Thursday, April 17, 2014

Beauty Captured -- 260/365

The Pebble Pond

©2009-2014 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Hey Mom, I'll Start Dinner {Review}

I often call myself a "stay-at-home" mom, even though I'm not sure I stay at home much at all, especially in the late afternoons and early evenings.

As Addison and Brennan have gotten older, I've started delegating some of the dinner preparations to them. Often I'll tell Brennan what time to start cooking some rice or quinoa to go along with the rest of the dinner that's been cooking in the crock-pot all day. 

Brennan was ready to cook something more than just risotto or roasted veggies. I was searching for new ideas, and I was excited to find a review opportunity for Cherilyn Dahlsten's new Hey Mom, I'll Start Dinner book.

This cookbook is designed for kids (pre-teens and older) to start cooking real meals while they are waiting for their parents to get home from work. The finishing touches are done when it's time to serve dinner.

When I saw a note that this cookbook included 24 gluten-free recipes, I was hopeful that we would find some new dinner options for our family. Unfortunately, within a few days of receiving the book, we found out that Lauren needed to also eliminate corn from her diet. Many of the gluten-free recipes used corn tortillas or corn chips and were therefore no longer safe options for us. All in all, we found about as many recipe options in this cookbook as we do in any cookbook that wasn't specifically geared for our allergy needs.

Brennan's first attempt at one of these recipes was Salsa. If I were writing down this recipe in my own cookbook, I would simply list the ingredients. I would know how to prepare each ingredient and would assume that they all needed to go in the blender for a few seconds. Perhaps that's why my kids always ask so many questions when they want to one of my recipes.

Each step in this salsa recipe was clearly outlined so that Brennan could follow along without any mom supervision. For instance, it describes how to cut a jalapeno, flick out the seeds, and put half in the blender. It also reminds the chef not to touch his eyes after handling the jalapeno. Later steps teach how to squeeze a lime, wash green onions, and drain the juice off of the can of whole tomatoes. Brennan's only complaint was that the directions had a failed attempt at humor (in his opinion) when it says, "When Mom or Dad Gets Home: Explain why there is none left and start another batch!" He did eat some of the salsa immediately after making it, but there was plenty for both a snack and to use with our dinner.

Brennan's second cooking attempt was Vegetable Beef Soup. At first glance, it seemed like a rather complicated recipe -- 22 steps in all. Most of the steps were the directions for chopping each different ingredient. It wasn't complicated at all, just a bit time consuming. I worried because Brennan saved time by chopping everything into large chunks instead of small pieces. As it worked out, the large chunks didn't bother the veggie lovers in the family (Lauren and me) and the bigger pieces made it easier for the veggie haters to pick out their least favorite veggies.

After enjoying the soup that Brennan made, I used the recipe again last weekend to make dinner myself. As I worked through the directions, I noticed one major omission. Because this recipe was written specifically for children working after school hours, there isn't an exact time. The child is directed to start after school and then to simmer the soup with the lid on until Mom and Dad gets home. Unfortunately, I was left guessing at how long the soup needed to simmer before the potatoes were cooked enough for us to eat it.

I love the concept behind this book, and I think it would be helpful to many beginning cooks. I would recommend that a parent reads over each recipe carefully to make sure that the child doesn't need any additional instructions such as which soup pot to use, when exactly to start preparing the meal, etc.

Hey Mom, I'll Start Dinner is available in paperback (100 pages long) from either the Hey Mom, I'll Start Dinner website or from Amazon. It normally costs $20, but there's a coupon code on the website that will save you $3.

You can read more reviews through the links at Acorn Hill Academy. There is also an awesome cooking giveaway going on over there right now -- be sure to stop by and enter by midnight on April 15th (eastern time).

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, and I was not compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

©2009-2014 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Beauty Captured -- 257/365

The Pebble Pond

©2009-2014 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Beauty Captured -- 256/365

The Pebble Pond

©2009-2014 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Beauty Captured -- 255/365

The Pebble Pond

©2009-2014 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Beauty Captured -- 254/365

The Pebble Pond

©2009-2014 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Curiosity Quest {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

It seems like all kids go through a highly curious sage where they ask, "Why?" multiple times a day. The Curiosity Quest show embraces that natural curiosity and endeavors to show the answers to all of those "Why?" and "How do they make...?" type questions.

We received two DVD sets from Curiosity Quest: DVD Combo Pack - Produce and DVD Combo Pack - Swimmers of the Sea. Together they contained six fabulous thirty-minute episodes. Each episode is filmed on location so that the audience gets a feel for what is really happening.

The Produce DVD contains episodes about mushrooms, oranges, and cranberries. Mushrooms are one of Lauren's favorite foods, and she was especially interested in learning how they were grown and shipped to grocery stores. We both found it interesting to see the mushrooms growing in their carefully controlled indoor environment. I learned that sometimes the only difference between smaller and larger varieties of mushrooms in the grocery store is the amount of time that they are allowed to grow.

The Swimmers of the Sea DVD includes episodes about sea turtles, penguins, and salmon. In this video, Joel Greene (the host) travels to an aquarium in California to learn about penguins, a turtle hospital in Florida to see rescued sea turtles, and a salmon hatchery in Alaska. Although they didn't show a map of these locations in the video, we can talk about the locations afterwards and count it as a geography lesson for the day.

These videos were perfect for Lauren to watch independently. While I was gone to an appointment one afternoon, I told Lauren to watch the cranberry video and to text me what she learned. When I got home, I finally figured out that cranberries go up an escalator as part of the packaging process. (Second grade spelling plus autocorrect don't always work well together.)

When she watched videos another day, she texted, "I learned that penguins don't fly because they are to heave [heavy]. And that they eat fish hole [whole]."

My only complaint about the Curiosity Quest videos was that most of the episodes had a segment where they interview various people and ask them to guess the answer to a question. For instance, in the episode about sea turtles, a question was asked about how much the largest sea turtle can weight. Lauren remembered one of the wrong guesses instead of the correct weight that was given immediately afterwards. It sometimes seemed like the facts were lost in the sea of incorrect guesses.

The Curiosity Quest show is aimed at children ages 7 to 14, but the information is detailed enough that adults will probably learn something while watching them. I was surprised at how much Lauren enjoyed these videos and how much she learned from them. She even told me that she'd be interested in watching them again so that she could learn more.

After watching the produce and swimming creatures videos, Lauren also told me that she'd like to see some episodes that showed how American Girl dolls or iPods are made. The Curiosity Quest store does offer DVDs featuring Legos, teddy bears, pianos, guitars, and other manufactured goods. I wonder if one of those would be good enough for her.

Because the two DVDs we reviewed were combo packs, they each cost $24.95. Curiosity Quest also offers many DVDs that only contain one episode, and those DVDs typically cost between $19.95. They also offer a monthly membership where you receive 2 DVDs each month for $19.99 (including shipping).

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©2009-2014 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.
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