Saturday, March 31, 2012

Homemade Granola

We love, love, love this simple and healthy granola recipe. I hope that your family does as well!

2 ½ cups organic, gluten free whole oats (like Bob's Red Mill)
1 cup raw almonds, chopped
1/3 cup organic unsweetened dried fruit (cherries, raisins, cranberries)
½ cup maple syrup
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. 
Chop almonds if not already done. 

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. 
Grease a cookie sheet with butter and spread mixture into a single, even layer upon the sheet. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring once midway. Remove from oven when slightly browned. 

 Enjoy! This recipe is great sprinkled on yogurt, eaten in a bowl of milk, or mixed in to trail mix. It's delicious!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Making Maple Sugar Candy

After our first attempt at sugaring yesterday, we found ourselves with a glut of delicious maple syrup.

OK, no we didn't.

When all was said and done we got a little less than a pint of our own sweet stuff. That's OK, because we had visited a sugar shack on Maine Maple Sunday, so our stores were full enough.

Garrett has fond memories of making maple candy during his childhood. He had a neighborhood friend whose mother grew up making maple syrup and all of the delicious products which stem from it, and he was anxious to try to recreate the experience with our family. After a quick internet search he remembered most of the process for making maple candy, so we grabbed the gear and resolved to try it.

Here's what we did:

The ingredients are literally just 2 cups of real maple syrup and... nothing else. Smile. You do need a candy thermometer, though.
 Pour the maple syrup into a pot on the stove.
 Bring the temperature up to 235 degrees. That's why you need the candy thermometer.
 You'll see it start to steam and boil. That's good. Stir constantly because it will scorch in the blink of an eye.

 Once it gets up to temperature you'll see the appearance become opaque and the consistency will become thick. Take the syrup off the heat and continue to stir like crazy. You'll see it starting to set on it's own in the pan...
 As fast as you possibly can, dump it into mini muffin cups or other molds. It will harden almost immediately. In the absence of molds just spread it onto parchment paper, as we did. For us it didn't matter what it looked like because we already knew the best way to eat it is crushed up over homemade oatmeal.
 Let it cool. Or don't. Warm is yummy, too.

Enjoy on one of the last cold days of winter- the taste is so rich it demands flannel pajamas, a warm fire, good company and strong coffee.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Rainbow Pom Pom Transfer

The UPS guy came today. At our house, this is cause for huge excitement. You (really) never know what he's going to bring to the Simple Little Home. In fact, I think the last thing he brought was the 20 quart dutch oven that we used to boil sap for maple syrup, and before that he delivered us some bobcat urine to keep predators away from the chicken coop, and before that it was a huge delivery of wood to make more bee hives.Yeah, he loves us.

Today, however, the kids knew what was coming. We've been patiently waiting for a bunch of homeschool supplies that I ordered and today they finally arrived. The package, after the kids tore right in, looked like this:
Kid heaven, right? Of all the exciting stuff in here, do you know what got the most play right away? The only non-homeschool item I purchased: silicone mini muffin cups that I plan to use for maple syrup candy.The kids went right for the least expensive, only non-"specifically designed learning tool for kids" in the box. And they had a great time with them.

There really is nothing like a small dose of reality to take the wind from your sails, hum?

Not to be deterred, I devised this simple game based on the thousand Pinterest pom pom transfer posts I've seen lately (and by 1+1+1's post about her rainbow week which appeared in my email today). 

You need:
Colored pom poms to match the
mini silicone baking cups
child-friendly tweezers
optional basket to store the goods.

The activity is simple: put the pom poms in a basket and ask the child to use tweezers to move the pom poms from the basket to the corresponding colored muffin cup. Ask the child to say the name of the color out loud to you. Since our set has a dark and a light blue cup we had a good discussion about light versus dark colors.

Simple, fun, reusable and educational. Love this.

We Sugared! (Is that a verb?)

We are officially among the ranks of true Mainers (and perhaps Vermonters?) who have made their own maple syrup. We boiled a day early because there is a nasty snow storm in the forecast for tomorrow (may I take a moment to quietly remember the lovely 70 and 80 degree weather from last week?). Since we didn't want to be standing in the snow and rain all afternoon watching a pot boil...literally... we snuck it in today.

So, how did it go?

You know the satisfying feeling that you get when you accomplish something yourself- when you could have asked someone else or bought the thing- but you chose to do it on your own? Then a peaceful tranquility sort of seeps into your soul, so proud and satisfied are you with a job well done?

Well, this is nothing like that. 

It's better! Why, you ask? Because the end result is the sweetest most lovely liquid there ever was! And you get to eat it all yourself like a silly glutton!

So, yes. We loved, loved, loved today. Here are a few pictures so that you can love today right along with us.

I was the official "pot watcher." This is a very, very, very important job.

Still hot from the pot- see the condensation. It is so yummy!

Monday, March 26, 2012

40 Day Whole Food Challenge Reflection and Menu, Weeks 3 and 4

{If you haven't been following the 40 Day Whole Food Challenge you can get caught up here and here.}

I'm combining weeks. Can you tell? We didn't eat all this in one week...

Even this far into the challenge, I still want salt. A lot. But I am also still really loving this new approach to food, and Garrett and I are agreed that we'll be continuing this new "diet" long after Lent is over. It's amazing to experience all the health benefits that we have over the last few weeks without ever denying ourselves a thing. If we want it, we eat it. We just make it first.

What we have been eating over the past couple weeks:

Banana Split Baked Oatmeal

Pumpkin Apple Pie Muffins

Lemon Cornmeal Pancakes

Lots of oatmeal with berries and honey

Lots of fried eggs on toast with tomato and avocado

Banana Split Baked Oatmeal

Southwest Omelettes

Morning Muffins (recipe coming soon)


Avocado, Tomato, mozzarella and green onion salad. (She doesn't include a recipe for the dressing, but I used 2 Tbsp. whole seed mustard, 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, 1 Tbs. honey and 1 Tbs. olive oil.)

Buffalo Chicken BLAT

Beet, Goat Cheese and Spinach Salad
Shrimp cocktail (we eat this about every Wednesday because that's the day we go to the pier to get our seafood) with veggie sticks

Peanut butter and banana sandwiches with honey drizzled on top

Hummus and "chips" with veggie sticks to dip

Corn thin sandwiches with peanut butter and jelly and fruit

Mushroom cap pizza bites with veggie sticks and fruit (another new to us recipe that was a big hit)

Beet, goat cheese and spinach salad (kids ate all ingredients, just on rice crackers and I had to make sure no ingredients were touching...)

Grilled salmon with oven roasted garlic asparagus and a green salad

Pork Piccata with lemon and capers (hint: call this "lemonde pork" to appeal to the littlest tastes)
Oven Roasted Garlic Brussels Sprouts

Grilled chicken with Cabbage, Kale and Apple Chop Salad with Avocado Dressing

Spicy Cauliflower Curry with baked haddock (family didn't love this one, though, so it's not likely to be a repeat)

Homemade beef stew with homemade cornbread (recipes coming)

Roasted Lemon Garlic Herb Shrimp over rice and wilted spinach (fabulous, by the way- that was a first for us and everyone gobbled it up)

Grilled steak/chicken with grilled asparagus and salad

Polenta with oven roasted garlic brussels sprouts

Eleanor works up to the Chewy Granola Bars
Homemade Chewy Granola Bars

Homemade Squeeze Yogurt 

Raw almonds dipped in raw honey

Fruits, veggies and cheese slices

Fruit chips

Homemade Beef Jerky

Herbed popcorn

Grilled Asparagus

Family favorite coming through! Every single member of our family loves grilled asparagus and it couldn't be easier to prepare.

Ingredients are asparagus, olive oil, salt, and pepper. See? I told you- easy.
 Drizzle olive oil over the asparagus- just enough to lightly cover. Then sprinkle on salt and pepper to taste.
 Then grill. Here we are grilling some meat as well- if that's your plan, put the meat on first and only add asparagus at the end because it takes just a few minutes to cook through on a hot grill.

 When the asparagus becomes very green in color and slightly tender to a fork prick it's ready to eat!
 Yum, yum, yum.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tot School Begins

I hadn't really planned to begin "school" with Ava until next fall. She'll be three in May, and if I were planning to send her to preschool I would have started her in a class in September. I suppose I was unconsciously planning to start her formal lessons at home on the same schedule because it's just really hard to unlearn all those nuances from my own 22 years of formal schooling.  

I'm still working on that.

I should have known that we are raising an independent thinker and an inquisitive learner who would generate her own timetable. I probably should have realized that our capricious middle child was not going to conform to some unspoken idea of her mother's or subscribe to the idea that she should begin school in September because, well, why do we do that again?

Nevermind, it's not going to happen that way. Earlier last week Ava approached me in a matter of fact way about her schooling. "Mommy," she asked as I sat at the table doing a lesson with her brother, "when are you gonna do my school?" "In the fall, honey," I replied without thinking about it. (I was up to 86 or so "ones place rods" and I really didn't want to loose count now.) "How about today?" She wanted to know. "Um, sure, Ava. In a little bit." Wait. What? And that is how it began.

She reminded me later that afternoon about our appointment to school, and I quickly printed off some Rainbow Tot School printables I'd seen on 1+1+1=1 that at least sort of connected to our work on weather. She sat with me for a half hour working on shapes and colors (she knew more of them than I'd ever suspected) and she has requested special school time with me every day since.

(As an important aside, may I just thank all of the wonderful homeschooling mothers out there who are talented and generous enough to post the curricula and printables they create online for others- like me- to use? You are such gifts to me.)

Look for a post coming up in the next couple weeks about how we are managing this new schooling adventure, but for now I'll show you a bit of how we're adjusting.

We are using workboxes for the two big kids so that they each have individual activities that they can do without me. This way, Ava works on her boxes while I'm sitting with Ben, and vice versa. This system will take a bit of refining over the coming weeks, but for now here's what I have going for Ava.

Ava's workbox system for now

One box includes a shape matching game

Another includes some lacing cards

Another includes a color sorting game which coordinates with our family FIAR unit of the Pair of Red Clogs

And still another includes some "I Spy" shape games
Then during our time together (while Ben works on his boxes) we work on printables, learn new skills, or play a few of my favorite teaching preschool apps on the ipad.

It's a very different feeling, I must say, having two children old enough for school...

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