Jan 18, 2013

Science + Art = Magic

Alright, confession time. I am a lazy mom. Entertaining kids all day is exhausting, especially when your oldest has the attention span of a... Well, a 2 year old. I am constantly on the lookout for entertaining, inexpensive projects to do with Isabel that will hold her attention for more than 30 seconds. Baby has had the flu this week, Isabel is on her second ear infection in a month, and I'm home with them today since they can't go to school and Nana is sick, too.

A while ago, I was inspired by my natural method of cleaning the drain in my kitchen sink - baking soda and vinegar. Baking soda is actually sodium bicarbonate , which, when dissolved in water separates into sodium and bicarbonate ions. Vinegar is acetic acid mixed in a solution of water. So, when you add vinegar to baking soda, you get an interesting reaction. (It's slightly more complicated than I wish to describe here, but if you want to know the full story, check out this great explanation here )

So, a little vinegar dropped into baking soda makes a big fizzle, and in turn, captures the attention of a two year old who has not been still for more than a millisecond the entire time I have been typing this explanation.

What you will need for this "experiment":
- 9x13 baking dish
- baking soda
- vinegar (I had a large bottle of regular on hand, but perhaps apple cider vinegar might smell a little better)
- food coloring
- small bowls
- droppers (found them on amazon for about $5 for 12, but I had a couple old baby medicine dispensers that worked great)
- apron or large shirt to protect your clothing as food coloring is hard to get out

Line the bottom of the baking dish with a thin layer of baking soda.
In the small bowls, mix a little vinegar (maybe 1/4 cup) with a few drops of food coloring.
Once your kiddo's clothes are sufficiently protected, put the baking dish in front of them with the small bowls of colored vinegar.
Teach them how to suck the liquid into the droppers and then drop it onto the baking soda and watch it fizz!

If you have small ones, this does require some adult supervision. While the ingredients themselves are not dangerous, the food coloring has a tendency to stain. Isabel got a little too excited and started shaking the dropper and it got all over her little table and even a few drops on her face. A few of her fingers were blue after our project, too.

Biggest downside to this project? When it has to end! When the baking soda got all soggy and baby was fussing because she wasn't getting attention and we had to put it away, Isabel cried and cried for more magic. Boy do I know how she feels...

Anyway, this is a great summer project for outside, or for the cooped up days of winter. I can't imagine a child who wouldn't enjoy this - even this mama thought it was pretty great.

Jan 12, 2013

Delicious Organic Side Dishes

I wouldn't call it a New Year's Resolution, but lately Drew and I have really been trying to feed our family with better quality ingredients, more real foods, less food from boxes or cans.

2 weeks ago, a Groupon came through my email for a local produce co-op, Urban Acres. We were members several years ago before our kids were born, but needless to say, we have grown up since then and have realized that our health and what we put in our bodies is far more important than we ever thought before. We joined, and picked up our first share on Friday.

I have had SO much fun researching veggies that I do not normally use or eat and finding uses for them that would satisfy our tastes. I would not necessarily say that the things I have cooked so far are "diet" foods, but they are delicious ways to add veggies to your menu and introduce more vitamins and minerals naturally.

Here are the first two veggie sides I have made using our local produce share.

Sautéed Swiss Chard with Bacon

1 large bunch of Red or Rainbow Swiss Chard
4 slices of bacon, cut into small pieces
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tbsp olive oil or butter

Wash Chard well and dry with a paper towel or salad spinner. Cut across into 1-2 inch strips. You can choose to use the stems or not. I used some and discarded the rest into my compost pile.
In a large skillet, cook bacon until done the way you like. Add the olive oil and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Put Chard in the skillet and cook until tender, about 8-10 minutes, stirring regularly to incorporate the bacon and garlic.

So easy and so delicious!

The next recipe puts a delicious twist on your traditional Mashed Potato. In our produce share, we received Diakon Radishes. They look like a large white carrot, but have the taste of a radish.

For this recipe, you will need:
1 medium to large sized Diakon Radish
2 medium potatoes
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp butter
1/8 - 1/4 cup milk, depending on the desired consistency.
Salt and pepper to taste

Peel and cube potatoes and radishes and place in a large pot with the garlic. Cover with water and boil until fork tender. I found that the radishes did not get as tender as the potatoes, but the end result was still fabulous.
When cooked, drain the water, add the butter, half the milk and the salt and pepper. Use a potato masher to mash the veggies. Add more milk and stir to get the consistency you like in your mashed potatoes.

Not only am I feeding my family delicious meals, but I have been incredibly impressed by Urban Acres' online organization and their Pinterest board. They have a page for each veggie that you will find in your share with proper ways to prepare for storage and recipes for each. Makes experimenting with new things a cinch!

Stay tuned for more delicious recipes.