Tag Archives: green beans

Fun Holiday Activites for Kids and Green Beans with Bacon and Shallots

J painting

It’s the holiday season, and we’ve been doing a lot of baking and crafts to give as gifts.  J is doing a “Grab Bag” (like Secret Santa but minus the Christmas slant) in his class that I’ve been helping him with all week.  I will post later when it’s not a secret anymore!  I really proud of him because he came up with the concept entirely on his own and designed everything. I just helped him execute it, which involved a lot of cutting. I’ll leave it at that for now!

Another fun holiday craft we do is make cake decorations with fondant or gum paste.  The gum paste is a lot harder in texture and you can make very thin, solid objects with it.  You can make both at home and color as you wish, or you can buy them.

Last year, we made decorations for a dual faith cake with gingerbread men and a Christmas tree and Chanukah dreidls.

luster dust

The fun thing about the gum paste decorations is that you can paint them with a clear alcohol (it will evaporate as it dries and you only use a scant amount) and decorate with luster dust.

Gum paste snowflakes and angels with brushes, alcohol and luster dust

Gum paste snowflakes and angels with brushes, alcohol and luster dust

Last year I made this beautiful snowflake cake that was featured on Chef Dennis’ blog, and we decorated it with these shimmery gum paste snowflakes using leftover paste from the aforementioned dual faith cake.

My bad photography isn't quite capturing the beautiful shiny quality of the luster dust -- sorry!

My bad photography isn’t quite capturing the beautiful shiny quality of the luster dust — sorry!

We’re very much looking forward to spending Christmas with Denis’ family in Long Island like we do every year.  We usually bring a dessert, a side dish, and snack-y things to munch on.  We all hang out in the kitchen, talking, nibbling, and having a good time.  This year, we’re hoping to introduce everyone on our New York side to our FAVORITE family game which we play every year during Thanksgiving at my brother’s house in Illinois.  My nephew introduced it to us I think during his first year of college several years back, and it’s become a family tradition to play every Thanksgiving.  It is AWESOME!  The more people the better too!  Later we saw a ripped off version that was a board game in Barnes and Noble, but trust me people, it is better when you make it yourself.

What it is called:  Teledraw

What you need:  A group of people, a stack of small plain paper (like post-its), writing utensils.  So if you have seven people, you need seven stacks of seven pieces of paper. If you have twelve people, you need twelve stacks of twelve pieces and paper, and so forth.

Ages:  6-100! (When J was younger, he used to play as a partner to Denis who would do the writing– for kids doing this on their own, they just need to be able to read, write, and draw)

Basically, the game is like Telephone, but instead of whispering a sentence to the person next to you, you write a sentence.  Then pass it to the person next to you — and you get a sentence passed to you from the person on your other side.  Then for the next round, you draw a picture of whatever sentence was passed to you.  Then you pass this on, then you get another picture, and you write whatever you like the picture is showing.  It is hilarious how much your original sentence changes after a few rounds!  When you get your original stack back to you, the game is over, and you take turns reading it to everyone.  When we played at Thanksgiving, we were crying, laughing so hard!

My brother and mom cracking up

My brother and mom cracking up

I scanned my stack (minus the last sheet — sorry Nick!  It was a great drawing too!  Somehow it got lost in transit…  ) which had twelve panels — but showing eleven here.  I typed out the written segments so it would be easier to read here:

1.  (My sentence)  “I ate some cake.”

2.  Which my mother drew:

For some reason, my mom decided to make it like a "rebus"!

For some reason, my mom decided to make it like a “rebus”!

3.   My brother described this as:  “I see a little 3 year old running to a birthday cake.”

4.  Which my sister-in-law drew:

4

5. Denis then described:  “A smiling unshaven man watches as a child rushes toward a rocking chair-shaped menorah perched on a fireplace mantle. ”

6. Which my nephew’s friend drew:

6

7.  Which my nephew described as:  “A little boy says the blessings over the menorah during Chanukah as Sirium Black watches.”

8.  Which Jamie drew:

8

9.  Which my niece described as:  “Harry Potter is putting a wand to his head.  In another room, Ron Weasley is begging him not to.”

10.  Which her boyfriend drew as:

1011.  Which my other nephew’s girlfriend described as:  “A man stabbed his head with a stick but ended up running happily away.”

12. Then my nephew drew an amazingly detailed picture of man stabbing himself in the head and then running away with a smile on his face (lost in transit!)

So that is how “I ate cake” evolved into something slightly dark.  I love that the Harry Potter theme was continued for awhile!

Writing and drawing!

Writing and drawing!

So if you have to time and energy– play this game with your family over the holidays!  It is guaranteed to make you howl (in a good way)!

******************************************************************

To end with a recipe….

Here is a quick recipe for a side dish we love that would be a perfect side at your holiday table if you have bacon eaters.

green beans

Holiday Green Beans with Bacon and Shallots

1 lb. green beans (I buy the frozen ones at Trader Joes, because I am lazy!)

2 slices of smoked, thick sliced bacon, chopped into pieces

1/2 large shallot, diced

salt and pepper to taste

chopped parsley for festive garnish (optional)

1.  Steam green beans in steamer until cooked but crispy.  For frozen, this is about 8 minutes. For fresh, I think 6 minutes would work, but test a bean and see.

2.  Meanwhile, saute bacon in skillet.  When it is cooked, remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate and let drain and crisp up.

3.  Add diced shallots to bacon fat in pan and saute until softened a bit, about 1 minute.  Then add steamed green beans and saute for about 2-3 minutes.  Add in reserved bacon and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish if desired with chopped parsley.  Serve.

Wishing everyone a Happy Holiday Season!

Melissa Iwai 2012

Melissa Iwai 2012

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Bean Bean Sushi: Creative Sushi Making with Kids

Hope everyone is having a great 2012 so far!  I’m beginning mine with a slight thumb injury caused by over vigorously kneading the gum paste from this post.  Who knew of such hazards in the kitchen?!  Anyway, the healing process is slow and I have to be careful not over use my right hand (though I’m constantly using it!)  One of the activities that exacerbates it is handling the camera– changing lenses and even removing the lens cap is very painful for me.  I may not be posting so much for awhile, and just wanted to let you know.  (The photos in this post were taken pre-injury.)

The idea of making sushi at home may seem daunting to some people, but if you aren’t a purist, it really is easy enough to make on a weeknight.  My kid friendly version focuses on makizushi (the rolled kind) and does not involve raw seafood– just vegetables and cooked meats.

Freeing yourself from the notion of making traditional sushi opens up your world for creative play and improvisation and is a fun activity to do with kids.

All you need is a sushi rolling mat, nori sheets (dried seaweed), cooked Japanese rice seasoned with rice vinegar, sugar, and salt, and whatever filling you’d like to put in the sushi.

Roasted seaweed found in Asian markets.

Awhile ago Jamie announced that he had a new idea for a sushi roll that he wanted to try and make.  He called it “Bean Bean Sushi” and he envisioned it to be filled with ketchup and cooked green beans.  I was dubious, but never one to say “no” to a vegetable creation — especially coming from my son, I told him we’d make it for lunch that day.

This is what we did.  First I cooked rice in my rice cooker (here are directions for stove top cooking). While it was cooking, we got all the fillings together.  I decided to make mine and Denis’ with some leftover grilled chicken, cooked shrimp, leftover grilled Kirkland marinated salmon,  scallions, and avocado.

When the rice was ready,  I seasoned it with a mixture of rice vinegar, sugar and salt.

To make the rolls, I set the nori rough side up (shiny, smooth side down) on a sushi rolling mat.  I spread the surface of the nori with a thin layer of the seasoned rice, leaving a margin at the top.  It helps to wet your fingers with water while doing this to keep the rice from sticking to your fingers.

Jamie put ketchup in the center and then steamed green beans on top.

I made Denis a grilled salmon and wasabi mayonnaise roll.

Then we rolled it up starting from the long side closest to us.  As we rolled, we gradually  let go of the end of the rolling mat (or else it would be rolled inside the sushi!) and continued to roll the sushi cylinder inside the mat until we got to the top margin.  Then, we wet the nori with a bit of water — it acts as glue– and completed the roll.

I made three rolls — one for each of us.  For the inside out roll, I covered the mat first with saran and laid the nori on top of the saran.

After covering the nori with rice and then black sesame seeds (you don’t need to leave an uncovered margin at top for an inside out roll), I turned the nori and rice over so it was nori side up.  The rice side should be on the saran covered mat.  Then, I laid some shrimp, avocado, and scallions on top of the nori and rolled the sushi up, this time with the rice on the outside,  in the same manner described above.  Once you get the hang of rolling, it’s really quite easy.  It helps to do it slowly.  Try and keep the roll tight and even while rolling.  A perfect roll has all the filling in the center.

When the rolls were finished, I cut each in half and then cut those halves into fourths.  So one roll yields eight pieces.  It helps to use a very sharp knife and to dip the blade in warm water between cuts, so it doesn’t stick.

The rolls after cutting.

Surprisingly, Jamie’s Bean Bean roll was actually quite tasty.  Who knew ketchup, green beans, rice, and seaweed would go so well together?

Jamie's "Bean Bean Sushi"

Inside out shrimp, avocado, scallion roll and regular salmon and Trader Joe's wasabi mayonnaise roll.

Makizushi (Rolled Sushi)

Nori sheets (Dried Roasted Seaweed)

About 2 cups of short grain Japanese rice

2 1/4 cups water

3 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1/2 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

fillings for sushi (for example, wasabi, wasabi mayonnaise, plain mayonnaise, ketchup, cooked meats, smoked meats, steamed vegetables, raw vegetables, cooked egg — basically anything you can line up in the center of a sushi roll!  The other day, Jamie tried to make one with edamame succotash, but it didn’t work so well, because the edamame and corn kept falling out…)

1.  Rinse rice in water several times until the water is almost clear.  Cook in rice cooker with water or cook on stove.  Prepare fillings and have ready.  Also have a small dish of plain water set aside.

2.  Mix vinegar, sugar and salt together in a small bowl and set aside.

3.  When rice is finished cooking, transfer to a non-metallic bowl, preferably a wooden or glass one.  Sprinkle vinegar mixture on top (don’t pour all at once — taste rice as you go and season to taste-you may not need to use it all).  With a large wooden spoon, mix rice with a slicing motion.  With your other hand (or employing a helper), fan the rice as you mix to take away the excess moisture.  Keep sushi rice covered with a damp towel so it doesn’t dry out while you are making the sushi.

4.  Lay a sheet of nori on a sushi rolling mat rough side up.  Spread sushi rice on nori in a thin, even layer, using the back of a spoon or fingers. Wetting spoon or fingers with water helps to keep the rice from sticking.  Leave an 3/8 inch margin at the top uncovered.  This is the part that you will use as a seam to close the roll.

5.  Place spread if using and choice of fillings in the center of the roll horizontally.  Lift the mat with your thumbs, holding the center ingredients with your other fingers.  Slowly roll into a cylinder, while moving the rolling mat out of the way (so it doesn’t get rolled into the sushi).  At the top of the roll, wet the uncovered seam of nori with water and complete the roll.

6.  Wet a sharp knife and cut roll in half.  Then cut each half into four pieces.   Continue to wet knife in between cuts to prevent sticking (I like to have a tall glass of water to dip the knife into).

Enjoy!

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Green as a Bean: Another Class Visit and Miso Green Beans

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I thought today it would be appropriate to share some green artwork and some green food. 🙂

Earlier this month, I did my third visit to the Kindergarten classes at PS 142 and read one of my favorite book that I have illustrated, called Green As A Bean.  It is based on a wonderful poem, written in the 60s by the late Karla Kuskin.  The poem was recast as a picture books and was published several years ago.  Written in lyrical rhyme, the verse asks the reader to imagine what they might be like if they were green, soft, loud, fierce, bright…

I painted this soon after my son was born, so I had to include him -- he's the hanging baby bean.

If you were fierce...

I loved painting the illustrations because the story is so open-ended.  It was such a pleasure to create the “world” of this book.

I read it to the children in class and spoke to them about “words that describe things” (i.e. adjectives).  Then we narrowed it down to colors, since they have been studying color charts during their regular class time.  I had them imagine if they were a particular color, what would they be?

It was a nice way to ease the kids into writing down their thoughts and illustrating them.  Here are some of their creations.

blue flowers

a purple princess

a green dragon

Getting back to the color green…
It is sometimes difficult getting my son to eat enough green food.  Today I made him some special green vanilla yogurt (with the help of food coloring, not scary spores!) and he gobbled it up.  But I’m talking about real green food, namely green veggies.

One of the very few green vegetables he’s been eating since he started eating solids, though, are green beans.  I think it’s because early on I developed a recipe he loved:  Miso Green Beans.  I use Trader Joe’s French green beans — they are so good and reasonably priced. (I just hope they don’t discontinue them, as they have a tendency to do with food I love!)I make a thin paste with miso and some water and season with a bit of sugar.

"shiro" (white) more mild than "aka" (red) -- the darker the miso paste, the stronger the flavor

Then I drizzle this over cooked green beans and saute them until they are slightly browned and a bit caramelized.

They have a nice sweet and savory flavor.  You can garnish with some toasted sesame seeds for added crunch.  It also brings out the nutty sesame flavor of the sesame oil the beans are sauteed in.

Miso paste can be found in Asian food stores and health food stores.  I also love to use it in salad dressing.

Miso Green Beans

3 cups of fresh or frozen French beans

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 ½  teaspoon miso paste

½ teaspoon sugar

  1. Steam green beans until crisp tender in steamer or microwave. Drain.
  2. Saute beans in oil until softened a little.
  3. Mix miso paste, sugar and about 1 teaspoon of water in a bowl.  Add to beans and saute vigorously until beans are slightly carmelized.
  4. Serve immediately.

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Filed under Art Related, Children, Sides, Vegetables