Nov 12






Our family went to a birthday party for a friend of my 6yo daughter.  One activity was for each child to make their own pizza. It was a huge success!

I thought making pizza would be difficult, but it looked easy. So, I decided to make one with the kids one afternoon. I found the process to be very quick, easy and fun with very little clean up (Huge bonus when cooking with kids). From now on, I think I’ll make pizza with the kids rather than ordering it.

Smiley PizzaHere is the recipe:

Pizza crust ingredients (yields 2 thin medium size pizzas or 1 thick large size pizza)

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 package (1/4 oz.) of active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic power
  • 1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
  • 1 tablespoon Italian dry herbs (optional)

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Directions:

  • Combine flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl.
  • Mix in oil and warm water. I used my hand to make the dough, no tools necessary.
  • Let it sit for 15 minutes to rise. Then, prepare cooking foil. I used two sheets (side by side) to make it wide.
  • Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on the rolling surface.
  • Roll the dough out to flat, and place it in on the foil.

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 Topic ingredients

  • Your favorite marinara sauce
  • Italian cheese mix 2 cups
  • Your favorite any toppings

I normally make my own marinara sauce, but I didn’t have time to make it today so I used store bought tomato and basil marinara sauce.

Spread marinara sauce on the dough, and top with cheese.

I added fresh sliced tomatoes, pepperoni, and sprinkled with fresh basil.

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Bake the pizza at 375 degrees for 20 minutes for thin crust and 25 minutes for thick crust. We made two medium pizzas.

It took us less than 30 minutes to make them, excluding the baking time.

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The kids had great time making their own pizza, and they finished one medium pizza themselves. Next time, I am going to try to make vegetarian pizza for myself.

Bon appétit!

 

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Sep 23






The first day of fall has come and gone, which means it’s time to start cooking up warm and filling meals for the family. Yes, it’s time for hot soups and comfort foods! This recipe comes from Joy Bauer and The Kids Cook Monday. This heart-healthy dish includes eggs and cheese for protein and plenty of vegetables to add vitamin C and color. Kids can join in on the fun with this dish by whisking the eggs with the cheese and then pouring the batter into muffin cups. Enjoy this as a traditional breakfast, or switch things up and make it for dinner one night!

 

Ingredients:

Nonstick cooking spray (for preparing the muffin cups)

1 Tbsp canola oil

½ Yellow onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

8 oz button mushrooms, trimmed and sliced

½ Tsp salt

¼ Tsp black pepper

4 eggs

4 egg whites

½ cup skim milk

¾ cup shredded, reduced-fat cheddar cheese

½ zucchini, diced

 

Steps:

(Together)

  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with a generous layer of nonstick cooking spray.

(Adult)

  1. Place the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms to the skillet and sauté for 8-10 minutes, or until soft.

(Child)

  1. Whisk the eggs, egg whites, and skim milk together in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the cheese, zucchini, and sautéed mushroom mixture to the bowl. Mix, taking care to ensure ingredients are evenly distributed.
  3. Season the egg-veggie mixture with the pepper and salt.

(Together)

  1. Pour ¼ to ½ cup of the egg mixture into each muffin cup. Transfer to the oven and bake for 22-24 minutes, or until cooked through. Enjoy!

 

Serves 12

 

May 15






May teases us with visions of summer and all the outdoor activities we dream of throughout the spring. With the outdoor activity increasing, grabbing a snack on the go becomes a necessity. Be prepared with a healthy, yummy, easily portable snack by making your own energy bars! It’s easier than you think, and can be easily adapted for any diet or taste. Throw in the fact that these are “no-bake” and you can turn the kids loose in the kitchen with this recipe. ***The difference between the granola bar and energy bar is the level of protein. The recipe as is makes a general granola bar…if you drop the honey down to 3 tablespoons and add almond or peanut butter, it moves to the energy bar category. Enjoy!!   ~Debbie

Ingredients:

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup steel-cut oats

1 cup rice cereal

¼ cup dried cherries, chopped*

¼ cup dried blueberries, chopped*

¼ cup chopped almonds (optional – can use any nut of your choice or omit altogether)

¼ cup pepitas/pumpkin seeds (optional – can use seed of choice or omit altogether)

¼ cup butter, melted

¼ cup honey, or to preference***

2 tsp vanilla extract

½ cup mini chocolate or butterscotch chips

optional variations: substitute ½ cup almond or peanut butter, plus 3 tbl honey in place of the ¼ cup honey to make an energy bar***

*use ½ cup of any dried fruit/s of your choice…the wonderful thing about homemade granola bars is you can put whatever you want in and leave whatever you don’t want out. Think about your family’s favorite dried fruits, seeds, nuts, cereals, grains, etc. and come up with your own variation. As long as you keep the right balance of wet/dry ingredients, there really are no rules!

Directions:

Grease a 9×13 baking dish with olive oil, butter, or non-stick spray. In a large bowl mix the oats, cereal, dried fruit, seeds and nuts.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat; add the brown sugar, honey, and vanilla extract. ***If you like your bars a little drier, use less honey; if you like them chewier and “stickier”, increase the honey to your preference. (If you increase the amount of honey, I would still add it to the oat mixture slowly until you get the right balance…you can always add more, but you can’t take it out!) Whisk/stir until sugar is completely dissolved, about 2 minutes. Pour over the oat mixture; stir until completely coated/combined. If the mixture is too sticky/wet for your taste, add oats or rice until the desired consistency is reached.

Spread mixture into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle chocolate/butterscotch chips evenly over mixture; press into top to set. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Cut into bars.

 

Fun Facts About Fitness

~ It takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile, so you are actually working your muscles harder to be grumpy instead of happy!

~ Your heart is the strongest muscle in your body.

~ The only exercise that requires you to hold your breath in order to do it is swimming underwater!

~ Dehydration causes a drop in exercise/performance, so be sure to hydrate before, during and after physical activity.

~ Your heart is about the size of your fist, and weighs nearly the same as a softball.

~ Your tongue is the only muscle in your body that is attached at just one end

~ Just being 25 pounds overweight creates almost 5,000 “extra” miles of blood vessels your heart has to pump blood through on a daily basis.

~ Over a lifetime the average person will walk approximately 70,000.

~ Approximately one-third of children aged 6-11 are overweight, and 15% are considered medically obese.

~ Actively playing with your kids or grandkids can burn as many calories as taking a brisk walk!

~ Exercise boosts brainpower! It increases energy levels and serotonin, which improves mental clarity.

~ Fitness builds family relationships. Realize the gift of exercising with a partner, whether it’s your child, a spouse, a sibling, or a close friend. Not only is it more fun to exercise with someone, it’s a great way to find special one-on-one time together!

Apr 1






Chilly, rainy spring days cry out for comfort food. Falling back on my Southern roots, my thoughts wander to cornbread. The South is well known for it’s cornbread, and deservedly so. Cornmeal is a staple in many recipes, and is a cost-effective way to supplement a meal for a large family.

While pinto beans and cornbread are served at many a southern table, chili and cornbread is an equal second. Chili cook-offs abound all over the country with recipes ranging from mild to nuclear. This chili recipe is one I came up with trying to satisfy my southern taste buds while staying family-friendly. Most recipes are made with ground beef, ground pork, or a combination of both. I use frozen meat-substitute crumbles to make it super healthy and super easy. And before you say, “oh, there’s NO WAY I could eat chili made from soy”, just ask my husband…I fed him this chili for over 4 years before he found out it was meat substitute! He will admit to this day he cannot tell the difference. (His suggestion is to add a little steak seasoning to complete the masquerade.)

Aside from healthiness, another benefit is there’s no thawing or browning of meat…it goes straight from freezer to pot! All of the ingredients can be kept in the freezer or pantry – ready to go at a moment’s notice. It’s also “helper friendly” so the kids can participate in the whole process. This one-pot meal is on the table in less than half an hour.  Enjoy!!   ~Debbie

Ingredients:

1 bag Morning Star veggie crumbles (or 1 lb browned, ground beef)

1 can pinto beans, rinsed & drained

1 can kidney beans, rinsed & drained

1 can black beans, rinsed & drained

1 can fire roasted tomatoes

1 can diced tomatoes with garlic (there are several varieties, take your pick)

1 can tomato paste

1 can tomato sauce with garlic

water, as needed

shredded cheese/chopped onions, optional

optional variations: add a can of corn, drained; add a can of Rotel tomatoes & green chilis; add a jar of pickled jalapeno slices, drained. Nothing’s off limits…vary to your own taste!

 

1 box cornbread mix (I prefer Trader Joe’s), baked according to package directions.

Directions:

Dump all the ingredients together in a large soup/chili pot. Heat on medium to medium-high heat until heated through, usually about 20-30 minutes. Once I get all the ingredients warming up together, I add water a little at a time until I get the consistency I want. Wait until it’s cooked for a while, however, because the thawing crumbles (if you use that) will add a little water as it thaws so you may not need to add much, if any at all. You will most likely need to add water if you use regular ground beef/pork. I usually start mixing the cornbread after I put the chili on the stove; by the time I’ve mixed it up and baked it, the chili is heated through. I also started making mini-muffins out of the cornbread for easier and more kid-friendly serving sizes. Add some shredded cheese on top for extra yumminess. Throw a quick side salad together or add a veggie and you’ve got a complete meal in a flash for pennies a serving!

Fun Facts About Rain

~The umbrella was not designed to protect us from the rain; it was originally invented to block the hot sun!

~ If you’ve ever wondered why some springs are rainier than others, just look at the sun. Not literally of course, but the sun does have an impact on how much it rains. The sun is on an eleven-year cycle, with regards to sunspots and the production of cosmic rays. When sun spot activity is high, the sun produces more cosmic rays, which get through our atmosphere as small particles. These small particles form a water droplet and eventually form rain clouds. So if you have more cosmic rays, you get more cloud cover, which causes us to have a rainier season.

~ When sunlight shines through water droplets in the air, we get rainbows. The water droplets bend the light and separate it into the seven colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.

~ We all know that rain is water, but where does it come from? Rain is recycled water that has evaporated from our water sources on land: oceans, rivers, lakes, ponds, creeks, and streams.

~ Rain falls at a rate of about 5-6 miles per hour, but can fall at speeds up to 22 mph.

~ Rain doesn’t begin as a teardrop. It starts out as a flat oval and stretches into the classic teardrop shape as it falls.

~ The heaviest rainfall on the planet is in Cherrapunju, India, where it can rain as much as 87 feet per year! In the United States the heaviest rainfall is in Louisiana, which averages 56 inches per year.

~ Rain occurs on other planets in our solar system, but it is much different than the rain we have on Earth. On Venus it rains sulfuric acid, but due to the extreme heat, evaporates before it hits the surface!

Mar 4






Anyone who knows me is very aware of the fact that Dr. Seuss is my literary hero. He is the indisputable master of rhyming, and has undeniably made his own unique mark in literary history. Dr. Seuss is not simply a talented author; his gifts go much further than that. He has the ability to cross age barriers, cultural and ethnic barriers, political barriers and any other common social obstacles that tend to plague humanity. He was able to infuse humor with human frailties to reach commonality with his readers, young and old for so many of life’s important lessons. His books are timeless, and will be treasured for generations to come. So when the time came for selecting this month’s recipe, of course there was one obvious choice: Green Eggs & Ham! Courtesy of Seussville.com, here are a few different variations…hope you enjoy!   ~Debbie

Dr. Seuss Fun Facts

~ If you want to pronounce his name correctly, say “Zoice” not “Soose”. Seuss is Bavarian, and was his mother’s maiden name. His grandparents emigrated from Bavaria (part of what is now Germany) in the 1800’s. Seuss is actually his middle name: Theodore Seuss Geisel (known as “Ted” by his family).

~ Dr. Seuss was the editor of his college humor magazine at Dartmouth, where he published his cartoons at the time. In the spring of 1925, he and his buddies were caught drinking gin in their room (which violated the rules of Prohibition at the time) and was stripped of his editorship as punishment. To get around that, Geisel began publishing his cartoons under the aliases L. Pasteur, T. Seuss and Seuss, to name a few. These cartoons are when he first started signing his work “Seuss”. As a magazine cartoonist, he began working under the title “Dr. Theophrastus Seuss” in 1927, shortening it to “Dr. Seuss” in 1928.

~ Dr. Seuss never had any children of his own, just two stepdaughters from his second marriage to Audrey Stone in 1968. He and his first wife Helen (who died in 1967) wanted children, but Helen was unable to have any. When asked how he could write so well for children not having any of his own, his usual response was “You make ‘em, I’ll amuse ‘em”.

~ Dr. Seuss was quite bored by his academic studies; he much preferred to doodle and draw so decided to tour Europe instead of going to college. He began pursuing his career as a cartoonist when he returned to the United States.

~ The Cat in the Hat, probably the best known book of Dr. Seuss, was written after a publisher asked him to write and illustrate a children’s beginning reader using only 225 “new reader” vocabulary words.

~ Green Eggs and Ham was Seuss’ comeback when his publisher bet him he couldn’t write a book using only 50 or fewer different words. It ended up becoming Seuss’ best selling book.

~ Dr. Seuss didn’t just want children to read; he wanted them to think. He realized the power children’s books had for the potential of good, and tried to foster that through his post-war message books Horton Hears a Who!, The Sneetches and The Butter Battle Book, to name a few. He won the Pulitzer Prize for The Butter Battle Book in 1984.

 

Feb 1






February abounds with chocolates, flowers, and candy hearts. There’s definitely no shortage of dessert recipes for those of us that are admitted chocoholics! Here’s an easy, “wow-factor” dessert that takes very little time and just a few ingredients. You can go the homemade route and make your brownies and whipped cream from scratch, or you can save time and take advantage of pre-made brownies from your local store and a can of Reddi-Wip!

Ingredients:

8 (2×2 inch) brownies, crumbled into pieces (about 2 cups)

2 cups fresh raspberries

chocolate syrup

whipped cream

Directions:

Start by crumbling the brownies into “dirt”. This is a great way for the kids to help, and it keeps your hands clean!

Divide half of the brownie dirt between 4 large parfait glasses or water goblets. Divide half of the raspberries, syrup, and whipped cream between the glasses, creating layers. Repeat the layers with the remaining dirt, raspberries, syrup, and whipped cream. Serve immediately or cover and chill up to 4 hours. Enjoy!

~Debbie

Valentine Fun Facts

~ Valentine’s Day was first introduced to Japan in 1936, and has become a very popular celebration. But due to a translation error made by a chocolate company executive during the first ad campaigns, only women give chocolates to their spouses, boyfriends or friends. For many single women, it is the only time they will dare reveal their true feelings for a man by giving him chocolate. Handmade chocolates are preferred, as they show that sincerity and effort went into giving the gift.

~ IQD or “International Quirkyalone Day” is also celebrated on February 14 as an option for those that don’t want to drown in the mass-marketing of Valentine’s Day. It’s not anti-Valentine’s Day, but rather a celebration of friendship, independence, and love for yourself.

~Another alternative to Valentine’s Day is Single Awareness Day (which used to go by SAD until members felt that was too depressing and contradicted the group’s intention). It was formed by a group of singles who were tired of feeling left out of all the Valentine’s Day celebrations and ad campaigns. The goal is to set a day for singles to celebrate, have parties, and exchange gifts with their other single friends. Many people send themselves flowers or plan special events with other singles.

~ In 1700s England, a girl would eat a hard-boiled egg (including the shell, yuck!) and pin four bay leaves to her pillow on Valentine’s Day eve. Legend has it that she would soon marry the boy she dreamed about that night.

~ Around 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are given in the United States every year. That makes it the biggest card-giving occasion of the year (next to Christmas), and women buy 85% of all Valentine’s sold.

Jan 7






January is loaded with New Year traditions and celebrations. Every culture (probably since the beginning of time) has some way to acknowledge, welcome, and bless the New Year. Being from the South, my family is steeped in New Year’s tradition mostly related to food. It was a must that every New Year’s we went to visit my grandmother and eat black-eyed peas and cornbread with a side of cabbage. The black-eyed peas were for luck and the cabbage was for money in the coming year.

The ingredients for Hoppin’ John are inexpensive, easy to find, and there are many variations, limited only by your personal preference. Black-eyed peas (also known as cow peas) are a great source of protein and fiber, making them a bang-for-your-buck nutritional powerhouse. While I personally can’t stand black-eyed peas my family adores them, so this is my take on a Southern staple.

Ingredients:

1 pound dried black-eyed peas*   4 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tbl olive oil (or vegetable)        2 stalks celery, diced

2 tbl butter                                 1 red bell pepper, diced

1 pkg salt pork**                          1 medium onion, diced

4-5 C chicken stock                      salt & pepper, to taste

Cayenne pepper, to taste

2 tbl white vinegar or hot-pepper vinegar, optional

white or brown rice, for serving

*fresh or canned black-eyed peas can be used

**4-6 strips of thick-sliced bacon can be used, but salt pork is now readily available at Wal-Mart, Target and most grocers; it adds a richer flavor

Directions:

Start by sorting the peas to remove any stones or “bad” peas. (Look for discolored, broken, or blemished peas.)This is a great job for the kiddos!

     

After sorting, soak your black-eyed peas in cool water for a few hours. If you don’t want to soak your beans first, you will have a considerably longer cooking time…the longer the soak, the shorter overall cooking time. I usually soak mine for 3 hours or so, which gives me about a 1-hour cooking time; 6+ hours or overnight can get the cook time down to 30 minutes or less. This is also easily adaptable for a slow-cooker, so you can “set and forget” if you prefer. When they are through soaking, rinse and drain and set aside.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat butter and oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic, onion, bell pepper, and celery and stir. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the veggies are lightly browned. Add peas, salt & pepper, and cayenne; stir until everything is well combined. Pour in the chicken stock until the peas are just covered with liquid; add the salt pork. If more liquid is needed you can add additional stock or finish off with water. Stir well and bring the mixture to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer (covered) until peas are tender. (I start checking after 30 minutes, then every 15-20 minutes, depending on how firm they are. If you are used to cooking with dried bean or lentils, it’s the same process.) Stir in vinegar (if using), then taste for seasonings.

For a thicker, creamier consistency, take a cup of peas (with a bit of liquid) and smash with a fork until it’s basically a starchy mush. Mix back into the pot to thicken. Serve spooned over a bed of white or brown rice. Round out a complete meal by adding a salad and serving of protein like a pork chop, chicken breast or small steak. Salud!

~Debbie

 

New Year’s Fun Facts:

Traditions abound on New Year’s Day! Customs and celebrations cross all cultures, ethnicities and religions. Many traditions are steeped in superstition, and are intended to bring good luck and fortune or prevent bad fates. Most of us think about the ball dropping in Times Square, toasting, fireworks and football games. Here are some of the more common, less known, and truly unusual

Auld Lang Syn

This is the most commonly sung song on New Year’s Eve. It is an old Scottish song that was first published by the poet Robert Burns in 1796. It has been remarked that “Auld Lang Syne” is one of the most popular songs nobody knows the words to. Translated it means “old long since” and refers to times gone by. It was made popular by bandleader Guy Lombardo at a New York New Year’s Eve party in 1929.

Hogmanay

Scotland is also the home of the Hogmanay (hog-mah-NAY), a New Year’s celebration which includes the tradition of “first footing”. Shortly after midnight on New Year’s Eve, neighbors pay each other visits bearing gifts and New Year’s wishes. Traditionally visitors carried a piece of coal, some bread, some money, and some greenery…all for luck. The coal was to ensure the home was always warm, bread so everyone in the house would have enough food to eat, money to  assure prosperity, and greenery for a long life. The visitor would also take a pan of dust or ashes out of the house with them when they left, symbolizing the departure of the old year.

Oshogatsu

In Japan the most important holiday is the New Year, and is a symbol of renewal. Bonenkai (forget-the-year parties) are held in December to say goodbye to all the problems and concerns of the past year and get ready for a new beginning. Houses are scrubbed clean and misunderstandings and grudges are forgiven. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, Buddhist temples strike their gongs 108 times to banish 108 types of human weakness. New Year’s Day is joyous and no work is to be done. Children receive small gifts with money inside and sending New Year’s cards is a popular tradition.

Spain

The ritual in Spain of eating twelve grapes at midnight is to secure twelve happy months in the coming year. The tradition, dating back to 1909, is to eat one grape at each stroke of the clock (not as easy as it sounds). Each grape represents a different month of the year, so if the 5th grape is a bit sour, May might be a difficult month. The goal is to swallow all of the grapes before the last stroke of midnight.

Pork & Fish

We already know that beans, peas and lentils are eaten for luck and cooked greens are symbolic of fortune. There is also the custom of eating pork on New Year’s to symbolize progress. The idea is that the animal pushes forward, rooting itself in the ground before moving. It is also served to signify wealth and prosperity.

Fish, particularly cod, is a popular celebration food. Fish can be preserved and transported easily, even before refrigeration and modern means. In addition, the Catholic Church’s policy against red meat on religious holidays helped make fish common at feasts. Many countries and cultures include fish in their celebrations and traditions.

Say What?

Not only are there traditions and superstitions regarding luck and prosperity in the New Year, there are also superstitions regarding bad luck. In addition to eating lucky foods and performing certain rituals, there are also some things to avoid.

For example, it is considered bad luck to eat lobster on New Year’s because they move backwards, and this symbolizes setbacks. Chicken are also discouraged because they scratch backwards, which could generate regret or dwelling on the past. Another superstition warns against all winged fowl because your good luck could fly away.

~Debbie

Dec 12






Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown

 

December is the official start of winter, which means colder weather and many evenings staying warm inside. Whether you’re curled up with a good book, watching your favorite show or having family time together, everyone enjoys a yummy cup of hot chocolate. What many don’t know is how easy it is to make your own “instant” hot cocoa instead of buying packaged stuff at the store. Not only is it easy, it’s more affordable compared to what you spend on those individual serving packets. This is also a great gift idea, especially for those that are hard to shop for.

Ingredients:

2 cups powdered sugar

1 cup cocoa (Dutch-process preferred)

2½ cups powdered milk

1 tsp salt

2 tsp cornstarch

1 pinch cayenne pepper, or more to taste*

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and incorporate evenly (I find using a whisk works best). In a kettle or small pot heat 4-6 cups of water.

Fill your mug half full with the mixture and pour in hot water. Stir until mixed. Sealed in an airtight container, this mix keeps indefinitely in the pantry. If you want an even richer cup, this works great with warm milk instead of water.

*Some of you may be thinking “cayenne pepper, are they crazy?!” But you really need to try it! The amount is like a drop in the ocean when you compare the quantity of the other dry ingredients. This just gives it that extra “hmmmm” that you taste in a really good chocolate, but you can’t put your finger on what it is….using pepper in chocolate is common in Mayan culture. Pepper enhances the flavor of chocolate the same way salt enhances the flavors of other things in cooking & baking. You may find yourself increasing the amount to ¼ teaspoon or more…Enjoy!

~Debbie

 


Fun Facts about Winter Solstice

 

Have you ever wondered why the days seem so long during the summer and so short during the winter? Well, it’s not your imagination! The length of each day changes over the course of the year depending upon the season. During the summer, usually around June 21 or 22, we experience the summer solstice, which is the longest day of the year. And during the winter, usually around December 21 or 22, is the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year. The length of the days is due to the Earth’s tilt on its axis. During the summer it is tilted towards the sun, which gives us longer, warmer days. In the winter, it is tilted away from the sun, giving us shorter, colder days.

**EXTRA FUN FACT** If you live in Australia, it’s exactly the opposite! You experience the longest day in December and the shortest day in June. Why? Because Australia is located below the equator, their seasons are reversed…they have winter in June and summer in December! Santa might have to trade in his warm coat and cocoa for shorts and sunscreen “down under”

People from many different cultures have held solstice celebrations for thousands of years. For our ancestors, the seasons and weather played a very important role in their lives for hunting, gathering and growing. For this reason, many celebrations and traditions were centered around the solstices. The word “solstice” comes from the Latin words “sol” which means sun, “stitium” which means stoppage, and “sistere” which means to stand still. This loosely translates to mean the time the sun stops or stands still.

One of the most well-known winter celebrations is probably Christmas, but there are countless traditions and celebrations all over the world that are not connected to Christmas at all. Many different religions and cultures practice their celebrations at this time of year including Kwanza, Hanukkah, Bodhi Day, Soyal and Yule. There are solstice festivals, gatherings, rituals and celebrations all over the world recognizing the different cycles of the year. 

~Debbie

 

Nov 5






November is the time of year that kicks off holiday cooking and get-togethers, including fun, seasonal desserts. One cute and tasty treat to make with your kids for Thanksgiving is Oreo Turkeys. Using just a few easy-to-find ingredients, you can have some creative fun with your kids and a sweet treat to impress your guests!

Ingredients/supplies:

Double Stuff Oreo Cookies     candy corn
Whoppers candy                   mini peanut butter cups
chocolate frosting                 yellow frosting
red frosting (optional)           black sprinkles (optional)

The tubes of colored frosting you can buy on the baking isle work well for these projects. I like to use homemade when it counts, but for the details and convenience of this project the tubes work great.

 Take one cookie and put a little chocolate frosting on the edge to help hold the candy corn in a little better. You don’t have to, but it makes it more secure. Put in your candy corn for the feathers. Five works well. Go ahead and assemble all the feathers/cookies you are going to put together. For each turkey you will use 2 cookies, 8 candy corn, 1 Whopper, 1 peanut butter cup, and each color of frosting.

Next, put a dab of chocolate frosting on the opposite end of the cookie to “glue it” to the other cookie as a base. It helps to lean them up against a wall or something to keep them together as they dry.

 While they are setting up, upwrap the peanut butter cups and shave off one end (I find a paring knife works well). It helps to use a gentle sawing motion so you won’t smash the cup, as well as cutting it on its bottom (turned upside-down). You also need to cut some candy corn in half to use for the beak. Use your judgment for length, but about halfway is good.

 After all your cups are prepped, put some more frosting “glue” on the pb cup and place it on the cookie, putting the frosting at both points it touches the cookie. Add two candy corns for wings. Now it’s time for a head. Glue a Whopper on with frosting as well, making sure to get frosting on the side that touches the cookie and the pb cup.

 It also helps to decorate the eyes and beak while the cookies are still lying down. Use the cut candy corn for the beak, securing with yellow frosting. Put two yellow dots for eyes, and either use chocolate frosting for the black spots in the eyes, a mini chocolate chip, or black sprinkles. (I didn’t have any of these, and they came out just fine.)

 Once everything has dried and set up you can flip them over and draw on feet with the yellow frosting. If you have red frosting you can also add a little wattle (the red, loose skin under the turkey’s chin).

 And how cute is that?

Fun Facts about Thanksgiving

The Plymouth Pilgrims were the first to celebrate Thanksgiving. After the Pilgrims sailed across the Atlantic Ocean on the Mayflower to reach North America, they endured many hardships. About half of the original colonists died from sickness and dangers they faced in the new land. In 1961, the Pilgrim leader Governor William Bradford organized the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The feast was to celebrate the blessings of the first harvest in the new world and their own survival.

The three-day feast included about 50 colonists and 90 Wampanoag Indians invited by Gov. Bradford. The Wampanoag’s were the people who taught the Pilgrims how to cultivate the land. But this feast didn’t include mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, corn, or even turkey! The butter, flour, and sugar for many of our traditional dishes were all in short supply, and they didn’t have access to any potatoes. Deer, rabbit, shellfish, fish, squashes, beans, cabbage, nuts, onions, dried fruits, maple syrup, radishes, carrots, eggs, and goat cheese are thought to be the main dishes for the first Thanksgiving. Historians believe that lobster, seal, and swan may have been served as well. And they didn’t use forks…they ate with spoons, knives, and their fingers! Turkeys became associated with Thanksgiving simply out of convenience. Wild turkeys were all over New England back then, so it was an easy source of food. They are also very practical. One turkey can feed many people, and don’t have a secondary use like milk or eggs.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, American leaders regularly called for “days of thanks”, but presidents would either declare it a holiday or not based upon their own feelings. The first national Thanksgiving Day was issued by George Washington in 1789. John Adams and James Madison also declared Thanksgiving a holiday in their presidential terms, but the date varied from year to year. A designated day of celebration didn’t occur until President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. But it wasn’t until 1941 that Congress declared the fourth Thursday of November to be a legal, national public holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Oct 19






A common activity during the lovely month of October is pumpkin carving. What do you do with all those seeds? Roast them of course! Roasted pumpkin seeds are a quick, healthy, and delicious snack!

  • Here’s what you need to do…
  • Let stand for 3 hours, or until dry.
  • Heat oven to 350˚ F.
  • Spray seeds generously with cooking spray or drizzle   with olive oil.
  • Sprinkle with salt, garlic, or any one of your favorite seasonings.
  • Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until browned, stirring after 5.
  • Let cool and store in an air-tight container.

For saltier seeds, after rinsing, soak the seeds in salt water for a couple hours before drying.

Be sure to check out other kid-friendly recipes in Kids in the Kitchen on Go-Gyro-Go.

 

Fun Facts

History of the Jack-o-Lantern

In Ireland, where Halloween first began, the first jack-o-lanterns were not made from pumpkins. They were actually made out of rutabagas, potatoes, turnips, or even beets! Jack-o-lanterns came about hundreds of years ago from an old Irish legend about a man named Stingy Jack. Jack had a reputation for being very clever, as well as a lazy, mean trickster. Because he led such a cruel and miserable life, when he died he was doomed to spend eternity without a resting place, roaming forever in the darkness carrying a burning coal in a hollowed out turnip to light his way. Stingy Jack became known as “Jack of the Lantern” or “Jack-o-Lantern”.

From this legend came the Irish tradition of placing jack-o’-lanterns made of turnips and other vegetables in windows or by doors on Halloween. The jack-o’-lanterns were meant to scare away Stingy Jack and ward off evil spirits. When Irish immigrants brought the tradition to the United States, they quickly discovered that pumpkins were bigger and easier to carve, so began using them for jack-o-lanterns instead.

Enjoy!

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