"Butter Up"

Cooking with kids does not have to be fancy or complicated.  Making butter is one of the easiest and  best ways to get kids involved and excited about seeing a simple technique to make something we use all the time.  We also did this at our Dirt to Dine camp with 30 very excited kids, and they were amazed at the outcome. For this post we just did this in the yard in our jammies!

It is a great way to use up their energy and funnel it into an activity that has a transformative outcome that they can feel proud of.  My favorite part of this activity is is the science, the excitement of making a liquid turn to a solid.

This butter is a great vehicle for other flavors, like herbs,  sun dried tomatoes, olives, or honey.
Now that summer is ending it is time to gather herbs for your butter, dried or fresh.   Send the kids out to pick herbs or take them to the store or farmers market and have them choose some.  Have the kids smell them, feel them, and decide which ones they like the best.

Save those empty jars because once you do this with your kids they will want to do it over and over. If they get tired of shaking make up running games to keep them shaking the jars.
You will need a mason jar, heavy cream, a strainer and a wooden spoon or paddle.  Baby food jars work great for small batches as well.
1.  If you are adding chopped herbs or any flavor add it with the cream.

2.  Fill a jar halfway with heavy cream and a pinch of salt and screw the lid on tight.

3.  Shake the jar up, down and sideways until the cream thickens and begins to stick together.  You may have to help your kids, this can get tiring.

4.  The cream will continue to gather into a ball when it is a ball in liquid it is done.

5.  Pour the buttermilk liquid off and save in a covered container in the refrigerator. You can drink the buttermilk or use it in another recipe, it will be thin, not like the stuff you get at the store.

6.  Rinse, rinse, rinse your butter it will help it not go sour. Hold the strainer under running water until it runs clear.

7.  Put the butter on a board and mash it with a flat wooden spoon or Gnocchi paddle to get out the excess water.

8.  Cover and chill. 

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School Year's Eve- well, afternoon....

I was so sad to hear Cookie Magazine has closed. I looked forward to working with them and feel for all the hard workers who have lost their jobs.

There was always a buzz around school starting when we were kids. We would go to the mall and pick out school clothes, a pair of shoes and new supplies. Maybe it is because I grew up in a very cold dark place and we needed clothes to stay warm. Living in Northern California we don't seem to do the big back to school shop like we did as kids. Maybe it is because Bubbi (grandmother in Yiddish) sends clothes to kidlet, or maybe it is because the sun is still burning brightly and the kids are still wearing their summer duds? For what ever reason we needed a reason to get excited about the new school year California style and Cookie Magazine gave us one.  I recently started working with Cookie and am loving it. They sent me a School Year's Eve Pack, basically a party in a box. 
School Year's Eve™ is a
 new holiday developed by Cookie magazine and PTA to help get families ready and excited about the new school year.

 I thought, why not try,and win 1500.00$ for my PTA, it would be super to be able to had over a check like that in these times.

My daughter was so excited when the box came and instantly started planning the party. The kit included some goodies like pencils and blowers, a very cute banner, napkins, recipes, and other goodies.

I added socks for each girl and cute pencils, and tissues for their desks at school.  Another great item I added was a discount card from a local art studio called Studio For Art.

You can help out local businesses by promoting them as easily as adding a business card to your birthday gift bags.

To make the cake I bought 3 pieces of cut frosted cake at the store, added green coconut and made quick Rice Crispy treats formed into little apples.

It took about 20 minutes to decorate the 

cake and it was very cute. I stuck with the apple theme after a friend suggested it, you know, - an apple for the teacher.

To make the apples, I made 1/2 a batch of Rice Crispy treats and added red paste coloring just after the marshmallows had melted. I spread the mix out on a buttered sheet pad and let it cool slightly. With buttered clean hands make apple shapes. I just happened to find some green shoelace candy and used that for the stems. My preference would have been to use rolled gumdrops for the leaves but I didn't find them until well after I made the cake. Instead I picked out the green leaves from my Autumn sprinkle mix and added them to the top.

To make the "grass" add shredded coconut and a few drops of green food coloring and shake. 

I noticed that in the party recipe book that Cookie sent was a recipe I have in my book.  Waffle Grilled Cheese, couldn't be easier just toss your sandwich in a waffle iron and press down until it is crisp and melty.

We also had a game or two, the pass the orange game is fun, the girls were having a great time with it. They had to pass it from under their necks with no hands, it was a good laugh.

I can always count on 6 year olds to find a game or make one up, like bowling for chalk.  They stood up the sidewalk chalk and used the oranges from the previous game as bowling balls. It was so cute they "kept score" with hash marks it was adorable.

The day of the party it  was so hot here and I got really lucky and found a Hawaiian Shaved ice machine unopened at Goodwill for ten dollars. I made sure to snatch that goodie up right away. The girls were beside themselves with frosty icy goodness, as was my husband! 

We made the snow cones and used thick mango nectar as the flavoring. 

Being a back to school party I did try to incorporate some reading and problem solving like the pass the orange game and reading the signs and napkins.  They are headed for first grade and all worked on reading the signs as a group, they did great.

overall it was a very fun way to kick off the school year. 

So I hope our photo can win that 

1500.00 for our PTA but even if we don't win it was worth it.

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Dirt to Dine Camp - 28 kids, 2 locations, a lot of happy campers!

I never would have thought that in one week 28 kids could learn as much as they did.  This camp took the kids from farm straight to table every day, and they got it, they really got it. Lucky for me, my connection with Eileen Gorden and her great idea and great people, has made this has a reality. She came to me with an idea to start a camp where the kids could spend time on a working farm and then translate the knowledge in to cooking class. Marie Sayles was the brains behind the
 farm side and I acted as the chef and coordinator of the cooking part. Eileen worked tirelessly to put all our ideas together, working to secure beautiful locations for the week.  It worked out beautifully!

These kids now know how to milk a cow or goat and make fresh cheese within hours. They know that the animals have to be taken care of, fed, and cleaned. They know how to grind wheat from the stalk into flour for dough. They know how important bees are to our world and how to extract honey from a hive. They did things I have never even done!

They know carrots come from the dirt not from a plastic bag, and how much work it is to pull sunflower seeds from the flower. They know that a farm fresh egg tastes so much better than one stamped with a date from a store. They have the knowledge to make informed choices at a young age!

Here is a sample of one of our days:
  • Day 3: Chickens & Eggs
    • Animal care, farm chores, chicken diet, harvesting fresh eggs from chickens
    • Making chicken stock with whole chicken
    • Make fresh egg pasta noodles
    • Make chicken noodle and Italian egg drop soup
    • Make savory french toast with Parmesan 
    • Compare raw eggs for color; conventional versus farm fresh free range 
    • Taste test: fast food nuggets versus free range chicken breast
    • Feast on the food they made, discuss and recap the day.



At Connolly Ranch in collaboration with Chef Michael Chiarello & Bottega Restaurant 

Dirt To Dine is week-long summer camp bridging farming, gardening and cooking experiences in a dynamic, hands-on, youth-driven environment. The camp brings your young epicurean’s enthusiasm for all things cooking back to the source of the ingredient’s: land, soil, seeds, animals, plants and more.

Dirt To Dine is set in two locations: the epicurean center of the Napa Valley, Yountville; and Connolly Ranch, Napa County’s only family farm dedicated to education. Visit the website for bios of the "Dirt to Dine" team, click on camps.

 I would also like to thank our volunteer teachers Greer Westerink and Kim Kendall-Stubbe who worked so hard to make this camp a success. 

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