Friday, July 18, 2014

How To Make a Homemade Volcano, Then Make It Explode!

This summer, I've been spending a lot of time teaching the kids different science lessons. This week we are focusing on geology, rocks, tectonic plates, earthquakes and volcanoes. I decided that our science project for the week would be to construct and explode a homemade volcano.

The chemical reaction in this easy experiment really isn't that different from what happens in a real volcano. The production of carbon dioxide is what causes the eruption. The best part is that all the ingredients are non-toxic and safe to touch!


This is actually a really easy project that can take as little as an hour start to finish, just depending on the level of detail you're shooting for. Everything you'll use is probably already sitting in your kitchen.

Here's what you will need:

- empty plastic bottle (ours was about 12 ounces in size)
- cookie sheet 
- flour
- salt
- vegetable oil
- water
- red food coloring
- dishsoap
- baking soda
- vinegar
- paint (optional)

1) Mix up the material to build the volcano. Take about 6 cups of flour, about 2 cups of salt and mix thoroughly. Add 1/4 cup vegetable oil and 2 cups warm water. Mix with hands until it forms a doughy paste.

2) Take the plastic bottle, put it on the cookie sheet and start adding the paste mixture, building it up gradually from the bottom. You'll want to first stabilize the bottle, then form the cone of the volcano. Compact it to ensure it all holds. Let dry (only takes a few minutes).

3) If desired, paint your volcano. We painted it. Of course we did. Let dry. If you're so inclined, you could build a little village and put some trees around it to see how the lava flows would affect people nearby.


4) Fill a glass of about the same size as the bottle with very warm water. Add some drops of the food coloring.

5) Pour the tinted water into the bottle in the center of the volcano. Once added, squirt some dishsoap in with it.

6) Carefully pour about 2 tbsp baking soda into the water. It may begin to foam up a little.

7) Pour the vinegar into the bottle a little at a time and watch the lava explode and run down the sides of the volcano!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Fruit Infused Water

A few months ago, I started drinking fruit infused waters. I started primarily to ensure that I was getting an adequate daily water intake, knowing that I would drink more if the water had some flavor to it.


Since changing over to this, even the kids and my husband have started drinking it. I haven't bought juice aside from orange juice in months. Even sports drinks have been pushed aside for the fruit water here.

I've noticed that it is already helping me combat swelling in this pregnancy a ton.

As for the nutritional value of these waters, it isn't my area of expertise. I don't add sugar to them at all and any sugar comes from the fruit itself, which is pretty substantially diluted.

I have two jars that we use for the water. A one gallon sun tea jar is what I use when making small batches, then we have a larger two gallon jar for the weekends when everyone is home all day. I fill them and add the fruit first thing in the morning. The longer it sits, the better it is. There are some combinations with teas and vegetables as well.

I empty and wash the dispensers at night.

The idea is to just try different combinations out and see what you like the best.

I add one lemon/lime/orange/peach (or other larger fruit) and a handful of berries at a time. If you squeeze the fruit or bruise the herb leaves slightly, the flavors will come out quicker.

These are some of the combinations we have tried here:

- Lemon blackberry (my personal favorite)
- Lemon raspberry
- Orange lemon raspberry
- Kiwi strawberry
- Peach strawberry
- Orange blueberry
- Lemon cucumber
- Lemon kiwi
- Apple peach
- Cantaloupe lemon
- Watermelon strawberry

I've added passion fruit tea, chamomile tea and black tea to them in different combinations as well. The passionfruit works best with lemon and berries. The chamomile works best with lemon. Black tea works best with oranges. Fresh herbs such as mint, basil and cilantro can be added as well. Mint blends well with berries and melons. Cilantro brings a fresh flavor when mixed with citrus.

Citrus fruits are known for helping detox your body and fight swelling, so I include some kind of citrus every day.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Carne Asada, Chimichurri Sauce, Beans and Lime Cilantro Rice

I promise that the next time I make this meal, I will remember to take pictures of it before the kids eat it all. I couldn't get to it before they destroyed it - which is a good thing. It means it all was good!

I learned, accidentally, that almost all of this meal is better when you let it sit and get happy longer than you think you should. I initially made it all for Sunday but ended up in the ER with my son after he got hit by a baseball. So, it waited an extra day. Turns out that made all the difference in the world, because everything was even better.

Carne Asada
This isn't exactly a traditional recipe, but it's damn good. I hate that I cook better food than you can get in restaurants here. This recipe is written for two flank steaks, but you can cut it in half if you only need one.

- Flank steak (one for every 3-4 people)
- 2/3 can of soda (I used regular Coke)
- juice of 2 large limes
- 2 tbsp oregano
- 2 tbsp seasoned salt
- 1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped

Combine soda, juice, seasonings and cilantro in a bowl. Place meat in a shallow dish and pour mixture over top. Let marinate in the fridge 24+ hours, flipping a few times to make sure both sides are coated well.

Grill until desired temperature reached. We aim for medium here.

About halfway though the marinating process, I added chimichurri sauce to the marinade as well. That recipe is below.

Chimichurri Sauce
Chimichurri is an Argentinian sauce used mostly with grilled food. If you haven't had it, you must. This stuff will change your life.

- 1 bunch flat leaf parsley
- 3 tbsp minced garlic
- 1/2 small red onion, chopped
- 1 cup olive oil
- 2/3 cup vinegar
- juice of one lemon
- salt and pepper to taste

Throw all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse together. Use half to marinate the meat, reserve the other half in the fridge to use after the meat is cooked.

Beans
This is so easy and so ridiculously good that you won't buy canned beans again. Don't try it or you'll never go back. Honest.


- 16 oz pinto beans, rinsed
- 9 cups water
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 2 tbsp minced garlic
- 3 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp pepper
- 1 tbsp cumin

Throw it all in a crockpot and cook on high at least 8 hours. Scoop out beans and onions, mash together adding cooking liquid as needed for texture.

I usually cook them for the 8 hours, but this time they sat on high for 12. I thought they'd be burned. Nope. Even better.

Lime Cilantro Rice
I conjured this one up after a trip to Chipotle. I fell in love with their rice and became determined to figure out what they put in it. This is what I've come up with.

- Cooked white rice (I make 8 cups at a time because my herd loves this stuff, preferable Jasmine rice)
- butter
- limes
- 1/2 bunch Cilantro
- salt and pepper to taste

For the amount of rice I make, I use 4 tbsp butter and 2-3 limes. Stir it all in, add salt and pepper to your preference, then try not to eat the entire bowl.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Not Your Grandma's Minestrone

My husband is a big fan of minestrone. Huge.

If I'm being honest, he just is enamored with all Italian food. When I mentioned maybe wanting to attempt minestrone from scratch, he got all weird and giddy.

At some point as I was assembling an ingredients list, he asked if I was going to put meat in it. My answer was no, of course, because there isn't meat in it. His response....well, could there be? Sure, dear. Whatever you want.

Then I made it and it was delicious.

Dammit.

Fair warning, there is a lot of prep work that goes into this, so give yourself time for the peeling and the chopping. Start to finish this takes approximately 2 hours. I forgot to get spinach, which is supposed to be in it. Tasted fine without it, but you could add it if you want.

If you want to omit the meat, no big deal. If you want to omit the pasta, I would cut the water by a cup or so.

Taken the next day, so more of the water has been absorbed by the pasta.
Was "soupier" last night.
Minestrone
- 1/2 cup butter
- one large yellow onion, diced
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 2-3 large carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 cups of green beans, cut into small sections
- 3 medium or 2 larger zucchini, chopped
- half a head of cabbage, chopped
- 2 cans diced tomatoes (whole can, undrained)
- 2 tbsp dried beef bouillon
- 9 cups water
- 1/2 pound small pasta
- 1 16 oz. can red kidney beans, rinsed
- 1 16 oz. can white cannelini beans, rinsed
- 12 ounces italian sausage, browned and drained

It's a list. I know. Sorry.

Saute the onion, celery and carrots in the butter in a large stockpot until the onion is clear and the carrot and celery just start to brown. Add the green beans, the zucchini, the cabbage, the tomatoes, water and bouillon. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer for about 20 minutes.

Add pasta directly to the pot. Bring back up to boiling, then reduce a little. Simmer for about 20 more minutes. Brown the sausage in a separate pan, then add it and the beans to the pot.

Stir everything together and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

If you cook it too long, the vegetables will all get soggy and the noodles overdone, so err on the side of less time rather than more.

Makes about 12 servings.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bread Pudding

I decided to make this for the first time yesterday, which ended up being good timing since the royal family will be welcoming a new member anytime!

I found some recipes online, but didn't have everything that any of them called for, so I did what I typically do and just made it up.

The kids are fairly sure I just invented the most awesome thing in the world. I'm going to let them think that for as long as it works.


Bread Pudding
- 1 loaf of bread, torn into small pieces (I used whole wheat, the loaf that got squished on the way home from the grocery store)
- 4 cups of milk
- 7 eggs, beaten
- 4 tbsp butter, melted
- 2 tbsp vanilla
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp cinnamon
- 1 cup raisins (optional)

Tear bread and put into a 9x13 casserole pan, combine with raisins. Beat eggs and melted butter together, then add sugars and milk, cinnamon and vanilla. Pour milk an egg mixture over bread, pressing bread down into the liquid until everything is saturated.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Dry Rubbed BBQ Glazed Pork Ribs

I hate ribs. Honest. The idea of gnawing something off a bone just makes my stomach turn. As much as I hate ribs, I make them. I've made them the same way for years, but after staying up way too late one night watching some BBQ competition show, I decided to try it another way. I scoured the internet for dry rub recipes, and eventually did what I always do - made it up.

I made three full racks and this is all that was left. The people say they were amazing. I'll believe them.


This is a lengthy-ish process, so plan ahead.

Dry Rib Rub
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 tbsp black pepper
- 1 1/2 tbsp course ground salt
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 1/4 cup paprika
- cayenne pepper - anywhere from 1 tsp to 1 1/2 tbsp depending on how much heat you want

Mix all dry rub ingredients together. This is sufficient to coat three racks perfectly, so if you're making less, store some in a container before use.

Remove membrane from the backside of the ribs and cut each rack into thirds or fourths.  Cover all sides generously with rub, pressing into the meat with your fingers. Wrap each portion tightly in aluminum foil.

Place foil packets directly on oven racks. Bake in preheated 300 degree oven for two hours, the remove and let sit for about ten minutes. While waiting, preheat grill to high heat.

Unwrap and grill ribs on high, about five minutes on each side, glazing with BBQ sauce of your choice. We used a honey sauce for most of them, and Famous Dave's Devil Spit for those who like it hot.

Ribs should have a nice glazed crust on them.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Curried Chicken Salad

This is one of those things I fell in love with after eating the version from Whole Foods, knowing there was no way I could ever justify the cost of it already prepared.

So, I scoured the internet for ideas and this is where I ended. I ate it last night wrapped up in lettuce but it's just as good on a roll or plain.

this is a terrible picture, but you get the idea

Curried Chicken Salad
- 2-3 grilled chicken breasts, cooled and chopped
- 1 cup light mayonnaise
- 2-3 stalks of celery, diced
- 1 whole apple, diced
- 2/3 cup raisins (or 1 cup quartered grapes, or a combination of both)
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans (or other nut)
- 1 tsp curry powder
- cayenne pepper to taste
- salt and pepper to taste

Chop chicken, celery and apple. Mix curry powder into mayo thoroughly, then toss it with the chicken, celery, apple, raisins and nuts. If desired, add cayenne pepper to desired heat level, then salt and pepper to taste.

Ideally, you make it ahead a few hours and let it sit in the fridge so the flavors can all combine.

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