Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

The Kid turned six last weekend. About a month leading up to his birthday he brought up the idea that he wanted a birthday party.
Kid: “Mommy, I want a green party.”
Mom: “A green party?”
Kid: “You know, an eco-friendly party.”

How could I refuse a worthy request like that? So the gears were set in motion and I started researching what I could do to have a green party. The more I researched, the more inspired I became. I wanted to throw a party that would leave as little a footprint as I could.

Given the limited room we have in our townhouse, I booked a room at a nearby community centre. As much as we love to entertain at home, we just can’t fit more than 4 kids and their accompanying parents.

I felt that one of the elements of conventional parties that had the most negative impact on the environment was the use of diposables and I decided to use non-disposable party ware from kids cups, mugs, plates, utensils and napkins to tablecloths and lootbags. We decided to decorate minimally (and ended up not decorating at all!). We began to scour the house for supplies and the Kid helped take inventory. I was pleasantly surprised by how many dishes, cups and utensils we had and that we didn’t need to buy much. For the few items we did need, we decided to hit the Salvation Army which turned out to be an excellent lesson in reusing things and learning about the model of helping that the Sally Ann operates.

How do you keep a bunch of 3 to 6 year olds busy for 1 1/2 hours? We decided on a few games: “Simon says” using eco-friendly activities (Simon says ride a bike, hang out the laundry, sort the recycling…), hot potato with a little birdhouse wrapped in multiple layers of newspaper (that ended up being recycled), and story time with a great age appropriate book,  10 Things I Can Do to Help My World by Melanie Walsh . To add a craft component (a crafty mom can’t throw a party without one!!), the kids each painted a terra cotta flowerpot.

When it came down to the cake the Kid wanted a forest cake. A Black Forest cake? No, a forest cake because “trees clean the air.” Well, how could I say no? More research and I designed and made a forest cake complete with trees and a stream.

I am not a fan of loot bags. All too often they are full of non-resuable “junk” that’s made from harmful plastics that end up in the garbage. I decided that I would make fabric drawstring bags with fabric and grosgrain ribbon I had on hand. Not only were they adorable, they were nearly free!

To place in the loot bags the Kid and I made fridge magnets from homemade modeling clay. We cooked the clay, rolled and cut out the shapes, baked, painted and varnished them. We included a list of the Kid’s top 5 eco-friendly tips and a package of seeds to plant in the pots the kids painted.

From day 1 we have made a lot of effort to help our child realize that celebrations are not all about receiving gifts. Luckily he is agreeable to this idea and this year we have begun a new tradition. We let guests know that gifts were not necessary but if they wanted to give, they could donate money so that the Kid could adopt an Emperor Penguin through the WWF.

What was the result? A roomful of happy, well entertained kids with cool useful loot, inspired parents and a garbage bag that was less than 1/4 full. When we got things home, there was only 1 load of dirty dishes for the dishwasher, 1 sinkful of handwashing, 1 load of laundry and some recycling.

The party took some extra planning but in the end it was worth it. It was far more eco-friendly than a conventional party and in the long run, I saved money. It challenged me to think outside of the usual box, the Kid learned some useful life lessons and we are inspired with keeping up the eco-challenge.

The eventful day ended as we all blissfully tumbled into bed to observed Earth Hour. Happy Birthday to the Eco-Kid.


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Cooking up a storm

Yikes! It’s been almost a month since my last post and I’m feeling guilty for not posting. The thing is that I’ve been ever-so-busy with making stuff that by the end of the day I don’t have the energy to post. And at work, I’ve been having to do a lot of writing for the web so I’m all out of words on most days too.

I’m finding I have lots of time to cook now that the Kid is out of the house for 2 1/2 hour chunks both morning and afternoon. I’m also finding that I really do have to prep and cook ahead of time as the Kid brings a snack to his morning program and some days I have to have a prepared lunch for him and a couple of times each week one of his buddies comes over for lunch before they both head to their afternoon class.

So it all means that I have to spend time preparing foods and baking that I can use later or supplement later.

Some recent make aheads: brown and serve buns, homemade crackers, broth (yay for turkey carcasses!), bagels, Japanese seasoned ground meat, homemade ravioli, bread, muffins, cream of mushroom soup.

Here are a few shots:

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Now that the Kid is back at school, I’ve had some extra time to do more around the house. Not so much of the stuff I should be doing like cleaning and organizing, but cooking.

This week’s baking day included crusty rustic Italian bread, pita crisps and a Cantonese style sponge cake. Nothing fancy. That night I made a soothiing hairy melon soup for dinner.

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Roland’s dad is in town so we’ve been eating out a lot and not cooking at home much. Tonight we were invited to our friends’ home for dinner so I jumped at the chance to bake a dessert.

We’re lucky enough to have a ton of local fruit around the house so I made this fabulous cobbler from Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson. The original recipe is for all blueberries but I didn’t have enough and substituted some peaches instead. I knew the filling would be spectacular, but I was really impressed with the cornmeal “biscuit” topping…crunchy, tender and light all at the same time. Absolutely delicious. Can’t wait to make it again with other fruit.

If you’re into homey, old fashioned fruit desserts, you’ll want to check out the book. Lots of great seasonal recipes using fruit that’s typically available in Vancouver. Visit Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks to find the book (I hear they’re having a cooking class featuring the book in mid-September!).

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Now that summer is winding down and it’s almost back to school, I’ve been feeling guilty about not doing more with our 5 year old. I had grand plans of taking him on day long adventures, hanging out at our local park, going on more playdates, working on his fine motor skills.

The Kid, though, has been learning and playing a lot in the kitchen. When I think about the different things he’s been helping me cook, he’s actually developed a lot of skills and knowledge such as washing and prepping vegetables and herbs, picking herbs and veggies from the garden, kneading bread, rolling dough, working with pastry. We’ve talked about kitchen science, recipes, flavour combinations and where food comes from.

And he’s been able to learn through various sensory means. He touches and mixes with his hands whenever appropriate. He sniffs ingredients and dishes. He takes time to taste and describe what he tastes and he comments on the textures of food.

OK, I guess summer break hasn’t been a complete write off. The Kid did get some quality fun and learning time this summer. Not quite what I had planned but some valuable and tasty life skills.

Here are some food activities that are great for getting kids involved and eating: pesto, homemade crackers, lasagne, oatmeal banana muffinsspanakopita, mushrooms grilled in foil, growing, smelling, and picking herbs, visiting farms with u-pick, going to a farmers market.

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