Sunday, April 20, 2014

Spargel Season

When we lived in Germany, we looked forward to the Deutsche Spargelzeit, that is German asparagus season, every year. In Germany and several other European countries, asparagus harvest season is widely celebrated. During this time of year (which roughly runs from mid-April through June), restaurants don't just serve special asparagus dishes - they develop special asparagus menus! That's right. A whole menu dedicated to this spring vegetable. I should mention that their celebrated asparagus is the white variety, something difficult (though not impossible) to come by in our supermarkets. The 3 year growing process of asparagus is something to be celebrated indeed. There is nothing like the spargelsuppe (spargel soup), served up during the special season, from the special menu, in a local German restaurant. Mmmmmm.

So that's how I came to associate asparagus dishes with spring. When I think April, I think asparagus. Since I have yet to brave growing it on my own, I get mine from the supermarket, but I do hope to have it in my own garden some day.

Here is an easy (like less than 10 minutes to prep) roasted asparagus recipe.

Preheat oven to 400, then prepare a baking sheet by covering with foil. You don't need to spray or oil it because the asparagus will have oil on it. The only purpose of the foil is easy clean-up but I think that's reason enough.

Next, rinse and trim 2 pounds of asparagus.

To trim asparagus, you just hold it in 2 hands and snap it. It will break naturally between the woody part and the edible part. I've seen people just trim all the pieces with a knife, which I guess would work too, but this method has always worked for me.

Next, heat 1/2 cup of olive oil over low-medium heat with 6 minced garlic cloves.

 Heat it until it becomes fragrant, just a few minutes.


Next, lay out the asparagus on the tray and drizzle with the oil and garlic. Sprinkle with kosher salt and cayenne pepper (optional). Bake at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes.

Serve with anything for a beautiful spring side dish.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

On the Trail Again

Can I just say how much I love, love, love hiking? In fact, most of my favorite places in the world are hiking trails. When we landed in Mid-Missouri about 7 years ago, one of the things we fell in love with was the conservation areas and trails. So on this gorgeous Easter weekend, we headed off again to one of my favorite places.  

At 2 and 4 (nearly 3 and 5), the boys are at a great age for exploring in the woods. While Eli was a little unsteady on his feet on the more treacherous terrain, both of them walked on their own the whole time. I can't tell you how nice it is to just let them go without saying "stay close," or "hold my hand." They were little free birds.

This particular trail starts at the top of the cliff and winds up in an old creek bed. Needless to say that after what seems like a "walk in the woods" type of trail, it turns into a steep drop of rocky trail. We love the creek bed part of this park, though and think the trek is well worth it. An added bonus is that few people know about this "secret" entrance to this area. Most enter on the north side and we rarely meet another soul while we're here. 

After a steep climb down. 

The rocky bottom creek bed makes the pools of water really clear. We saw a lot of animal tracks by the water so clearly it's a big hit with the animals in the wild. 

We had fun finding "rock bridges" to cross from place to place.

Eli needed a little help, although he didn't want to admit it.

Can this be my backyard, please?

The boys favorite activity of the day was throwing rocks in the creek. Seriously, they would have done that for hours if we had let them.  

Two happy campers.

Solving the world's problems.  

It was in the mid 70's and sunny. How could you not put your feet in this cool water? It was pretty slippery since it's all rock, so both boys ended up taking a spill, but it was all good. When we go back later this summer, we'll take swim suits so the boys can just sit and slide around in the water.

He takes his climbing seriously.

Exploring they go.

We found a frog!

Even a grown man can't resist crossing a fallen tree bridge.

And the little boys will follow.

On their own little island.

So on our day of hiking, this is what we saw:
Rocks of all shapes, colors and sizes, minnows, tadpoles, frogs, raccoon and deer tracks at the water, a vulture circling us from above, and fossils. Not to mention that the boys learned more about habitats and the stages of a frog's life. All in all, a pretty good 2 hour hike for a Saturday morning.

This is a boy who is done hiking! Happy hiking and adventuring!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Hummus 3 Ways

I love a good hummus. I used to shy away from buying them because they were so expensive in the store. And then I discovered how ridiculously cheap and easy it is to make it yourself. The most expensive ingredient is the tahini, but since you only use 2 tablespoons at a time, it lasts for many batches. An added bonus is that this dip is pretty much guilt free and has more depth of flavor than most dips I'm used to. I'm going to share a recipe for a basic hummus, then show 2 variations of that recipe.

For Basic Recipe
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cans chickpeas, drained
3 cloves garlic
1t. salt
1/4 cup olive oil

Variation 1
1 Avacado
1t. parika

Variation 2
Roasted bell peppers
1 t. cumin

All right. Let's get mixing, shall we?

In food processor, add tahini and lemon juice. This would be a good time to explain that if you don't have tahini, just leave it out. I've done it before and it still turns out fine. That being said, you will miss the nutty flavor and creamy texture that you get from the tahini.

Add remaining ingredients for the base recipe.

Mix for about a minute until it gets to be this texture.

And that's version 1. Easy as that.

Now for the other 2 versions, separate the mixture into 3 equal parts. Put one part in a sealed container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Put another one of the parts back into the food processor for the second version.

Add the avocado (scooped from the shell), and paprika.

Mix for about 20 seconds. Look at this color. Mmmmm. A cross between hummus and guacamole. Remove this batch and cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Add the last third of the original batch into the food processor and add 3-4 roasted red peppers (I added 3 big ones), and the cumin.

Mix for another 20 seconds.

And there's batch # 3! Another great color. Like the others, cover and store for up to 2 weeks. Use it as a dip with vegetables, Triscuits, or other whole grain crackers. An easy, healthy, snack.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Day at the Park

I love taking pictures of the boys at a park. I never get tired of seeing them tackle their fears, persist through a challenge, and accomplish something they've never done before. New parks are the best because everything is new. We recently checked out this new park about 45 minutes from our house. 

Checking out the balance beam.

Trying out the slide.


Lex coming down the ladder...

Eli going up the stairs.

Lex trying out the balance beam.

And the climbing wall

Eli tackling the ladder.

But going for the slide instead.

Look at that face.


More Climbing

And sliding

Eli making it all the way to the top after several attempts.

He did it!

And there's a peek at our day at the park. We can't wait for warmer weather so we can go back!