Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Home Cookin': Bacon and Brussels Penne

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2015 at 8:00 AM

During holiday weeks I have a hard time wrapping my head around dinner. There's just so much going on. Pasta is a no-brainer, but my kids are totally bored with the usual red-sauce routine. So I'm always thinking of new combinations that will make a bowl of penne new and exciting. 

My latest creation is this dish. Originally, I whipped it up with the last few contents of our refrigerator after a particularly busy week. It requires a few pans but not much time, so you can manage it even if you're diving into Thanksgiving prep work like me. The best part? It's so tasty that your kids will eat brussels sprouts! And brussels sprouts are so healthy they cancel out the bacon, right? Either way, I'm making it tonight. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Bacon and Brussels Penne

1-1½  pounds  penne (or your favorite pasta shape) I usually make 1½ lbs for my family of 5 since we like to have some leftovers.
3 cups thinly sliced brussels sprouts. Slice off the hard bottom bit to make a flat surface, then slice like an onion!
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot or 1/2 a medium, yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus a bit more for drizzling
1 pound bacon, baked or fried till crispy and roughly chopped (optional)
½ cup good parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for sprinkling
salt and pepper to taste

Cook and drain the pasta and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it's nice and hot, add the onions or shallots and sauté for a few minutes until fragrant.

Add the brussels sprouts and sauté until they look bright green and shiny, about 5 minutes. You still want them to have a bit of crunch.  Add the garlic last, and sauté for just a minute or two more. 

Put the pasta in a large serving bowl. Add the cooked veggies and the parmesan cheese and toss well to combine. Add the bacon and toss gently. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and another sprinkling of parmesan. 

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Get Out!: It's Okay to Turn Around

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2015 at 9:34 AM

Always be prepared to turn around.
Our family poses in front of the entrance to Taft Lodge, just below the summit of Mt. Mansfield - TRISTAN VON DUNTZ
  • Tristan von Duntz
  • Our family poses in front of the entrance to Taft Lodge, just below the summit of Mt. Mansfield

I've issued this advice here before: When adventuring outdoors with your little ones, be adaptable and ready to change your plans. But I'd never actually had to put that advice into practice until recently. 

On Veteran's Day, Tristan and I set out with our 1-year-old daughter, Elise, and our pup, Odin, to climb Mt. Mansfield. We chose the hardest route up the mountain — and perhaps the hardest hiking trail in all of the state: the aptly named Hell Brook Trail, which is about 1.5 steep miles to the top.

Before you decide we're crazy, please know that we're very experienced hikers and back country travelers. We've hiked and backpacked thousands of miles together, including this particular trail a handful of times. We knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into: Steep terrain, rocky trail and sections of hand-over-foot climbing. We knew it would be tough, but within our ability level. 

On this day, we planned to hang at the Adam's Apple, a rocky outcropping with a dramatic view just below the summit. From there, we would amble over to Taft Lodge, and old-school enclosed mountain shelter on the Long Trail. Then, we would take the Profanity Trail from the Lodge to the Chin (Mt. Mansfield's summit); we would hike the Long Trail back down to our car, parked on Route 108 in Smugglers Notch. We packed warm food and tea, plenty of water, and extra layers for everyone. We stuffed Elise into a down suit, and she bobbed along the trail on her dad's back looking like a purple version of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

Tristan and Elise take in the unique terrain on Mt. Mansfield - SARAH GALBRAITH
  • Sarah Galbraith
  • Tristan and Elise take in the unique terrain on Mt. Mansfield
The dramatic rocky terrain of this mountain has always captured our imaginations. We set out with a spring in our step, excited to head into the mountains with our young child. But the extra weight of a baby — plus 12 months of sub-par sleep and limited time spent outdoors to keep us in shape — caused us to move more slowly than we had planned. Slippery rocks from rain earlier that morning slowed us down even more. At a trail junction, we realized it had taken us twice as long to cover the distance than we had planned. To shorten things, we decided to cut straight to Taft Lodge on the Hell Brook Cutoff Trail and skip the Adam's Apple. We would have lunch at the Lodge, then summit the mountain from there. 

The Hell Brook Cutoff Trail, which looked on the map like a mellow traverse along a single contour line over to the lodge, instead turned out to also include many steep up and down sections, much like the Hell Brook Trail itself. We again found ourselves climbing over wet rocks, some of which required us to hoist our 70-pound dog up and over. We were tired, but looking forward to eating lunch at the Lodge just below the summit, and then making that final push to stand on top of this big mountain for the first time with our daughter. 

We got to the Lodge and checked the time again. We were getting worried about having enough daylight to summit and get back down to our car. We had packed fully charged headlamps, as we always do, and we are no strangers to hiking at night, even in rugged terrain. But neither of us wanted to be out too late, and we were already feeling tired.

As we hiked up to the Lodge, our legs feeling like jelly from all the climbing and exertion, the dark and craggy summit loomed ahead. But in this moment, instead of feeling drawn to it, we felt tired. I surprised myself when I said to Tristan, "I don't want to climb up there." He agreed, and reminded me of an important rule when hiking mountains: Don't expend all of your energy getting to the top so that none is left to get safely back down. 

In that moment, we scrapped our plan for the day. Now, we would eat lunch in the lodge; this spot was to be our grand summit. It wasn't what we had set out to do, and part of me still wanted to accomplish our original goal. But I looked back up at the summit and thought, I don't have that in me today.
Tristan, Elise and Odin navigate one of several stream crossings while climbing Mt. Mansfield - SARAH GALBRAITH
  • Sarah Galbraith
  • Tristan, Elise and Odin navigate one of several stream crossings while climbing Mt. Mansfield

Elise had been having a great time all along, oblivious to our struggles. She squealed and giggled at the rocky terrain, getting total delight out of watching Odin scramble around like a mountain goat. At the lodge, we all shared a roast beef sandwich, warm chicken noodle soup from a thermos, hot tea and bananas. Elise munched her food happily and scrambled around the picnic table inside the lodge. We changed her diaper and I nursed her, and we took some family photos together. 

Then we started our downhill trip. As we hiked down the old familiar Long Trail, Tristan and I talked about what we would do differently next time. We would skip the exceptionally steep terrain of the Hell Brook Trail and opt for a different way up. There are several other excellent summit trails on the mountain.

On the way down, Tristan hopped on rocks, spoke in gibberish and did his best impression of the Swedish Chef from the Muppets. Elise laughed and laughed.  

We got back to our car just after dark, and were grateful for the chance to rest. It wasn't the big-mountain adventure we had planned on, but it was the right decision for our family. Turning around can be tough, especially for experienced outdoor travelers who are committed to a goal. But, knowing the grit and determination that a long hike requires, we also knew it was the right thing to do. 

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Words at Play: Fingerplays

Posted By on Thu, Nov 12, 2015 at 10:31 AM

Chants, Fingerplays & Stories
  • Chants, Fingerplays & Stories
A fingerplay is a nursery rhyme that uses hand movements coordinated with words. One of my favorite fingerplays is called "Putting the Baby to Bed." Here's how it goes:

It's time to put the baby to bed (in this fingerplay the baby is the right index finger)
First we put the baby into the bed (the pointer finger is placed in the palm of the left hand)
We cover the baby up (pointer finger is wrapped up by the left hand)
We rock the baby (both hands rock back and forth)
We kiss the baby (index finger gets a kiss)
And then we say "Baby, go to sleep!"

After a few moments, the index finger baby jumps out of bed and and I say, "Oh no, the baby is up, what do you think the baby wants?" The children suggest various things the baby might want — food, a song, a pacifier, a blanket or a bottle. We give the baby a bottle and try to put he baby back to sleep again. I usually have the finger baby get up four times before falling asleep.

Most of the things the baby wants are easy to mime. Once in a while I get a curve ball. Recently a little girl said that the baby wanted to nurse. I did what made sense at the moment. I put the finger baby on my chest for a quick drink. The girl seemed satisfied and I moved on with a sense of relief.

It's amazing how quickly the finger "becomes" a baby. Last month I taught this fingerplay at a training in Rutland. When I put the baby into the bed, the underside of the finger rests on the palm of my hand. One participant said, "Never put a baby to sleep on its belly, always on the back." Now my finger baby sleeps on its back.

I know a preschool teacher who has created her own version of "Putting the Baby to Bed." After she says, "Baby, go to sleep," she describes the parents of the baby sneaking out of the room and closing the door softly behind them. Just when they are walking down the stairs, the baby wakes up. I like her version because it's so realistic.

I get fingerplays, songs and rhymes from a variety of sources. Sometimes I learn directly from another person but the Internet is also a good resource. I found "Putting the Baby to Bed" in the book Chants, Fingerplays & Stories by Bev Bos and Michael Leeman. I recommend it for finding new fingerplays and songs.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Home Cookin': Easy Curried Chickpeas

Posted By on Wed, Nov 4, 2015 at 11:02 AM

Curried chickpeas - ERINN SIMON
  • Erinn Simon
  • Curried chickpeas
When the sun suddenly begins to set before 5 p.m., I start craving comfort food. But even die-hard pasta fans like my family can tire of Penne alla Vodka and homemade mac and cheese. When we need a warm, comforting change of pace at dinner, or for lunch at Burlington Children's Space, I turn to curry. Spiced chickpeas over rice make a delicious, economical, and very healthy meatless meal.

I usually make a quick, tomato-based sauce flavored with sauteed onions, garlic, and mild curry paste. It's not too spicy for my 4-year-old daughter, Sadie, and the tomato-sauce base keeps it familiar enough to ensure that she'll help herself to seconds. My kids are crazy about chickpeas, so serving this alone over rice with veggies on the side is our regular method. But adding roasted cauliflower, carrots, potatoes or green peas (or a combination of them) to the curry works wonderfully. 

I like fragrant Basmati rice, but, if you opt for the healthier brown variety, try the slightly chewier short-grain kind. I think it stands up to the curry sauce better than other types. 

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Kroka Expeditions

Kroka Expeditions

Marlow, NH

Kroka is a farm-based wilderness expedition school in Marlow, NH. We believe in the power of nature and community to awaken our highest selves, and that appropriate risk-taking is a doorway to trust in ourselves and others. Summer at Kroka offers 36 unique expeditions for ages 9-19 in whitewater paddling,…(more)

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