Monday, September 21, 2009

Sorry I don't have new photos up

Our external hard drive went kaput. Yes, that's right. All of our precious photos are inaccessible at the moment, but hopefully not lost forever. And this happens just in time -- I was just about to make some photo books, post our Hawaii photos, share camp photos...waaah!

Stefan speaks!

Stefan was off to a slow start speaking, but I wasn't ever really concerned, though other people, including our pediatrician, were. Now, he's coming up with so many words each day. Today, he surprised me with "pink" when he pointed to his oil pastel (he also said "orange," but he's done that before). And yes, give your kids good art supplies now. Crayons are boring and pretty colorless compared to pastels, markers, and good colored pencils (Prismacolor are my favorites -- pricey, but check clearance sections in art stores). Anyways, Stefan also can recognize and recite eight letters of the alphabet and the numbers 1,2,4,5, and 8. When I'm homeschooling Maylin, he will often repeat what Maylin is spelling or reciting. How exciting! I know some kids Stefan's age are probably already speaking full sentences, but I'm not worried. Stefan can point to and say "steam" and recognize a multitude of objects, including construction equipment and vegetation. He also says "engine" for fire engine. Too cute!

Butternut Squash Bisque (an elegant soup)

A beautiful and delicious orange-colored soup. Use a good bread knife (serrated for trimming the skin off the squash and cutting it into rough cubes).

Version from 9/20/09

Ingredients:

1 medium-sized butternut squash (about 1.5 lbs.), cut into rough 1/2-inch cubes
2 T butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
3-5 cups hot chicken broth
1/4-1/2 t. ground white pepper
salt
extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 cups water
chives, finely chopped, for garnish (the tiny, tubular kind, not garlic chives)
sour cream (optional)

Directions:

Heat olive oil in large pot. Add onion and cook until softened (try not to brown), about 5 minutes. Add butternut squash, 3 cups chicken broth, and 1/4 t. white pepper. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes until tender. Let cool slightly. Transfer half to food processor and puree. Pour into large bowl. Puree remainder and pour back into pot. Add first half to pot. You may need to add 1-2 more cups of chicken broth if it's too thick. You can refrigerate and serve the next day. I served the same day. Before serving, bring to boil again, reduce heat and simmer for a little bit. At this point, I add a little olive oil to make it shiny and smooth, add water as necessary (I don't want it to be a squash puree, but a soup consistency). Add up to 1/4 t. more of the white pepper if you can't taste it, and salt, if necessary. Serve with an optional dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of the chives. Gorgeous!

Pan-Roasted Veggie Lasagna Recipe

This recipe was requested by a friend. I used the lasagna and Italian tomato sauce recipes from Mollie Katzen's The New Moosewood Cookbook as the basis for this recipe. Major difference is that her veggies were not pan-roasted which is why I think she adds honey to her sauce. I will omit the honey next time, since the pan-roasting sweetens the vegetables. Also, with this recipe, feel free to oven-roast the vegetables and make any necessary substitutions. I substitute ALL the time.

Let's start with the sauce. (As with any recipe, read through BEFORE proceeding).

Pan-Roasted Veggie Tomato Sauce (this version made 9/20/09)

Full of flavor and slightly sweet -- you won't miss the meat!

Ingredients:

2 red bell peppers, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
about 6 organic fancy zucchini (the small ones)
about 1 lb. medium white mushrooms, thinly sliced
about 6 organic fancy zucchini (the small ones)
1 yellow onion, diced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
handful of flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, finely chopped
handful of fresh basil, finely chopped
6 organic dry-farmed tomatoes (small), roughly chopped
2 cans of organic diced tomatoes (or one large 28 oz. can)
1 can of tomato paste
1 T. honey (I'll leave out next time)
extra-virgin olive oil
salt
4 t. dried basil
freshly ground pepper
very fine garlic powder (I can only find this as Costco -- the stuff usually found in the supermarket is too coarse and doesn't taste fresh)
1-4 cups of water

Directions:

Okay, this is a bit labor intensive, but I think, is worth it. Oven-roasting may be much faster as you'll probably be able to fit more veggies in your oven at one time than you can in a skillet. Try 400 degrees for 20-40 minutes, until slightly browned (or charred).

I pan-roasted the veggies individually because over-crowding in your pan will prevent the ingredients from browning -- they'll just end up sitting in a wet soup. Put about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in your skillet (I happened to use a Dutch oven) and cook one of your bell peppers over medium high heat. Add a little salt and garlic powder halfway through. Cook until browning starts happening. Remove to a large bowl. Do the same with the other bell peppers. Do the same with 3 zucchini at a time. Then, do the same with the onion and mushrooms (I threw them in together for no real reason -- to save time, maybe? maybe the pan-roasting thing was getting a little old?). Keeping the onion and mushrooms in the pan (oh wait, these guys didn't get the garlic powder treatment, but I did add the dried basil, fresh basil, and parsley here, before doing the next step), add back the other veggies, the canned tomatoes, the fresh tomatoes, the tomato paste, the honey (if you want), and 1-2 cups of water (to your liking since it will depend on how juicy your tomatoes are -- the dry-farmed ones are sweet and flavorful, and not watery like typical salad tomatoes).

Stir, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Season as desired with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and simmer for 10 more minutes. You're done! I put it in the fridge after cooling since I was doing my lasagna assembly the next day.

Lasagna assembly:

Ingredients:

12 lasagna noodles (I used De Cecco, but usually use Barilla), uncooked
2 cups organic lowfat cottage cheese (one container)
1 lb. grated mozarella
nearly all of the sauce above

Heat oven to 375 degrees. (I reheated my sauce on the stove, thinking it would help the noodles cook faster. Also, I added 1-2 cups more water because the sauce was looking too thick.) In a 9x13 dish (mine was glass and slightly bigger by a half-inch on both sides), put a little bit of the sauce. Lay down four noodles, put down half of the cottage cheese on top -- in blobs, about a third of the sauce, and then a third of the mozarella. Another four noodles, the rest of the cottage cheese, a third of the sauce, and then a third of the mozarella. The last four noodles, followed by the sauce and the mozarella (I omitted the parmesan because I forgot to buy it!).

Place in oven, loosely covered with foil, for 40 minutes. Then, remove the foil, raise the temperature to 425 degrees, and bake for another 10 minutes. It should brown nicely on top and be bubbly throughout (I had to turn mine around because the front wasn't bubbling -- oven cooler in the front). Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing and enjoying!

The assembly is fun if you do all the hard work, meaning, the sauce, the day before.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Free skeleton cut-out

I thought I'd share with you a fun project that is totally free and educational! I hope I'll have time later to flesh out the details for you, but here's a general overview. You can probably figure it out. You'll need a scanner/printer, hole punch, brass fasteners, glue or glue stick, scissors, and a large cereal box (I used the front and back of a Costco Cheerios box).

Step one:

Print out this skeleton cut-out:

http://www.benjerry.com/fun/halloween/assets/images/skeleton.gif

Step two:

You can stick with this size, though you'll end up with a smaller, 12-inch tall skeleton. Or, to get a nice, 24-inch tall one, you can cut out your needed pieces (I eliminated the bones holding ice cream) and print out, enlarging 200%. You will have to print out the skull/rib cage/pelvis twice (upper and lower) to get the entire length of it. The other pieces I scanned in 3"x4" or 3"x5" blocks (example, scanned an upper arm bone, a lower arm bone with hand, and knee caps together).

Step three:

Glue your pieces onto the cardboard cereal box and cut out.

Step four:

Punch out holes and insert brass fasteners.

Step five:

Play with your skeleton, learn about your skeleton (this link has a nicely-labeled skeleton: http://teachhealthk-12.uthscsa.edu/curriculum/bones/pa12pdf/1202A-all.pdf), and/or hang it up with a string or stick it onto the wall.

Hope to include some photos when Maylin begins work on it!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Blog revival starts now!

Well, hello, stranger! It's been a long time since I've blogged. Seems I've taken a long summer vacation off. But, I think it's time to come back now that things are starting to settle.

To recap the summer, I hosted two weeks of camp at my house for seven of Maylin's friends each time. We had a lot of fun learning Chinese songs, playing games, doing arts and crafts, running around outside at a nearby playground, cooking, and baking. The most popular activities included food -- making lemonade (in June), cutting and eating a pineapple (Mr. Pineapple, to be exact -- he got a haircut), making whole wheat waffles, and baking a whole wheat quickbread (gotta send out the recipe soon). The second week was a lot easier since I had a better rhythm, knew how long activities took and which activities were more successful, and had a better group dynamic and gender balance. I got rave reviews from the kids -- "best camp ever." I would still make changes if I continued this next summer -- fewer kids, shorter day. Instead of 9-4 pm, I'd end at 3 pm. Fewer kids because I want to get to know each child better. I'd also have more activities in the afternoon -- one craft, one cooking activity, and a playground trip wasn't enough. They enjoyed their free time, but I think, in retrospect, it was too much free time. I prefer to have a bit more control.

John took me to Hawaii for our real honeymoon and I took the kids to Seattle to visit my best friend (more later, and pics later, too -- just having problems with my external hard drive). Seattle pics are on my flickr site, actually.

Maylin and I started homeschooling in August. It's been fun, but a lot of work. Looking forward to sharing the details with you later. Our latest successes included counting by two's hopscotch-style in the house forwards and backwards up to 40 (we have a concrete floor and used the sidewalk chalk on it), coloring/cutting/pasting vital organs onto Maylin's traced body, and visiting the Bone Room in Albany yesterday to check out their various animal skeletons and insect specimens (which are the vertebrates?). Our favorite way to study math? On the couch, cuddling each other, and our workbooks and pencils. Stefan is pretty good with all of this. He's learning at the same time -- knows lots of his letters and numbers already. And he plays on his own so well. Perfect for homeschooling.

Maylin's also resumed her Chinese classes, started karate, and will be taking a chess class starting Friday. I'm also trying to get back into piano with her (she wrote her own song and I taught her how to play it!). That was a cool experience.

She also loves doing science experiments. For a few days, we were doing one a day, complete with written lab reports! I just love it when she says, "I love science!" or "I love math!"

Maylin writes, but I think I'm behind with grammar and phonics. MadLibs are really helpful, but I think I need to step back a little. I can't keep reminding her what an adjective is. She's got to learn it. I'll think of some fun way. Maybe we can stick the words on our bodies. I could be the noun, and she could look for adjectives to stick on herself, and then she could stand next to me in the correct position.

My precious morning hours are almost over. Time to bake bread for our charter school (supporting our homeschooling) potluck. Take care!