Can't afford to go on vacation this summer? Here's an idea to keep you AND your kids entertained.
Wendy Thomas: We can't afford to go on vacation this year. I lost my job in this economy, and my husband had to take a pay cut in order to keep his job. With my oldest son going to college in the fall, money has become tighter than my pre-pregnancy jeans.
So how do we keep our six kids (ages 9-17) entertained? How do we still have fun and give them memories on which to report on those first few days back at school in the fall? I want something other than "I watched TV" written on their "What I did for summer vacation" essays.
Ever the thinker, I went to good 'ol Barnes & Noble and picked out a few food magazines. I came home, laid them out on the floor, and asked the kids to go through them and decide which one had the food they would most likely want to try. (A highly scientific approach -- I know.)
They rifled through the magazines, throwing out comments like "This magazine is too small," "This one doesn't have a picture of each recipe -- I'm not gonna eat anything if I don't know what it looks like," and simply -- "Yuck."
After a while, and with a bit more discussion -- "Mom, what's an anchovy?" -- they unanimously chose the Food Network Magazine's June/July issue. (Sorry, Martha -- Food Network had an unfair advantage with that unbelievable burger on the cover.)
There are 67 recipes listed in the magazine index with a picture of each final creation. So here's our challenge: During the summer, we are going to recreate each recipe as best we can. The goal is to complete all 67 recipes during the course of June and July.
We're going to see if the recipes are really doable, and we'll have pictures of our final creations to compare them with the magazine's. This is going to be a family event with total involvement. The kids will help figure out what we need to purchase, and they will help in the making of each recipe.
They'll learn about food cost per recipe, measurements, and a little bit about truth in advertising. It will be a challenge from which we can learn -- imagine that.
It's my hope that although we won't be able to travel this summer, we'll still have fun staying at home. If this project shows up on at least a few of the back-to-school essays, then I will consider it quite the success.
Recipe 1: Pineapple-Orange Mimosas
Not knowing exactly what we are getting ourselves into with this family Food Network Magazine Challenge, Marc and I decided to toast the start with the Pineapple-Orange Mimosas. It seemed a proper way to christen a new voyage.
One thing we faced right off the bat: we had to do some substituting. We have at least two kids who are anaphylactically allergic to pineapple (we're talking emergency-room allergic). As a result, pineapple is not allowed anywhere near the kids, and all food items have to be screened before they come into the house. You might be amazed at how often pineapple is used as a sweetener or as an ingredient. Yogurts use it, lots of oriental food has it, and anything tropically flavored has a big red X on it for us. We even had one son sent to the ER because some medicine used it as a flavoring (who knew?).
I'm pretty good at substituting for pineapple (peaches do the trick quite often). For this drink, we used mango juice instead of the pineapple juice.
You don't get the bite that pineapple gives (I am not allergic to pineapple -- and dream of the days we ate fresh pineapple in Hawaii), but in lieu of a trip to the emergency room, it worked just fine.
We let the kids try the drink before we added the champagne. Quite frankly, they were a little underwhelmed.
"You mean that's it?" They asked us. "The next recipe better be better."
Marc and I clinked our champagne-added glasses and looked out at our 6 bright-eyed kids who are always willing to take a risk and try something new.
"Actually, it doesn't get much better than this," I told them, as I sipped my drink.
You can see the Food Network photo and the recipe for Pineapple-Orange Mimosas here.