As a home-schooling parent, I am always looking for ways to turn everything that happens during the day into lessons.
My efforts usually end up reinforcing my theory that I will never really get what goes on in my kids' heads.
One day last week, Aidan yelped and tore into the kitchen, squeezing the daylights out of a bleeding finger. He had been on the baby's rocking chair -- a chair that is sized so small that an 8-year-old boy could sit on top of it while rocking simultaneously. This is what Aidan had done.
I got him to release the tourniquet hold he had on the lower part of his finger. I explained as I cleaned his hand that holding so hard below the cut was making the bleeding worse. A first aid lesson followed. I showed him how to apply pressure directly to the wound with a clean gauze pad. I showed him how to flush the wound and bandage it.
When his hand was all wrapped up and his tears were dry, I asked him what he learned. He sniffed and said, "I learned not to rock on my own hand."
It's almost Super Bowl time, the last big part of our holiday season. In a house with six males, it is anticipated much more eagerly than "that girly holiday," Valentine's Day. I may have mentioned this before, but I don't care about football except that it offers me a chance to exercise my finger-food skills. Around here, if it comes on a stick or you can eat it with your fingers it's an automatic hit!
These recipes are such favorites that they're often requested for birthdays and other special meals.
Pig Tails and Snails
(named by Aidan for their resemblance to, well, pigs' tails and snails)
1 lb. small smoked sausages (Hillshire Farms L'il Smokies, for example)
1 batch soft-pretzel dough (recipe follows)
1 stick unsalted butter
1 large, or 2 small, cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of a large knife
1 quart warm water
1 T. baking soda
Optional for serving: barbecue sauce, ranch dip, blue cheese dressing, mustard
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine water and baking soda and stir until soda is dissolved. Set aside. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Take a piece of dough about the size of your thumb and forefinger and roll out on a clean surface until about the thickness of a pencil. Coil the dough tightly around each sausage. Pinch the dough to cut off the excess when you reach the end of the sausage.
Quickly dip the dough-wrapped sausage in the bowl of soda and water and drain well before laying on the parchment lined sheets. Repeat until the sausages are all wrapped and use remaining dough to form snail-shaped coiled pretzels. Dip the snails in the soda and drain well before adding to baking sheets.
Bake for 16 to 20 minutes or until the pretzels are nicely browned. While pretzels are baking, put garlic and butter in a microwave-safe dish and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for one minute. Remove and carefully take off plastic wrap. When pretzels come out of oven, brush them generously with the garlic butter.
Soft Pretzel Dough
1/2 c. water
1 c. milk
4 c. bread flour
1 T. malt powder or sugar
11/4 t. salt
21/4 t. instant yeast
To make in a bread machine, combine all ingredients in pan, program for the dough cycle and press "Start." Allow cycle to complete. To make by hand, combine milk, water, malt or sugar and yeast in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, toss together flour and salt with a fork. Add flour to the yeast and liquid mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Cover with a clean tea towel and allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about one hour. These are delicious served with dips or plain.
Black Bean and Cheese Pinwheels
2 cans black beans, 1/2 c. beans reserved
1/2 c. taco sauce or salsa
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 t. cumin
1 handful chopped fresh cilantro
8 8-inch flour tortillas
8 oz. shredded cheddar or any Mexican blend cheese
Optional for serving: Sour cream, taco sauce, salsa, fresh cilantro
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In the bowl of a food processor, add black beans with their liquid, salsa or taco sauce, garlic, cumin and cilantro. Process until smooth. Stir in remaining black beans. Spread about 2 T. of bean dip over each tortilla. Sprinkle generously with cheese and roll up.
Place seam side down on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Bake for about eight minutes or until edges of tortillas are just beginning to brown. Remove from oven. Place tortilla rolls on a cutting board and slice into 1-inch rounds. Eat the messy end pieces and arrange the center pieces on a platter. You can serve as is or top each slice with a dollop of sour cream, a drizzle of taco sauce or salsa and a sprig of fresh cilantro.
Note: The black bean puree in this recipe makes a great stand-alone bean dip, too.