Thursday, September 15, 2011

DIY Kiwi Frozen Yogurt

I have never had kiwi frozen yogurt before, but I was looking for another flavor of frozen yogurt to try, and my husband loves kiwi. Actually, he likes to eat them peel and all, but this is one fruit that I really do prefer to peel. I am not to big on eating fuzzy skin, so I did peel them for this recipe. Anyway when the price of kiwis dropped from $1.50 each to $0.60 a kilo, I thought we'd give it a try, and the result was really good. This is a refreshing and almost tropical tasting dessert.

Homemade Kiwi Frozen Yogurt Recipe

  • 4 kiwi (peeled)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 cups plain yogurt (homemade works great)
  1. Peel the kiwis. (Unless you and everyone in your family are like my husband and enjoy eating the fuzzy skin.)
  2. Put kiwis, sugar, and 1 cup yogurt in the blender, and blend until smooth. This gets all ingredients super-smooth really fast
  3. Stir in remaining yogurt to prevent thinning the mixture too much.
  4. Freeze in an ice cream freezer, or follow these directions to freeze in your regular freezer.
Recipe makes about 1 quart or liter of frozen yogurt.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

DIY Cinnamon Brown Sugar Granola

This is another variation on how to make a basic granola. This one reminds me of fruit crisp topping. No one besides me ever seems to get bored with our basic peanut butter granola I make most of the time. But I like variety sometimes and have heard of other houses where they get tired of eating regular old granola everyday. This is one way to vary the taste of granola more than just changing the additions.

Homemade Cinnamon Brown Sugar Granola Recipe

  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter, oil, or even peanut butter
  • 6 cups oatmeal
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup or more of additions (such as raisins, dried fruit, nuts, or seeds) (optional)
  1. In a large non-stick or cast iron pot, melt the butter, coconut oil, or peanut butter, stirring frequently. If you are using liquid oil, you can obviously omit this step.
  2. Turn off heat, and stir in brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  3. Add oatmeal, and stir to coat evenly with the butter (or oil) and sugar mixture. If you wish to add unroasted nuts or seeds to the granola, do so now.
  4. Spread on cookie sheets and bake at 350 F for 10–15 minutes. Check granola at this point to see if it has browned lightly. Stir, and bake for another 10–15 minutes, if necessary.
  5. Allow the granola to cool before mixing in other additions and transferring to an airtight container for storage.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September Unit Study: Train Up a Child

We've been having lots of fun adding unit studies into our days here, with America the Beautiful in July, D is for Dinosaur in August, and now Train Up a Child in September. We had so much fun with our dinosaurs it took me a while to find time to write about it all. If possible we've been having even more fun with trains the last couple of weeks.

My boys love Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, and we like that the stories promote good values. So I decided to do a whole month of train preschool activities, as well as focusing on positive morals to be learned from the engines and their stories.

I made up a calendar with one train, color, and verse for each day. I used some of these pictures and some from other sites. We talk about these things each day at breakfast. I also like this ten commandment train, and the verse on the Engine is our memory verse for this month. When I put the train stuff up on the fridge, you would have thought that it was their birthday all over again. The boys were so excited on September 1st.

I refilled the clearbook we used for dinosaurs with train themed preschool worksheets and activities so that the boys can use them again and again. I used some pages from this tot kit, this tot book, and this spelling train for our clearbook. The boys have been having lots of fun with these activities.

Apparently we aren't the only ones who love trains as other people have lots of fun ideas for train themed activities. As we have time this month, we'll work in some of these extra fun things and maybe come up with some more of our own ideas.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Preschool Dinosaur Free Printables

We had a great time studying dinosaurs in August and doing a lot of dinosaur related activities. So much fun that it has taken me a while to write about all of it. And I am very excited to finally be able to share some free dinosaur printables for some of the fun activities that we did. Thanks to my wonderfully patient hubby for helping me learn how to turn drawings into vector graphics (did you know there was such a thing?) and then into simple pdf files to share with everyone. You can access all 10 coloring, tracing and craft pages here.

Now you can do all of these fun dinosaur activities, or you can just have fun coloring or painting these very simple pictures. Make some watercolors and some glue, and you'll be all set!

If you use these and like them or come up with new ways to use these pages, I'd love to hear about it. Feel free to leave a comment or a link to your blog post below.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

DIY Hash Browns

Since learning some secrets to making great homemade hash browns for father's day, we've been enjoying these crispy potatoes almost every weekend. This method makes it really easy to get delicious, crispy hash browns really inexpensivley.

Homemade Hash Brown Recipe

  • Potatoes
  • Oil (I use sunflower seed oil)
  1. First, wash the potatoes really well, and poke some holes with a fork into them. This helps keep them from exploding and making a big mess in the oven.
  2. Bake as you would regularly bake any baked potatoes. About half an hour to 1 hour at 350 F is usually long enough, but the time can vary a lot depending on the size of the potatoes.
  3. Let the potatoes cool completely, you can even refrigerate them overnight.
  4. Now you can peel them if you like, but you know I don't go through the extra work of peeling things if I don't have to.
  5. Grate the potatoes with a course cheese grater. I find that most of the peel comes off naturally when grating the potatoes. I usually just give the peel to one of the boys. They actually love potatoes skins so much they have been known to fight over them. What little doesn't come off isn't even really noticeable once the potatoes are fried.
  6. Now you want to pour enough oil to cover the bottom of a frying pan and fry the potatoes over medium high heat. One secret to getting great hash browns is to let them fry until the whole bottom layer is browned and then flip them over fry the other side (just once). If you think about it like frying pancakes instead of eggs, they will turn out nice and crispy, instead of mushy and scrambled.
  7. Top with salt, ketchup, or ranch! (Or maybe that is just at our house.)
How do you like your hash browns?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Family Fridays: (Not) Back to School Pictures

Our boys aren't really going back to school right now because we are always trying to learn at home! But there are so many cute back to school pictures of kids this time of year, so I wanted to share a couple of pictures of our boys.
Enjoying the end of summer
Feeding the fish
"A Tow-tow" (Toby the Train)
All the boys reading together
Aaron likes his new backpack
A lot
Now I can carry my books around!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

DIY Grape Frozen Yogurt

I like grapes, but grape flavored things are not usually my favorite probably because they usually taste quite fake. This frozen yogurt is not at all like the grape popsicles or candy that too often reminds me of cough syrup.  You just taste the natural flavor of the real grapes.

Homemade Grape Frozen Yogurt Recipe

  • 1 cup grapes
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 cups plain yogurt (homemade works great)
  1. Wash the grapes. (I didn't bother to peel them because I am lazy and don't like to peel fruit when it isn't necessary, and I really don't like the thought of peeling grapes.)
  2. Put grapes, sugar, and 1 cup yogurt in the blender, and blend until smooth. This gets all ingredients super-smooth really fast. You can't even taste the peel. You can only see small specks in the yogurt. The grape peels gives this frozen yogurt its pretty purple color, and this natural purple color (from the phytochemical resveratrol) is thought to be good for your heart.
  3. Stir in remaining yogurt to prevent thinning the mixture to much.
  4. Freeze in an ice cream freezer, or follow these directions to freeze in your regular freezer.
This recipe makes about 1 quart or liter of frozen yogurt.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

DIY Chocolate Chips

I have mentioned before that regular Chinese chocolate isn't much tastier than a good candle and that good chocolate is really expensive here. So when I found a post about making your own chocolate chips on the heavenly homemakers' site, I definitely had to try it out. Honestly, I had never thought of making my own chocolate chips before but am very glad I tried. I can make them for less than 1/3 of the normal price here. I adjusted the recipe slightly, because the original recipe was intended to make chocolate chips healthier, but I mostly just wanted a cheaper option.

Homemade Chocolate Chip Recipe

  • 2/3 cup butter (or coconut oil)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (or sucranet)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  1. Put all ingredients in a glass double boiler, or make your own doubler boiler out of a glass jar and a sauce pan filled halfway with water.
  2. Heat slowly over simmering water until butter melts and sugar and cocoa powder dissolve. I couldn't get quite all of my chunky sugar to dissolve, but this didn't change the taste at all.
  3. Pour into a silicone or parchment lined pan and cool in the refrigerator.
  4. Once hardened, score with a knife or pizza cutter, break into chunks, and enjoy.
  5. Or store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.
(This recipe makes about 2 cups of chocolate chips/chunks, about the same as a standard bag of chocolate chips.)

These chocolate chips taste amazing. I have to stop myself from eating the whole pan. Seriously, this is like very high quality dark chocolate that you would normally have to pay much more for, even in the States. They are really good in ice cream and frozen desserts because they are softer than regular chocolate chips. However, as Laura notes, and was my experience as well, they tend to melt into baked goods because they are so pure. I have also just poured the melted chocolate mixture over desserts, like this cheesecake, after it was cooled, instead of putting the chocolate chips inside like usual. This was just like pouring any other melted chocolate and was great.

Can you see the baby chocolate chip monster ready to attack?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dinosaur Themed Preschool Snacks

In August, we studied dinosaurs. Like I did in July, I made some special foods to go along with our unit study. This time I created dinosaurs from homemade whole wheat cracker dough, whole wheat roll dough, homemade pretzel dough, and cut up eggplant. I also let the boys color hard boiled eggs to let them pretend they were dinosaur eggs.

Dinosaur breadsticks
Playing with Stegosaurus Breadstick
Eating a Stegosaurus
Pretzel Dinosaur
Coloring "Dinosaur Eggs"
Eggplant Brachiosaurus, Pretzel Compsognathus,
and Dinosaur Egg
Cracker Dinosaurs

Monday, September 5, 2011

Mandarin Mondays: 家人

Hello little sister
Mèimei hǎo (妹妹)
After you learn how to use basic greetings in a foreign language, it it a good idea to learn how you should address or refer to the people you come in contact with. Just and in America, you don't want to say, "Hey Dude" when you should be saying, "Hello Mr. So-and-so." You don't want to address people in the wrong way in a foreign language.

Here it is very common to refer to everyone using family terms. This means that in general you would refer to everyone, unless it is a very formal situation, the same way you would refer to your family (jiārén, 家人). It is fine for me to refer to anyone who is the age of my grandparents by the names for paternal grandparents. For children especially, it is almost expected that they will call all adults, grandpa (yéye, 爷爷), grandma (nǎinai, 奶奶), uncle (shūshu, 叔叔), or aunt (āyí, 阿姨) based on the particular adults age.

Perhaps the first question asked about any child, besides asking if our boys are twins, is their age. And then if they can't figure out the gender (because the kid isn't wearing split pants, and/or hasn't gone to the bathroom publicly lately), they will ask if it is a boy (nánhái, 男孩) or a girl (nǚhái, 女孩). This is in part because here they have separate words for older sister (jiějie, 姐姐), younger sister (mèimei, 妹妹), older brother (gēge, 哥哥), and younger brother(dìdi, 弟弟), and usually children call all other children by the appropriate relational term.

This can take a little getting used to, because we don't usually refer to strangers as family in the US. However, it does have the advantage of not having to remember quite so many names. Which is really good for me, because I am having a horrible time remembering Chinese names.

Does anyone have a question about the language or culture here? Or a topic idea you would like to see for future Mandarin Mondays? I have a list of ideas started, but I'd like to make sure that I am writing about things that others would find interesting as well.


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