Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Strawberry Lemonade Bars





With the arrival of warm summer days, I am on the lookout for refreshing snacks to keep on hand. During the past three years of eating grain-free and processed sugar-free foods, one of my favorite treats to make has been fruit snacks made from gelatin. Not only do they taste fabulous but they are good for your joints too! After experimenting with different fruit combinations and various recipes, I finally came up with a gummy fruit bar that will make your taste buds sing! Sweet, juicy strawberries and fresh tart lemons make perfect partners in this summertime indulgence.

Not only are these great for keeping in the refrigerator for a quick snack in between meals, but they are perfect for summer get-togethers and school lunches. My niece and nephews love them and these bars have become my go-to recipe when I have guests.

Ingredients:

  • 2 generous cups of quartered fresh strawberries (preferably organic if you have access to them)
  • ¼ cup water
  • Juice of 1 ½ lemons plus enough water to equal ½ cup of liquid
  • 3 Tablespoons raw honey
  • 2 Tablespoons gelatin


Directions:

Wash the lemons and squeeze out the juice into a 1 cup liquid measuring cup. Remove any seeds that may have made their way into the juice. Add enough water to bring the liquid up to ½ cup. Pour the liquid into an 8x8 glass pan and evenly sprinkle the gelatin over the lemon juice. Set this aside so the gelatin can get soft while you work on the strawberries.

Wash your berries and pat them dry. Remove the stems and half or quarter the strawberries, depending on their size. Place the berries in a small saucepan with ¼ cup water over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and stir until the berries are soft (approximately five minutes). Stir in the honey until combined. Remove the pan from the heat and use an immersion blender to puree the berries.

Note: No need to stress if you do not have a blender or food processor handy. Just grab your potato masher and smash the berries until there are no longer large chunks. Do your best to get a nice, smooth consistency. I’ve done this several times when my blender is in the sink and I’m feeling lazy ;)

Once the berries are blended, pour them over the gelatin & juice in your pan. Take a silicon spatula and stir the hot strawberry mixture until the gelatin has dissolved, about 2-3 minutes. Make sure you have thoroughly scraped down the sides and all along the bottom of the pan. Let cool on the counter for about an hour then transfer the pan to a refrigerator to set. In about four hours the gelatin will have firmed up. Cut into squares and serve. Keep any leftovers refrigerated.




After you have tried the recipe, you can play around with the amount of honey and lemon juice added. Some people like them more tart while others prefer them to be a bit sweeter.

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoy our favorite summer treat as much as we do!

Allison

Monday, June 23, 2014

Cleaning up Alaska's Beaches




Beach cleanup volunteers hard at work


I like to jump right into activities and community events when I go to a new area. When I heard about a beach cleanup hosted by Anchorage Coastal Cleanup, I knew it would be a great way to meet local people and participate in something that I truly care about. I was so happy when my very obliging hubby agreed we could spend our Sunday morning cleaning up other people’s garbage on the beach. As an archaeologist, he makes a living searching for items people have left behind. Although the stuff he digs up is usually much older and more interesting than washed up garbage and beach-side party remnants.

Sunday morning was gorgeous here in Anchorage (meaning above 50 degrees and not raining), so we pulled on our rubber boots, grabbed work gloves and headed to Lyn Ary Park. We walked up to the group of volunteers like the new kids in school; a little anxious and hoping someone would be our friend. The event coordinator warmly welcomed us, set us up with a data sheet and trash bags, then sent us on our way to join the other volunteers on the beach. 



My hubby talking with the crew from KTVA.
A local news caster had arrived at the same time as us. She walked down to the beach with me and, after hearing we were new to the area, graciously gave me all sorts of tips for adjusting to life in Alaska, especially how to survive the winters! She left Matt and me to our work picking up broken glass, nails, screws, wire, and cans. After we had nearly filled our bag, she came back and asked both of us questions about what we found and what we thought of the condition of the beach….. that may or may not have been me on the Evening News talking about nails and screws ;)


This shows just a small portion of all the trash we found that morning
Overall we had a great time and met kind and welcoming people while helping make the beach safer for the community (both human and non). I also learned what pallet bonfires do to a beach if they are not cleaned up afterwards. All the nails and screws (the two of us collected nearly 30 pounds in just under two hours) were from burned pallets. The impact such a fun and casual event has had never entered my mind before. Lesson learned? If the debris left behind cannot be cleaned up, find an alternative way to have a party. Pallet bonfires are a fun way to celebrate, but if you will not be able to gather up all the nails and screws left behind after burning them, use local firewood instead, please ;)




Friday, June 20, 2014

Hello Last Frontier, Goodbye Oregon


Hello! I am still here and ready to blog again!

I have truly missed writing and sharing what is going on in my corner of the world. Life has been so hectic this past year with all the traveling and moving my husband and I did that The Brighter Side ended up on the sidelines. Now that we are all mostly settled in our new home (in ALASKA!!!), I can hardly wait to get to work on my various creative endeavors and share them with you all.



What has happened since my last post and how did when end up in the 49th state? Well…..

We spent five months living in the little (or big, depending on your perspective) city of Havre, Montana while my husband searched the prairie for artifacts. After spending my whole life on the west coast tucked in between mountain ranges, being out in the middle of the endless rolling grassland was quite the experience. Our weekends were spent exploring the area and bird watching. I developed a love for winged beings and wondered how I neglected to take a single ornithology related course while at Oregon State. I also got to check a big adventure off my bucket list! We spend several days in Glacier National Park. Oh my goodness…. The beauty there knocks your socks off! I will forever remember how mesmerized I was by the rugged Montana landscape.

While he was out doing his Archaeologist thing, I spent my days cooking, drawing, writing, and reading in a cramped little RV. About the RV… Apparently I am NOT cut out for small spaces. I am pretty sure I was about two weeks from going bonkers. The good part of the experience was that I got to sit and evaluate my path in life without outside influences and pressure. Now I feel even more certain, and confident, about the direction I want to take… that is a post I will save for later ;)

After the field season wrapped up, we headed back to Oregon so my hubby could work on his Masters and I could take art classes. By February we were restless again and ready for our next adventure so he started applying for jobs and landed one here in Alaska. 

Not a lot of cell phone service on the ALCAN.
Next thing we knew we were traveling the ALCAN along with my Mom and her incredibly generous partner-in-crime who volunteered to drive the U-Haul for us. Thank goodness our cat does not seem to mind the car! She has horrible separation anxiety or I would have flown her and spared her a week on the road. 

"Wake me up when we get there....."
During the drive we went through jaw-dropping landscapes and saw some of the largest land dwelling mammals we have ever seen outside of a zoo. The first grizzly we saw was in B.C. about two hours north of Prince George. I was driving ahead of the U-haul and looked over and saw this fantastic “statue” of a bear standing about 20 feet from the road. My five second thought process went something like this:

 “How strange that someone would put something so amazing out here in the middle of nowhere. Holy smokes! That statue is rigged to move! Look at its arms wiggling and its head turning! OH MY GOSH THAT IS A REAL BEAR!!!!! And it is HUUUUGE!”

*face palm*

Besides the grizzly, we saw black bear (so many we lost count), foxes, moose, bison, sheep, eagles, trumpeter swans, and numerous waterfowl I didn't get close enough to to identify.



Now that we are here and have started exploring, I am so in love with our new state of residence. The scenery is stunning; there are a million places to go hike/bike/ski/fish/insert outdoor activity of choice (maybe skip swimming). Alaska is also a perfect source of inspiration for my artwork so I’m as happy as a clam!

My plans for the next few of weeks are to finish up a couple of drawings I started before the move and then I will be taking an acrylics class! I am STOKED for my first painting class! I love using charcoal and graphite but I am SO ready to start playing around with paint! I also hope to get some new recipes posted. One thing I did not stop doing during all the crazy moving around was cooking.

Even though we love Anchorage and hope to make this our home for a long time, we do miss everyone back home and look forward to people eventually making their way up here for a visit! *hint hint*



Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Next Chapter

Wow, it has been over six months since I posted on here. I am sad that I didn’t make myself log on and write an entry because I really love blogging and the blogging community. Oh well, life got hectic and that is just how it goes sometimes.

So, what have I been up to? Well, the hubby and I both finished our undergraduate degrees in December. It felt so good to turn in my last final that I started tearing up. Some tears were out of sadness because I was closing a very exciting chapter in my life, others were from happiness and knowing that I wouldn’t have to stress over exams or homework anymore.





Since then we’ve been traveling and deciding what to do next. Yesterday we went for a walk through E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area and talked about everything that is coming up for us and the changes and challenges we’ll face together.

It didn’t take too long (considering the economy) for Matt to get a job. We found out in mid-February that he landed an archaeology position in Montana. This is a huge deal for me because I’ve always lived within a 30 mile radius. I look forward to our upcoming adventure and experiencing a different part of American culture. Right now the challenge is finding a place to live there. It must be pet friendly because I couldn’t stand to leave Miss Dax behind, and we need a month-to-month lease because….. 

Shortly after we found out about the job in Montana, we learned we’d be heading back home in September so Matt can attend Graduate School. We received lots of BIG news within a few weeks. My mind is still trying to take it all in. We’re very excited though and are incredibly THANKFUL for all these amazing opportunities. 


So, what about me and my plans? I think I’ll return to the blogging world and share that with you as I figure it all out. Whatever it may be, I’ll have my camera in tow and be tapping into my creativity.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tulip Mania


Do you love tulips? I sure do! All the colorful patterns on velvety soft petals. Here in Oregon we have the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm's Tulip Fest. The festival is a celebration of tulips that runs the month of April. Along with endless rows of blooms, there are activities for the kids, food, drinks, and even a zip line!

I had not been to the fest for years so I was very excited to see that the one weekend I was actually spending in Oregon this month was going to be warm and sunny. My sister-in-law and her fiance drove me and the hubby there this morning and we all had a great time browsing the flowers and enjoying the sun.










Hope you all had a fabulous weekend!

Thanks for stopping by!

Allison

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Life Flutters By



I suddenly realized I have not been on to post in over two weeks! I do apologize. The last two weeks have hectic, but fun! The hubby and I headed up to Olympia to spend time with my family for a bit. He had to go back home last week and get back to work in the Archeology lab and to tackle his course work. I'm still up here enjoying my niece and nephew. They are such a blast!

We are also helping my grandma get moved into assisted living. She tried staying on her own for as long as she could but at 93 decided she really would like more help. It is hard watching someone have to give up so much freedom and condense their possessions. She tries hard to remain positive though which helps all of us!

My sister and I decided we needed a fun day away from the house so we headed up to Seattle with her kids in tow. She really wanted to check out the butterfly house at the Pacific Science Center so we went there before having a tasty dinner at Pier 66.













Hope you all had a fabulous weekend!

Allison

Friday, March 23, 2012

Grain-Free Chocolate Cake



Winter term is over. I survived finals week and submitted all my projects. Time to celebrate with CAKE!

Over the last few months I have played around with several grain-free cake recipes but all of them were incredibly dry and left much to be desired. When I came across a recipe for a conventional cake with sour cream in it, it hit me..... add homemade yogurt (since I can't handle the lactose in sour cream) to help keep the grain-free cake moist.

Wow! Not only does the yogurt help keep the cake moist, but the flavor is just amazing! My first attempt was to make a chocolate cake. I'm sure it would be great in a white cake as well.





Berry-Topped Grain-Free Chocolate Cake



Ingredients:

Cake
1 3/4 cup almond flour
1/3 cup coconut flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup butter, softened
2 cups plain, unsweetened yogurt
1 cup honey
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Berry topping
24 oz berries (I used blackberries because the store was out of fresh raspberries)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup honey

Directions:

Set out your eggs and yogurt for about an hour so they get closer to room temp. In a medium bowl, combine the flours, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Blend in the honey then add in the yogurt, eggs, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer until well blended. Mix in the dry ingredients and blend at medium speed for 3 minutes.

Poor batter into 2 parchment lined and greased 9 inch cake pans. Bake for approximately 30 minutes at 350 F. Remove when cake springs back when lightly touched and tooth pick comes out with only a few moist crumbs. Take care when removing from pans as they do not hold together quite as well as a conventional cake.

While cake is baking, bring berries, water and honey to a bowl over medium heat and then turn down to low heat and simmer until desired thickness is reached (approximately 15-20 minutes). Mash berries and cool.

Once cakes are cool, and right before serving, top cake with berries. 


I'll let you know once I have a white cake recipe worked out.

Thanks for stopping by!

Allison