Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sugar Rush!

It has been one awesome Saturday around here!  So much to share :)  First off, Happy National Artichoke Heart Day and Happy Maple Syrup Saturday.  We celebrated both around here with varying degrees of success.

We woke up this morning to find that Mother Nature wasn't quite finished with winter here in Farmington yet; another good inch plus of snow had fallen overnight.  So after a yummy breakfast of cinnamon toast we headed out to shovel and play in the snow.  The shoveling went very quickly and Grant decided to take the kiddos over to the sledding hill for a bit while I whipped up some artichoke goodness.

I'd been rather indifferent about what to make with the artichoke hearts.  Grant had told me a couple times he could 'take or leave' them and I wasn't sure how the kiddos would respond.  So with lunch I put together a nice artichoke spread that I warmed up and we had with chips and crackers.  Pretty good.

After lunch we let the kiddos in on the big surprise for the day - we were going Maple Syruping!  We drove up to Indian Springs Metropark and actually got to go into the woods and tap a maple tree!  We went to a little class on the history of maple syrup making (the kids really like seeing the tools the Native Americans had first used) and then a lesson on the maple tree itself.  Did you know that the branches on a maple tree actually grow directly opposite each other, as opposed to the alternating pattern of most trees?  We learned the four B's of picking a good maple tree for sap (branches, bark, buds and belly button) and how much sap it takes to make a gallon of syrup (40 gallons of sap translates to 1 gallon of syrup which is 60% sugar.  1 gallon of syrup then translates to 3 pieces of 100% maple candy.  Crazy, huh?).  We tapped an actual tree and then got to taste the sap as it came out of the tree.  Then they took us to the sugar hut where we got to taste the fresh maple syrup.  It is amazing how different it tastes than what passes for maple syrup off the shelf.  This was so much fun, the kids loved it and I would definitely go again.  The syrup season only runs for another couple of weeks (mostly during March) and the only place in the entire WORLD that produces maple trees is the mid-west and north-east. (Vermont is the largest producer, Michigan is in the top 5)

We came home to a dinner of Italian Artichoke Pasta and the same artichoke spread I made earlier spread on homemade bread and topped with some mozzarella cheese.  The kiddos loved the pasta, and Grant (as he had warmed me) was just OK with it.

After dinner I let the kiddos in on a secret - Grant and I had once caught a leprechaun.  Unfortunately, aforementioned leprechaun had no gold,  (Go figure, I catch a leprechaun and he's got nothing) but he did share his secret of how to make magic paint.  Noah was skeptical.  In fact, he told me he didn't believe me.  So we set out to show him.  They painted shamrocks and then dropped the secret ingredient on them and watched them fizz like crazy!  My skeptic was amazed.  "Oh my gosh, Mom, I totally believe you!"  Like I would like about something like catching a leprechaun, geesh!

So post-fizzing paint we got them off into the bathtub.  While they were soaking, wouldn't you know it one of those darn leprechauns danced his way through my kitchen!  And while I wasn't able to nab him this time, I did manage to snag a recipe and two boxes out of his back pocket.  It was a recipe for magic leprechaun candy!  I took it to read to the kiddos and shared with them how to make it magical; it had to be made the night before St. Patrick's Day and it required a three year old girl and a four year old boy.  Without missing a beat, Noah pipes up with "Oh mom, we can totally do that then!  We have that!  Awesome!"  (This is the point where I've officially earned cool mom status - magic paint and snagging the recipe for magic candy.  I am currently a Rock Star to both my kids)  So after we got them out of the tub we mixed up the candy and put it in the fridge overnight just like the recipe said.

I told you it was a crazy day!  Corned beef and cabbage tomorrow (duh!) and probably a few more leprechaun shenanigans and whatnot.  Until then... 

Cheese Artichoke Dip

 Ready to go pick out a maple trip to tap!

 Learning about the syrup making process

 These are the bags they put on the trees to harvest the sap

 Think we may have found a tree to tap!

 Noah got to carry the bag for the sap gathering

 Tapping the tree

 He was enthralled with the whole process

 Putting the tap (which is actually a special word that starts with an 's' that I can remember) into the tree

 Italian Artichoke Pasta

Artichoke Spread Bread

 First we had to paint the shamrocks

 Then add the secret liquid

 A believer is born!

 Our finished shamrocks

 Ready to make the leprechaun candy

 It needed a three year old girl and a four year old boy to shake it all up

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