Monthly Archives: June 2013

Summer Strawberry Shortcake {with Wholewheat Date-sweetened Biscuits}

Strawberry Shortcake with Wholewheat Date sweetened biscuits | Mama Papa BubbaNothing says summer quite like fresh strawberry shortcake, and since our kitchen is currently overflowing with berries after this morning’s trip to Krause Berry Farms, I thought Miss G and I would experiment with a healthier, wholewheat, sugar-free version this afternoon.  The unfortunate part is that our little old house was sitting at 31 degrees, so turning on the oven to bake shortcakes certainly wasn’t our best plan, but you gotta do what you gotta do when you have fresh berries begging to be gobbled up! ☺

IMG 9613While I don’t mind baking with small amounts of honey and pure maple syrup, our recent {and delicious!} cookie dough boys have peeked my interest in baking with dates {and other sweet fruits} instead of the alternative sweeteners I usually turn to.  I’m happy to report, that our first experiment was a total success!  These shortcakes turned out soft, moist inside, and perfectly sweet!  Plus the tiny hint of coconut flavour from the coconut oil made them even more delicious.  

IMG 9617Brad loved them, and I think Gracen thought she’d died and gone to heaven went she saw a little plate stacked with cake, sliced strawberries, and freshly whipped cream coming her way.  

Here’s the recipe to our new favourite summer dessert….

Strawberry Shortcake with Date-sweetened Biscuits (adapted from this recipe)

  • 2 1/2 cups of wholewheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 2/3 cup of buttermilk (you can make your own by adding 3/4 of a tablespoon of vinegar to 2/3 of a cup of regular milk and letting it sit for 5 or 10 minutes)
  • 8 tablespoons of coconut oil (in its liquid state)
  • 1 egg
  • 4 majool dates, soaked and pureed
  • 1 1/2 cups of whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon of pure maple syrup
  • strawberries, sliced

Before starting this recipe, place the dates into a small bowl, cover them with boiling water, and let sit for about 15 minutes.  Remove pits and place dates, along with a tablespoon or two of the soaking water in a food processor or blender and process until smooth {or nearly smooth}.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.   If you’re making your own buttermilk, mix the milk and vinegar together and set it aside.

Whisk together the wholewheat flour, baking powder, and sea salt.

In a separate bowl, mix the buttermilk, coconut oil, egg, and pureed dates until as smooth as possible.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir until just barely combined.  Divide the dough in 8 to 10 balls and bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and the tops are slightly golden.

Whip cream until peaks begin to form, then add maple syrup and whip for an extra few seconds to combine.  

Slice strawberries.

To assemble, cut shortcakes in half horizontally, placing the tops aside temporarily.  Place a heaping scoop of strawberries on each shortcake bottom, then top with a generous spoonful of freshly whipped cream, and place the tops back on.  Serve immediately.



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Strawberry Fields {A Visit to Krause Berry Farms}

Today we did something I’ve been wanting to do with Miss G for a long while…  We went strawberry picking!  After asking local parents for their favourite strawberry farm recommendations, we decided to head out to Langley to visit Krause Berry Farms.  Promises of giant fields filled with berries, a gorgeous market selling fresh produce and baked goods, playground fun for kiddos, wine tasting for adults, and a farm animal petting area sounded too good to pass up.

IMG 9547IMG 9548IMG 9556We arrived early and the farm was already bustling with visitors.  We got our buckets weighed, put down our loonie deposit for a wagon, and headed out to the furthest corner of the strawberry patch.  

IMG 9561IMG 9559IMG 9565The berries were plentiful and our buckets filled quickly, though strawberry picking isn’t easy work.  It was hot (really hot) out and by the time we were about halfway through our hour and a half long picking session, Grae and I gave up on crouching and full-on sat down in the strawberry field (slightly less glamourous, but oh so much more comfy!)

IMG 9568While my little helper was interested in berry picking and very patient about it all, she didn’t so much want to pick the strawberries herself.  She did pick a few here and there, but sitting beside you while you filled her bucket for her was much more her style.  That and sneaking a semi-clean strawberry into her mouth every once and a while…

IMG 9580IMG 9583With two extra-large sand pails full of ripe strawberries, we decided to have them weighed, pay for them, and check out the rest of the farm.

IMG 9584IMG 9585IMG 9587First stop – the playground.  Grae loved the tractor-shaped play apparatus, and even though it was cooking by this time, it did provide some shady spots to play in.

IMG 9593Next up, we visited the market.  Oh my goodness, this may just be my favourite part of the farm.  Not only can you purchase all kinds of local produce both from the farm and from other local farmers, but the bakery is stocked full of delicious breads, shortcakes, cookies, and cakes too.  Plus there’s a fudgery stocked with over 40 different kinds of fudge and all sorts of canned goods and fun kitchen gadgets too!

IMG 9604After a quick stop to see the animals out back (there weren’t that many and the enclosures didn’t really allow for easy petting, but G enjoyed it anyways), we stopped to take a couple of photos along the raspberry bushes.  By this time, we were all hot, sweaty, and tired, and Gracen was feeling straight up silly.  For one reason or another, she decided that the only way she’d have her photo taken was if her tongue was out, and by that time, I really didn’t blame her. Sometimes joining the crazy is just more fun.  ☺

It was a lovely day and I’m already trying to figure out if we’ll have time to make another trip out when Krause’s u-pick blueberries are ready in mid-July… Though next time we’d do things a little differently as by the time we got home, most of our berries were already pretty mushy.  

Notes to self:  

1) Stacking fresh, ripe strawberries in big, tall buckets leads to severe strawberry smushing – bring big, shallow containers next time instead.  

2)  Locking your berries in a hot vehicle on a 30 degree day doesn’t help the situation – next time, play first, pick last.

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I ♥ This Serious Little Face

IMG 9545Finished off a lovely day by escaping cooking in our 30 degree house and eating dinner on the patio of one of our favourite local restaurants instead.  Now that’s seriously awesome.


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Second Beach Outdoor Pool

IMG 9512Gracen has been very anxiously awaiting this day since we first visited the Second Beach playground back in February.  From the opposite side of the park, she immediately spotted the seal-shaped water slide in the outdoor pool enclosure and has asked when we’d be able to visit ever since.  Sadly, when it opened at the end of May, we had a long bout of rainy, dreary weather, so that prolonged our visit even further…  But when we woke up to a gorgeous, sunny day this morning and asked the little lady what she wanted to do, the first thing out of her mouth was “Go to the pool with the seal slide – WOOHOO!”  Her fist shot into the air in celebration and our adventure for the day was set.

IMG 9518IMG 9514IMG 9520IMG 9517

IMG 9523Surprisingly, the much talked about seal slide was not the hit of the day today…  Instead, she was all about this much larger, much faster turtle slide over in the deeper end of the pool. The truth of the matter is that she loved this slide so much that very little swimming actually took place – it was simply slide after slide after slide for pretty much our entire visit, which was totally fine with me.  Watching the anticipation as she climbed the steps and the absolute joy as she sped down and splashed into the water melted my heart and filled me with pride.  I’m so, so glad our little lady loves water as much as she does.

IMG 9542IMG 9543IMG 9528The only slight downside to our morning was that it was chilly.  Very chilly, in fact.  Despite the fact that the pool is heated and it truly was a beautiful day, the wind off of the ocean sucked away the warmth and made you shiver the moment your shoulders left the water. And while Grae didn’t seem bothered in the least by it, at a certain point we knew it was time to get out, dry off, and warm up.

IMG 9530But that won’t stop us from returning very soon – Miss G’s already asking when that’ll be!

Second Beach {Outdoor} Pool is located on the west side of Stanley Park.  For more information, including schedules and rates, click here.


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A Messy Play Date {& Some Messy Play Date Tips}

Today was the highly anticipated day of our {backyard} messy play date…finally!  Gracen and I got everything ready yesterday afternoon and had it all sitting by the backyard to make our early start time a little easier this morning.  During our prep, Grae was so excited she could barely contain herself.  She gathered sensory bin items and assembled them like it was her job and this morning she was up bright and early eager for her friends to arrive.  

When we do these sorts of play dates, I try to have a variety of different kinds of open-ended activities spread out throughout the backyard.  This means that there is something for everyone and not all of the kids are always crowded in the same area like little sardines.  Today’s sensory activities included our bird bin, an ocean bin filled with water beads, a construction bin filled with pea gravel, a cloud dough bin filled with different moulds and scoops, a gardening station directly in our garden {as we didn’t plant this year due to our upcoming move}, and a sparkly slime tray.  For kiddos looking for a bit more action, we had our inexpensive and easy backyard balance beam, a sandbox filled with dinosaur bones and shovels for digging, a pool filled with cups, scoops, and nets {because it was too cool to actually swim}, and bubble chasing courtesy of a couple of bubble machines.  For our little art lovers, we had out a big moon painting station and a bucket of sidewalk chalk with some water for dipping, and for those looking for a little bit of downtime, we had our 5 minute teepee with some puzzles inside, a beading station, and a tunnel hideout. 

Sounds fun, right?  Strangely enough, after all of the build-up, Miss G was quite clingy and whiny throughout.  I think it was a combination of feeling slightly smothered by a very affectionate friend and just being a little overwhelmed.  Though I think she still had fun, I was a little surprised that it didn’t go over a bit better than it did…  But what can you do?  I’m pretty sure the other kids enjoyed themselves, and after a lot of messy play, we all sat down to a laid-back picnic lunch of sandwiches, fruits and veggies, nuts, crackers, cookie dough boys, and homemade iced tea and lemonade.  After saying goodbye to our friends {and passing out play dough and play putty favours – all Miss G’s idea}, we found ourselves in a backyard that looked like a tornado had run through it…  A true sign of messy play date success, I’d say!

Here are some photos from our morning…

IMG 9480IMG 9489IMG 9490IMG 9483IMG 9492IMG 9499IMG 9505IMG 9506  1IMG 9510

After hosting a couple of these play dates, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way…

1. Include activities of varying messiness. Not all kiddos love getting filthy.

2. Spread play stations out as much as possible.  Not only does it allow the munchkins lots of space to play and explore, but it also helps keep the play materials separate (though we did end up with slime, sand, and cloud dough in our pool this time around!)

3. Expect your play materials to get trashed.  While water beads, slime, and doughs may last several months when enjoyed by just your child(ren), many children may be experiencing these play materials for the first time.  Water beads will be smushed, dirt will be added to the slime, and buckets of water will be dumped into cloud dough, so be prepared to throw everything out and start fresh.

4.  Slime and concrete don’t mix.  Being used to my very careful, rule-bound little lady, I thought nothing of putting a big tray of slime out on a table on our concrete pad.  Needless to say, by the end of the play date, it was everywhere and Brad and I spent a couple of hours picking, peeling, spraying, scrubbing, and sweeping it all up – pretty rockin’ Friday night, no? All in the name of fun! ☺

5. Include a hand washing station.  Kids are going to want to wash their hands between activities and having a spot to do it outside not only makes it easier for them, but it also minimizes traffic in and out of the house.  We use a drink dispenser filled with warm water with a basin below and some soap and a hand towel nearby and not only does it get the job done, but it’s also a lot of fun.


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Nutrient-Packed Cookie Dough Boys

Nutrient Packed Cookie Dough Boys | Mama Papa BubbaThe other night, I had the absolute pleasure of joining several other Vancouver mom bloggers at Whole Foods for evening with Aspen Clean, a local eco-friendly cleaner and cleaning company.  While there, Whole Foods totally spoiled us with delicious green smoothies, all kinds of yummy nutrient-packed salads, and the yummiest ever {vegan, gluten-free} cookie dough balls.  Our healthy eating specialist, Sarah, made them while we watched, and not only were they quick and easy to whip up, but the giant bowl full disappeared in a matter of minutes – a sure sign of their deliciousness. As soon as I tasted {my first} one, I knew that Grae would just love them.  So today, we got our ingredients and whipped up a batch.  My suspicions were right – Grae did  love them.

IMG 9442Here’s our lineup of ingredients….  Pecans, dates {soaked in water}, coconut, raisins, sea salt, cinnamon, coconut oil, and vanilla.  Now, I have to say that the original recipe includes coconut manna (also known as coconut butter) and not coconut oil…  In fact, our healthy eating specialist explained that coconut oil is just the fat squeezed out of the coconut meat, while coconut manna is the coconut meat and fat combined, making it much more nutrient-rich.  The trouble is, our local grocery store doesn’t carry coconut manna, so we had to improvise.  While maybe not as healthy, the recipe still turned out great!

IMG 9445Anyways, onto actually making the cookie dough boys!  First up, we drained {almost all of} the water our dates had been soaking in and blended them in our food processor.  (Word to the wise, be sure your dates don’t still have the pits in them before blending. Oy.)

IMG 9447We processed them until nearly smooth, but not perfectly pureed.  Because it was such a small batch, it did take several rounds of stopping the machine, scraping down the sides, and then doing it again, but that just meant more jobs for my little helper, which she of course loved.

IMG 9449With the date paste saved in a separate bowl for later, Miss G added our coconut and pecans to the food processor.  Call us lazy, but we didn’t even wash out the processor bowl in between as it seemed like sort of an unnecessary step.

IMG 9453Then we pureed the coconut and pecans until they were meal-like.

IMG 9454Next up, Grae dumped all of the other ingredients (save the raisins) into the food processor with the coconut/pecan mixture.

IMG 9455Then we processed it all until it started to come together in a mass.

IMG 9459Here’s what it looked like when done.

IMG 9469The last step was to mix the raisins in by hand.

IMG 9476With our dough complete, we rolled it into balls using about a tablespoon of the mixture at a time.

IMG 9460And because Miss G is no longer a huge fan of raisins, before mixing them in, we set aside a part of the mixture.  To set Grae’s balls apart from the other, she rolled them in coconut, which was a lovely addition.

IMG 9466The verdict?  Delicious!  They’re sweet and satisfying just like a good dessert, but come sans all of the sugar and fat regular desserts have.  A definite success!

{Nutrient-packed} Cookie Dough Boys

(*this is a Health Starts Here recipe from Whole Foods)

  • 1/4 cup of date paste (we used 5 large majool dates)
  • 2 cups of pecans
  • 1 cup of unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut manna (or as we used, 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • dash of sea salt
  • 1/2 cup of raisins

Soak the dates in room temperature water for an hour (you can cut down soaking time by using hot water), drain off almost all of the water, and purée the fruit until fairly smooth.  Set aside.

Blend pecans and coconut flakes in a food processor until meal-like.  Add all other ingredients, save the raisins.  Process until the mixture starts coming together in a large mass.

Dump dough into a large bowl and incorporate raisins by hand.  Taking 1 tablespoon scoops, roll the dough to create balls.  Roll in coconut or crushed nuts if desired.

Eat, refrigerate, or freeze.



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The Perfect Play Date

IMG 9420IMG 9424IMG 9425PizzaThis morning Grae and I had the absolute pleasure of hanging out with the lovely Little Miss Mama and her adorable curly-haired girl.  There was good play, an explosion of toys, many sharing opportunities, and best of all, a make your own pizza station for lunch.  The girls made pizza together, ate over an episode of Winnie the Pooh (I think this blew G’s mind), and us mamas got a few minutes to chat in between.  Oh, and Grae ate FIVE pieces of pizza, so lunch was obviously delicious.  

It was the perfect play date.  We’ll miss these two ladies terribly while in Kuwait.


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Cork Sail Boats {With Sparkly Sails}

Cork Sailboats With Sparkly Sails | Mama Papa BubbaOh my goodness.  Miss G and I had so much fun with this little project this afternoon.  The best part is that it was completely impromptu. She wanted ‘to craft’ as she always says, and when digging through our craft supply drawer, came across a little bag of corks we scored at our last trip to Urban Source.  I had boat building in mind ever since we picked them out, and when I suggested it to her, she was fully game.  Together, we did a little Pinterest search, and Grae selected the images from these three posts for inspiration.  

IMG 9388With an idea in mind, it was time to gather up some materials.  The corks were a given, the elastics would hold the actual boat together, the toothpicks or dowels would hold up our sails (we went with the mini dowels in the end), and the nail would help us poke our holes.  The last thing we needed was something to make our sails out of…  We thought of patterned scrapbook paper, but knew that would eventually just get wet.  We also thought of the plastic sheets we used to make our window clings, but Grae wasn’t overly excited about the colours we had left.  Then we thought of foam sheets – being waterproof and super lightweight, they’d be perfect.  And even more perfect? Finding sparkly ones!  Gracen was sold.

IMG 9391To get started, Gracen lined up 3 corks and held them together while I secured them with 2 thick elastic bands – one on each side.

IMG 9392Then, using our nail and “our big, big muscles” in the words of Grae, we created a little hole in the very centre of the cork wharf.

IMG 9394Together we pushed our mini wooden dowel down into the hole (a food pick or bamboo skewer could work too).

IMG 9397Using another mini dowel for reference, sketched a quick sail outline on the back of our sparkly foam.

IMG 9398Because our foam was of the adhesive variety, we made our sail double-sided, but this would be unnecessary if we had just regular foam sheets.

IMG 9399After making a couple of teeny little slits in our sail, one at the top and one at the bottom, we slid it onto our dowel post.

Cork Boat FlagThe finishing touch was adding a little flag above our sail.  To do this, Gracen selected a roll of washi tape and folded a piece in half around the top of our dowel.  Then I cut it to form a flag shape.

IMG 9404With our first boat complete, it was time for the big moment – to see whether or not it would float.  It did!

IMG 9406And this little lady was very pleased about that.

IMG 9414We made one more boat, and the play begun immediately.  Bobbing, blowing, and swooshing ensued throughout the afternoon and I’m sure it’ll continue for the next several days.  

And while the boats have been fun in a bowl of water, I have a couple of other ideas to make them even more fun to play with.  Now where to find more corks…


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UBC Gymnastics Drop-In

IMG 9373IMG 9376IMG 9380IMG 9386IMG 9382The upside to a very rainy June is that we’re crossing things off of our rainy day idea list that I thought we wouldn’t get to do before leaving Vancouver in July.  Today, we headed out to UBC to do something we’ve been meaning to do for a long while – attend a drop-in gymnastics session!  The class was held in Osborne Centre (where there is plenty of metred parking out front) and was a ton of fun.   We walked into a gym filled covered in mats and soft, padded flooring with everything from balance beams to parallel bars, to trampolines, rings, and ropes and Miss G began exploring.  Despite her very cautious nature, Grae had a wonderful time and actually asked if we could ‘flip the car around’ and go back to gymnastics while driving home.  Sadly, today was the last day of the spring session, and starting July 4th when the summer session begins, drop-ins will be on Thursday nights from 7:15 to 8:15 p.m. only, which really doesn’t work with young kids.   

Find out more about UBC Gymnastics drop-ins here.


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Homemade Wholewheat Cheddar Crackers, the Lazy Man’s Way

Wholewheat Cheddar Crackers the Lazy Man s Way | Mama Papa BubbaWhenever Miss G and I have her very favourite homemade cheddar crackers out during play dates, our guests say two things – “yum!” and “how long did they take to cut out?!”  I must admit, cutting out several baking sheets full of teeny tiny moons or hearts takes a loooooong time.  And while most of the time I can muster up the energy, today I decided we’d take the easy route.

IMG 9345First up, we followed our recipe as usual and combined all of the ingredients into a soft cheesy dough using our food processor.

IMG 9347Then we placed the dough between two layers of parchment, rolled it out nice and thin, and used a pizza cutter to slice them into quick and easy squares.

IMG 9349I contemplated just placing the entire sheet onto a baking pan and cooking them in one big mass, but in the end, decided to scoop them up and flip them onto a pan while quickly separating them. 

IMG 9350And because they reminded both Brad and I of Cheez-Its (one of the only ‘Americanized’ types of crackers available during our four years in Kuwait), I added the centre holes with one of our teeny dowels just for fun.

IMG 9364We baked them as usual, and even though little squares may be a little more on the boring side, they’re every bit as delicious!

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