Montessori in cucina… 1° parte

La cucina è, a mio avviso, la stanza della casa dove risulta più semplice mettere in pratica il Montessori con i propri bambini. Senza grandi modifiche nell’arredamento e con pochi euro per l’acquisto di utensili adatti, ecco un’area della casa che fornisce inesauribili opportunità di apprendimento per bambini di tutte le età. In cucina si affinano le abilità motorie, ci si relaziona, si spazia dalla fisica, alla matematica, al linguaggio senza neanche accorgersene, si mettono in moto tutti i sensi e soprattutto… ci si diverte! 

(English version below)

Proprio oggi, di ritorno dal nostro campicello, pensavo a tutto questo e a quanto semplicemente – quasi senza volerlo – il Montessori si inserisca anche nelle attività quotidiane più banali. Stamattina, dicevo, io e D. abbiamo fatto un bel raccolto di zucchine (in realtà c’erano anche parecchie fragole ad attenderci sotto il sole e fra il fogliame, ma quelle non hanno mai visto la cucina… golosi noi? Naaah) che ovviamente andavano lavate e in qualche modo usate. Vista l’abbondanza di altri ortaggi a disposizione ho pensato fosse meglio destinare questi e parte del raccolto per futuri minestroni, tagliandoli a pezzi e congelando il mix in diversi sacchetti, un’operazione che d’estate compio abitualmente fino ad esaurimento spazio nel congelatore! Ne vale la pena? Per noi, sì. In questo modo oltre a scegliere il mix di verdure secondo il nostro gusto, siamo certi della loro provenienza, del loro stato di maturazione e della velocità con cui sono stati ‘lavorati’.

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A sx D. affetta (stranamente da seduto) una patata, a dx mette gli ortaggi nel sacchetto.

Così io e D. ci siamo messi all’opera (in genere non serve chiedergli di aiutarmi perché se mi vede armeggiare con qualsiasi cosa, non vede l’ora di metterci le mani, nel caso non se ne fosse accorto però avrei richiamato la sua attenzione e l’avrei invitato a provare, accettando anche un improbabile no) prima sciacquando la verdura, poi asciugandola con un panno e infine affettandola, ovvero il lavoro preferito di D. Per questa operazione lui ha usato uno di questi affetta verdure ondulati che lui afferra bene con entrambe le mani e che permette di tagliare con sicurezza pezzi di diverse dimensioni e visivamente piacevoli grazie all’effetto ondulato. E’ importante che gli utensili a disposizione del bambino siano riposti in un cesto/ripiano o cassetto alla sua portata e sempre allo stesso posto per rispettare il suo bisogno di ordine e di autonomia.

In genere, per scrupolo, taglio a metà in senso longitudinale le verdure così che abbiano un lato completamente piatto per un appoggio più sicuro. Ortaggi più piccoli e facili da tagliare, come le carote più sottili o i fagiolini li lascio spesso interi anche se tondi e ondeggianti, giusto per aumentare un poco la difficoltà.

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come preparo le zucchine per D. da tagliare / how I prepare the zucchini for slicing

Abbiamo trascorso 45 minuti così: tranquillamente lavando, tagliando, mescolando (a piene mani dentro una grande terrina: bello sentire tutte le forme, le texture e soprattutto il loro profumo!), chiacchierando un po’ (D. ama descrivermi i pezzi che taglia: grandi, piccoli, verdi, rossi, ‘piangere’ – la cipolla- duro, morbido, ecc…) e chiamando le cose con il loro nome. Non dev’essere una lezione, ma un momento di relazione soprattutto!

Alla fine di questo lavoro, gli ho mostrato come insacchettare il mix di verdure ma a questo punto la sua concentrazione stava svanendo… o meglio, le carote fresche e croccanti hanno avuto la meglio: dopo poche manciate di ‘travaso’ nei sacchetti D. ha pensato bene fosse ora di uno snack e ho finito io il lavoro mentre lui ne sgranocchiava un po’. Alla fine del lavoro però è importante mostrare al bambino come sistemare e se possibile invitarlo a partecipare perché i cicli vanno conclusi e gli spazi di lavoro lasciati puliti e in ordine per rispetto di tutti, anche di sé stessi (si lavora meglio nel pulito no?).

Queste attività di vita pratica ‘spontanea’, che nascono dall’esigenza del momento, sono le mie (nostre) preferite, proprio per la loro naturalezza. Sono anche quelle che più mi sembra si adattino al bambino perché destano praticamente sempre il suo interesse e rispondono al suo bisogno di sentirsi davvero partecipe della vita familiare – in questo caso della preparazione dei pasti. Il bambino è attento, capace e volonteroso, basta dargli fiducia e mezzi adatti. Sono attività che hanno un senso, soprattutto.

Sarei curiosa di sapere se i bambini che sono più restii ad assaggiare alimenti nuovi, partecipando alla loro preparazione si incuriosiscano al punto dal volerli poi provare. D. mangia qualsiasi cosa quindi non fa molto testo, ma se avete esperienze in merito sarei felice se voleste condividerle qui sotto.

Mi piacerebbe poi, nelle prossime settimane, mostrarvi più in dettaglio cosa combiniamo io e D. in cucina, quali utensili usiamo di più e cosa finisce in pentola. Stay tuned 😉

Ah già, per chi si chiedesse cosa ci sia nel nostro minestrone ecco qua l’elenco delle verdure:

MIX PER MINESTRONE 

cipolla (bianca o rossa o un mix), carote, sedano, zucchine, finocchio, patate, fagiolini verdi

Il tutto tagliato a cubetti delle dimensioni che più vi aggradano. Questa volta noi li abbiamo lasciati grandicelli perché il più delle volte poi passiamo il tutto al mixer per farne vellutate. Ovviamente le opzioni sono infinite, sbizzarritevi con quello che avete/trovate al mercato/ortofrutta, poi comunque nessuno ci vieta di aggiungere altri ortaggi quando verrà il momento di preparare la nostra zuppa.

Che poi, solo a me affascina da morire l’idea di preparare le scorte per l’inverno?! No vero? 

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pronto per il freezer e per l’autunno / ready for the freezer and for…autumn!

 

English version

The kitchen, I reckon, is the room of the house where it’s easier to put the Montessori method into practice. Without having to do major changes in the environment and with only a small investment it is easy to transform this area so that it supplies countless learning opportunities for children of all ages. In the kitchen it is possible to develop fine and gross motor abilities, to foster relationships, to learn about physics, mathematics, language without even noticing, plus all senses are engaged and, most importantly… it’s fun!

Today, on our way back from the field where we grow some veggies, I was thinking about all this and of how easily the method almost flows into the most ‘mundane’ of everyday activities. Back to our trip to the field, D. and I were really impressed by the large quantity of zucchini we harvested (I purposely avoid mentioning the perfectly ripe sun-kissed and leaf-stroked strawberries that welcomed us because, well, they just never hit the kitchen counter – any surprises there?) and I had to come up with a way to use them up quickly. Since at home I already had a rather abundant array of vegetables, I decided it was time for some minestrone-mix making and freezing, ready to be used in the colder months when soups are most welcome and time – being back at work – is always short. I think it’s worth it also because it avoids me relying on supermarket frozen minestrone mixes as one does when in a hurry as I dislike not knowing the origin of the food that’s on my plate…

To cut a long story short, we ended up doing a good job of rinsing and chopping veg, mixing it all up and transferring the result into freezer bags – not the most sustainable option I agree, but if you reuse the bags instead of throwing them, it’s not so bad. D. doesn’t need any encouragement to get involved as any time he sees me working on something he’ll want to obviously have a try. It’s very important at this point to not let oneself go to the ‘I’m in a hurry and I can do it better and more quickly anyway’ mantra and give the kid the chance to try. If he’s not ready for knives or you don’t feel comfortable with them, try with a crinkle cutter: it’s safe, practical and the result is very pleasing with the wavy slices it produces. The process actually begins with the washing: show the child how to rinse vegetables and pat them dry if you’ve never done so before. This alone is a very interesting ‘job’ for a toddler who will likely go on for ages. Then you can show him how to use the cutter, which you will store in a drawer/shelf/basket that he can reach easily.

You can both happily chop away now exploring (and why not, tasting) the different vegetables, their names, their textures, their firmness and ripeness, their scent… D. likes to describe things a lot! No need for a lesson, just relate to your child and enjoy the work together. I sometimes prefer to cut very large vegetables in half lengthwise so that they can lay firmly on the chopping board. Smaller ones like thin carrots or string beans I’ll leave whole.

We spent 45mins preparing the minestrone mix, including the packing. I transferred most of the veggies myself in the end because D.’s concentration was starting to fade and goetting more interested in munching on raw crunchy carrots instead. It’s fine, he did a lot of work already. Once finished, though, it’s important to show the child how to tidy up and possibly involve him as it’s important to learn that things need to be put back in their place and the spaces left clean and uncluttered.

Such spontaneous activities are my favourite because they are born out of the need of the moment rather than planned according to a schedule. They also rarely fail to engage the child because they enable him to fully participate in the house routines and feel happy for such ‘important’ jobs.

On a side note I would be curious to know if by participating in the meal preparation, kids who are generally not very interested in food or dislike many food types do get a bit more curious and tempted to try them. I cannot really tell, because D. eats practically everything, so I would love to hear your experience with regards to this. Feel free to share in the comments below!

Since I love the kitchen, cooking and of course the Montessori method, I’d like in the forthcoming weeks to dig a bit deeper into the subject by sharing more of what we do and how and why we do it. So stay tuned!

Oh and of course, if you’re curious to know what ended up in our minestrone mix, here’s a list of the vegetables we used. It’s a basic mix, you can obviously use any vegetable you like or add more later once you’ll put it in the pot…

MINESTRONE MIX

Onions (white or red or a mixture), carrots, celery, zucchini, fennel, potatoes and string beans.

They can be chopped in any size you like, just keep in mind cooking times and how you’re going to use them. We prefer smooth velvety soups so the big chunks are okay since they’ll be processed. No rules, just creativity here!

On a final note… it cannot be just me, right, who looooves storing food for the winter months as if I were a squirrel?

 

“Lovers’ hearts” aka chocolate date and walnut bars with strawberries

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I am not the type of person who speaks easily about her feelings and relationships. Not that I am embarassed about it or that there’s something to hide, more simply I just ‘handle’ them as if they were made of rare paper-thin porcelain: too precious and delicate to display them around all the time.

There are of course exceptions like this one here that you’re about to read and the reason I open up this time is because: A– I have been on the verge of bursting lately; B– it happens to be Valentine’s Day and even if we don’t normally celebrate it (but take it as another excellent excuse for whipping up something yum to eat) I’ll just jump on the bandwagon this time.

I feel like celebrating because after almost eight years together, my husband and I couldn’t be happier and more loved up. I won’t say it’s out of mere luck: lucky was our meeting (or predestined?) but maintaining a relationship alive and bubbly takes a lot more than that, it takes effort. Ours, like everyone else’s I guess, was a bit of a rollercoaster for quite some time but over the years we have kept on believing in it and working towards making it stronger and stronger. It’s all a matter of transforming negative energy into positive, of thinking for just two very important seconds before speaking even when too tired or frustrated and, obviously, learning to ‘walk in each other’s shoes’. Listening, speaking out our minds and giving support are key. Forgiving, also. I know, it sounds like anything but romantic, yet this deep connection we have now created is beyond romance, it’s… just plain great! The struggles we’ve been facing lately in our everyday life have only brought us closer (you know just like that old saying… what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger) and we feel like ‘team invincible’ now, so intimately connected, so passionate about each other, our family and our life, the best so far and we know that this is only the beginning. So yeah, you agree this is worth celebrating right?

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To do so, I have come up with some super simple, quick and wholesome cookies/bars that have undergone the heart-shaping treatment to give’em a Valentine’s day twist. You can obviously fill your kitchen with hearts and love any day you like and I actually really wish you so 😉

These are also easily turned vegan (just change sweetener) or raw and countless flavour variations are possible just by using different nuts, fruit, spices…

The recipe yields 4 big hearts but I warn you, they are very filling so rather than doubling up the recipe you may want to simply downsize the bites to suit everybody’s appetite(who said heart-shaped dessert is only for couples? give one to anyone you love, whether it be a sister, a friend, your parents, someone who needs some love in his/her life… who doesn’t, anyway?)

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RICETTA2

Much love to all!

L.

Note about the serving plate: it’s part of a collection created by my super talented friends La Fornacina Keramik Studio, here you can check out their work. My photos unfortunately don’t do it enough justice…

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Ricetta in italiano:

cuori

 

 

 

Hot pink hot chocolate days

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Hot chocolate is more than just two words – an adjective + a noun – that describe THE official drink of the winter months for me. Oh yes, it brings with it a whole imagery that has the power to soothe (yet energize) a worn out soul even during the darkest of afternoons and greyest of days.

Hot chocolate brings me back to a child-me, who would snuggle up among the throws and cushions of the sofa whilst watching cartoons at a low volume so that I could listen to the wooden spoon hitting the pot as my mum stirred the chocolate to a creamy consistency. When the noise stopped I would jump up from the sofa and head straight into the kitchen where the hot chocolate was already in a cup, piping hot, ready for some serious biscuit dipping business. I was that ‘lucky’!

Then there were the hot chocolates of my teenage years, slowly sipped as me and my best friends chatted away about boys and made plans for the future.

The future when it came brought with it more hot chocolates, not as much at home but out in the cafés of the different towns where I lived: dense sticky spicy hot chocolates in one place, liquid-y blander ones in another, white chocolates, pistachio flavoured ones, topped with cream or not and I could go on forever…

During my wanderings I have realized that most often than not, hot chocolates abroad are made with plenty of ‘liquid’ and little or no ‘flour’ (or other thickener) so that it feels more like a Nesquik drink than an actual melted-choc experience. Needless to say, I prefer the latter: if sin has to be, better make it pretty sinful!

As I got older though, I  became more conscious about my gluten and sugar intake and many times I sadly dismissed this drink in favour of much lighter ones like tea.

That was until a few days ago when I stumbled upon a recipe by Elenore of Earthsprout who had been making glorious looking pumpkin based hot chocolate: bling! Basically a sort of hot smoothie with all those yummy add-ins for a festive touch. How come I hadn’t already thought of that? I tried her version which I loved (and I think you should really give it a go, too) but still wanted to skip the sugar and there it dawned on me: beetroots! Does anybody know a sweeter vegetable than these ruby beauties? Plus, chocolate and beetroot cakes have been out there for a while so I wasn’t really heading for disaster I thought.

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So here is the result of my messing in the kitchen with cooked beetroots, cocoa, cocoa butter, hazelnut butter, oat milk and …NOTHING ELSE! No thickener required either because the pureed beets give it that perfect creamy consistency I missed so much. So thick that it allowed me to top the drinks with small chunks of dates, a drizzle of hazelnut butter and a sprinkle of chia seeds for garnish. Super healthy and yum, even for the kids! Plus, wanna talk about the colour? Insane, I know. Pink hot choc is just… well, perfection.

So, what do you think, enough babbling and straight to the recipe? I say yessss, you don’t want to waste any more time but spend it with one of these (or both!) beauties in your hands instead. And better for you if you have some veg cream to whip up on top of that as well!

hotchocolate copia

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Versione italiana

Cioccolata calda: due parole che descrivono non solo LA bevanda invernale per eccellenza ma richiamano una serie di piacevoli immagini che riescono a rasserenare (ma anche rinvigorire) un animo triste e stanco anche nei pomeriggio più bui e nelle giornate più grigie.

La cioccolata calda mi riporta ad una me bambina che se ne stava ranicchiata sul divano fra cuscini e coperte a guardare i cartoni a basso volume, così da riuscire a sentire quando il mestolo avrebbe smesso di battere contro il pentolino, cioé a cioccolata pronta. A quel punto mi fiondavo diretta in cucina dove mia mamma aveva già versato la bevanda in tazza: fumante e profumata, pronta per un bel lavoro di inzuppaggio di biscotti. Fortunata no?

Dopo le cioccolate infantili vennero quelle adolescenziali, mangiate poco alla volta con il cucchiaino mentre ci si raccontava di ragazzi e di progetti per il futuro.

Quando quel futuro arrivò, le cioccolate non le consumavo più a casa ma nelle caffetterie dei dintorni o in quelle dall’altro capo del mondo, con tutta la varietà che ciò comporta. Cioccolate dense e speziate, altre liquide e dal sapore non molto intenso, cioccolate bianche, al pistacchio, con o senza panna e potrei continuare…

Durante le mie scorribande ho notato come il più delle volte l’idea di cioccolata calda all’estero sia di una bevanda liquida tipo latte e Nesquik, apparentemente quindi senza alcun addensante. Inutile dire che preferisco la versione densa che tutti conosciamo… Insomma, se peccare si deve, almeno pecchiamo per bene!

Negli ultimi tempi però sono diventata più consapevole riguardo alla quantità di glutine e zuccheri che ingerisco e quindi mi è capitato di mettere da parte la voglia di cioccolata calda in favore di bevande più leggere, come tè e infusi.

Questo fino a qualche giorno fa quando per caso ho visto la ricetta postata da Elenore di Earthsprout: una fantastica cioccolata calda a base di zucca! Praticamente una sorta di smoothie caldo corredato di golosissime aggiunte per renderlo un po’ più ‘festivo’. Com’è cche non ci avevo mai pensato? Ho provato al sua versione che è ottima e che vi consiglio, ma non ero ancora soddisfatta: volevo eliminare completamente gli zuccheri aggiunti. Ta-daaa! Illuminazione: le barbabietole! Qualcuno conosce ortaggio più zuccherino? Senza contare che torte al cioccolato con le barbabietole ne erano già state fatte, quindi le speranze di riuscita erano abbastanza alte…

E questo è il risultato dei miei traffici in cucina: barbabietole (cotte), cacao, burro di cacao, pasta di nocciole, latte di avena e… basta! Nessuno zucchero, nessun addensante (farine & co) perchè la barbabietola ridotta in purea dà già una consistenza cremosa alla bevanda. Quella consistenza che mi mancava… Talmente densa da poterci aggiungere sopra persino dei topping come piccoli pezzetti di dattero, un filo di pasta di nocciole e dei semi di chia. Voilà, super sano e super buono, persino per i bambini! Poi vogliamo parlare del colore? Da capogiro…scusate se l’idea di una cioccolata calda rosa shocking mi fa girare la testa…

Beh, che ne dite, basta blaterare no? Passiamo alla ricetta? Direi di sì, così vi avanza più tempo per coccolarvi con una tazza di questa cioccolata (sia in versione rosa che marrone, ovvero senza o con cacao). Se poi avete in casa anche della panna vegetale o crema di cocco ancora meglio. Prego!

cioccolatacalda

Sourdough pumpkin bread rolls and some autumn inspired poems and activities

One turns her back one minute and voilà summer’s gone!

Early autumn has brought with its mellow self a basketful (plastic bags are sooo ‘out’) of news and works that invited our family to play the ‘adapt as fast as you can’ game until we ..won. Of course. We became Masters of Darwinian evolution in just a handful of weeks, ha!

With husband often away, my new job at the Casa dei Bambini near our village as well as heaps of translation work, a hungry Diego (for ‘intellectual’ food – no worries, I haven’t stopped feeding him real wholesome food, haha) and the typical truckload of yummy harvest to be expected at this time of year, I really had to make good use of my wonderwoman powers and breathing techniques. BUT! Here I am: rather tired but certainly satsfied. Sharing everything with you proved to be compelling to say the least, though, which I apologize for and I hope a (huge) slice of one of these sourdough pumpkin rolls will help make up for it.

Yes, you heard me right: sourdough pumpkin bread rolls!

They are one of the first signs of autumn here in Italy (at least in my region), helpful in case one missed the other signs like the first browning and falling leaves or the cooler nights or shorter days…the usual. Pumpkin rolls just cannot be missed! Every respectful baker has them on display, golden brown, dotted with sultanas and oozing buttery sensuality from every pore of their soft leavened dough. Of course, I had to try making them myself 🙂 The first attempt took place 4 years ago back in Australia, where I was living at the time, during an aww-how-I-miss-home moment. I was the proud mother of a luscious sourdough starter back then, who was my partner in crime in dozens of rising-up-to-the-sky doughy marvels. With a couple of intercontinental moves and little personal earthquakes, my little acidic baby took on a very green and slimy look until we just mutually abandoned each other. So this time I went the quicker route and got hold of some dried sourdough starter from the shop and I have to say, the result was optimal… have a look for yourself.

panzalI will just say one thing (then you can find the recipe at the bottom of the post): try it drizzled with chestnut honey and have a cup of chai tea ready on the side. You might love me for a moment! This combo has been a true life saver during many afternoons… EDIT: In the recipe print out there is a missing ingredient: 100g of dried sourdough starter (or 200g fresh starter, reducing liquids approprietly though)

As for the autumn inspired activities, I will be honest with you: I have been fishing a lot from the ocean of ideas that’s Pinterest. Way too tired for any ‘hmm let’s come up with something creative’, I have put my residual energy into figuring out what it was that Diego needed most at this time and searched for relevant good ideas on the web.

Diego is now 18 months old and his fine motor skills are very good for his age. His gross motor abilities are about right whereas his language is probably the area in which he is a bit more ‘behind’. By saying this, I realize that every child has his/her own times for learning and I do not force him the least into an activity if he’s not interested just for the sake of ‘levelling’ him with his mates. Considering this though, has pushed me to rearrange his shelves to include now more flashcards/object sets for matching and language work, as well as new books. He now seems to be enjoying them and picks them up eagerly and the same goes for the flashcards. I have printed out images of leaves, of the wild animals of the countryside (after spotting hares and squirrels during our nature walks…), of autumn fruits and of different pumpkins (yes, I do love them).

To take advantage of the last mild days, I have some activities at hand for when we go outside: like scrubbing the pumpkins with one of those brushes for washing the dishes so then they are nice and ready to be popped in the oven as well as raking up leaves and as much walking as we can squeeze between his afternoon nap and dinner prep.  He still loves watering the plants outside and -ouch- plucking out the winter veggies … I need a scarecrow…ahem a scarekids! Haha joking of course…

We have been doing some ‘creative’ work, too, by making a centerpiece for our table with baby pumpkins, a candle (which he’s learning to blow, btw), tangerines (great peeling exercise) and some stones we found outside on which we glued some pretty fallen leaves.

In the house we’re doing plenty of pouring and crushing crackers with the pestle and mortar, as well as playing the ukulele whilst sitting on his rocking horse… don’t ask!

Here are a couple of pictures and, as promised, the recipe for the pumpkin rolls that I hope you will try and give me feedback on!

pumpkinpestello

sourdough pumpkin rolls

EDIT: In the recipe print out there is a missing ingredient: 100g of dried sourdough starter (or 200g fresh starter, reducing liquids approprietly though)

Oh yes, the poems! Here is one in Italian, it’s by Gianni Rodari, probably the best writer of children literature in Italy. It’s called “Autunno”.

poesia
Also, here is a sweet one in English, gorgeously illustrated, too. It’s by Linda of Travel and Sing Check out her website, she does some really lovely illustration work.

poem-leafstoriesWhich are your favourite autumn poems?

Buckwheat and almond biscuits baking on a rainy late summer’s day

Heavy gray clouds for pillows,

lustre deep green grass for materass,

cool fine silvery droplets of rain for a rhythmic massage.

What else could I ask for?

The scorching summer sun and its violent white light have been replaced today by an authentic glimpse of autumn. Sure, sunny days are fun-tastic but oh do I miss the ‘bad’ weather after a while!

It makes turning on the oven once again a pleasurable experience and hot beverages look sexier now, too.

PicMonkey Collage

The colourful bountiful season is drawing nearer and I’m so excited (like at every season change) for all it brings along!

I sometimes feel like a squirrell, all eager to collect and store all the nuts I can find for the winter ahead. The only difference is I apply this to everything: not just foods to be preserved (I have already started with the fig jams and bottled plums) but all sorts of fall/winter  preparations tend to get me in a frenzy: there’s the wool to be felted for a new vest I need and the crocheted one for my son, as well; then there’s the winter veggie garden to be tended/planted and cared for and as for the house, a good coat of paint in our bedroom and bathroom has been on my mind for a while now. The list is endless, as usual. I just love all the doing and making that precedes the ‘quiet’ season: winter.

Do you ever feel like without your hands you’d be lost? I cannot help thinking about the parallel in Montessori education..where the hands (i.e. the actual ‘doing/touching/making’) are the most important tool a child has for the development of his/her psyche. Doing nothing is impossible, unbearable, unthinkable even. I know it would mean madness for me. We sometimes as humans underestimate the power of doing, but it can be so therapeutic. Without stepping into this dense forest of a topic, let me just express my gratitude for my two hands and the work they allow me to carry out. Work is a blessing when it’s purposeful and meaningful and especially when it brings on shared happiness and abundance.

But let’s get back to those hot infusions and burning ovens I mentioned before… if you too cannot wait to wear your oven mitts again, maybe you’ll enjoy this little recipe of mine. I came up with this earlier this morning, as I had some almond pulp which was leftover from making nut milk.

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BUCKWHEAT AND ALMOND BISCUITS

60g almond pulp (ground almonds/almond flour will do too)

150g spelt flour (the one I use is actually a mixture made up of 1/3 spelt, 1/3 rice and 1/3 oat flour)

100g buckwheat flour

80g muscovado sugar (coconut sugar will be good too)

80g high quality butter, cut into small cubes

1 egg

2 tbsp almond butter

a pinch of salt

scant tsp of baking powder

1 tbsp powdered cinnamon

1 tsp lemon juice

Directions:

Preheat your oven at 180°C/375°F. In a bowl, mix the flours and the almond pulp together with the sugar, salt, cinnamon and baking powder. Add the butter and work it with a fork or briefly with your hands so that you get a very grainy mixture (do not over work!). Now you can make a well in the centre and add the egg, the almond butter and the lemon juice. Work it quickly with your hands only until the dough sticks together and you can form a ball with it. Leave it in the fridge covered for about 30mins then take it out and roll it with a pin between two sheets of parchment paper until it’s about 5mm thick. Cut into desired shapes and transfer onto a baking tray. Bake for 8-10mins or until the biscuits take on a golden hue. Try to resist eating them until they’re cool. Makes about 40 small biscuits.

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Work is even better if you have yummy biscuits on hand for your breaks 😉

Sweet crunchy love from

… your squirrell

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Confit cherry tomatoes

If you have a garden and have it planted with lots of veggies, you will know what the summer months are like, i.e. busy busy busy! Not only watering, weeding and general ‘maintenance’ but also the fun part, that is picking the fruits of your labour and turning them into delicious food once in the kitchen, takes up a lot of time.

Like every year, I wish I had an extra pair of hands and a larger pantry, because I never preserve all that I would like – yup, maybe I do plant more than I can…chew – so I end up eating most of it fresh and giving away the surplus. This is actually something nice, because it starts off a cycle of giving: now it’s me giving away tomatoes and cucumbers and then it’s my neighbour gifting me with some of her figs, of which she too has in abundance. This is perfect to avoid waste and creates bonds with the locals!

Tomatoes are enjoying the perfect season this year because we’ve never had this many before. No pests, no illness whatsoever, ripening perfectly and in large quantities. It feels like they’re a real gift and that I almost do not deserve them, haha.

CONFIT CHERRY TOMATOES

Only, now I am trying to come up with different ways of preparing them, besides the usual sauces and salads, so I thought I would give this recipe a go. It’s a rather popular summer recipe, maybe because it is so simple. It does require to turn the oven on (horror!) but at a low temperature and you can maybe do this like I did, very early in the morning or during a cooler day after a rainfall.

Here is the recipe if you’ve got your hands full of these sweet red gems and don’t know what else to do with them:

CONFIT CHERRY TOMATOES

As many tomatoes as you have on hand, I had an oven tray full of them (which double up once they’re cut in half)

2 cloves of garlic

2tbsp rapadura/muscovado sugar

olive oil to drizzle

a handful of thyme leaves

Turn the oven on at 60°C/140°F. Cut all tomatoes in half (you can check this video for a quick way of doing this, it’s brilliant!), place cut-side-up on an oven tray covered with parchment paper. Press the garlic or chop it very finely and sprinkle over the tomatoes, then sprinkle them with the sugar too. Place in the oven and cook for 1hr30′ then take them out and dress with the olive oil and thyme. I prefer these served warm as a side to fish dishes.

Next time I will try using rice malt syrup instead to cut down on the fructose of the muscovado sugar. Will add my thoughts on that here if it works out. Feel free to share any ways you may have to make these sweet oven baked tomatoes, I’m always curious!

CHERRYCONFIT CHERRY TOMATOES CLOSE UP

Avocado, Almond & Banana Ice Pops with Blackberry Swirl

There are days when ice cream is a nice treat and days when ice cream is… well, simply badly needed!

Blackberry swirl ice popToday is one of those days. The heat has taken a toll on all of us, especially on little Diego, who is irritable and has trouble sleeping and therefore asks for cuddles and nursing all day (and night) long. This is understandable and would be fine if it weren’t I’m in a constant bath of sweat. The Amazon-like humidity makes us turn to the shower for some quick relief more often than not (I say quick, as we try not to waste too much water, even though we’re talking survival here) and having a toddler literally sticking to your skin tends to get uncomfortable after a while.

On the pretty side of things, thanks to some extra tlc, our garden is a continuous source of big fat veggies and fruit: this year our harvest seems to have been blessed by some very kind goddess: abundance and gratefulness are key words here.

Among all of this goodness is a generous blackberry bush (you might have noticed from my instagram… ) and when Diego is not busy making all the ripe ones disappear (only to be found in juicy form on all of his mouth, arms and clothes), I can snatch a few to use in the kitchen.

I have been making lots of icy pops (ice lollies? What’s the difference dear native speakers? I’m lost in translation here) too lately, most of them experiments which turned out good but nothing extra special. That was until yesterday when I finally created the popstar of our icy pops…ta daaaahhh!

ice pops

So, this time, I thought I would share the goodness and, if you like, I can share some of our intense heat too 😉

AVOCADO, ALMOND & BANANA ICE POPS WITH BLACKBERRY SWIRL

(makes 4 – about 400ml)

Ingredients:

half ripe avocado

1 medium sized very ripe banana

3 tbsp almond butter

2 (or 3, according to taste) tbsp rice malt syrup

1tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp milk kefir (that’s what I had on hand: goats’ milk kefir. Feel free to substitute with milk of your choice, almond would be nice, or yogurt)

a small handful of blackberries

1tbsp honey/rice malt syrup (I have a very aromatic honey which paired perfectly with the blackberries, again if you’re vegan, you can swap it)

Blend all of the ingredients except from the blackberries and the honey. You should get a very creamy and fluffy consistency. Adjust for sweetness if you wish. In a different bowl, blend the blackberries and honey together. Now you’re ready for pouring/layering the two mixtures into the ice pop moulds. Insert the sticks and if you want use them to mix a bit further the contents, then freeze for a few hours until set. I made them in the evening and had one today. Err… ok, two!

Avocado copia

ice popsice pops