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Posts Tagged ‘children’

August and September end the lazy days of slow breakfasts, but they don’t have to end good breakfasts.  For a quick, healthy breakfast or afternoon snack, bake a loaf of whole-grain, low-fat, higher protein but still moist and delicious zucchini bread, chocked full of good stuff like pepitas, which contain healthy fatty acids.  Take a look at the ingredients:  your only fat is from the egg(s) and the pepitas.  All of the moist goodness comes from buttermilk and yogurt, plus those dairy products and pepitas bring extra protein, calcium, and some good fats.  One loaf will yield close to 2 dozen slices for several breakfasts, lunchbox treats, afternoon snacks, or even as Mr. Homesteader likes it best, dessert at night (warmed with a dollop of ice cream).

Ingredients for 1 loaf baked in a 9×5 inch pan

  • 1/4 cup plain, nonfat yogurt
  • 1/3 cup sugar (or less)
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk or kefir
  • 1-2 eggs
  • 1 cup grated fresh or frozen (drained) zucchini
  • 1 cup plus one tablespoon whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 -3 tablespoons cinnamon (or less, if you aren’t a cinnamon nut like I am!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or 1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
  • handful or two of golden raisins, regular raisins, or currants (optional if you hate raisins, of course)

Preheat oven (or toaster oven!) to 350 degrees F.  Grease the bottom only of a 9X5 bread-baking pan (glass or cast iron preferred over a flimsy metal pan, as you’re going to bake this for a while).  Combine the first five ingredients in a small bowl or large mixing cup–about 1 quart size should give you plenty of room.  Combine the remaining ingredients except the pepitas and raisins in a 2-cup measure and stir well.  Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and stir just to combine.  Stir in the raisins and pepitas, reserving a few pepitas for the top of the loaf.  Pour everything into your prepared pan and sprinkle on the last of the pepitas.  Bake at 350 degrees F for about 70 minutes, covering the top loosely with foil to avoid over-browning about half way through the process.  Let the bread cool 5 minutes in the pan, and then slide a knife around the edges to make sure the bread is separated neatly.  Remove the bread from the pan and let it finish cooling on a rack.  Slice after it cools, as you need it, from the center outward.

If you’ve got space in your freezer, you can double or even triple this recipe and freeze loafs for easy breakfasts in the winter.  If you decide to freeze the zucchini instead, be sure to grate it first and then drain it very well after it thaws before you use it for bread.

Does your family have a favorite quick back-to-school breakfast?  Do you have a special way to bake zucchini bread?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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Lately I’ve had two ideas for seasonal ingredients that didn’t make the blog cut.  The first idea was to wrap thin strips of puff pastry around turkey ham, wrapped around asparagus with a sliver of emmenthal cheese.  The problem was that I ended up with pastry that was too dry, and it wouldn’t curl to wrap.  Was it the whole-grain flour?  The tweaking I did to use buttermilk?  Or the fact that I left the dough uncovered when I chilled it?  I’m betting on that, but the result was a failure.  Everything tasted good but had none of the elegance I envisioned.

Tonight I made tart shells for strawberry tarts.  I used a scaled-down version of one of Darina Allen‘s pastry recipes.  I figured I could get the tarts the right size and shape by draping the dough over an upside-down muffin tin.  They slid in spots, leaving holes.  I think that the oven needed to be hotter (as in, preheated) and the dough needed to be colder when it went in the oven, but I could be wrong.

Despite these two recent flubs in pastry, I’m not giving up.  We learn as often from what we do wrong as what we do right.  Sometimes I hear parents who try to avoid having their children ever fail.  Frankly, I think that’s a bad idea.  Experimenting, failing, and succeeding are all part of what makes humanity so special.  It’s how we advance.  And if a finger gets nicked or a knuckle gets burned or a knee gets scraped, that’s all part of the process.  And we ate all of my flubs, even if they didn’t look pretty enough for the blog.

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I made the mistake last week while I was house-bound after surgery of sending my husband to the local health food store to pick up some things that we needed.  He came home with a few things that we almost never eat. I’m guessing he was thinking, “Hey, these are at the health food store, so they must be okay!” Among the “treats” were two bags of processed snacks, one a bag of Barbara’s baked jalapeno cheese puffs and the other a bag of Kettle’s “fully loaded baked potato” potato chips (fried, not baked).  The cheese puffs were okay but not addicting.  The potato chips didn’t taste that good, but I didn’t want to stop eating them.  I looked at the ingredients and discovered why.

The Kettle chips had the key mix of ingredients, combining salty with sweet and flavor enhancers, to make you keep reaching in the bag.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t add sugar or maltodextrin (processed in your body as glucose) or autolyzed yeast extract (MSG under a deceptive name) to my loaded baked potato.  Do you add these things to your baked potato?  Do you add citric acid?  Me neither.  Put these ingredients together with salt and starch, though, and you have a perfect blend of flavors–salty, sweet, sour–that will have you and your children reaching into the bag over and over again until you break the cycle by stepping away from the bag and cleansing your palate.

Americans weights have increased dramatically since 1960–25 pounds on average, the difference between fit and fat.  Part of that increase is due to our sedentary lifestyles compared to earlier generations who were less dependent on cars and television, computers, and electronic games, but another big part of it is due to food flavor engineering.  Old-fashioned french fries taste good because they are starch, fat, and salt.  Add the sweet-sour ketchup, and you’ve got a mouth party.  McDonald’s puts together the favor party in advance by adding ingredients like sugar to the fries themselves.  So do many of the companies that make fries for your freezer.  Look back at the potato chips you can’t put down; any chip starts with the potential for overeating, but enjoy it with a sweet drink or put weird ingredients like sugar in it, and you’ll end up eating too much.  The same is true for processed salad dressings.  Hidden Valley Ranch, for example, includes not only MSG but also significant sugar.  No wonder it’s become the dip of choice for kids.

If you want to keep your family healthy, keep the processed foods to a limit in your house.  If you do have to buy processed foods every once in a while, read the label and avoid products with that lethal combination of sugar, salt, flavor enhancers, and sour.  Go for products that have no more than two of the four.  For example, salty baked Kettle chips have no sugar (although they do have yeast extract, another flavor enhancer variation on MSG).  Be aware too that making homemade products like ranch dressing without nasty, addictive stuff and with better flavor overall is really, really easy–just mayonnaise, buttermilk or kefir, and garlic powder and other spices to taste–and much cheaper than the store-bought products.

Truth in Labeling has provided a great list of other names for MSG, and I found a decent list of sugar naming games at IVillage.  Print out these lists and stick them with your shopping list, along with the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list of foods with high pesticide levels.  Eliminate these foods from your family’s food, and you’ll have a healthier, slimmer family.

Update:  My husband read this post.  He says I asked for chips to eat with a sandwich.  I have no memory of the incident, but, then again, I was on pain medication.  Honey, see, I ‘fessed up! Please go to the store for me again some day.

Have you found weird ingredients like sugar in savory food or any of the many forms of MSG that you didn’t know were in the foods your family eats?  Share a comment!

Copyright 201o Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full link and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.

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A century ago, Progressive reformers who thought that urban children were becoming disconnected from the soil and their food encouraged the development of community gardens for kids in empty urban spaces.  Children got at least three benefits from urban garden projects:  first, they got out in the fresh air; second, they got fresh vegetables that their families might otherwise not have had access to or been able to afford; third, they learned from where food comes.

This week, we learned that American children now snack almost every waking hour, and more and more of their calories are coming from snacking.  More programs like Alice Waters’s Edible Schoolyard across the United States could bring back the Progressive impulse and healthy eating and activity for children.  Applications for educators and administrators (and maybe parents) who want to bring the Edible Schoolyard to their schools are due on April 15.  You don’t have to live in California, where the Edible Schoolyard was born.  For FAQs, see here.

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A few weeks ago, the Arkansas Department of Education made available a comparison, school by school, of students’ grades and standardized test scores.  Not surprisingly, almost all schools’ grades of A and B were higher than the students who had been judged proficient in basic subjects, and some schools’ disparity was shockingly high.  And schools were only considered to have grade inflation if 20% or more of students with As and Bs didn’t make proficient on the standardized test, a rate that ignores the fact that any student with an A or B who can’t make proficient on the standardized test probably does not deserve the grade that he or she got.  You can read more about the analysis here and here (PPT download–beware; it’ll start automatically as soon as you click the link!).

News like this should serve as a warning to students, parents, educators–and colleges that may now view applicants from grade-inflated schools with suspicion.  The student has not really been doing A and B work.  The student may not be ready for college.  The student may not be ready to graduate from high school.

If you are an educator or administrator at a school with grade inflation, your task is simple.  Grade harder.  Teach more.  Either help colleagues who are inadequate or lax to be better, or help administration to remove them from teaching.  Otherwise your whole school will continue to suffer, and ultimately everyone’s jobs will be at stake.

What if you’re a parent?  Learn how to ask the right questions of your child.  Don’t just ask, How was school today? or Do you like Mrs. X? Ask detailed questions about how your child’s teacher teaches, about how your child spends time in school.  Don’t complain about homework.  Do your best to help with it–but not do it.  Check to see if your child’s school system has grade inflation.  If you see signs that your child is spending more time playing games and watching movies in class than learning, that he or she never has homework, that the student isn’t progressing academically, ask at your child’s school what’s going on in the classroom.  Ask how you can help make it better.

If you don’t live in Arkansas, check with your own state department of education to find out whether your school system has grade inflation.  If the department does not track these statistics, contact your state legislator about making tracking a requirement.  Then follow through.  American education has been on a slow decline since the Reagan years.  If we don’t turn it around, all of our children’s futures are doomed.

Have you been successful in helping to turn around your child’s school’s performance?  What did you do?  Did you enlist other parents?  Did you volunteer at your child’s school?  Did you contact the media?  Let me and other readers know!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.

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In the depths of winter and cabin fever, dreams of spring keep me going.

As I look on my snow-shrouded bean teepees, I remember how beautiful they looked this past summer, so laden with beans and pushing their way to the sky.  One person who saw them recommended if I heard a NASA countdown start, to take cover.  Yes, they sort of looked like rockets on the launch pad.

Bean teepees can add architectural interest to a largely linear garden.

Bean teepees can be constructed of rustic, sturdy limbs or, like mine, milled lumber.  Each of my teepees include 4 pieces of 1×2, 8-foot long lumber.  The 8-foot length on an angle really helps people like me who are vertically challenged pick veggies off tall vines.  I’ve added nails at regular intervals for stringing twine on three sides (and the upper area of the fourth side) to help the beans grow up.  Here, you can see a newly planted bean teepee. I always position them with the open side to the north, so that kids and pets can crawl in to get relief from the summer heat.  The fancy twine pattern on the north side (the opposite side in this photograph) gives the structure extra strength.  I push the legs into the ground well before I do the planting but then give another push to stabilize them in the wet earth.  Here, each leg spreads four feet from the other legs, but you could use a three-foot or five-foot spread too (although the three-foot spread is less stable than a wider stance).

I typically plant each bean teepee with different varieties of beans.  In this way, I’ll have a longer harvest with more options for use. I’m also much less likely to get tired of any single kind of bean night after night for dinner.  

In 2009 I created some combinations myself, like the one you can see in the teepee above,  green yard-long asparagus beans from Botanical Interests and red yard-long beans from John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seed, available from several other sources too.  I also grew wax (yellow) and green French beans from  a combination packet at Renee’s Garden.  The combination is not available in 2010, but I’ll be ordering her green filet and wax filet together this year instead.  I’ll be ordering her Tri-Color Pole Bean Trio too.  Other pole beans you may want to try include Kentucky Wonder.

Do you photographs or your bean teepees or bean teepee plans you’d like to share with readers of Ozarkhomesteader?  Do you have favorite varieties of pole beans?  Do you have questions about bean teepees or finding pole bean seeds?  Let me know!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.  Short excerpts with full links are welcome.  Please contact me for permission for photographs.

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Copyright Ozarkhomesteader 2009.  All rights reserved.  See other posts on fair use.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from walking kids (and adults!) through my garden, it’s that a cute name or a vibrant color goes a long way toward getting kids (and adults!) to try something new.  A few years ago some friends’ kids, then aged about 5 and 9, were walking through the garden to see what was new.  When I showed the older son the banana peppers, he told his younger sister, “Hey, these are bananas!”  She expressed disbelief, and I told her that they were sweet peppers that just looked like bananas.  “Can I have one?” she asked.  “Of course,” I told her, cutting off one for her and her brother.  They both wiped them off on their shirts and then chomped into them.  As they made their way back to their car to go home, they asked their parents if it was okay for them to take the peppers in the car.  They snacked on them all the way home.  Now these kids are pretty adventurous eaters, but I’ve seen similar things with other kids who were less adventurous.  If it looks pretty or sounds fun, kids will try it!

Today I picked some chard with beautiful deep green leaves and bright red stems.  I always think ruby chard is pretty, but this time of year, it makes me think of Christmas.  Christmas Salad Try this one on your kids:  use small ruby chard leaves in a salad with other rosy vegetables and maybe some white cheese or creamy dressing to make a  Christmas salad.  You could even call it a reindeer salad.  Just don’t call it chard, which is definitely not an appealing name.  If you can’t find baby ruby chard in your CSA basket, farmer’s market, or grocery store, you still have time to grow it before the holidays.  Begin by soaking the seed to give them a head start.  If you have a cold frame, you can grow them in there.  If you don’t have a cold frame, don’t despair.  Just use heavy clear plastic–like that old shower curtain liner you need to replace–to heat up the ground and protect the seeds and seedlings as they grow.  Keep the ground under the plastic watered well, and keep the plastic a few inches off any seedlings and growing greens.  If you plant this week, by Christmas you’ll have beautiful baby greens!  And Swiss chard of every color packs a wallop of nutrients, including more than 700% of your recommended daily value of Vitamin K, which will help you keep strong bones.  For more on chard’s amazing nutrient value, see here.

Real lettuce varieties you may want to try for holiday spirit include deer tongue (a deep red leaf type lettuce) and Marvel of Four Seasons (a red and green crinkly lettuce), both from John Scheeper’s Kitchen Garden Seed, and Botanical Interests’s Valentine Mix.  You can start all of these and get some baby lettuce by Christmas too!

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