Sunday, April 18, 2010

Love in LaConner

I am not talking about a romantic weekend away kind of love. I am talking about my son's LOVE of tractors. 

We embarked this morning on an adventure, an early celebration of Earth Day (Coming up on April 22nd.).  I thought I'd do what I wanted which was to see the tulip fields, take some cute photos of the kids, and check out some of the places featured in the April issue of Sunset magazine.  So imagine Sawyer's excitement when I pointed out this sign (as we drove through Conway, after exiting I-5 at Exit 221) . . .

While I was busy explaining over and over again why we might need to share the road with tractors (and with bicycles, which were everywhere), we started to see them.  Some were parked in fields that had been recently plowed, but as I started pointing them out we started to see wheels rolling.  And for the rest of the day we saw tractors.  Everywhere.  Working alone.  Working together (one field had at least 6 all plowing at the same time). Plowing.  Planting. Aparantly tulip season is also tractor season. 

So I got my cute photos.

And Sawyer got to see evidence of tractors . . .

followed by an actual tractor planting and refilling with seed and fertilizer.

Then we headed to lunch in LaConner at the La Conner Fruit & Produce Market which I was worried would be overrun with people since I had just read about it in Sunset.  We miraculously found a parking space right in front of the restaurant and transfered the sleeping baby and tired toddler from the car to the restaurant.  Then the tough part, deciding what to order!  After much deliberating, I decided on a pulled pork sandwich and a peanut butter cookie covered with chocolate chips, Sawyer got the kids grilled cheese and a sugar cookie with m&m's, and my mom ordered the reuben.  All of us were VERY happy and VERY full!  I will be going back to try a chocolate peanut butter milkshake and a strawberry shortcake bar cookie. 

The food was awesome, but so was the view!  While my mom stood in line and ordered our food, I nabbed a table by the window where we could see the waterway with the iconic orange bridge and boats passing.   Sawyer was observing the seagulls that were perched on the porch when a friendly employee invited him to go outside with her to feed them.  She gave him some bread and together they placed it on the railing and returned inside to watch the birds feast.  Then as we were waiting for our food, watching boats coming and going, a float plane landed right in front of us with a huge splash and made it's way to the dock.   We took our time eating and before we left, the float plane loaded new passengers, pushed off the dock, and took off again.

I can't go anywhere without visiting a bookstore so our next stop was the Next Chapter Bookstore.  I spent most of my time upstairs in the loft of children's books where I found 

Lemons Are Not Red (Ala Notable Book(Awards)) (Neal Porter Books)The Itsy-Bitsy SpiderBedtime for Mommy

and as I was on my way out I noticed both 

Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer and Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan which are now on my "To Read" list.

We made our way back to the car, set off for home, and spotted tons more tractors on our way out of town.  Then to top it all off, just before we got back to I-5, the red lights started flashing and a freight train passed right in front of us.  Those of you who drive around noticing excavators, cranes, fire trucks, and all sorts of other things that your kids love know that it just doesn't get any better!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

If you give a Baby a Blueberry Pancake . . .

She’ll eat the whole thing.  And she'll want to help cook more, so you'll have to distract her from "helping" by giving her a whisk.  But giving her a whisk will make her think she's going to get to mix the batter, pour the batter, eat the batter.  You see where this is heading . . .  a big MESS and a HAPPY baby.

Anyhow, you will love this recipe because it involves BUTTER! Lots of it. You add melted butter to the batter. And then later you add a slice of butter to the pan each time you start a new pancake. This explains why these blueberry pancakes were so good that we didn’t even use the syrup. I didn’t even think about the syrup. And neither did my kids.

Two new and exciting cooking skills were introduced in this recipe.

1) Cracking eggs! Yup, I let Sawyer do it by himself. Or at least I was ready to, but he didn’t really want to get egg on his fingers. So he cracked it and then I pulled it apart. Usually, I don’t even let him hold the eggs so this was a big step.

2) Flipping with a spatula! I know we don’t even think about this being tricky because as adults we do it all the time. But Sawyer was as excited about getting to do the flipping as I would be if I learned how to toss pizza crust in the air without messing it up. (Sidenote: our favorite places to watch pizza pros at work are Flying Pie Pizzaria in downtown Issaquah, Zeeks Pizza in the Issaquah Highlands, and Tutta Bella off Gilman.)

Seriously, he talked about how he got to flip the pancakes himself ALL DAY. “Me put-ed butter in the pan, me pour batter in and it cook-ed for a little while, me put-ed blueberries, mom put-ed the spatula under, and me flip-ed it over!”

He was a little worried about the hot pan when we started off. So I had him practice the flipping motion with the spatula before he tried it with the heat and the actual pancake. And we did the first one with my hand over his. But he did the rest himself- I was having visions of myself reading at the kitchen table, feet up, chai latte in hand, while he cooks me breakfast! The secret to his flipping success was following Mollie’s advice and cooking only one pancake at a time so that there was plenty of room to maneuver the spatula and a larger area for the uncooked side of the pancake to land.

Another genius piece of cooking wisdom was Mollie’s plan of pouring the milk into a smaller pitcher and having kids pour it into the measuring cups over a pie pan. It worked like a charm. I used the pitcher from Sawyer’s tea set which was just the right size and weight for him to be able to pour on his own.

And as you can see he had a blast dropping the butter into the hot pan and watching it melt, dumping the batter into the pan, and especially dropping the 6 blueberries onto the pancake as it cooked. If only I was this excited to cook dinner every night.

So, if you let your child flip their own pancakes . . .
they will want to make them every day. And they will eat them all up!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, EAT

When I told Sawyer we were making Number Salad, his first response was, "But I don't like salad."  What he meant was, "I don't like lettuce."  When I explained that the ingredients that we were using were actually all fruit and cheese he was at least willing to give it a try. 

We started off with all the ingredients in separate bowls like the set up for making bagel faces.  This led to lots of snacking while cooking, just with fruit this time instead of veggies.  Let your child do as much of the cutting themselves as possible.  The melon and banana are good candidates for slicing with a table knife.

Mollie's recipe is:

1 handful of coconut

2 Tablespoons of OJ concentrate

3 slices of Orange

4 slices of apple

5 cubes of cheese

6 slices of banana

7 pieces of melon

8 grapes

Stir 9 times


I thought this was a pretty tasty fruit salad.  I loved the mix of fruit with the Monterey Jack cheese.  Just a warning:  Sawyer didn't touch his salad once it was all mixed together.  But, he did eat a lot of each ingredient individually. 

Counting out the pieces for each step was good practice.  Get some extra counting practice by making several servings.  Also, you could do countdown salad and start at 10 working backwards.  You could let your child determine which ingredients to use for each number so they would end up with more of the things they prefer to eat.  And best of all you could make "Number Salad" with whatever ingredients you have around- fruits or veggies.  I want to try one that has more berries and some mango.  Or try making "Number Trail Mix" using dry ingredients.

Happy counting! 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Green with Spaghenvy

We play outside in the cul-de-sac all the time.  And you always know when Mrs. Hunt is making her "green pasta" because it smells SO good!  Everyone is salivating as they get their mail and chase their kids around the pavement.  And of course she is very generous and has shared her recipe.  But I have to say it looks like a lot of work so I haven't tried it yet. 

Lucky for me Mollie Katzen has a super duper easy recipe for Green Spaghetti.

The big highlight of this recipe was pulling the basil leaves off the stems.  This led to some great discussion about which part was the leaf and which part was the stem as well as which part was edible and which was not.  If you are a super gardener and happen to grow your own basil that could add a whole layer of fun- harvesting the basil yourself.  We are about to plant some basil for future pesto making.

In this version of green pasta (you could use any kind of pasta you want) you throw all the ingredients in the food processor and let it do all the work.  We had a little trouble with adding 6 "shakes" of salt since our shaker is kind of fast and Sawyer didn't really get what a shake was.  Definately demonstrate this and have them practice in the sink or over a pan so you don't add too much.

And it's another chance for kids to grate the cheese themselves.  Grate extra so you can sprinkle it on top. Yummers!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

What Kind of Bagel Face Will You Make?

There is lots to like about making Bagel Faces.

First of all, I bet your child will eat more raw veggies than you expect.  It's hard not to snack on all the goodies (cucumbers, carrots, alfalfa sprouts, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, black olives) you have washed and ready.  So they eat veggies while they work on decorating and then they get a second dose of  the veggies that actually make it onto the faces.

Second, this recipe uses a lot of things you probably have on hand.  It makes you get the veggies washed and ready to eat so even if you don't use them all up they will be ready to make more faces the next day or to toss in a salad or put out for a snack.  I used up some odds and ends of cream cheese blocks.  And you can use full size bagels, or the little mini ones.

Third, you can reinvent this recipe using whatever you have handy or feel like eating.  Peanut butter faces could have pretzles, pieces of cereal, mini marshmallows, chocolate chips- a dessert version.  But you could do flavored cream cheese with different fruits-strawberry cream cheese with pieces of apple, banana, kiwi, raisin, or craisin. Or even hummus or a soft spreading cheese with all the same veggies.

Those of you with toddlers around have probaby been doing your fair share of discussing emotions, and this recipe is a fun way to talk about "sad faces" and "happy faces".  It uses a lot of imagination too.  Sawyer liked telling stories about "who" he was making.  Among our faces we have a Silly Santa and an Easter Bunny.  Can you guess which one is which?  (Answers at the bottom of the post).

Katzen's best advice was having young children wash the vegetables while you do the chopping and slicing.  Sawyer loved having an important job.  He initially wanted to use the scrub brush we use for the dishes on each cherry tomato.  We lost less veggies down the drain because we put the collander in to help catch runaways. 

The hardest part? Spreading the cream cheese.  Try to leave it out for a bit so it is room temperature and easier to spread.  Mollie says tell them to "push down and pull out" which I found myself repeating often.  It took a lot of will power not to take over and just do this part myself!  But again I've heard that spreading is good for development (Sue at Red Gate Preschool said so and I believe her). 

The best part? Sawyer kept saying, "These are really, really good."  And I kept thinking, "These are really, really good for you!" 

Answers: Silly Santa is bottom right and Easter Bunny is top left.