Sunday, April 6, 2014

Hawaii Homeschool and a Little Bread

Apologies in advance.  This is a little heavy on the homeschool, but there is a delicious treat in the end...

     We're on our way to Hawai'i again soon.  Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.  Hate me because I'm going to Hawai'i without you again.  But don't worry, I've got a way for you to have a little taste of Hawai'i's bounty in your own kitchen.  I have been avoiding sugar for about a month because I read a bunch of Internet junk about probiotics and gut flora and sugar monsters.  It's been a pretty fun experiment, actually.  So I endeavored to make a cake that 1) featured Hawaiian food, 2) didn't fail like my Internet-famous last experiment, and 3) didn't have any sugar in it.  What resulted was a great bread, not really a cake, but totally snarfable with a little butter.  Honey optional.

     But first, for all my homeschool Mamas out there, I revamped our Hawaiian unit because I found such great resources about Kauai, the island we're visiting this year. 

     I based our studies around a workbook I found on Amazon called Holoholo i Kauai.  There are lots of pages with interesting facts, but I found two of the pages required you to know the fables of how certain geographical features came to be, and I didn't know how the stories went!  There are many different tales apparently about each feature, but they all have similar basis.  One story is about how NouNou mountain came to be.  It looks like a giant lying on his back.  I found this nicely illustrated version on Amazon: The Sleeping Giant.  I also found several stories online, which lined up a little better with what went with the workbook version.  The other story in the workbook is about the Spouting Horn blowhole.  Teller of Tales, Stories from Kauai was a great resource for this study with three stories, one about the blowhole and two about the Menehune (another page in the workbook).  Again, the story in the workbook doesn't quite line up with the story from the book so I supplemented with online material.  I used the discrepancies to illustrate oral tradition and storytelling embellishment but we talked about how the stories had many similarities, too.

Two-week Kauai Study Unit for 5-8 year olds

Day 1: Read Legend of the Sleeping Giant, HawaiiWeb and GoHawaii and do p. 2 of Holoholo i Kauai
Day 2: Learn Hawaiian State Symbols and do Holoholo p. 3
Day 3: Read Yesterday's Rain, Holoholo page 4
Day 4: Watch Crash Course in World History #27 on You Tube and do p. 12
Day 5: Study Wailua River and do p. 19
Day 6: Read Teller of Tales, Stories from Kauai stories The Ale Koko Fishpond p 248 and The Ditch the Menehunes built p 97 and do p 13
Day 7: Learn about Wimea Canyon and do p. 16
Day 8: Hawiian Word Book pg 28-29 do pg 9 and 14
Day 9: Read Teller of Tales, Stories from Kauai p 208 HawaiiWeb and GoHawaii and do p. 10
Day 10: Review landmarks discussed and show on a map.  Holoholo means an aimless walk for pleasure.  Walk your fingers around the map to all the places you have learned about!

Amazon Videos about Kauai (Free for Prime Members)
Passport to Adventure: Kauai Hawaii's Garden
Travel with Kids Hawaii: The Island of Kauai

Putamayo Kids Hawai'ian Playground

We also watched Jurassic Park and Raiders of the Lost Ark since large portions of them were filmed on Kauai, but I must say, Raiders is a little much for my two.

There is so, so, so much more to see and learn about Kauai!  I've got lots more landmarks listed on my Kauai Pinterest Board.  I hope we can see at least half of them!

If you want to see my other units on Maui, and the Big Island, they are not as detailed, but available for all to see.  Don't forget to check out your library to see how many of these resources you can find there!

And now... finally... the Bread...

Kauaian Coffee Bread
3 C flour
1 T baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 C sour cream or plain yogurt
3 eggs, separated
5 T melted and cooled coconut oil + more for greasing
2 pureed bananas (1 C)1/2 C cooled Kauai coffee (available at Trader Joe's)
1 C minced dried pineapple (no sugar)
1/2 C chopped macadamia nuts
1 T lemon zest (optional)
1/4 C coconut chips (no sugar)

     Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease two loaf pans with coconut oil and dust lightly with flour.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Stir in oil, egg yolks, sour cream or yogurt, bananas and coffee.  Stir in nuts, pineapple, and zest. Whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Slowly fold egg whites into batter.  Divide evenly between the pans and sprinkle the tops with coconut chips.  Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick removes cleanly.  If the chips get too brown, cover with some foil.  Let cool briefly, then run a knife around the bread and turn out onto a cooling rack.

You can also make this batter into muffins.  I think each half would make 10-12, so you aught to get about 24 total.  Bake for 15 minutes.
My kids actually love this.  It's kinda crazy.  It's not super sweet so I didn't think they'd go for it.  My youngest won't touch a regular muffin with a 10 foot pole (go figure, right?) and he begged me for these.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Gathered Table

     A friend of mine has a new job.  It's a freaking exciting new job.  He's on the staff of a start-up menu planning service called Gathered Table.  It's founded by a former Starbucks heavyweight, Mary Egan (her bio has lots of interesting sounding job titles that I'm not even a little bit qualified to comprehend, but it generally sounds like she's got her sh*t together.  Unlike me.  I think I found a piece of toast in my bra today.  I have to say "I think" because I didn't eat toast today.  This is why I am not qualified for many, many things in life.  Bra toast.) 

Because I am my friend's friend and he is awesome, my husband and I were invited to the launch party.

 There was cheese.  You know how I love my cheese.

     Hello, Seattle.  Wanna tiny cupcake?  Gathered Table is also launching in Boston, LA, Chicago, San Francisco, and New York.  I guess you other cities can have a cupcake too.  But it doesn't mean I have to like it.

     Gathered Table is really just in the initial start-up phase.  I think you still have to be invited to join.  It uses your own favorite recipes (either typed in manually or snipped from the web) and the contents of your pantry to help create your meal plan for the week.  They also have on-staff nutritionists and other foodie wizard people churning out new recipes to try.  But what I can't wait for is their ultimate goal of having the food automatically delivered to your house.  They are working with CSA's and other local grocery delivery services to have your week's portion delivered to your door.  All you have to do is chop it up and boil it.  I am looking forward to when they've got it all up and running for realzies.  It's like floating car and robot maid time, finally.

(This doesn't have much to do with how the company runs, it was a little self-portrait craft just for fun, but I was proud of my little Kilroy selfie up there... Also, my husband is a rock-star.  Just sayin'.)

     So go give Gathered Table a once-over.  It's exciting to be on a ground level with so much potential.  If you haven't been able to focus on this whole post because I said, "Bra toast" in the first paragraph.  I'm sorry.  You're welcome.  Goodnight Seattle, I love you.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Call to Action...

     I've got some cool stuff to share this week, but first I want to please ask you to consider making a donation to the Red Cross on behalf of those affected by the landslide in Oso, WA.  It's not too far from where I live and it has just devastated that community.  There has been an outpouring of gifts of clothes and food into the area, gas cards and other physical necessities.  I even heard the story of a woman who has volunteered to wash all the laundry of the searchers at a local laundromat for as long as the search continues.  They are well covered now.  But in a few weeks, when the sensation dies down, there will still be need as roads, houses, and lives are re-built.  The best way I can think of to support them is with a non-perishable donation of money.  Additionally, I understand the local helicopter team that has been instrumental in the rescue efforts is about to close from lack of funding.  The Snohomish County Helicopter Rescue Team is down $150,000 after a lost funding stream. I plan to donate to them also.  Those of you with a soft spot for our fuzzy friends may wish to make a donation to Puget Sound Animal Welfare Rescue and Education as they help those four-legged survivors.  If you don't see something interesting here, a local radio station has compiled a complete list of all the ways to donate money and time.

Thank you for your consideration...

Crackers on the Couch

Monday, March 10, 2014

The ol' Blue and Gold.

     When I was a kid I had absolutely no interest in being a Girl Scout.  I didn't know what they did, except every now and then, they'd show up at school in their uniforms and apparently they sold cookies, though I don't think my folks ever bought any.  (I made up for this in college by buying and consuming an entire childhood's worth of Thin Mints every year on the first day of sales.  This was how I learned that eating an entire childhood's worth of mint extract makes my tummy feel funny.  And by "funny" of course, I mean "rolling around on the bed moaning in agony while still shoving Thin Mints in my face." This may or may not have helped solidify my complete lack of excitement about Girl Scouts.)  But anyway, what I really wanted to be was a Boy Scout.

     My brother was a Cub Scout for about 30 seconds when we were kids.  He went to a few meetings, made a pinewood derby car, we went to a Jamboree one year, and I think that was pretty much it for him.  But we got Boy's Life for years and years and I loved them.  There was some kind of comic about a burro and I'm pretty sure Boy's Life is where I learned how to install insulation.  You know... Like you do. 

     One of my greatest hopes for my boys is that they would want to join the scouts when they were old enough and last week we went to my son's very first meeting.  He is beside himself.  My little one is a grumbling ball of jealousy.  Fortunately, the second meeting he attended was the Blue and Gold Banquet which is for families.  My youngest was amazed by the theatrics, my eldest mostly wanted to run around like a monkey with all his new friends, while I was mostly sitting there bursting my goshdarn buttons.

     Our den's offering for the banquet was spaghetti and seeing as how it was my son's very first one and how it was only our second meeting and how I was so goshdarn proud and all, I decided to make homemade sauce.

Blue and Gold Pasta Sauce
22 Roma tomatoes
1 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large onion (about 12 oz), chopped roughly
8 oz small sweet peppers, sliced into 1/4 inch rings (about 2 1/2 C)
8 oz baby bella mushrooms, chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 C mixed olive tapenade (opt)
2 Tbs tomato paste
3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 C sliced, frozen artichoke hearts (still frozen)
4 Tbs chopped fresh basil
1 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp thyme

Cut X's in the bottoms of tomatoes and broil until skins begin to brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool until you can touch them.  Remove peels and set tomatoes aside.  In a large stock pot, heat olive oil.  Cook onion until slightly brown and softening, then add peppers and mushrooms.  Cook until soft.  Make a small well in the middle of the veggies and add garlic to the dry pan, heat until scent blooms and stir in.  Stir in tomatoes and olives.  Cook until tomatoes have softened, about an hour.  Add salt, pepper, tomato paste and artichoke hearts.  Heat a little more until hearts have warmed up.  Remove from heat and stir in fresh herbs.  Makes enough to coat 1 16oz bag of pasta well.

My youngest, aka Mr. Idonlikeit, ate three helpings of this pasta at the banquet and hasn't turned his nose up at leftovers, either.  When I was making it, I ate a solid cup of it with a fork before I even got the pasta ready.  This stuff is serious, ya'll.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Mexicanesque Corn

Great for Mexican night.  Corn, jalapeno, mushrooms, and cilantro.

     I know it's not completely seasonal, but if you've got a bit of corn in your freezer right now this is just the thing to do with it.  Especially if you like a nice burrito every now and then!  My kids like a nice burrito three times a week at least.  This corn makes a nice side or filler.  I'm not sure if much of the food we eat in the states really qualifies as authentic Mexican but this goes with burritos, so I'm calling it "Mexicanesque."  This is so quick to put together, if you're a quick chopper, you could have this on your plate in 15 minutes. 

Mexicanesque Corn
1 tsp olive oil
1 C chopped mushrooms
3/4 C chopped onion
2 Tbs diced jalapeño
1 Tbs minced garlic
1 lb frozen or fresh corn
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 C fresh cilantro, minced

Heat oil in a large skillet and add mushrooms and onion.  Cook until onion has begun to brown and mushrooms are soft.  Add jalapeño and garlic and cook about 20 seconds until garlic has released its fragrance.  Add corn.  Cook until corn has warmed up.  If a few kernels begin to brown, all the better!  Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.  Stir in cilantro just before serving.

Corn, Mushrooms, Onions, Garlic, Jalapeno, Cilantro

This one was a hit with everyone for once!  Add a little more jalapeño or cilantro as you see fit!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Love Muffins...

     I never buy strawberries this time of year.  They're gross, flavorless, and grown in another country.  However, the other day I was at a store and saw a beautiful display of berries.  They smelled so good.  They called to me in their foreign accents.  They promised sweet kisses and healthy indulgence.  When I got them home and washed them off what they actually delivered was a tender mixture of almost bad and not quite ripe.  I'm not sure how that's even possible.  One of my kids said they tasted like oranges the other said they tasted like nothing, but the overall impression was that they had lied to me the way most off-season produce does: Enormous, Cosmic Promises, itty-bitty return on investment.

     Fortunately, I know what to do with lying fruit: give it a little sugar.  These muffins are a great addition to breakfast for your sugar on Valentine's day, too!

Strawberry Orange Muffins

3-4 C cubed strawberries
1/2 C sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 C white flour
1/2 C wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 C sugar
1 egg
1/4 C oil
zest of one orange

Coat the cubed strawberries with the sugar and cinnamon and let sit for 1-8 hours.  Preheat oven to 350° and line about 16 cupcake tins with paper liners.  Combine flours, baking powder and sugar.  Add egg, oil, strawberry mixture (including any liquid that has released) and zest.  Stir till well combined.  Portion out into cups and bake for about 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

These are so simple to make, you can whip them up for your Valentine in no time.  The orange really accents the strawberry well.  I like them warm or cold and so does my family!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Single Serving...

     I have gotten several e-mails over the years from readers who are in the same boat I am: the only vegetarian in the raft.  A lot of times we end up either making an entire vegetarian meal or falling back on store-bought entrees so we're not making two entire meals at the same time.  It can be daunting.

     A few of years ago, when I started getting concerned about GMO's, I also read an article condemning the extraction process in most soy products as a cancer-causing air pollutant (The Cornucopia Institute).  And when I started participating in October Unprocessed I cut nearly all pre-processed soy products completely.  Sometimes I'll have a Boca at a restaurant if I can't get anything else, but I haven't bought a box of soy burgers in years.  Soy lecithin is harder to avoid, that stuff's in everything, but I do what I can.  What that translates to in the kitchen is lots of beans.  Beans!  Beans for everyone!  Whee!  At this moment, I've got at least three different kinds of lentils in my pantry, and I don't even want to hazard a guess as to how many other bean varieties I've got hanging around in there.  Even with a pressure cooker, beans take time and honestly, every now and then I'd like a good burger with everybody else.

Single-serving mushroom burger recipe

     This lead me on my quest to find a good homemade veggie burger recipe.  There are lots of recipes out there.  The problem is they usually make, like, 47 burgers, they're bland and mooshy, and between all the shredding and boiling and resting they take forever.  I wanted something that I could make quickly, didn't require pre-cooking, and didn't taste like a soggy pile of oatmeal and beans.

     So, I came up with my own recipe one night because I was desperate.  And you know what?  It's pretty darn good!  The best part is I can make one large patty or two medium ones and cook it in the time it takes for my family's burgers to fry in a pan.  This makes more of a "batter" than a "patty" so it's not one to make on the grill, but I bet it bakes up pretty well if you're in the mood for that.  The one caveat for this recipe is that I've got a small food chopper style food processor.  I'm not sure how well this would work with a larger processor.

Single serving vegetarian or vegan burger recipe.

Single-Serving Mushroom Burger

8 button mushrooms, quartered (about 4 ounces)
1/4 C onion (1 oz)
2 small garlic cloves
1 handful organic low salt blue corn chips (1 oz)
1 tsp oil
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

fresh herbs like thyme or finely chopped rosemary
sub the button mushrooms for the same amount of crimini mushrooms

In a small food processor, chop the corn chips until a fine meal forms.  (Or, leave bigger chunks if you like a little crunch in your burger.  I like it both ways.)  Pour chip crumbs out and reserve.  Put mushrooms, onion, and garlic in the processor and grind until finely chopped.  Add egg, oil, salt and pepper and herbs if desired.  Process until well combined and veggies are pureed well.  Pour chip crumbs in and process until combined.  Pour as much of the mixture as you need into a frying pan and fry in a pan with a little bit of oil for 5-10 minutes.


Make this vegan by substituting 2 Tbs chia seed ground and mixed with 1/4 C water.  It makes more of a patty, but it does change the flavor.  I suggest adding a teaspoon of fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary.

If you are one of the lucky families out there who raises their own chickens or has access to various size eggs, a smaller egg is better in this than a larger one.  If all you can get are the XL eggs in the grocery, they will definitely work, it will just make a larger portion.

If you have extra, I've got a recipe coming for that very soon.


This little patty is so good, my kids actually begged me to have the one I made for these pictures for dinner!  I don't love the vegan version as much, but it's definitely edible and still much better than most.

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