March Break starts on the 13th, and parents who forgot to register for day camp are now racking their brains for ways to keep the kids happily occupied all week. Here on the East Coast, we had a dress rehearsal for the break in mid-February when a winter’s worth of snow got dumped on us over several days, cancelling school and releasing an avalanche of “What are we doing today?” heard across the region. We should therefore be ready for the real break… but are we?
If you’re not headed out of town, and are taking a few vacation days yourself, I offer you the following food-related March Break activities sure to keep everyone’s blood sugar levels stable and moods pleasant.
Homemade slushies: This is the Maritimes, folks. We specialize in slush--that is, snow that semi-liquefies within a few hours to a few days of falling. I wanted to post a picture of happy kids in snowshoes vacationing in the sugar bush of Quebec or Vermont, pouring boiling maple syrup onto the deep, clean snow, and wrapping a popsicle stick around the resulting taffy, but who knows if we’ll get enough fresh snow over the break to do it?
(In case we do, here’s a link to Canadian Living’s website which explains the finer points of maple taffy making: http://www.canadianliving.com/food/baking-and-desserts/article/how-to-make-maple-syrup-taffy-pops)
In the meantime, it’s highly probable we’ll be getting slushed on for a portion of the next six weeks—check your forecast for lousy weather and leave a few clean pans on the back step where it can accumulate. Then bring inside, add slush to your blender with any combination of fresh or frozen fruit, or just fruit juice, and enjoy a healthy slushie that didn’t come from a gas station, and isn’t the colour of Windex.
Vinegar-baking soda volcano: Clean your drains while keeping the youngsters entertained! Place a quart-sized Mason (or other tall) jar in the kitchen sink and pour several tablespoons of baking soda in. Pour some white vinegar into a measuring cup and let your kid dump it on top of the soda. Watch for foam! Pouring a little bit of vinegar at a time will allow for multiple eruptions. For extra fun, give the kids a few vials of food colouring to add to the foam and get them to predict what eventual colours will be created by mixing different colours.
Backyard campfire: After the big storms in February, we pulled out our second-hand fire pit, cut up a few logs into kindling-sized pieces (to ensure a quick starting fire that wouldn’t make a bunch of neighbour-disturbing smoke), and turned the wintry backyard into a Scout camp-style cookout. We roasted wieners, made Smores, and warmed our toes until the last embers disappeared. Summer camping’s great and all, but fires feel even better in the cold! If you don’t have a fire pit, try a habachi, or even a propane BBQ.
March 17th and the eatin’ o’ the green: Saint Patrick’s Day falls during March Break so why not celebrate with a green food-themed Friday? See how many naturally-occurring green things you can include in the day’s meals and snacks. Some ideas: try adding a few spinach leaves to a smoothie made from bananas, milk/rice milk, and vanilla for your very own tribute to the Shamrock Shake, or whip up a pot of cream of broccoli soup with sautéed onion, cut up potato, broccoli, and veggie or chicken stock, all run through the blender. If your kids are partial to pasta (who isn’t?), rinse out that busy blender and make a green pesto using steamed spinach, sautéed onion, a couple of teaspoons of fresh lemon juice, fresh parsley, a pinch of salt, and one container of ricotta cheese. It will come out creamy, delicious, and light green—serve over hot pasta with a scrape of Parmesan on top. YUM!
Get ready to grow! If you garden, or would like to start growing your own veggies, get your kid to help you make a list of favourite varieties you’d like to include in this year’s patch. Consider buying from a local seed supplier like Annapolis Seeds (http://www.annapolisseeds.com) or Hope Seeds (http://www.hopeseed.com/home) both based in the Annapolis Valley. Most seeds can be ordered online; several weeks after placing your order, you will have the fun of getting your seeds in the mail.
If you’d like to get started right away, plan an outing to a garden centre like Halifax Seed, Bloom (of Hammonds Plains) or Lakeland Plant World (Dartmouth), where knowledgeable staff will help you find what you need. I take a therapeutic trip to a greenhouse every March to remind myself that spring is not far away.
Noodling around: Take a trip to the Bulk Barn or other food store with an expansive bulk section, and find the place where noodles live. Let your kid pick out 2 or 3 fun shapes (hopefully not obscene ones!) to go with that green pasta sauce you made! Shapes we’ve tried and loved: lobsters (coloured with beet juice), the leaning tower of Pisa, a Maine-based moose-grizzly bear- pine tree assortment, caterpillars, beetles, and worms.
Foodie dance party: Create a playlist of catchy tunes featuring food and get boogiein’. A few suggestions: “Cake by the Ocean,” “Brown Sugar” (classic Stones), and Bob Marley’s “Jammin’.”
A final couple of pieces of advice: If you’re going someplace warm this March Break, try not to infuriate the pale grubs you’re leaving behind by coming home tanned. And if you’re staying home and manage to make it through this list before the end of the week, there’s always Netflix!