Town Square Playground

There is a local shopping mall in Las Vegas rather centrally located (it is at 6605 South Las Vegas Boulevard, just a little past the Mandalay Bay Hotel) called Town Square.  As it is home to our nearest Whole Foods, I like to turn a shopping trip into a visit to the playground there!  I snapped some pictures with my cell phone camera to give you an idea of what it is like.  I think if you are just visiting Las Vegas on vacation with your family and staying on the strip you’ll want to check it out.  A lot of the shopping in the casinos is pretty fashion/luxury based so if you want to go to, say, Old Navy or H&M or catch a movie at the theater without having to walk through smokey conditions, Town Square is your best bet.

There’s a bridge, fountain, and water to look at, all next to a large picnic area carpeted with faux grass.  I actually really like bringing lunch and eating there if it isn’t too busy.

Here you can see the play structures include a maze, two story houses, and a classic slide area.

One of my gripes would have to be that the park is surrounded by little cookie and snack kiosks and there is this advertising for a candy store near the play stage area that I’d rather do without but it is a shopping mall after all!

Inside the house-like play structures are pretend areas such as this kitchen or another area decked out like a bakery with wooden cakes to pretend with.

One view of the play area, you can see the food kiosks at the entrance.  There is a splash pad they run in the summer months and only one entrance which makes watching multiple children a little easier!

Some different slides and a rope bridge along with plentiful benches…

I like the different age ranges that can be accommodated, there is also a merry go round and I wasn’t able to get a picture of the play stage but my kids really like it.

A great tip about these tantalizing carts by the entrance is that though they are chained up unless you rent one, you can play with them parked as they are!  So there is a lot to do, the downsides being the advertising, crowds if you are there later in the day, and from a food allergy perspective the cookie stands and the like do make me a little wary.  No issues for us yet, though, especially since I snag treats that are safe at the Whole Foods usually before we head over to play.  Make sure that if you buy frozen goods you have them give you free ice to keep them cool during playtime!

Arugula White Bean Dip Recipe

My kids love bean dip.  I think most children love dipping their food as a general rule but bean dip is a great option because it packs a nutritional punch.  Despite being a daily staple, I haven’t posted our usual hummus recipe because it is different every time – a little of this, a little of that, whatever beans we have on hand, all thrown into the food processor.  Enter this recipe for Arugula White Bean Dip by Maggie Verderame, founder of Kids Do Yoga located at The District at Green Valley Ranch.  My friend Elizabeth forwarded me the recipe knowing how much E and R love bean dip because the inclusion of arugula is a great way to include more greens in their diet.  We enjoyed it so much I e-mailed Maggie for permission to feature it here and she was happy to!

The recipe is really open to customization – different beans or different greens – but it is creamiest with white beans.  When I made it with garbanzo beans it wasn’t as smooth but a little olive oil or Sun Butter helps.  I have it in my head to try it with spinach and artichoke at some point soon!  In the version I photographed I doubled the lemon and the beans to make a more substantial portion and added extra garlic so it is truly flexible.  The best recipes give you a new idea in the kitchen that you can experiment with and this is a great example – I would have never considered doing a cooked bean dip before now.

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Arugula-White Bean Dip by Maggie Verderame (photos by Homa Woodrum)

Maggie Verderame is a mother, a yoga teacher, a singer-songwriter, a writer, and a vegetarian home-cook. Through her Kids Do Yoga™ program, Maggie writes the blog, ‘Mindful Mommy Moments’ where she offers observations in yoga with children, mindful parenting, and kid-friendly vegetarian recipes.  Please visit www.Kids-Do-Yoga.com for more information.

Supplies

Cutting board, knife

Food processor or blender

Bowl/sealable container

Ingredients

2-3 Tbs. Olive Oil

1 Large Yellow Onion, coarsely diced

1 tsp Crushed Garlic

5 oz. Fresh Arugula (Trader Joe’s has the best prices as of writing this)

1, 15 oz Can of White Northern / Cannelini Beans, drained and rinsed

Juice of 1/2 a Lemon

Sea Salt

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low flame/heat.  Add onions and garlic to oil once it is warm and thinning. Cook until softened. Add arugula one handful at a time and toss with the onion mixture to coat with oil. As each handful of arugula wilts, add another and gently toss until all 5 ounces has been cooked down.

Then add the beans and lemon juice. Mix gently until combined and beans are warmed. Turn off heat. Transfer hot bean
mixture to a blender or food processor and puree, adding about 2 more tablespoons of oil as needed to assist with the blending.

Mixture should be thick and creamy, somewhat like hummus. Transfer to a bowl or storage container and add salt to taste.  Cover mixture and let it sit at room temperature for at least a half hour before refrigerating or serving.

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In Maggie’s original recipe she suggests serving the dip as a crostini topper.  If you have an allergen free bread you love, I think it would be great but I served it with potato chips above and below I actually ate some still warm with a lunchtime batch of yukon gold potato hash browns.  I like this photo because you can see R’s little fingers trying to pull the plate to himself.  He also likes to point at the food I’m photographing as if he is showcasing it.

The flavors do develop more the next day but I really like it both fresh and chilled.  Thank you again, Maggie for letting me share this – it is a great recipe for food allergy families for whom beans are safe.  I actually just finished up this particular batch while typing up this post, let me know in the comments if you try this recipe out!

(Shared on the 4/6/12 Allergy Friendly Friday link up at CybelePascal.com, click through for great allergy friendly recipes!)

Clark County Museum Ghost Town

We loved the Clark County Museum so much the last time we visited that I had to take my mother in law and husband to check it out.  When we went before I wasn’t able to make it to all areas on the property so I wanted to post some more photos I was able to get, this time of the “Ghost Town” area.

There’s a lot of old mining equipment and some little outbuildings, including replicas of native grass structures.

I think my favorite was the old Tuscarora Jail, circa 1880.  I love cowboy movies so it is neat to see buildings like this in person.

The walking loop is not as long as it seems on the map and though it is a little bumpy you can make it with a stroller along the path but not necessarily into the buildings.

Of course with all the rusty equipment you’ll want to keep the kids close by but it is a lot of fun to look around.  There were several bunnies running around in the area too!

Last time we went to the museum everything was decorated for the holidays so I did like seeing the exhibits in their regular state.  I really can’t say enough good things about the museum – the staff are all friendly and the grounds are well kept, not too crowded, and the price of $2 for adults can’t be beat.  I realize it is a long drive if you are in Northern Las Vegas but the low cost of admission takes the edge off the splurge for gas.  Check it out before the weather gets too hot!

Tomato Free Black Bean and Green Pepper Salsa Recipe

This is a take on a tomato free salsa my mother in law created for me because I can’t eat tomatoes while I am still nursing R due to his tomato allergy.  I have been having people find my fresh tomato salsa recipe while searching for a “tomato free” version probably because I wrote in that post that I had recently discovered R’s allergy.

Feel free to adjust to your personal taste but remember that this is one of those recipes that really gets better once the flavors have a chance to meld for a few hours.  Do I wait that long to dig in?  No, but that is what doubling recipes is for, isn’t it?

Supplies

Cutting board, knife

Bowl/sealable container (I love lock & locks (amazon affiliate link))

Ingredients

1 cup of diced green pepper (I think red pepper and yellow pepper would look really pretty here, and taste good, but my husband has had reactions to fresh red pepper)

1/2 cup of diced onion

1 cup of rinsed canned black beans (I used the Eden Organic variety that I buy via Amazon (amazon affiliate link) but the cans do arrive dented most of the time so take that into consideration)

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1/2 a fresh large lemon, limes would be tasty here as well)

1-2 teaspoons of fresh minced cilantro

1 teaspoon of agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Salt (start with 1/2 a teaspoon) and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Directions

Rinse your black beans, you won’t use the full can but I am sure there are other uses you can find for some black beans!  Prepare your other ingredients and combine in a bowl, mix and adjust the flavors to taste.  It is a very mild recipe because I serve it to the kids but some chopped up jalepeños would perk this up, or maybe some chipotle peppers?   As I wrote above, you can experiment with other kinds of bell pepper and the like but this is a tasty base.  It is crunchy with a hint of both sweet and sour.  I especially like to eat this with corn free Beanfields Rice and Bean Chips, another reason not to make the salsa too salty is if you plan on eating it with some sort of chip.  The juice at the end of the bowl when the salsa has been consumed is great with those end-of-the-bag chip crumbles mixed in, by the way.  Just eat it with a spoon, which I may or may not be doing as I type this.

In the picture above I served the salsa with Mediterranean Brown Rice Couscous from Lundberg Farms as well as some fried mushrooms, garbanzo beans, onions, garlic, spinach, and spices for a nice spring lunch.  If you try this out, I’d love to hear your thoughts or adjustments!   Also, if you like the flavor and texture mix, try Gena Hamshaw’s Cucumber Guacamole – I have made it without the tomatoes in her recipe and the crunch from the cucumbers is particularly awesome.  Is it time for a picnic yet?

Food Find: Beanfields Corn Free Bean and Rice Tortilla Chips

These Bean and Rice Tortilla Chips from Beanfields an awesome find.  I missed Corn Chips and these are not only crunchy like corn chips, they taste good in their own right.  I found them at the local Sunflower Farmer’s Market and they run about $3.50 a bag usually but are very much worth it!

Sorry the ingredients are a little blurry but hopefully you can see that they are pretty much beans, rice, oil, and salt!

I also snapped a photo of the texture, these were all taken with my cellphone as the bag did not last long enough for me to wait to take proper photos.  We’ve actually been trying to see if E can have corn safely but friends that have tried these have said they are just tasty, so though they are corn free I think people should try them even if corn isn’t an allergy restriction they have.

Butterflies Visit Our Texas Mountain Laurel

Yesterday morning the Texas Mountain Laurel at the front of our house was teeming with Painted Lady Butterflies so I ran for the camera.  I know I am not good at photography but I was pleased with these photos and thought I’d share.

The tree has been in bloom for about a week and it smells wonderful.

The carpenter bees usually have full run of the trees but for some reason the butterflies had a chance for a visit and were all blissing out long enough for me to get close.  I love Las Vegas in the short spring season we have!

This little guy didn’t seem to mind his broken wing, I can’t help but wonder if his bravery caused him some trouble because he let me get the closest for the longest.  The kids loved seeing all the butterflies!  The rest of our yard is in full bloom, I have to do a follow-up for last year’s garden post, maybe after this year’s Springs Preserve Spring Plant Sale on March 31st.

Food Find: Asherah’s Gourmet Vegan Burgers

First of all, these qunioa vegan burgers are pricey, I think I paid almost $10 for this box at Whole Foods but I wanted to try them and get some inspiration for new recipes.  The funny thing was that as I was looking at these a man was looking at box after box of frozen veggie burgers and putting them back so I finally asked if I could help.  He wasn’t allergic or anything but he wanted a soy free veggie burger as he had read that too much soy was not healthy.  I was able to tell him about Sunshine Burgers and he bought a couple boxes, I was glad to have helped.

They’re quite different from Sunshine Burgers as they are more soft and fall apart easier but they are thicker and the chipotle flavor really gives them a kick that I liked so much that I had to find some safe chipotle to use in other cooking.

I would suggest giving these a try if you don’t mind a splurge now and then, they were awesome on toasted rice bread with lettuce, mustard, onions, and vegan allergy-free mayo.  I hope these little posts are helpful, I hadn’t examined the vegan burger options in ages because it is hard to find soy free ones.  Glad to see there is some variety in the market!  My kids found these a little too spicy but I really enjoyed them, as did my mother in law.