Thursday, March 28, 2013

Vegetarian Fare- Garden Mirepoix and Red Lentils

I don't usually post recipes.  And well, this isn't.  I'm just so excited that I was able to make mirepoix from my own front yard.  That said, I took a recipe that I ate at my friend's house over at The Full Montessori, and changed it up just a bit.  I apologize, but I don't measure when I cook so this isn't a true recipe, but a list of what I used and what I did.  This is not truly vegetarian since I used chicken broth, but you can substitute, and you can substitute butter and cheese and egg and it will be vegan.  I'm sure you can figure it out.

sweet potato
red lentils
few seeds cumin
tablespoon butter
tablespoon olive oil
spoon of paprika
2 cloves garlic
generous grating of nutmeg
few pinches good salt and pepper
(chicken broth)- can use water or vegetable, I had some I had make a few days ago.

poached egg

I melted butter and olive oil, threw in onion, celery, and carrots, cumin, garlic with pinch of salt till soft, then added sweet potato, nutmeg, salt/pepper and paprika for an additional few min.  Tossed in lentils with a few cups of chicken broth and let it cook down.  When soft, I pureed it in hand blender leaving it slightly chunky.

I served it for the kids with cheese and a dollop of butter (and chicken on the side).  I had it with a poached egg (which was my first time to try!!).

Happy last days of lent!

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Dirty Hands, Big Mind: A Lesson in Gardening with Children

Recently, a friend emailed me and asked me to give her some ideas on setting up a gardening lesson.  I thought about it briefly but had a lot to share with her.  I figured it would also make for a good post.

There is one thing I'd like to highlight.  When you introduce a child to gardening be ready to get dirty.  Both the child and adult must get past any squeamishness and be ready to get their hands dirty.  Using tools and gloves will only distract the child from the most important lesson: DIRT.  Dirt aka soil is an essential ingredient in gardening (hydroponics aside).  Working with soil involves your hands and getting intimate with it.  You need to connect directly and develop a love for it.

Besides getting dirty, there is another very important and vital aspect to putting your hands in and getting them dirty.  This is a sensory experience that most people area lacking today.  The dexterity, fine and gross motor coordination that gardening requires will help a growing child's brain develop in so many ways. Dr. Montessori said, the hands are the instrument of the mind. Homunculus is the perfect image of the relationship of the hand and the brain and other ways in which our senses contribute to brain development.  

The same goes for the feet.  Keeping children in shoes all the time, even outside,voids them of the opportunity for the neural connections where the senses imprint minute details.  These area all important aspects of sensory integration. 

Some further reading and links:
Sensory Science: The Mind/ Body Link
The Absorbent Mind and the Sensitive Periods
Sensory Development and Integration for Babies and Toddlers
 I have always enjoyed this site below.
Zero to Three- Brain Map

Here is my suggestion for an activity or "lesson" in gardening:
- I'd suggest starting with this book How a Seed Grows.  It's a great "lesson" to help guide the kids.  Also, it has step by step instructions that the kids will understand on how to start a bean in an egg shell.  Make sure your shells are at least 3/4 instead of half.  If this is not possible, then collect toilet paper rolls tape paper on bottom and fill with dirt. If this too is too much, then have them collect yogurt cups and punch a few small holes in the bottom for the water to drain out.  You can also do a few extra so you can pull out and show them the roots and such, or grow them in a small plastic cup. 

-Start the bean seeds in the shells and water ever so little.  Best would be a spoon or dropper or small pitcher. Initial watering needs to be deep and thorough, soil should be moist all the way down. You can keep the shells in the carton too.  I suggest a bush bean variety over a vining one.  Blue Lake Bush beans and Yellow wax are good ones.  This way they also see that beans come in different colors. 

-Give this as a small group lesson.  It might be too much to keep doing individually.  It would be a good activity to have a mix of all 3 ages and so have 3 children.  It might be a little too challenging for the little ones so if you have 3 with you then you can have them guide each other.  I have done this with my girls by age 2, but that's only 1 child every 2 years :)  I also suggest putting down lots of newspaper on the table and having them use their hands and fingers to push down the dirt and seed.  The most important lesson you can give a child about gardening is that you need your hands to do it, and getting dirty is part of it.  Tools and such tend to distract them and they can loose focus.  Once the seeds start and you start to transplant, then you can introduce the tools.

-You will need at least 5-6 hours of warm sun for your seedlings.  If not, at least 3 hours and you can help them germinate faster with heat underneath or close by.  You can create a "greenhouse" by getting foil trays with a plastic dome, or buy one similar to that at Lowes or some other gardening/hardware store.  They can help the seed start.  It should take about 10 days max and then you can work on transplanting. 

-An "additional" exercise would be labeling the plants, so the children know what type of bean they grew, so each tray/carton is Blue Bush or Yellow Wax.  You can write their names directly on the egg/container in marker.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Anyone else this crazy?

Do you have those days, all too often for me, more like everyday, when you're running around all morning going, what am I doing?

 You start by picking up the mess in the living room and so you carry the wads of tissues to the trash, there you decide you want to eat, so you open the dishwasher, so you put the dishes away.  While putting some away, you run to check on the little one, that draws your attention to the clothes on the couch, you start to pick up things from there, hair clips, pieces of fabric, fix the cushions, pick up the dirty socks,etc.  You go to put those away in the kids room which then you realize is a mess. Start picking up the books, and organizing them, you run to the computer to renew the late books, you get stuck on Facebook. You realize you need to start planting the beans and corn seeds, tomato seedlings need water.  Let me make a note of it. Oh, I'm so hungry, go back to the kitchen and bang your shin on the open dishwasher. Damn it, I should find the time to go to yoga, it's been months.

Start putting dishes away, since you were already in the middle of it.  Turn around, all food and breakfast stuff is left out, you decide to clean it up and make a cup of coffee.  Water is boiling and you get stuff out.  Continue to put the dishes away.  Coffee is brewing.   You walk over to put kids dishes in their shelf, food on floor, start sweeping.  More hair clips.  Go back to kids room.  Oh those clothes are still out.  Put those away, make bed.  Put away more clothes.  Those clothes are too small now in that drawer, let me take some out and put in a pile.  Start going through kids clothes to organize.  OH CRAP my coffee!  Go back to make the coffee, it's cold.  You make it, and re-heat it.  Start putting away dishes, see kids mess in their kitchen set, start cleaning it up.  Take things to other parts of house where they belong.  Organize the kids shelves since legos, and finger puppets are all over floor. Now the books need to be put away and organized.  Glance at clock- are you kidding me, it's 9 and I still haven't eaten in the 3 hours I've been up?  Go back to kitchen, Oh that damn coffee is sitting in the microwave! Re-heat it.  Dishes.....     (oh and don't forget the laundry that's piling up and the load that you forgot in the washer from 2 days ago).

And so it goes on.

Anyone else feeling like this?

I feel like the Mad Hatter at time, then I feel normal, then I laugh, then I think this is just life!

Ok, well maybe it's just my life.

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