Healthier Chocolate Beet Cake

Incase you were wondering about chocolate beet cake, here is a delicious recipe (adapted from Straight from the Farm) that Everyday Kids used to reward our students for an excellent day of learning!

Ingredients:
3/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tsp baking soda
3 eggs at room temp
1/4 tsp salt
2-3 oz. dark chocolate
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 medium beets (2 cups pureed)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

To make beet puree, trim stems and roots off beets and quarter them.  Place in a heavy saucepan filled with water and simmer for 50 minutes or until the beets are tender.  Drain off remaining liquid and rinse beets in cold water.  Slide skins off and place beets in blender or food processor.  Process until a smooth puree forms.  Let cool slightly.  Can be made up to several days ahead and refrigerated.

In a mixing bowl, add cream, butter and brown sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Melt chocolate using a double boiler or in the microwave and cool slightly. Blend chocolate, beets and vanilla into the creamed mixture.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg; add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Pour into a greased and floured 10-inch cake pan. Bake at 375 degrees F for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

Eat as is, or sprinkle lightly with confectioners’ sugar.  For a decadent twist, whip up a batch of orange cream cheese frosting.

Root Veggie Scavenger Hunt

Getting kids to try new vegetables isn’t always the easiest thing – but someone has to do it!  The Everyday Kids pilot went into local schools last week to bring some veggie-love into the classroom.  After some hands-on exploration with soil types, we presented a crazy idea to kindergarteners and third grade – that many of the foods we eat are actually the roots of plants!

To prepare for some taste testing, the first lesson also consisted of introducing these delicious root vegetables; beets, daikon, carrots, radishes, black radishes, ginger, and parsnip.  In order to get both classes really excited for trying them, we set up a root vegetable scavenger hunt on the playground. The kids loved this activity and highly anticipated trying out the veggies for the next class.  This veggie hunt is also adaptable for fun at home.

For the root vegetable hunt:

1. Make sure to hide a variety of root vegetables (we had about 15 kids in each class so we made sure to have at least 15 vegetables in total, but ended up with much more) in a contained area like the playground or in a fenced backyard.  Save one of each of the types of vegetables for the next step.
2. When you’re with the children, introduce them to the root vegetables you hid.  Make sure they remember the names of each one. **It is up to you whether you want to introduce the activity by presenting the parts of a plant and explaining that roots are also our food.
3.  Next, let them know that they will be going on a hunt for these vegetables. If there are a number of kids, separate them into teams.  The team who finds the most vegetables wins.  If these are older children, tell them that in order to receive a point for a find, they must be able to name the vegetable.
4. After about five minutes (or more depending on how many vegetables you hid), have the groups come back so that they can compare their findings.
5. Have a reward available for everyone, even the losing teams. After a taste test of the raw roots, Everyday Kids gave both classes chocolate beet root cake with ginger.  It was a hit ! – and had plenty of healthy hidden beets in it, too.

 

Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes

All of this talk about maple syrup is getting me hungry.  This recipe serves 12 and only takes about 10 minutes of active cooking.

Ingredients:
2.5 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1.5 in pieces (8 cups)
1/3 cup Vermont maple syrup
2 tbs butter or margarine, melted
1 tbs lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
Pepper to taste

1. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place sweet potatoes in an even layer in a glass baking dish.  Combine the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl and pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes. (This is the perfect time to get a child helping with dinner!)
3. Cover and bake the potatoes for 15 minutes.  Uncover, stir, and bake again while stirring every 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender and beginning to brown.  This will take 45 minutes to an hour.

Using a non-dairy butter instead of dairy will bring this recipe down to no cholesterol!  Get more information on this dish’s nutritional content here .

What do you Know about Maple Syrup?

In 2010, Vermont produced 1,140,000 gallons of delicious maple syrup – more than any other state!  Although maple syrup is available locally anytime, the sugaring season has just begun and fresh, sugary sap is now being made into the mouth-watering and rich syrup most of us delight in.  But do you know how this great product is made?

Maple syrup was discovered by the Eastern Woodland Indians when they realized that sap cooking over a hot fire turned into a sugary substance.   Since then, people could not get enough of this wonderful syrup.  European settlers who were offered to share in the Indians’ new discovery,  began to develop technologies to make the process faster and easier.

Nowadays, maple syrup is made from placing taps on trees and allowing sap to travel down into buckets.  The sap is then collected through tubing, trucking, or other means to get to the sugar house.  Sap is then boiled when it is fresh to make the highest quality syrup.  Water then evaporates from the sap, leaving a thick sugary syrup behind.  This point usually occurs at 219 degrees and has a density of over 60% sugar.  Next, a valve is opened by the sugarmaker and the syrup is drawn off.  The maple syrup is then checked for the proper density of sugar with a tool called a hydrometer.  It is then filtered to remove sugar sand and other minerals found naturally within the tree.  Finally, the syrup is taste tested and color-graded!

 

Interested in teaching your class about maple syrup?  Kidgardening.org  offers a simple activity to do with children.

1. Hold up a bottle of maple syrup and ask the students if they know how syrup is produced.

2. Tell the students that syrup comes from trees, but do not tell them how it is extracted.

3. Using existing knowledge and their own imagination, have the students predict the sequence of how they think syrup is made from trees. They should list their “steps of production” from beginning to end. Their assignment should include pictures to accompany the steps for greater clarification.

4. Ask the students to share their assignments with the class.

5. Have the students recall what they know about trees and list their responses on the board.

6. Read the story, Sugarbush Spring to the students. Share some photographs of sap collection with the students.

7. Were any of the students’ sequence predictions similar to how the sap was collected in the story? How does this new information relate to what they already know about trees?

8. Have the students discuss the importance of scientific prediction. What is a hypothesis? How can it assist in discovering new information and ideas?

EXTENSION

- Have students map the Top 10 Maple Producing States. Examine their climate and geography, what do all of these states have in common? What can be learned about the needs of the maple tree by this determination?

 

*If you cannot use the specified book, play a short movie or documentary or simply read from another source to describe the maple sugaring process.

If possible, bring your kids to a local sugarhouse or tapped tree for a real, live experience! Sugarmakers are usually very welcoming to schools and will offer some yummy maple snacks before you leave.  If the resources are available, this may also be a great time to incorporate cooking and tasting of a local product into the classroom, as well.  Get creative!

Microgreen Gardening

There are only two weeks left of March until Spring !  Besides being a spring-baby, this time of year is one of my favorites because of the rainy, fresh smell in the air, watching the flowers and trees bloom, and most of all I love the increase in availability of fresh local fruits and veggies.  If you are getting a bit impatient with the wait and are craving something “springy” and new for your salad, why not try to grow a bit indoors?

Growing microgreens are a fun, healthy, fairly cheap, and super easy gardening (and eating) activity.  All you have to do is decide which greens you want to grow – maybe mesclun, cilantro, kale, mustard, arugula – the list goes on! You really can pick almost anything because you are going to be harvesting your vegetables at a young age, when all of the nutrients are packed into those little sprouts. Try something you’ve never had before and let the taste be a surprise.  After you pick your seeds the next steps are quite easy.

You can start growing in a plastic recycled container.  These can be restaurant take-away containers or feel free to go and buy one at your local hardware or garden store- just make sure whatever you pick fits well on or by your windowsill so that your plants get a good amount of sunlight.  A bit of drainage in whatever you choose is beneficial.  You can easily punch a few holes on the bottom of your container and make sure there is something underneath to catch excess water (maybe the lid!).

Then fill up your container with some good-quality soil and mix in compost if you have it, about an inch or so away from the top.  Sprinkle your seeds over the surface of the container.  Try giving seeds an 1/8th or so of room in between each one if you can.  Sprinkle a bit of soil on top of your seeds (another 1/8th or so inches deep).  Water your seeds well to help them start germinating.  As your plants grow, keep the soil moist but not dripping wet.  In 10-15 days you can cut your plants for eating.  When you cut is essentially up to you but the earliest should be when the plant’s first true leaves start to pop out.

Unfortunately, after you harvest your microgreens they will not grow again from the same seeds since they are only sprouts.  However, after harvesting you can reuse your soil and start with new seeds.

Happy growing!