Elder is an incredibly useful plant with a long history of use. Having a vast multitude of actions, elder is useful for a wide array of ailments. Perhaps elder is best known for it’s ability to treat colds and flus. Elder flowers and berries are the mostly widely known and indeed are the safest parts of the elder plant.Read More
Here is one of my favorite ways to add moisture to the air in my home while also cleansing the air. It is crazy, silly simple and I set this up any time the air just feels to dry (like it does right this second here in Colorado) or when some one in my family seems on the edge of getting sick.Read More
It's An Artistic Expression...
Ok, so I am not into candy, like at all. Well, unless it is dark chocolate. And while I don't stop my kids from having an occasional munch, I certainly don't promote it. What I am into is kids doing lots of fun art, expressing themselves and getting lost in the enchantment of their own imagination. Cooking with kids and getting them inspired about food is also big on my list. So when I found out about the gingerbread house making birthday parties offered at a wonderful local cooking school, I had to jump on the chance for my little one's sixth birthday party. She loves to cook and create so I knew this would be a great opportunity for her.
This is not only review of a very fun educational place in Boulder, Colorado, it is also a sharing of a very fun time with lots of great ideas for making your own wonderful gingerbread houses! At the bottom of this post are links to more great ideas for making a healthy gingerbread house. Stir It Up Cooking School offers fun, exciting cooking classes, parties and camps for kids in a homey loving atmosphere. It is a school of great imagination and fun! If you are in the Boulder area and looking for some cooking fun, I highly recommend you look up this great school!
We had her party late in the season last year and I have waited this whole time with oodles of great pictures to share and all the fun of the day as well.
Sue, who was the amazing woman who ran V's party, did a great job keeping the kids busy and engaged that whole time. She started the party by having the kiddos make quesadillas and ice cream from scratch to have as a snack after all their hard work. The kids each learned how to grate cheese and used cookie cutters to create a shape in the top of their quesadilla. Then they quickly whipped up some wonderful ice cream and everyone watch enchanted as Sue filled up the ice cream maker.
Next they were on to making their houses. Sue had baked up some simply lovely gingerbread house pieces which smelled heavenly. The kids took off with painting their roofs.
After the kids finished painting their roofs of course they needed to make Christmas trees to put inside their houses. What do you use for trees? Ice cream cones! Painted green, decorated and placed pointy side up, ice cream cones make the perfect tree.
Next the houses came out which were all pre-assembled on little cake cardboard rounds. Excellent instructions were given to the kids on how to use a pastry bag for decorating. Finally came the candies with many wonderfully creative ideas of how to use them. The frosting made the perfect glue for decorating. I was so impressed by Sue's imagination, she had lots of fun ideas for using the candies.
Pretzel waffley things glued together became cozy chairs for gummy bears seated around the tree. Outside the house two little ducks swim in a pond.
Notice the presents?
V helps Sue put her roof on her house.
The class was so engaging that aside from frosting licked off fingers, no candy eating really happened except a stray piece here and there. And once we were home the houses were just to pretty to eat. So I guess the kids really did create a piece of art work after all. And most important, they had an absolute blast!
Looking for some healthy gingerbread house alternatives to make at home?
Here is what I found so far:
Eat Chic Chicago shows how to make a beautifully decorated house with nuts and dried fruit.
Simply Home Making Another fun house with lots of ideas. Also great pictures with instructions on how to bake the pieces for a house. My favorite part is the popcorn roof with a whiff of popcorn smoke coming from the chimney.
Medomak Family Camp has ideas for a sweet little house and plus more great instructional pics.
Cooking Matters offers lots of fun ideas to use with a graham cracker base.
As a preschool teacher and a parent, I am always on the look out for ways to help kids learn about staying healthy during cold and flu season. So every year, just like I do at home, I make elderberry syrup with the kids at preschool.Read More
Nature has blessed us with so much. Looking to Nature we can find a multitude of amazing plant allies that can help the whole family stay nourished and healthy during the winter months. A favorite is elder berry which has an extensive traditional use as a preventative for the flu and as a support during the flu. In fact modern research has found elderberries to be active against the flu virus. You can easily make a yummy syrup from elderberries to take on a regular basis during flu season. This is something that most kids really enjoy taking which is a major plus! If you don't want to make your own syrup a ready-made preparation of elderberry Sambucol can be purchased at most natural food stores. And if despite your best efforts, sickness should take hold, syrups can be used during a bout of the flu to hasten healing.
We make the following easy delicious recipe for syrup every year.
~ Elderberry Syrup ~
- One cup of fresh or ½ cup of dried elderberries
- 1 to 2 tsp of whole cloves (use less if you are using ground cloves)
- 1 to 3 tsp of cinnamon chips (use less if you are using ground cinnamon)
- 1 inch of fresh ginger root, chopped
- the peel of one organic orange
- 3/4 cup of raw unprocessed honey which acts as a preservative and enhances flavor
- 3 cups of water
Directions: Simmer the elderberries and spices in 3 cups of water. Once the berries have softened smash up the berries and spices in the water. This is a fun part to have children help with. I use a potato masher and closely supervise my kids while the squish away to their hearts delight! Cook at a low boil for about a ½ hour or until the liquid reduces by one-half. Strain the mixture with a fine mesh strainer. Make sure to get all the seeds out, which can be somewhat irritating to the digestive tract. Return the liquid to the pot and add the honey. Heat until the honey just melts. Then bottle, label (include the date!) and refrigerate your new syrup. It will keep in the refrigerator for about three months. Take 2 to 3 teaspoons for adults and 1 teaspoon for children (ages 2 and up) 3 to 5 times a week as a prophylactic during flu season. If you do happen to get sick with a bout of the flu take the same dosage about four times per day. Only the blue elderberries (Sambucus nigra) should be used as the red ones are toxic. Elderberries are generally considered to be quite safe though they can be drying and irritating for folks suffering from migraines. If you have a reaction, stop taking it immediately.
Recipe and information from Brigitte Mars's Elder.
A highly knowledgeable herbalist, Brigitte Mars lovingly offers her treasure trove of information for us to all learn from. Her classes are lively, fun and interesting. Her books offer an extremely valuable resource to those wishing to study herbs and learn about healthy living.
Make your syrup special
The spices included in this recipe not only make it taste delicious but also help to warm the body, decrease inflammation and support healthy digestion. Other herbs can be added to this syrup to increase its protective properties. Rose hips are soothing and will provide nourishing vitamin C and bioflavonoids. Astragalus has long been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a tonic to the immune system particularly to prevent illness. However, this herb should not be used during illness as it can drive infection deeper into the body. So do not take astragalus during the flu or cold. A great herb for children’s health is lemon balm. This yummy plant is antibacterial and antiviral, while also calming the digestive and easing nervous energy. Add any of these herbs by the handful to the pot with the elderberries be sure to also add a little extra water during the simmering and a bit more honey.