Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I love all things citrus. Lemonade in my glass, lime in my guacamole, and now orange in my chocolate chip cookies!

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This recipe first came into my life 10 years ago from California. Today it’s been modified and perfected to this current recipe.  I love the oatmeal chewiness, and the refreshing slightly orange taste.  Not only will you need a glass of milk,  you’ll also need a zester.  If you don’t already own one, this little ditty is amazing, and so easy to clean.  

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Let’s get on with the recipe!  Happy Cookie Baking! 

Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies

Orange Zest Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yields 24
A wonderful oatmeal chocolate chip cookie with a hint of orange.
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 C Old-Fashioned Oats
  2. 2 1/4 C All Purpose Flour
  3. 1 tsp baking powder
  4. 1 tsp baking soda
  5. 1/2 tsp salt
  6. orange zest from 1 orange
  7. 1 C unsalted butter, room temp.
  8. 1 C packed brown sugar
  9. 1 C granulated sugar
  10. 2 eggs
  11. 1/2 t vanilla
  12. 1/4 t orange extract
  13. 1 bag chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Line baking sheets with parchment paper, and preheat oven to 325.
  2. Using a mixer beat the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add in eggs, vanilla and orange extract.
  3. In a bowl, mix oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange rind. Add to the butter mixture.
  4. Stir in chocolate chips.
  5. For each cookie, drop 1 Tablespoon of dough on to parchment paper and do not flatten. Bake 15 minutes or until golden. Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
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Take a Hike!

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by Laura

This post is dedicated to my mama.  Who took us on SO many hikes, gave me a love for nature, and who WILL NOT SHUT UP ABOUT THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF CHILDREN AND INDEPENDENT NATURE PLAY.  Mom, I love you and I GET IT!  

On Father’s Day I arranged a hike for our family to go on knowing it is one of Eric’s favorite activities.  Not two minutes into our hike Eva turns around and says, “This is the best day ever, I wish we could just move out here and live”.  As I inhaled the clean oxygen, walked clear-minded with my family, and explored, I knew how she felt. 

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Father’s Day Hike complete with mulberry mouth.

When I was growing up, most weekends were spend fishing with Dad which meant my sisters and I had time to hike trails along the lakes.  We loved it. Stopping to look at little animals, making “squirrel houses” out of hundreds of tree branches and pine needles, it was the perfect amount of exploration our minds needed.  

This hike was shaded almost the entire way. Loved the sun coming through the trees.

This hike was shaded almost the entire way. Loved the sun coming through the trees.

 

Today, researchers are saying that because children are not getting outside, their wellness is being affected in every way.  Mentally, children who are outdoors are not just better problem solvers, better in school, and less likely to have ADHD, they are SIGNIFICANTLY more effective in those areas.  There are studies that also test the bodily wellness of children who are playing outside, unstructured, results say those children are healthier, less likely to get sick, and have better vision.

So, what might it look like to literally Take a Hike?  

Quick Google Search

When you decide you have an hour to spare, do a quick google search with your City Name and the word trail.  Example: Iowa City, trails.  This should lead you to a site that includes a map!  You can also try typing in your County parks, trails. Example: Clark County Nevada, trails.   Again, it is going to pull up the trails and usually a printable PDF for you.  

We found dozens of Mulberry trees on our hike and ate them all along the trail!

We found dozens of Mulberry trees on our hike and ate them all along the trail!

10 minute Packing 

Choose a time of day when it won’t be blazing hot, when energy levels are up, and not too close to a meal time.  We like to go first thing in the morning, or around 3:30 in the afternoon.  Hiking clothes and sturdy sandles, or socks and shoes for the kids.  Sunscreen, sunglasses, or sunhat and BUG SPRAY.  Water bottles, and snacks for after.  We love bringing our REAL camera with us.  You’ll be surprised that cell phone service doesn’t always come with your hike.  

The kids thought walking on the boards was SO fun.

The kids thought walking on the boards was SO fun.

I usually include a full change of clothes, including shoes and some baby wipes for the kids.  That way if they want to splash in water, get into mud…I can say yes, without too much car damage.  

Know your Trail

Get good directions to where you are going.  Know where the trail starts, (close to a campground, a road, sometimes the trail entrances are not well marked from the car’s view), and where the closest parking is to that trail head.

You will want to know if the trail is an “Out and Back” or a “Loop”.  An out and back trail means you are going to walk out and turn around and walk back the very same way you came in.  Loop, means you’ll make a giant circle and come out where you went in.  

You want to know how LONG it will be.  

We let Eva and Malachi lead almost the whole way!

We let Eva and Malachi lead almost the whole way!

We carried infant Eva on 5 mile hikes no problem.  Now our kids are 3 and 5.5 years old and their magic number is a 2 mile hike.  

If you are going to a County Park, there will be a Ranger Station you can get maps at, and most parking lots will have maps including trails on them.  

Before you start

Decide if you need to bring any water with you, then use the bathroom and put on the sunscreen and bug spray.  Be aware of any real protection you might need against poisonous plants, dangerous animals, cliffs, or water.  That way if your children run ahead you know if there’s going to be a ledge they will fall off of, or like us on Sunday, our children had to stay on the trail because there was Poison Ivy everywhere.  

Allow for lots of exploration

If you can, try not to be in a rush.  Let your kids stop and look at everything, let them look independently.  If there is mud on the trail, or a branch blocking the trail, or a bridge, let them discover how to get around it.  This is a wonderful opportunity for that independent play.  

Stopping for Mulberries gave the kids time to rest, and explore on their own.

And then we found black raspberries and I told the kids they could reach their hands into the thorny branches and pick their own because I am trying to be more “fun”.

Eric and I both kept saying how relaxing it was for us to be out there with them.  It was a 20 minute drive, but it felt like we got away from life!  

So! What are you doing this Saturday?  Get out there!  And don’t forget a doughnut or ice cream stop on the way home!  

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My Garden Update

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by Laura

Today I want to give you the garden tour! I’ll show you how it started and how it is progressing.    

Last year we had a little garden area in the back yard that was maybe 12x8ft.   My husband and I didn’t know what we were doing, but we had a ton of fun, learned a lot, and were ready to get a little more serious this year.  So for #garden2016 we Eric built garden beds, had a TRUCK load of dirt dumped on our driveway and wheelbarrowed it back to the beds for days.   Then it was time for the good stuff: the planting!  

Made the boxes, filled with dirt, built chicken wire trellis.

Made the boxes, filled with dirt, built chicken wire trellis.

This year we made two garden beds and next year add two more.  On the right bed, we planted spinach, green beans, peas, and onions all around.  On the left bed went the tomatoes, peppers, and asparagus.  

asparagus starts out SO weird.

asparagus starts out SO weird.

Asparagus is super creepy looking when you first plant it.  You have to bury it pretty deep, and then every time it pops up you keep covering it until the soil is flush with the top of the bed.  The asparagus will take another two years to develop and will get 5 ft. tall!  Here’s the little baby asparagus.  

baby asparagus

baby asparagus

Also in this bed we have the tomatoes and peppers.  I’ll let you take a look at those.  

grape tomatoes

grape tomatoes 

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Those green peppers are the size of my thumb nail right now.  Over in the other garden bed things started off slow like this:  

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We have already harvested most of the spinach, Eric took it every day in his lunch.  Now the right side looks like this: 

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The peas have been climbing and today started to flower.  One of my favorite things about peas is the way they curl around anything they can to stabilize.  Check out the peas.  

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Which brings us to the green beans.  They too, unfurled just this morning!  

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I think gardening brings such wonder to our lives.  Every single day we come out and see new things.  Our kids get SO excited when there are flowers, or they get taller, or the produce starts to come. Elsewhere in our yard we have rhubarb and blueberry bushes.  

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We have already made three rhubarb pies this year, and we might get a handful of blueberries, but they aren’t really supposed to produce much for another two years.  

I hope you guys liked seeing the progress in our yard!  It’s going to be HOT and HUMID here this weekend, so wherever you are, I hope you have ice tea, watermelon, and deodorant!  

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Easy Baked Fish

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by Laura

Fish! I grew up eating these little swimmers because my dad went fishing in the summer and we would eat what he caught.  But, Dad was in charge of making the fish with his special recipe and so I never really learned how.  

When we wanted to add a different protein to our meal line up I thought I would give a few fish recipes a try.  My requirements for making fish was an 1. easy recipe 2. delicious and 3. easy clean up afterwards.

So, here’s a great fish recipe, that our whole family gobbles up and takes me less than 20 minutes to make. 

Fish:

Preheat your oven to 425-but you should check the packaging on your fish just to make sure.  We eat tilapia and you can find it in most freezer sections.  Thawing the fish is pretty easy, I fill up the sink with cool water and put the fish, (still in their packaging), in the water for about an hour.  I figure about two/three filets per person because our kids ask for seconds and I love the leftovers from this meal.  

the ingredient line up

the ingredient line up

Rub:

While the oven is preheating, you’ll make a spice rub, (but more like a sprinkle).  Out of the ingredients above. 

spices

Your rub should look like this, and I like to triple the recipe so that it lasts me a few months.  

Parchment Paper please, because WHO wants to scrape gunk off a baking sheet?

Parchment Paper please, because WHO wants to scrape gunk off a baking sheet?

Bake:

Then you can take scissors and open the individual packages of fish, and lay them on a parchment paper lined rimmed baking sheet.  Parchment paper, is SUCH a good friend.  Anytime I’m baking something, wether roasted brussel sprouts, chocolate chip cookies, asparagus wrapped bacon, or these fish, I use parchment paper.  This means you don’t need to use ANY spray or oil on the pan, and clean up is throwing away the paper.  High Five Parchment Paper! 

If you don’t have any parchment paper, it’s ok to spray, olive oil, or coconut oil your baking sheet.  

Ok.  Put your fish filets on your parchment paper. They can get real cozy if you are making a lot of filets.  Then take 1/4ish tsp. of the rub and sprinkle it on your filet.  The amount may vary depending on how large your filets are or how much flavor your kids can handle…So start with 1/8 tsp. for your kids, and see how it goes from there.  

Bake your fish for 10 minutes, no need to flip or turn.  Again, check your package directions for baking temp and time depending on average size of your filets.  

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You’re fish will be done when you can put a fork in it, twist, and see it is white and flaky inside.  

Eat:

fish with avocado

We love to eat fish with black beans or rice.  See my EASY black bean recipe here.  Squeeze some lemon on it or grab some tarter sauce.  

fish tacos

 

I usually make a lot for leftovers.  I shred the fish in my kitchen aid, or with two forks, so they are ready for some fish taco lunch action! I love fish tacos with the beans, and avocado, but cabbage, cheese, pico de gallo, and thousand island dressing really put it over the top.  

spice rub container

I store the rub in a container, or a ziplock bag to make it easy for next time! 

Here’s the printable! 

 

Easy Baked Fish
Serves 4
This quick fish recipe is good for the whole family, easy on the budget and perfect for leftovers.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 lb. Tilapia Filets (thawed)
  2. 3 Tablespoons Paprika
  3. 1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
  4. 1 teaspoon pepper
  5. 1 teaspoon thyme
  6. 1 teaspoon oregano
  7. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  8. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  9. 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to fish package directions
  2. Mix spices and put in ziplock bag
  3. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly coat pan with olive or coconut oil
  4. Place each filet on paper and sprinkle each with 1/8-1/4 teaspoon of spices
  5. Bake as directed on packaging
Notes
  1. Great accompaniments are rice, black beans, avocado, and lemon.
http://itssodelightful.com/
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Kid Friendly 10 minute Black Beans

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by Laura

My experience with black beans gives me a scowley face.  These little guys entered my life as “automatic sides” at restaurants. I would take one bite and, YUCK here’s why:

  1.  They look like Oreo Baby Food.  Which is a totally exciting thought, until you eat them.
  2. They taste like you just grabbed a cumin scented candle and started chewing on it.  Waxy cumin.  NOT delicious.

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When Eric and I were making fajitas, I loved the beans at Chipotle so we tried to make them at home. We modified the recipe when we had kids. These beans are one of the easiest, least expensive, great meal fillers for our whole family.

Let’s start with ingredients.  Most of these you’ll have at home!

Black Bean Ingredients

Now I know there are some of you who soak your own beans, or do them in a crock pot, but I just don’t have time for that fun stuff.  So now let’s get to the directions.  

beans and garlic

In a pot, put in the Olive Oil and let it heat up on medium for a few minutes while you open your cans of beans.  I have tried LOTS of different beans and these, (Bush’s Reduced Sodium) are the ONLY ones I like.  I’ve tried expensive, generic, super cheap…this is the Holy Grail of Black Beans people. Give them a little drain while their still in the can, and prepare your garlic.  

Garlic gets done very quickly so BE CAREFUL not to burn it!

Garlic gets done very quickly so BE CAREFUL not to burn it!

When your oil is hot, lower your heat to medium-low and add in your garlic. Quickly stir it around so that it doesn’t burn: just about 30 seconds, and add the beans to prevent garlic burgage.  Did I mention DON’T BURN YOUR GARLIC!

spices

Add your spices and let meld for 9 minutes stirring occasionally to combine flavors.  

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Stir up those spices!

Feel free to add chili powder or increase the amount of spices if you want, but we leave that out for our kid’s sake.   

They are ready! 

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Now THESE beans look delicious!

We eat them with our favorite baked fish, on fajitas, on turkey burgers, in quesadillas, or with a whole chicken and mango!

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Perfect bite for Mom and Dad, and kids too!

Here’s the recipe, easy for you to print! 

Kid Friendly 10 Minute Black Beans
Serves 9
Delicious, and kid approved quick black beans.
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Prep Time
1 min
Cook Time
9 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
1 min
Cook Time
9 min
Total Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 Cans Bush's Reduced Sodium Black Beans
  2. 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  3. 3 cloves garlic
  4. 2 teaspoons cumin
  5. 2 teaspoons oregano
  6. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  7. 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  8. optional: chili powder, onion powder
Instructions
  1. Heat Olive Oil in pot on medium heat for 3 minutes.
  2. While oil is heating, open beans and drain in the can, prep garlic cloves.
  3. Reduce heat to medium low and add 3 garlic cloves stirring continuously for 10-30 seconds.
  4. Immediately pour in black beans to prevent garlic from burning.
  5. Add spices and stir. Heat through on low for 9 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Notes
  1. optional: chili powder, onion powder, cilantro
  2. These beans are great for fish, fajitas, quesadillas, and fried chicken with mango.
http://itssodelightful.com/
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