the machine once more to make sure I've rinsed away all of the CLR, because I sure don't want any of it left behind on my dishes. I'd recommend you do the same.

Finally, if you give this a try, will you let me know how it turns out? Thanks!

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Gluten, Dairy and Soy Free Snickerdoodle Blondie Bars

Whew! That recipe name is a bit of a mouth full, isn't it? These were a tasty treat, though. One I think you'll enjoy.

2 2/3 Cup GF Flour Blend {I used Bob's Red Mill}
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Xanthan Gum
1/2 tsp. {freshly ground} Nutmeg
1 tsp. Salt
2 Cups Brown Sugar
1 Cup Earth Balance
2 Eggs
1 Tbsp. Vanilla
2 Tbsp. Granulated Sugar and 2 Tbsp. Cinnamon, combined {to sprinkle over the top of the batter}

Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, xanthan gum, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
Using a hand mixer {or your stand mixer}, cream the Earth Balance a bit before adding the brown sugar. Blend the brown sugar and Earth Balance well.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then add the vanilla and blend once more.
Slowly add in the flour mixture, blending on low speed to keep from making a mess.
Spread the batter into a greased {I used Spectrum Organic Shortening} 9x13 pan, sprinkle sugar and cinnamon mixture over the top, and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.
When the bars are done, they'll be lightly springy near the center when touched.
Allow the bars to cool before removing from the pan.

Paper Parasol Wreath

I was inspired to make this wreath when I saw something similar on Pinterest a while back. {I know--everything seems to stem from Pinterest lately!} I wasn't nuts about the way it looked sort of... uneven? So I decided to use a more rigid, circular form.

Making the wreath was so simple. I only needed two things:

Assembly is pretty self-explanatory, but you can see the steps here:

I simply opened one little parasol at a time, and poked it into the wreath form. No glue, no... nothin'! I varied the depth of the picks a bit, and worked in sections to make sure I was getting even coverage.

Make sure to cover the sides as well, so the parasols rest against the wall when the wreath is hanging. You don't want to see the wreath from any angle.

I love the way the colors overlap, and the fullness of the completed wreath. Such a bright spot of sunshine for a dull January day!

This would also be a really fun project for a pool party or a luau-themed birthday.

Shared on... Made by You Monday

Two Things

I'm really not one for resolutions. Several years back, it occurred to me that I was simply setting myself up for failure. That's no way to start a fresh, new year! But I do love the feeling that I can start fresh somewhere. A couple of fresh, year-long projects have been on my mind, and I'd love to invite you to participate as well.

Project One: 365
Photos... of course! I've always wanted to participate in a photo-a-day project, but have always felt intimidated by the concept. A photo a day for an entire year is a whole lot of accountability! But I think I'm ready this year. Follow along on my Flickr Set if you'd like. {You'll also see a link near the top of my blog, titled 365:2012}

Project Two: Clutter Busting
I'm a little bit excited about this one. I stumbled on this 2012 Declutter & Organize calendar via Pinterest a couple of weeks back, and knew it would be just the thing to keep me motivated for 2012. Would anyone else like to take the challenge with me? I'd love to form some sort of a group to keep myself motivated!

What projects are you tackling this year?
Are you a resolution-maker? I'd love to hear about your resolutions!

UPDATE: We've set up a Facebook group! Come on over and join the group... here!