Monday, January 28, 2013

Build Your Own Lunch

Build Your Own Lunch

If your kids are anything like mine, they love to be hands-on in the kitchen. So I thought I would go ahead and let them build their own lunch. The peanut butter sandwich quarters are what is meant for the "building", but there are other yummies on their plates as well:
  • Cucumber slices
  • Peanut butter sandwich (I used my own homemade white bread and organic, all-natural peanut butter)
  • cucumber slices

Toppings they can choose from in the wood bowls:           

  • banana slices
  • sweetened dried cranberries
  • unsweetened shredded coconut
  • white chocolate chips

RULES! Yes, you may need RULES for this lunch. I could already foresee 4 peanut butter squares topped with chocolate chips and that would be that.  So, my rule (Yea, only one was really necessary but you will be the judge for your own little ones, hee, hee!) was ONLY ONE SQUARE CAN HAVE CHIPS. Done. For the other 3 squares, get creative! 


Saturday, January 26, 2013

"Noodles" and "Sauce"

"Noodles" and Sauce

I am sure you noticed the very clever quotation marks in the title. You get the impression there aren't any actual noodles in this recipe, don't you? Well, my friend, indeed you are correct. There are no noodles in this recipe. In fact, the noodles are thinly sliced zucchini. 

This recipe is easy and jam-packed with veggies. Its nothing fancy but it is tasty and was a huge hit with my mob of little ones. 

Here is what I used:

The starting line up: ghee, green pepper, garlic, grape tomatoes, mushrooms, onion, carrot, 2 zucchini and strained tomatoes. 

I love using these strained tomatoes because the ONLY thing in the jar is TOMATOES! 

FIrst I made the "noodles". Slice the zucchini. I used a mandolin and made these nice even strands. Salt the zucchini and move into a colander. Some water will be released and drain off. Set aside and start the sauce. 

*While slicing the zucchini on the mandolin, you can stop once you hit the seeds, turn it and continue slicing. Not including the seeds will give you firmer "noodles". I sliced right through and included the seeds. It was still a big hit.

Next I heated the olive oil in a large pan and then added the onions. I like to sauté until the onions are translucent. Then I added the garlic, peppers, mushrooms, carrots and grape tomatoes. I let all those friends hang out a bit, get relaxed, then I added the strained tomatoes, spices, salt and pepper. I covered it up and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes.  

In another pan, I heated the ghee. I added the zucchini to the pan and sautéd it until it softens but not until mushy. 

The "noodles" and sauce are ready! We added some baked meatballs made with shredded carrots. You could add parmesan cheese, too. Super tasty meal and really good for you! My kiddies gobbled it up!

Ingredients for "Noodles":

2 large zucchini
1 Tbsp of ghee

Ingredients for the Sauce:

2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 of a large onion
1/2 of a large pepper (like the monster in the picture) other wise use a whole pepper
1 cup of chopped mushrooms
1 cup of grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 large carrot, shredded
3 1/2 cups strained tomatoes
1 Tbsp oregano
2 tsp parsley
1 1/2 tsp rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

Monday, January 21, 2013

Preschool Activities for "The Mitten"


Preschool Activities for "The Mitten"

It is winter time! Winter means breaking out some great winter-themed stories. One of my favorites is The Mitten, by Jan Brett. I put together a few reading extension activities to do with my two oldest and thought I would share! 

Writing Practice with Sight Word "the":

This is an activity I found on a Kindergarten blog called Kindergarten Rocks! which is awesome, by the way. My little ones are ages 3 and 4 so I adapted one of the great ideas on that blog to make it work for us. To begin, I read The Mitten to the little ones as a bedtime story one night and then again the next morning. After that they got to color and cut out the animals from the story. (Click this link for the Jan Brett website. There you will find lots of print out and even other activities.) I prepared the large mittens and wrote the first two words, leaving the blank line and tons of space for the kiddies to glue their animal pictures. 

Before setting the kids to task on the writing portion, I modeled completing the sentence on my own mitten. Then both Big Sister and Brother took a turn reading it back to me and spelling the word "the". After that they wrote their own sentences followed by gluing on their animals. Each child had 4 mittens in order to have a sentence for each animal in the story. To conclude this task, Big Sister and Brother took turns reading their completed sentences. For example, the above sentence would read, "In went the badger." I loved this activity and I think they did, too. 

Rhyming Word Match:

We have been doing some work with Word Families so this next activity fit in perfectly. I drew and cut out mittens and then wrote a bunch of rhyming words on the front. I used words from both Word Families the kiddies were very familiar with and some that were new to them. I laid them out on the "snow" (aka "the floor"), 4 pairs at a time. Then it was time to find the pairs. The little ones used a combination of sounding out the words and looking for words that belonged to the same Word Family as strategies for finding which words were part of the same pair. They had to say each word (sometimes with grown up support) before hanging them on the line to "dry". 

Brother found a match. I think Big SIster is proud. 

Teamwork to get the mittens on the line to "dry". 

This was a really fun activity and the kiddies were able to experience a great deal of success in completing it. 

Color Match

If you are learning your colors at your house, this might work better for you. So easy to cut out a bunch of matching color pairs, spread them out in the "snow" and let your little one pair them up. 

*Hint, hint: If you are new to making these kind of crafts at home, it is helpful to make a mitten pattern on a piece of card stock or cardboard and then use it to trace all the others. 

Alphabet Match

This is another straight forward activity but a fun one! This takes a lot of tracing and cutting out of mittens so enlist some help!  Write capital letters on half of the mittens and lowercase letters on the other half. If you use different color paper, be sure that the letter pairs that belong together are the same color. My kiddies have been doing activities like this one for a long time but they were still excited to do it again. The letters written on a mitten was a new fun twist and they excitedly found all the pairs. Then they asked to do it again! 

I hope you enjoyed checking out these ideas!  Thanks so much for reading! 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Banana Bites

Banana Bites

Healthy, easy and delicious! What else do you want in an afternoon snack? 

To make this snack I used:

     1 whole banana
     Almond butter
     Unsweetened, shredded coconut

After slicing the banana into bite-size pieces, I slathered on the almond butter and then sprinkled on the coconut as an extra treat. The coconut adds a nice, yummy texture to each little bite. This snack gives my two olders a nice little energy boost in the afternoon and usually holds them over until dinner. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Switching Gears

Switching Gears

 Ooooooh, it was chilly today! I think we hovered around the 30 degree mark at the warmest part of the day. It was cold but not cold enough to stay inside.  After a hearty breakfast I gathered up my happy little mob of hikers and headed over to a local trail at a park close by. We added on a couple of layers, zipped ourselves up and headed in. 

Deer tracks
Brother was our fearless leader today and was careful to point out all the interesting things we should take heed not to miss: an enormous fallen tree, the creek, a pretty bird. He is also developing a good eye to spot animal tracks in muddy spots on the trail. He spotted a bunch of deer tracks in different places and then another track we needed to debate a bit, dog or raccoon? We settled on dog, thank goodness. A raccoon with feet that size would be a reason to high tail it out of there. 

A rock Big Sis found on the
trail. We had to bring it home! 
It was so beautiful out. The air was crisp, it was quiet, pretty, the kiddies were stepping lively so I nestled into the notion that we were really going to bank a good 2 or 3 miles today. Awesome, right? I certainly thought so. But then it happened. Little Sis fussed for a minute. No big deal. Then fussed some more. Ok, start thinking. Is she hungry? Chilly? Let me tuck in that blanket maybe? I fix the blanket, lean in for a kiss or two and that was when I realized there was a game changer in the midst. We were barely a half mile in and I was loving the idea of getting some good distance in... but, stinky baby trumps great hike. I didn't want to admit it but we really had to turn around and head back.  Don't get me wrong, I am not afraid of a mid-hike diaper change, but not in 30-degree weather. No way that little tush was getting frostbite on my watch. So just like that, it was done. We turned around and headed back to the car. 

When we got home I wanted to extend our hiking experience a bit instead of moving on right away.  We talked about everything we saw today, the things Brother pointed out and all the colors that were around us. I got all of those colors out and let the olders recreate their hike today in a painting. 

This is "a HUGE tree in the forest". 

I love how the kiddies spent so much time on this one picture and diligently added all the details they spoke about before beginning this project. We certainly didn't get to log in a whole lot of miles today but it still turned out pretty well! 

Some very happy trees by Brother and a picture of herself on the trail by Big Sis.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Momma's Kale Chips

Momma's Kale Chips

Kale is a food I definitely try to work into a our menu as often as I can because it is just so nutritious.  Full of fiber, calcium, iron, antioxidants and Vitamins A, C, K, any parent would feel pretty good about feeding their young'ens this super food. Healthy or not, these kale chips are awfully yummy, too. I would say that is a win-win. Here is how it's done:

1. The first thing I do is grab a bunch of kale and start removing the center stem. I then take the big kale leaves and start chopping them into "chips". I usually shoot for 3-4 inch pieces.

2. From the chopping board, I toss everything into a bowl of  water to get any remaining dirt washed off.  I move the kale up and down in the water, dump the water and then repeat a few times until the water rinsing off is clear of any dirt particles.

3. I toss the kale with olive oil. Be careful not to over do it but you definitely want all the leaves to be coated. I then toss in the garlic powder and sea salt. The kale is now ready for the baking sheet. When placing it on the baking sheet, be sure to keep the kale in a single layer, not overlapping and not folded over.

4.After about 10 to 15 minutes in the oven, the kale is ready to enjoy. You want to edges to start to brown and the leaves to be crispy. If you find a few soggy ones, put them back in for another minute or two. Other than a few uncooperative kale chips, you should have a big bowl full of crispy yumminess!

If you plan on sharing with the young folks in your house, I recommend eating your share first. In our house, the bowl goes from full to empty in under 5 minute

1 bunch of kale
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of Sea Salt 
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder, or bit more to taste

1. Preheat the oven at 350 degrees F. Have two ungreased cookie sheets ready to go! 
2. Remove the stems from the kale and cut the leaves into pieces. Rinse the kale until clean. 
3. Toss the leaves with olive oil, salt, and garlic powder. Place on cookie sheet.
4. Bake at 350degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Keep a close eye on edges beginning to brown to be sure they don't burn. 
5. Share or don't share. The choice is yours. 


Perfect Day for a Hike

My sturdy hiking crew, Big Sis, Brother, Little Sis and me, the Momma 

Perfect Day for a Hike...

...but then again, I sort of feel that way most of the time. We really needed it today though. More than half of our happy little mob, including the Dad, have been suffering from flu-like symptoms for a week and we ALL have been suffering from a serious case of cabin-fever for about the same amount of time. So when everyone woke up feeling pretty close to healthy and it was a mild winter day, weather-wise, we decided to jump on the opportunity to get out and get hiking. 

We headed over to the NJ Audubon Plainsboro Preserve for the first time. Its a beautiful park with a really nice Nature Center right off of the parking lot. The hiking was pretty easy going, no elevation changes to speak of and the trails were all clearly marked. It was a good choice for us since we didn't know how long the mob would last having just been pretty sick and all. We almost had all the trails to ourselves and only passed a handful of other folks on our hike. The ground was soft from recent rain so we could spot a lot of animal tracks and even got to see a total of about 16 deer while we made our 2-mile trek.

The big draw for our two olders at this park was the potential for "treasure hunting"! For the last few months we have been geocaching more and more on our hikes and the kiddies love it! There are at least 16 caches inside this park but 8 in particular are part of  Ranger Rick's Geocaching Trails, a super way to introduce kids (and their grownups) to geocaching. Its the first time we came across Ranger Rick's caches and our crew loved it. You can go into the Nature Center before you begin your hike and the kids can grab a special passport to use to keep track of the caches they find. Every Ranger Rick cache you uncover has a particular stamp in it. The challenge is to collect all 8 stamps from the 8 different Ranger Rick caches and complete your passport. The Nature Center and Gift Shop at the Plainsboro Preserve will even give you a 10% discount off of an item if you bring in your completed passport. Kinda cool, right? There could be Ranger Rick Trails near you and they are worth trying out. Check out this link to download your own passport and find trails nearby.

I am so happy that we got up and got moving in this park today. It felt amazing to gather up all the kiddies and get outside. Like I said before, we needed it! Plus, we are determined to return and search out all of the Ranger Rick caches so the mob can complete their passports. What an awesome accomplishment that will be for my little hikers!

           Eureka! Big Sis and Brother spot a treasure!
                      Checking out the treasure box while the Dad signs the book.