Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve

The Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve has been on our “to check out” list for a while but we opted for the Clark County Wetlands Park instead a few months ago.  Before it heated up too much the Bird Preserve seemed like a good idea.  Plus, it is near Costco and we tend to need a trip to Costco once a week (my new glasses and my contacts ended up being ready for pickup so that was a nice bonus).

The directions can be a little tricky with some construction blocking Galleria Drive where we wanted to be at but a little detour and we were able to approach from the southern side without issue.  The preserve is adjacent to a water treatment plant so it seems a little industrial until you drive up to the parking area which is full of trees.  You’ll need to sign in and out and they give you a map of the little lakes that dot the area.  The walk is a big loop with a few offshoots to bird blinds and even a neat boardwalk.

I’m putting the picture in chronological order from our walk. . .

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Doesn’t it look lush?  Not really like Vegas at all, I love water so it was nice to hear the sounds of the water lapping around and see the sparkles of the sun glinting on the water’s surface.

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I really liked the green and yellow here.

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I had never noticed these plants but after seeing them at the Preserve they are catching my eye from time to time.

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Some of the water was still like glass while you can see on the left some movement.  I love that.

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Oh, and there were birds of course!

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I was trying to get close to this lizard but. . .

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. . .he ran away (see upper right hand corner above).

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Some more green and yellow!

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The hours in case anyone wants to stop by, it is free by the way.

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The entrance sign, there’s a place to park bikes so I’m guessing you can’t ride the trail but we used the double bike trailer in its jogger stroller form with no problems.

(Here’s a video we took while there: click here.)

Dream Walkin’

Ok, first I have to link to the song the title of this post is referencing, Toby Keith’s Dream Walkin’ – the video is a pretty vivid memory of mine.  I remember the spring we were waiting to move up to Alaska my Mom moved up there early and we’d sold the house so we house sat for a couple my parents knew and they had some sort of country video station that was almost the only TV channel that worked.  It was the spring of my country music education, but I digress.

So, E has been known to do a little sleep walking, she also talks in her sleep (don’t we all sometimes?).  My husband looks after her at night while I look after R, it is a good setup so one kid doesn’t disturb the other.  He came to me as I was playing with R (far too early for him to be awake but ah well) and E was still sleeping to let me know E had taken her shirt off in the night.  Yup, she sat up and took her shirt off and was back asleep.  We speculated that she had changed so many times the day before at the Egg Hunt (from her dress to her swim suit to regular clothes to her swim suit, etc. etc.) that she was in shirt removal mode.

When she finally woke up the first thing she said to my husband was “bean dip!” so I asked her if she dreamt about bean dip and she announced that there had been yellow bean dip on her shirt and that was why she took it off.  She also told me she kept her pants on because there was no bean dip there.

It may be one of those stories that only we find amusing but I had to get it written down.

(On the subject of walking, R has been more interested in cruising than crawling, he’s great at pulling himself up and is starting to walk little bits but he keeps wanting to stand freely.  I don’t know why he just doesn’t want to crawl but it may be because he sees his sister walking?)

Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve Video

My husband took this while we were at the Bird Viewing Preserve this weekend.  I didn’t know I was in his shot, and squinting no less, ah well.  I will post pictures soon and write about our visit but the short version is that it was a gorgeous morning and a lovely outing.

The more I blog about our activities the more I realize there is quite a bit to do in Las Vegas if you keep looking beyond the strip (not that going there is bad, I just don’t like all the smoking).

Baked Potatoes with Fried Onions & Mushrooms and Green Beans Recipe

Here’s another recipe that is a little bit more of a meal idea but we could always use more meal ideas!  Also, I have spent too many years messing up baked potatoes (that makes me sound like a horrible cook, I know) not to share this.  The baked potatoes come from The New Best Recipe (amazon affiliate link) from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine.  One thing to note about this book is that it is very meat centric but the recipes that are either vegetarian, vegan, or adaptable to those types of food are worth the price of admission.  I also love the tips and equipment suggestions.

So the baked potato recipe is on pages 180-182, yes they use several pages just for baking potatoes, and they talk about mistakes I myself have always made.  The end result is a very basic method that guarantees (in my mind) perfect baked potatoes.  I use this method for sweet potatoes as well but adjust the cooking time a little since they cook a lot faster.

My best personal tip is to prep the potatoes, put them in the oven with the light on (so you remember they’re in there) and set a delayed start timer (if your oven has one) for the potatoes to kick on an hour and a half before you need them ready.  This has saved me for dinner so many times because afternoons are too late for me to get dinner together.   The scrubber I use is the Oxo Vegetable Brush (amazon affiliate link) which is pretty strong so it will take off the skin of red potatoes but does great with russets.

As for the mushrooms and onions, we serve this mixture with a lot of dishes but it makes a great topping here.  I first had fresh green beans at my mother in law’s house and to me they were so awesome and different from the canned kind.  Crisp, sweet and flavorful, yum!  I find with our restrictions I am exploring real veggies and fruits in a way I never did as a vegetarian.  Things don’t need to be slathered in cheese to taste good (though I admit I miss fresh mozzarella sometimes).

I have some great meal ideas for leftovers from the baked potatoes, a potato salad and a nice easy breakfast of fried potatoes so I will try to post those and link to them from here.  Always nice to work on several meals at once!

Supplies

Vegetable brush (optional)

Knife, cutting board

Medium sized saucepan

Frying pan

Ingredients

1-2 per person large to medium sized russet potatoes (mine from Costco weigh in at almost a pound apiece, you just need a uniform size so they all take the same baking time) or as many as your oven will fit if you want to use the leftovers

1 pound of green beans, trimmed and chopped into 4 inch sections

1/2 medium onion, sliced into thin crescents

6 large brown or white mushrooms (another Costco staple for us)

2 cloves garlic, minced (or granulated garlic)

2 tablespoons olive oil

bowl of ice water (enough to put the green beans in to shock them)

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil to taste

Directions

For the Potatoes: Wash and scrub your potatoes, poke several holes around the outside of the skin and set them directly on your baking rack in the middle of your oven.  This is really important.  Don’t put them on a pan, don’t cover them in foil, etc.  Set your oven for 350 degrees F and your timer for one and a half hours delay started to account for when you’d like to have dinner (so start it at 4 if you want to eat at about 5:30pm) or else just preheat to 350 and then put your potatoes in.  Bake for one and one half hours (90 minutes) but check them at 75 minutes to gauge if they are done.  They’re ready when you can easily put a fork into them and they don’t give resistance (though the skin may resist a little).  Serve with drizzled olive oil, salt, pepper, mushrooms & onions, chopped red peppers. . .pretty much however you like.  E loves these with just olive oil, salt, and pepper.

For the Mushrooms and Onions: Heat your frying pan on medium high, add oil when the pan is hot and you will see it shimmer, then reduce heat to medium and add onions.  When the onions are soft, add your garlic.  After maybe a minute add your sliced mushrooms (thinner slices are best).  Fry until the mushrooms have released much of their moisture and serve on top of the baked potato.

Fresh Green Beans: You’re going to blanch the beans, this means that you heat maybe 1 quart of water until boiling and add the beans, cooking them only a minute and a half to two minutes.  At this point you’re going to drain the beans and add them to the ice cold water.  This way they’ll keep that beautiful green color.  Serve with a sprinkle of salt.

(More photos here).  You can also serve the potatoes with three bean salad if you like.

I linked this recipe to Cybele Pascal’s  4/22/11 Allergy Friendly Friday, there are tons of great recipes over there if you follow the link!

My Sunshine

I keep writing down the little things E says but R is no less active or vocal, it just doesn’t translate too well into little quotes so I thought I’d list some of the cute things he’s doing these days:

  • He gives what I call “mynock kisses” – if you’ve seen Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back there are these creatures that suck onto power sources and they have big round mouths that kind of plunger onto things.  They’re strange and creepy but R’s kisses are so cute, he opens his mouth and just plants it on your cheek for a second and then pops off looking proud of himself.  Sometimes I ask for a kiss and he won’t do it, it has to be on his own terms.
  • He does this little quick scoot while sitting so that he can get where he wants to go.  Usually he’s pretty secure but if he gets really excited he’ll fall over so I have to be better about strategically placing pillows.
  • He loves, loves, loves water.  When I water plants he puts his hand in the stream of water and tries to splash himself.  He bounces in my lap until I let him take a bath when E takes her nightly bath (I don’t give him a bath every night but I may start doing it now that he can go in the same tub as E, though I have to really hold him because he does his scooting thing in there and would just slide backwards without support).
  • He holds his head to the side to be silly and grabs my glasses all the time, he’s doing both while on my hip as I type this.
  • His favorite thing to eat are cold peeled apples (supervised, of course), he just noshes on them until he’s covered with apple pieces so I’ve started calling him “applesauce.”
  • Other things I call him: Merlinpeen (from a 30 Rock episode), Merlinbean, Stinklebean, Smiley bean, happy bean, etc. etc. on the “bean” theme.
  • He loves to feed himself little pieces of things, I don’t know if I will be able to convince him to nurse beyond one year, he really prefers food.
  • My favorite spot to give him kisses is on the bridge of his nose so that I am perpendicular to him.  He closes his eyes for a split second as if he is content and it is just the tiniest, softest spot.  He doesn’t sit still or stay quiet too much so these are some of my favorite moments.
  • Speaking of favorite moments, just the way his eyes light up when he is happy is wonderful.  Also, I love how he shrieks with delight when his daddy tosses him in the air (admittedly difficult because he is so big and is already wearing 24 month, 2T, and 3T clothing).
  • His sister adores him and he simply adores her as well.  We’re so lucky!
Friday we take him to the allergist, I will write about how it goes because I can’t find really good resources about siblings of food allergic kids so I want to know what the allergist’s take is.  He was the first guy not to balk at E’s oat allergy so he really stays up to date on things, maybe he’ll tell me I’m silly to want a prick test before exposing R to nuts, etc. but everything I’ve read says siblings of nut allergic kids need testing.
I took the picture above of one of the plants out front with some messed up camera settings (it is overexposed) but I love how you can almost feel the heat of the impending summer in the brightness so this is just straight out of the camera with no editing.  R and E are both my summer babies and I look forward to my little sunshine’s first summer.  E walked on her first birthday so we have crawling and walking and pulling up on things to look forward to very soon.  We’re going to have fun, little guy!

The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook Review

(I am also posting this review to Amazon.com even though there are already tons of people there giving it rave reviews and I posted the above photo to the product page as well.)

I love this book.  The Allergen Free Baker’s Handbook by Cybele Pascal  (amazon affiliate link).

Some background: Last January we found out my daughter was allergic to oats, corn, soy, wheat, tree nuts, peanuts, sesame, milk, eggs, grapes, and some melon.  We were also vegetarian to begin with and had no idea what we were going to eat after I cleared the pantry and fridge of all the food we couldn’t eat.  I reserved every allergy related cookbook at the library and started trying recipes.  It is funny, I usually would buy cookbooks because they were pretty or had one or two things I liked but when your entire way of eating has to change you venture beyond your comfort zone.  The first recipe I tried were the snickerdoodles.  I didn’t have a lot of the ingredients required so I made some substitutions and what do you know, they were great.  I thought, if they were great without following the recipe properly, what if. . .?  So I invested in the ingredients required and they were even better.  I ran out of renewals on the book and it was time to get it to own.  Not only is this book great, Cybele Pascal has really fostered an online community via her website, facebook, and twitter so you can ask questions if you have some off the beaten path allergies to contend with.

To keep my daughter safe we all eat allergen free in our house and this book has made it easier.  There are more steps than you might be used to (mixing up flour mix before you even start baking if you run out of the batch you’d made previously) but that is all a part of learning a new way of cooking and eating.  I have baked most of the recipes with guar gum but am now using corn free xanthan gum as well. . .

Here are the recipes I’ve made and my thoughts, there are 21 items below so if you are worried about getting your money’s worth with this book, never fear:

–Banana Flax Muffins (pg 25) – My 2 and a half year old LOVES these and will eat them for snacks, breakfast, you name it

–Blueberry Millet Muffins (pg 30) – We all love these, especially me, they are that good, the batter tastes like old school yellow cake mix to me and you can eat the batter because there’s nothing in it that isn’t okay to eat without baking

— Glazed Vanilla Scones (pg 36) – I like these but scones are really subjective so they’re not like scones I remember but they’re still tasty

— Flax Biscuits (pg 39) – We make these almost once a week now with vegan onion gravy and they are delicious, the flax gives them a great “nutty” taste and my daughter cuts a few into gingerbread man shapes

— Cinnamon Rolls (pg 41) – A bit of a time investment but we love these, I made them last as a new christmas morning tradition

— Chocolate Zucchini Bread (pg 45) – More like a moist, rich, chocolate cake; the chocolate baked goods shine I think because the cocoa powder masks some of the flavor that comes with rice flour

— Pumpkin Bread (pg 46) – Another favorite of my daughter and something I bake at least once a month

— Blueberry Boy Bait (pg 49) – I have made this with strawberries and it was a great summery cake

— Classic Chocolate Chip cookies (pg 54) – Great, just great

— Double Choco Chunk Cookies (pg 55) – These bake up like little cakes of chocolate deliciousness

— Snickerdoodles (pg 59) – So fun to make and a great flavor

— Orange Spritz Cookies (pg 65) – I serve these at parties and no one would ever know they are allergen free, I had one little girl come up to me and tell me she loved these and her mom actually has a cake baking/decorating business!

— SunButter Greenies (pg 70) – Never could get these to turn green but they’re yummy and freeze well, actually the spritz cookies do too

— Chocolate Rice Crispy Treats (pg 82) – I had to make some substitutions (brown rice syrup instead of corn syrup, etc.) but they’re great

— Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting (pg 92) – Versatile and tasty

— Carrot Ginger Cupcakes with Orange Buttercream Frosting (pg 94) – I make these for my mother in law who loves carrot cake and she thinks they’re wonderful

— Chocolate Maple Cupcakes with Rice Milk Chocolate Ganache (pg 103) – My favorite of the cupcakes in this book, I refrigerate these and they take on a wonderful fudge texture, I use the ganache on strawberries to make chocolate dipped strawberries

— Strawberry Shortcake with Vegan Whipped Topping (pg 112) – One of my only misses with this book, I think it is because I can’t use cornstarch so it isn’t the fault of the book

— Focaccia (pg 168) – My husband loves this and he’s able to eat “real” bread when he’s at work so I think that is a high compliment

— Pizza Crust (pg 169) – I’ve only made this with guar gum and mean to try it with xanthan gum but it isn’t like the pizza crust you’ll remember but it is good though you have to not overbake it

— Continental Rolls (pg 175) – A nice basic roll, have only made it with guar gum so far and I suspect the right gum might improve the texture

If you are just starting with allergen free baking or are more “seasoned” I think you will like this book either way.  The tone is friendly and the details and tips are crucial.  Please be sure to read the introductory pages before delving in as many questions are answered there.


I can’t recommend this book highly enough.