Thomas & Friends Exhibit

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I am currently serving as a Smart Play Ambassador with the Minnesota Children’s Museum and each month we explore various topics and share the educational learning opportunities at the museum as well as apply it to our own lives.  This month we are talking about the STEM learning opportunities at the Thomas & Friends exhibit.

About STEM
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  This is an education topic widely discussed in social, academic and economic circles.  STEM skills are important being competitive in the worldwide economy. Wait? We are talking about our little kids right? The ones we just rationalized with about not putting their toothbrush in the toliet?  Yes, in actuality the earlier we start helping our children grow STEM thinking the better and I know, how crazy to think we are preparing these little people for the workforce! I just want the toys picked up!

From the Minnesota Children’s musuem, early childhood, STEM practices look like this:

  • Science: using senses to observe and events and phenomena, asking questions, seeking answers, describing properties
  • Technology: using tools and understanding their uses
  • Engineering: identifying problems, exploring options, designing solutions, manipulating outcomes
  • Math: gathering information, comparing sets, classifying objects, quantifying amounts

The new Thomas & Friends Explore the Rails exhibit was inspired by STEM-based thinking and practices.  It is also a great place to try out some of those 7Cs. You remember the 7Cs right? If you need a refresher check out my 7Cs post.  Now these 7Cs match up perfectly with STEM practices and thinking. Here are some examples from the museum:

  • Taking initiative, and creating and carrying out a plan to repair Percy’s wheels (Confidence and Critical Thinking).
  • Navigating differences of opinion and working with others to get Percy’s engine going (Collaboration and Control).
  • Seeing and experimenting with a multitude of routes on the one-of-a-kind train table (Creative Thinking).
  • Sharing thoughts and ideas with others while figuring out how to fit the luggage and cargo onto the train cars (Communication).
  • Developing eye-hand coordination and strengthening small muscles by opening doors, turning knobs, and sliding trains down the track in the special Tot Spot (Coordination).

Who knew so much learning and development was going on during play?  We recently checked out the exhibit with our almost five-year-old and two-year-old.  This is a perfect place for those ages.  Here are some of the activities our family enjoyed:

Thomas Exhibit Activities with Numbers

1. Fixing Percy’s broken wheel.
2. Checking out the train table.
3. Loading and sorting luggage on the train and riding.
4. Using wheels to load Percy’s coal box and get the steam going.
5. Playing in different spots of the train table including the center hole.
6. Exploring history of Thomas through video.
7. Climbing inside the cab of Thomas to explore buttons and levers.
8. Early Explorers area with blocks and toddler activities.
9. Pretend play as conductors, playing with the clocks and selling tickets.

Thomas & Friends Exhibit: http://www.mcm.org/visitor-information/visiting-exhibits/thomas/
Museum Hours: http://www.mcm.org/visitor-information/hours-parking-directions/
Exhibit open until September 21, 2014.
 

Have you checked out the Thomas & Friends exhibit-what did enjoy the most? If you haven’t checked it out, what do you think your kids will want to see? Tell me in the comments here on my blog or on my Facebook Page and I’ll pick one person on Thursday, August 21 to receive two free admission passes to the Minnesota Children’s museum.

MN State Fair New Foods 2014

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Friends, check this out, I was at the 2014 Minnesota State Fair before it even opened! I feel like such a lucky girl-not only did I get to check out some of the new exhibits, I got to sample some of the new 2014 State Fair Foods. I know you share in my passion and love for the Fair, I posted a picture of the foods I sampled and you went wild.  So here for you is a sneak peek at some of the new foods you’ll find at the fair this year and my review.

2014 New State Fair Foods

1.
Food: Pizza Tots
What is it: These handmade pizza tots combine sausage, pepperoni, mozzarella, seasonings and hash browns, and they are then dusted with Parmesan cheese and served with a side of pizza sauce.
Where to get it: Green Mill (West of the Family Fair Stage in Baldwin Park)
What I love: I remember drooling over these when the new fair food list was released.  Tater tots are on my favorite comfort foods list and oooh these are good, I even snuck some back to the office for my boss to try. A perfect blend of meaty pizza goodness and the comfort of buttery crisp tater tots. Green Mill, will you please put these on your regular menu?!?
2.
Food: Jello Salad Ice Cream
What is it: Inspired by the classic Minnesota potluck dessert (and served in church dining halls everywhere), this jello salad treat features a sweet cream base flavored with fresh lime juice, swirled with cranberry sauce and blended with marshmallows dipped in marshmallow crème.
Where to get it: Hamline Church Dining Hall (on Dan Patch Ave. near the Visitors Plaza)
What I love: This is the most “Minnesotan” food on the new foods list and do I love it? You betcha. Just like the Jello “salad” this ice cream offers a sweet creamy goodness complete with pops of mini marshmallows. Don’t just stop for dessert, the Hamline Church serves up some awesome meals, we love taking our family here for a moment of zen amid the chaos.
3.
Food: Iron Range Pierogies
What is it: An authentic Polish favorite, these deep-fried dumplings are stuffed with potatoes and cheddar cheese, topped with crispy onion strings and served with a zingy horsey sauce.
Where to get it: The Blue Barn (at the new West End Market)
What I love: Deep-fried dumplings-you had me at deep-fried. Well actually you had me at horsey sauce. I love these and plan to double-fist with the Blue Cheese and Corn Fritz-also being served at the Blue Barn this year.
4.
Food:Deep-Fried Lobster On-A-Stick
What is it:Canadian lobster pieces poached in butter, dipped in a corn batter, deep-fried and served with a spiced dipping sauce.
Where to get it: LuLu’s Public House
What I love: I’ve been made fun of by my in-laws far too many times about the way I crack my lobster. No more ridicule for this lobster-loving Minnesota girl! Fear not poor lobster crackers! No need to crack or peel, here we have a delicious juicy lobster tucked in a blanket of deep-fried goodness. If you are looking for me during the fair, you will find me on the deck of LuLu’s Public House eating this lobster and drinking a beer slushy-yes you read that right, start packing your state fair bags now!
5.
Food: Caribbean-Style Lobster Roll
What is it: Chilled lobster salad tossed in a citrus chipotle mayo seasoned with Caribbean flavors — including cayenne pepper, allspice and nutmeg — served on a soft buttered and grilled roll.
Where to get it: Cafe Caribe (on Carnes Ave. near Chambers St.)
What I love: Being married to a New Englander, I have been educated in the proper consistency of a lobsta roll. You have to have the right amount of the mayo and the bread toasting is key. Minnesotans get your mouths ready, this is it-this is what a lobsta roll should be.
6.
Food: Rustic Stuffed Scone
What is it: A savory, Parmesan-crusted, baked butter scone stuffed with all natural ham, Swiss, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, and a creamy house-made béchamel sauce.
Where to get it: French Meadow Bakery (on Carnes Avenue between Underwood St. and Nelson St.)
What I love: A buttery baked good stuffed with ham, cheese and béchamel sauce, yes please. Don’t just eat this for breakfast, you need this for brinner. Also, I learned they have a machine that is made for stuffing scones, that is amazing and I want to borrow it.
7.
Food: PB & J French Toast
What is it:The ever-popular peanut butter & jelly sandwich is fused with French toast, then sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with your choice of ham, bacon or sausage.
Where to get it: Robbinsdale OES Dining Hall (on Underwood St. next to FAN Central)
What I love: A simple kid’s sandwich gets a serious makeover here, folks.  This gooey sandwich was delicious and this isn’t just for the kids, adults make this a must-stop on your fair list. P.S. It comes with bacon, I think I might just peel open the sandwich and pop that inside!

I know this has you super pumped for the Fair, right? Ok, well hold onto your cowboy boots-I have an amazing giveaway for you! I’m giving one reader 2 tickets to the Tim McGraw Grandstand Concert (August 27, 2014) and 2 Minnesota State Fair Admission tickets. Follow the Rafflecopter directions and for a comment entry, tell me your about your favorite concert or a concert you saw at the Minnesota State Fair!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Minnesota State Fair provided this giveaway. Thank you!

A big thank you to Chris Noonan and the Minnesota State Fair for the opportunity to try the new foods and check out the State Fair before it opened.  I attended the sneak peek with an amazing group talented Minnesota women who love blogging and the Minnesota State Fair. Check out their blogs and support these awesome Minnesota Mamas:

Stuffed Steaks

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With the end of the summer looming, plain steaks and hamburgers become boring and everyone is ready for something new.  We recently had a dinner party with my husband’s coworkers and I wanted to do something on the grill and make it a little more fancy than burgers and brats but still affordable for our family with a large group.  Making stuffed steaks was a perfect way to offer a more high-end dinner option but make it affordable and unique.  This is very easy meal to assemble and prepare ahead of time.  You could also set out a variety of ingredients and have your guests choose their filling.  My favorite is the fig! Enjoy these last days of summer!

Click here to watch the August 15, 2014 segment of Twin Cities Live when I made this recipe.

Ingredients:
Chuck Tender Steaks
Steak seasoning or Salt and Pepper
See variations below for stuffing ingredients
Directions:
Preheat grill-temperature should reach between 350-400 for cooking.

On a large cutting board, tenderize the steaks with a large mallet.  Set aside.

For each steak prepare a 12X12 inch foil packet (large enough to secure steak inside).

Season each steak with salt and pepper, your favorite seasoning or seasonings noted below.  Place each tenderized steak inside a foil packet.

Variations:
Italian: Stuff each steak with sun dried tomatoes, fresh basil, Italian-blend shredded cheese and spinach. Rub steaks with garlic salt and Italian seasoning.

Blueberry: Stuff each steak with a Tablespoon of Blueberry preserves, shredded mozzarella cheese or cream cheese and spinach. Rub steaks with cinnamon and brown sugar.

Fig: Stuff each steak with a fig, halved and skin on, thin slices of Brie cheese, walnuts and fresh rosemary.

Cajun: Stuff each steak with Cajun curds and spicy sausage or pepperoni. Rub steak with Cajun seasoning.

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Once ingredients are placed on top of steak. Start rolling steak to keep stuffing ingredient securely inside. Enclose the steak with the foil. Double wrap in foil if using brown sugar rubs.

 

Cook steak packets on a grill with the temperature between 350-400.  If using charcoal, grill on indirect heat.  Cook steaks for 20 minutes or until desired temperature is reached (Medium is 140 and Well Done is 150).

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Southwestern Tater Tot Egg Bake

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This past weekend our whole family went to my sister in-law’s cabin in Northern Minnesota. The weekend was filled with cousins squealing and wild behavior, but amid the chaos, there was time boating, sitting by the fire and the adults even escaped during naptime (grandma watched the babes) for a tiki bar cocktail.  I came up with this recipe on Sunday morning of our weekend it was a perfect comfort food to end our family time.  This is a really simple breakfast or brinner recipe and perfect for a big crowd at the cabin!

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Ingredients:
1 package (32 ounces) Tater Tots, divided
12 Eggs
1/2 cup Milk
2 tsp of Your Favorite Seasoning (I like dry ranch mix)
1 can (15.5 ounces) Black Beans
1 can (15.5 ounces) Corn
2 cups Shredded Taco Blend Cheese, divided
1 package (9.6 ounces) Fully-Cooked Pork Sausage Links (12 links)
Garnish with sour cream, avocado and salsa.
Directions:
Preheat oven to 400.

Grease a 9X13 pan and place half the tater tots on the bottom of the pan.

In a large bowl beat eggs, milk and seasoning. Once combined, add beans, corn, 1 1/2 cups of cheese and sausage (slice into small pieces). Spoon mixture into the pan on top of the tater tots.

Top mixture with remaining tater tots and bake for 1 hour 20 minutes. Remove from oven and top with remaining cheese, return to oven and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Garnish with avocado, sour cream and your favorite salsa.

Makes 12 servings

Homemade Granola

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The other day, I posted a picture on my Facebook Page with three pictures asking readers what they thought my husband’s favorite recipe was.  Was it the Cider-Brined Pork Roast, the Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf drizzled with Ranch or was it the dark horse, my homemade granola? My father-in-law was quick to comment, “As one who has been married awhile I hope that he learned that there is only one answer-all of the above.”

Truthfully, this granola recipe is my husband’s most requested recipe. He asks me to make this all the time, year-round it doesn’t matter, he will eat this every day for breakfast.  When comments were coming in I was laughing and showed him the post, he said, “Well it would be the Pork Roast but the granola is a close second.” So here’s the recipe for a homemade granola that comes close to beating a pork roast! It is a very simple recipe and you can sub the oil, nut and fruit varieties for your favorite.

4 cups Old Fashioned Oats
2 cups Flaked or Shredded Coconut
3/4 cup Coconut Oil
1/2 cup Honey
1 cup Cashew Pieces
1 cup Sesame Honey Almonds (available at Trader Joe’s)
1 (8 ounce) bag Dried Berry Medley (available at Trader Joe’s)
1 (8 ounce) bag Golden Berry Blend (available at Trader Joe’s)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350.
In a large bowl, combine oats, coconut, oil, honey and nuts. Spread in a jelly roll pan lined with parchement paper and bake for 20 minutes, stir and return to the oven for another 20 minutes. Allow the granola to cool and add dried fruit.

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This is an adpated version of Ina Garten’s Homemade Granola.

Pistachio Salad

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Our family is headed out to our neighborhood National Night Out tonight and we’re bringing one of my very favorite potluck salads. It’s know by several different names-Pistachio Salad, Watergate Salad and just plain, “Green Salad.” It’s funny because it is about the furthest thing from a salad. It’s a Minnesota tradition and something I love bringing and eating at parties!

Ingredients:
4 (5.3 ounce) containers Chobani Pineapple Yogurt
2 (3.4 ounce) boxes Pistachio Pudding
1 (8 ounce) container Cool Whip
3 cups Mini Marshmallows
Cherries for garnish

Directions:

In a bowl, mix together the yogurt, pudding mix and cool whip.  Once combined, add mini marshmallows. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Garnish with cherries.

 

Pizza Waffles

Pizza Waffles - Alice Seuffert 1

It’s time to get excited!! The Minnesota State Fair is just around the corner (August 21-September 1). I LOVE the Minnesota State Fair. I love the food, the NEW food and I especially love entering the Creative Activities cooking and baking competitions. On the first day I attend the fair, the Creative Activities cooking area is the first place I go.  Do you love the fair as much as I do? After you read the recipe, scroll down to the end of this post to win a Family Pack to the Minnesota State Fair.
There are many different kinds of baking and cooking contests at the state fair and the entries are all displayed in glass cabinets in the Creative Activities Building.  This year will be my 7th year entering competitions at the Minnesota State Fair.  There are cookie, bread, pie, gluten-free, vegan, canning and corporate-sponsored contests at the fair.  You prepare the dish at home, follow the contest rules and recipe requirements and then bring it to the fair on the specified day.  The drop off day is almost as exciting as the first day I walk into the Creative Activities building when the fair first opens.

You can check out the competitions and register to compete online at: http://www.mnstatefair.org/competition/creative_activities.html

Deadline to Register: Tuesday, August 5 at 4:30pm.

Baking Drop Off: Saturday, August 16 between 11am-2pm.

This year Bisquick has a Quick Creations category and the 1st place prize is $200.  Last year I received second place in the Bisquick Family Favorites contest for my Pizza Waffles.

 

Alice Seuffert - Pizza Waffles

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:
2 cups Bisquick
1 ½ cups Whole Milk
2 TB Olive oil
1 Egg
1 tsp Garlic Salt
1 tsp Italian Seasoning
1/3 cup Fresh Parmesan Cheese (shaved)
1 ¼ cup Pizza Sauce
Pepperoni Minis (5 ounce package)
Fresh Mozzarella Pearls (8 ounce package)

Directions:
Preheat waffle iron.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine Bisquick, milk, olive oil, egg, garlic salt, Italian seasoning and parmesan.  Mix until combined and pour waffle mix into waffle maker that has been sprayed with nonstick spray.  Cook each waffle until golden brown.

Once waffles have been cooked, spread half of waffles with heated pizza sauce and top with pepperoni minis.  Top with remaining waffles and then cut each pizza sandwich into four pieces.  Top with fresh mozzarella pearls and heat in microwave or toaster oven to melt cheese.

Serves 5
a Rafflecopter giveaway

The MN State Fair and Blue Ribbon Group provided the items for this giveaway. Thanks!

Southwestern Pasta Salad

Southwestern Pasta Salad

Click here to watch when I made this recipe on Twin Cities Live on July 16, 2014.

Ingredients:
1 lb. Radiatore Pasta (cook according to package directions)
2 cups Chicken (cooked and chopped)
15-ounce can of Corn
15-ounce can of Black Beans
5 ounces Queso Fresco Cheese (crumbled)
1 cup Mexican Blend Cheese (shredded)
¼ cup Cilantro (chopped)
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes (sliced)
1 Avocado
1 16-ounce bottle of Fiesta Salsa Ranch Dressing
2 TB Taco Seasoning
Corn Chips for Garnish

Directions:
Combine all ingredients and toss with dressing and taco seasoning. Chill before serving. Garnish with corn chips.

Serves 10-12

Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad

Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad

Click here to watch when I made this recipe on Twin Cities Live on July 16, 2014.

Ingredients:
1 lb. Cavatappi Pasta (cook according to package directions)
2 cups Chicken (cooked and chopped)
5 ounces Blue Cheese (crumbled)
10 ounces Carrots (shredded)
2 cups Celery (chopped)
¼ cup Bacon pieces (cooked)
¼ cup Green Onions (chopped)
1 cup Kale (chopped)
1 cup Ranch Dressing
¼ cup Buffalo Wing Sauce

Directions:
Combine all ingredients and toss with dressing and wing sauce. Chill before serving.

Serves 10-12

Asian Pasta Salad

Asian Pasta Salad

Click here to watch when I made this recipe on Twin Cities Live on July 16, 2014.

Ingredients:
1 lb. Angel Hair Pasta (cooked according to package directions)
2 cups Chicken (cooked and chopped)
15-ounce can of Mandarin Oranges
¼ cup Cilantro (chopped)
¼ cup Green Onion (sliced)
1 cup Broccoli Slaw
1 cup Snow Peas (sliced)
4 ounces Water Chesnuts
¾ cup Peanut Sauce (House of Tang-Bangkok)
½ cup Asian Orange Sauce/Glaze
¼ cup Cashews (I like Sahale Snacks’ Sing Buri)

Directions:
Combine all ingredients and toss with Peanut and Orange Sauces. Chill before serving. Garnish with cashews.

Serves 10-12