The Hottest Hotcakes Around: 7 Pancake Joints to Flip For

Pancakes. Those fluffy little discs of buttermilk, sticky with syrup, hold a sweet spot in our hearts. From misshaped, Bisquick dinosaurs on the griddle to family brunches at old-fashioned pancake houses, hotcakes are more than just breakfast. Check out my article for Red Tricycle, hightlighting 7 pancake joints you (and your kiddos) will flip for!

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For the Love of Valentines! (9 Cupid-Inspired Avtivities)

Ahhh, Valentine’s Day. To parents, February 14th could mean anything from a makeshift candlelight dinner squeezed into a busy schedule to an after-Valentine’s Day, 75% off box-o-chocolate special. Maybe you’ve planned ahead and called 6 months in advance to reserve a table at a romantic restaurant (good for you!) or maybe you won’t do anything at all (gasp!).

But to kiddos, Valentine’s Day means glitter and glue, heart-shaped everything, and the excuse to wear pink and red for days on end. Sugar cookies and pink frosting are household staples for the first half of February, and loooove is in the air. Whether your cupids-in-training are creative valentines, sweet valentines or active valentines, we’ve got a little something sweet for everyone.

Check out my Red Tricycle article for some kid-friendly, cupid-inspired Valentine’s activities and events!

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I-Should-Open-A-Bakery Cookies

Here’s my first post of the series “Bake Sale Saturday”…enjoy!

Big, soft, chewy and full of chocolate chips.  A pretty accurate way to describe these cookies.  After taking a bite, you may think about quitting your day job and becoming the next Mrs. Fields.  (Alright, keep your day job.  But they’re pretty dang delicious).

What you need:

*2 cups flour

*1/2 teaspoon baking soda

*1/2 teaspoon salt

*3/4 cup butter, melted (I microwaved mine until *just* melted, then whisked)

*1 cup packed brown sugar

*1/2 cup white sugar

*1 tablespoon vanilla

*1 egg (room temp)

*1 egg yolk

*Chocolate chips (as many as you want)

cookies

What you need to do:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Do not grease a cookie sheet- use a good quality, non-stick one.  Sift together flour/baking soda/salt.  Set aside.

In another bowl, mix together both sugars then add the melted butter, stirring well, until creamy.  Add the vanilla.  Whisk together the egg and egg yolk, then add, creaming together ingredients.   Slowly mix in the sifted ingredients, stirring until well blended (I feel like you can’t over-mix!).

Then add the chocolate chips, stirring by hand.  I had open bags of chocolate, white chocolate and butterscotch chips leftover from Christmas baking,  so I added all of them.  No complaints there.

cookies2

Refrigerate the dough for at least 30-45 minutes.  (I know, you want the cookies NOW.  But with the dough being firmer, the cookies will hold their shape better.  It’s worth it.  Pop the dough in the freezer if you’re impatient).

Drop the chilled dough onto ungreased cookie sheets using 1/4 cup as your measurement.  Place them 3 inches apart.

Good excuse to use my new baking sheets

Good excuse to use my new baking sheets

 

Bake for about 15 minutes.  You’ll have to watch closely, as the baking time can make or break the cookies.  You want them to be just slightly browning at the edges, but still look a little doughy in the center.  This is because you’ll leave the cookies to continue to bake on the sheet for the next few minutes.  This guarantees superb chewiness!

Nothing like warm cookies

Nothing like warm cookies

Ta-dah!!

Ta-dah!!

There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch (Unless You’re at Costco)

We’ve all done it.  Or I tell myself that, anyway.  Attempt to feed our children (and ourselves) lunch–and a healthy, well-balanced one at that–solely on free samples at Costco.  Why is it that kids (at least my kid) are such picky eaters at home, but suddenly develop an impressively vast pallet upon entering the doors of Costco?  Macaroni and cheese at home?  Only if it’s shaped liked dinosaurs.  Yogurt?  Only if it comes in a tube with Sponge Bob on the front.   Vegetables with texture?  Forget it.  But at Costco:  Chicken Parmesan?  Well of course!  Tomato bisque?  Bring it on!  Spinach dip and fancy, aged cheese?  More please!

On a recent trip to the Free Samples Warehouse, my son was acting as if we’d been starving him for the past week.  He couldn’t get enough of the chicken parmesan, and as I waited in a line longer than that of a new Halo release, people actually shoved and reached and cut in front to get their hands on a paper cup of microwaved noodles.  Just as I was reaching for the coveted sample, a hungry family of five swooped over the red tray like vultures, licking and smacking their lips, saving their sporks for round two.

The third time I went back for the chicken teriyaki meatballs I actually removed  my red jacket in hopes that the sample guy didn’t recognize me and withhold my skewer.  I watched the workers, cheerfully donned in plastic gloves and hair nets, and I wondered about the thoughts that must be running through their heads as they witnessed, day in and day out, the swarms of greedy, pushy, desperate Costco customers, unable to keep a line formed, worse than school children.  I wonder if these sample providers look at the human race in a different light than others.

What is she really thinking?

What is she really thinking?

Sampling at Costco is, apparently, a very popular, well-known and widely-covered subject.  Upon Googling “samples at Costco,” you’ll be provided a variety of information from guides to free food grazing and New York Post articles revealing the best days to get free samples to ways that you can save a whopping $2000 a year by taking advantage of Costco samples.

As one Yelp-er laid out the rules of sampling:

To All The People At Costco Eating The Free Samples:

1. Can you not go up to the free sample table with your big ass cart, and/or surrounded by your entire family??
2. Put your cart out of everyone’s way, get your sample, and move on.  Don’t stand there pretending you’re going to buy it when you know all you wanted was a free bite. 
3. Don’t stand there forever talking with the person giving out samples about the product. Most of the questions you’re asking can be answered by just reading the damn box. 
4. Don’t get greedy. One sample is enough. If you like it that much, buy the product. Or go to the food court and buy a cheap hotdog/churro/chicken bake.

These quarter-sized portions of food that we already have in our freezers (sometimes for months) somehow become irresistible to us and, within the safe walls of Costco, we forget our professionalism, class and manners, turning into something else.  Something that can only be explained through the novelty of the words “free” and “sample.”  No matter what our income is, what nationality or religion we are, or who we voted for…  When it comes to free samples, we’ve GOTTA GET US SOME!!**

** This is a reflection on myself and the other sample-searchers I see at Costco every time I go.  To those of you who get in and get out with just your grocery list: you have awesome self-control.

Pulp Fiction Muffins

Ok, I swear I’m not turning this into a food blog, but I do have to post about these muffins I just made.  I used pulp from the juicer to make them (and yes, they taste great).  I’ll call them Pulp Fiction Muffins.

I received a Jack Lalanne Juicer from Santa this Christmas, and today was its inauguration.

fruit

The juice came out fantastic.  But what do you do with a load of carrot/beet/celery/apple/kale/cucumber pulp?  Compost?  Feed to farm animals?  Toss it out?

pulp

I’ve heard that one can use leftover pulp to bake with (or make soups, salsas, etc) but, honestly, anything with the word “pulp” in it just doesn’t sound very appetizing to me.

But I tried it.

And it’s awesome.

I made muffins, adapted from a recipe I found here.

I changed a few things:

The recipe calls for grated zucchinni or carrots.  I used all the veggie pulp from my juicer(carrots, kale, beets, cucumer, celery, apple) and it still tasted great.  I used butter, not oil.  I also used 1/4 cup honey plus 1/2 cup brown sugar.  I omitted nuts/raisins, and added a touch more cinnamon.  I used a large muffin pan, and after greasing the pan with butter and filling to 2/3 full, they came out perfectly.   Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes (depending on how quickly your oven bakes).

muffins

I can’t wait to have my 3-year-old try these.  Vegetables in the muffins?? Shhhh…..

Weekend Holiday Events on Seattle’s Eastside

More Holiday Happenings around Seattle’s Eastside…check it out!

SEE…

…A timeless classic!  The hour-long adaptation of Dickens’ beloved A Christmas Carol is a colorful, musical and exciting ensemble, sure to please both young and old.

Second Story Repertory Children’s Theater, Redmond

Saturday, December 8 @ 1pm and 3pm

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…A whole ‘lotta gingerbread houses!  Come and vote for your favorite at the Bellevue Hilton’s Gingerbread Lane

Bellevue Hilton Hotel

Saturday, December 8 @ 11:30am

MAKE…

…A holiday canvas painting while enjoying tasty treats and cocoa at the Canvas and Cocoa Workshop!  The workshop includes all materials, a Smart with Art instructor and gift wrapping for your kiddo’s masterpiece!

Bellevue Arts Museum

Saturday, December 8 @ 2:30-4:30pm

$39

cocoa[1] (2)canvas cocoa

 
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…A watercolor collage at Bellevue Art & Frame’s Holiday Make and Take!  Paintings will be gift wrapped and will go home in a 5×7 glass picture frame.

Bellevue Art & Frame

Saturday, December 8 @ 10am-1pm drop-in

$8 (cash or check)

EAT…

Breakfast with Santa!  The whole family can enjoy breakfast with the Big Guy and his elves.  Photo opportunities too!  Call 275.7609 to reserve your spot.

Mercer Island Community and Event Center

Saturday, December 8 @ 10am-noon

 $9 for Adults / $7 per child (18 and under)

 
…Tea with Santa!  The Woodmark Hotel is hosting the 4th Annual Santa Tea, full of sweet holiday treats and scrumptious sweets!  Live music, a cookie-decorating station and photos with Santa!

The Woodmark Hotel

Sunday, December 9 @ 1pm-3pm

Cost: Adults $45 / Kids (12 and under) $20

santa tea

For the Love of Gingerbread Houses

It’s an art form in parts of Europe, a Christmas tradition in our home, and it tastes pretty darn good, too. Gingerbread’s long, sweet history begins in the Middle Ages, when the Armenian monk Gregory of Nicopolis brought the sweet bread to Europe. During his stay in France, he taught Gingerbread cooking to French priests and Christians, and soon baking guilds were sanctioned by the government in cities spanning from Germany and Poland to the Czech Republic and France. Gingerbread houses became popular in Germany after the Brothers Grimm published the fairy tale, “Hansel and Gretel.”

Today in North America there are so many crafty creations of the traditional pfefferkuchenhaus (named after the witch, Frau Pfefferkuchenhaus, in Grimm’s fairy tale).  Here are a few favorites:

gingerbread small 2

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gingerbread house1

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gingerbread3

quilting.craftgossip.com

quilting.craftgossip.com

 

And then…. there’s ours….ahem.

my gingrbrd

Happy Gingerbread-making!

A Chocolate Lover’s Dream

When else can you combine a chocolate buffet, a loveable canine and a swanky downtown hotel?  Bring the kids along to A Chocolate Holiday Buffet, hosted at the Four Season’s ART restaurant.  Larry, from the beautifully illustrated children’s book, Larry get’s Lost in Seattle, will be there, along with his creator John Skewes.  Dine on decadent chocolate croquenbouche, triple chocolate mousse cake, white chocolate milkshakes (and much more) while listening to a storytime about how, exactly, Larry got lost.  Kids can get a signed book, personalized “Larry” artwork and a Larry stuffed toy.  For reservations, call 206-749-7070

Sundays, December 2, 9, 16, 23 at 3pm-5pm

Adults: $20; Children, ages 6 to 12: $12

“Larry Gets Lost in Seattle” Signed Book: $20; Larry Stuffed Toy: $12

art chocolate

art chocolate2

art choc

All About Reindeer

Reindeer Festival at Swanson’s Nursery

Everyone knows that from now until December 24th, Santa’s reindeer will be busy training for their big debut.  Today we caught a glimpse of Dasher and Blitzen (and a verrry curious camel named Curley) at Swanson’s Nursery.   Locally owned and enormously loved, Swanson’s has been providing exceptional garden plants and goods since 1924.  Today, the Nursery was dressed up for the Holidays, with Christmas wreathes and delicate ornaments, poinsettias and sweet-smelling pine cones.  And of course, the Reindeer. 

Reindeer feedings daily at 10am and 4pm

Along with the reindeer, Curley the Camel was out to say hello.  He’s known as the “curious” camel, and indeed he is!

 

My son loved the train in the gift shop.

…And the impressively enormous Koi near the Nursery’s Seasons Cafe was a big hit for the kids.

Reindeer Craft

I found this cute Reindeer craft via Pinterest.  Here’s the original source with directions.

And for the reindeer treat…

Reindeer Food!  There are many ways to make this, but I opted for the tastiest one.  (You can also make reindeer food out of uncooked oatmeal, glitter, sprinkles, etc…)  This one uses the Chex Muddy Buddies recipe.  I know kids like this, and I’ve heard reindeer do too.

After the Muddy Buddies are cooled, put them in a baggie or a mason jar and label it Reindeer Food, including directions on when and how to use it.

 

Here’s an idea using a bag with directions.

Happy reindeer-viewing!

All About the Leaves: Fall in Seattle

It’s all about leaves for this post!  If you and your kids haven’t raked, collected, jumped in or explored our Northwest’s beautiful version of Autumn, then get out there and do it!  Big, beautiful leaves in brilliant shades from yellow to sunset red can be seen scattered among city sidewalks and parks almost anywhere throughout Seattle, but here are some of the best places to see Fall!

 Washington Arboretum and Japanese Gardens  

source: Greg Vaughn

Seward Park 

Discovery Park

Lincoln Park

Bellevue Botanical Gardens 

Marymoore Park

Woodland Park Zoo (there’s more than just animals!)

Woodland Park Zoo

After heading home, get out the craft materials and try out these cute, fall inspired leave lanterns:

Perfectly Autumn!

Find directions here:

If you’re still in the mood for leaves, try these colorful, tasty cookies- perfect for a play date!  

 

 

Easy recipe here.

Happy Leaf-hunting!