Teriyaki Tofu Skewers

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After making Japanese noodles, tonight Travis moved on to another classic from Japanese cuisine: teriyaki skewers! We made the recipe vegan with a block of tofu for an adaptation to Raddish Kid’s original chicken recipe. Because we were nearly out of regular length skewers, we used toothpicks for mini skewers instead!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 (1-pound) package firm tofu
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  1. Drain the tofu and pat dry. Cut the tofu and bell pepper into 1-inch pieces. Thread onto skewers.
  2. Arrange the skewers on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the teriyaki sauce: whisk together the soy sauce, brown sugar, water, cornstarch, and garlic powder in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then continue to cook for 30 seconds, whisking frequently.
  4. Brush the cooked tofu skewers with the teriyaki sauce using a pastry brush. Sprinkle evenly with the sesame seeds.

As we dined, Travis practiced some of the Japanese words on the recipe card, and learned about other components of a traditional Japanese meal. You’ll have leftover teriyaki sauce, so consider it over veggies or rice later on in the week!

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Japanese Travel Guide

Japan Travel Brochure (4)After preparing a Japanese meal for dinner, Travis got to learn more about Japanese culture today. This lesson plan from Raddish Kids was a fun extension to the culinary journey we’ll be on this month.

First up was locating Japan on a map. Once Travis pinpointed that it was an island, we discussed how geography can influence culture. Raddish provided talking points like how this has given Japan a strong sense of identity, and a unique culture.

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Now it was time for fun videos; Travis loved one about the shinkansen (high speed trains) so much that he insisted on watching the full thing, even parts I thought might bore a 6 year old!

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You can extend the lesson by looking at a map of the rail system, or even turn it into a math lesson for older kids by calculating costs or distances between stations on a pretend journey.

Next up was a video clip of Japanese baseball, and we discussed similarities and differences to games we’ve attended in the U.S.

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Finally, we learned about the popular genre of anime. Travis picked one to watch before bed, and chose Pokemon! You might also consider renting a classic from your library like My Neighbor Totoro or Ponyo.

Or check out how-to books to draw your own anime!

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I was so proud of Travis following along with one we checked out.

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Now it was time for Travis to pretend he was a travel writer explaining this country to another person, and he put together a travel brochure. He was so proud spelling out Japan on the cover. Inside, he drew high speed trains…

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…baseball players (I thought this one resembled a Japanese calligraphy character!)…

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…and lots of noodles of course.

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Yakisoba Noodles

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Tonight Travis journeyed to Japan in the kitchen! This recipe kicked off his Ticket to Tokyo kit from Raddish Kids. I thought it a bit strange that Raddish called for spaghetti instead of true soba noodles, but perhaps that was for simplicity when grocery shopping.

Either way, Travis loved helping with components of this recipe, like grating the ginger on a microplane and smashing the garlic cloves.

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Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 8 Napa cabbage leaves, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 4 sliced green onions
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  1. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions in a pot of boiling, salted water; drain in a colander and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the cabbage, ginger, garlic, and carrots in a bowl; set aside.
  3. To prepare the sauce, place the green onions in a small bowl. Add the brown sugar, ketchup, sesame oil, and soy sauce, whisking to combine.Yakisoba Noodles (2)
  4. Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage mixture; cook for 2 to 3 minutes, tossing with tongs.
  5. Add the cooked noodles and the sauce; continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes until heated through.

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I love when my kids get to “travel” through their palates, trying new recipes like this. Even little sister Veronika loved it!

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The recipe card featured information on Japan’s geography, as well as on the various kinds of noodles in Japanese cuisine. Travis is eager to try them all!

Earth Science Pudding

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Is this project a healthy snack for your kids? Absolutely not. But when Travis declared mid-way through the activity that he was in paradise, I knew I’d brought some magic into a summer morning.

The idea was to show all the layers of the earth, using just about the most amount of sugar imaginable.

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I laid out a tray with all of the supplies, and we talked about each layer of the earth as we worked, filling clear plastic cups with each step. First up, we needed bedrock, which I explained was the solid rock deep underground. We used a mix of mini chocolate chips and crushed ginger cookies. The crushing is half the fun; place the cookies in a zip-top bag and smash with a rolling pin until you have big crumbs.

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On top of this, we spooned the “subsoil” (a dense layer of clay and and iron). Chocolate pudding was perfect of course.

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You’ll notice my taste testers had wasted no time and were busily crunching into cookies and spooning into pudding. They couldn’t believe I was letting them have this free-for-all!

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Next we needed topsoil. I explained that this is the dirt we see as we play: dirt, bugs, and minerals. Now we needed oreo cookies, but not the creme filling. I showed the kids how to scrape out the creme with a craft stick so we could crush the chocolate cookies.

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“Can I eat the frosting?” Travis asked. I nodded. “Plain??” This is when he declared the activity paradise.

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We sprinkled on our crushed “topsoil” and then added a few “worms”. It’s easy to find gummy worms at the store but most contain gelatin. Instead, we sliced pieces of licorice in half to be our worms.

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Finally, top with green sprinkles for grass, twigs, and leaves. I wasn’t able to find green sprinkles at the store, but a few drops of food coloring on white sprinkles was a quick fix.

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Now it was time to dig into the Earth.

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Veronika plunged her spoon right in and began snacking. It made her so happy she began to do a sugar-fueled dance around the kitchen.

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Travis loved working his way carefully down the layers, almost like he was excavating. He wanted to stop and talk about which strata we were in, and carefully selected which bite should come next. He was ecstatic when he’d gone deep enough to reveal the pudding under the topsoil!

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Welcome to paradise on Earth, and thanks to Raddish Kids for this great lesson.

 

Campfire S’mores Pie

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This decadent pie riffs on the classic summer trio of graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate. For vegan marshmallows, look no further than Dandies. We originally wanted to make our own graham cracker crust, but I couldn’t find vegan grahams in any store in town. That meant we used Mi-Del’s pre-made graham crust, and although I’m thankful to the company for this vegan product, I was sorry that Travis and I missed out on preparing some of this Raddish Kids recipe together. At least we still had the filling to prepare!

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If you do find vegan graham crackers, start with the following: Heat 6 tablespoons Earth Balance butter in the microwave for about 30 seconds, until melted; set aside. Place 12 graham cracker sheets in a zip-top plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin until you have fine crumbs. Add the crumbs and 1/3 cup sugar to the melted butter, stirring until combined. Press the crust into the bottom and up the sides of a pie pan.

Here’s where we picked up with the filling! In a saucepan, whisk together 2 cups plain non-dairy milk, 1/4 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons arrowroot (or cornstarch), 4 teaspoons cocoa powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

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Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Continue to cook for 1 minute, whisking frequently.

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Remove from heat and stir in 2/3 cup non-dairy chocolate chips, 2 tablespoons Earth Balance butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Spoon the filling into the crust; cover and chill for at least 4 hours.

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Just before serving, remove from the fridge and top with 2 and 1/2 cups mini marshmallows. You’ll notice my very proud and excited sous-chef!

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Bake at 450 degrees F for 6 minutes. The marshmallows were puffed and just lightly browned, exactly as Raddish’s recipe card feature on the “three stages of roasting marshmallows” said they should be.

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We loved that this recipe used both cold and heat, two different “elements” to transform the ingredients. And of course we also loved the taste. Don’t expect slices to come out neatly, but do expect them to come out delicious!

Fire and Flavor

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Travis has been exploring how to cook with different elements (air, ice) thanks to his latest Raddish Kids, and today we did a quick test: would the same ingredients taste different, if cooked using 3 different “elements”? We chose corn on the cob for the experiment and tested out the following: air (roasted in the oven), water (boiled on the stove), and fire (cooked on the grill). Unfortunately we weren’t truly using fire for the last, since I only have an indoor grill pan. But we still had interesting results!

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Of course first comes the fun of shucking corn. Then for “air”, roast the corn in a 400 degree F oven for about 30 minutes. Boil the “water” version for about 5 minutes in boiling water. Grill the “fire” version over your barbecue or grill pan for about 10 minutes.

Once the three methods of corn had cooked, Travis first wanted to smell them. I had never realized how different these three cooking methods smelled, but it was so apparent when they were lined up on the plate! The oven method had roasted caramel notes, the boiled one smelled sweet and fresh, and the grilled one had a toasty aroma.

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Once they cooled, it was time for a taste test. Travis far and away preferred the sweet tenderness of the boiled corn. Air (oven) was his second favorite. “It’s sweet and tart!” he declared.

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He decided he didn’t like the grilled one, which may again be the fault of the grill pan versus a real grill. Which method do your kids prefer? Please share in the comments!

Earth Burgers

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These black bean burgers (part of the Edible Elements kit from Raddish Kids), come from the earth, and make a hearty vegan entree!

Ingredients:

  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Ener-G egg
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 4 slices Daiya cheddar cheese
  • 4 burger buns
  • 4 lettuce leaves
  • 4 slice tomato
  1. Drain and rinse the black beans. Arrange on a double layer of paper towels on a baking sheet and let dry for 10 minutes.Earth Burgers (1)
  2. Meanwhile, combine the cilantro, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt in a bowl. Add the black beans; mash with a potato masher until chunky (not completely smooth).
  3. Stir in the Ener-G egg and panko, stirring until the mixture is combined. Divide into 4 portions and shape each into a 3-inch patty.Earth Burgers (2)
  4. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the patties and cook for 5 minutes. Carefully flip with a spatula (this was the cooking skill highlighted on the recipe card!). Top each burger with a slice of the cheddar and cook for an additional 4 minutes.
  5. To assemble the burgers, place each patty on a bun, then top with a lettuce leaf and a tomato slice.

Travis loved these so much he devoured two! We talked about the meaning of the recipe’s name as we dined, and how beans and other plant-based foods come from the earth. We loved that Raddish had such a plant-focused recipe card!

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Air Science

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Having recently prepared a recipe reliant on air to cook (a.k.a. a recipe that needs a leavener), today Travis played around with two different kinds of leaveners to see which worked its magic faster.

In one empty water bottle, combine 1 cup warm water, 1 packet active yeast, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Put on the lid and shake, then remove the lid and place an uninflated balloon over the opening. Set a timer for 20 minutes.

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Meanwhile, fill a second empty water bottle with 1/2 cup water and 1 cup white vinegar. Working quickly, add 1/4 cup baking soda. Add a balloon as fast as you can over the top of the bottle; it will immediately inflate with air.

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This was fantastic fun for Travis, since the second bottle will be exploding a volcano of vinegar as you attach the balloon.

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The results were immediately obvious; baking soda acts much faster than yeast. In fact, our yeast balloon took longer than the 20 minutes we had set on the timer, but after about an hour the balloon was beginning to inflate.

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I explained to Travis that this was part of the difference between a slow (yeast) bread and a quick bread (like banana bread), which comes together must faster. Now he understood why!

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Stayed tuned for more elemental food science soon!

Vegan Peach Pancakes

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We kicked off Travis’s Edible Elements kit from Raddish Kids with this recipe relying on… air. Ingredients that harness air include, yeast, baking soda, and baking powder, among others. Although we couldn’t make the original recipe (relying on eggs), Raddish always thoughtfully provides a delicious vegan alternative.

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium peaches
  • 1 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups vanilla almond milk
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Earth Balance butter
  • Maple syrup
  1. Peel and slice the peaches, and set aside. The recipe card featured a helpful how-to on cutting stone fruit, and Travis enjoyed the challenge of peeling the peach!Vegan Peach Pancakes (2)
  2. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the almond milk, vinegar, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring just until smooth.Vegan Peach Pancakes (1)
  4. Heat a skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup batter per pancake, and cook for 3 minutes, or until bubbles cover the tops. Add a few peach slices to each pancake, then flip and cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes.Vegan Peach Pancakes (3)
  5. Serve with the butter and maple syrup to taste!

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Smokey Bear

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Heading in to summer, it was fun and informative to lead Travis through a lesson on Smokey Bear and outdoor fire safety today. This little lesson plan was the kick-off to Travis’s “Edible Elements” kit from Raddish Kids; we’ll soon be making recipes that rely on elemental power (think fire and ice!) during preparation.

But first up: the fire safety lesson. I provided Travis with pictures on index cards as we talked about safe ways to use fire, both indoors and out (the oven, a campfire). Older kids can come up with a list without this parental prompt.

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We then watched a video from Smokey Bear, and I read facts about Smokey’s origins. Turns out he was based on a real rescued cub!

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Travis enjoyed activities including a dot-to-dot…

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…and forest puppets to color.

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Then it was time for a puppet show! Oh no, Travis’s sneaky fox stole the water to douse the campfire. He then decided the skunk could spray it out! I loved that these puppets fired up (ha) the imagination and the learning.

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Big kids have so many options for extension here, whether creating their own PSA about fire safety on poster board or video; learning about the fire alert system; writing a letter to Smokey; or even learning about a historical fire like the Chicago Fire of 1871.

But for my kindergartner, we kept things light and not scary… and he earned a certificate to boot!

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