Playing with Ice

Sticky Ice Cube Magic Trick

kids science experiment playing with salt and ice

My five-year-old loves science experiments and she loves magic so this activity was a huge hit with her.  It can be a little finicky – too much salt or not enough contact can cause the experiment to fail but my science-minded child appreciated that.  She had to find the sweet spot.  We started the experiment with plain little ice cubes then progressed on to using coloured ice that I made in muffin tins.

You will need:

  • two ice cubes
  • salt

Directions

  1.   Sprinkle salt on top of one ice cube.
  2.   Place second ice cube on top and wait about 15 or 20 seconds.
  3.   Lift the top ice cube and see what happens.

The ice cubes should stick together – the surfaces that touch need to make solid contact with each other so put the two flat sides together.

If you put too much salt on the ice then the cubes just continue melting. All you want is for the ice cubes to melt slightly then refreeze in order to stick together.

Creating Ice Sculptures

Ice sculpture made by Lizzie Homemaker's child
The ice sculptures made by the kids were really beautiful. My 5-year-old made this one.

This ice activity was a fun one to continue with after the Sticky Ice Cube Magic Trick. We started with plain little ice cubes then progressed to making ice sculptures using coloured ice that I made in muffin tins and a variety of empty plastic containers.

You will need:

  • a large tray or plastic bin that can contain ice and water
  • various blocks of ice (directions below)
  • salt (I provided table salt and epson salt)

Directions

  1.   Freeze water in empty yogurt containers, muffin tins, ice cube trays and random plastic containers to create ice in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Add food colouring if you wish to have coloured ice.
  2.   Show the kids how to “stick” two pieces of ice together by adding a little salt to one piece of ice and placing another on top.
  3.   Let them play, experiment and be creative.

When the kids were generous with the salt, the ice didn’t stick but it would mold and form complimentary divots allowing for the sculpture building to continue.

I also extended this activity by giving them a couple of containers with water and some turkey basters to suction up the water and squirt it on top of their sculptures.

Cherry Chia Jam

Cherry Chia Jam
This cherry chia jam recipe is healthy and delicious. It contains no added sweetener of any kind so feel free to eat it by the spoonful.

This cherry chia jam was a huge hit with the littles.  They ate the entire jar so next time I will definitely have to make a double batch.

Chia jam is so easy to make and it’s incredibly healthy.  I make some every week with whatever fruit happens to be in season.  And when nothing local is in season I often use frozen fruit instead.  Dark cherry is my absolute favourite in the winter.  It’s perfect with warm oatmeal on a cold winter’s day.

Cherry Chia Jam

This fresh jam can be put together in less than 10 minutes. Then you simply pop it in the fridge and wait for it to thicken.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup frozen dark sweet cherries
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • squeeze of lemon

Directions

  1. Add cherries and 1 tbsp of water to a small saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes until the fruit starts to break down.
  2. Remove from heat and mash.
  3. Add a squeeze of lemon and chia seeds.
  4. Refrigerate for several hours while the chia seeds plump up and thicken the jam.

This recipe can easily be doubled. Store in fridge for 4 or 5 days or freeze. Canning is not recommended.

Garlic Confit

lizzie homemaker garlic confit baked in the oven
Garlic confit is an indispensable condiment in our kitchen.  The secret to making it is low and slow.

Garlic confit is incredibly easy to make and it’s a staple that we always have in our fridge.  Compared to raw garlic it is rich, sweet and creamy.  It’s great in marinades, mashed potatoes, sauces, soups and stews.  I love using it as a base when I cook up greens.  You can even spread it on bread.  The garlic infused oil is perfect for roasting vegetables, in dressings and dips and adding to tossed pasta.  Really, it can be drizzled on anything you fancy.  It is so versatile.

There are two ways to make it – on the stovetop or in the oven.

Garlic Confit

Ingredients

  • 2 or 3 heads of garlic, peeled (you can easily double or triple the recipe – use as much as you want)
  • enough olive oil to completely cover the garlic

Directions

STOVETOP METHOD

Place peeled garlic cloves in a small saucepan, completely cover with olive oil, and slowly poach at a very low temperature for about 45 minutes until golden brown.  Allow to cool and refrigerate immediately.

OVEN METHOD

Preheat oven to 275F.  Place peeled garlic cloves in an oven proof dish, completely cover with olive oil, and bake for about an hour and a half until golden brown.  Allow to cool and refrigerate immediately.

The garlic confit can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for several weeks.  The cloves should be completely covered with the oil.

Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

lizzie homemaker chocolate chip granola bars
These chocolate chip granola bars are easily one of my family’s all-time favourite recipes.

When I started making these chocolate chip granola bars in the fall they quickly became a family favourite that was put into heavy rotation.  I whip up a batch every week.  They are easy to make, tasty, and infinitely cheaper and healthier than store bought.  They are nut-free and sesame-free, making them safe to bring to school and community spaces with allergy-friendly food policies.  They also keep well.  I pop them into the daughter’s lunch box, and pack them for snacks at the park and for after-school activities throughout the week. My husband also takes them to work to munch on when that afternoon slump hits.  The ingredients are all from the pantry.

Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

  • Servings: 24 bars
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

DRY

  • 4 cups large rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup raw cacao nibs (optional)
  •  generous pinch of salt

WET

  • 1/2 cup avocado oil (or another neutral flavoured oil)
  • 1/2 cup liquid honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2.  In a large bowl combine dry ingredients.
  3.  In a medium bowl or large measuring cup combine wet ingredients.
  4. Drizzle wet ingredients over dry ingredients and THROUGHLY combine.
  5. Spread the mixture on the prepared baking sheet and PRESS DOWN FIRMLY to shape it into a rectangle (about 10×11 inches). If you don’t press it together well and it’s loose then you’ll end up with granola instead of granola bars.
  6. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the top starts to turn golden.
  7. Allow to cool – for at least 15 minutes, then cut into bars (thirds lengthwise, then eight across).

 

These granola bars can be stored in a container for a couple weeks (if they last that long).

Vegetable Marrow Fritters

lizzie homemaker vegetable marrow fritters
These vegetable marrow fritters make a great lunch but we usually enjoy them as a vegetable side dish for dinner. Either way they satisfy.

I recently discovered vegetable marrow.  It’s very similar to zucchini but it’s a little less watery which makes it great for things like fritters so you don’t have to take the extra step of salting and draining the vegetable to get out the extra moisture.  I am always short of time so I appreciate anything that cuts steps and makes my life a little easier.

Vegetable Marrow Fritters

Pair these fritters with a green salad for a lovely light dinner.

Ingredients

  • olive oil for frying
  • 1 large leek, sliced (about 4 cups)
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup feta cheese, diced
  • 4 medium or 5 small vegetable marrow, grated (about 4 cups)

Directions

  1. Drizzle olive oil in frying pan and cook leeks over moderate heat for 5 minutes.  Allow to cool while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
  2. In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.
  3. In a small bowl whisk eggs and milk then add to flour mixture and combine.
  4. Add leeks, feta and vegetable marrow to flour and egg mixture and combine.
  5. Heat olive oil in frying pan over medium heat.  Adding heaping 1/4 cups of fritter mixture to pan and flatten.  Fry for 5-7 minutes flipping halfway through.
  6. Serve with dipping sauce (see recipe below), sour cream or applesauce.

 

Fritters can be kept warm in oven.  You can substitute veggie marrow with zucchini but you should salt it, let it sit, then drain off the excess water.

Yogurt and Dill Dipping Sauce

  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp of salt

Directions

Combine ingredients in a small bowl and serve alongside fritters.

 

Vegetable Marrow

Lizzie Homemaker Vegetable Marrow hand artistic beautiful
Vegetable Marrow

I recently came across vegetable marrow at the grocery store.  It’s a summer squash that’s similar to zucchini.  It can grow large but is most tender when small.  Native to North America, I was surprised that we had never crossed paths before.  When I polled friends, very few of them had heard of it either.

Cousin to the courgette, this low-calorie, high fibre veg has many health benefits.  It contains high levels of vitamins A and C, as well as calcium and iron.  Including it in your diet helps lower cholesterol, improves energy, circulation, gastrointestinal flow, and it also helps maintain weight.  It reduces the risk of anemia, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Veggie Marrow is in season August and September. The smaller the marrow, the more nutritious and flavourful it can be.

 

Not sure what to make with this vegetable – try these delicious vegetable marrow fritters.  They satisfy.

Salt Dough Ornaments

salt dough ornaments lizzie homemaker
The salt dough ornaments are left to dry after acrylic paint and glitter glue are applied.

We make homemade salt dough ornaments every Christmas.  It’s a lovely tradition that we look forward to every year.

If you have never made them and want to, it is incredibly easy.  Simply mix 2 cups of flour with 1 cup of salt, then mix in 1 cup of warm water. Roll out dough, cut out shapes, poke a hole in the top with a straw, then bake at the lowest temperature that your oven allows until the dough is completely dry. This can take several hours depending on the temperature and the thickness of the dough. Allow the ornaments to completely cool, paint, and add glitter glue if inclined. Lastly, thread a ribbon or string through the hole and tie for hanging.  Done!

ballerina salt dough ornament lizzie homemaker
Lizzie Homemaker’s five-year-old daughter making a ballerina salt dough ornament.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup warm water

Directions

  1. In a bowl, combine flour and salt.
  2. Add water and mix together.
  3. Remove dough from bowl and place on counter, shape into ball, and knead with your hands until thoroughly combined.
  4. With rolling pin, roll out dough.
  5. Using cookie cutters, cut out desired shapes.  Using a straw, poke a hole in the top of the ornament.  Continue to combine dough scraps into a ball and re-roll out until dough is used up.
  6. Place ornaments on parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
  7. Bake ornaments at 200F or the lowest temperature that your oven allows until the ornaments are completely dry.  This can take about 2-3 hours depending on the temperature of your oven and the thickness of the dough.  Allow to cool completely.
  8. Paint – we use acrylic paints.  Add glitter glue (if desired).  Allow to dry.
  9. Thread a ribbon or string through hole and tie for hanging.

The ornaments puff up at higher temperatures which is why I recommend the lowest temperature possible.  My old oven could be set to 200 F but my new one only goes as low as 250 F.  A dehydrator can also be used and gives very consistent results.

If the dough mixture is a little dry simply add a tbsp of water at a time until it comes together.  If the dough is too sticky simply sprinkle and knead in a tbsp of flour at time until the dough is no longer sticky.

Famous Dave’s BBQ vs Dinosaur BBQ

Dinosaur BBQ barbecue Bar-B-Que sign
The neon sign outside Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Rochester, N.Y. The restaurant is housed in the former Lehigh Valley Railroad Station, built in 1905, overlooking the picturesque Genesee River.

CAGE MATCH!

Famous Dave’s BBQ vs Dinosaur BBQ

Are we in the heart of bbq country? Hell no – but even more reason to clarify the king of pig in this upper NY state city. After driving for several hours in a car with children, it is hard to imagine a time more deserving of bbq. Kids and parents alike go silent when the food arrives and there is no talk until the last finger gets licked. But there is nothing worse than looking forward to bbq and then eating less than perfect pulled pork, brisket or ribs. Admittedly bbq from a chain is kinda sacrilege but when you have kids, your expectations change and practicality reigns. Before we had kids we ate at places like the Pig Out Inn in Natchez, Mississippi, but it ain’t easy to get out that way these days.

Now, to main event, and so that you know where to go …

The combatants:

Famous Dave’s Barbecue

Famous Dave’s claims to be the most decorated barbecue restaurant in history with over 700 trophies. It also ranked 6th on the Daily Meal Top 25 chain barbecue restaurants for 2016.

Dinosaur Barbecue

Dinosaur began as a mobile bbq stand for biker gatherings. Good Morning America named Dinosaur BBQ the best bbq in America in 2009, but that is the most recent accolade, at least on the Dino website. Dinosaur ranked 15th on the Daily Meal Top 25 for 2016.

Brisket

Call me whatever name you want. My heart and soul belong to the Carolinas but my belly, at least when it comes to bbq, resides in the Lone Star state.

Famous Dave’s: The flavour was solid, and the requisite smoke ring proved that the brisket had spent time in the pit. Still, it was dry and needed sauce. Luckily, Famous Dave has some great sauces but really good brisket makes me reluctant to employee any sauce at all.

7/10

Dinosaur: Very good flavour; sufficiently moist and just enough fat. Arrived drizzled with bbq sauce, which I don’t love as I like it naked first, and in this case the brisket did not require sauce so it’s a shame it came pre-dressed.

8 ½ /10

Pulled Pork

Famous Dave’s: Good pulled pork. Sufficiently moist, sufficient flavour. Not the best I’ve had, but above average.

7 ½ /10

Dinosaur: Very good pulled pork. Sauce again unnecessary, as the pork was very flavourful and moist. Quite good.

8 ½ /10

Ribs

Famous Dave’s: Very tasty, slightly dry. Required sauce. Reminded me that we were at a chain restaurant and that the chef probably wasn’t doing it for love.

7 ½ /10

Dinosaur: Very tasty, but not the best cut I’ve had. Moist but still required sauce.

7 ½ /10

Collard Greens

I will eat collard greens every chance I get. Other than meat, there is nothing I associate with bbq more than collards. Might make a vegetarian of me yet. Best thing about collards is that even mediocre collards are good.

Famous Dave’s: Good, nothing special. With bacon.

7/10

Dinosaur: Good, nothing special. Turkey neck twist.

7/10

Fries

Famous Dave’s: Super salty. In fact everything was salty. Okay.

6/10

Dinosaur: Good fries. Not special.

6 ½ /10

Kids’ Meals

No I am not ashamed to finish my plate, Lizzie’s plate, and the girls’ plates. All for the sake of this review, of course; I took no pleasure in eating gluttonously, whatsoever.

Chicken Fingers

Famous Dave’s: Good. On the topic of cluckers, Dave does use cage-raised chickens and eggs. He vows on his website to stop using cage-raised chickens by 2025. That’s like saying, “I’ll quit smoking when I’m dead.” Still, he addresses it publicly. Nowhere on the Dino site does it mention sustainable and ethical practices.

7/10

Dinosaur: Very good. Don’t know if they’re cage raised, but moist and tasty. Note that Dinosaur offers kids homemade apple sauce as a side. That’s sweet.

7.5/10

Service

Famous Dave’s: Very good: our waitress was fun, appeared when we needed and disappeared when we didn’t. She was sensitive to the fact that we had kids with us, and they had their drinks quickly, and refills were supplied when a fight broke out over lemonade.

8 ½ /10

Dinosaur: Solid. Lizzie’s request for water required a second ask, as did a reminder that we had ordered a side of fries to share. All responded to promptly.

7 ½ /10

Decision

Famous Dave’s: 50.5/70

Dinosaur BBQ: 53.0/70

TKO – Dinosaur BBQ

They went toe to toe, but the winner of this cage match is Dinosaur Barbecue. It’s not perfect bbq, but it’s a chain that deals in satisfying meat that is properly smoked.

When in Rochester, the Dinosaur BBQ is located in the central business district. You can park on the bridge overlooking the water. If visiting with kids, book an earlier time. We visited at 5:30 which was just before the real rush. Do make a reservation: there is a wait for anyone who doesn’t plan ahead.

Famous Dave’s resides in Greece, NY, a suburb of Rochester. Easily accessible and lots of seating. When we left there was a bit of a wait, but tolerable.

Vegan Collard Greens

healthy vegan collard greens
Lizzie Homemaker’s healthier take on collards keeps the classic smokey flavour intact.

We love collard greens.  We adore them.  We can’t get enough of them.  BUT we’re trying to eat healthier and we also have friends and family that are vegan.  I switched up my traditional collards recipe with pleasing results.  The key was keeping that lovely smokey flavour in the recipe that a ham hock or bacon can provide.  Adding a little liquid hickory smoke did the trick.

Vegan Collard Greens

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup veggie stock
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp liquid hickory smoke
  • pinch of red chili flakes (optional)
  • 1 large bunch of collard greens, remove coarse stems and slice

Directions

  1. Add oil to a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot.  Add onions and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or so until browned and softened.
  2. Add vinegar, stock, sugar, liquid smoke, and chili flakes (if using), bring to a simmer.
  3. Add collard greens, tossing until wilted (I use tongs to toss)
  4.  Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.

If you have never bought liquid smoke – it’s near the barbecue sauces at the grocery store.  Be warned if you start experimenting with it – a little goes a long way.

Shrimp and Soba Noodle Soup

I love soup.  It is probably the ultimate comfort food.  And often when I am sick or fatigued it is exactly what I want to eat.  On those days I also don’t want to put much effort into cooking.

For this soup you simply toss aromatics into a pot of broth, simmer, cook the add-ins in the broth, garnish, and dig in.

easy faux pho soup by lizziehomemaker asian inspired soba noodles shrimp
This soup is pure comfort food and requires little effort.

Shrimp and Soba Noodle Soup

  • Servings: 2 - 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

For the broth base

  • 2 quarts (8 cups) stock (vegetable, fish, or chicken)
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, minced or finely diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced or finely diced
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce (optional)

Add-ins

  • 160 grams soba noodles (2/3 of a pack)
  • 16 raw shrimp, peeled, tail-on
  • 1/2 cup peas (frozen work fine here)
  • 2 large handfuls of baby spinach

Garnish

  • green onion
  • fresh chives
  • sesame oil
  • black pepper
  • chili peppers (optional)

Directions

  1. Add all the ingredients for the broth base to a stock pot, bring to a boil, then lower heat and gently simmer for 10 minutes or so.  The longer you simmer, the stronger the flavour.
  2. Add soba noodles and bring back to a boil, simmer for 2 minutes.
  3. Add shrimp and peas, simmer for 3 minutes.
  4. Add baby spinach, cook until wilted and noodles and shrimp are cooked through, approx a minute more.
  5. Add garnishes.

This recipe can easily be made vegetarian by using vegetable stock, omitting the oyster sauce, and omitting the shrimp or replacing it with tofu.