Wednesday, 30 November 2011

A Field Trip and A Fungus Lunch

"Next time, buy eight!" was the request (not from the kids - although they did love them) after we lunched on our stuffed portobello mushrooms.



This lunch was inspired by a trip to the new Fresh Market grocery store nearby.  They have a huge selection of organic fruits and veggies.  The kids loved it!


One of my favorite things about homeschooling is the ability it gives me to feed our children nutritiously at every single meal and snack.  There are no processed "school snacks" in our cupboard, so every treat is made from scratch and there is no temptation to feed them junk food.  

STUFFED PORTOBELLO MUSHROOMS

INGREDIENTS

4 Portobello mushrooms
2 cups bread crumbs
1 can crab meat
3 Tbsp. butter
1/2 onion - finely diced
2 cloves garlic - minced
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese - grated
chives
sage
thyme
salt and pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2.  Wipe the mushrooms gently with a damp cloth and place them in a baking pan.
3.  In a large bowl, combine the other ingredients.
4.  Separate the mixture into four equal amounts and form it into a flattened circle.
5.  Place the stuffing circles on each of the mushroom caps.
6.  Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Green Soup

"What's in it?" was the first suspicious question - not from the kids :)
"Zucchini," I replied.
"Wow! It's delicious!"

Some friends we met from the Dominican Republic on our sailing expedition introduced our kids to this yummy soup.  This is the first time I have tried making it, but it is definitely a favorite now.



GREEN SOUP


INGREDIENTS


1 large zucchini, diced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
fresh thyme 
2 Tbsp. butter
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
salt and pepper to taste
4 sprigs parsley


DIRECTIONS


1. Gently saute the onion, garlic and thyme with the butter in a saucepan until translucent.
2. Add the chicken broth, water, zucchini, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
3. Simmer for 20 minutes.
4. Puree in two batches in a blender and serve with a floating parsley garnish.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

A Little Labour and A Tasty Treat

The kids were a huge help today.  They spent about an hour and half polishing our brass anchor light.


The results were well worth the work!


Madison handled the negotiations and the contract price for brass polishing was homemade hot chocolate for dessert :)  I think Brock and I lucked out!

Here is the delicious recipe for our homemade hot chocolate:

INGREDIENTS: 

1/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup brown sugar 
1 pinch salt 
1/3 cup boiling water 
3 1/2 cups milk 
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract 
1/2 cup half-and-half

DIRECTIONS: 

1. Combine the cocoa, sugar, and salt in a saucepan. 
Blend in the boiling water.  Simmer and stir for about 2 
minutes. Watch that it doesn't scorch. 
2. Stir in the milk and heat until very hot, but do not boil! 
Remove from heat and add vanilla and half and half.



Enjoy!  This is truly a treat.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Bath Time! . . . and a Birthday Party :)

Black Jack received his very first bath today, and while it didn't add any meat to his bones it sure made him look shiny!






Madison had a birthday party to attend and I loved the creative present she put together.  It is a jar of "Madison's Mix" - the dry ingredients for her favorite cookie recipe with instructions to just add the wet ingredients and bake - so simple, but so sweet!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Black Jack

Something totally unexpected happened today and I ended up bringing a dog home!  I saw a plea for foster care for a dog that had been taken from cruel people (who incidentally had stolen him) who tied him up and denied him food, water and shelter.  Something about the contrast between the pitiful photo and my own two sleek, well-fed, totally spoiled dogs tugged at my heart and I found myself driving to the Humane Society with two dogs and two kids to see if they all got along with this pit bull mix rescue named Black Jack.  He was the sweetest dog - kisses right away and so excited to see me every time I walked away and came back.  We just couldn't return him to the small cage.  Luckily he was very friendly to my two dogs, and next thing I knew he was in the car driving home with us!  He sat on my daughter's lap the whole way and he is settled in our laundry room with a Disney Princess Blanket - donated by Madison - and his own food and water bowls.  He can only stay with us for a few weeks, but I have been assured that even that short time will make a difference to his health and his chances for adoption into a loving home.  It is difficult to describe how good doing this makes me feel and I love the chance to show the kids that when you are as lucky as we are giving back to something less fortunate is a wonderful thing to do.

Here he is:




Thursday, 24 November 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner

I am stuffed and very happy.  My family joined us for Thanksgiving Dinner and it was wonderful.  Favorite items on the menu were the Butternut Squash Soup and the Candied Yams.  The turkey also received rave reviews.

Here is our menu.

Appetizer

Butternut Squash Soup

Main Course

Roasted Turkey with Homemade Sage Stuffing
Steamed Bok Choy
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Roasted Carrots and Parsnips
Candied Yams

Dessert

Pumpkin Roll



Recipes for the two best items on the menu:


Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 butternut squash - peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 pinch ground cumin
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • sprig of parsley

Directions

  1. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat; cook the onion, garlic, and thyme in the hot butter until the onion has softened, about 5 minutes. Add the squash and chicken stock; bring to a simmer and cook until the squash is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with cumin, salt, and pepper; remove from heat.
  2. Pour the soup into a blender, filling the pitcher no more than halfway. Hold the lid of the blender in place with a kitchen towel and carefully start the blender using a few quick pulses to get the soup moving before leaving it on to puree. Puree in batches until smooth and pour into a serving bowl. Float a sprig of parsley on the top of each bowl.




Candied Yams

Ingredients

  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 large yams peeled, sliced, and diced
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together.
  2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add sweet potatoes, and stir to coat. Sprinkle sugar mixture over the sweet potatoes, and stir. Cover skillet, and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for at least 1 hour, or until the sauce is dark and the potatoes are tender. 
  3. Stir in vanilla, and serve.

Delicious!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Christmas is coming!

The kids and I were out buying some things we needed for Thanksgiving today and happened upon a Winter Wonderland.  I can't believe Christmas is only a month away!  We will dig out our decorations this weekend after Thanksgiving dinner on thursday.


Banana Chocolate Chunk Muffins

Madison was in the galley again this morning.  We were treated to banana chocolate chunk muffins for breakfast!









Banana Chocolate Chunk Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups mashed bananas
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
  2. In a medium bowl blend the banana, oil, egg and vanilla together.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Stir in the banana mixture until just blended. Fold in the chocolate chunks. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling 3/4 full.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove muffins to a wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Exams are over :)

Exams are over! - for another month anyway.  We have a set of exams every month (or every 20 lessons)  It sounds like a lot but it really keeps the kids reviewing and on their toes.  They are extremely familiar with the material as a result, and they love getting their grades back from their assigned teacher.  Now comes the tedious part for me.  I have to scan in every single page individually and check the quality.  I procrastinate as much as I can but at some point I just have to grit my teeth and do it.  Usually we have the results back within five days.  The little extra we pay for this service is extremely worthwhile.  The kids work towards these grades and are very motivated to do well in a way they might not be if I was the only one reviewing their work.

Back to normal tomorrow :) we missed our after school schedule while we were doing exams.  Now we can concentrate anew on spanish, latin, softball, art and music lessons!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

A Harvest

Our wonderful children cooked dinner for us this evening.  We had roasted chicken seasoned with sage and thyme from the garden, baked potatoes and bok choy harvested from the garden.  The bok choy was delicious and is really fast-growing too - a winner!  The kids are amazing and so capable at everything they try to do.

Don't worry - the chicken wasn't "harvested"  :)

Friday, 18 November 2011

Exams - for real this time :)

Our second set of exams for the year have begun.  So far the kids have completed Math, Spelling, Composition, Science and Geography.  We still have Reading, History, Art History and Grammar to go on Monday.  We use the ATS system with Calvert School - www.calvertschool.org - so that our kids receive an annual transcript from a "real" school.  They are both wonderful students and I am so proud of them.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

More Baking . . .

Madison is hooked on home economics!

Since she started baking she has turned out some creative crepes with tons of toppings:



CREPES 

Ingredients
         1 cup all-purpose flour
         2 eggs
         1/2 cup milk
         1/2 cup water
         1/4 teaspoon salt
         2 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and the eggs. Gradually add in the milk and water, stirring to combine. Add the salt and butter; beat until smooth.
Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each crepe. Tilt the pan with a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly.
Cook the crepe for about 2 minutes, until the bottom is light brown. Loosen with a spatula, turn and cook the other side. Serve hot.



Next on the agenda was Chocolate Chocolate Chunk Cookies








Chocolate Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chunks
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In large bowl, beat butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; stir into the butter mixture until well blended. Mix in the chocolate chunks and walnuts. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or just until set. Cool slightly on the cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.



We all love Madison's enthusiasm for this new subject and do all we can to encourage her!  :)


Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Mycelium in the garden

You might know them as mushrooms.  We spent the morning picking millions of mushrooms out of our garden beds, debating whether or not to add them to the compost heap, and, finally, throwing them in the garbage so they didn't contaminate said compost.  When we settled down for school I did some research and it turns out our efforts were pretty pointless.  Apparently the mushrooms themselves are just the tip of the iceberg called the mycelium (rhymes with helium) and roughly correspond to the apples on a tree - the medium by which the organism reproduces.  What we did this morning was pick all the "apples" off the tree in an attempt to kill the tree!  I was feeling down about that until I read on and discovered that very few mushrooms are parasitic - most are beneficial to the soil or the plant.  So . . . they would have benefitted our compost heap and we took great pains to eradicate them and throw them out - the irony!

Sorry for the boring, in-depth explanation but hey!  I am a teacher :)

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Colored Greens :)

Tonight with our Corned Beef and potatoes I substituted collard greens for the cabbage I ordinarily use.  Madison confessed that she originally thought I said colored greens until she saw my blog post about what was in the garden!  :)  I thought that was pretty cute.  So the consensus is that collard greens (and colored greens) are delicious.

Monday, 14 November 2011

A Snaky Surprise

Some friends of ours frantically waved me down as I drove into our yard yesterday. Turns out they had a . . . snake for us!  What a gift, right?  For us it really is. We love snakes, Marco especially. We put him in a container temporarily, but today transferred him to his very own mini greenhouse complete with escape proof (we hope) sea-fan covered holes and little plants in his garden.  He has been fed two lizards so far!  He is tiny but well able to hold his own with the lizards!  We have figured out that he is a Brown Racer and, although we technically don't have any "poisonous" snakes in the Bahamas, he is a rear-fanged viper so we will be very careful not to put our fingers down the back of his throat :)




Sunday, 13 November 2011

Schooner Sunday

We all worked hard on Keewatin today.

The kids sanded the bowsprit - a 22 ft long pole - all by themselves, and stained our new outlet covers mahogany.

Brock and a helper are finishing off our Boston Whaler renovation, including fiberglass repair and a new Awlgrip paint job!

And I removed tons of unnecessary stuff from down below.  I do not know how so many bits and pieces accumulate!

A very satisfying sunday :)

Friday, 11 November 2011

Finally - five days later . . .

Last night we burnt our Guy Fawkes.  I know, I know, it was a little late, but every night we thought about it the wind just seemed to blow stronger.  Finally Mother Nature gave us a break and we were ready!


We collected wood all afternoon - I think I have poisonwood as a result (it was either the wood collecting or the chopping down trees in the bush the day before :), built the perfect tepee shaped fire and tossed in a match.  It really lit that easily!  For those of you who know us, you may remember that we have frequently had to resort to gasoline to get a decent blaze going - Boy Scouts we are not! 


Mr. Fawkes succumbed to the smoke almost immediately, but luckily Brock rushed in and propped him back up.


My sister and nephew were also here to join in the fun - more pyromaniacs maybe?



It was a great night.


Thursday, 10 November 2011

Home Economics and Home Improvement

Last night Madison decided she wanted brownies.  She asked me if we had any brownie mix and I said we didn't - we try not to buy any packaged foods.  I suggested she look on the internet for a recipe from scratch.  She looked at me in amazement (apparently she didn't realize brownies could be made without Duncan Hines Fudge Brownie Mix) but soon found a recipe.  She extracted a promise from Brock to wake her up early in the morning so the brownies would be ready in time for breakfast.  The results were amazing!

   

This afternoon our woodworking class centered around our dinghy.  We taught the kids how to use a palm sander (including fitting it with sandpaper - a task I still find difficult).  They spent the better part of an hour sanding the seats and oars of our Boston Whaler.






So today both school and the schooner received appropriate amounts of attention :)


Best Breakfast Brownie Recipe


Prep Time: 25 Minutes 
Cook Time: 35 Minutes Ready In: 1 Hour 
Servings: 16 

INGREDIENTS: 
BATTER
1/2 cup butter 
1 cup brown sugar 
2 eggs 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
1/2 cup all-purpose flour 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon baking powder 

FROSTING
3 tablespoons butter, softened 
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder 
1 tablespoon honey 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 cup confectioners' sugar 

DIRECTIONS: 
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan. 
2. In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. 
Beat in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup flour, salt, and baking powder. Spread batter into prepared pan. 
3. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook. 
4. To Make Frosting: Combine 3 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons cocoa, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 
and 1 cup confectioners' sugar. Frost brownies while they are still warm.