Sunday, January 31

Menu Monday Jan31-Feb 6 and a giveaway

I love exploring in the kitchen. It is amazing stress relief to me. I have found lots of clever fun ways to help me explore without overwhelming my family or my budget. My latest adventure is claypot cooking. I have been pulling recipes from my new favorite, ClayPot Cookbook, and testing them out. The only problem is I don't have a clay (stoneware) pot to really make the best test. Cookware.com has kindly offered to correct that problem by send me and one lucky winner this looker. I cannot wait to give a good test drive. They have another division that sells stool. Take a look at both and tell me your favorite item to be entered. The drawing will be Sunday Feb 7th at 7pm.

Now for our menu.

Sunday - Frittata and salad
Monday- Froggy/Daddy Date night - Dinner out
Tuesday- Grilled Marinated Venison - This is our experiment for the week. A friend gave us some venison so we are being brave.
Wednesday - Mom and Dad eat at class - Mac and Cheese for Froggy
Thursday- Homemade Pasta Sauce, noodles, garlic bread and salad.
Erev Shabbat - Challah, Roast Chicken, broccoli ( I know we had it last Shabbat but it is Froggy's favorite) Roasted root veggies, peach crisp.
Saturday - Salmon Burgers

Rosetta Stone Check In

Ok so it has been almost a month and our jouney has been poor at best. I cannot get Daddy man to even give it a whirl. Froggy refuses to play it with me or by herself and I am having a dreadful time finding time to do it. I have completed unit 1 several times and still cannot use the words in conversation.

I am giving it a longer test but am sorely disappointed in our progress.

On a brighter note, our Hebrew is increasing dramatically. We are using many more words on a regular basis. We have added the primary colors as well as please,thank you and you're welcome. We are working on some numbers and common household items for the next pass. How did we do this when Rosetta Stone is such a failure? We did it a word at a time with words Froggy wants to learn.

Wednesday, January 27

WFMW - Silly Putty


Froggy started occupational therapy right around Hanukkah. Her therapist is great and has given us lots of useful suggests for activities to continue the work at home. One of Froggy's favorite new toys is Silly Putty. Other than the new colors, it is exactly the same as I remember from when I was a kid (and that is saying a lot).

One thing I do remember about silly putty from when I was a kid was that I got bored with it very quickly. I liked play dough Not Froggy. She loves it. She has not been real into play dough though.

Silly putty is similar to play dough but has some big differences. Silly Putty stretches where playdough breaks and crumbles. Silly putty is rubber so it leaves essentially nothing of itself behind when it touches something. This means it is a great travel toy. We can play with it in the car or at restaurants It is a great work out for her hands.

It is not like play dough in some other ways too. It wants to stick to itself which means it does not mold well. It is hard to sculpt with. If you want to make things (which is what I always wanted) play dough is your friend. But if you want to just smash and mash, then I suggest trying some silly putty. It works for us.

Check out some other great tips at Works For Me Wednesday

Nanaimo Bars

I love the idea of expanding my horizons and trying new things. Daring Bakers encourages me to do just that.

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

The graham cracker recipe I used is from 101 Cookbooks. Here it is. My notes and changes are Purple

Graham Cracker Recipe

2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour. I did not use the additional 2 TBS
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen. I used 3.5oz margerine since we need to be dairy- free.
1/3 cup mild-flavored honey, such as clover
5 tablespoons whole milk I used coconut milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

For the topping:

3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.

In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky. Mine was not very sticky at all. I am nut sure why. Here is what it looked like.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.

To prepare the topping: In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon, and set aside.

Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Trim the edges of the rectangle to 4 inches wide. Working with the shorter side of the rectangle parallel to the work surface, cut the strip every 4 1/2 inches to make 4 crackers. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the topping. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.

Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll. Dust the surface with more flour and roll out the dough to get about two or three more crackers.

Mark a vertical line down the middle of each cracker, being careful not to cut through the dough. Using a toothpick or skewer, prick the dough to form two dotted rows about 1/2 inch for each side of the dividing line.

Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the tough, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.

Yield: 10 large crackers

Maybe I made mine too thin but it made many more. I only cooked them for 20 minutes and they still came out burned. We only made a half batch in the squares and did the rest as cutout cookies. Making the crackers was a neat experience and a fun challenge but not worth the work for the results.

Here is the recipe for the bars themselves. I used margarine in place of the butter and this in place of the cream. The flavor of the middle layer left much to be desired. The bottom layer was neat and interesting. It held together and provided a delightful combination of textures and flavors.

I tried the whole recipe again with store-bought graham crackers and jam in place of the pudding mix as a flavor alternative for the middle layer. I used 4 tablespoons of mixed berry Jam in place of the pudding mix. It was much better but still not something that we really enjoy. I suspect a huge part of the problem is the flavor of the non-dairy butter. Some recipes shine dairy-free and some do not do as well in translation. I suspect this is one that just does not work for us.

Sunday, January 24

Menu Monday - Jan 24-30


Before I get to this week's challenges and goals, I want to share the joy of the past week. I tried another new recipe from this cookbook. This is the second from the same book which makes the book a keeper. We did Mahi Mahi in parchement. I am not a fan of leafy greens but cooking them in with the fish and sauce made them incredibly yummy. To me any recipe which makes veggies even better and easier to eat is a win. It is designed to be served in the parchment and be all pretty but individual servings don't work for our family so I am still working on a better presentation for this dish.

This week we are getting ready for TuB'Shevat. The grocery list is chock full of all different kinds of fruits. We are hosting a TuB'Shevat seder for little people and will have fruits in four different categories; inedible skin, inedible pit, completely edible, and seeds.

Sunday - Stirfry Rice Keem
Monday - Mom has class - Froggy gets date night with Daddy
Tuesday - Meatloaf, mashed rutabega, green beans
Wednesday -- Mom and Dad have dinner at class - Froggy gets Chicken Nuggets.
Thursday - Tacos, Salad
Erev Shabbat - Challah, Gefilte Fish, Cranberry Chicken - I use cut up chicken rather than chicken breasts., broccoli, acorn squash, Chocolate Crunch Cake

Here are our breakfasts this week.
Overnight French Toast
Oatmeal
Scrambled Eggs and toast
Muffins and Fresh Fruit

Lunches
Beef Barley Soup (leftover)
Black Beans and Rice
Chicken roll ups
PBand J

Friday, January 22

Galumpha

Froggy went to her first professional theatrical performance today. She was feeling a bit under the weather and I seriously debated canceling but off we went and I am glad we did.

The performance was amazing. The troupe consists of three dancers / acrobats who used a variety of musical styles and acrobatic techniques to create eleven distinct and captivating numbers.

On the drive to the performance, we discussed theater etiquette and the differences between movies at home, movies at a theater and a live performance. We made a big deal of it. Going to the theater is special and we wore our dress up clothes. I am very cognizant of the change in people with the clothes they wear. It was neat to see her realize that real people would be dancing today. She was very proud of being allowed this opportunity.

Froggy was one of the youngest attendees at only four since the theater is extremely strict in their "no one under three will be admitted" policy. Yet she was as well behaved as most of the children and considerably better than others. I am proud of her for continuing to display proper behavior even when the family behind us did not. The children (approximately 4 and 8 years old) talked incessantly at a normal volume. The mom answered their comments and questions at the same volume. It reminds me of why I homeschool. Children will learn exactly what you teach them not necessarily only what you intended to teach them.

Tuesday, January 19

Laptop Lunchbox


I love our lunch boxes. Froggy's is pink and mine is purple. Froggy's is packed every single day. We sit down to breakfast at home at least most mornings. And then the rest of her food for the day until dinner time comes out of her lunch box.

A friend was complaining that her daughter wants to snack all day. Well with this lunchbox I can let Froggy and not care. Whenever she wants to eat, she can and I know she is eating a variety of healthy food. What does it matter if she has half the entree at 10am and all the fruit at noon rather than the other way around. The lunch box holds lots so she can eat out of it all day and have enough food.

For instance, today she had tunafish, carrots, dip, cut up melon and leftover scrambled egg from breakfast.

Check out what works for other families at Works for Me Wednesday

Monday, January 18

Menu Monday - Jan 17-23

.This week is a rough week with at least Mommy if not the whole family having evening commitments out of the house every single night.

Last week's fish stew was a tremendous success. I used this for the cream and tilapia (because we had it on hand) for the fish. I also cut back some on both the quantity of fish and potatoes because I did not want leftovers. We will be seeing this recipe many more times.
The Chicken Artichoke Ragout on the other hand was not a success and will not be making a reappearance.

Monday - Still out of town
Tuesday - Pasta with homemade sauce and salad - we need a simple meal as we are just getting back in town. The sauce is already in the freezer
Wednesday - Dinner at class for Mom and Dad. Froggy will get mac and cheese with the sitter.
Thursday - Meatloaf, acorn squash and green beans. I am looking forward to being able to cook again.
Friday - Mahi Mahi in Parchment, rice, brocolli, challah and Nanaimo Bars for dessert.

Both the Mahi and the dessert are experiments. Check back next week for recipes and reviews of both of these. To see what everyone else has on their menu - check out OrgJunkie

Wednesday, January 13

WFMW - Slangman Kids

Our JCC has a book fair each year as a fundraiser. I love it. This year's major find was Slangman Kids. Our major objective this semester is Hebrew language practice so it was perfect timing. We got Cinderella because Froggy is a princess in heart but also because it is level 1. She adores it and is incorporating the vocabulary from the story into everyday life. We have new words we use on a perpetual basis because of this book.

I could not get her to "play" Rosetta Stone with me until this book came in the mail. Now she is eager to show how much she knows.

We are looking forward to getting the rest of the series.

Happily linking to

Sunday, January 10

Menu Planning Monday - Jan 10-16

My menu did not work real well last week. Daddy ended up out of town for 2 nights. Froggy and I did not sit down to proper dinners like we should have while he was gone.

Sunday - Chicken Artichoke Rag Out and homemade bread - This was much more soup than stew even after I reduced the broth amount called for in the recipe. The flavors were a delightful combination but the texture and consistency was not what I had hoped for. Still it gives some ideas to play with and explore. The bread was from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day Everyone has been raving about this technique so I gave it yet another chance. I cannot get this bread to work though and am going back to my standard recipe.
Monday - Pizza (We have tons of leftover sauce that needs eating up) - Mom at Meeting
Tuesday - Fish Stew experiment (We never got to this last week) rice, keem
Wednesday - Family swim night - Salmon Burgers, Carrot Sticks, clemtines and cookies.
Thursday - Head Out of Town

Friday, January 8

Thinking of Spring

Getting ready for TuB'Shevat (Jan 31st this year) means getting ready for spring as well. I pull out my garden catalog and start planning my garden. What will we plant? Where will it go? Is a new exotic specie we want to try?

Every year we plant a tree on Tu B'Shevat. Unfortunately the ground is too frozen and we cannot plant outdoors on the day itself. So we plant in a container regardless of whether the tree will eventually live in the ground or not.

Last year we planted a pear tree which is still in its container. I like to leave them in the containers for a while to make sure they will grow and thrive before we go through the hassle of digging a full size tree hole in the clay soil we have here.

The Meyer Lemon tree we planted in 2008 finally bloomed and is doing much better which makes me feel safe enough to try another indoor/patio dwarf tree.

This year we are getting a Dwarf Venous Orange Tree I am actually on the ball enough this year that I can order our tree to plant. We will either order from here or here

I also sent out the invites to our TuB'Shevat seder. I think we probably have about 8-12 preschool/elementary kids this year.

Our Store

This month we are working on the concepts involved with money. How do we do this? We play store. Why do we do this? Because Froggy wants an allowance and I feel if she is to get an allowance she needs to understand what money is and how it works.

The first time through I picked several toys from Froggy's shelves and put price tags on them.
She was given twenty five cents in a variety of coins and allowed to select her purchases. Prior to this I had introduced the different coins and their different values but only barely and with very limited success.

She made her selection and paid for it at the cashier (mom) who also helped her determine which coin she needed to use to pay for it.
She loves this game and asks for it frequently. We have graduated to starting with a single quarter and making change from that as the purchases take place. She is getting lots of practice at her subtraction as well as working on identifying the different coins and their values.

Happily linking to the Carnival of Homeschooling

Tuesday, January 5

WFMW - Ripping


This week at Work for me Wednesday is Backwards Wednesday so I get to ask you a question - What are your favorite games to play with your children?

We are always on the look out for fun ways to help develop fine motor skills and increase finger strength as a preparatory step for writing.

One activity we just discovered the joys of is ripping.

I thought that ripping in and of itself would not be sufficiently interesting so I designed an art project to give to Daddy. I set Froggy with some leftover pieces of construction paper and asked her to make them as small as she could putting each color set in its own dish. She sat happily ripping into tiny pieces for quite some time.

The idea was to then make an autumn tree. As you can see the ripping was a huge success but the tree itself did not get done.

Rosetta Stone - Week 1

We finally took the plunge and invested in Rosetta Stone. The whole family will be working on it, each at their own pace. We did some testing at a display booth and supposedly even Froggy will be able to use and master it. This all assumes I can keep her interested in it.

Even if Froggy does not fall in love with the software, I will consider the experiment a success if I can master a conversational level.

The final consideration which enabled us to make the decision was that we can get a full refund for up to six months if it does not work for us.

So I look forward to sharing the journey with you over the next 26 weeks.

Sunday, January 3

Menu - Week January 3-9




I am trying a new thing this month. I have planned out a rough schedule for the whole month. We have lots more weeknight commitments this semester that require special types of food. To avoid repeats I though roughing out a month at a time might help.

Sun - Shepards Pie - using leftover Pot Roast and mashed potatoes and the recipe from here.
Mon - Family Swim Night - Tuna salad / Crackers / Fresh fruit / Cookies
Tues - Sweet & Sour Stir Fry Rice and Keem
Wed - Homemade Pasta Sauce /Salad
Thurs - Our Experiment - Fish Stew with Lemon Grass - from my new ClayPot Cookbook
Fri - Tot Shabbat at shul - Roast Chicken, Latkes and Green Beans
Sat - Left Overs