The other day the tot and I had a great time at the farmers market with a big whopping $10. I’ll be honest, I didn’t think we’d come home with much, but we actually found some fantastic fresh items ready to use for cooking up something yummy. I found an eggplant, a perfectly ripe heirloom tomato (which my husband thought looked a bit “sickly), fresh greens, and even some lovely flowers!
I even took a picture of my goodies:
While I gazed at my abundance, eggplant parmesan came popping into my head. But, who wants to deal with all that frying and stuff? Not I.
But, what if I dusted nice, thin strips in flour and baked them on a lightly oiled sheet pan?
So, this is what I did to create a healthy and super tasty version of eggplant parmesan:
Slice your eggplant into rounds or strips, whichever you prefer, about 1/4 inch thick. Place the slices in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with 1 Tablespoon of salt. Cover the slices with 1-cup milk and 1-cup water and let hang out for at least 20-minutes. Eggplant can be bitter, so soaking them in this salty, milky concoction ensures they will be moist and tasty.
While the eggplant is relaxing, create the flour dusting with 1-cup flour, a couple of good shakes of pepper and salt, and any fresh or dried herbs you like. We had some fresh thyme, so I crumbled some in to the flour mixture. Place the dusting powder on a plate, which makes everything easier later.
Preheat your oven to 400 F. and get ready to make a mess. Coat the bottom of your sheet pan with a layer of vegetable oil (about 1 Tablespoon should do) and then slide a slice of eggplant out of its bath and then press both sides into the flour, shaking off the extra. You’re looking for a nice, thin coating, nothing too thick or gloopy.
Place the flour-dusted eggplant on the sheet pan and keep going until all the slices have been coated. Pop your pan into the hot oven and go have a glass of wine or something.
After about 10-15 minutes, your slices will be lovingly browned on one side and ready to be turned. Flip them over and prepare your topping.
Slice a fresh, ripe tomato thin, and then half the slices. Take out some mozzarella or Monterey jack cheese (we used Monterey for ours because I was fresh out of mozzarella) and also slice several thin strips.
Once the eggplant has roasted another 10-minutes or so, both sides should be wonderfully browned. If you want them toastier, keep baking. But, if you’re ready, top each slice of eggplant with a piece of tomato and then a slice of cheese and place back in the oven.
While that cheese is melting, finely slice a clove of garlic and sauté quickly with a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach, just until wilted.
Take out the eggplant and begin layering the goodness on a plate and then top with the spinach. Give everything a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for extra flavor.
I bought too many carrots. Last week I was really excited about the idea of getting back into juicing and making our own juices at home. I made the mistake of offering the child some of the flavorful stuff from the store the other day, and now it’s her new favorite thing – JUICE! I have nothing against juice – it’s just that some have a lot of sugar and natural/organic juice is expensive.
Thus, the 5-pound bag of carrots sitting in the back of the fridge.
I made a big pitcher of carrot-apple juice about two weeks ago and we guzzled it down. But, I lost my juice-making-chutzpah last week, and I’m totally not feeling it today.
Carrots are full of goodies, like antioxidants, which keep the body healthy and working wonderfully. Along with vitamin A to help eye function and development, they contain beta-carotene, which keeps us looking young by fighting cell damage.
I couldn’t let those lovely carrots go to waste…
I had a couple of random ingredients hanging around alongside those carrots and knew they would all taste wonderful together.
2 c steamed cubed carrots
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 t cinnamon
Dash of salt
3/4 c sugar
1 Tbsp room temperature butter
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
2 c flour
Cold cream cheese cubed
How to make the goodies
I really didn’t feel like shredding all those carrots or dirtying up one of my various kitchen mechanical things, so I figured we could try something different. Why not steam and mash those carrots? I cubed the carrots into small chunks and placed them in a saucepan with about 1/4 c of water. Cover the carrots with a lid and let simmer for about 10 minutes, or until those carrots are fork tender.
While the carrots are bubbling away, you can preheat your oven to 375 F. and gather the rest of your ingredients. If you have time, you can even line your muffin tin – or give them a light greasing. This is a great baking project to do with the kids, even with a young one like my daughter. She had a great time putting the muffin liners in the muffin tin.
Drain off any remaining liquid from the steamed carrots and place in a large mixing bowl. Use a potato masher to create a nice lightly chunky mash to use for creating the batter for the muffins. I even let my tot wield the masher and go at those carrots.
Now measure and add the rest of the ingredients to the mashed carrots – except the flour and cubed cream cheese. Once everything is mixed nicely, you can gently add the flour, 1/2 c at a time. You don’t want to over mix the dough, so if there is still a bit of flour peaking through, it’s okay.
Pop a spoonful of the batter in the muffin tin and then top with a small 1/2 inch cube of cream cheese. Top the cream cheese with another spoonful of batter and then place in the nice hot oven for 15-20 minutes. My muffins were perfectly cooked right around 18-minutes, but everyone’s oven is a bit different.
These muffins are slightly sweet, full of cinnamon flavor, and have a creamy surprise in the middle.
There’s nothing more soothing than looking at an abstract artwork and letting your mind enjoy playing around with the color, line, and shape of it all. There’s no right or wrong, and that’s the best thing about it. Creating abstract art is second nature to the very young, but can be a bit challenging for older kids that are more apt to want to create realistic representations of the world around them.
Using an artist as influence makes things more interesting – and everybody usually learns something new along with creating a fun and interesting artwork. Color theory isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. When teaching high school, just saying the words, “color theory” caused my class to groan with discontent. But, I usually found ways to get them interested – and maybe have some fun in the end.
Helen Frankenthaler is the queen of Color Field painting, a movement that included some of our previous friends like Rothko and Louis. The focus of the Color Field painting style is color and how the colors in the artwork move and stir an emotion in the viewer. Helen Frankenthaler is one of the prominent painters in the arena – and also a woman in a male-dominated art world, which makes her even more awesome.
Frankenthaler pours paint on fresh un-treated canvases, which was also something no one else was doing in the mid 1960’s. Her technique creates moving blobs of vibrant color that snuggle up with each other and sometimes wetly blend and pull into their neighbor. Watching how those colors blend and bleed together to create other colors is an example of color theory and how colors work together. For younger kids, they can learn what colors are made when one is mixed with another and the older set can take things a touch further.
And, there’s nothing quite as fun as making a big mess while creating something artistic – and this project doesn’t disappoint!
Start by helping your child select a couple of colors of tempera paint she’d like to use for creating her color mixing creation. She can pour a small amount of paint into individual small containers and water it down so it is easier to pour.
Before she gets started, take a closer look at Frankenthaler’s work and how she pours paint, creating defined areas of color and also mixed paint areas. For younger kids you can encourage color recognition by pointing to colors and seeing if your child can guess them correctly!
This is a total mess project, so either set things up outdoors in a spot that can be hosed down later, or cover the indoor work area!
Offer your child a sheet of white paper alongside a small dish of water and a big brush. She can coat her paper with water, creating a wash ready for pouring paint.
Now she can begin pouring the paint and exploring how she’d like to position the areas of color. Older kids can manipulate the paper by tipping and pulling the paper, encouraging specific colors and areas of the paper to blend together. Younger kids will enjoy dumping that water-downed paint, which can get a bit messy, so stay close!
Let the color-mixing Frankenthaler creation dry overnight and see how it turned out. What colors did your child create?
Thanks to an episode of Caillou (here’s the Caillou backstory), my child decided she HAD to make ZA! If you are a parent of a young child like I am, either they are annoyingly addicted to Caillou or have seen an episode here and there. So some of you may be familiar with the pizza episode. Caillou’s amazing mom suggests Caillou and friends have a pizza making party. Of course, our little bald-headed bothersome Caillou declares everyone else is making theirs wrong…
Well, my tot wanted to make her own ZAAAAAAAA! So, we whipped up a quick pizza dough and I let her have at it.
I can’ t have Caillou’s mom showing me up.
You know what I mean?
Making your own homemade pizza is easier than you think. You can use pre-made pizza dough, or make your own, and top with whatever is in the fridge. Here’s my recipe for a quick and simple dough that makes a nice crust when baked in a pre-heated 500 degree Fahrenheit oven – YUM!
1 package yeast
1 cup warm water – about 100 degrees Fahrenheit
1/4-cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon sugar
2+ cups flour
Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water, olive oil, and sugar. After about 3-minutes, the mixture will start frothing a bit, which just means the yeast is doing its job. Now you can add the salt and flour 1/2 cup at a time. Once the dough comes together, knead on a floured work space until it no longer sticks to your hands, which takes about 5-minutes or so. Let the dough rest for at least an hour before rolling out for pizza.
Summer is here, which means hitting the pool, spending time outdoors, and relaxing with friends and family. That doesn’t mean learning something new is out of the question! Kids, and adults, are always looking for something new, interesting, and educational to keep busy and occupied. Why not experiment with some simple and engaging fun summer science projects? With the help of basic materials, creativity, and lots of enthusiastic hands, these fun science projects are a great way to spend a sunny afternoon.
Science activities should be an exciting way to bring learning and fun together, and these activities do both. Not only are basic scientific method concepts brushed upon, these projects can be easily added to and adjusted for different age levels. It is all about how far you want to take the experience, and how much fun you want to have with science!
Invisible Message on a Paper
The art of secrecy has been around since the dawn of time, and creating invisible ink was just another step in creating ways to get secret messages from one place to another. The idea of sending top-secret information during the American Revolution gained much popularity, causing the mystery of invisible ink to hit the mainstream!
To create your own invisible ink, all that is needed is a liquid acid and some sort of writing utensil. The best and safest option for an acid is lemon juice, and using a cotton swab works wonderfully as a writing utensil.
Your chid can start by squeezing the juice of a lemon into a small container and adding a couple of drops of water. Now he can dip the cotton swab in the mixture and use it to write on a sheet of paper. The message will be visible until it dries and then stay invisible until it is held over a heat source, such as a light bulb.
Invite your child to give the super-secret note to a friend and see if he can figure out how to decipher it. Take the experiment to the next level by trying different colors of paper. What happens if the paper is used with a different heat source, like leaving the paper in the sun?
The wonders of liquids can be explored with this simple and fun science project, creating the opportunity to discuss different weights of fluids and how they interact. The end result is enjoyable and can be observed for days and days!
Your child can start by filling a washed and dried liter plastic bottle with ¾ cup water. Using a funnel, invite him to add vegetable oil to the water until the bottle is almost full, leaving about an inch of room at the top.
Now your child can slowly drip several drops of food coloring into the mixture and watch as the water, oil, and food coloring mix and separate.
For the final effect, drop half a seltzer tablet into the mixture and see what happens! Alka Seltzer works really well.
Because oil is lighter than water, the water sinks to the bottom, and due to intermolecular polarity, the two do not mix. The fizzing tablet makes everything even more interesting due to its ability to create gas. The activity can be taken to the next level by using different sized containers or oils. Create a chart with the discoveries.
When one thinks of milk, what comes to mind is a white liquid that is somewhat sweet and commonly poured over morning cereal. But, milk contains ingredients that interact with other elements causing interesting results.
Have an adult help heat 1-cup milk over medium heat until it is warm, but not boiling. Place the warm milk into a mixing bowl.
Now invite your child to measure 4-teaspoons of white vinegar and add it to the milk and then stir for about a minute. Position a strainer in the sink and pour the milk through the strainer.
Investigate what has been left in the strainer. Once rinsed and cooled, your child can squish and squeeze the white blogs together into a form and left to dry for a couple of days.
This activity can be taken to a whole new level by investigating how this fun science activity leads into the cheese making process, and by making a batch of your own cheese in the comfort of your own kitchen!
Summer Flower Fun
Head outdoors for a nature walk with your child searching for white flowers. Daisies work wonderfully for this interesting science project. While on the nature walk, discuss how flowers grow with the help of sun, water, and soil.
Invite your child to find several clear glass containers to fill with water and different colors of food coloring. Now he can put the daisies in the glasses and observe what happens.
Help your child create a chart on a paper to document the science experiment and the changes in the flowers every couple of hours.
After 24 hours, discuss what has happened to each flower helping him mark the changes on his chart. He can also take photographs of the flowers to visually show the results!
Cut flowers pull liquid through their stems and up through the flower’s petals. The water with food coloring changes the colors of the petals, showing how water moves through the flower.
Whether rain or shine, fun summer science projects are a great way to spend an afternoon learning and experimenting. Along with discovering new concepts, these projects offer end results that can be enjoyed over and over!
I’m not going to lie. It wasn’t like this was a big plan or nothing. It all happened quick like a flash, like a beer going down on a perfect summer’s day.
Even though the heat was coming off the pavement, I could tell she was a looker through all that haze. OK, yah, sure, I didn’t see the baby in the back, but I figured this was it – my big chance.
It wasn’t a fancy-smancy car, so I knew she wasn’t packing any spray or repellant or nothing. And from what I could tell, she wasn’t even moving, just sitting there all still-like, kinda like a deer caught in the headlights.
I know all about that.
I’m an expert you could kinda say.
While pulling in behind her I quick checked the double barrel was still behind the seat and snuck a peek in the rear-view. Sure, I hadn’t shaved in a couple-a days and my shirt sure wasn’t clean, but let me tell you, I got balls ready for action. It had been awhile and here was a lady-in-waitin’. Just sittin’ pretty.
Sure, moving down south wasn’t what I had planned. There were all these perky ladies strutting around thinking they were king of the jungle and shit, wearing phones while running, talking to people that weren’t there. Trying to make conversation was like talking to some numbnuts up in the trees. All, “yaaah,” “suuuuuure,” “tooootaly.”
What about getting your pretty ass off the frickin’ phone and taking your stupid bug-ass designer sunglasses away from your face? Some of us like to see what we might be getting into later.
So, looky-looky here. My chance at gettin’ while the getting was sure damn good. No way in hell I was passing this up. Here was MY chance to show how a man can fucking take charge. I glided up behind that yellow pile of shit and prepared to get busy.
The warmth was glowing down deep as I once again double checked that my special sweetheart was behind the seat.
My knees almost left me as I ambled up to her window. Sure, I was sweaty, but after taking a couple deep breaths, I was ready.
This was it.
I rapped on her window and put my face in one of those fake-out Reno 911 looks – you know, goofy but trustable, and hoped she’d lower her window just a couple-a inches so this would work.
The minute we made eye contact, I knew I found a winner. She was all panting and doe-eyed, ready to be put down. Her skin was glistening and green-like. I worried she might pass out, but then she gasped in some air when she saw me check out the baby.
Don’t touch the baby.
I didn’t want that baby.
I wanted her. And I was ready for her right then and there, but while leaning up against that hard and hot side of her car, I snapped out of it and remembered what this was about.
“Hey there missy, ya run outta gas or something?”
It was only the beginning.
*Her side: Help
This week’s prompt was to switch things up, change perspective, and see where things take you. What do you think?
The other day I had a big hankering for a past food infatuation. SpaghettiO’s. Yup. During college I ate tons of Ramen and SpaghettiO’s.
Cheap, nurturing, and badly tasty.
So, the other day while at the store with the wee tot, I came across some itty-bitty ring pasta and my stomach instantly transported me back to a bowl of that creamy tomato-ey stuff, and I knew I had to try to create a healthy homemade version. While pursing around, I found a few recipes, but decided to see what could happen if I ventured off on my own. I made a big batch and figured the leftovers would be perfectly tucked away in the freezer for a rainy day.
The recipe is easy enough, and as I said, this makes a mongo-big batch, but I guarantee your family will eat it up before you have to toss any into freezer bags.
And, it passed the food tyrant test. My tot gobbled it up, and even asked for seconds.
1 28-ounce can of tomato sauce – whatever kind you like, but plain and cheap is best
3 cups water
1 garlic clove minced
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
14 ounces Anillos (small ringed pasta)
How to make them
Start by giving the Anillos a pre-boil in a big pot of boiling water for about 10-minutes. While the little rings are simmering away, you can assemble the sauce in another stockpot. Can’t find Anillos? You could use mini shells or tiny elbow macaroni, too.
Add the sauce, garlic, pepper, salt, and sugar to the blender and give a good whirr. This breaks up any clumps in your sauce and really incorporates the seasonings. I used a nice basic non-chunky tomato sauce and was very happy with the results.
Now add the tomato mixture to the pot along with the water and stir. Turn the heat to medium and let the sauce warm up.
After 10-minutes, drain the pasta and return it to its original pot. Add the butter and stir to coat using its residual heat. Those little circles of pasta will soak in that yummy buttery goodness.
Go ahead and slowly add the rings to the tomato sauce and let simmer for about 20-minutes making sure to stir every 5-minutes or so to ensure the pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
Give your pasta a taste test and check the seasonings. If you want more salt, add a sprinkle. If you would prefer things to be more garlicky, shake on some garlic salt…
Also, check the sauce consistency. Your pasta should have soaked up all that yummy sauce, but if things are still too watery, you can let everything simmer for another 10-minutes or so.
But, if you are good with how things are shaping up, it’s time to add the finishing touches. Turn off the heat and add the milk and shredded cheddar and then stir. The milk gives everything that great creamy taste and the cheese helps hold things together – and it’s cheese. Anything with cheese is good stuff.
What’s great about this recipe is it’s really basic, and you can adjust, add-too, and change-up however you like. Sure, it’s not going to taste exactly like the canned stuff, but, heck, you made it!
Your homemade spaghetti-OHS are ready to eat! If there are any leftovers, fill a few plastic bags with single servings and pop in the freezer to enjoy later.
* She ate the whole bowl.
*AND, if you love this recipe, check out my white bean mac-n-cheese recipe!
I always seem to have a stack of old magazines cluttering a corner of our living room. I’ve leafed through them, torn pages for my own inspiration, and then completely forgotten about them. The other day my daughter pulled those magazines down from our entryway table and was sitting and turning the glossy pages while trying to understand it all out. I sat down next to her, figuring they were getting one last hurrah before heading off to the recycling bin.
But, wait! We could use them for something else!
People have been rolling up paper beads since forever. The art of making paper beads really hit it big in England during Victorian times when ladies would gather to roll scraps of wallpaper and then thread onto lengths of string to create beaded curtains. Then, during the 1920’s, the art became popular in the United States as a trendy way to make cheap and interesting beads for jewelry.
And, it’s really easy to roll them up.
All you need to create your own paper beads are magazines, scissors, glue, and a chopstick or small wooden dowel – a toothpick would even work. Kids of all ages can enjoy this project and there’s no end to the different ways to cut, glue, and roll up paper beads!
Invite your child to tear out pages from old magazines that have interesting colors, pictures, or are filled with big or small letters. She can make a stack of all the sheets she wants to use for creating her beads.
Now your child can cut long triangles, about 1-inch wide at the base, from the magazines. Start cutting at the bottom of the page and end with the triangle point at the top.
She’s ready to get rolling! Coat one side of the triangle with glue and place a chopstick at the widest end. Now tightly roll the magazine bead, ending at the tip of the triangle.
Gently slide the rolled bead off the chopstick and let dry. It’s that easy!
Your child can experiment with cutting different widths, lengths and shapes of paper while making more recycled magazine beads. The dry creations can be strung on a length of colorful string or ribbon.
Today the temps hit the upper 90’s – so we headed out for a walk early this morning to enjoy the neighborhood…
With the Fourth of July right around the corner, I found myself scrambling around trying to come up with the perfect celebratory project or tastiest thing to eat. But, with a toddler, the holiday is bit confusing. Sure, there are parties, ice cream, popcorn, fireworks, and hotdogs to enjoy, but understanding the whole patriotic thing? Yeah, that’s a bit of a stretch.
For Father’s Day, we went to the hubs’ favorite burger place, and on the drive home (while still licking our fingers) we both commented on how the pickles really made those hamburgers. The sweet tang cut through the fatty burgers creating a complete mouth full-o-happy that lingered for hours.
So, I figured whipping up a batch of sweet pickles would be the perfect accompaniment to any Fourth of July function we ended up attending, or to top burgers at home. Either way is a win-win.
These pickles are so easy to make and keep in the fridge for a month or two. But, I’m sure you’ll eat them all before then….
1-2 large cucumbers
4 cups water
2 tbsp salt
3/4-cup rice wine vinegar
1/2-teaspoon whole fennel seeds
2 large cloves garlic
What you do
Start by getting your brine ready to go. A brine is a salty/sweet liquid that has been used for years and years to preserve food. It can be more salty than sweet or super sweet, whichever you like. For these pickles, the sweet takes over.
Add all the ingredients, minus the cucumber, to a saucepan and get simmering over medium heat. You can let things bubble away for at least 10-minutes or as long as 30.
While your brine is simmering, start slicing the cucumber. You can create super thin slices like I did using a mandoline, or big chunks. Either way works wonderfully.
Wash your jars with hot soapy water and make sure they are totally dry. I like putting mine on a towel before adding the hot liquid, just incase there’s a spill.
Now pack those jars with the cucumbers. You can add other goodies like sliced onion, baby carrots, slivers of red pepper, or even chunks of celery. It’s fun to experiment with different veggies!
Go ahead and give your brine a taste. If it tastes good now, just think how amazing your pickles will be! Adjust seasoning to your liking by adding a shot more vinegar or a few shakes of salt.
I like to strain my brine before filling the jars, but you can ladle straight from the saucepan over the cucumbers. Fill right up to the top of the jars and then secure the lids.
Let the sweet pickles hang out on the counter for a couple of hours and then pop in the fridge overnight. They are ready to go the next day – but the longer they sit, the better they get!
Happy Fourth of July!