Adriana, Food, Garden, Home School

Homemade Pickles

This pickling project was spearheaded by Leo. He loves pickles and was so excited by our surplus stock of cucumbers coming out of the garden that he requested we give pickle making a try. I’ve never made pickles before aside from what I call my lazy way of adding cucumbers to the pickle brine of empty pickle jars we bought from the store. It’s worked in the past, especially since we never really had a lot of cucumbers left over to jar. The ‘Homemade Refrigerator Pickle’ recipe we followed from A Spicy Perspective https://www.aspicyperspective.com/best-homemade-refrigerator-pickles/ was easy, simple and the pickles taste great!

Homemade Refrigerator Pickles:

Ingredients:

  • 3 to 4 cucumbers
  • 1/4 cup Vidalia onion, sliced
  • 3-5 sprigs fresh dill
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pickling salt or kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole yellow mustard seeds
  •  Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  1. Fill a clean pint-sized jar with 3 to 4 sliced cucumbers, onion slices and fresh dill sprigs. Leave a 1/2 inch of space at the top of the jar for liquid.
  2. In a small pot heat the vinegar, water, garlic and spices until the mixture comes to a simmer and the salt and sugar dissolve.
  3. Cool the brine down to a warm temperature and fill the jars so that everything is covered with brine.
  4. Close the lid tightly and refrigerate for 24 hours before eating.

Homemade pickles should last for two months in the refrigerator in a jar.

Enjoy!

A Cucumber Lemon in the garden

I planted a different kind of cucumber in the garden this year along with the other pickling cucumbers. This one is an heirloom Cucumber Lemon. If you haven’t ever tried it, they are delicious. Crunchy, sweet and can be eaten right off the vine or pickled. Another great addition to the cucumber garden!

Adriana, Food, Garden, Home School

Victory Garden 2020 July Update: Some Unexpected Visitors and the Joys of a Garden

The Garden

One beautiful gift in my family’s life that has come from this ‘great global pause’ is the time we took to expand our garden. It has been something Mike and I have been dreaming of doing for years and because of the need to remove trees, clear the land from lots of overgrowth, make beds, a fence and bring in some good compost – the task at hand was very labor intensive and time consuming. It was a team effort and we are thoroughly enjoying the fruits of our labor which I am grateful for each and every day.

With the warm July weather, the garden has truly exploded with bounty – and with that, we’ve had some unexpected visitors. One morning, Vivi (my 20-month-old) and I were sitting in the living room playing, when she pointed out the window and said, “Mama, Neigh, Neigh.” I looked and saw these adorable fawns in our yard eating some fresh buds off the stumps of trees we cut down. “But where is the mama?” I asked. “Oh, there she is mom,” said Leo. “She’s in the garden!” In the garden! I jumped to my feet and opened the screen door and there she was happily enjoying my beet greens! I started walking over to the garden as if to kindly ask her to leave and not frighten her babies and as peacefully as she came, she left, jumping over our garden fence. I discovered that the beet greens weren’t all that she likes, she throughly enjoyed our green beens too!

About a month ago, when Mike was working on the fence, he asked me if we should make it higher than 4 feet because deer can jump 6 feet high. I told him that the likely hood of a deer jumping over a fence to get into our garden seemed funny, entirely unlikely and not to worry. Well, rather than eating my beet greens, I’m now eating my own words! Since then, we added a wire addition to the fence so that it now stands at 6 feet tall. The deer keep visiting, but fortunately they haven’t attempted leaping this fence.

The garden fun doesn’t stop there. The kids are always so eager to pick the ripening vegetables, even before they’re ready and bring them into the house to show me with excitement. We have eaten some small, hard, orange tomatoes, very small and bitter cucumbers and some baby eggplant. No problem, it’s all edible, some vegetables really just taste a heck of a lot better when they are ripe! It has been a good lesson in patience. Fortunately, the kids have now pretty much got the hang of picking fruit when it’s reached its peak, aside from Vivi who still loves those big green tomatoes she calls apples! We check the garden daily scoping out with excited anticipation what we can pick next. Unfortunately, we had another little visitor that was also watching our tomatoes, eggplants and carrots as closely as we were and decided to taste test the fruit too! Instead of eating it all or taking it with him, he just took bites of whatever he liked and left the rest there for us. So, again, we were back to the fence, searching for a spot that the little bugger was using to get into the garden. We found the hole and found another, made some repairs and found out the hard way one night that it was a skunk who was paying our garden a nightly visit.

Now that we have put the garden on lockdown from all visitors except for those that work in it, we have seen things start to flourish again and are having a hard time keeping up with all the goodness. We have been enjoying summer squash, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, early girl tomatoes, green beans, eggplant, cucumbers, cucumbers and more cucumbers! The kids and I have been trying out many zucchini/squash recipes and have been enjoying zucchini fritters, saute’d zucchini, squash and eggplant, and some great zucchini bread along with many cucumber and tomato sandwiches. Leo and I also made homemade refrigerator pickles and as we were packing them into our refrigerator, we realized it was broken! Yes, all my pandemic frozen goodies went with it! Didn’t realize they had all thawed and could only save so much since my oven broke earlier in the week and I was only working with a stove top! Just feel like it was all adding to the slower, homesteading pace of life to be without my appliances! Had to try and go with it, otherwise I may have broke down too! Fortunately, we had a back-up fridge in the basement and were able to save what we had in the refrigerator – especially those pickles!

Yes, Believe your eyes, it is an Orange Pumpkin in July in New England!

Leo has decided to celebrate Halloween in July and has been having lot’s of fun carving summer squash, cucumbers and even one of his pumpkins from the ‘Great Pumpkin Patch!’ Can’t help but smile looking at my little guy and his missing two front teeth next to his toothless pumpkin!

I hope you all are enjoying the joys of gardening and celebrating the beauty and bounty of life. The gifts of life are so precious – meant to nourish, to be preserved and above all, Enjoyed – True to the garden. True to life!

Wishing you all Good Health, Good Food and Good Company.
Life is Good!

Adriana, Food, Home School

Switchel- An 18th Century Energy Drink!

Switchel, it’s easier to make than it is to pronounce! Although, my kids really get a kick out of saying it, especially Leo now that he’s missing his two front teeth! First time I ever had this old-fashioned energy concoction was years ago on my father-in-law’s farm. After a long day working in his garden, he had mixed up his own switchel and offered me a taste. It definitely packs a punch, but as I’ve learned through experimentation, there are so many ways to mix it up so that it’s pleasurable to most tastebuds.

Switchel is an 18th century energy drink that restores the bodies electrolytes while also boosting the immune system. It is easy to make and allows for some creativity. Your standard Switchel is a 1/2 gallon water, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup molasses (not black strap), maple syrup or honey and a tablespoon ground ginger or minced ginger (first steep minced ginger in water and then add just the liquid to the drink filtering out the ginger pieces). This really is a much healthier version of the energy drinks you buy today and cheaper to make! It is an excellent summertime drink that helps rehydrate your body and build your immunity for the fall cold season to come. In the cooler weather I like to add 1 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar, 1 teaspoon honey and a pinch of ginger to a favorite hot herbal tea like green tea or echinacea.

Even Vivienne at 20 months enjoys a little Switchel!

We have played around with our Switchel concoction at our house and have come up with some great recipes!

Our Favorite Switchel Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Gallon Seltzer Water or Sparkling Water (You could even use a favorite flavored sparkling water)
  • 1 Tablespoon local raw honey and 1 Tablespoon Molases – heated in a little water so they dissolve before adding to the drink
  • 1 Pinch Sea Salt or Hawaiian Pink Salt
  • 1/4 Cup Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 Cup lemonade, orange juice or cranberry juice
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, minced and steamed in some water (only add the flavored water – filter out the ginger pieces)
  • 4 drops Elderberry Syrup
  • 1 Teaspoon Egyptian Black Seed Oil (This is excellent in building your immune system, calming inflammation and aiding in healthy gut flora and digestion – you may want to leave this out initially for the kids because it has a very strong taste).
This is the Elderberry Syrup and Egyptian Black Seed Oil that we use

Mix it all together and Enjoy!

Here’s a Great Educational video from the Townsends on making Switchel!

Adriana, Home School

Queen Anne’s Lace – A Favorite from my Childhood and a Lesson in Capillary Action

Strolling down my road on long walks as a young girl I would love to collect Queen Anne’s Lace. It is a very common white, flat-topped flower that resembles lace and often has a solitary purple flower in the center. It is found in fields, meadows and along roadsides from late spring until mid-fall. Its name is derived from a legend that tells of Queen Anne of England pricking her finger and a drop of blood landing on white lace she was sewing. Queen Anne’s Lace is also known as “Wild Carrot” and its roots are edible. Early Europeans cultivated it using the root in soups, stews, salads and teas! As for me, in my youth, I never dreamed of using the flower this way! I had other magical ways of turning this common weed into a wonder!

For me, Queen Anne’s Lace was magical. I would look forward to collecting these beautifully elegant flowers to bring home and transform into a colorful display. My favorite thing about these flowers was to put them in jars of food coloring and watch the colors magically change before my eyes! It was amazing! It sparked so much curiosity. Little did I know the science that was involved. This flower experiment was something my mom started with us as kids and is a tradition that captivates my own children today.

Coloring Queen Anne’s Lace is a fantastic and simple lesson for children in capillary action. All you need are some flowers, some small jars or vases, food coloring and a little time and patience. Add a handful of drops of food coloring and a flower to each jar of water. Depending on how much water and food coloring you add, you will most likely start to see your flower change color over the course of the day. How does the water travel from the roots to the rest of the plant? Tiny tubes inside the stem called xylem draw the water up from the roots like a straw by a process called capillary action.

Leo and I cut the stem in half so we could try and see the xylem tubes

Capillary action is what happens when water travels up things like small tubes. The water molecules stick to one another and to the walls of the tube which allows it to move upward. The molecules that stick to each other pull more water after it as it climbs. Capillary action lets water travel up to all the different parts of a plant through the xylem tubes in the stem.

You could also try this experiment with stalks of celery. Place a stalk of celery into a jar of food coloring and water. After about 20 minutes you can cult the stalk in half and see the tubes changing color. If you leave the stalks overnight you will also see the leaves at the top of the stalk change color.

Wishing you some Beautiful summer strolls in nature that bring you Wonder and Amazement!

Adriana, Home School, Projects

Digging Clay from the Earth: Messy fun for Everyone!

It’s like striking gold! One day in the yard Leo and Lily were digging and discovered clay – lot’s of it! We did a little research and found out our little New England town was once known for making bricks a long time ago. So, it’s no surprise that clay is naturally plentiful. It has been a wonderful discovery and the kids continue to take full advantage of it! They usually fill a gallon bucket and get to work making some unique and beautiful creations. For Mother’s Day, Leo made me about 10 pinch pots! Yes, 10, because we all know, you can never have enough pinch pots!

The kids sometimes mix the clay with sand or straw to give it more strength. There are so many fun things you can make with clay. Leo made his own bricks and we cooked them on high heat over the grill. They now surround his corn bed out in the garden.

Lily has also used the clay on her potter’s wheel and made some bowls. We usually let the clay air dry. It isn’t water safe and some pieces are more delicate than others, but surprisingly once hardened, the clay is quite durable.

Once dry, you can try painting your nature clay, but it is pretty dark and grainy, so the paint doesn’t always show up that great. We have found that if you mix a powdered tempura paint into the clay – it can hold the color nice.

Recently the kids were inspired by a video we watched about making your own primitive outdoor clay oven and went outside to give it a try! First they collected their clay. Then mixed it with some sand and hay and then stomped all over it mixing it with their feet! It reminded me of the I Love Lucy episode when she stomps on the grapes in Italy! Some good old-fashioned messy fun!

Next the kids gathered an old table and some bricks to form a base for their oven. They decided this would be a mini version of the real thing to test out the process. Then they piled on the sand to form an oven shape and covered it with wet strips of newspaper. After that dried, they piled on the clay. The final product – a little small to bake a loaf of bread, but Leo said we could at least toast a slice of bread in it!

I you’re interested in making your own outdoor clay oven, this youtube video from the Townsend family is great https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0foHjPVbP4 . The Townsends family site is also fantastic if you are interested in exploring anything from the 18th and early 19th century with your kids or for your own personal interest. Here’s a link to their site https://www.townsends.us. My kids love watching these informational videos and it has inspired us to make many new creations from the early settlers. Especially appropriate in our slower pace, down time at home!

If you’d like to try digging up some of your own clay from the earth, searching near the banks of local creeks is one place that often has lots of clay. You could also research local clay in your area online. We also love working with store bought air dry clay.

If your kids are really young, you may find play-dough a better medium to sink their hands into. Although, my one year old very much enjoyed covering herself in clay and helping pat it down onto the clay oven- we just had to keep her from removing the clay and taking the oven apart!

This is a favorite and full proof play-dough recipe we have made over the years and like it the best because it’s easy to make and lasts long.

Homemade Playdough:

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Salt
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
  • 2 Teaspoons Cream of Tarter

Mix all ingredients together in a medium size pan. Cook over low heat on stove top, mixing with a wooden spoon the entire time, until a ball forms. If you’d like to add food coloring, do this once play-dough has cooled a bit and mix into dough with your hands. Store the play-dough in and airtight container for a month. If it starts to get sticky, put it back in a pan on low heat to dry it out a little more.

  Have Fun!

*Since having kids, my motto has not only become “Embrace the Pace,” But Also – “Embrace the Mess!” It keeps them busy, it’s therapeutic and it makes for great memories!

Adriana, Family

Happy Independence Day!

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed- Let it be that great strong land of love / Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme / That any man be crushed by one above. – Langston Hughes

On this anniversary of our great Nations’ Independence we wish you all freedom and happiness. Thankful for the life, liberty and path to all that we hold dear. Take the day as yours and reflect on the joys that make life worth living. Let’s all pledge to pursue them together for a better tomorrow. Peace, Love and Joy be yours today and always.

Eat pops, Play games, blow bubbles, splash in the sprinkler, have a bar-b-cue, roast marshmallows – Have some good old-fashioned fun and spread the LOVE!

And if you’re looking for a little pleasure reading to share with the kids – this is a great look into the history of the document that gave the people of the United States their freedom

From our Home to Yours – Have a Wonderful Weekend!

Adriana, Mike, Ava, Lily, Leo & Vivienne

Adriana, Family, Garden, Home School

Harvesting Hope: Victory Garden 2020 June Update

“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.” — Alfred Austin

The garden keeps on growing! Each day we walk through the garden weeding, watering, and pruning the suckers off the tomatoes, we are amazed by the growth that seems to happen overnight. Gardening is truly a labor of love. If you’ve ever weeded a carrot bed, I’m sure you’d very much agree! Weeding aside, tending to a garden is therapeutic for me and I think it’s contagious! The kids along with Mike are always out there checking on their plants, pulling weeds, picking bugs off the bok choy and the eggplant, making sure the ground isn’t too dry, counting tomatoes and flowers in the pumpkin patch and dreaming of what the next couple months will bring like tomato sandwiches and homemade pickles!

Leo and his watermelon plant. He’s very excited that it has a flower!

Leo has been my right hand man in the garden this year. He seems to be pretty much in charge of the whole production, but like any good boss, he is always asking questions and learning himself! He is always out there first thing in the morning to check on things, especially his two bean plants that he sprouted from seeds in a jar and then transplanted into the garden. He is a seed saver. Everything he eats, he usually asks where is the seed and how did this grow on a plant and can he grow it in the garden. We are both learning something new everyday. We have researched corn, how many ears one stalk can grow, how to help your pumpkins grow bigger, where are banana seeds and why flowers turn into plants. We also have been studying bees; how they survive and thrive and how they pollinate plants.

People who love to eat are always the best people.

Julia Child

Spending time in the garden has always brought me great joy and I feel so honored to be able to share this gift with my family. I have so many beautiful childhood memories of my Italian grandparents garden in New Jersey. My Nonno and Nonna taught me so much about working the earth and making good food. They were the original “organic” farmers growing up in a little mountain village in Italy. They valued everything they put on the table because it truly was in every word, “the fruits of their labor.” So much of what I know about gardening I learned watching and helping them. They taught me at an early age to respect the earth and to take care of it because our existence depends on it. They weren’t environmental activists, they were Italian farmers who knew the importance of respecting the earth that feeds you. They taught me where food comes from, how to compost and create healthy dirt, how to save seeds for next year, how to can and cook what you grow and best of all, they taught me the great joy of sitting down to a meal together with those you love.

Gardening and food have a way of connecting us all

Planting a garden isn’t just about experimentation, it is about hope. It is about believing in the magic and beauty of the earth and the gift of tomorrow. When planting a garden there are so many things that are out of our control that can effect our plants. To believe in a garden is to have hope. Hope that the tiny little seed you planted will be nourished by the earth and weather the storms and be resilient. It is having trust in the unknown, which is something I hold very near to my heart during these uncertain times. Hope is something that like a garden needs to be nurtured and encouraged to grow. There is no time better than the present to harvest hope. To believe in tomorrow. So I encourage you to dig deep into the earth and plant some seeds of hope. Your garden will do more than grow plants, it will give you a harvest of plenty; one that will nourish the mind, body and soul.

Having a garden and believing in new beginnings is a Victory for us all!

Adriana

The Great Reset

“Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing. 
And gave it up. And took my old body and went out into the morning, 
and sang.”
 
—I Worried, Mary Oliver

I think the world on a global scale is asking us all to pause and reset; to let go of worry, to have faith and to believe that a change is going to come. What else is there to make of this pandemic that has caused countries, economies and people to come to a complete stop. The earth needs a reset on many levels. We as humans need it too. It is a time to look inward and reassess not only who we are, but who we want to be and what we want our future to look like. This time is an opportunity to ask ourselves to think about what we truly consider essential; is it food, jobs, financial stability, our environment, our families our lives? This time, can be a time of great transformation – for us as individuals, for our children, for our earth and climate, for corporations, for humanity as a whole.

We have been asked to slow down our pace and with it, Change is happening. It’s no surprise that during this time of shut down that scientists have shown pollution on a global scale has decreased. As individuals and as citizens of the world, how can we maintain this and maybe change the way we do things to continue with this momentum? Families are spending more time together, people are making their own meals, Americans are looking at their finances and having to make honest decisions about how they spend their time and money.

“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, it’s unlikely you will step up and take responsibility for making it so. If you assume that there’s no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, there are opportunities to change things, there’s a chance you may contribute to making a better world. The choice is yours.” 
― Noam Chomsky

In this time of great transformation Americans are taking to the streets demanding equal rights and justice for all. They are possibly less distracted with the daily grind and moving beyond the role of active spectators and becoming participants in action. They are asking that we take a look at ourselves and take part in redefining our culture and our world. It is a movement that has sparked peaceful protests all over the world. I have a renewed faith in my fellow Americans seeing more people get involved in upholding the words in the Declaration of Independence that claim “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.” We all have a role to play in our future. Often we are bogged down by the everyday happenings of life and maybe we feel we can’t get involved and actually make our voices heard. Change starts from within and each and every action you take is a political one, from the food you eat to how you raise your children, to the choices you make everyday in how you carry yourself and your actions as an individual. What we do each day has a larger global impact.

We are all in this together. We are going through trying times, but these times are going to make us all stronger as individuals, as families and as a global world. Human beings are resilient. We have stood the test of time and evolved with the changes that have shaped who we are today. We continue to strive for a better world on many levels. A world that will make us all a little stronger. During these challenging times, remember your own resilience, your power to create change and joy in this world. We all have a role to play that is immeasurable.

Without Struggle there is no progress.”

Frederick Douglas

Adriana, Food, Home School

Baking Bread?

Baking bread from home has been growing in popularity around the globe during this time of great pause. It is an age old tradition that aside from growing your own grain and using rocks to grind it, hasn’t changed all that much over the years. The ingredients are simple, healthy and inexpensive. Nothing quite compares to the smell of fresh bread baking in the oven. If you haven’t yet given bread baking a try, it’s easier than it looks and the taste of homemade bread is well worth the experiment and the wait!

Baking bread has become the new normal in our house. We have even created quite the routine. Ava helps me in the evening prepare the sourdough starter and mix our sandwich bread to sit overnight. Lily has become the official ‘artisan crusty bread’ maker. We have done plenty of experimenting with a variety of recipes from books and online. Not all our bread making has been a success. We’ve made some beautiful looking sandwich breads that have unfortunately crumbled into pieces when we cut them! We also made some pretty hideous looking bagels, but fortunately they didn’t taste as bad as they looked! It truly has been trial and error, but thankfully we have found some wonderful bread recipes that we are sticking too and thought we’d share with those who are tempted to give it a try!

Our favorite and easiest artisan style crusty bread recipe comes from a website I stumbled upon in my bread making searches. This recipe is from a site called Jenny Can Cook. She has a lot of easy recipes and videos that are helpful. For the 3 Cups flour we usually use 2 cups all purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat. Also, just a note about the water tempature – don’t get scared off if you don’t have a thermometer to test your water temp. We don’t have one, but we have been just fine with a water temp that is warmer than luke warm and just under boiling.

No Knead Crusty Bread

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour (aerate flour before measuring)
  • 1/4 teaspoon yeast, active dry or instant (1 g)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (6 g)
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water, not boiling (354 mL) – I use hot tap water – about 125-130° F
  • (about 2 Tablespoons extra flour for shaping)

Instructions:

  1. Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Stir in water until it’s well combined.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 3 hours.
  3. After 3 hours dough will become puffy and dotted with bubbles. Transfer it to a well-floured surface and sprinkle dough with a little flour. Using a scraper fold dough over 10-12 times & shape into a rough ball.
  4. Place in a parchment paper-lined bowl (not wax paper) and cover with a towel. Let stand on counter top for about 35 minutes.
  5. Meantime place Dutch oven with lid in a cold oven and preheat to 450° F. My oven takes 35 minutes to reach 450°.
  6. When oven reaches 450° carefully, using oven gloves, lift the parchment paper and dough from the bowl and place gently into the hot pot. (parchment paper goes in the pot too) Cover and bake for 30 minutes.
  7. After 30 minutes, remove lid and parchment paper. Return, uncovered, to oven and bake 10 – 15 more minutes. Let it cool at least 15 minutes before slicing.

https://www.jennycancook.com/recipes/faster-no-knead-bread/

A really great kids baking book that Nanna sent my kids before the lock down, which has been a lot of fun to explore – especially with more time at home to bake!

Kid Chef Bakes, has been a true gift during the slower pace we now have at home. Nanna’s seem to know just what to send when you’re dealing with a pandemic! The kids and I have baked a lot of recipes from this book and they have all turned out great! The recipes are easy to follow and most ingredients seem to be things you’d have in your pantry. Our favorite bread recipe from this book is the focaccia bread. We make it at least once a week and it’s eaten right up.

Rosemary Onion Focaccia

Ingredients:

For the Bread:

  • 1 Cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 (1/4 ounce) envelope active dry yeast
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon table salt

For the Topping

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary or dried Italian herb mix

Instructions:

  1. Stir together the warm water, sugar and yeast, then let it sit for about 5 minutes
  2. Add 3 cups of flour, 1/4 cup of olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt to the bowl. Mix until well blended. (We do this by hand). Add more flour as needed, a little at a time, until a dough forms. Continue kneading for about 4 to 6 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  3. Grease a large bowl with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the dough, turn to coat, cover with a dish towel and place in a warm, dark, draft-free place to double in size, about 2 hour.
  4. Generously grease the baking sheet with 1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  5. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet. Spread the dough out into a long oblong shape about 1/2 inch thick. Cover loosely with a dampened dish towel or plastic wrap and return to a warm, dark, draft-free place for 15 to 20 minutes to rest and rise slightly.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and place the oven rack at the lowest level.
  7. Remove the towel from dough and using your fingertips, gently push down on the dough to leave slight dimples. Brush 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the top of the dough. Lay the onion slices on top. Sprinkle the cheese, garlic 1/2 teaspoon of salt (we love course salt), black pepper and the rosemary and/or Italian seasoning.
  8. Bake on the lowest oven rack for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Leo and his personal pizza!

Another great bread recipe from the Kid Chef Bakes book is the pizza dough. Very basic, easy pizza dough recipe that rolls out well and tastes great. Leo has been very excited about making pizza often and is a big help in the kitchen these days. I think it takes a great man to learn his way around the kitchen – so I’m very proud of my little guy and his interest in learning to cook and bake! If you haven’t ever made pizza dough from scratch, this recipe is for you! Buon Appetite!

Homemade Pizza Dough

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 to 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 (1/4-ounce) envelope active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided flour for dusting the work surface

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, add 2 3/4 cups of flour and the yeast, sugar and salt.
  2. Add the water and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the bowl. Mix until the dough forms a soft ball. Mix in additional flour as needed.
  3. Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic 6 to 8 minutes.
  4. Grease a large bowl with the remaining tablespoon of oil, add the dough, turn to coat, cover with plastic wrap of a dish towel and place in a warm, draft-free place to double in size, about 1 hour.
  5. To transform the crust into a pizza, roll out the crust thinly on a floured surface, transfer to a greased baking sheet, then top with desired toppings. Bake at 400 degrees until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden brown, about 10 minutes. (I usually put my pizza crust in the oven for about 5 minutes while it is warming up to start to bake the dough. I then take it out and add the toppings and put it back in for another 5 plus minutes until crust looks a little golden and cheese has melted).

We also continue to make sourdough sandwich bread every other night from a very basic no knead bread recipe. We use a sourdough starter for this one. If you haven’t yet explored making and maintaining your own sourdough starter it is actually less intimidating than it sounds once you get the hang of it. Our original starter developed a pretty funky smell, so I tossed it out and started a new one. I read more about maintaining your starter and so far so good.

Basic No Knead Sandwich Bread:
(Do this before bed)

Mix 3c flour (I use 1c WW and 2c Bread flour), 1tsp salt, 1.5c water and 1/4c starter (which I stir into the water first). Cover the bowl and leave in a warm spot overnight.

In the morning, knock it back and let it rise for 60min, then knock it back again, shape and put in greased loaf pan. Cover and let rise to almost cresting the pan, but not quite…about 20-30min depending on how warm the space is. I do it in the oven with the light on.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 425F, flour the top of the loaf and snip to score (I go lengthwise, but you can do a few short diagonal ones, too) and put pan in over COVERED! You can use another loaf pan (I do this) or make a foil tent, but give the bread room to grow. Bake 20min, then uncover for 10min.
That’s it.

Here’s to Making Some Memories – Nourishing the Heart & Soul – Enjoy!

Adriana, Home School

What’s Your Media Diet: 5 Helpful Suggestions of Ways to be – Media Free!

Art by Lily

Americans spend most of their waking hours with media; watching, reading, listening or simply interacting with media. Most adults spend 12 hours a day outside of work with screens. Children, tweens and teens are also spending record amounts of time multi-tasking with media. They are on their smartphones, watching tv, listening to music, and playing games. According to research, teens spend an average of nine hours a day online, children between the ages of eight to 12 spend more than six hours a day online and kids between 0 and eight spend more than an hour a day with a screen. 

Research has proven that a heavy media diet is linked to numerous unhealthy side affects both in children and adults. The more time spent with screens the more likely a person is to suffer from depression, anxiety, fear, stress, sleep problems, low self-esteem, loneliness, aggression, attention problems, obesity, precocious sexuality and social isolation. Even suicide in teens has been linked to time spent on social networking sites contributing to lowered self-esteem and exposure to cyber bullying.

During this time of social distancing kids and adults are encouraged to be on their electronic devices even more for work and school activities. Many families are reporting that even though they are all in the same home, they aren’t spending time together because they are on their smartphones or other media devices.

The harmful effects of media exposure on children’s health is an issue I hold very close to my heart. Before I became a mom, I worked for the Media Education Foundation and produced Consuming Kids, a documentary film that exposes the harmful effects of media on children. The work I did researching and producing this film was an eye opening experience for me and probably the best parenting education class I could take before having my own kids. 

Children are like sponges. They absorb everything they see around them and unfortunately they have no protected place in the media. The stories they get from the media are the media producers’ stories and they are often stories that leave us feeling unhappy with ourselves. Kids along with adults are being told that their value is in things; In the products they own, the money they have and how many friends or likes they have online. These values are extrinsic and it’s just what the owners of the media want to sell us so that we continue to feel the need to buy more to make ourselves happy or liked better by others. In truth, we all know that happiness doesn’t come from buying things and it doesn’t come from spending time with media. True happiness comes from within and from our relationships with others. It comes from living our lives instead of living vicariously through others. Yet, children are being sold these messages from a very early age and are hearing them repeatedly the more they engage with media.

As a parent, you have the greatest influence on your children from an early age. You can lead by example. Media is addictive. Ask yourself what is your own relationship to media? Do you look at your phone more than your family? Are you staring at your phone every minute or jumping up the second your phone dings? Are you teaching your children to do the same? Do you spend more time with a screen than you do with your kids? Does your idea of spending time together always involve media? Do you use television as a babysitter? 

Our children will model our behaviors. If we spend our time with a screen, they will want to as well. Taking time to unplug and curb your media diet –especially during these uncertain times– is not only good for you, but good for your family. Research also shows that spending time face to face is therapeutic. We are social beings and find happiness in human interactions. Children’s behavior improves with more positive interactions with their parents and siblings. Research shows that people are happier the less time they spend with media! 

Unplugging from our media habits isn’t easy, but the rewards far outweigh the sacrifices. 

Here are 5 Helpful Suggestions to encourage healthy ways to be media free:

Set Limits: Set a limit on your media and your children’s media diet. Work together to create a realistic time for media each day or week (this includes time on your phone). Also, set limits on where children and teens use media. Putting a computer in a public space in your home is helpful for parent’s to be a part of what media their children are using or set up parental restrictions on the computer or the cellphone. Creating a space for media use is important. Discourage your children from spending time on their phone, computer or television alone in their room for hours on end because it can be harmful to their health and can be dangerous. It is important for you to be aware of what your child is doing online, who they are talking to, what games they are playing or what sites they visit. Give your children their privacy to have phone conversations, but searching the web or talking on social media alone in their room for hours on end can affect their wellbeing. 

Media Literacy: Talk to your kids about media and the harmful effects it can have on their wellbeing. Media literacy is something you can teach your child at a very early age. You can start by talking to your child about how media is created, who is telling the stories, who owns the media and how can their stories influence the messages we hear? Watch and look at what your children are watching and talk about the messages they are being told. 

Schedule Media Free Time: Have a Media Free Day during the Week and then maybe a media free week once a month. Plan some fun family activities for that time together. These can be: make a favorite meal or baked treat, have a family game night or find an outdoor activity you can do together like a hike, bike ride, or outdoor game in the yard. Once you give it a try, you’ll find so many creative ways you can get along together without a screen involved. Soon the family will be coming up with all kinds of interesting things to do together. Many families who try this have said that they can’t believe how much time they spent with media and how much time they feel they now have in their day. 

Explore Something New: Spend your media free time doing something new. Think of a new thing you’d like to learn: maybe playing an instrument or learning a new craft. Before the pandemic, we picked up a piano for free from a family in our town. I played years ago and the kids were asking to learn to play for a while now. So, now I’ve been teaching them some beginner songs and scales and they are also teaching each other! I taught Ava and Lily how to play Happy Birthday. Lily then taught Leo, and Ava taught Mike! Some other ideas for something new: learn to sew, knit, write a story or a play, create your own game, learn a new language, build something, learn to cook or bake! There’s always something new to learn!

Get Outdoors and Read: Another great thing about unplugging is your kids become more creative and stay creative. Sometimes kids, like adults, get into an unhealthy media habit only because they don’t know how to fill their time. Kids don’t always have to be kept busy with scheduled activities, boredom and frustration are good. Let your kids figure out other ways to fill their time and it will encourage them to be more creative. Free play is so important for healthy development. Whenever we have a couple days or extended periods of time without tv, the kids play better together. It is amazing. 

Get outdoors more. Being outside is therapeutic and renewing. Once you or the kids step outside you have entered a whole new world and if you leave your screens behind you will be surprised by how much there is to see and do without your screens. Plant a garden, go for a walk, sit outside and read a book or eat a meal!

Encourage a love of reading or at least reading in place of screens. If your kids like watching movies, encourage them to read or listen to the books first. If there is a certain show they like to watch, have them write their own rendition of the story – maybe from the perspective of a different character or a different setting or change the ending or write the next book! The beautiful thing about reading stories is you imagine the settings and the people and create the images in your head. Have your young children create their own illustrations to a story they like. Ask them to tell you the story as they draw it. Have your older children turn their favorite books or shows into a play that they write, create the scenes and costumes and act out for the family on your media free night!

The girls playing a game Lily created for Ava for her birthday

We don’t spend a lot of time with media in our house. The kids don’t go on the computer often, only to listen to audio books or an occasional zoom gathering right now, but aside from that we let them watch some tv shows or films on Amazon prime- so their advertising exposure and media is limited. My kids do not have their own phones, tablets or kindles and probably won’t until they can afford them. We do enjoy watching a show or movie together as a family, and I do think that this is special downtime that is needed. Finding a balance isn’t easy. Habits are hard to change, especially ones that may not be that good for us. But like ditching any bad habit, the rewards far outweigh the sacrifices. 

I think the quantitative evidence can’t be denied- less time with media, more time together makes for happier, healthier families!

Here’s to raising our children with our own stories and not somebody else’s.

“Be the Change you Wish to see in the World.”

Ghandi

For more Research and Resources – Check Out:

The Media Education Foundation (Their main markets are Colleges, Universities and broadcasting rights, but if you are looking to purchase a film for personal use, call the front office to find out about an individual price) https://www.mediaed.org

Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (Fantastic organization with great information for both parents and educators) https://commercialfreechildhood.org

American Academy of Pediatrics Children and Media Tips  https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/Pages/Children-and-Media-Tips.aspx

Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? – The Atlantichttps://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/

The Center on Media and Child Health (Another Wonderful organization with great parent and educator resources)  https://cmch.tv/parents/