Unexpected

We love playing outdoors in the winter. Compared to the warmer seasons our winter walks are shorter as is our total time outdoors but we still manage to spend 1-2 hours playing outdoors everyday.

In the winter there are no ‘toys’ in the yard – most break easily in the cold. Of course we still have sticks, pots, and the ultimate loose part – SNOW! I also routinely make various ice blocks for building, collecting and sorting. It is the perfect activity for frigid cold winters.

small coloured blocks of ice

With the addition of liquid watercolour paint to the water before freezing these blocks add a nice pop of colour to the yard. Sometimes I freeze dozens of trays full of coloured ice cubes and scatter them all over the yard. It is best done just before a snowfall because the children love hunting and digging for ‘gems’.

This year I decided to make some bigger ice blocks using both ice cream pails and square containers. I imagined the children may enjoy using them for stepping stones – they love the slippery spots in the yard. I also figured with bigger blocks they could build bigger structures than they could with small ice blocks. The gross motor skills required for manipulating the large blocks would be a bonus.

ice blocks and pails

The result was unexpected. The combination of the large containers and the above normal January temperatures meant the blocks took longer to freeze – I expected that. What I didn’t expect was that the liquid watercolour would separate from the water during freezing and even disappear completely!

green circular block of ice

Only four of the ten blocks remained intact when I removed them from the containers. The other ones were fragile because they were hollow! That was certainly unexpected and why it happened I do not know.

hollow round ice block

The centers of these hollow ice blocks were not wet and any colour that remained was a fine powdery texture. It was like, once the liquid watercolour paint separated from the tap water, the liquid part of the paint evaporated. How that was possible confuses me – the tops of all the blocks are solid thick ice – the bottoms are the thin delicate parts that shatter when touched to reveal the hollow centers.

hollow square ice block

Well that was unexpected and I still wanted some usable ice blocks so I filled all the containers with water again. I decided to not use any liquid water colour paint this time but I wanted something to make the ice blocks stand out a little in the snow. I found an old bag of potpourri and tossed a few pieces in each bucket. Interestingly, the next day the water had turned a nice shade of red,

containers full or red water

However, after four days outside, in the shade, in January, there is only a thin partial layer of ice on the surface of each bucket of water. How is it possible that in Manitoba I cannot freeze water outside in January?

That is unexpected.

Hamburger Tarts

When discussing menu items in my childcare home ‘favourites’ can be defined in many ways. It could be a meal that all of the children eat at least some of and no one refuses to eat. It could also mean that some of the children really enjoy it and consistently ask for seconds but there may be one or two children who barely eat any at all. After all, not everyone likes the same things.

Sometimes it may be defined as one of my favourite things to make because it either doesn’t require a lot of work or it can be prepared well in advance and baked for lunch. I always prefer meals that don’t add to the already busy lunch time – between returning from outdoors and getting ready for nap time there is already a lot to do without including food prep.

Hamburger Tarts are one of the items that tick a lot of boxes. They require a bit of fairly easy prep early in the morning before the children arrive and then bake a bit just before we come in from outside. Most of the children like them – some don’t – some ask for seconds. Personally I find them addictive and left unchecked I could wipe out the whole batch because seriously – bread, meat and cheese is really just like pizza which I could eat all day every day.

This is the ‘original’ recipe which of course I only use as a starting point and then modify – a lot.

First of all, I don’t fiddle with cutting crusts (best part) off bread, buttering the slices and pressing them into muffin tins to essentially make more crusts. I use yummy brioche buns, placed upside down in a 9×13 pan, and hollowed out (keep for free bread crumbs). I have also tried this step using scratch made bread dough pressed in the pan and using a cup to make 12 indents for filling – good too but it requires much more effort and time and most of the children prefer the brioche buns

For the filling I do saute the onion and lean ground beef though I use much more than half an onion – more like one very large or two medium and very well cooked before adding the beef. One lb of ground beef will fill 12 buns. I never use the yucky mushroom soup – usually tomato soup or cheddar cheese soup.

I add all the saved ‘bread crumbs’ from the buns, eggs, and ketchup as well as some mustard and BBQ sauce too. I don’t usually grate the cheddar cheese to add to the filling. To save time I most often just place a thick square slice of cheddar in the bottom of each bun cup before filling with the meat mixture. At this point I cover with foil and refrigerate until closer to lunch time then bake covered at 325F for about an hour to heat through. Uncover for the last bit of time to brown a little without drying out.

Serve with salad or coleslaw – pick them up and eat like a burger or cut them up and use a fork (not as fun) – Mmmmm good.