Sunday, May 23, 2010

Snack Idea for Lost Finale

I don't talk much about my tv viewing habits on this blog. I am very much looking forward to the series finale of Lost tonight, though. I've found this show to be entertaining and intellectually stimulating.

I found an interesting recipe earlier this week for Smoke Monster popcorn and thought I would share. I probably won't be making it myself because I didn't think to look for some of the ingredients (honestly, I'm not even sure what loomi is, much less where to find it).

Here are a few more ideas:

  • Lost Finale Party Ideas @ The Ack Attack - a few simple food ideas, plus some decorating and music ideas. Bonus photo of Sawyer at the top.
  • Lost Season 5 Viewing Party @ Celebrations.com - great ideas for costumes, Dharma decor and food. There is an unrelated video on this page - be aware if you have a sleeping child in your lap.
  • 23 Awesome Food Ideas for your Lost Party @ Cracked.com - Be aware, there are some child-inappropriate comments on this list. This is an adult show that has some adult themes. The suggestions are actually puns based on the mythology of the show, but I thought there was some funny commentary.
If you're not a Lost fan, I hope you'll overlook this lapse in my usual programming.



ETA June 27, 2013: I was asked to remove the link to Celebrations.com in this post. I have complied with their wishes.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Baby Killdeer

When we moved into our house several years ago, we noticed an unusual (to us) phenomenon. There were little birds in our neighborhood that resembled sandpipers, and they built their nests in our driveway. Our driveway is gravel, not concrete, but I had never heard of a bird that would lay its eggs in such a dangerous place. It took me a while to figure out what the birds were, but I finally learned that they are known as killdeer.

 Every year, we have watched the birds build these nests. When killdeer feel that their nests are threatened, they will pretend to have a broken wing and hop in the opposite direction of the nest, and we observe this behavior each time we go to the mailbox in the spring. I watch the nests and wait to see babies. Each time, I was disappointed to find a completely empty nest after weeks of waiting.

It broke my heart a little each time. The poor birds spent all that time caring for the eggs only to have a predator get them at the last moment, over and over. I began to wonder how on earth the species continued to survive.

Tonight, we had the surprise and pleasure of arriving home to find baby killdeer running across our driveway. I checked the nest, and yes, it was empty. I haven't found any information on nesting habits, but my guess is that the baby birds eat the shells for the calcium? If you know, please fill me in!

It was so cool to watch the baby birds run around, and their parents coral them. I wish I could have gotten a picture!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Edible Wild Plants - Spencer Magnet Article

Last week, I wrote an article about Edible Wild Plants that was published in my local paper, The Spencer Magnet. My plan was to write here about my personal experiences with eating wild plants. I had grand plans to make cookies and syrup from dandelions. My daughter was so excited, she couldn't stand it.

So, guess which weed decided to spontaneously all but disappear from my yard in the last two weeks? Seriously. Apparently all it takes to get rid of dandelions is to decide that you have a use for them. I was digging them and throwing them aside for weeks before that.

I'm hoping the dandelions will be back soon (don't tell my husband) because I really want to try that cookie recipe. I'll be sure to share my experiences when I do. I distinctly remember having a lot of dandelions in our yard during Memorial Day weekend last year, so I'm expecting more soon. (I understand it may be weird to distinctly remember something like that - we had a party, and I remember a little girl picking them).

I do have some experience with eating wild plants, although I'm sure it's not something most people would lump in with eating dandelions and clover. When we didn't have domesticated blackberries in our garden when I was growing up (which happened from time to time), we would pick the wild ones from the roadside. They were smaller, but I usually didn't notice that. I'm sure there's a flavor different of some kind, too, but I don't remember it. The wild blackberries made wonderful jam and cobbler just the same.

I know that lately I've only been writing about the articles I'm writing elsewhere. Sorry about that! I hope that you're enjoying reading anyway.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Published Article in The Spencer Magnet

I mentioned yesterday that I had an article published in my local paper, The Spencer Magnet. I didn't have a link to the article until this morning, though. If you are interested, you can now read Candy Making.

I'm excited about this opportunity. I hope that you'll find my articles to be a helpful addition to what you already read here.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Candy Making With Kids

Today I have an article published in my local paper, the Spencer Magnet, about a candy making class that Abigail and I took. I hope you'll take the opportunity to read Candy Making. If you are visiting after reading the article, welcome!

While the class wasn't intended for for children, my three year old daughter was entertained and was even able to mold her own bunny mint with the help of one of the teachers.

Candy making can be a fun indoor activity for children and there are tasks available for nearly any age. The main priority is to have fun, but it can be a huge confidence boost for a child to be able to make something others will enjoy.

There are several candies that call for the center to be rolled into a ball before being dipped into melted chocolate (including Martha Washington candy and peanut butter balls). Even small children can be shown had to roll things into a ball (much like playing with play dough).

Children from toddlers to teens can participate in the dipping process. If melting in the microwave, children can stir the candy between each session in the microwave. Chocolate should not get hot enough to cause a burn (it would ruin the chocolate). Once the chocolate is melted, children can help dip the balled candy or pretzels or whatever you happen to be dipping.

Children can put peanut butter on crackers (Ritz is our favorite) before sandwiching them and dipping them into chocolate.

For the mints (like my daughter made), the dough is easy to mix, and the children can put it into the molds. This recipe is similar to the one we used, and demonstrates how the mints can also be rolled into a ball and flattened instead of put into a mold.

Candy melts are relatively cheap and will store for a long time. I've purchased them on sale and saved them for a rainy (or snowy) day. We made candy coated pretzels during a snowstorm this past January. Sometimes it's possible to find candy melts or candy kits on sale after a holiday, and can be stored until you need a fun, simple activity for the kids.

I hope these suggestions have sparked ideas for you to make candies with your children.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cooking Is Easy - A Spring Dish

Whenever I post about a dinner that I've made, I get a few comments about how cooking from scratch is hard and that it isn't easy to come up with dinner ideas. I believe that cooking is easy, and that all you need to know is a few basics to have a lovely meal. Let me illustrate with the meal I made last night. (Sorry about the lack of photos. It was a pretty dish, but I forgot to take a picture. I'll try to remember the next time I make something like this.)

I made a Vietnamese inspired stir-fry last night. I've been making stir-fries since I was a young teen (my family ate a lot of Chinese and Japanese food growing up), and my mother-in-law is Vietnamese and taught me more last summer. (I will post about the teaching session at some point, but not today.)

So, last night I decided that we should have some springy vegetables. We buy chicken breasts in bulk, slice them for Asian dishes, and then freeze them. So all I had to do was let the chicken thaw, and then chop my vegetables. I scored locally grown asparagus and green onions at the market a mile from my house, and picked up a zucchini while I was at it. I already had some carrots and onions and a can of water chestnuts. I also decided to use some of the kale that we're growing on the front porch.

I started by putting about a tablespoon of oil (canola and olive, but use what you've got) into a pan and throwing in approximately 3 cloves of garlic. (We buy already minced garlic, but fresh is great. I think I used about half a Tablespoon here.) I let the garlic brown for a bit, and then I put in the chicken on medium-high heat. I added a 1/4 Tablepsoon of ginger juice, sprinkled over the chicken. (I prefer fresh ginger, but I had ginger juice on hand.)

This is the point where I realized that I had forgotten to make the rice. We currently have basmati rice, which is great for Indian food, but not our preference. We will be switching back to jasmine rice as soon as we're out of basmati. I followed the directions on the bag to make the rice, and then switched my attention back to the rest of the meal. (I highly suggest you start your rice before you get started with anything else though. Don't follow my example, even though my results were ok.)

I chopped my vegetables in the reverse order of how I wanted them cooked, and stacked them in a bowl. Zucchini is tender, and doesn't need to cook long, so it went in the bowl first. I cut it on a diagonal, and then chopped each slice in half. I snapped the asparagus tips off, and put them in the bowl next because they shouldn't cook long either. Next I snapped the asparagus stems. I felt they should cook a little longer than the stems. Next I chopped the carrots and onions. The onions were cut in half lengthwise, and then sliced (so I got half-moon slices of onions.)

Once the chicken was cooked through, I put it into a glass bowl and set it to the side. I put a little more oil in the pan, and added another tablespoon or so of garlic. I let it brown for a bit, and then I added in the onion slices. (If I were to do it again, I would probably cut the onions a little wider and cook them for less time, but the end result was fine.) Once the onions started to cook, I added the carrots. (Carrots add not only nutrition but color and sweetness to the dish.) Then the asparagus stalks (about 1 inch pieces) and water chestnuts. When I felt the asparagus getting less crisp, I added the asparagus tips and zucchini. (Saving the green onions and kale for the last few minutes of cooking. I didn't even chop them until ready to use.) I periodically added a little more garlic (probably used the equivalent of an entire bulb by the time I was finished) and another half tablespoon of ginger juice.

When the asparagus seemed to be almost done, I added the chicken back in and mixed it all up. I turned the heat down (from medium-high or medium) to medium-low or low, and then added the kale (kind of minced) and the green onions.

It could have been ready at this point, but my husband still had some things to do, so I think it simmered on low for about 10-15 more minutes (also, the rice wasn't ready yet). The dish was served over rice with soy sauce (and sriracha for hubby).

Perhaps this doesn't sound simple, but really it's all about stirring meat and then some vegetables around in a pan with aromatics until they're done. The flavors meld beautifully together - my husband even said that I had found a way to get him to eat asparagus. Not that I'm trying to get him to eat asparagus - more for me, if he doesn't! My daughter kept giving me her asparagus tips, but otherwise, she had two helpings. I find that water chestnuts encourage even the pickiest eaters to eat vegetables - they are so much fun to eat! Also, my daughter helped to grow the kale, and she is proud to eat it.

What are some of your favorite ways to get your family to eat vegetables?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

I'm Back

Hello?

Yes, I know it's been a while since I posted here. It was intentional. We just had an unexpectedly busy month. Among other things, my daughter and I spent a week and a half at my parents' house, which meant a lot of preparation and a lot of decompression when we got home.

I'm looking forward to a more productive May.