Saturday, March 17, 2018

Friday, March 16, 2018

Art Lessons... Creating Ink Figures

Carla Sonheim's lesson on creating ink figures.

Eating Like a Mayan

Today we made a lunch of traditional Mayan recipes.  Delicious!

Ancient  Mayan Hot  Chocolate
Indigenous Maya people still drink the following ancient hot chocolate recipe. In ancient times, Maya never mixed the cacao bean paste with milk, instead they used hot water; it was the Spaniards in Colonial times that began to add milk, cream, and sugar to the cacao paste to create a soft creamy taste similar to current hot cocoa. Aurelio Haz Kub, Consulting Chef at Hacienda Chichen was happy to share his family ancient Mayan Hot Chocolate with you and us.
Chocolate  lovers will find a truly rich deep bittersweet chocolate flavor with a pinch of soft chili pepper touch enhancing the deep aroma of this pure and authentic traditional hot chocolate.  Remember, the quality of the Kakaw or cacao paste, you use, makes all of the difference when it comes to nutrition value, aroma and flavor. Pure organic cacao butter is filled with antioxidants and mood smoothing polyphenols that aid a healthy body. If you find Maya hot chocolate a bit too strong and unfamiliar, just exchange the traditional use of water for milk, but then you will have altered that which makes a hot chocolate an authentic hot Maya drink.  Great to revitalize the senses and energize your mind!
3 cups boiling water
1 to 2 cinnamon sticks
8 ounces bittersweet Maya Kakaw or Xocoalt (chocolate paste) or
3 tablets Mexican unsweetened chocolate, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons of wild pure honey, or raw sugar to taste
1 pinch of dried red chili; this is what makes the difference so try it!
1 dried organic grown vanilla bean, split lengthwise
l tablespoon roasted peanuts, ground extra fine (optional Aztec hot chocolate taste)
  In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add the cinnamon sticks to boiling water. Cook until liquid is reduced to 2 1/2 cups. Remove cinnamon sticks; add the vanilla bean and lower the heat a bit, wait until bubbles appear around the edge to reduce heat to low and drop the chocolate pieces and wild pure honey, mix well and whisk occasionally until chocolate is melted. Turn off heat, remove vanilla bean.  Whisk vigorously to create a light foam effect, sprinkle the dried chili pepper and serve; and for an Aztec hot chocolate taste, sprinkle the roasted peanut powder.

Sikil Pac

Yaxkin Spa's Maya holistic therapist, Maria Hux, learned this ancient Mayan recipe from her ancestors; based on roasted baby acorn squash seeds, Sikil Pac was a Royal Treat among the Mayan. Nutritionist volunteers at the Xcalacoop Health Clinic find this appetizer to be a great way to boost the immune system with vitamins B & E along with anti-oxidants that help elders lower their blood pressure.  Sikil Pac helps fight the cell damage caused by extreme stress and emotional pressure. This Mayan recipe truly works great as a gourmet appetizer and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days without loosing its freshness.
250 grams or 1/4 lb. of peeled Organic, Roasted Acorn Squash Seeds
(you may substitute for any other squash seeds, if fresh, wash and roast 5 minutes, peel).
Three ripe organic limes (juice)
One petit red onion peeled and chopped
Two large vine-ripened red tomatoes
1/4 cup of chopped organic cilantro leaves (wash leaves with care!)
Half small ripe Habanero chile (optional, cut amount for mild salsa)
Pinch of crushed sea salt
How to Prepare:  Crush the roasted seeds into a fine paste.  Mince tomato, chile (your choice), and red onion. Finely chop the cilantro leaves. Thoroughly mix all of the ingredients above with the lime juice in a clay bowl (glass will do) until it forms a smooth creamy paste.  Add sea salt to taste. Let stand for 15 minutes to blend flavors; serve at room temperature as a healthy zesty topping to handmade corn tortillas, fried tortilla chips, or fresh celery sticks. If you not find Habanero chile in your area, use fresh serrano or jalapeƱo chile as a substitute.

Tikin Xic Grilled Fish
Yucatan is known for its many meals marinated with "achiote paste," a rich mixture of dried annatto seeds, herbs and peppers.  It can be bought at any Latin market or online. The paste's rich burn red color comes from the annatto seed powder, which give this dish distinctive  taste and aroma. This recipe is a "grill party favorite" among Maya people; Chef Josue Cime serves it regularly at Hacienda Chichen & Spa.
12 oz. achiote paste (you can buy it online or in a Mexican Market)
 4 fresh fish fillets (your choice fish such as grouper or red snapper with skin)
 2 ripe fresh red tomatoes (sliced)
 1 organic large white onion (sliced)
 1 organic fresh green bell pepper (sliced)
 4 fresh or dried epazote leaves (you can buy them online or in a Mexican Market)
 1 smoke banana leave (cut in four wrapping size squares) or foil
 1 teaspoon virgin oil
 1 small orange juice (buy orange that is tart and not too sweet)
 2 limas or limes (juice and a bit of the skin grindings)
NOTE: You may substitute Yucatan’s limas for any sweet lime citrus available in your area; Maya cooks use a sour orange instead of sweet orange, but mixing lime and orange will achieve a similar sour-lightly-sweet taste. Also, Chef Josue Cime recommends you grow your own epazote, Chenopodium ambrosioides, in your herbal garden since it is a popular herb in Maya Cuisine and has many healing properties when taken as a light herbal tea.
How to Prepare:  Blend the achiote paste with the orange and limes juice, add a bit of water to make a  smooth thick paste to marinate the fillets with in both sides. Place each marinated fish fillet in its own banana leaf square; top each fillet with a slice of tomato, green bell pepper, onion and an epazote leaf; then wrap and tied with a thin banana fiber (from center of leaf).  Heat your grill well then place each wrapped fillet carefully to avoid direct fire; best if cooked with a lid in light medium heat for about 5 minutes. Serve wrapped with grilled veggies or green organic salad (tastes great with crystal rice as well).


  • 1 cup long-grain white rice, rinsed
  • 1 cinnamon stick, preferably Mexican, broken into pieces, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, preferably Mexican, for garnish

Combine the rice and cinnamon stick with 4 cups water in a blender; pulse to coarsely grind. Transfer to a large bowl and add another 4 cups water; soak at room temperature for 3 hours.
Puree the rice mixture in a blender in batches until smooth. Strain through cheesecloth or a fine sieve into a pitcher. Mix in the sugar; chill.

Stir the horchata well before serving. Pour into ice-filled glasses; garnish with cinnamon sticks and a dusting of ground cinnamon.

Solar Power ... Building a Car that Runs on Sun

Today we learned about how solar power works and built our own cars that run on solar power.

Since I don't know that much about electronics, I bought a solar powered car kit for each of the kids and sent them off to put it together.  While the instructions left a lot to be desired, they were actually forced to think about how it would work in order to put it together!

They each finished their model on a gray and cloudy day in March so they researched what they could use to simulate the sun and found out that a light bulb will work just fine.

We waited and waited and made a few adjustments.....

... and waited.  Then we took them out in the sun... and waited.  And nothing.  But well, they got the idea!

In addition, the video on solar power talked about electrons so of course we had to research electrons and got into the discussion of how everything is energy ... me, you, the wall, the peppers I was roasting, the snow outside ... and how just a change in the number of protons or electrons can change the entire substance.  Which made one of the kids go down this path of wondering if she could transfer herself into a wicker basket of she modified her energy just right!  It told her it was those sorts of questions that fueled some of the most amazing breakthroughs in science! (And I told her that, yes, I thought she could turn herself into a wicker basket if she spent years experimenting!)

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Rainforest Tree Root STEM Challenge

Today we talked about the layers of the rainforest and the various root systems that are used by rainforest trees in the poor, shallow soil.  The roots of these very, very tall trees can't go deep so they either spread along the earth in a network, create thick fold-like buttresses, or create roots that spring out of the sides of the trunk and down to the earth to prop the tree up.

Then kids designed their own "root systems" (aka household trash) to hold up there "tree" (aka a broomstick).