Our Purim Meal

Does your family celebrate any particular Jewish holidays? For the most part, our family have not celebrated any of them (aside from, perhaps, a commemorative meal at Passover time with other church friends or something like that). However, several years ago I made a Purim meal as a school assignment. I enjoyed the experience, although one memorable thing from that day was Mom’s mention of me having “too many pans on the fire”—a first for that particular expression for me!

Challah Bread

Either later that year or the next year, we celebrated Hanukkah together as a family for the first time. Again, it wasn’t anything fancy—basically just lighting the candles was the extent to which our “celebrating” went. But it was fun to remember the story and know that around the world there were other people commemorating the several-thousand-year-old holiday along with us.

This year, I marked on the calendar when Purim was going to be, more out of interest than anything else. When I saw last week, then, that it would fall on the next Sunday, I thought it would be fun to do a little something for the occasion. Monday became our day to celebrate, since I had the entire day free. It was fun to dig up the recipes I used four years ago, and put them to use again! I think I was a bit more organized this time, although we did end up eating a little late and I didn’t get the kreplach done. Oh well. It was a fun evening anyway, and having slightly different food for a change was also quite enjoyable!

Challah bread

Our menu for the night:

  1. Challah Bread (a traditional Jewish braided bread glazed with egg and I added some poppy seeds; a favorite around here. I’ve made it several times and it always disappears quickly!)
  2. Chickpea and Noodle Soup with Persian Herbs (should have put more salt and pepper in it—but it turned out delicious anyway)
  3. Roast Turkey
  4. Tomato and Onion Toss with Herbs (our family’s variant on a recipe I found online)
  5. Hamentashen (a triangular cookie with filling in the middle; I used apple butter and plum jam)

Tomato and Onion Toss with Herbs

One neat thing that coincided beautifully with Purim is that as a family, we finished reading the book of Esther just a day or two the holiday. What are the chances of that happening? But it did, and having gone step-by-step through the story together, this meal had a lot more meaning to us (well, to me at least!) as I thought of the beautiful story of courage and faith behind it. Only God could bring all that together!

Chickpea and Noodle Soup with Persian Herbs

Roast Turkey

Hamentashen

I’m not sure which was my favorite part of the meal to make—it would probably be either the Challah bread or the Hamentashen. I loved playing with the dough when braiding it for the Challah (and would like to try doing a five-strand braid next time!). I also loved shaping the Hamentashen. And one thing I learned—you can’t squish the corners of the Hamentashen too much. As you can see in the above picture, they come apart some in baking. Even if they might not be perfect, they did taste good!

Have you ever celebrated Purim or any other Jewish holiday? If you did, what kinds of food did you have with it? If not, do you plan to try it sometime—even if just for the experience?

The Three Little Monkeys and the Big Bad Bull (Video) | Khemists in the Kitchen, Episode 5

Or in other words, season finale! Although we weren’t planning to have a season at all, and we probably aren’t going to do this again.

This particular movie was fun to make. As a family, we children had been kicking around the idea of doing a twist on the traditional Three Little Pigs story, but we hadn’t been able to figure out exactly what we should do or how we should go about it. But since I wanted a nice wrap-up to these recipe videos, and since everyone wanted to make another family movie (it’s becoming a tradition around here), we decided we’d give this a go.

The Three Little Monkeys and the Big Bad Bull video

It took a lot of work, much more than any of us ever imagined at first, but I think it’s ended up worth it. They still enjoy watching it, which means it can’t be too bad!

As my brothers and I were planning the movie—figuring out which part each of us would play, deciding on the final plot, etc, one thing I wanted was to make sure we were all in it somewhere. With eight children in the family, that has the potential to be difficult to do! However, we all have an appearance somewhere, and even little sister managed to get in—she was playing on the floor for 2-3 seconds in one scene.

This is by no means a professional movie, but I hope you enjoy it at least as much as we did creating it and watching it together!

There is a short recipe in the video, showing you how to make ants on a log if you didn’t already know:

Take prewashed slices of celery, liberally spread with peanut butter, and put raisins on top for the “ants”. This makes a quick, easy, yet deliciously healthy snack!

Have you ever been an actor in a video? If not, have you ever wanted to?

–Esther

(Depending on your answer, I have an idea for another post about how we make movies and some things we’ve learned along the way!)

Favorite Family Dessert: Fruit Ripple Recipe (Video) | Khemists in the Kitchen, Episode 4

When was the last time you had something really fruity that gave you a melt-in-the-mouth experience? Something that was actually healthy to boot? Fruit ripple is the epitome of that, and our family loves this dessert on the rare days when my brother decides to give it to us!

Fruit Ripple Recipe

Originally, this recipe came from an Usborne children’s cookbook. Mom got it out of the library for me back when I was 9 or 10, and I loved it so much that I ended up buying my own copy, even though $15 seemed like a huge amount of money at the time! Our version is changed enough, though, that we think it’s probably okay to share.

Fruit Ripple Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of fruit (he used equal amounts of frozen bananas, plum halves, peaches, and black currants—we usually use whatever’s on hand at the time)
  • 1 cup greek yogurt
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • ¼ cup sugar, honey or a combination (we use a squirt or two of liquid Stevia)

Directions:
Pour fruit into a blender (may be easier to do in a food processor). Add the greek yogurt (may make the process a little easier if this goes in first). Add sweetener, and blend well—should end up with something resembling a very thick smoothie.

Whip the cream, adding a bit of sweetener there as well. Whip it to a good amount of thickness. (Maybe a little thicker than in the video—our cream wasn’t obeying!) Pour into a serving bowl, and then carefully fold the fruit mixture in with the cream.

Store in the fridge to set a little more, until you’re ready to eat it. We put it in the freezer most of the time, and usually it isn’t a problem—except when we forget about it, and then it turns into something like ice cream.

Ever had a dessert similar to fruit ripple before? What is your favorite kind of an easy-to-make dessert?

How to Make Eggnog (Recipe Video) | Khemists in the Kitchen, Episode 3

There’s a bit of a story behind this one…my brother came up with the idea for sharing how to make eggnog one day, but for several days we couldn’t make it because I was working. Finally, we were able to do it—but due to poor planning, and acting-as-you-go, the first take turned out pretty terrible. (I laughed while videoing at one stage! Bad, bad videographer!)

For a while, he was okay with the result, but then decided it should be better if we were going to share it with anyone. Below is the second version, much better than the first.

Be warned: The first 4 min, 40 sec is slightly gross, so if you have a weak stomach I suggest you skip it. It’s not bad, but it does contain rotten eggs and other like disgusting stuff. Bear in mind that the first half is and was supposed to be a spoof, and you should be okay.

Eggnog Recipe (the good kind):

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg (as fresh as possible—we use our own eggs, preferably laid that day)
  • pour in milk up to the 1 cup mark on your blender
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • a few drops of vanilla extract
  • a couple (slight) shakes of nutmeg

Directions:
Add together in blender, and blend well. Pour into glasses and enjoy!

We make this occasionally now that the boys have discovered how simple it is to make and how yummy it tastes! Usually, we replace the sugar with stevia, because that’s better for us. However, sugar works well too.

Have you had eggnog before? What was your impression of the drink?

Our Favorite Snacks (Recipe Video) | Khemists in the Kitchen, Episode 2

Hello, again! Today, I’d like to share our family’s two most favorite snacks. These are eaten a lot around here—as in, almost everyone has one kind or the other each day.

Our Favorite Snacks Recipe (Video)

The nice thing about these is that they’re simple enough that with a little supervision, my six-year-old brother can make them himself! He thought he’d like to show you how to do it, too.

First, he shows how to make Cheese Bread.

Ingredients:

  • A piece of toast (can be untoasted—works either way)
  • Mayonnaise
  • Slice of cheese
  • Optional: Prepared mustard

Directions:
Take a piece of toast, spread on a thin layer of mayonnaise, lay a slice of cheese on top, and grill for a minute or two until the cheese has melted. Optionally serve it with prepared mustard—some of us like it that way, and others don’t.

Then, he shows how to make Cinnamon Toast.

Ingredients:

  • A piece of toast (can be untoasted—works either way)
  • Butter
  • Cinnamon sugar (we usually mix ¼ part cinnamon with ¾ parts sugar)

Directions:
Take a piece of toast, spread on a layer of butter (thickness depends on preference), sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top, and grill for a minute or two until the butter has melted.

These two are super-easy, but very yummy! Sometimes, instead of putting cheese on the cheese bread, we’ll slice fresh tomatoes onto the mayonnaise and sprinkle some salt and pepper on top. That, too, is a delicious, easy snack!

Over to you: Do you usually have a mid-afternoon snack? What are some of your favorite snacks?

Rice and Tomato Soup Recipe (Video) | Khemists in the Kitchen, Episode 1

Want a  quick and easy, but fairly filling soup? This rice and tomato soup recipe is a great choice—and one our family loves!

A few months ago, a friend of mine reminded me of the attempted recipe video series I started about two years ago (in total, I made three videos). Since then, I’ve learned a little more about how I do things, and creating a recipe video every week is not one of those things I can continue very long.

However, since at the time I was planning a trip, I decided this would be fun to schedule while I was gone. The videoing was completed fairly quickly, the videos made—but I didn’t have time to write the blog posts. Sigh.

Here is the first installment now, made by yours truly with the help of my wonderful brothers.

Rice and Tomato Soup Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of cooked rice
  • 2 cups of whole tomatoes, with the juice (we use canned tomatoes)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • several good shakes of black pepper
  • slight sprinkle of cayenne powder (or chili powder, if you have it—please don’t do as much as in the film, unless you like things very spicy!)
  • crushed medium-sized clove of garlic

Directions:
Add everything together in a pot, and stir well. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, and serve with grated cheese. Enjoy! (And don’t burn your tongue!)

For our family (9 people, but some small children), we usually use about 6–8 cups of cooked rice, and about 2–3 quarts of tomatoes. The rest of the ingredients are put in according to the mood of the cook—some like it spicy, some don’t, some like a lot of garlic, some don’t, etc. It’s always a popular choice, often chosen for birthday meals around here!

As a way to add some quick protein to the meal, we’ll often bake sausages to go along with this. Maybe add a lettuce salad as well—usually does the trick to fill everyone up.

One interesting note on the origin of this recipe: We’re at least the third generation in our family to be making this. I showed this video to my grandma a while ago, and she said this is quite changed from when she had it as a girl. Her mom used to pull cold rice from the fridge, and dump some tinned tomatoes on top. So for her, simply heating it up is an improvement to the recipe! I’m not sure if I’ve even ever had it cold.

Hope your family will enjoy this simple, but delicious dish! And next week I’ll share another favorite family food!

Over to you: Have you ever had rice and tomato soup? If you have, was it made about the same way? If you haven’t, do you think you’d enjoy it?

How to Create Effective Incentives for School Work

Sometimes, it is hard to get school done. Almost as hard as pulling hen’s teeth. This is where incentives for school work are needed—with simple rewards, your students can learn to work faster and harder.

Near the beginning of the school year, for a week or so anyway, it’s fairly easy to get the work done fast. Past the first month or so, the momentum starts to slow down—until it’s only a fraction of the original speed, and we’re all tired of how long it’s taking to get anything done.

How to Create Effective Incentives for School Work

Photo courtesy of Pixabay/Hebi65 | License: CC0 1.0

A few years ago, after seeing how slow we were going, Mom decided to implement a rewards system where if we got a prescribed amount of work done by lunch time then we could get a treat. It worked—and we used the system for several months, before we all got tired of eating the same reward every day.

Three Ways to Create Incentives:

  1. Find simple rewards. They don’t have to be very fancy—they just have to be effective. For a while, we were using simple peanut butter balls (see recipe below). Everyone who got done in time received a peanut butter ball, and those who didn’t just missed out.
  2. Find simple consequences. Sometimes, a child does not get his work done no matter how many rewarding incentives you give them. For example, say a child is way behind on his math. Since he is so far behind, and not catching up—even though he could have easily finished within an hour or two—a simple consequence could be digging a bucket of potatoes the next day for Mom if he doesn’t get done by a certain time. This is an easy enough chore, usually done in fifteen minutes or so.
    (Note: I am not encouraging enforced labor simply because a chore is not done in time. This kind of incentive is only used when there is an ongoing problem, and when the student can easily catch up by applying himself.)
  3. Create heavier-duty rewards for habits. Recently, Mom has been trying to teach my brothers some life-long habits. Instead of just telling them to work on them, she decided to help them keep track of how they’re doing. Each day they successfully complete a job associated with the habit, they earn 5¢. Every day they miss, they lose 5¢.

Consistency is a key to making incentives work. For busy Mothers, though, it is hard to remember who gets what reward.

One way Mom has combated this problem is by giving a universal reward to everyone. She also has a set consequence for those who particularly struggle. For example, one of my brothers loves to sleep outside. He is normally allowed to sleep outside, but on the days he doesn’t finish his school work in time he has to sleep inside. This is a very simple consequence, but most of the time it does the job—his work gets done early.

Peanut Butter Balls RecipePeanut Butter Balls Recipe

  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • ¼ cup dessicated coconut (+ some to coat balls in)
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 1 tsp. honey (or other sweetener)

Mix well, roll into roughly 1″ balls, roll in coconut.

For variations: I’ve sometimes added cocoa powder, or cinnamon and cloves, to give different flavors. It is also possible to add vanilla, almond, caramel, or other essences to give different tastes. Chocolate chips and dried mixed fruit are good replacements for the raisins. Feel free to experiment—this is just the base recipe!

Even though the rewards for school work well done can be very small, they are effective. Mid-school blues are hard to push away, but by being creative, the work can become more fun again.

How have you used incentives before? Did they work?