It’s 4-H Day! That was the happy exclamation I was greeted with, this morning. Our nine-year-old is just beside herself about being able to participate in 4-H this summer. I was in 4-H throughout elementary and high school and our two older daughters participated in a local homeschooler’s 4-H club when they were young. I love the skills and confidence that 4-H fosters and I wanted our nine-year-old to have that experience, but as a one-car family with a craa–aa—aaaaa-zy schedule, I wasn’t too excited about trying to juggle transportation and other people’s schedules to make it happen. Solution? We started our own, small 4-H club with three of our daughter’s friends from church. It has been the absolute perfect solution to my dilemma.
We meet every Friday afternoon, at our house, and spend two hours learning things like how to run a business meeting (parliamentary procedure), how to cook and how to sew. Since the focus of our group is cooking and sewing, we picked the name Pots and Pins for our club. Being a 4-H leader is crazy fun! I’d forgotten that. My older girls were involved with an established group that already had leaders, so I didn’t do much with the meetings back then. But, back in high school, I was a Jr. Leader. I think I taught knitting. (lol I don’t think I can knit any more. Maybe it’s like riding a bicycle. :)) Anyway, I love watching the enthusiasm as the girls discover that they are capable of doing things they didn’t think they could do. I get to see dozens of those “light bulb” moments AND they are having fun. No one is making them do it and they WANT to come back. Cool!
At our first meeting, we talked about the food pyramid and then the assignment was to make something that would include items from several of the food groups at once. No one had a problem with the dairy, grains or meat, but I wish you could have seen their faces when I mentioned vegetables. Do you believe that NONE of them liked vegetables? lol We decided to make pizza pockets and I promised them that when they were done, if they didn’t like them, they didn’t have to eat them. Refrigerated biscuit dough made quick work of the necessary 5″ dough circle needed. We spread out a wide variety of toppings that included the pizza sauce, mini pepperoni, ham, bacon, sausage, grated mozzarella and parmesan, broccoli slaw, diced butternut squash, diced onion and diced red bell pepper. Everyone had to include at least one vegetable. Amazingly, they each selected at least two and one brave experimenter used all four — yup, butternut squash! No one was more pleased than me to see the smiling faces at the end of the project. Not only had they made them all by themselves, but they liked them — veggies and all.
At our meeting, today, we finished up our unit on the importance of nutrition in cooking and making good choices about the things we cook and eat. We learned about energy-boosting carbohydrates and the best sources for them. Then we mixed up some absolutely yummy granola bars, to reinforce the lesson. We started with the recipe from the 4-H manual and then learned about “doubling” (yay, fractions!!!) and how to make substitutions and variations in a recipe (we added coconut).
While the granola bars were baking, we also studied Vitamins A & C, what they do for our bodies and the foods where we can get them, naturally. We had a wide selection of yummy fruits to select from and made delicious fruit kabobs. Of course I forgot to even pick up my camera during the process, but they were beautifully colorful, full of nutrition and absolutely delicious! We used chunks of fresh pineapple, strawberries, kiwi, cantaloupe, green grapes and chunks of banana. Delish!
Our final lesson in the nutrition unit was a science experiment, the results of which will be discovered when we meet next Friday. To understand the importance of calcium in our diet and the important job it does for our bodies, we placed two chicken leg bones into quart jars — one in each jar. The control jar had 2 cups of water added to it and the jar with the variable, 2 cups of vinegar. It will be a dramatic illustration of the importance of a calcium-rich diet. The girls were also surprised to learn of all the non-dairy places they could get calcium in the food they eat, like kale, celery, almonds, spinach, sesame seeds, broccoli and others.
And last but not least, the finished granola bars. These were REALLY good and we’ll be making them again, for our family. I’m also very confident that just spreading the mixture loosely across the cookie sheet to bake it, and stirring it once during baking, would result in delicious granola cereal. The girls were delighted that they had created these yummy, soft and chewy granola bars all while learning the finer points of the chemistry of baking.
- 7 cups of rolled oats, toasted
- 2 cups of chopped nuts
- 2 cups raisins
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- 1⅔ cups butter, melted
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ¾ cup honey
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- To toast the oats, spread them across two cookie sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Toasted oats have a nutty flavor.
- Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.
- Divide the mixture evenly between two lightly greased, 15x10x1 jelly roll pans.
- Spread the mixture evenly across the pans, pressing firmly to help it start holding together. (If you're going to use it for cereal, just spread it lightly across the pans and stir it once, during the baking process.)
- Bake in a 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.
- Though they will smell absolutely wonderful, resist the urge to cut these while they're warm. It will cause them to crumble. When they have completely cooled, you will be able to cut them into bars.