> hey what's for dinner mom?


Monkey Bars

Monkey Bars are a great, new to me, way to use up overripe bananas, thank goodness too because we only have one dedicated banana eater in the house and they're always getting too ripe before he eats them all.

I was reading something, somewhere, I'm not even sure where or I'd totally give credit where credit is due, about making Monkey Bars. I was confused at first, how would you pop in the kitchen and make a piece of playground equipment? Then I caught on, oh yes, something tasty, with overripe bananas? Yes, Yes tell me more! There seems to be a plethora of uncomplicated recipes for Monkey Bars out there. I browsed them, a lot of them, it's what I do, and noticed most of the ingredients were just pantry staples with the exception of mini chocolate chips, that is. 

I happened to HAVE mini chocolate chips on hand, and overripe bananas too, so I mean really I was meant to make these, right? It's all connected; I read about them+had overripe bananas+read up on them+possessed all the ingredients=MUST MAKE STRAIGHT AWAY. I did, they are awesome and now I have to go ride my bike for 37 miles to burn them off. Ahem. 

Monkey Bars
oven 350˚

3/4 cup of butter
1/2 cup of sugar
3/4 cup of brown sugar
1 egg
3-4 mashed overripe bananas
2 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of cinnamon
1 cup mini chocolate chips

grease a 15x10x1 baking sheet
preheat oven to 350˚
whip the butter with an electric mixer until soft and fluffy, scrape the bowl down few times if using a stand mixer
beat in the sugar 
add the egg and beat well
mix in the mashed bananas 
in a separate bowl mix the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon
stir the flour mix into the butter banana mixture 
mix until completely incorporated 
stir in the chocolate chips
spread in the greased 15x10x1 baking sheet
bake in 350˚ for 25 minutes

These would be a brilliant addition to any bake sale you might be planning. They're original, the recipe makes a nice amount to sell and they're easily wrapped. Bake Sale WIN right there folks.

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Red Cooked Pork

Red Cooked Pork is an effortless way to braise pork that will impress people with it's deep, intense flavors and wow them with it's effortless preparation. Serve it over hot rice or, if you're grain free, enjoy it over shredded steamed cabbage, either way it's sure to get rave reviews and recipe requests.
If you can get your hands on an uncured pork belly, I highly recommend this recipe for braised pork. It's so hands off, it practically cooks itself, leaving you time to do whatever else you need to get done. I bet it could even be done in the crock pot with hardly any variations to the directions. The red/brown color, shockingly, does NOT come from red food dye, although many restaurants prepare it that way, or maybe just lame restaurants in Alaska make it that way, the red color comes from soy sauce, caramelized sugar and the long slow cook, not a bottle. I've been lusting over Heather's Red Cooked Pork Belly for a while now, it's been bookmarked in my head ever since she posted about it, LAST May. My only question now is, why did I wait so long? 

Red Cooked Pork
2-3 pounds of pork belly-uncured
3 cups water
2 TBSP cooking oil
1 TBSP sugar
1 3-4 inch chunk of ginger, no need to peel, sliced into rounds
3 whole pieces Star Anise
4 cloves of garlic, crushed, peeled and minced
1 tsp Chinese 5 spice
3 TBSP Tamari
2 TBSP soy sauce-you can use all Tamari or all soy sauce if you need to 
2 TBSP cooking wine, vermouth or Shaoxing-I used cooking wine
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 bunch green onions
*1 diced hot pepper, if you like heat use it, otherwise don't use it
cut the pork into pieces about 1 inch by 1 inch
bring the water to a boil over medium high heat in a heavy dutch oven
add the pork cubes and boil 5 minutes
pour off the water, rinse the pork and set aside
reduce the heat to medium
wipe out the dutch oven 
add the oil and the sugar, stir to combine
add the pork and quickly cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring continuously 
then add the rest of the ingredients, stirring to combine
bring the pork almost to a boil then reduce heat to the merest simmer
cover tightly and cook for 2-3 hours
you do not want this to boil, only just simmer
check occasionally to make sure it's not boiling and to stir it gently
after 3 hours check to see if it's tender and how the flavor is
add more garlic, soy or 5 spice if desired
once the meat is tender remove it from the liquid and allow to drain
if you're planning to serve the pork immediately, set it aside and tent to keep warm
pour the liquid through a sieve to remove the ginger and anise pieces
then skim the fat from the braising liquid 
gently boil the braising liquid to reduce it to a thick sauce
serve the pork with a drizzle of the reduced sauce over rice or steamed vegetables

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Lemon Blueberry Snack Cake

This easy to make Lemon Blueberry Snack Cake is a unique take on the ever popular flavor combination of tangy lemon and plump blueberries.

I found this recipe while googling lemon blueberry snack cake, except once I started making it I realized it didn't have lemon in it. Oops, proves that it's always best to really read through the recipe first and not just assume it's what you want. I'm never one to just give up on a recipe so I added the lemon I was looking for and blundered on. 

I took them to a parent get together at school and once they got cut up I had to practically jump in and save one for a photo, they were going fast. Then I ate that one after it's photo shoot and understood why people were gobbling them up, they were tasty. They really are an unusual baked good with a cake-y bar like base with blueberries nestled in amongst the crumb topping. It's a winner though and I'm taking it next week for my husband's church's Pashca Feast next week. (Orthodox Easter Feast)  

Lemon Blueberry Snack Cake
oven 350˚
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
zest of two lemons
1/2 cup of cold butter
1 cup buttermilk
2 TBSP lemon juice
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs, separated 
2 cups frozen blueberries--keep them frozen do not thaw
preheat oven
grease a 9x13 pan 
mix the flour and the sugar with the lemon zest, use you hands to rub it in well
cut in the butter until crumbly
remove 3/4 cup of the flour sugar mix for the topping, set aside
add the lemon juice to the buttermilk and allow to rest for a minute
then beat the baking powder, buttermilk and egg yolks into the remaining flour sugar mixture
beat well until thoroughly combined
beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, this can be done quickly with a whisk or with a mixer
fold them into the cake batter 
spread the batter into the 9x13 pan
sprinkle with the frozen berries and then reserved flour/sugar/butter mix
bake at 350˚ for 30-35 minutes 

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I LOVE ALASKA giveaway winner

 Put your hands together and say a hail and hearty woohooo for our BIG winner Caroll Llyn.
a Rafflecopter giveaway  
Carrol has been sent an email telling her she won and has 24 hours to get back in touch with me or we'll have to draw a NEW winner SO HOP TO IT CAROLL! 
This has been an awesome giveaway, I had a lot of fun setting it up and working with all of the great bloggers like Anjanette, Vanessa, Amanda and Megan. Amazing women, wonderful blogs in the biggest state and the best (if I do say so myself) giveaway I've seen in a while. I can't wait to do it again and I hope we do get to host another I LOVE ALASKA giveaway again real soon. 
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Get Your Kids to Eat More Vegetables Part 3

A continuation of the original post There Must be 50 Ways to Eat Your Veggies and the follow up posts How to Get Your Kids to Eat Vegetables Part 2 and Getting Kids to Eat Vegetables Part 1.
If you want your kids to eat MORE vegetables a great way to build interest is to get them invested in the process. Make them an official helper, pride and ownership make things taste better. And make it fun too.  I'm not talking about making it 'exciting' fun like making star shaped carrot cut outs (that's WAY over the top and kids will only expect bigger and better every time so I don't even go there) but I do think a few kid friendly tools go a long way towards making it fun(er). 
Every time you're making dinner you can get your kids involved by pulling out any of the following tools and inviting them right into the kitchen with you. You might want to invest in an apron, that makes it all seem more official and they'll stay cleaner too. And one or two extra cutting boards as you find them on sale will make working and sharing space much more pleasant.

1) simple carrot peeler--every night for years we ate peeled carrots, lovingly peeled by a preschooler or two--they've moved beyond the carrot peeler but most nights we can still be found eating peeled carrots for dinner--the job seems too easy for them now but the habit of fresh carrots for dinner hasn't been outgrown 
2) the spreader--this tool is a great companion to the carrot peeler, if you have two kids one can peel the other can cut carrot sticks--the beauty of this tool is that it's sharp enough to cut a carrot but will not normally cut a child-they feel super successful while helping out and they're engaged while you're busy
3) crinkle cut chopper--a MAGICAL tool not only is chopping more fun but eating food cut with the crinkle chopper is more fun too we use this to chop soup vegetables as well as carrots for dinner and even fruit--we love this tool! 
4) the Swiss-Mar julienne tool this is a fun tool to make julienne strips with and julienne strips make salad fun and spring rolls are a breeze to whip up when you've got this tool in your hands--the blades are sharp but we've never drawn blood using it--use your own judgement on this tool only you know your child
These tools have served me well as starters for getting kids interested and helping and most importantly eating more vegetables than processed foods. I dug around on Amazon and found a couple of them listed over there. I put them up down below as affiliate links and if you buy them I might earn a couple quarters but I'm sure you can find them other places too, I did!

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Yogurt Braised Beef

If you're looking for something new to do with a roast or round steak why not give Yogurt Braised Beef a try? The tangy succulent beef will tempt even the hardcore *non meat eaters into eating. *excluding chicken strips, corn dogs and pepperoni of course because "they're not meat MOM" How RIGHT you just might be son! And if you're Paleo or Low Carb a big bowl of this minus the rice would be completely amazing.

I first saw this recipe from The Spiced Life on Pinterest, think I filed it away in my must make pinboard because it really just sounded so intriguing. I know yogurt makes a great marinade and tenderizer because of it's enzymatic action that makes tough meat more tender but cooking in it? I wasn't sure how it would work, I've definitely added a dollop or four to a curry right before serving but a deep slow braise? Well I had to try it out didn't I?
The tender tangy results were so worth the risk I thought I might be taking that I will definitely be making this again and again. I started with round steak because it's what I had and I know it is tough and hard to make palatable in 4-6 hours, it needs more like 8-12 in a slow cooker. So tough meat to fork tender beef in 4 hours, can it be done? Why yes it can, when braised in yogurt. 
Yogurt Braised Beef
2 TBSP cooking oil
1 1/2 pounds of beef round steak  
2 teaspoons salt-more to taste, as needed
2 teaspoons black pepper
3 good sized onions, chopped fine in the food processor or by hand
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon peeled minced fresh ginger root
2 teaspoons paprika 
pinch of cayenne-optional
3/4-1 cup of water
2 cups plain yogurt, make your own or use a good store bought yogurt 
1-2 teaspoons Garam Masala-easily available Indian spice mix found in most spice stores
preheat your oven to 250˚ degrees
begin heating the oil in a deep 3-5 quart dutch oven over medium, I prefer high sides on pots to reduce spattering
pat the beef dry and rub the salt and pepper into it
when the oil is hot but not smoking add the beef and let it brown
turn and brown the other side
once nicely browned removed from the pot to a bowl to catch any juices
add the onions to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, don't let them scorch just cook so adjust heat accordingly
add the garlic and cook for just one minute
add the ginger, cayenne and stir to combine
pour in the water all at once and deglaze the pan scraping up all the crunchy bits and brown goodies
let this cook down a bit (evaporate)
whisk in the yogurt 
put the meat back in the pan and pour in any of the juices too
put a nice scoop of the onion yogurt mix on top of the beef
cover the pan with foil or parchment paper and then snug the lid on nice and tight, use two pieces if you need to
put in the and cook for 2 hours at 250˚ 
after 2 hours it's time to turn the meat, carefully peel back the foil or paper and let the steam escape without burning your hand (tricky) 
turn the meat and cook another 2 hours or until fork tender 
remove the meat from the pan and add the Garam Masala powder using a stick blender to blend it with the onions and yogurt  
return the meat and gently pull it apart into serving size pieces or bite sized if you prefer
serve hot over fresh hot rice 

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It's no secret that "The Last Frontier" is a magical place! There are many things to love - scenery like nowhere else, whales, bears, Native culture, and just enough danger and adventure to keep us on our toes! Alaska is a HUGE state (2.3x the size of Texas!), but Alaskans all across the miles - from Juneau to Barrow - share a special bond. As do people who have visited or dream of visiting! When you catch the "Alaska bug," there's no going back! A group of us bloggers living in the 49th state have decided to come together to share our love for our home with YOU - tangibly!! Please take the time to visit all of the Alaskan Bloggers sponsoring this great giveaway: Hey What's For Dinner Mom? Idlewild Alaska Dabblings and Ramblings Megan's Gluten Free & Other Allergen Free Recipes Raising the Barrs We are so excited to be offering quite the Alaskan bounty to one of you - over $500 in value to help you celebrate your love of Alaska!

The Prizes!

Anderson Seafood
A $250 (wow!!) gift certificate to purchase your favorite Alaskan seafood from Anderson Seafoods. Anderson Seafoods has worked hard to provide high quality and sustainably-sourced seafood for 35 years! And if wild caught Salmon and Halibut aren't your thing (is that possible??), they also sell crab, lobster, shrimp and lots more fish.  

  Children's books from Sasquatch Books

Set of three Alaska-themed children's books from Sasquatch Books - Alaska's Sleeping Beauty, Grizzly Bears of Alaska, and Patsy Ann of Alaska. These charming and beautifully illustrated soft cover books will captivate children of all ages. Read a full review of these books here.

   handcrafted oil lamp from Roads End Pottery

A handcrafted oil lamp by Dave Hough of Roads End Pottery - from the Town Square Art Gallary in Wasilla, Alaska. A thick cotton wick is held in place by a round stone, which sits at the mouth of the lamp. The lamp can be filled with ordinary lamp oil, as one would fill a glass oil lamp with. The glaze on the pottery is lead-free and dishwasher safe

Alaskan fiction by Warren Troy

.   Trilogy of Alaskan Homesteading fictional books written and signed by Warren Troy. Wilderness Reckoning, The Last Homestead, and Trails are captivating adventure stories sure to please anyone who daydreams about life off the grid or Alaska. 


  A copy of Erin Kirkland's brand new book Alaska on the Go: Exploring the 49th State with Children - so that you can start planning your family's Alaskan vacation! This book will help you decide when to travel, how to get here, and how to take advantage of your time here with your children!  

  Alaska cutting board

An Alaska shaped cutting board from Epicurean. The better to remember us by! You'll get to share your stories from the frozen North every time to pull it out to prepare dinner for guests!  

  chocolates from Alaska

A yummy box of chocolates from JB Chocolatier - handmade in the Matanuska Valley. These beauties are almost too pretty to eat... almost! :) $60 value!  

Alaska Seasoning Company

A 3-pack of seasonings from the Alaska Seasoning Company to spice up your life - Kodiak Cajun, Gold Rush Seasoning Salt and Denali Dry Rub.   

The Rules

Eligible entrants must be 18 years or older and live within the United States (AK & HI are FINE, of course! No discrimination from us!!). This giveaway will be open through Sunday, April 13th. Winner will be notified via email. Please enter to win using the Rafflecopter widget below:

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