I wanted to learn a little more about Passover so reached out to Alva Sachs, author of  "Dancing Dreidels,"  to find out about her...

Passover Interview with Alva Sachs and a Bonus Passover Recipe

I wanted to learn a little more about Passover so reached out to Alva Sachs, author of "Dancing Dreidels," to find out about her favorite Passover traditions and memories.


So many memories over all the years of celebrating Passover with my family and friends. I learned everything I know from my mother, whose recipes I still use to this day. For me, memories are vibrant from cooking special foods with my mother, eating matzah with jelly, and making fried matzah for breakfast. I learned to make my mother's chicken soup with noodles and matzo balls, which everyone loves. I make a special Passover sponge cake, and mandel bread, kind of like a biscotti. We also make matzah pizza with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese and bake it in the oven. Yes, it is all about the food, sharing the history, and gathering with family and friends. Most families all have their traditions but they are all similar in nature. If you walk into someone else's house at Passover regardless of how they celebrate, you feel at home immediately. - Alva Sachs


 Alva explained a little more about the tradition of hiding the Afikoman:


There are traditionally three pieces of matzah at the middle of the Seder table; the middle one is called the afikomen and it's usually the part of Passover that kids most look forward to. Relatively early in the Seder, the afikomen is broken in two pieces; the bigger piece is wrapped in a napkin and hidden somewhere in the house. Some Jews see this as symbolic of the ultimate redemption from suffering, which comes at the end of the Seder; some see it as a reference to the Passover sacrifice that used to be offered at the ancient temple in Jerusalem; and some see it as a reminder that the poor must always set something aside for the next meal, or a reminder that there's always more to discover in life than what we know. For any kids at the table, though, it's a game: after the meal, they're sent running to hunt for the hidden afikomen. It's sort of like hide-and-seek, but with religious significance. The kids bring it back to the table and everyone shares a bite - sometimes after giving the child who found it a small reward, like a piece of candy or money.


Finally, Alva was kind enough to share her recipe for Matzah Candy with me!  


Matzo Candy

Ingredients:

- 1/2 lb matzo

- 1 cup brown sugar

- 1 cup butter

- 12oz bag chocolate chips

- 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

- 1 cup toffee candy pieces

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. 

2. Line a 15x10 inch jelly roll pan (or a large cookie sheet) with aluminum foil. Fill matzos in a single layer, covering the entire pan (some may be left over).

3. In a small pan over medium heat, melt butter and brown sugar. Boil until mixture coats a spoon, about 3-5 minutes. Pour mixture over matzo layer. Bake 4 minutes.

4. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Bake 12 minutes more. Remove from oven and gently spread melted chocolate to cover as completely as possible. Sprinkle with chopped nuts or candy as desired.

5. Cool completely in refrigerator. Break into pieces and store in the refrigerator. 


If you're looking for a good Passover book for kids, check out "Meet the Matzah" by Alan Silberberg.

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  We met Alan Silberberg and his family of latkes back in December and he's back again with a brand new story for Passover. This story ...

'Meet the Matzah: A Passover Story' Book Review

 


We met Alan Silberberg and his family of latkes back in December and he's back again with a brand new story for Passover. This story is about Alfie Koman, a Matzah who likes to hide. When it's Alfie's turn to tell his class about his holiday, Loaf takes over the story! You'll have to read the book for yourself to find out if Alfie's story gets ruined or if he stands up to Loaf like Moses did to the pharaoh so long ago!

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  I hadn't heard about Holi until a couple of years ago, but once I knew a little about the Festival of Colors, I wanted to know more! T...

A Colorful Collection of Holi Activities

 


I hadn't heard about Holi until a couple of years ago, but once I knew a little about the Festival of Colors, I wanted to know more! This year, I had the pleasure of speaking with author Sandhya Acharya and learned a lot more about the colorful holiday.


Holi is a popular spring festival celebrated in India during the Hindu calendar month of Phalguna. There are many stories that accompany the origin of this ancient festival. One popular version is that of Prahlad, a devout young boy. Prahlad survives various attempts of his evil Uncle Hiranyakashipu to silence him, including an attempt by Holikia, Hiranyakashipu's sister, to burn him. Ultimately, Hiranyakashipu is destroyed. A bonfire is lit the night before Holi to celebrate this victory of good over evil. In another version, Holi is the commemoration of the divine love of Radha to the God Krishna. Another legend is that Kama disturbs the God Shiva in his penance at the behest of Parvati, Shiva's consort. When Shiva destroys him, Parvati and Rati, Kama's consort, pray for Kama to be forgiven. Holi is the celebration of Lord Kama being restored to life. Regardless of the version, ultimately the festival symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. People celebrate it by donning white clothes and then throwing or splashing colors on each other (friends, family, and sometimes strangers too!) accompanied by music, dance, food, and laughter. They draw colorful rangolis and cook delicious foods and sweets that they exchange with family, friends, and neighbors. Entire neighborhoods are drenched in bright colors and happiness during this festival. It is rightly called the Festival of Colors.


To help everyone learn about and celebrate this festival, I have compiled a list of resources including stories, colorful activities, dance, and food.


Books (video read aloud links)

Culture Groove Kids - Story of Holi

Festival of Colors - Kabir Seghal

Holi - Uma Krishnaswami


Colorful Activities

Sand rangoli

Natural rangoli

Eco-friendly colored powders (made from dried flowers, leaves, spices...)

Homemade colored powders (using flour and food coloring)

Splatter painting 

Marble painting (for a less messy option!)

Homemade face paint


We made the face paint today, but we used conditioner instead of lotion because that's what was readily available. The paints came out a little gloopy, didn't spread very smoothly, and flaked off pretty easily after they dried, but Lil C and Squidgy were really excited to be able to paint my face!





Dance:

Dance with Miss Priya - Miss Priya has a couple dance videos just for Holi along with a bunch more Indian dance tutorials


Food:

I highly recommend getting some takeout from a local Indian restaurant - it's the best way to try Indian food if you've never had any before and the best way to eat it without having to spend all day in the kitchen! But here are a few things you can make at home.

Gulab Jamun (check my post about the book, "10 Gulab Jamuns"!)

Semi-Homemade Ricotta Rasmalai

Mango Lassi (I doubled the recipe and used 2 cups frozen mango)


I hope this post helped you all understand a little bit more about the festival of Holi and gave you some fun ideas to use when you are learning about it with your family!

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  I love Indian rasmalai and so I was really excited when I came across a rasmalai recipe using ricotta as the cheese base (if you want to s...

Semi-Homemade Ricotta Rasmalai Recipe

 


I love Indian rasmalai and so I was really excited when I came across a rasmalai recipe using ricotta as the cheese base (if you want to see how the cheese for rasmalai is traditionally made, check out this recipe at Cook with Manali). Using ricotta made the process so much simpler and I knew I had to give it a try! I adapted the original recipe to use what I had on hand (cardamom pods rather than powder and no saffron threads) and to make a larger amount.


Semi-Homemade Ricotta Rasmalai

(adapted from Vidhya's Home Cooking)


Ingredients (for 12 rasmalai)

- 14oz whole milk ricotta

- 1/3 cup sugar

- 12oz evaporated milk

- 8oz whole milk

- 3 tablespoons hot water

- 2 cardamom pods

- 6 tablespoons sugar

- a tiny piece of a cinnamon stick

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a regular size muffin tin (makes 12) or use silicone liners.

2. Combine ricotta with 1/3 cup sugar in a bowl. Scoop about 2 tablespoons ricotta mixture into each muffin cup. Bake 35-45 minutes or until a pick inserted in the center of the cheese round comes out clean.

3. While the cheese bakes, add the cardamom pods to the 3 tablespoons of hot water and let it soak. 

4. Pour regular and evaporated milk into a saucepan and heat over medium until small bubbles start to form. 

5. Add the cardamom pods and their soaking water, 6 tablespoons sugar, and the piece of cinnamon stick. Stir everything together and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

6. When the cheese rounds finish baking, let them cool 5-10 minutes. Then remove them from the muffin tin and place in a large shallow baking dish (I used a 13x9inch pan). Carefully pour the milk mixture over the cheese rounds, cover the dish and refrigerate at least half an hour. 


7. To serve, place one or two cheese rounds in a bowl and scoop over a good amount of the milk mixture. We topped our rasmalai with chopped pistachios.

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  "10 Gulab Jamuns" by Sandhya Acharya was a great addition to the other books we read for Holi. It is a sweet story about two lit...

'10 Gulab Jamuns' Book Review


 

"10 Gulab Jamuns" by Sandhya Acharya was a great addition to the other books we read for Holi. It is a sweet story about two little boys who sneak some gulab jamuns that their mother had made for a dinner party! I think every child can sympathize with the little boys who just want a taste of the special sweet treat! My Squidgy is famous for asking, "Can I just taste test one?" 

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  We've come to the end of National Nutrition Month and I thought I'd finish it off with a story about moving! Good nutrition is onl...

'Get Up and Go' - Read and Rise March 2021

 


We've come to the end of National Nutrition Month and I thought I'd finish it off with a story about moving! Good nutrition is only half of the equation - the other part is moving and exercising your body to keep it strong and healthy!

0 comments:

Today I have two books and two STEAM activities that are both related to water, specifically speaking - drinking water. We all need water to...

Story Based STEAM - 'The Water Princess' and 'Nya's Long Walk'


Today I have two books and two STEAM activities that are both related to water, specifically speaking - drinking water. We all need water to survive - lots of water! In case you missed it, here's my Read and Rise post featuring "A Cool Drink of Water" and the importance of hydration. Despite our great need for clean water, about 1 in 3 people do not have access to clean water! (source: WHO). 

We explored the topic of access to clean water during our unit study on the African Savannah using "The Water Princess" by Susan Verde and "Nya's Long Walk: A Step at a Time" by Linda Sue Park. Let's start with "The Water Princess." 

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  Today's story and activity focuses on knowing where your food comes from. Ideally, I'd like for us to only eat foods with a short ...

'Tyler Makes Pancakes' - Read and Rise March 2021

 


Today's story and activity focuses on knowing where your food comes from. Ideally, I'd like for us to only eat foods with a short list of ingredients that we can all identify. The reality is, we're not there yet. Sometimes we still rely on cereal for quick morning breakfasts and prepackaged snacks make food prep so much easier when we're going to be out for a while at playdates or classes or things like that. Things like sausages and frozen fries or pierogis make dinner prep time much faster, but we try to look for brands that aren't chock full of mystery ingredients. So while we're not perfect, I feel like we're at least on the right path.

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  As we finished up our tour of Hong Kong, we drew dragons like the one Brandon thought he saw in " Brandon Goes to Hong Kong ." W...

Hong Kong Mini Unit Study Day 5

 


As we finished up our tour of Hong Kong, we drew dragons like the one Brandon thought he saw in "Brandon Goes to Hong Kong." We'll have to finish coloring them in tomorrow!


We also did a little research on Chinese poetry and were inspired by Lu Shi and Gu Ti poems. In a nutshell, both Lu Shi and Gu Ti are based on couplets, but there is no required amount or upper limit of couplets. Gu Ti is more free verse while Lu Shi is more rigid in structure and rhyme and both are narrative poems. We decided to write our own dragon poem, leaning a little more toward the free verse style, but rhyming the last word of each line in the couplet. Lil C's ideas were more elaborate than I expected so we didn't finish writing the entire poem, but here's a snippet!

Once upon a time, I was taking a walk and came across a flowery field.
In the middle was a dragon - I held up my shield!
Her scales were green from her head to her tail
With flowery purple spots and a tail that resembled kale.
As she stared at me with gentle emerald green eyes,
My fear vanished, because she seemed to kind and wise.  


We also made flying dragons. They're very simple to make! Cover a toilet paper roll with colored paper of your choice then glue or tape on a head, wings, and tail. To make it fly, tie or wrap a long string to a doorknob or railing, leaving two long pieces of string on either side. Slip both ends of the string through the cardboard tube and gently pull them apart to make your dragon "fly" to the top of the string!


Our final destination on this Hong Kong vacation was Kowloon. We took the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbor, bought some more snacks at the markets, and rode the Central--Mid-Levels Escalator! I'm glad it was a virtual experience because escalators are not my favorite thing - I get paranoid I'm going to trip or fall every time!

Tomorrow we will officially conclude our Hong Kong vacation with dim sum! We picked up a bunch of different dumplings and buns that we are going to cook up and I'm so excited to eat them all! I hope you enjoyed coming on this little trip with us and I can't wait to bring you along on another one!

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  We're still reading " Brandon Goes to Hong Kong " and today we "visited" Disneyland Hong Kong and explored dragons...

Hong Kong Mini Unit Study Day 4

 


We're still reading "Brandon Goes to Hong Kong" and today we "visited" Disneyland Hong Kong and explored dragons some more. I think Lil C's dragon lunch was my favorite part of today! I cut a spinach crepe into squiggly and spiky pieces so she could make a dragon shape and she chose the toppings she wanted to make scales and a face. 



Lil C also made her own paper dragon, inspired by the one Brandon's cousin Kelsey makes in the book. She made the whole thing completely on her own with 0% input or help from me. It makes me a little sad that she's growing up but also excited because I can't wait to see everything that will come out of that amazing creative brain of hers!

Our afternoon was all about Disneyland Hong Kong. We collected as many Disney figures as we could find and began creating a mini Disneyland.

There was a Vampirina stage show...


...a carousel near a river with some bridges...



...a superhero-villian meet and greet area...



...and my personal favorite, the tea cup ride! Lil C and Squidgy worked together to decorate the ride and make a pathway.




Here's a close-up of the ride. The whole platform spins as well as each individual "cup." I may have to brainstorm to see how we can make a larger version that minifigures can sit in and that ideally look a little more like teacups...



No amusement park trip would be complete without purchasing some sort of snacks or treats so I pulled out the snacks my husband picked up at our local Asian market, set prices for each item and gave the kids $5 each to spend on snacks.



They figured out how to split their purchases so both of them could try a little bit of everything. There were ice cream cone wafers, shrimp chips, mini koala cookies, and mochi. 



Speaking of mochi, I know mochi is Japanese and not Chinese, but we watched the Rice episode of the new Netflix series, "Waffles and Mochi" today. The show is super cute and if you have Netflix I highly recommend you check it out with your kids!

That's all for today! We'll be back tomorrow with the conclusion of our mini unit study and more dragons!



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  My original plan was to start the morning with some rice porridge, congee, like Brandon and his family had in "Brandon Goes to Hong K...

Hong Kong Mini Unit Study Day 3 - with Rice Porridge Recipes

 


My original plan was to start the morning with some rice porridge, congee, like Brandon and his family had in "Brandon Goes to Hong Kong." However, after talking about congee with my friend, who is Filipina, she told me about the Filipino version of rice porridge that they have for breakfast called champorado. Now, champorado involved chocolate and once I had chocolate on the brain, I had to have it! So, it may not be the same thing Brandon and his family had for breakfast, but our breakfast was definitely inspired by it! We added some bacon on the side so we could have a little salty with our sweet (the bacon looks like hair in the bowl, I feel like we should have made a face in the champorado!).

If you'd like to try it for yourself, here is the recipe I used:

Instant Pot Champorado

And if you'd like a non-chocolate version, here is the congee recipe I was going to use:

Instant Pot Congee


For the rest of the morning, we pretended to visit Ocean Park and took a ride on the submarine train. Then our focus was mostly on pandas. We read "The Panda Problem" by Deborah Underwood which was really funny. It doesn't teach you much about pandas, besides that they eat bamboo, but it is a great book to launch a conversation about fiction book structure. For the most part, fiction stories have a main character, a problem, and a solution. And that's the focus of this book: who is the main character, what is the problem, and how can they solve the problem. You could do a writing extension by having your child come up with an additional problem for the story and draw and write about it. We might do that tomorrow, but we had a short lesson day because Lil C had virtual dance class after lunch and we had to clean up the playroom before lunch so it would be ready for her to dance in. 


This adorable video gets you up close and personal with some teenage pandas as well as a newborn one!



We also watched a few Wild Kratts videos about pandas:

Wild Kratts Panda Power Up

Wild Kratts Explore China, Part 1

Wild Kratts Explore China, Part 2


That was it for today, tomorrow we may touch on pandas some more before focusing on the best part of the story: dragons!


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  We're back with day 2 of our Hong Kong mini unit! As you can probably tell from our happy little Buddha, today was all about the Big B...

Hong Kong Mini Unit Study Day 2

 



We're back with day 2 of our Hong Kong mini unit! As you can probably tell from our happy little Buddha, today was all about the Big Buddha and Buddhism. First, we took a trip on the glass bottom cable car, the Ngong Ping 360, up to Ngong Ping on Lantau Island. From there, we could see the Big Buddha statue! It is 268 steps up to the Big Buddha statue and we calculated that we had to go up our staircase 21 times (for a total of 273 steps) to go about the same distance.

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  This recipe is perfect for a little extra green on St. Patrick's Day, for Christmas if you add some bright red tomatoes or strawberrie...

Naturally Green Spinach Crepes

 


This recipe is perfect for a little extra green on St. Patrick's Day, for Christmas if you add some bright red tomatoes or strawberries on the side, or any day when you want a little punch of color. I love recipes like this that use fruits and vegetables to add a little vitamin boost to every day foods without really changing the flavor - especially when you have children that are a little particular about what they choose to eat! My policy is, a little bit of a good food is better than none so if your child doesn't like green smoothies, spinach salads, or creamed spinach, this is a great place to start adding a little of that super spinach goodness into your child's diet.


Spinach Crepes

Ingredients:

- 2 cups spinach (or a spinach blend like spinach, kale, and chard)

- 1 cup milk

- 1 large egg

- 1 cup flour (I usually do all whole wheat or half whole wheat and half white - for the photos I used all white to get the best green color I could)

- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

- pinch of salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Place all ingredients into the jar of a blender and blend until smooth (you may have to pause and scrape down the sides with a spatula). 


2. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high. Once heated, coat pan with butter or oil. Pour some batter into the center of the skillet and then swirl the pan, spreading the batter around. It may not be a perfect circle and that's ok!


3. Cook a couple minutes until the top looks dry. Flip the crepe over and cook just one minute more. Remove and repeat until you've used all the batter. 

4. Fill however you like! I filled mine with cheesy eggs, but I think cottage cheese with avocadoes and tomatoes would be delicious too!

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This week we are celebrating Eugenia Chu's book, "Brandon Goes to Hong Kong." Eugenia is Chinese-American and when her son wa...

Hong Kong Mini Unit Study - Day 1 (with Teriyaki Pineapple Chicken and Broccoli Recipe)


This week we are celebrating Eugenia Chu's book, "Brandon Goes to Hong Kong." Eugenia is Chinese-American and when her son was very young, she searched for books that touched on Chinese culture or included Chinese (Mandarin) vocabulary to read with him. Unfortunately, she didn't really find any! So she began writing her own! I think it is so admirable that she decided to take it upon herself to create the books she wanted to read her son. I suppose maybe it's not so different from me creating unit studies for my kids so I can teach them in the way that works best for all of us.


And so I decided to take inspiration from Eugenia and use her new book (which she graciously sent me a digital version of so I could check it out and review it) as the basis of a week long mini unit study on Hong Kong!


We started the morning by finding Hong Kong on our world map and guessing what the weather might be like there. Since Hong Kong was along the same line of latitude as the Caribbean, we thought it would be much warmer than here in New Jersey! And we were right! We checked the weather forecast for the week at home and it's supposed to be in the 40s with a bunch of rain. Hong Kong's forecast is in the high 70s all week! So we did a little pretend packing and the kids packed a warm weather outfit along with a couple toys and a snack for the "flight."


We had to pick up some library books and drop off a birthday gift, so we got on the "plane" (aka our minivan) and settled in for a pretend flight. We talked about how long a real flight to Hong Kong was - 16 hours! So if we left here at 7am today (Monday), we figured out that we would arrive at 11pm, which with the time difference would actually be 11am Tuesday in Hong Kong! 


When we arrived back home, we were in Hong Kong! We were hungry so we took the tram up to Victoria Peak (it was a very short trip from the airport - actually, I'm pretty sure we have a teleporter :-D) and had lunch at Victoria Peak Gardens.


For lunch, we had rice with teriyaki chicken, pineapple, and broccoli (the recipe is very simple, you can find it at the end of this post). 


After lunch, we headed to build gardens out of Lego while I read a few more chapters of "Brandon Goes to Hong Kong." I'll be completely honest and say that palm tree is as close as we got to gardens. After that it evolved into Minecraft building. And that's ok! My philosophy for unit studies is exposure to various topics in science, social studies, and geography. I don't force activities. If they don't want to do it, they're not going to enjoy it and they're not going to learn from it, so I let it go. Sometimes I try to circle back and see if they're interested at another time and other times I just keep moving forward. 


Tomorrow we'll be heading to see the Big Buddha! Come back and join us!


Teriyaki Pineapple Chicken and Broccoli
(there wasn't much measuring going on in this recipe so I'll try to estimate!)

1. Preheat oven to 400०F. Line 2 sheet pans with foil.
2. Cut 2 chicken breasts (about 1.5lbs) into 1/2" chunks. Put in a large bowl and toss with teriyaki sauce (store-bought or homemade) until evenly coated. I probably used about a half cup of sauce. Spread chicken pieces out onto one of the sheet pans. Toss cubed pineapple pieces (about 1 cup) over the chicken. 
3. Chop enough broccoli to fill the other pan into bite size pieces. Season broccoli with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  
4. Place both pans in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and broccoli is tender and browned.
5. Serve over rice (we made jasmine rice in the Instant Pot). Garnish with extra teriyaki sauce, sweet red chili sauce, sesame seeds, and/or scrambled eggs. 

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  This week we're focusing on hydration! It seems so simple but it's so easy to forget to drink as you run around doing a million th...

'A Cool Drink of Water' - Read and Rise March 2021

 


This week we're focusing on hydration! It seems so simple but it's so easy to forget to drink as you run around doing a million things during the day! Let's start off with a story of drinking water around the world.


Featured story: "A Cool Drink of Water" by Barbara Kerley


Activity: This week I'm challenging all of you to track your water to make sure you're hydrating properly! It's recommended that children drink the number of 8oz cups equal to their age until age 8, after which everyone should drink 8 cups a day (Source: CHOC). Simply Being Mommy has a simple water tracker everyone can use this week.

To make hydrating a little more interesting, you can experiment with infused waters. I came across this Food Hero Monthly from last March that is all about water and gives you several recipes for infused waters. We tried the strawberry kiwi the other day and it was delicious! The bonus? Lil C got to practice her cutting skills as she sliced the strawberries and kiwis and added them to our pitcher. I have a couple oranges hanging out in the fridge so I think I'll make some orange water for tomorrow...happy hydrating!




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I keep testing new recipes for smoothies, trying to find combinations that are both yummy and provide a range of nutrients. When I came acro...

Sweet Potato Smoothie


I keep testing new recipes for smoothies, trying to find combinations that are both yummy and provide a range of nutrients. When I came across a recipe for a chocolate sweet potato smoothie bowl, I knew that was a combination I had to test! I really liked it, and Lil C drank it all up. Squidgy is harder to please with smoothies and although he said it looked like chocolate pudding, he only drank a bit of it. But I figure, a bit is better than none and I'll just have to keep trying to find recipes we all enjoy!


Chocolate Sweet Potato Smoothie

Ingredients:

- 1 cup water

- 1/2 cup vanilla Greek yogurt (I usually use Oikos Triple Zero when I use flavored yogurts, I put in the whole container so it ends up being a little more than a 1/2 cup)

- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

- 1/2 cup cooked and mashed sweet potato

 - 1/2 a frozen banana

- 3/4 cup frozen pineapple chunks

Directions:

Add all ingredients to the jar of a high-powered blender and blend until smooth.

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Back in October I came across the book, "Our Era is Now" written by 15 year old author, Zoe Yu and we were so inspired by her we w...

Interview with 'Our Era is Now' Author Zoe Yu


Back in October I came across the book, "Our Era is Now" written by 15 year old author, Zoe Yu and we were so inspired by her we wanted to know more! Zoe was kind enough to agree to an interview - which included questions from some of my Cardboard Kids Crew*! So here we go!

Zoe Yu: Hi, my name is Zoe, and I'm a proud Texan of Taiwanese-American heritage. I have a younger brother in the eighth grade. In my free time, you can find me curling up with a good story, making playlists of my favorite music, or learning how to bookbind!

Cardboard Mom: When did you first start writing?

ZY: I've been writing for as long as I can remember; I have notebooks from the first grade filled with scattered ideas and story plotlines! For me, writing comes as naturally as breathing. There isn't a moment when I'm not thinking about the next sentence to pen down.

CM: Is this the first book you've written? If not, how many have you written and which is your favorite?

ZY: "Our Era is Now" is my first book!

CM: What do you like to do when you're not writing?

ZY: When I'm not writing, I'm editing articles (is that cheating? :-) ). I run a publication centered around amplifying women's voices and fostering diverse thought. We've published pieces on everything from the gender gap to the Supreme Court!

CM: Who has helped/supported you and your writing?

ZY: My family! I'm grateful for their endless support.

CM: What is one of the most surprising things you learned while creating this book?

ZY: I learned a lot through writing this book, but the most surprising thing I learned was technical aspects of the publishing process. Before the book was published, I had to research topics such as trim and bleed size, formatting, and copyright. It definitely taught me a lot about the ins-and-outs of publishing!

CM: Do you have any suggestions or advice for kids who want to become better writers and write their own book one day?

ZY: My best bit of advice for young writers would be to avoid obsessing over perfection. My writing motto is this: you can fix a shabby first draft, but you can't fix a blank page.

CM: What future career are you hoping to have?

ZY: Of course, I would love to keep writing. I'm also fascinated in social entrepreneurship and possibly pursuing a career in law or business!

Scarlett, 8: What age is this book for?

ZY: This book is geared towards children, but it's a read for all ages!

Scarlett, 8: Who most inspired you to write this book?

ZY: I wrote this book to uplift children. I hope to relay the message that women of all colors can achieve what they put their minds to, no matter how others say different.

Scarlett, 8: Of all the women in the book, whose story is your favorite?

ZY: All of the women in the book are extraordinary, but my favorite is Maya Angelou. Maya has been one of my favorite writers since I read "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." Her story helps me to understand the wonder of words.

Lily, 10: Since there are so many awesome women to choose from who have done great things, how did you choose the women to feature in the book and why?

ZY: That's a great question. Over the course of my research, I found so many incredible women that I wanted to include in my book, but I narrowed down the women that I wanted to spotlight by choosing a wide variety of disciplines and backgrounds.

Lil C, 8: How did you create the pictures for your book?

ZY: The pictures in my book are licensed from Canva.

Scarlett Mae, 10: What inspired you to write this book?

ZY: Ever since I started reading, I noticed that many books lacked strong female protagonists - most female characters either had static roles or fit into a certain trope like the "damsel in distress" or the "evil queen" - and often failed to include any diversity at all. I believe that accurately depicting society and representing people of all backgrounds was the most important story I could write. This quote says it best: "That is the power of a diverse book: You can change everything for one kid, and you can create empathy in 100 more."

Scarlett Mae, 10: How did you know you could write a book when you are only 15?

ZY: I'm a firm believer in the fact that age should never be a factor that limits what you believe you can or cannot do!


I want to send a BIG thank you to Zoe for sharing her story and answering all of our questions! We can't wait to read your next book!


Further information:

Read my review of "Our Era is Now"

Visit Zoe's website

Purchase "Our Era is Now"


Check out these stories about awesome girls and women:

"Firebird" by Misty Copeland

"Mae Among the Stars" by Roda Ahmed

"Counting on Katherine" by Helaine Becker

"Kamala and Maya's Big Idea" by Meena Harris

"Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos" by Monica Brown

"Ada's Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay" by Susan Hood


And read about some inspiring women and girls who love science here


*My Cardboard Kids Crew includes children of various ages who help me review books and submitted interview questions for Zoe to answer. 

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  Since March is National Nutrition Month, the focus of our Read and Rise stories this month will be nutrition and healthy bodies. My friend...

'Good Enough to Eat' - Read and Rise March 2021

 


Since March is National Nutrition Month, the focus of our Read and Rise stories this month will be nutrition and healthy bodies. My friend, Ri James, has a B.S. in Nutritional Studies from Rutgers University and so I asked if she could help clarify a bit what it means to eat healthy amidst the confusion of so many "healthy diets." 


Parents talk a lot about "being healthy." We tell our kids to get enough sleep, drink water, go outside and exercise, and most of all, to "eat your vegetables." Or, "don't eat so much junk." But is that all there is to eating healthy? The word "healthy" is so tricky when it comes to food. We can tell our kids they need 12 hours of sleep daily, or 8 cups of water daily, or an hour of exercise daily. With food it's harder because there are so many foods out there, and there are also so many gimmicky diet plans. Our kids need to learn how to navigate this confusion. So what do we parents do? Get them involved. The trick is to have them help you create a healthy plate that's also delicious. A plate that follows no diet plans but instead follows the body's nutritional needs. A plate that has foods that do the following:

1. Protect and repair the body (about half your plate is vitamin and nutrient rich fruits and vegetables, in a wide range of colors throughout the day. "Eat a rainbow" is helpful with younger kids).

2. Provide sustained energy (a quarter of your plate is whole grains)

3. Build bones and muscles (a quarter of your plate is proteins and calcium rich foods like dairy, legumes, eggs, fish, poultry, and meat).

4. Store energy and vitamins (cook with these or serve as condiments/dressings/toppings: oily/high fat foods like olive oil, avocados, and nut butters. No matter what your weight is, these foods are crucial for vitamin absorption and storage). 

5. Provide a palatable experience (yum factor! sprinklings of Parmesan, a dash of cinnamon sugar, a pinch of this spice of that, etc).

When your child is involved in the meal prep process they have a sense of control. It's also a perfect opportunity to tell them what those foods do for us, and how we can make those foods taste delicious. We might not have time to make meals with our children daily, but meal planning together once in a while is also helpful. As they practice creating these healthy and yummy plates, it will become automatic. Let's ban the diets and start enjoying good food with our families.

 

Our story today helps further explain the various nutrients your body needs and in what foods they are found.

Featured story: "Good Enough to Eat" by Lizzy Rockwell


Activity: After reading the story, create a meal plan with your children for the rest of the week. I would start with planning just one meal a day (i.e. plan all your breakfasts, plan all your dinners) but try to include a variety of foods that meet all your body's needs! 


Throughout the month, I will be sharing family friendly dishes that will hopefully help on your quest to provide healthy balanced meals that everyone enjoys!


For more information about National Nutrition Month 2021 and LOTS of resources, please check out Eat Right

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  This Peanut Butter and Jelly Smoothie is one of our favorite smoothies - even when I make it green (which I usually do, I just happened to...

Peanut Butter and Jelly Smoothie

 


This Peanut Butter and Jelly Smoothie is one of our favorite smoothies - even when I make it green (which I usually do, I just happened to be all out of green today!). This smoothie has vitamins and minerals from fruit, protein and calcium from yogurt and peanut butter, and water to make it extra hydrating. When you add in the greens, it makes it an even more well-balanced drink! If you wanted to turn it into a more filling breakfast or snack, you could always add in some ground flax or oats. 


Peanut Butter and Jelly Smoothie

Ingredients:

- 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt (I use whole milk)

- 1 cup water

- 1 frozen banana

- 1 cup frozen grapes or strawberries (the "jelly" part!) 

- 2 tablespoons peanut butter

- 1 cup fresh spinach or baby kale (to make it green)

Directions:

Add all ingredients to the pitcher of a high powered blender. Blend until smooth (there will usually be tiny bits of grape skins that don't get completely blended).


Notes: Mix it up to work with your dietary needs or to use what you have on hand. You can turn it into an almond butter and jelly smoothie by using almond butter in place of peanut butter and almond milk yogurt or almond milk.

Also, I make our smoothies on the thinner side so it hydrates the kids without being quite so calorie dense. If you like thicker smoothies, feel free to reduce the amount of water!

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