Fun in the Kitchen, or at Least With Kitchen Items. Reflections, Week 39

May all ready, my toddler is two, and we have almost completed 40 weeks of homeschool!  Time goes by so fast!  This week, we began a new unit, and because I thought that we could just bang it out, Elizabeth got sick and we did two days worth and that was all.  Or rather, we did two days worth of the curriculum activities, but luckily unschooling is always going on around it!

So, we didn’t get much done with the Moving Beyond The Page materials, but we did have fun with food.  First, Elizabeth had gotten a new Ranger Rick Jr. magazine last week, and on the last page, it included instructions on how to make a Frog Salad.  Does that sound appetizing or what?  Well, it didn’t have frog in the list of ingredients, rather it looked like a frog!  Originally, I did not have the listed ingredients, and Elizabeth  most creatively suggested using other ingredients that we did have on hand instead – such as replacing the lettuce with cabbage and the green apple with regular old red ones.  Impressed with her thought process, I agreed, but then we just didn’t get to it, and eventually we got to the store and did purchase the ingredients, so somehow we put it together right.

That’s taking too much credit on my part – I mean to say that Elizabeth put it together per the directions.  I washed the produce and cut up that which needed to be cut (I did have to cut about 5 of the feet because she kept dropping and breaking them), but other than that, she put it all together.


Frog Salad, no meat needed!

And though we had olives, which were suggested for the eyes, she decided to make it a Red Eyed Tree Frog rather than a regular old frog, and gave it red tomato eyes instead.  My kid, definitely my kid. 🙂

The kids then devoured the thing while I was washing the rest of the veggies for my salad, I didn’t even see it go!  It was fun to make, and fun to eat obviously.


Kiwano Melon

After the frog, a Kiwano Melon was tried another day.  Follow this link to learn how to eat one of those!

Lastly, on Friday, when Elizabeth was feeling better and we were decided that we would get back to doing school work, she REALLY REALLY wanted to make the volcano that was described in a book my sister brought her back from Florida along with the dragon fruit plant.  The book is a DK publication, not always my favorite as they seem to be just a bit…out of the ballpark for reality or something.  They are interesting, yet just a bit too over the top or too unavailable or something.  But this one, titled Great Things to do Outside: 365 Awesome Outdoor Activities actually is full of stuff that I think we may actually be able to do; the ingredients are readily available for projects, and they are simple enough that I think a child really could do them.  I think it will be a book that we’ll use over and over, and we may actually set to doing all of the activities described over the next few years.

Anywho, Elizabeth had found this flashy looking activity that had dinos set up around an erupting volcano.  An erupting volcano is like a Disney Channel myth to me on one level, yet I regularly clean with baking soda and vinegar, so pulling it off was not hard at all.  Elizabeth has been asking to do the activity for a few weeks now, but I have been to lazy to do it until the weather was a bit nicer and I desired to put my hands into cold dirt – because you know who was the one that had to form the volcano don’t you?!  So, while Brother was asleep, we prepped everything, then slipped down to the garden, set it up, and let ‘er bubble over!


Aaaahhhh! It’s burning my leg!

It was pretty fun!  It’s still down there, the raccoons are probably gnawing on our dinos right now, who knows?  We didn’t get any other school done after that, but oh well!

Share your thoughts:  What are some fun activities you have done in the kitchen, or with kitchen items…just not in the actual kitchen?


How to eat a Kiwano Melon

So, previously, we have explore an ugli fruit as well as a dragon fruit, now, we have moved on to a kiwano melon, something that I had not even heard of before.  Of course, these all come off of the imported/exotic fruits display at the store, and interestingly, there are quite a few other fruits that we have yet to try.  As always, I let Elizabeth pick what she wished to explore, and though quite pricy for a single fruit, this time she chose the orange, spiky thing that I didn’t recognize and had absolutely no idea how to eat.

010The day that we decided to cut it up, I turned again to the trusty internet to show me the way, and found instructions on – fancy that, didn’t know that there was a wiki- how-to site, I learned two new things that day!

The wiki-site advised that the fruit could just be sliced in half and the pulp and seeds scooped out and eaten…or slurped up with a straw.  Well, for a 5-year-old, one must eat from the fruit shell – and with a straw if at all possible!


So I let her go to it, giving half of the fruit to Paul, but he was more concerned with the birds out the window than with the fruit, which was ok.  Elizabeth experimented with the straw, but having a little difficulty sucking them up, decided to scoop them out, then suck them up.  She may have also been planning on removing the seeds from the pulp, which the site suggested too if you aren’t terribly impressed with them, but I don’t think she got that far…


Elizabeth was very excited about this one, and as she scooped and played in the goo, she asked all sorts of questions about where it came from and why it had spikes on it and if it grows on a tree or on the ground.  Deciding that then was better than any other time to look into it, I did another search on the ipad to find out.  Wikipedia came up as the most informational and first source, so that’s where I turned, follow this link to read on yourself more about this interesting fruit.

I found out that being a member of the cucumber and melon family, it grows on a vine.  This spiky melon originates from Africa, including being one of the few sources of water during the dry season in the Kalahari Desert.  It has a number of other names, including horned melon, and our favorite, the blowfish fruit.  Then, wanting to show her where the Kalahari Desert is, I did a search for images for that, and finding one that showed enough of the world for her to get a good idea, I clicked to open it – and ended up with some page with no maps but adds with nudy women in them, yikes!  Good thing I do the searching, because you  just never know what you are going to get!  It disturbed me all the rest of the day…

So, while a Kiwano Melon has nothing to do with naked women, it is lots of fun to explore new foods with my child and helps us explore the world right here in our own kitchen.

Share your thoughts:  Have you ever eaten a Kiwano Melon?

How to eat a Dragon Fruit

So, I brought you How to eat an Ugli Fruit, now we have had a chance to try a dragon fruit!

My sister recently took a trip to Disney World, and the gift that she brought back for Elizabeth was a tiny dragon fruit plant, which came in a sterile enclosed jar and living off of some kind of clear gel.  Elizabeth’s plant has since been planted into potting soil and now resides in a plastic bag to resemble a humid hot house.  This week, we will poke holes in the bag so that fresh oxygen can move into it, and then over the course of two weeks, we will gradually make them bigger and bigger until it is opened up to the environment.  At that point, our little dragon fruit plant will live just like any other plant here in the house, the whole method just makes it’s transition into living outside of the “womb” a little less stressful.  I think of it kind of like acclimating a new fish into your fish tank, where you have to leave it in the plastic bag for a while so the water temperatures become equal, then move it into the water but in a holding tank, etc.

Anyhow, our little plant seems to be doing ok, and while out grocery shopping at my favorite store (Wegman’s) the other day, I happened to find fresh dragon fruit for sale and decided that I had to get one!  At $7.99/lb, this baby wasn’t cheap, but to try something new, I’d pay almost anything!


Fresh dragon fruit.

I think my dragon fruit was at it’s peak in freshness the day I bought it, but we didn’t eat it for a day or two, and by then the tips became brown as you can see in the picture.  Even so, the inside was still juicy.


The dragon fruit cut.

I had to turn to trusty YouTube again to learn how to eat a dragon fruit.  Would you believe there are lots and lots of videos on how to eat foods, and for fresh foods like this, it’s usually some guy just showing you how to cut it and then eating in front of the camera!  That’s not very appealing to me, but hey, whatever.  The link I followed was How to…Eat Dragon Fruit by livelife365.

So, the video I found said to just cut and eat raw.  The gentleman on it also suggested scooping out the flesh with a spoon and then using the rind as a bowl, which Elizabeth was ecstatic about.  With our instructions learned, I sliced the fruit and prepared one half.  Elizabeth wanted to try, so she scooped her own fruit out of the rind – I sometimes can’t believe how grown up she’s getting!  I then sliced it right in the ‘bowl.’


Scooped and sliced.

As far as the flavor of the dragon fruit, well, here again, it is an exotic fruit, and so would be picked pre-peak ripeness, and thus, had little flavor.  As I said, it was juicy, but it didn’t really taste like anything to me.  The texture is similar to a kiwi, which, with no flavor, kind of turned me off, so I chose not to eat it.  Both Elizabeth and Paul ate quite a bit of their ‘bowls-full’ and what was left over, I turned into a mega-fruit smoothie with left over star fruit, grapes, kiwi, and frozen strawberries and blueberries in an apple juice base.  Yum, didn’t need any sugar for that, though it was kind of thick because of the grape skins and all the seeds.

It’s really an important “anchor,” as Jill Frankel Hauser calls them, for Elizabeth to make the connection between her humble little plant and what the beautiful grown fruit will be if she takes proper care of her gift, just like any other anchor between educational subjects and real life, which is how a person – not only a child – learns how things are applied and gives the learning meaning.

Share your thoughts:  What are some fun “anchors” you have explored with your child?


How to eat an Ugli Fruit

Elizabeth loves sports and healthy food.  Sometimes, particularly in the car, she will want to list all the foods that we can think of that are healthy.  I would define her diet as that of two extremes: she’s almost on a raw foods diet, except for her love of bacon, ham and pork.  Really, she eats other things too, but she LOVES fresh fruits and veggies and is very interested in them.  She is interested, at 5, in having a healthy lifestyle, and has been for a number of years, as a matter of fact.  For a long time too, if anything was suggestive of sports, she loved it.  It’s definitely a little odd to see such a young child so interested in a healthy lifestyle, but it’s wonderful too.

With this in mind, one book that we regularly read is Eating the Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert, which is filled to the max with fresh fruits and veggies – right up Elizabeth’s alley.  The pictures are bright, and the book reinforces the alphabet.

The fruit featured for the letter U is the ugli fruit (actually pronounced “oog-lee fruit” in Jamaica where it originates), and Elizabeth is quite interested in this as it has such an interesting name.  I found some at the store the other day and she asked if we could get one (generally, she pushes her own kid-sized cart around in this store, and it is filled with fresh produce and cans of olives – the special things she is getting for her and Brother. 🙂 )  Since she is requesting healthy foods, how can I say no; so I said yes.


Our ugli fruit before I peeled it.

Today we tried it.  I had to look up how to eat an ugli fruit on the iPad first.  Apparently it can just be peeled and eaten like an orange, since it is a citrus fruit.


Peeling the ugli fruit

One can also juice it, or slice it through the equator and sprinkle sugar on top as you would a grapefruit since it’s flavor is a little bitter.  We chose to just peel it, and then pull the pulp out of the membranes because they are pretty tough.


Peeled. You can see how the membranes are pretty thick.

The fruit, which is imported here in New York and may not have been picked at it’s peak (a fortunate and unfortunate custom I became used to while in the Peace Corps because now I only want peak-picked produce – say that 5 times fast), was too bitter for me to eat, but Elizabeth ate half of it, which is actually pretty impressive because it was pretty big.

I remember doing special Around-The-World celebrations that included foods like star fruit and kiwi when I was in school, I hope that my continued support in trying new things allows Elizabeth to makes those kinds of memories too.  Next up, a persimmon maybe?  I’ve never had one of those.

Share your thoughts: What fun foods have you tried with your kids?