an early education learning space ~ where play equals learning

November 13, 2015
by countryfun

Quick Fish Chowder or Soup

The lunches here are planned to be enjoyed by the children while offering good nutrition. Throughout meal planning I do my best to provide multiple opportunities to explore new foods or old foods prepared in a new way. We eat family style and sometimes I need to make a meal thinking about my need for a comfort food. Dealing with a child shared cold this week, I knew I’d be wanting a favorite comfort food for a meal this week.

I believe in having a good supplied pantry, so I can pull together meals easily. It also means I do not need to plan the week out ahead, but can fit the meal to what is happening in the day, as well as take advantage of sales. I encourage families to really look at developing a food pantry to help with the food budget and overall nutrition.

Today’s lunch made good use of the pantry after finding the chowder mix at our local store was all haddock, on sale and just happens to be an all-time comfort food for me. Also know fish is not a steady part of many families evening meals, so good to offer here. Warning!!! This is not a traditional chowder, think creamy fish soup :)soup
Start with pantry supplies: chicken broth, evaporated milk, carrots, onions, potatoes, herbs

Purchased for meal: 1 lb chowder mix

Add from what’s on hand: red bell pepper, cauliflower
I sautèed  about 1 C onion, 4 med. carrots and 1 red bell pepper (all chopped) in olive oil and a bit of butter (about 1T of each). Once tender I added in 4 C broth, 1 C chopped cauliflower and 2 good size potatoes cut into 1/2″ cubes (child friendly size, as well as quicker cooking). Added in fresh herbs as they are still growing in the garden – today was thyme, oregano, parsley. Added a bay leaf. Brought this soup base to boil then simmered for 15 minutes. I then covered, took off heat and placed in refrig. while we headed out for a morning of play. Could have continued to make up, but being able to prep early morning and set aside to just finish for lunch makes it easier to pull good lunches together. This can also be done night before.

When ready for lunch I added in evaporated milk, dried seaweed and the fish (cut into 2″ chunks). Brought to low boil, lowered heat, covered and cooked 15 minutes until fish done.

All flavoring is done to taste and here that means low salt, no pepper and not much spicy heat.

This chowder is so adaptable and quick to make. Better yet is it reheats well.

Served with a slice of toasted homemade multi-grain bread and sliced fruit this lunch was well eaten by the children and I got to enjoy a comfort food at the end of a busy week.

September 2, 2014
by countryfun

Pumpkins! Have We Got Pumpkins!

This year the pumpkin patch went just a bit crazy. We’ve had fun watching them grow over the summer. In checking over the weekend I found that about half the pumpkins had unexpected rotten spots. Those got left for the wildlife and the rest I harvested. They look nice lined up on the side porch where hopefully they will cure and be ready for passing out in Oct.

However, one had a couple of worms in the stem, so I decided it would be fun to explore it today before it rotted. What’s a little more heat in the kitchen on this steamy morning.

We’ll end up with roasted chunks for eating, puree for later use in soups and baked goods, and the best……roasted, slightly salted seeds for snacking!

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Top that off with all the spontaneous learning:

  • pumpkin life cycle
  • size comparison
  • sensory exploration
  • language development – huge, smooth, bumpy, sticky, wet……
  • counting
  • “P” and sound – other “P” words
  • fine motor
  • plant needs and parts
  • team work/cooperation
  • developing attention span
  • problem solving

October 18, 2013
by countryfun

Farm to Preschool Day

Love seeing the current push in education to get kids involved in growing and harvesting some of the food they eat.

As a gardener I have always involved the children here in my gardens, whether flowers, herbs or vegetable. We compost, plan, plant, weed, harvest and enjoy! Through these experiences we learn about our environment, ourselves, math, science, language and patience. Over the years the experiences have changed depending on the direction of interest by the children in program, but all have involved experiencing a variety of vegetables as part of our daily lunch and snacks.

Our gardening experiences in 2010

Gardening begins in 2012

Gardening begins in 2013

Vegetable snacks ideas

Today we are Celebrating Farm to Preschool Day – October 18, 2013.

Even though we eat our harvested vegetables year round, discussing where they come from, and importance of eating a rainbow for nutritional variety, it’s fun to bring a special focus today. For that the goal is to eat a vegetable that comes from the different parts of a plant. Not only will we be enjoying a variety of vegetables we will be learning more about the parts of a plant. We are also talking about seasonal changes at this time and can include that in the vegetables we are finishing harvesting and still growing in the garden.

Today’s meal is a Garden Lasagna made with a sauce base of heirloom and plum tomatoes, rainbow swiss chard, colored sweet bell peppers, fresh shell beans and herbs. This sauce is layered with dumpling noodles, cottage cheese and mozzarella cheese.

We will have eaten leaves, seeds, fruit from blossoms, and stems. Only missing the roots – which will be covered with the carrots from snack.

garden lasagna

September 25, 2013
by countryfun

Our First Potato Harvest

Every year we have done a garden we try something new. This year it was potatoes which we were late planting and probably could have tried harvesting sooner.

I had a vegetable broth soup base loaded with odds and ends of vegetables and figured a good way to use up was to serve around some cheesy mashed potatoes.

Now I have potatoes from our farm share, but the weather was great and thought it might be a perfect time to try our own potato harvest. Could we have just gone out and dug. Sure, but where’s the fun in that.

So, I posed a question asking “What to do if need potatoes for today’s soup?”

Solution: the garden


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As you watch the video I’m sure you can pick up how potato and tomato keep mixing on our tongues.

We had so much fun uncovering our potatoes. Will definitely plant again.

PS- We left the other trench for “Big Jim” to harvest. Sharing the fun!

September 18, 2013
by countryfun

Garden Eating

We continue to make good use of the vegetables still being harvested from both the farm we have a farm share at and our backyard garden. Example was the kale harvested for lunch ~DSC03524 (the caterpillar provided an additional science lesson, not protein)

Whenever I head to the garden I feel like the pied piper, because everyone runs to follow me into, through and back to the house with produce in our hands. The herb garden means smelling everything before deciding which herbs to harvest for today’s meal.

Lots of healthy eating habits being reinforced and finding new options for old favorites like French Fries. 

Check here for the recipe for our Homemade French Fries, which is posted on our Cooking blog.

dished up

March 18, 2013
by countryfun

Oh No! An Unplanned Lunchtime Adventure

Our day was preceding smooth and normal. Everyone was enjoying play and I had the meat sauce for today’s pasta lunch on the stove, seasoned and cooking down. The pureed green beans and last bag of pureed summer squash were ready to be added for that extra nutrition and thickening. Added both and realized a little too late that the squash was actually 6 egg yolks. Those yolks instantly cooked and now I had bits of cooked egg through my sauce.

Oh, NO!

Well, no way was I throwing out this food! There had to be a way to change it up. I’m really good at refrigerator soups, lots of casserole cooking and have a well stocked pantry.


Eggs and tomatoes ….. I thought eggs rancheros. Could I make this into a Mexican Pasta built off garlic, basil and oregano seasoning……..?

Why It’s Important to Have a Well Stocked Pantry When Feeding Kids Each Day:

  • A can of Rotel diced tomatoes
  • black beans
  • a few handfulls of my dried corn

Tasting good, not bad looking for a sauce, but needs a little something more to brighten it……

Last minute added some chopped sweet green peppers, served over the pasta noodles and topped with shredded mexican cheese and a couple of nacho chips.

Proof the kids here are good eaters. They greeted this dish with “Yum!” “I like this.”   There was nothing to do but rinse before loading into the dishwasher. Now if only I could repeat this thrown together save :)

Tomorrow’s Lunch

 No mistake with this casserole that I was making at the same time. Ready for reheating tomorrow. Ground turkey in a barbecue base topped with mashed sweet potato.

February 17, 2013
by countryfun

Getting Involved with 5-2-1-0 Let’s Go!

For those that are members of the Country Fun family you know that healthy practices have always been a part of the program. In the last few years I have been aware of and accessed information on healthy practices from our local Let’s Go! program’s online toolkit, in addition to the different workshops in nutrition I’ve attended. I have held off becoming directly involved in 5-2-1-0 Let’s Go! because of their directives/goals around screen time. We did not meet it with our use of technology. Over the last year there has been a new position being taking nationally regarding screen time. It is now being seen as recreational vs educational. With this change it was time to become directly involved, so I have submitted my application/registration, program self-assessment, met with the program’s representative to develop an action plan, and begun work on the goals. There will be another meeting to assess how the goals have been met this Spring.

Let’s Go! is a nationally recognized childhood obesity prevention program designed to
increase healthy eating and active living in children from birth to 18. Let’s Go! works in six
sectors (schools, early childhood, after school, healthcare, workplace and community) to
reach children and families where they live, study, work, and play. Let’s Go! is centered on
the common message of “5-2-1-0″.

The 10 Let’s Go! evidence-based strategies connect to Let’s Go!’s core message and align with
the CDC and the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations to prevent childhood obesity. Our program goals will be focused on these strategies to improve environments and written policies.

Let’s Go provides free continuing education workshops for involved programs, and guidance and assistance to support them in the adoption of the 10 strategies. These strategies are what the action plan goals will be developed around. The first 5 are what I will be focusing on.

1. Provide healthy choices for snacks and celebrations; limit unhealthy choices.
2. Provide water and low fat milk; limit or eliminate sugary beverages.
3. Provide non-food rewards.
4. Provide opportunities for children to get physical activity every day.
5. Limit recreational screen time.

..As opportunities arise we will also branch out to include the remaining 4 strategies.

6. Participate in local, state, and national initiatives that promote healthy eating and active living.
7. Engage community partners to help support and promote healthy eating and active living at
your site.
8. Partner with and educate families in adopting and maintaining a lifestyle that supports healthy
eating and active living.
9. Implement a staff wellness program that includes healthy eating and active living.
10. Collaborate with Food and Nutrition Programs to offer healthy food and beverage options.

I have already started to rewrite policies that reflect current practice and areas we are working to improve. All policies can be found under Parenting Information/Handbook for CF.

I have also provided materials on healthy food practices under Speciality Blogs/CF is Cooking in the sidebar and under Healthy Snacks in the top menu. Please access this information to support your healthy food practices at home.


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