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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Blueberries Part 2: Cooking and Baking

So last week I shared that we went blueberry picking and that we made mini blueberry pies. The post got long so I didn't share our adventures in blueberry jam making and blueberry muffin baking. So today I'm going to share those adventures. Our main reason to go blueberry picking was to make blueberry jam. We wanted some for Christmas gifts and just to enjoy ourselves. I had read the recipe in the pectin I bought that we needed five pints of blueberries (which is 2.5 quarts), so I planned on picking three quarts and we picked 3.5 since we were having so much fun.
Well after making the mini pies we started on the jam. We did the pies first so I could run the jars through the dishwasher. We followed the recipe and instructions that came with the Sure Jell. They can be found here. We started by mashing the blueberries by hand.
Hazel did not like doing this and we needed six and a half cups of mashed blueberries, so we took out the food processor. She liked this method much better and was pretty good at making sure they didn't get too pureed.
This of course went much faster as well. Then we measured the sugar. Mixed 1/4 cup with the pectin and followed the directions on the recipe that comes with the pectin. Before we started cooking I made sure my jars were all set to go and put the lids in boiling water.
By this point Hazel had lost interest and since it was all on the stove and involving rather hot temperatures I didn't care. She went off to play while I did the cooking. Needless to say there are no pictures since you need to work fast. I do not have a canner but used a large pan that has a steamer dropped into it and it worked well. The recipe said it would make 9 cups and I got 12 jars (or about 12 cups).

The next morning Hazel wanted to make blueberry muffins. I wanted to change up our normal recipe, so I did some searching. I tweaked the one I found at The Pioneer Woman.
I used three cups minus two tablespoons of whole wheat flour, one teaspoon baking soda, two teaspoons baking powder, one cup oatmeal, pinch of salt, dash of nutmeg, teaspoon of cinnamon and a half cup of sugar. Hazel mixed these for me (and helped with the measurements). Then we beat an egg, added 1/4 cup of olive oil, mashed one ripe banana, and what ended up being 1.5 to 2 cups of nonfat Greek yogurt (the recipe was dry with my additions so we kept adding more yogurt until we got a consistency we liked).  Hazel beat these with a whisk.
Then we added the dry ingredients (and adjusted with the yogurt).
Hazel started mixing it all up but it was had to do, so I took over. Then we added two cups of blueberries.
Then we stuck liners in the muffin pan and scooped it out. Hazel did the scooping and I assisted with another spoon to help get it out of her ladle.
If you plan to eat them warm, use foil liners!! Otherwise it doesn't matter. The paper ones worked fine once they were cool. We baked them according to the recipe at 385 for 20 minutes. Oh, and we got 24 cupcakes with my additions! We brought some to the children's librarian since we had Move and Groove that morning and some to my mother-in-law since Hazel went to spend time with her after Move and Groove and then I think I ended up eating most of them. They were delicious! We finished them this morning.

So that is our new recipe for blueberry cupcakes. What have you been up to with all the great summertime fruit?

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Happy Family Times #19--A Trip to Witch City (Salem, MA)

Update: Yesterday we started a popcorn experiment. Just wanted to share what it looked like today: The popcorn is coming out of the top of the cup.

Have you done something fun with your family this week? Kelly at Happy Whimsical Hearts and I are collecting all these great ideas to inspire all of us to have more quality family time. Please share below!

This week we adventured to Salem, Massachusetts. Salem is best known for its witchcraft trials in 1692, which is how it got the nickname, The Witch City. They of course play it up. Even the police cars have witch logos. However, Salem also was one of the most significant seaports in Early America. There is the Salem Maritime National Historical Site as well as all the witch museums, etc. as well as being the setting of several of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novels including The House of Seven Gables. As I mentioned in a post last July, it is a place Steve and I like to go to because it does not have the traffic other shore locations of Cape Ann have, but has a nice area to walk around and we found a nice coffee house there.

Our adventure started off at the newly renovated Weight Watchers Office in Salem since they were hosting an Open House and I wanted to check it out. Since Hazel was behaving we promised her ice cream afterwards, so we headed to the downtown area. Unfortunately even though they predicted rain for the day, everyone else had the same idea and we had trouble finding parking. We drove to The Willows to check it out and there was no parking there either. We drove back by the coffee house and got lucky this time. We found a parking spot right near this lovely witch. pictured with us above. Then we headed over towards the coffee shop. Hazel of course needed a bathroom by this time so we went  to the Orientation Center of the Salem Maritime Historical Site. While there Hazel played with the dress up clothes (while Daddy checked out all the ship and nautical stuff).
Then we went to the coffee shop. Hazel tried her first gelato ever since that was what they had. Then we walked around a bit and did some shopping. We found some great postcards.I guess we should have gone to Salem last week when I was looking for Massachusetts postcards since they had exactly what I had wanted.
Then we went back to the bathroom and Hazel insisted on going on the Friendship of Salem like we did last year. Steve did not want to go again so I took her.
This year Hazel was not as afraid or as shy as she was last year. She even wanted to go downstairs and check out the crew quarters. She even checked out a bunk!
Afterwards she couldn't wait to see Daddy and tell him all about it!
He had been enjoying the view of the harbor.
Then Hazel decided she wanted to sit on the rock with me and of course climb on me. And then she wanted to give Daddy a turn to be climbed on.
Then Hazel posed by the sign/anchor.
She also posed by all the signs we stopped to read. Here are a couple of them.

Then we made one more stop in a store and headed home. We had a fun day, but we all came home exhausted!

Don't forget to go read what Kelly and her family have been up to this week!


Now it is your turn to share how your family has spent some quality time lately.


~ please link up (family time oriented giveaways are ok, but please no Etsy shops)
~just crafts will be deleted since this is to share family times ~ use our button so others can join the fun


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Ok, now for our PARTY!! Please share your FUN Family Times!!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Popcorn & Meerkats!


Well this week I am going to share two Multicultural topics with you. As you may remember I skipped Multicultural Monday last week, but then shared two Multicultural posts to go with the MeMe Tales Readathon. If you missed them they are Global Culture and Hazel Cooks Pancit.

Also, The Virtual Book Club for Kids July Author is Don and Audrey Wood. You can still link up any activities and/or crafts to do with any of their books! Just visit my two posts on it: The Dragon and The Princess and The Deep Blue Sea. Oh, and while I'm making announcement, Sharing Saturday is still open. Please stop by and share a child-oriented activity or craft and/or check out what has been shared and be inspired!

Ok, now onto my Multicultural Monday Post. Awhile ago I did a post on meerkats. The people of Hullabalu were kind enough to let Hazel pick out an animal from their website for me to review and she chose Meerkat Moe or as we call him, Meerkat. If you do not know what a meerkat is, it is a small desert animal that lives in Africa. Well, a web editor from National Geographic Education asked me to try their meerkat craft with Hazel. They only had adults make it so they were looking for some feedback of how it works with children. That said, Hazel is below their suggested age and I could see why.
My Meerkat

I did paint our forks. Their instructions did not suggest that, but I thought it would look better. We also did not have brown pipe cleaners (due to a little kitty who keeps stealing all my pipe cleaners as toys) so we used gold and we only had color googly eyes or at least that is all I could find. If I were to do this craft again, I would not use the construction paper for the stomach and would use the leftover felt from the head. I let Hazel do as many of the steps as she could on her own. This included drawing the face. I did add the dark shapes for the eyes since I was putting the glue on.
Hazel had trouble twisting the pipe cleaners to form the nose and the tail and she had trouble with the rubber bands. Otherwise she did pretty well. Oh, and I have one more meerkat book to share. I got this after I wrote the other post, but I think it was one of the best out of the books I found for information on them and I loved the pictures. The book is What on Earth Is a Meerkat? by Jenny Tesar. If you want to learn more about these cute little guys, go check it out.
The next thing I want to share with you is about popcorn. We happen to LOVE popcorn in my house. When I was in high school I would eat a huge bowl of air-popped popcorn every day. Now we do not make it as much, however I discovered this book, Popcorn! by Elaine Landau at the library when I was in the children's cooking section and grabbed it. As I read it to Hazel I realized it was perfect for Multicultural Monday.

Popcorn has a long history. Most of its history in the Americas however China and India had popcorn long before Columbus "discovered" America. Native Americans used popcorn as jewelry as well as food. The oldest known popcorn was found in the Bat Cave in New Mexico and was aged to be about 4000 years old. Its size was much smaller than corn is now since they did not use all the genetics we do. (Source: popcorn.org)

There are so many ideas on line for things to do with popcorn. From music and art to science and geography you can find a lesson involving popcorn for just about every subject. However I am more interested in the cultural parts. Native Americans throughout the Americas had popcorn from early on. Each one had its own way to pop the corn as well. There is difference of opinions as to whether popcorn was served at the first Thanksgiving since corn was not grown in the New England area yet though other sites actually name the Indian that brought it, so who knows. Popcorn also became more popular during the depression because it was a cheap luxury and during World War II since the sugar was being sent over to the soldiers there was not the sweets so people enjoyed popcorn as a treat. 

The book goes into the history, the science behind what makes popcorn pop and where it is grown as well as other interesting facts. When popcorn vendors first sold popcorn in China, you had to bring your own corn to be popped.

After reading the book, we, of course, made a bowl of popcorn. Don't you love Hazel's new smiling face when she poses for me. She always closes her eyes now! Oh, well. We also tried an experiment we found on www.agclassroom.org/ok. We filled a small plastic cup with kernels and added water. We covered it and let it sit for an hour. Much of the water was gone after an hour. We recovered it and will check it tomorrow morning! I will update you then. We are also planning on making some colored popcorn to make some popcorn pictures.

Update: On Monday the popcorn was coming out of the top of the cup!!


There are also loads of popcorn songs available on line. We sung one in parent/child swim class last year. It went "I'm a piece of popcorn put me in the pot. (Move child away from you.) Shake me up, shake me up (Move child side to side) until I pop (Lift child in air)." Hazel still loves when we do that swimming.

Oh, and I forgot to mention my friends who own a gourmet popcorn store in Melbourne, Florida. It is a good thing I don't live down there as I would be there all the time. It is called Tin Roof Popcorn. I haven't been there in years, but when I was it was like an old ice cream shop but with flavored popcorn. You could sit at the counter and get a sample so you would know what to order. Talk about dangerous for my diet!! If you are down that way, make sure you check them out (or if you feel like ordering some since they do mail order).

We made some colored popcorn by putting a small amount (I put too much) of water and some food coloring in a plastic bag, then add popcorn. Zip it closed and shake it until it is the color you want. Then give them some paper and glue and let them make popcorn mosaics or pictures.
What do you think of her masterpiece?
What are your favorite toppings for popcorn? Do you have any favorite activities to do with it?


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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Blueberries!! We Picked, We Baked & Cooked and Ate

Sharing Saturday is still open!! Please stop by to share your child-oriented posts and to be inspired by what others share!

So our plans for this past week were cancelled. Hazel had been so excited to go to the Cape since my sister who lives in North Carolina was there this week, but we didn't have a bed to sleep in and the two-hour trip each way (and more with Boston traffic) would be too much for one day with a 3-year-old. So to keep her from being upset I planned some fun days for us. On Thursday we planned to go blueberry picking. The weather forecast was not cooperating, but we tried to chance it. I called an organic farm a friend had told me about but they had all of their pick your own blueberries on hold until next week, so I googled and found this family owned home that opens up their blueberry grove to be picked if you have an appointment. So I made an appointment for early in the morning hoping we would beat the rain.

We drove up to these nice couple's house. She had warned me not to get out of the car until they came out since they have guard dogs. They also have free-range chickens which Hazel loved seeing and hearing. They had a beautiful grove of many blueberry bushes. Hazel had so much fun we picked an extra pint! Our plan was to make blueberry jam so we would have it for Christmas gifts. Then we talked about blueberry pie and blueberry muffins and of course eating the blueberries on the way home and bringing some to Nonni since Hazel played at her house the next day. So we picked three quarts and one pint of blueberries. It did rain a bit on us, but it was only sprinkles so we stayed picking.
On our way home we stopped at the store for a pre-made pie crust. I figured with all the cooking we had planned we didn't need to make the pie crust as well. (This was the night we made the pancit as well.) We got home and had a quick lunch and then got to work. The first thing we did was the pies.
Hazel started mixing the filling. I decided not to make a big pie, but mini pies so we would not use all of our extra blueberries. (The jam recipe called for 5 pints, which is 2.5 quarts.) A full pie calls for a pint of blueberries and we still wanted some to eat and some for muffins. I went searching for mini pie recipes and then realized I would need mini pie pans. However, I found this recipe that used a muffin pan! I combined the filling recipe with my traditional one from Better Homes & Garden Cookbook. We used 2 cups of blueberries, 1/4 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg, a bit of lemon zest and mixed them all together and let them sit.
Then our next challenge was to find something to cut a four-inch circle. I found a lid to something that was four inches in diameter and it worked. Then we used some cookie cutters for the pie tops. I would change the recipe and use foil muffin liners next time. These were horrible to get out of the pan even with plenty of cooking spray.
While the blueberry pies were in the oven, Hazel had the best time playing with the scraps of pie crust. She made a house. She decided not to put a roof on it.
Then she put a mirror and a person in her house.
Can you see the person? It is the bump in the middle. The mirror is the flattish piece against the far edge.

Then the pies were done. Like I said they were not easy to get out, so they were not all pretty. This one however came out perfectly!
All right this is getting a bit long so you will have to wait until later in the week for our blueberry jam and blueberry muffins. Have you done anything special with blueberries this summer?

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