Delicious Brussels Sprouts

Most of my kids love Brussels sprouts.  My family likes them and they are one of my very favorites.  When I was a kid I hated them, but most people over cook them and that makes them really really not yummy.  When they are lightly cooked and fresh tasting, they are amazing!

We planted some Brussels sprouts in the spring and it took forever for them to produce so we cut them down in the heat of the summer.  Any greens, or cole crops can become bitter when harvested in the heat.  For my Brussels sprouts, a quick blanch was all it took to take the bitterness out of them.  If your sprouts aren’t bitter, no need for that step.

I cut down four stalks of Brussels sprouts.  This is what they looked like piled in a wheel barrow.  Before I started growing them, I never knew how they grew.  I was amazed that the plant was this big!

I cut down four stalks of Brussels sprouts. This is what they looked like piled in a wheel barrow. Before I started growing them, I never knew how they grew. I was amazed that the plant was this big!

 

I cut the leaves off of the stalks.  This is how the little sprouts are growing down in there.  So cute.

I cut the leaves off of the stalks. This is how the little sprouts are growing down in there. So cute.

 

Then I used a sharp knife to cut them off the stalk.

Then I used a sharp knife to cut them off the stalk.

 

I washed the sprouts and prepared a pan of boiling water to blanch them in.  I added salt to the water which also helps remove bitterness from greens.  I blanched them for 3 minutes.

I washed the sprouts and prepared a pan of boiling water to blanch them in. I added salt to the water which also helps remove bitterness from greens. I blanched them for 3 minutes.

 

Then I plunged them into ice water.

Then I plunged them into ice water.

 

Once they had completely cooled in the ice water, I drained them.  They are delicious at this point.  You can make them into a salad or just eat them plain like this.

Once they had completely cooled in the ice water, I drained them. They are delicious at this point. You can make them into a salad or just eat them plain like this.

Next I cut one piece of bacon into small pieces and browned it in the skillet.  I added the Brussels sprouts and sautéed them in the skillet for about 2 minutes until they were just tender, but still bright green.  I use salt and pepper to taste.

sauteeing brussel sprouts

Brussels sprouts are delicious raw, boiled, sautéed, or roasted.  I have never tried them any way I didn’t like them except for over cooked.  I know some pretty picky eaters that enjoyed them with this bacon method.  I cook a lot of vegetables with a piece of bacon for flavor because it helps picky kids take interest in them.  But I cook them for my family and my kids without bacon and they still enjoy them.  Just salt, pepper and olive oil and throw them in the oven until they are lightly brown on the edge, or grate some parmesean cheese over the top as they finish roasting and that is delicious as well.  If you don’t like Brussels sprouts, try cooking fresh ones yourself and if you don’t over cook them, I’m willing to bet you will like them too.

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Homemade Pesto Sauce (without nuts!)

I am working on harvesting some of our garden surplus like the herbs that we haven’t used up and we had a ton of basil. I harvested two pounds of basil leaves from the walkways in the garden. Man did I smell good!

basil

I am allergic to nuts so I wanted to come up with a pesto I could eat too, so I decided to roast up some sunflower seeds to use in place of the pine nuts.  I used 1/4 a cup of seeds and toasted them lightly in a skillet.

I am allergic to nuts so I wanted to come up with a pesto I could eat too, so I decided to roast up some sunflower seeds to use in place of the pine nuts. I used 1/4 a cup of seeds and toasted them lightly in a skillet.

Toss the toasted seeds in the blender with 2 cups of basil leaves and we also added a couple of dried thai peppers for some kick.

Toss the toasted seeds in the blender with 2 cups of basil leaves and we also added a couple of dried thai peppers for some kick.

Add 1/4 cup grated parmesean cheese and two cloves of cut up garlic.

Add 1/4 cup grated parmesean cheese and two cloves of cut up garlic.

Blend until smooth.

Blend until smooth adding olive oil until sauce will blend. Approximately 1/4-1/2 cup.

We used some of the pesto as a topping for some cooked pasta and froze the rest in pint sized jars to use later.  It was delicious!

We used some of the pesto as a topping for some cooked pasta and froze the rest in pint sized jars to use later. It was delicious!

The kids loved this pasta and it was super healthy.

Garden Glory-Sunflowers!

My little sprouts and I harvested over 70 pounds of produce this week AND a table full of amazing sunflowers.  It’s been a very productive week in the garden.  Some of the tomato plants are turning brown and our cucumbers are dying.  I’m not exactly sure why, but it’s sad to see them go. 

On Saturday while the kids were gone I took the time to trim some things up in the garden that were out of control.  I harvested a bunch of herbs for drying.

On Saturday while the kids were gone I took the time to trim some things up in the garden that were out of control. I harvested a bunch of herbs for drying.  This is thyme and oregano.  I also harvested some lemon balm, bee balm, and tarragon.

This is a big CHAIR full of basil.  Even though it had flowered, I took it off the stems and ground it up into pesto and put it in the freezer.  I had over two pounds.  And I didn't even put a dent in what's out there, I just cut what was blocking the walkways.

This is a big CHAIR full of basil. Even though it had flowered, I took it off the stems and ground it up into pesto and put it in the freezer. I had over two pounds. And I didn’t even put a dent in what’s out there, I just cut what was blocking the walkways.

basil

I also harvested 8 pounds of greens including swiss chard, spinach, and this kale.  I washed and stemmed it and dried it in the dehydrator.  Then I ground it up finely in the blender to use as a nutritional enhancer in the kid's food.

I also harvested 8 pounds of greens including swiss chard, spinach, and this kale. I washed and stemmed it and dried it in the dehydrator. Then I ground it up finely in the blender to use as a nutritional enhancer in the kid’s food.

Brussels sprouts are tough to harvest WITH the kids because I had to saw the stalks down and cut the sprouts off with a knife.  They have helped me pick the sprouts off one stalk at a time, but with several, I thought it was safer to do it without them.  I harvested 4 stalks and got 3 pounds of sprouts.  They are one of my favorites.  The kids liked them too!

Brussels sprouts are tough to harvest WITH the kids because I had to saw the stalks down and cut the sprouts off with a knife. They have helped me pick the sprouts off one stalk at a time, but with several, I thought it was safer to do it without them. I harvested 4 stalks and got 3 pounds of sprouts. They are one of my favorites. The kids liked them too!

I harvested all of these beautiful hot peppers to make pickled peppers for Mr. Kent.

I harvested all of these beautiful hot peppers to make pickled peppers for Mr. Kent.

I found a few more tomatillos when I had more time to really look.

I found a few more tomatillos when I had more time to really look.

Monday's harvest included lots of tomatoes and cucumbers.

Monday’s harvest included lots of tomatoes and cucumbers.

We got okra and tomatillos as well.

We got okra and tomatillos as well.

And some cantaloupe and kohlrabi, and parsley.  Yum yum.

And some cantaloupe and kohlrabi, and parsley. Yum yum.

We were planning to let our sunflowers dry on the stalks, but the birds had other plans, so we cut them down, explored them a big and laid them on a screen to dry in the shed and harvest them from there.

Tuesday we harvested some of our sunflower heads.  We were planning to let our sunflowers dry on the stalks, but the birds had other plans, so we cut them down, explored them a bit and laid them on a screen to dry in the shed and harvest them from there.

Yesterday's harvest gave us more tomatoes, melons, okra, cucumbers, a few green beans, and some more tomatillos!

Yesterday’s harvest gave us more tomatoes, melons, okra, cucumbers, a few green beans, and some more tomatillos!  (And as usual, plenty of SMILES!)

Music and Movement is FUN!

What’s the big deal about encouraging the kids to sing and dance?  Rich environments produce rich brains and every experience we present to the kids we provide care for is another way to enrich their learning.  But is music really important to development?

music and movement time

Obviously it helps develop motor skills, develops a positive attitude toward physical activity, and is just plain fun, but there are deeper reasons to expose young children to music and movement opportunities.  I totally geek out when it comes to brain development in young children.  I am in awe of the mold-ability of children’s brains at the age I teach in my home preschool.  Sometimes I get a little sciency when it comes to this subject, but I am totally enamored with the power we hold in our hands as we teach!

Music and Movement

Listening to music and playing music games helps children use both sides of their brain at the same time.  It stimulates the frontal lobe, which develops language and motor skills.  The rhythm of music reinforces language.  Since the brain goes through a major growth spurt between ages 2-6, music and movement is of utmost importance in the toddler and preschool years.

music and movement instruments

Movement causes the brain to produce endorphins, our feel good chemicals.  These chemicals increase energy levels and the ability to learn.  In addition, movement increases oxygen in the blood which sends more oxygen to the brain helping in thought processes.

music and movement dancing

Music and movement activities include cross lateral movement, or crossing the midline of the body.  Think of making big scissors with your hands in front of your body or giving yourself a hug.  This movement is incredibly important in brain development.  When children’s arms or legs cross the midsection of the body, both sides of the brain work together which strengthens brain connections exponentially.  This stimulates critical thinking, and problem solving, as well as math and reading skills.  Music and movement is full of opportunities for producing stronger brain connections.

music and movement, preschool

Children of any age as well as adults receive benefits from music and movement activities. Singing songs and doing finger plays and rhymes with kids are great ways to get them interested in the rhythm of music.  Exposing children to all kinds of music gives them an appreciation for a variety of rhythms and tones and increases their learning as well.  Every week we have music day where I play music on cds and let the kids dance with instruments and dancing ribbons and scarves.  It’s truly the highlight of our week.  We use disco music, oldies rock songs, kid’s songs, show tunes, and soundtracks from movies to get in the mood.  The kids get to choose what they want to dance to, but I will tell you that disco is king here.  I don’t know how the children I get all seem to come here loving disco, but it has NOTHING to do with me.  Finger plays are good for stimulating development as well.  Letting your kids make homemade instruments or dancing props is a great way to get their interest going.

music and movement joy

There are innumerable games, songs, rhymes, finger plays and chants available online to beef up your repertoire.  We usually learn one new song, rhyme, or finger play every two weeks or so.  When we have our daily music time, we usually do that activity along with two others the kids choose, so we focus on really learning the new one well.  How ever you choose to add music and movement into your day doesn’t matter, just do something to increase the kids’ exposure to it and you are on the right track.

Music is the life of my soul.  I love most kinds of music.  I love loud music, quiet music, elevator music, I don’t care.  I just love it all.  Music can soothe my broken heart, bring me into the throne room of God to worship Him, wake me up, get my heart beating, connect me to others, calm me, put me to sleep, and many other things.  There’s magic in the melodies and harmonies that are created by the artists who make songs.  I think people NEED music.

music with kids

The lives we touch are ours to change.  We make a difference every single day.  Whether you work with kids or adults, or whoever, be the best you that you can be.  Do something new today that will change a life for the better.

Share some music memories you have:

Caprese Salad

These Little Sprouts have been picking 20-30 pounds of tomatoes a week for the past few weeks, so we have been coming up with all sorts of ways to use tomatoes. Here is a yummy grown up salad that is more for Mr. Kent and me. I haven’t tried it with the kids, but they may actually surprise me and like it if I did. 🙂 One of my favorite things about it is it’s super pretty.

Slice up some fresh mozzarella as thin as you can.

Slice up some fresh mozzarella as thin as you can.

Remove a couple of stems of basil from the stems and coarsely chop.

Remove a couple of stems of basil from the stems and coarsely chop.

Basil

Slice a perfectly ripe juicy tomato.

Slice a perfectly ripe juicy tomato.

Layer the mozzarella alternately with the tomato slices on a plate or platter.

Layer the mozzarella alternately with the tomato slices on a plate or platter.

Sprinkle with chopped basil, salt and pepper.  Then drizzle a little bit of balsamic vinegar and some olive oil over the top.  YUM!

Sprinkle with chopped basil, salt and pepper. Then drizzle a little bit of balsamic vinegar and some olive oil over the top. YUM!

Mr. Kent who claims he does not like tomatoes loves this salad. It’s time for us to try it with our picky eaters. 🙂 Enjoy!

Finding Joy…

There are times in my life when I find joy elusive. My life is incredibly fulfilling. I have everything I need. But some days its just hard to feel joyful. When I have days like that I pray and I think about things that make me feel joy. I wanted to share just a few of the things that bring me unspeakable joy in my life.

The beauty of this momma duck and her babies.  She made her next just feet away from some of the swiftest rapids I have ever witnessed.  I was in awe of her.

The beauty of this momma duck and her babies. She made her nest just feet away from some of the swiftest rapids I have ever witnessed. I was in awe of her.

The pure joy of children.  It's contagious!

The pure joy of children. It’s contagious!

This pancake cactus.  I LOVE it!

This pancake cactus. I LOVE it!

Children being silly.

Children being silly.

Baby toes.

Baby toes.


Hummingbird bootys.  Is that not the cutest?

Hummingbird bootys. Is that not the cutest?

Mr. T, MY guitar hero.  :)

Mr. T, MY guitar hero. 🙂

Thing in nature that amaze me like these trap door spider tunnels.

Thing in nature that amaze me like these trap door spider tunnels.

Children discovering and learning.  The pride they feel in their accomplishments.

Children discovering and learning. The pride they feel in their accomplishments.

Gorgeous Oklahoma skies.

Gorgeous Oklahoma skies.

Hugs...

Hugs…

And one of my favorites, dancing in the rain.  Growing up my sister and I would get our umbrellas and sing and dance in the rain.  I used to do it with my cousin too.  And I still enjoy dancing in the rain today.

And one of my favorites, dancing in the rain. Growing up my sister and I would get our umbrellas and sing and dance in the rain. I used to do it with my cousin too. And I still enjoy dancing in the rain today.

This morning I was feeling unusually down for a number of reasons, none of which were a very big deal. I just had a sadness that I couldn’t shake. Any time I see kids that I keep or used to keep, it makes my heart leap and brings me unexplainable joy. There is a teenage boy that I kept until he went to preschool, so he’s been gone for maybe 12 years. Anyway, today when I was feeling sad, I saw him, and when his eyes met mine, my heart lept its usual leap and then he got a smile on his face that made me feel a foot taller. He quickly realized and, as a typical teenage boy, tried to stop smiling because he was embarrassed by his show of emotion. But that look on his face when he saw me is why I do the job I do today. If nothing else goes right in this world, I KNOW I am making an impact on these kids. When the day seems too hard, I think of kids like that and I remember that it’s all worth it and I wouldn’t trade this life for anything. So remember that joy can be found in tiny moments and small pleasures. I know God intended for that to happen today. I drove home through downtown where there are about six stop lights in a row really close together, and as I approached each one, it turned green right before I got there. I knew that it was a wink from God telling me He was there and He loves me.

What small things bring joy to you?

Garden Glory-Cantaloupe

Me and my sprouts harvested over 52 pounds of food from the garden again this week. I’m amazed at how much the garden is producing right now. Tomorrow I plan to try to trim some wiley things back and open up the walkways so we can get to it easier if it’s not too hot in the morning. Wow, it’s a scorcher out there today! We picked almost 15 pounds of cucumbers this week, 20 pounds of tomatoes, 13 pounds of cantaloupe, and okra, tomatillos, peppers, and carrots. I’m amazed at what the kids have learned about growing this year, and what they have learned to like eating.

Monday's harvest.

Monday’s harvest.

Today's pickings.  We usually pick on Thursday but yesterday we got a lovely 2 1/2 inches of rain that kept us from working outside.

Today’s pickings. We usually pick on Thursday but yesterday we got a lovely 2 1/2 inches of rain that kept us from working outside.


The rest of today's score.

The rest of today’s score.

Today also marks the end of my time watching a very special young man. I’ve taught and taken care of him for over 10 years and it’s super hard to let him go. It’s always hard to say goodbye…

Saying goodbye to daycare kids.

saying goodbye to daycare kids