Monthly Archives: July 2013

Woodinville Toddler Group (World’s Best) Playdough Recipe

Lucas and I belong to a fabulous co-op toddler group/school in Woodinville. This past year was our first in the program, and he and I both made a lot of great friends. Going to school each Tuesday morning was a definite highlight of our week. We already are looking forward to school starting again in September! I particularly benefited from the parent education class every other week and learned a lot of valuable parenting ideas, tips, and techniques. As the mom of an energetic and opinionated two-year-old (I know, what two-year-old isn’t …), those things are invaluable!

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The program fosters an strong sense of community and support among parents and little ones, and has given Lucas a terrific place to learn and explore though a variety of curriculum. Each week, parents take turns making a new batch of playdough for the class. Playdough is a great way to strengthen the muscles of the hands to improve fine motor and bilateral coordination skills. And, obviously, it’s just a lot of fun. Who doesn’t love playdough?!

Our school’s homemade playdough recipe is seriously the best I’ve ever come across — and that’s saying a lot, since my mom made a mean batch of playdough back in the day. I made the current batch Lucas is playing with back in April and it’s still soft and pliable, but stands up well to modeling and shaping. Hasbro has nothing on WTG!

If you live in the area and are interested in checking out Woodinville Toddler Group, please visit our website. Several of our classes still have openings for the 2013-14 school year. We’d love to have you join us!

Woodinville Toddler Group’s Traditional Playdough Recipe

Mix together in a large pan:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups water (with food coloring or liquid water color added)
  • 1 cup regular table salt
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 Tablespoons cream of tartar

Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture is the texture of soft mashed potatoes and pulls away from the side of the pan. Remove from pan and knead lightly. It may be lumpy, but will become smooth when kneaded. Cool and store in an airtight container. A favorite time to play with dough is while it is still warm!

Fun add-ins:

  • Food extracts such as peppermint, anise, orange, or lemon
  • Spices such as pumpkin pie, cinnamon, or cloves
  • Packages of Kool-Aid also are a great, easy way to add scent and color
  • Texture added with coffee grounds, rice, or colored aquarium gravel
  • Add visual interest with glitter

Enrichment:

  • Experiment with blending colors by starting with white playdough and knead in additional color
  • Try supplying popsicle sticks, pasta, or small plastic animals for poking and playing
  • Make impressions with potato mashers, forks, cookie presses, or hands and feet
  • Discover how to use a garlic press or child-safe scissors
  • Run toy cars through playdough to make tracks
  • Add items from nature; small branches, sticks, or stones

Playdough offers endless possibilities for creativity. It’s more than cookie cutters and rolling pins; experimenting with dough can ease tensions, develop small muscles, and allow opportunities for creative problem-solving.

Did you know? Rainbow Crafts of Cincinnati, Ohio, originally introduced Play-Doh brand modeling compound to the public in 1956 (and it only was available in a sickly, off-white color)!

Grilled Corn, Avocado and Tomato-Sweet Onion Salad with Fresh Basil Dressing and Blue Cheese

My name is Hillary and I am a cooking show addict. I could watch Bobby Flay work his magic all day long if you let me. We recently cancelled our cable, though, so now I’m stuck with actually making his recipes, versus watching him from the couch while thinking, “I should really try that someday …” But hey, we’re saving about $100 a month and television rots your brain anyway, right? Right? (If you can’t tell, I’m still trying to convince myself. I really miss my summer indulgences of Food Network Star and Royal Pains.) “This is good for me, this is good for my children …” Deep breath. Repeat.

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This grilled-corn salad is one of my favorite Bobby Flay recipes. My friend, Jen, introduced me to it at a barbecue a few years ago, and I’ve made it several times each summer. We’re growing corn and tomatoes in our garden right now, but neither are quite ready, so I had to hit up the store for the ingredients. I’m really looking forward to making it with what we’ve grown ourselves … just a few more weeks! It’s such a great salad for what a lot of people are growing in their own backyards.

The original recipe calls for grilled corn, but for ease and speed this time, I pan roasted mine in a cast-iron skillet and it worked beautifully. (This also will free up the grill for your main course.) The only other changes I typically make are adding two diced avocados, and roughly chopping, versus thinly slicing the onion. I like small pieces of onion in each bite.

The original recipe also says the salad can be made one day in advance, but I DO NOT agree. In fact, don’t even make it hours in advance. You can do the prep work and blend the dressing, but I really think the main ingredients should be combined only up to 30 minutes before serving — it can get pretty mushy otherwise. And plan on eating everything you make the day of. I thought the mushiness might be due to the avocado, but I’ve had leftovers with and without avocado, and find them to be less than delicious. That said, this salad will rock your face off when it’s freshly prepared.

My favorite kitchen trick for this recipe is to microwave your corn for a few minutes before shucking to loosen the silk. You can watch the full process by viewing this America’s Test Kitchen video. Seriously, do yourself a favor and watch it. You’ll never again shuck corn the old-fashioned way. It is such a great time-saver!!

Grilled Corn, Avocado and Tomato-Sweet Onion Salad with Fresh Basil Dressing and Blue Cheese

(Serves 8 as a side dish)

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ears corn, grilled in the husk, kernels removed, or pan roasted
  • 1 sweet onion (such as Vidalia or Walla Walla), roughly chopped
  • 2 Hass avocados, diced
  • 1 pint Sweet 100 tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 8 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
  • Fresh basil sprigs, for garnish

Directions

Combine the vinegar, basil, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and oil in a blender and blend until smooth. Dressing can be made two hours in advance and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before using.

Combine the corn kernels, onion and tomato in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss to coat, season with salt and pepper. Let sit at room temperature 30 minutes before serving. Fold in diced avocado and crumbled blue cheese, and garnish with basil sprigs just before serving.

Nectarine Caprese Summer Salad

My friends over at Beauties and the Feast have been posting some super delicious recipes for summer salads this month. Emily’s peach caprese, in particular, had my mouth watering within a few seconds of looking at the picture. I decided to make it this past weekend with a very slight twist — nectarines in place of peaches — for a lovely housewarming celebration we attended at our friends’ gorgeous new home in Tacoma.

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The boys golfed during the day, and the ladies stayed back with the kiddos, enjoyed cocktails (or mocktails, in my pregnant case), and played in the kitchen. We turned out an awesome spread for dinner — flank steak with a garlicky chimichurri sauce; amazing sweet corn and mushroom tamales with tomatillo-avocado-pumpkin seed salsa (from the Mustards Grill Napa Valley Cookbook); parmesan pea pods; nectarine caprese salad; and tres leches cake for dessert. Two days later and I am still stuffed! My friend Jenny certainly knows how to throw a proper dinner party!

This salad is so easy and fresh, I think it will be gracing our table as frequently as possible while nectarines are in season. Enjoy!

Nectarine Caprese Summer Salad

(Serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 3 ripe nectarines
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1-inch chunks (I like Trader Joe’s ciliegine whole milk fresh mozzarella)
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

    1. Cut each nectarine into 6 to 8 wedges, then cut each wedge in quarters crosswise.
    2. In a large bowl, combine the nectarines, basil, and mozzarella. Drizzle with the oil, sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and toss. (You can cover and refrigerate the salad for up to several hours.) Serve cold or at room temperature.

Milk Makin’ Oatmeal-Flaxseed Lactation Cookies

When I went back to work after having Lucas, I pumped my boobs off to meet my daily breastmilk quota. It was difficult and stressful, but I discovered a few things along the way that really helped my supply, namely these lactation cookies. They’re also just dang tasty, whether or not you’re breastfeeding. Tell your husband not to worry if he can’t help himself and eats a few, he will not spontaneously lactate. Promise.

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There are a lot of recipes for similar cookies floating around. I combined a few and after many, many batches, think I have the recipe perfected. I’m due with our second baby this October and plan to have a large stash of this dough in the freezer before our little one arrives. I also like to make them for new moms as a baby-welcoming gift. (And if you just don’t feel like baking, you can buy the Milkmakers brand of pre-made cookies. I hear they’re yummy, but haven’t tried them myself.)

Lactation cookies help boost milk supply with three key ingredients; oats, ground flaxseed, and brewer’s yeast. My lactation consultant originally recommended this recipe, which also details why all of these ingredients are so important for nursing moms. I like to use coconut oil instead of butter, since the lauric acid it contains has beneficial antiviral, antibacterial, and parasiticidal properties that support the immune system of both baby and mama. If you just want a terrific, fiber-rich cookie recipe, feel free to leave out the brewer’s yeast.

Milk Makin’ Oatmeal-Flaxseed Lactation Cookies

Makes about 2 1/2-3 dozen.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
  • 3 T. brewer’s yeast
  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole oats
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In KitchenAid or other stand mixer, slowly mix together coconut oil, sugars, eggs, peanut butter, applesauce, vanilla extract, ground flaxseed, and brewer’s yeast until mixture is smooth.
  4. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet, mixing on level 1-2 until almost combined. Then, one at a time, add in oats, cranberries, walnuts, and chocolate chips, and mix until the dough comes together with no streaks of flour remaining.
  5. Drop 1-inch balls of cookie dough onto prepared baking sheets, leaving a little room for the cookies to spread.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until cookies are set.
  7. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. To freeze dough, flash freeze dough balls on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper. Once frozen, place individual dough balls in Ziploc bag to store. Bake from frozen, adding 1 to 2 minutes to final baking time.

Grilled Ginger-Soy-Lime Albacore Tuna Medallions

Holy cow. I’m hot. Are you hot? This weather is crazy. And the last thing I want to do is cook in a hot kitchen — literally or figuratively.

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Most of us in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) don’t have air conditioning, so we do everything possible to keep our houses “cool” when the heat strikes. (I’ve got a balmy 84 going on upstairs today. Yuck.) This means very little activity in the kitchen and as much outdoor cooking as possible. I’m all about throwing a nice, simply marinated piece of protein on the grill and getting, i.e., running, away from the stove. Pair it with some quinoa or rice and a green salad, and you’ve got a quick, healthy meal that doesn’t raise the temperature in your house or use up your summer evening. I will admit that I did use my rice cooker for this meal, but I plugged it in by an open window near a fan, so it didn’t do too much heat damage.

This particular recipe is for tuna because I have a ton of it available, but any firm, white fish or shrimp works marvelously with the marinade and on the grill. Morgan went on a tuna-fishing charter with some buddies and caught so. much. fish. They canned a lot of it in a pressure cooker and vacuum packed some beautiful medallions for the freezer. The medallions are great for grilling and searing because they hold together so well. I have to watch my intake because I’m preggo (and the same rules apply for our two-year-old whose brain still is developing), so we only eat it about twice a month. Thankfully our supply contains a lower amount of mercury than commercially caught tuna because the fish were line caught in relatively shallow water (younger, smaller fish = lower mercury levels).

If you buy tuna steaks at your local market for this recipe, the fishmonger or butcher should be able to slice the fish into medallions for you. I love the petite, compact size. They’re just a little more elegant on the plate.

The marinade is slightly adapted from Bobby Flay’s Ginger-Soy-Lime Marinated Shrimp recipe. For shrimp, follow the same directions for marinating, then throw the shrimp on a skewer and grill for the same amount of time as the tuna over high heat. You can double the marinade and freeze half in a Ziploc for use on another day. I have several bags in my freezer right now and also have used this recipe for my once-a-month-cooking (OAMC) freezer club — the best club ever. I’ll tell you more about that next week. Until then, enjoy your Fourth of July and get grilling!

Grilled Ginger-Soy-Lime Albacore Tuna

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

½ large red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic
¾ cup soy sauce
Freshly squeezed juice of four medium limes
2 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ cup canola oil
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 pounds Albacore tuna medallions or tuna steaks

Directions

Place all ingredients except tuna in a blender and blend until smooth. Place tuna in a large bowl, pour the marinade over, and let marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes. Preheat grill to high. Remove tuna from the marinade and grill for 1 1/2 minutes per side. Be careful not to overcook!