Thursday, September 30, 2010

Turn rice into entertainment: DIY I Spy Toy

A bit of a departure from the recipes today--although rice is featured!

If you don't already know the wonder that is an I Spy toy, allow me to introduce you. It is a small container--often a fabric pouch, here a bottle--filled with trinkets and poly pellets or another sort of filler. As you turn the container around the trinkets shift about and come into view for you to spy. A simple toy, but one that's oddly addicting. They're great for waiting rooms and car rides--any place a kid needs some distraction but can't run around.

There are some gorgeous handmade fabric I Spy bags out there that I've picked up as gifts in the past (my favorites are here). But I thought I'd try my hand at a cheap and easy homemade version. As it turns out, it's not hard at all to make your own I Spy toy.

You probably have everything you need already: an empty plastic bottle (it could be glass if your kids are older), rice, and a handful of tiny trinkets.

Start by gathering up whatever toy bits and other interesting small items you can find around the house. Just the floatsam and jetsam of a home with kids: the solo Barbie shoes, odd stickers, and lost buttons that sink to the bottom of the toy bin or hide beneath the couch. They only need to be small and lightweight. Heavier items--even something like a penny--tend to get stuck in the center of the bottle, which doesn't make for a very interesting spy hunt.

Next, take inventory of what you're hiding. My kids don't read yet, so I arranged the trinkets on a white sheet of paper and snapped a photo. Later I printed a wallet-size version and hung it from the neck of the bottle for them to use as a guide. For readers, you could just jot down a list of items.

Here you can see the sorts of things that went into our I Spy: a guitar pick, alphabet-shaped pasta, pony beads, paper clip, hair clips, a dry pinto bean and the missing head of a Lego guy. I used 24 items total.

Drop the trinkets into the bottle (in our case, a Vitamin Water bottle) and fill it not quite full of rice. The headspace at the top is important, to give the rice room to move about and reveal the treasures. (I think I even ended up pouring a little more of the rice out after this picture was taken.) If you're worried about kids unscrewing the lid, add a bit of glue under the cap as you seal it up.

Now you're ready to hunt! Tip, roll, and shake the bottle to make the treasures appear.

You can adjust the number of trinkets or the size of the bottle for older kids who are up for more of a challenge. The lower the trinket-to-rice ratio, the harder it is to spot one.

It was a perfect distraction on our recent long car trip. An adult would call out a treasure from the card for The Boy to find. Or sometimes he would just hunt on his own and excitedly report on things he spotted. The Girl mostly appreciated it as a musical shaker, but anything that occupied the kids was fine with us!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Zucchini-Crusted Pizza

I'd been holding on to this recipe for months, waiting for zucchini season to roll around. Zucchini-crusted pizza? So intriguing! I imagined the traditional bready crust with bits of zucchini poking through.

It turned out to be much different--which I would have realized if I had actually, you know, read the recipe before I started. What a concept!

It was more akin to a quiche. A quiche with pizza toppings. I know, right? The ingredients were simple:

Grated zucchini +
beaten eggs +
flour +
grated mozzarella + parmesan
We also added some fresh basil. I spread the batter into a tart pan, but a pie pan would work equally well.

We baked it around half an hour until golden brown. Then squinted a bit at the finished product, decided, "Sure, why not use it as a pizza crust," covered with our favorite toppings and returned to the oven until cheese was melted and the toppings were heated through.

It may not have been what I was expecting, but it was tasty. Much richer than our usual pizzas, to be sure. But it definitely worked a lot of zucchini into our meal and even earned The Boy's seal of approval!

Recipe below; printable version here.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Two great deals to share with you on some of my favorite things:

Sunset--part shelter mag, part travel mag, part food mag--was my way to keep Pacific Northwest homesickness at bay when I was living in California. The featured homes are gorgeous and the recipes are always spot on; a good number of the ones featured here come from Sunset's online recipe library. A one-year subscription is just $5 right now at Amazon!

Oxo--makers of well-designed household gadgets galore--has a new website and its celebrating with a sale. We have more Oxo gadgets in our kitchen than I'm probably willing to admit. But they are all well-used and appreciated, especially the mango splitterstrawberry huller, and food mill. And my itsy bitsy mini measuring cup, which measures liquids by the tablespoon. Use coupon code OXONEW through 9/26 for 15% off and free shipping on all orders. Can anyone say "stocking stuffers"?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Watermelon Popsicles

The warm weather came back for one last September fling, so the kids and I decided to make our own watermelon popsicles.

We started with some yellow watermelon we had on hand. The kids get cutely excited about yellow watermelon. It tastes just like pink! But it's yellow!

We chopped up the melon and ran it through our food mill to purée and remove the seeds. You could also just start with a seedless melon or work with a strainer. The Boy enjoys the food mill--much less scary loud than a food processor and you get to crank the handle.

After adding a spash of lime juice, we poured it into the popsicle molds. A few hours in the freezer and we were done!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ridiculously Easy Peach Crisp

This dessert comes together crazy fast, satisfies the urge for a warm sweet treat, and dirties just the baking dish and a paring knife.

Fill a baking dish with sliced,
peeled peaches
Sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon
and lemon juice

Cover with crumbled gingersnaps
Bake and you're done!

Recipe below or printable version here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Herbed Potato Salad with Green Beans and Tomatoes

You'll have to use your imagination a bit for the photo above. Instead of the slightly overcooked potato lumps, picture firm red potatoes tossed with tomatoes, beans and basil. Now, doesn't that look tasty?

Despite the smushy potatoes it was still delicious. Our produce box had potatoes, beans, basil and tomatoes the other week and this was a wonderful way to combine them: the fresh veggie flavors overlaid with basil and the slightest bit of vinegar tang. A great salad to squeeze in to those final sunny September barbeques.

Recipe below; printable version here.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Impulse purchase

I ask you, how could I pass up something this adorable? How?

I've already grated a wee bit of cheese for a lunchtime garnish. Too. Cute.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Zucchini Cookies

I probably shouldn't admit this but when I see a bowl of freshly grated zucchini...

...I don't think, "What a tasty, healthy vegetable!" I think, "Oh, tasty, sugary baked goods!" Like zuchhini bread. And zucchini cake. And these awesome zucchini cookies.

The recipe include chocolate chips and walnuts and coconut. (It calls for raisins, too, but I would never sully such yumminess with horrid raisins.) They freeze well and can be eaten nearly straight from freezer. (Not that I would ever do that. Ahem.)

Recipe below; printable version here.

Related Posts with Thumbnails