an early education learning space ~ where play equals learning

August 10, 2016
by countryfun
Comments Off on Zucchini Jam?

Zucchini Jam?

Our zucchini seedlings germinated really well this year and I find it hard to throw seedlings on the compost pile. I gave some away to families to plant and the rest ended up in our garden. With the weather this year the zucchini plants are really producing. We’re baking, dehydrating, freezing and eating both raw and cooked. There is also only so much zucchini you can give away, so…… what else can we do besides the compost pile? Have fun with a zucchini recipe online search 🙂

I found a couple of interesting ideas and settled on Zucchini Jam. After watching YouTube videos and comparing recipes I combined with my other jam recipes and settled on the following:

  • 6 cups shredded zucchini – I left on peel, seeded completely and shredded with multiple grating plates to get a variety of sizes/textures.
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup bottled lemon juice – I always have this on hand vs fresh lemon
  • 1 – 20 oz can crushed pineapple (with natural juice) – do not drain
  • 6 oz regular jello, any flavor works – I tried strawberry first as I know it’s liked by everyone here. Does have food dye for those with allergies.

Placed everything, but jello, in a saucepan that would hold ingredients with an extra 4 inches to cover splatters as it boils. Boil for 20 minutes. Stir almost constantly to prevent sticking and browning. Also cuts down foaming. Zucchini goes transparent, but maintains texture.

While cooking zucchini mixture get canning jars and lids ready. (Loving my electric water bath canner. Heats quicker and maintains temperature really well. Also frees up much needed stove top space.)

After 20 minutes remove zucchini mixture from heat source and add in jello. Stir it in really well and get it into hot jars. (I used a mix of jelly jars that I had on hand.) Process in water bath for 5 minutes.


Always seem to have a bit left over whenever I make jams, relishes, and pickles so we enjoyed this new jam this morning on homemade whole wheat toast. Texture was more like a marmalade and not too sweet. Will definitely make more of this zucchini jam. It was super easy, reasonable cost and pretty healthy for a jam – zucchini and pineapple.

May 16, 2016
by countryfun
Comments Off on It’s Rhubarb Time!

It’s Rhubarb Time!

We’re back in the garden! Harvesting from the rhubarb bed has started. That means lots of kitchen time with the children here. We’re using some of our favorite recipes which you can find in postings on Countryfun is Cooking. Just search “rhubarb”.

This morning we made the Rhubarb Muffins to have for our afternoon snack.  A quick, easy and tasty recipe that also freezes well.

I enjoy being in the kitchen with the children. So many learning opportunities and there is usually something unexpected. Let’s start with Reading – idea of written directions in a recipe, names on ingredient containers, alphabet identification

Team work – gathering of materials, positioning to watch and help, working with peers and adult

Language – ingredients, tools, techniques, questions raised and answers provided


Math, science and social studies –  measuring ingredients and counting. We also compare measuring tools and talk fractions. Smell for vinegar and vanilla. Taste brown sugar.

Where do eggs come from? Love getting the store as an answer:) More discussion on eggs coming from chickens with the farmer bringing to the store. Even better answer of “Ducks!”

More science as oil and milk blend. Then brown sugar dissolving in liquid. Flour going from dry to wet as we mix ingredients together and finally the baking. More math when we set oven temp and time the baking.


Did you notice we used 3 different sized spoons in today’s baking? One of the children did. Thankfully he commented on the difference size handles, so I could take advantage of the observation for more learning. So of course we had a closer comparison of the 3 spoons for bowl size, handle length and a discussion on why they worked better for the reasons used for today. Largest for mixing. Middle for scooping dough for muffins. Smallest for scraping dough off scooping spoon.


Last counting for this morning equaled 24. The recipe made 2 dozen muffins loaded with rhubarb – one very healthy and underused early spring vegetable.


April 12, 2016
by countryfun
Comments Off on Enchilada Casserole… A New Experience…

Enchilada Casserole… A New Experience…

For me part of providing nutritious meals and healthy eating habits is to be continually exposing the children to both new foods and old foods in new ways. That means I’m always reviewing recipes and reading ideas for adapting to gain more nutrition. I especially like finding meatless meals. This is one place I find Pinterest to be extremely helpful. There is so much variety out there and individuals willing to share their knowledge.

Today’s recipe is from Julia’s Album – Black Bean and Butternut Squash Enchilada Casserole.

  • I have never cooked enchiladas before in any form, so for me the sauce was a new experience.
  • IMG_0826This recipe used up the last of the butternut squash from last season’s garden. (A good nutritional add and reason to try the recipe. Wonder if pumpkin would work well or pureed butternut squash? Also think could have added spinach or kale.)
  • Still enjoying the onions that we grow, harvested, and braided up to cure. (Will definitely be seeing a good planting of them again this year.)
  • No extra salt or pepper, but did use a couple of the hot peppers from last year’s garden that we had frozen. (I never cook with black pepper and try to cut down salt whenever I can. With the chili powder, cumin and added hot pepper didn’t need the salt. I also rinse any canned beans and vegetables before using to cut down salt.)
  • Substituted homemade yogurt for the sour cream. (I strained my yogurt to get a thicker product that works for greek yogurt or sour cream in most recipes. The strained liquid I save and use for baked goods.)

What I found was this recipe was easy to follow, simple to make, budget friendly and tasty. Will definitely make again.

November 13, 2015
by countryfun
Comments Off on Quick Fish Chowder or Soup

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.

October 18, 2013
by countryfun
Comments Off on Farm to Preschool Day

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
Comments Off on Our First Potato Harvest

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
Comments Off on Garden Eating

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.


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