Homeschool cooking: Confetti pasta salad

It took my student, Kennedy, just under 5 minutes to put this colorful beauty together. Her comments after lunch, “This is delicious! I’m gonna tell my mom to make Confetti pasta for dinner.”



  • 16 oz. Pkg. Bowtie pasta (cooked, rinsed, and drained)
  • Large bag (40 oz.) mixed vegetables (cooked, rinsed, and drained)
  • 2 large cans tuna packed in water (drained)
  • 16-oz bottle fat-free Italian salad dressing
  1. Mix together
  2. Refrigerate til cold
  3. Serve

Eezzy peezy

Homeschool cooking: Rainbow salad… nutritional benefits, lesson plans, and recipes to encourage healthier kids

Examples of Fruit and Vegetable Fact SheetsFirst, the freebies:

  • The University of Nebraska has a great FREE resource of fruit and vegetable fact sheets that parents and teachers can download and share with their children.
  • SuperKids Nutrition Inc. in partnership with the American Institute for Cancer Research, has a great lesson that focuses on the benefits of eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.
    Students will discuss the health benefits of different colored fruits and vegetables to better understand how they help them to grow strong and healthy. Students will have the opportunity to prepare a Carrot Slaw with Pineapple, Apples and Almonds and learn how a salad made of fruits and vegetables can help them fight off disease.
  • Care connection has some great resources including puzzles, and games such as Vegetable bingo. Seriously, if you teach Health and Nutrition to children, download this resource. It’s called, Colors of Food.


As for today’s lunch at the TAMS and ED home front, we taught our students that just like that wonderful pot of gold at the end of every rainbow, a Rainbow salad leads to a gold mine of healthy eating options for them. Rainbow salads generate fun and excitement. They provide us with a great way to introduce kids to new fruits and vegetables. And, because every color of fruit and vegetable contains a different set of phytonutrients, Rainbow salads should be a regular on your lunch and dinner lineup. It’s important to eat from every color of the rainbow to get a broad spectrum of nutrition.


Whenever my students build their Rainbow salads, I have one rule: Try something in every color. Today’s salad bar consisted of purple cabbage, blueberries, green lettuce, celery, and cucumbers, yellow squash, orange carrots and cantaloupe, red radishes and tomatoes. I also allowed them to top off with a dollop of tuna salad. Here is the nutritional breakdown of those fruits and veggies:


  • PURPLE CABBAGE: Purple cabbage is high in fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin A. A 1-cup serving of chopped purple cabbage provides 2 grams of fiber, or 8 percent of the 25-gram daily value as recommended by the Food and Drug Administration. The potassium content in 1 cup of chopped purple cabbage is 216 milligrams. Potassium keeps your body’s fluid level from fluctuating to unhealthy volumes, and the Institute of Medicine recommends consuming 4.700 milligrams a day to maintain healthy blood pressure levels. Potassium also prevents heart muscle stress by supporting the contraction that fuels your heartbeat.


  • BLUEBERRIES: Blueberries help promote urinary tract health, protect against aging-related eye problems, helps keep memory sharp, and being rich in fiber, is also beneficial for constipation and digestion.


  • CELERY is a rich source of folic acid, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin-C, which are essential for optimum metabolism.  It’s also an excellent source of vitamin K, which helps increase bone mass by promoting osteotrophic activity in the bones.
  • LETTUCE: Vitamins in lettuce are varied and plentiful. It’s an excellent source of several Vitamin A and beta carotene.  Vitamin A is required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin, and is also essential for vision. Beta carotene aids the process. Lettuce is also a rich source of vitamin K, which is essential to the development of bone mass.
  • CUCUMBERS: Cucumbers are high in potassium. They contain unique anti-oxidant compounds that help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals.  Because of their high water content, cucumbers also have mild diuretic property, which helps in checking weight gain and high blood pressure.  Last, they have a high amount of vitamin K, which has been found to have a potential role in promoting bone mass and strength.


  • Yellow squash is an excellent source of vitamin C, magnesium, vitamin A , fiber, folate, copper, riboflavin and phosphorus. It is also abundant in potassium, which is a key electrolyte in the balance of fluids and also provides muscle energy.  It’s also high in manganese, a mineral which helps the body process fats, carbohydrates, and glucose.


  • Carrots are root plants that are rich in carotenes that convert into vitamin A in the liver cells. Beta-carotene is the major carotene present in these roots. Beta carotene is one of the powerful natural anti-oxidant that helps protect human body from harmful oxygen-free radical injury. In addition, it also carries out all the functions of vitamin-A such as maintaining good eye health, reproduction (sperm production), maintenance of epithelial integrity, growth and development.


  • This sweet melon is fat free, cholesterol free, sodium free, packed with vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin A. Nuff said. 


  • Radishes are cruciferous root vegetables that are rich in anti-oxidents. A word of advice. Once you bring your radishes home, cut off the green tops as they rob the radish of essential vitamins and minersals.


  • Tomatoes are in the fruit family, but they are served and prepared as a vegetable. They are one of the most popular vegetables eaten by Americans. They can be eaten raw or cooked (baked, stewed, grilled or stir-fried). They are wonderful to eat alone. Many Americans add tomatoes to salads and sandwiches. soups, salsas and sauces. Tomato sauce is used in many pasta dishes such as spaghetti and on pizza. Ketchup is made from tomatoes. They are fat free, cholesterol free, and a good source of vitamins A and C.


Homeschool cooking: Brazillian empadinhas

Empanadas are a delicious change from the ordinary, everyday sandwich. Moreover, if you pack your child’s lunch box with a few empanadas, rice; black beans, and a few plantains, your child will enjoy a healthy and tasty meal made of Brazillian favorites.


Brazil is the fifth-largest country in the world. The landscape consists of rolling hills, mountains, tropical beaches, and lush rain forests. This diverse landscape hosts an array of exciting foods including plenteous seafood and fish that live in the Amazon River and fruits and nuts that grow wild in the rain forests.

Brazilians eat a lot of beans and rice. They also eat a lot of beef, including bar-b-qued ribs called Churrasco. The national dish is a bean and pork stew called Feijoada. The stew was created by African slaves working on the sugar plantations near Rio de Janerio.

Today, we’re serving another Brazillian favorite, tiny meat pies called empadinhas, (or empanadas), along with black beans, white rice with lemon slices, and plantains.

Empadinhas can be filled with just about anything: seafood, beans, vegetables, or meat. I stuff mine with a spicy mix of ground beef, cubed potatoes, and green peas. I often make several dozen in advance and freeze them. They freeze well and last about six months in freezer-safe bags. My homeschoolers love them and they also make a delicious lunch box or after-school treat.


  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 2 baking potatoes  (peeled and cubed)
  • 1/2 onion  (chopped)
  • 1/2 bell pepper  (chopped)
  • 2 tbsp garlic  (minced)
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 c. peas
  • Goya all-purpose seasoning, salt, pepper to taste
  • 2 packages pie crust


  1. Boil potato cubes until soft (but not mushy) about 10 minutes.
  2. Sauté onions, bell pepper, and garlic until transparent.
  3. Add ground beef to onion mixture. Brown the meat until crumbly. Add seasoning to taste. Drain excess liquid.




  1. Roll out your pie crust.
  2. Spread a thin layer of meat mixture on bottom layer. Leave about 1/4″ margin all the way around.
  3. Lay second round on top.
  4. Press gently with a fork all the way around.


  1. Use a pizza cutter to cut into smaller pies. I can get about 16 small pies from two rounds of dough. Seal the edges.
  2. Bake on a cookie sheet in a 350° oven for about 20 minutes or until brown.
  3. To freeze, lay waxed paper over the bottom of a cookie pan. Arrange pies in layers. Put a sheet of waxed paper between each layer.
  4. Thaw and bake in 350° oven for 20 minutes.

Homeschool cooking: Spinach quesadillas

20150808_103856This grab-and-go breakfast is filled with spinach and feta cheese. The quesadillas take about ten minutes to cook: three minutes to assemble and however long it takes to melt the cheese and heat them through.


  • Chopped spinach  (cooked and seasoned your way. To save time, cook this the night before. Drain well…really well).
  • Feta cheese
  • Flour tortillas
  • Cooking spray


  • Spread about 1/2 c. spinach on a flour tortilla.
  • Sprinkle feta cheese on top.
  • Place second tortilla on top.


  • Spray a skillet with non-stick spray.
  • Cook on low heat until cheese melts.
  • Flip once.
  • Cut into fourths.
  • Enjoy!


Homeschool cooking: applesauce math

Three words: SO DARN GOOD! My family loves homemade applesauce. I like to make it in large batches and freeze it. It freezes well and lasts about a year in the freezer or two weeks in the fridge.

My recipe is fairly basic and definitely foolproof.  You can use your favorite apples or a mix of different types. You can substitute water for the apple juice if you prefer. You can also ditch the sugar and make unsweetened applesauce or you can use brown sugar instead of white or a mix of the two. Eazy peezy.

Also, I find that lemon juice brings out the natural flavor of the apple. But you can ditch that too if you want. And, you can sprinkle in some nutmeg if you want.

Coring the apples

Homemade applesauce

  • 4 large apples 
  • 3/4 c. apple juice
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 c. brown or white sugar
  • 1/2 t nutmeg 
  • 1/2 t ground cinnamon
Washing the Mason jars. Sanitizing the prep area.
Washing the Mason jars. Sanitizing the prep area.

Applesauce math We turned our cooking lesson into a math lesson. Because of the different math operations involved (addition, multiplication, fractions), this activity works well with children of different age and grade levels.

Here’s the problem: I bought 36 apples to prepare and freeze homemade applesauce. However, my recipe calls for only 4 apples. So I asked my students to help me do the math and adjust up.

  1. DIVIDE: 36 ÷ 4
  3. 4 apples × 9 = 36
  4. 3/4 c. apples × 9/1
  5. Multiply 1 tbsp of lemon juice
  6. Multiply the 1/4 c. sugar × 9/1
  7. Multiply the 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and 1/2 tsp of nutmeg times 9/1.

Core and peel the apples. Cut into quarters and simmer in apple juice until the apples are tender and mushy.


20150806_105435Mash the apples with a masher. Add remaining ingredients to taste.

Spoon into jars and freeze.


Homeschool cooking: a taste of Ethiopia

Today, my students and I are traveling to the African kingdom of Ethiopia.  This great nation lays south of Egypt and Sudan and is bordered to the east by the Red Sea.

Cleaning collard greens

Ethiopians eat a lot of spicy meats, lentils, greens, cabbage, eggplant, and yams. The national food is a spicy stew called Wat. Another popular food is Injera, a type of flatbread. Today, we are having Ethiopian collard greens, mashed yams, and sliced fresh mango. 


Ethiopian collard greens

  • 1 pound collard greens (cleaned and torn into bite sized pieces)
  • 1 onion  (sliced)
  • 1 clove fresh garlic  (chopped)
  • 3 – 4 slices fresh bell pepper
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp each paprika, cayenne pepper, ground ginger

Throw all in a pot. Add some water. Cover the pot. Simmer for about an hour until tender.


Bake the yams until they are soft (about an hour). Cool and peel. Mash with a potato masher. Dust with cinnamon and top with a dab of butter.


Slice the mango and enjoy.

Traditionally, Ethiopians eat with their hands. Here’s Miss Kylee throwing down on some yams.


Homeschool cooking: twice-baked potatoes

Kids love this fluffy mixture of baked potatoes, butter, sour cream, and shredded cheese. Twice-baked potatoes freeze well and can be served alongside a few fish sticks or chicken nuggets. Add a small salad and a fresh fruit dessert and every mom on your  block will put your number on speed dial. She will want to know all of your creative lunch ideas.


TO PREPARE: I’m purposefully not listing ingredient quantities. This is totally a “as much or as little as you want” sorta recipe.

  • Scrub and bake the potatoes until soft. Don’t oil the outside skin as it will become too soft, slippery, and easy to break.
  • Cut each potato in half, lengthwise.
  • While it’s still hot, gently scoop out as much potato as you can without breaking the skin.  Use a towel to hold your potato so you don’t burn your hand. You You need You need to work with a hot potato so your added ingredients will easily melt into the mixture.
  • Put all of your scoops of potato into a big bowl. 20150802_122548
  • Add sour cream,  butter, and sharp cheddar cheese. Mash everything together until you reach your desired taste and consistency. Season as desired.20150802_124547
  • Carefully spoon your potato mixture into each shell.
  • Sprinkle cheese of on top (if desired).
  • Label and date a zipper freezer bag and store in the freezer.
  • When you’re ready to serve your tasty side dish, pop it in the microwave frozen and cook for about four minutes or cook for two minutes if thawed.
  • Sprinkle some chopped green onion on top (if desired).