Tuesday, November 25, 2014

It's Ime-tay Oo-tay Eak-Spay Ig-pay Atin-lay

     I'm in trouble.  I discovered that I can no longer get away with spelling things in my house when I don't want Monkey to know what I'm talking about.  I should have seen this coming.  I mean, she's known several small words for a while now, but she has come to that point where she is sounding words out and actively reading, so she's gotten even better at deciphering J's and my secret code.  Sunday we decided we would surprise her by taking her to see Big Hero 6, and when I asked J what time the m-o-v-i-e started, she perked up and said, "I wanna watch a movie!"  I guess it's time to break out the Pig Latin...

     Speaking of Monkey, I know it's only Tuesday, but I have never appreciated Kindergarten so much as I did yesterday afternoon by about 12:30.  I love my daughter, and I have been looking forward to spending extra time with her for weeks, but I forgot how much work it is to keep her busy all day.  I commend all you stay-at-home moms out there.  It's a full time job.  As I mentioned in my last post, we're working on a few projects to learn about properties of water, and yesterday we focused on reversible change, or more simply put, freezing and melting.  After breakfast, I let her watch this episode of Sid the Science Kid while I set up our experimenting station (aka while I cleared off the table).  After the show was over we talked about how water can change to ice and back to water again, and that's why it's called a reversible change.  Then we pulled out our frozen "Sink or Float" experiment, and she recorded her findings.  Next I asked her how she thought she could get her toys out of the ice, and she came up with some excellent ideas ranging from lighting a fire under them, to using the microwave, to sticking the whole thing in the oven to melt the water.  I gently steered her towards using hot water to melt the ice, after all it seemed the safest route.  

     After this experiment she decided clothes were over rated, declared it Pajama Day, and then came back downstairs for more experiments.  I was ready for her.  The night before I had filled three balloons with water.  I made them different sizes, one small, one medium, and one large.  I took them out and instructed Monkey to peel the balloon off and use the frozen balls to create a snowman.  Of course, I had to start singing "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" while she worked.

     I had Monkey sprinkle a bit of salt between each ball to help them hold together.

     Next, she decorated her snowman using some construction paper cut-outs and salt to help them stick.

     With the snowman finally assembled, I asked Monkey to hypothesize how long she thought it would take our snowman to melt.  She said until the next next, so I had her record her hypothesis of 24 hours and draw the experiment.  I set an alarm to sound every hour so we could record the progress, and every hour Monkey drew a picture of what was going on with our science snowman.  Her hypothesis was incorrect; it only took 7 hours and 26 minutes for our snowman to melt completely.  She recorded these results too before helping me clean him up.

    Now, this experiment was loosely based off of this experiment I found on Pinterest, but I just looked at the picture without reading the instructions (shame on me) so I didn't realize they made two snowmen, putting one outside and one inside to see which would melt faster.  I froze six more water-filled balloons so that we could do that version of the experiment today.  

    I realize that lately most of my blogs focus on kid crafts or kid lunches, and some of you are only here for the recipes (I'm onto you), so it's only fair that I give you what you came for, right?  Well here you go!  This is my favorite hamburger recipe from Paula Deen, and believe or not, no butter was harmed in the making of these burgers. ;-)

Paula Deen's Loaded Juicy Beef Burgers
3 lbs ground beef
1 (8 oz) package baby bella mushrooms, finely chopped
2 TBS prepared horseradish
2 TBS Worcestershire sauce
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.  Gently shape into 10 patties.  Spray grill rack with nonstick nonflammable cooking spray.  Preheat grill to medium-high heat (350-400 degrees).  Grill burgers, covered with grill lid, for 5-6 minutes per side or until thermometer inserted into the thickest portion reads 165 degrees.  Serve with homemade buns (recipe to follow), pickles, sliced tomatoes, slice onions, lettuce, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, cheddar cheese, or any of your favorite hamburger toppings.

Homemade Hamburger Buns
from Taste of Home
2 TBS active dry yeast
1 cup plus 2 TBS warm water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp salt
3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl dissolve yeast in water.  Add oil and sugar.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  Add egg, salt and flour to form a soft dough.  Turn out onto a floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 3-5 minutes.  Do not let rise; immediately divide into 12 pieces (for bigger rolls, divide into fewer pieces).  Shape each piece into a ball.  Place 3 inches apart on a greased baking sheet.  Cover and let rise for 10 minutes.  Bake at 425 for 8-12 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool on wire racks.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

It's Turkey Time

     I am so happy to say that I am officially on break from school for 10 whole days!  Other than studying for a test we have when we go back, I plan on doing nothing school-related for a week.  That is, until I realize that I'll still have to pass boards before too long, hyperventilate, and start studying extra for the NCLEX.  Until that happens, though, my focus will be on many other things but school.  After today, Monkey will also be on break, so I have been planing a few projects to keep us both busy over the holiday.     We will be learning all about water and it's various properties.  Today we started with a project about why things sink or float.

    I started out by expelling to Monkey that to float means to stay on top of the water, and that to sink means to fall to the bottom of the water.  Then we pulled out a book that's been around since before I was born.  In fact, it was a hand-me-down from when I was a kid.  It's called "Why Does it Float?", and in spite of it's age, it explains displacement and buoyancy in a way that kids can understand.  I found a copy of it on Amazon for only a penny, if anyone is interested.

     Next I had Monkey run around the house to find items she wanted to experiment with.  Then she grouped them into the ones she thought would float versus those she thought would sink.  She got several miniature plastic toys, a leaf, and a cork.

    Next, I had her drop each item one-by-one into a bowl of water.  We used a glass bowl so she could see the bottom of the water.

     Next, I had her find differences between the items that floated versus those that sank.  She determined that heavy objects sink, and light object float.  We then tested a few more items, and she had to rethink her hypothesis when a pair of tiny Barbie shoes sank.  That's when we referred back to the book about buoyancy and displacement and determined that the Barbie shoes didn't have enough room in them for air in order to float.

"Weighing" floaters vs sinkers
     Finally, I had her record her findings in a journal.  And as a way to lead into the next set of experiments about freezing and melting, we put our bowl of water into the freezer to see which items will freeze on top, and which will freeze on the bottom.  Monkey also drew her hypothesis for that project.  Tomorrow we'll find out if her hypothesis was correct!

     Before she was out of school, I was getting Monkey ready for Thanksgiving by packing her a few festive lunches I'd like to share.  Let's start simple, shall we?

Turkey Sandwich...Literally

     This little guy was super easy to throw together.  He's a turkey sandwich that I cut into a circle.  For feathers I used pretzel sticks and bits of sliced carrots.  I cute out a little bowling-pinned-shaped body for the turkey, and I made a face using my food markers.

Turkey Taco
      This was another simple creation using a tortilla filled with turkey, lettuce, and cheese.  I folded it in half, quesidilla-style, and I drew a turkey using my food markers again.  I added some sides, including yogurt raisins, broccoli, and a "pumpkin" made from a bit of celery and a Halo orange.

Egg-cellent Pilgrims and Indians
      These little guys took a bit more work, but they were fun.  I started with two boiled eggs, cut in half.  I sprinkled a bit of paprika on two of the eggs (these would be my "indians").  Next, using sheets of Nori, I cut out the shape of eyes, noses, and mouths, and arranged them on the yolks.  Then I cut out the hats for the pilgrims, and the headbands for the indians.  Finally I added a "feather" for each indian's headband using a bit of celery leaf.  Then I cut the buckle of the pilgrims' hats out of ham.

Turkey Lunchables

     I decided to spruce up our usual DIY lunchables by making the crackers into a tiny turkey.  I cut out another body from ham, and this time I cut eyes, a beak, and a waddle from a sheet of Nori.  I then arrange some cut up carrots to resemble feathers.  I put the extra ham, cheese and crackers in another container for Monkey to assemble her own.

     Needless to say, I've had a lot of time getting ready for the week off, and I'm looking forward to all the fun I have planned for Monkey, J, and I.  Of course, I'm also looking forward to the whole no school thing.  Needless to say, I'm thankful it's turkey time :-)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Best Ruined Soup Ever

     I love this time of year!  It's starting to get chilly here in the South, and it puts me in the mood for warm soups, gumbo, freshly baked bread, and savory desserts!  C'mon, y'all have known me too long to be surprised by the fact that I ended that sentence with food.  Which brings me to the reason I'm writing tonight.  It was chilly earlier this week, so I decided it would be a nice change of pace to make some grilled cheeses with some tomato soup.  I started following this one recipe before realizing that it was not the same one I had used to make my grocery list.  I quickly switched over to following this recipe, convinced that I had ruined the whole thing, but too stubborn (and cheap) to throw the concoction out.  I'm glad I didn't, though, because what resulted was what J deemed, "the best tomato soup I've ever had!"

Ruined Tomato Soup
1/2 onion
1 medium-sized carrot, peeled
1 celery stalk, end trimmed, but leaves still attached
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 cans diced tomatoes
46 ounces tomato juice
3-6 tablespoons sugar
3 chicken bouillon cubes
black pepper
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
shredded Mozzarella, optional 

In a blender, combine onion, carrot, celery, and garlic.  Puree until smooth.  Add diced tomatoes.  Pour contents of blender into a large pot over medium heat.  Add tomato juice.  Next add the sugar.  (This is to contrast the acidity of the tomatoes, start with 3 tablespoons and taste your way to the right amount.  I wound up needing 5 tablespoons, but it just depends on your tomatoes.)  Add chicken bouillon.  Sprinkle with black pepper to taste.  Stir to combine and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and add heavy cream, stirring to combine.  Add basil and parsley and stir.  Top with mozzarella if desired.

     As I said, this was the best soup I had ever tasted!  J polished off three bowls of it, and I enjoyed dunking my grilled cheese in it like I was a kid again.  The only one not too impressed was Monkey, but that's okay.  I had plenty soup left over to freeze and some for lunch the next day.  J downed another bowl that day before heading back to work.  That's when I decided it might be a good time to clean out the refrigerator.  As I was getting rid of certain items I found an extra bottle of heavy cream in the corner.  I checked the date and was surprised to see that it hadn't expired yet.  In fact it still wouldn't be expired for another month.  With a sick feeling in my stomach, it began to dawn on me that perhaps I should have cleaned the refrigerator out sooner.  I quickly grabbed the bottle of heavy cream from the night before and checked the date only to find that, sure enough, I had mixed up the expired one with the new one.  The cream I used in the soup had expired September 9th.  I was mortified.  I don't know how none of us got sick, especially after I got brave enough to do a sniff-test.  There goes my world's best tomato soup....

     My dear husband wasn't nearly as horrified by this discovery as I was, but maybe that's for the best, considering how much of it he ate.  He just shrugged and said, "Well, it was still delicious!"  

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Cookies and Cocoa

     Today I am enjoying my first official day off of school in about 3 months.  I just ended another trimester, so that makes 3 down, and 3 more to go.  Monday I start studying Labor and Delivery and Pediatrics, which are the two subjects I've been looking forward to since the beginning.  I'm not sure which field I want to go into, but I know it's going to be one of those two, and that excites me.  In the mean time, however, I've been catching up on a bit of housework.  Yesterday, Monkey brought home a 100 A on her big sight words test that covered all the words they've been learning since the beginning of the year, so we celebrated by turning some of her Halloween candy into yummy cookies.  So here's a recipe that is a classic:

M&M Cookies
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups All-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 cups M&Ms, plus extra for topping

Preheat oven to 350.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper, or grease the baking sheets.

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a KitchenAide mixer, blend both sugars, shortening, eggs, and vanilla until mixture is well blended and fluffy.  Add flour, baking soda, and salt.  Mix until well incorporated.  Add M&Ms, and gently stir.

Gently roll dough into small balls, and press onto the prepared baking sheets.  Add a few M&Ms to the tops of each pressed dough ball.

Bake at 350 9-11 minutes, or until edges are golden and middles are set.

     Now, what goes better with cookies on a chilly November evening than a nice warm mug of hot cocoa?

World's Best Hot Cocoa
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup white sugar
1 pinch salt
1/3 cup boiling water
3 1/2 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup half-and-half

Combine cocoa, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan.  Blend in the boiling water.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring continuously.  Once it begins to boil, simmer and stir for 2 minutes.  Don't let it burn.  Stir in milk and hear until hot throughout, but don't bring mixture to another boil.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.  Distribute evenly among 4 mugs.  Add 1/8 cup half-and-half to each mug.  Top with mini marshmallows if desired.  Enjoy!