Valentine’s Day Sweets

PinExt Valentines Day Sweets

Need chocolate? Here is a delightful combination of chocolate and strawberries for Valentine’s Day from Amy Houts new book, Cooking Around the Country With Kids: USA Regional Recipes and Fun Activities9780930643201 233x300 Valentines Day Sweets. Her new book encourages children re-engage with the history of the United States by preparing foods typical of different regions of the country.

The following recipe, Chocolate Dipped Strawberries, comes from the Pacific coast region. This region’s climate is influenced by the surrounding mountains. Because of its fertile area and rainfall, the Pacific Coast States produce more vegetables and fruits than any other region of the United States.

It’s a little early yet for strawberries, but this recipe just made my mouth water and I had to share it. It’s a very good recipe to make with children.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

1 (6 oz.) package semisweet chocolate chips
1 pint fresh strawberries

Place chocolate chips in a microwave safe dish or in a double boiler on the stove. Melt on low power or over low heat to prevent burning. Meanwhile, children can help rinse strawberries. Dry completely. Leave strawberries whole with the stem intact.
Pour melted chocolate into a bowl. Children can help dip strawberries by grasping stem and dipping half of strawberry in melted chocolate, so that part of the pretty red color of the fruit is still showing. Place on a cookie sheet lines with wax paper. Refrigerate to help chocolate set and to keep strawberries fresh. Store covered in refrigerator. Eat within two days. Enjoy!

 Valentines Day Sweets
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Candy, Flowers, and Cards! Oh My!

PinExt Candy, Flowers, and Cards! Oh My!
 Candy, Flowers, and Cards! Oh My!

Image via Wikipedia

How are these tied in with St. Valentine’s Day? Was there really someone named “Valentine”? What did he do to have a holiday named after him?

There are many stories about the origin of St. Valentine’s day. We do know there was a man by the name of Valentine, that he was killed for being a Christian during the time of the persecutions, and that he died around the year 270 A.D. Other than that, stories about his life are pure speculation.

The version of the story I like has to do with a bitter, mean Emperor named Claudius. He was the leader of a large army, but his soldiers were getting tired of fighting. They wanted to go home to their wives, sweethearts, and families. So Claudius devised a plan that he thought would keep the soldiers focused on fighting battles. He sent out a decree over all his lands that the soldiers were not to get married or become engaged to be married. He thought, “Heh, heh, this will really keep them focused on wiping out the enemy and we will be winners!”

But his plan didn’t work well at all. He failed to realize that love is stronger than any decree.

The soldiers were able to go behind the back of the Emperor and find a priest who would marry them in secret, still very legally. His name was Valentine. Couples came from all over to be married by him. However, the Emperor discovered this little scheme and had him thrown in prison and sentenced to die. While in prison, Valentine become friends with the jailer’s daughter. It is said that she was healed through his prayers. On the day he was to be put to death, on February 14, he left a message for the jailer’s daughter, signed “From your Valentine.”

So St. Valentine’s legacy lives on. It is a special day of showing even more love and affection than usual to those around us. This may include sending cards and flowers and candy to those we love.

 Candy, Flowers, and Cards! Oh My!
PinExt Candy, Flowers, and Cards! Oh My!

Children’s Activities for Snow Days

PinExt Childrens Activities for Snow Days

You say, “What will children do again today since we have another snow-day?” This has been a recurring question and theme these last winter days – at least here in the Midwest, as I am sure in many parts of our country. The children, and you, are probably tired of looking out the window at the snow coming down, or watching the birds at the bird feeder. Some may have even ventured outside, but I wouldn’t recommend it if your area is as cold as it here in Missouri.

Having something to do can be a problem, or a fun challenge, especially if the “vacation” has been extended. I always found it helpful to pack away some toys, especially around Christmas time, and then when the novelty of holiday toys had worn thin, it was time to bring out the long forgotten ones.

Hopefully, video games or TV are not the prime activity during these days. We hear so much about the sedentary life style of all age groups, including children. It’s important to plan some active games – to get out and move. This is also one way to stay warm! Maybe you and your child or children can take turns using the exercise equipment you have acquired. Get out the jump rope and see how many turns can be made before the timer goes off. Or jump on one foot. Turn on some music. Kids love to dance to music.

There are quieter activities, too, such as reading, drawing, coloring, and playing board games. Kids like to be creative. This can be seen in their dress-up play and their manipulative play. Cooking is always a good activity to engage in. They love to pour and measure and taste.

For an activity that uses food products, but is not to be eaten, is to make play dough. Here is the recipe from Amy Houts’ new cookbook, Cooking Around the Country With Kids: USA Regional Recipes and Fun Activities.

Play Dough

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup water
Food coloring

Children can help measure and pour ingredients into a medium-sized saucepan. use a few drops of any food coloring you desire.

An adult can place pan over medium heat, cooking and stirring until the mixture pulls away from the side of the pan and forms a ball. Remove from pan and let COOL. (This is important, as children will want to dig right in – it is so appealing, but so hot!) Keep in an airtight container in a cool place. This play dough stays soft and pliable.

Keep those creative juices flowing and help your kids have some fun, safely, while you are all snow-bound. They may not remember how cold it was, but they remember how you played with them and how much fun they had when the snow came down.

Lee Jackson
Books for home and family

 Childrens Activities for Snow Days
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Cookies and Snow Days Go Hand-in-Hand

PinExt Cookies and Snow Days Go Hand in Hand

We in the Midwest have had a lot of snow days recently. This is the time you want to huddle up by the fireplace with a cup of hot cider and a cookie. I know it’s the New Years and we want to cut down on sugar intake and think very seriously about healthy living. However, done in moderation, most foods are good for us. Moderation and portion size are the key words.

Here is a cookie recipe I’d like to share with you from Amy Houts new cookbook, Cooking Around the Country With Kids: USA Regional Recipes and Fun Activities. This is from the section of her cookbook highlighting Midwest ingredients and food products. Her comment about this recipe says: “Minnesota is the leading oat-growing state in the United States. Besides eating oats as a breakfast cereal, oats give baked goods a wonderful texture and taste.”

Can you identify the ingredients that come from this grain in the following recipe?

Whole-Grain Goodie Bars

1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup oil
2 eggs
2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal
3/4 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons cloves
1 cup raisins
1 cup coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Children can grease a jelly roll pan, 15-by-10-by 1-inch or use a 9-by-13-by-2-inch pan.
Children can help measure sugar, oil, and eggs into a large bowl; stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add oatmeal, white flour, wheat flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, raisins, and coconut. Mix well. Pour and spread into prepared pan.

Bake about 15 minutes for jelly roll pan, 15-20 minutes for 9-by-13-inch pan, just until center is set. Cool; cut into bars.

Again, portion amount is very important. They are nice and chewy and it may be difficult to eat only one, but they stay so moist they will still be very good tomorrow and the next day and the next…

Enjoy those snow days!

Lee Jackson
Books for home and family living

 Cookies and Snow Days Go Hand in Hand
PinExt Cookies and Snow Days Go Hand in Hand

Character Building and Children

PinExt Character Building and Children

Many schools are starting out their fall semester with a heavy emphasis on demonstrating good character traits such as kindness, politeness, respect, cooperation, generosity, helpfulness, tolerance and others. Students are told that the only person in charge of their character is herself or himself.

One way you can help your student, or others, become more aware of practicing good character traits is through interactive sharing of information about character building situations. Children from ages 8-14 can really relate to the problems and situations in the book, Listening to the Mukies and Their Character Building Adventures.

This interactive approach works because, when it is read with an adult, the Mukies, as these friendly clever creatures are called, provide the basis for an easy exchange of thoughts, feelings, and ideas about values and ethical issues. Then you can discuss them and help clarify your child’s thinking about these important issues.

As Warren Buffett says, ‘An individual needs three traits to be successful on the job: intelligence, work ethic and character. The first two without the last will not cut it.’ We want students to grow up to be responsible caring individuals with a concern and respect for others.

For a limited time only, (the month of September) you can get a FREE copy of this book, Listening to the Mukies and Their Character Building Adventures. When you order one copy of the book at our website you will get the second FREE – that way both you and your child will have a book to read or give to your child’s teacher for the classroom. Click here to order and you will receive a FREE copy of the book. – two for the price of one.

Here’s to helping your child be the best he or she can be,

Lee Jackson
Family and Consumer Life Coach
Images Unlimited Books

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Peach Season Favorite Sayings

PinExt Peach Season Favorite Sayings
539852012 41b4473a55 m Peach Season Favorite Sayings

Image by I Nancy via Flickr

Since we are in mid peach season, here are a few of my favorite “peachy” sayings:

“It’s a peach of a day.”

“Everything’s peachy keen.”

“She has a ‘peaches and cream’ complexion.”

“An apple is an excellent thing — until you have tried a peach.”
George du Maurier (1834-1896)

“Life is better than death, I believe, if only because it is less boring and because it has fresh peaches in it.” Thomas Walker.

“Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.” Mark Twain.

“In Hollywood, the women are all peaches. It makes one long for an apple occasionally.” William Somerset Maugham.

“The ripest peach is highest on the tree.” James Whitcomb Riley.

Please check in tomorrow as I’ll have my favorite Peach Cobbler posted.

Best to you,

Lee Jackson
Food and Nutrition Educator
Helping promote family well-being through knowledge and skills

 Peach Season Favorite Sayings
PinExt Peach Season Favorite Sayings

Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, and Fireworks

PinExt Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, and Fireworks
300px Miamifireworks Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, and Fireworks

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Are you celebrating 4th of July with hot dogs, apple pie, and fireworks? I think we should add in a few parades, a baseball game, concerts, and some political speeches.That is about as American as it gets on the 4th!

Americans love to celebrate the day. We sometimes forget why we are celebrating – we tend to forget that we are commemorating the anniversity of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Many children have to memorize the beginning of the Declaration of Independence which begins “When in the course of human event it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have…”.

Perhaps as adults we still remember this paragraph:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Do we sometimes take these rights too far? Does the “pursuit of happiness” mean we can do anything we please as long as it makes us happy? Do certain unalienable rights mean the right of women to end the life of their babies in the uterus? Is the right to life taken away through the courts?

Certainly it was not our founding fathers intent to go to these extremes. They believed that the foundation of a nation should begin with the freedom from oppressive government, tyrany, and persecution. Every person was to be able to have freedom of speech, of assembly, freedom from religious oppression,  and the right to bear arms. Their work to establish this groundwork has made our country a symbol of freedom throughout the world.

Freedom comes at a price. This price is often sacrifice, hardship, and even the loss of life. We thank those who make sacrifices to protect our freedom and defend our country.

May God continue to bless America!

Happy 4th of July!

 Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, and Fireworks
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Graduation and End of School

PinExt Graduation and End of School

Everything comes to an end. For many these last days in May are filled with graduation plans and parties and thinking about what the summer, and indeed, the future, will hold for them. These are very festive times as well as bitter sweet times when the joy of the present can turn into feelings of “What now?”

For those of you in this situation of having your years of study come to an end, I wish you well. May all your hopes and dreams for your future be fulfilled. Though “study”, in some form or another, continues throughout life

My term here on this blog is also coming to an end. I have tried to squeeze in this writing, which I love to do, in between my work with food, which I also love to do. But I am finding that the summer is becoming too crowded with work and too busy. Therefore I must close down one part of what I love, to concentrate on the other.

However, I am delegating my writing blog to my friend and fellow food enthusiast, Lee Jackson. I have known Lee for many years, having worked with her on Amy Houts’  first cookbook, “Cooking Around the Calendar With Kids: Holiday and Regional Food and Fun”.

She is working with Amy on another book and I am sure she will want to tell you all about its progress, from Amy’s initial interest in working with children, to this, her second book in the series.

I know she will take you on an engaging, informative, and fun-filled food journey.

I thank you for reading my posts these past 2 years and for all your input and comments. It’s been fun reading about your experiences, both food and other, and hopefully I may have contributed some to your love of all things food-related.

I may make some guest appearances so, until we meet again, “so long”, and I wish you good health and good food.

Best wishes,
Chef Crombie

 Graduation and End of School
PinExt Graduation and End of School

How to Help Prevent the Spread of Viruses and Bacteria in your Kitchen

PinExt How to Help Prevent the Spread of Viruses and Bacteria in your Kitchen
200px Paper towel How to Help Prevent the Spread of Viruses and Bacteria in your Kitchen
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All too often we allow viruses and bacteria to invade by not washing our hands, undercooking food, leaving food set out too long, and allowing meat juice to drip on counters or cutting boards.

Here are tips for helping prevent the spread of viruses and infections while preparing food for your family.

Wash your hands often. Especially wash with hot soapy water before preparing food, after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and handling pets. Using a simple chemical-free soap will help decrease your likelihood of spreading a virus or infection to your nose, mouth, or to other people. An antibacterial soap is not necessary.

Keep raw meat, poultry, and fish and their juices away from other food. Do not use the same cutting board for meat and then use it for cutting up vegetables before thoroughly scrubbing it. You must wash your hands, cutting board, and knife in hot soapy water before using it to dice salad ingredients. Using a disinfectant on the cutting board such as is described in the last tip in this article is helpful. Washing hands often after handling raw meat is important.

Use a plastic cutting board rather than a wooden board. Bacteria can hide in the grooves of the wood. However, if using a wooden board, wash in hot soapy water and disinfect using the method described below.

If you are marinating meat, place it in the refrigerator and not on the kitchen counter.

Use plastic gloves while preparing food if you have a cut or sore on your hands.

Thaw food in the refrigerator and not on the kitchen counter. Bacteria can grow on the warmer outer layers of the food before the inside thaws.

Kitchen towels, sponges and cloths must be washed often. Sponges can be washed in the dish washer when using the hot cycle. Replace them often.

Keep all counter and food preparation areas clean. Use a reliable disinfectant and wipe dry with a clean towel or paper towel. To prepare your own disinfectant, use 3 percent hydrogen peroxide that is not more than six months old as it will have lost its fizzle then. First spray this on the counter, unless it is a granite or marble counter or other material not recommended for this. Then fill a second 32-ounce bottle with 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar, filling rest of bottle with distilled water. Spray the surface first with hydrogen peroxide and then follow with the vinegar solution. Wipe dry with clean cloth.

Help keep your kitchen clean and safe.

 How to Help Prevent the Spread of Viruses and Bacteria in your Kitchen
PinExt How to Help Prevent the Spread of Viruses and Bacteria in your Kitchen

Dangers of Plastic Water Bottles

PinExt Dangers of Plastic Water Bottles

This just came in over my radar screen – and I want you to have this information, too. Many of you know this and have been practicing it for years, but for those who have not heard – listen up – it’s important.

  • Do not drink water or any liquid from plastic bottles that have been in the sun. If the bottles have been left in the car, the heat from the sun and the plastic form certain chemicals that can leak into the water and be dangerous to the body.
  • Do not freeze water in plastic bottles. This releases toxins from the plastic. Toxins are poisonous to the cells in our bodies.
  • Do not use any plastic wrap in the microwave. The high heat can actually cause poisonous toxins to melt out of the plastic wrap. Use paper towels or glass covers instead.
  • Do not heat food in plastic containers in the microwave. Use glass containers such as Corning Ware and Pyrex instead.

Those are our “Don’t's” for today.

But two big “Do’s” are:

  1. Use a stainless steel or a glass bottle for water
  2. Be careful what you put into your body – it is the only one you have.

Much good health to you,

Chef Crombie

 Dangers of Plastic Water Bottles
PinExt Dangers of Plastic Water Bottles