Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Surprise Spice Muffins

My mom used to make a version of these muffins. I LOVED the little bite of warm applesauce hiding in the center. 
I don't just limit myself to applesauce for these muffins. A spoonful of jam, preserves, pureed fruit, Nutella, or anything else you fancy turns a regular old muffin into something special.
I used pear preserves in this batch, so I cranked up the spice to complement the fall flavor. 

1/2 cup sugar
1 TBS flax meal
2 TBS water
1 1/2 cups flour (All Purpose or whole grain)
3 TSP baking powder
1/2 TSP salt
1/4 cup olive or coconut oil
3/4 cup Almond or other milk
1 TSP vanilla
dash of nutmeg
sprinkle of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a muffin pan with cooking spray, grease lightly or line with cupcake papers.
In a large bowl, stir together sugar, water, and flax meal until well combined. 
Add flour, baking powder, salt, oil, milk, vanilla and nutmeg all at once. Stir until just combined.  
Fill muffins cups 2/3 full. Add a 1/2 tsp dollop of filling to the center of each cup. As it bakes, the filling will settle into the center. 

Bake 25 minutes. Cool well. the filling will be hot. 

Hands-on Studies: Playdough Labyrinth

By the kids' request, we have been studying ancient Greek mythology. We used a variety of picture books, but the bulk of our study comes from D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths

I can't say enough about this anthology. It is beautifully illustrated, simply and appropriately presented for children, thorough and complete. 

I have found that my children sit and listen better when their busy little hands are busy. I often hand out art supplies and have them recreate or illustrate some aspect of the story. Reading during mealtimes is a popular choice, as well. 

They have painted Heracles' feats, drawn the hydra with markers, watercolored Aphrodite rising from the sea, and now, built a labyrinth-complete with Minotaur and Theseus waging battle and Ariadne waiting by the door- of homemade playdough .

Each kid made his own version. I love seeing the variations in their individual interpretations.

Gemini's is a bit more abstract.

Giving them something to do that relates directly to the lesson engages different parts of their brain, creates new information pathways, holds their interest, makes the lesson more enjoyable for everyone, preserves mom's sanity, provides inspiration and an outlet for their creativity, and knocks out 2 subjects at once. Everybody wins!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Racing Ramp

1 piece of scrap wood + 1 monkey bars + toy cars + little boys = super intense fun

Vegan Cinnamon-Flax Coffee Cake

My kids always light up when I tell them we're having cake for breakfast. I do, too, actually. Coffee cake always reminds me of my mom, PTA bake sales, coffee dates. There is something special about starting the day with a slice of cake. 

Before we begin:
Add 2 TBS of vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup of milk of your choice. This is cheater buttermilk. It will curdle and thicken.
Add 1/4 cup water to 1 TBS flax meal. This replaces the egg you would normally find in a cake. 

For the cake:
2 1/2 cups flour of your choice. I used all-purpose, but you can use something else.
1 1/2 cups brown or raw sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Combine all dry ingredients. Add sour milk and flax mixture all at once. Stir till just combined. Do not over stir. 

Pour into prepared cake pan. 

For the topping:
1 cup flour
1 cup brown or raw sugar
1/2 cup flax meal
6 TBS melted coconut oil or butter substitute

Combine all ingredients. 

Spread evenly over the top of the unbaked cake.

Bake 45 minutes at 350 until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
Cool 5-10 minutes. Serve warm. 

A Quick Lesson on Perspective

Perspective is everything. 

Here's a quick lesson I gave my 10 yr old on Thanksgiving, as I was trying to get him to take a decent picture of me. 

Here is a picture taken from waist height. He's two inches shorter than me. This perspective makes him look huge. 

This is the same picture, taken from a high angle. He looks teensy. 

Here's the final picture he took of me. Actually, it's supposed to be a picture of my dressy clothes. My head wasn't critical, I guess. 
We'll keep working on it. 

Harvest Chicken Salad and Pizza Bites

Harvest Chicken Salad

I don't cook or eat meat so much these days, but my husband occasionally does. This recipe uses a couple of pieces of leftover chicken and a handful of other ingredients to create a hearty, autumnal meal. 
This recipe makes enough for 4 generous sandwiches.

3 cup chopped, cooked chicken
2-3 TBS mayo
1 apple, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 tbs minced red onion, for color
bread or rolls, to serve

Mix all ingredients together. Serve on bread or rolls. 

Pizza Bites

When we have just a couple of slices of pizza leftover, but not enough to make a meal or divide evenly among the kids, I cut it up into little bite-sized pieces and serve it as a side dish or snack. 
Everyone gets a little bit, and no one fights over who got what kind or how big so-and-so's piece is.