Monday, October 17, 2011

Recipe Review: Apple Pie Bars

Way back in August we celebrated my husband's 29th birthday with the help of my parents, and had almost a week of fun before I broke my wrist. This is one of those projects that I had intended to blog about in August, but just never got to. Since apples are in season now, it's an ideal time to try these apple-filled bars from Disney Family Fun magazine.
Let me first start by saying that although the recipe is geared towards kids cooking, this recipe for apple pie bars took us two adults and a toddler to complete, and was at times very frustrating. That being said, the results were actually fantastic, and when we make it again, we won't worry so much about the issues that arose.

Firstly, the dough for the apple pie bars is very sticky, and did not seem enough for the recipe that is made in a jelly-roll pan. Here is a photo of my mom attempting to cover the filling.
It never did cover the top, but we learned that it didn't matter, as it spread a tiny bit while it baked, and had a very nice and even top crust in the end, despite the thinness and holes. Here we are sprinkling on the sugar and cinnamon before baking:

 The bars right out of the oven (before glazing):

Mina glazing the apple pie bars:
The finished product:
As you can see, the glaze felt nice on the fingers, and was tasty as well :)

We liked them even better the second day.
As a whole, it's a good recipe, but maybe not the most appropriate for kids to make. Especially not for kids that like perfection or are easily frustrated. We loved the flavors, amount of sweetness, and the addition of corn flake crumbs to soak up some of the apple liquid and give it a bit of a toasty flavor. My husband is a huge fan of apple pie, and he absolutely loved these. We all thought they were phenomenal for breakfast the next day as well! So, give them a try, but don't sweat the small stuff. They'll be tasty no matter what.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Fall Craft: Leaf Crowns

When I saw this craft in one of my old books, Linnea's Almanac, I knew we had to make it with the beautiful leaves from the maple tree in our side yard. With bright colored leaves woven together, the fall leaf crowns seemed like such a simple way to celebrate the uniqueness of the season.

Here's how you can make your own:
1. Start with a small stack of leaves. It helps if they are not dry and crunchy, but still soft and bendable. I also looked for ones with longer stems, as the stems hold the whole crown together.
2. Cut the very tips of the stems off, so that the leaf stems are slender and easier to poke through the other leaves.

Note: At this point you can either fold your leaves in half lengthwise before weaving them together, like I did for the crown in the next 2 photos, resulting in a flatter bottom of the crown. Or leave your leaf open to its full shape (as I did for the crown at the top of the page), resulting in a fuller-shaped crown.

3. Start with two leaves. Using the stem of one leaf, poke it through the other leaf near where the stem meets the leaf to join them.  Take a third leaf, and poke it through both of the other leaves which are already joined. Continue making a chain of leaves, poking the stem of the new leaf though the others near the stem/leaf point, until it is the right length to fit on your child's head when the ends are joined.
4. Join the ends together by using the loose stems toward the end of your leaf chain.

Here is my first finished crown with my copy of Linnea's Almanac, which has beautiful ideas for each month of the year:
Mina wearing the first crown:
I look forward to doing this project with Mina next year, when I hope she will be able to make one all by herself. This would be a perfect craft for a preschooler, or child in elementary school that has the patience to sit and concentrate for a few minutes at a time.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

End of Summer Wrap-Up

We're so glad to be back after two long months! For those who never heard the story, I broke my wrist the night before Mina's third birthday. I was running down the stairs to check on the cream cakes baking in the oven, and slipped at the bottom of the staircase, landing on my wrist and breaking the radius. After two casts, a splint, and some physical therapy, I am finally ready to type again, as well as get back to all the fun stuff Mina and I love to do and write about. Over the next few weeks I'll write about some of the projects we documented at the end of summer, and get you all caught up with our lives.

The picture at the top was taken just yesterday as we picked our last eggplant off of the potted eggplant we planted at the beginning of summer. We only harvested two eggplants over the season, but they were so fun to watch turn purple and round and funny. And it's always nice to pick a vegetable and cook it within minutes, it is very satisfying. Children love picking vegetables. Do you know how hard I had to defend this gorgeous purple eggplant for the last month to allow it the time to grow big enough to eat? It was nearly irresistible to Mina, but somehow it survived, and made a delicious Chinese eggplant and ground pork dish for last night's dinner. Mina will just have to occupy herself with the green onions now, as that is all that is still thriving in the garden by now. I hope to get garlic in the ground soon, for harvesting next summer. This will be a new plant for me, and as it is Mina's favorite, we are very excited!

We're gearing up for lots of cold weather ahead, and starting to prepare the house for long days of indoor play. We've started a nature table (which I'll write about soon), hung some felt boards on the wall, and need to start a toy sorting project to make the ones she actually plays with easier to access. We've also been stocking up on pink fall/winter clothes, as "cool pink" (as opposed to hot pink) is the only color Magic Mina will wear most days.

What are you doing to transition from late Summer to Fall to Winter? I'd also love to hear any ideas of things you'd like to read about from kid-friendly recipes to reading lists, crafts, etc.!

We're so glad to be back, and as always, thanks for reading!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summer Read Aloud: Pippi Longstocking

This summer I'm reading to Mina the lovely novel, Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren. And although I started with an old paperback copy with the original translation, I've switched over to this lovely illustrated copy from the library with a new translation and illustrations by the creator of the Charlie and Lola books and cartoon. You can take a peek at the book here on Amazon.

Mina has taken to the novel so much more after seeing these punchy illustrations and fun typesetting. This is the first chapter book I have read to her, so the pictures sprinkled throughout the book help create the sense of fun that I wanted for this first experience with a novel. I want her to love books, both classic and modern. I want her to love children's literature and not give it up too early (as I did). I also want her to explore her Swedish heritage. I have high hopes that Pippi Longstocking will be a good starting place for these goals.

Pippi is zany, independent, and strong. Her adventures are wild and original. Living without any grown-ups to care for her, it is truly Pippi's world. She molds the world around her into what she wants, not letting the outside world change her or her mind. What a lovely character for Mina, and other children, to meet.

There are also many opportunities in the book for tie-in activities, from baking to exploring outdoors. Here are a few ideas I've gotten from the book so far:
  • Bake heart-shaped gingersnaps. Pippi rolls hers out on the kitchen floor!
  • Go "thing-searching" in your neighborhood for little lost items. Pippi finds an empty thread spool and a tin can. Mina found a feather and a rock that looked like a bird egg.
  • Pack a "Pippi Picnic." She makes meatball and ham sandwiches, stacked pancakes with sugar, sausages, and pineapple puddings in Chapter 6.
  • Have a Coffee Party like Pippi in Chapter 9: Pippi has Coffee with the Ladies. Serve a "big cream cake" with a piece of red candy perched on top of the fluffy cream icing. Cupcakes would be perfect as Pippi ends up with her face covered in icing!
  • Braid your little girl's hair like Pippi, or make a red yarn wig like this one:
  • Draw a picture of Pippi's horse on a large piece of cardboard, color, and cut out. Place it on your porch just like Pippi!
I hope this inspires those of you who haven't read Pippi Longstocking to pick up a copy at the library for this summer and try out some of the activities with your little ones. Reading to your children is so important, and classic books like this one have so much to offer!

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Shortcake is a classic summer dessert, but not one I get around to making terribly often. In an effort to get Mina to eat more fruit (and whipped cream?), I decided to bake up some homemade shortcakes this week for a weeknight treat. I love the traditional biscuit-style shortcake. They are buttery and only slightly sweet with a crispy, golden bottom. They should be eaten the day they are baked, as they lose a lot of integrity by the second day, but that shouldn't be a problem with all of the delicious fruit this time of year, not to mention opportunities for entertaining.

My grandma was the source of most of the kitchen magic of my childhood, and I want to share as many of her recipes with Mina as I can. I want to keep her particular brand of Iowa farm cooking alive. So I am sharing her recipe with you as well. Please make it for someone you love :)

Grandma Schantz's Shortcakes
Serves 6

2 Cups Flour
2 TBS Sugar
1 TBS Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt
1/3 Cup Shortening or Butter
1 Cup of Milk

Stir the first four ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Cut in the butter or shortening with a pastry blender. Stir in the milk. Drop the dough in 6 mounds on an baking sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the tops are lightly golden brown. Top with whipped cream, milk, fruit, or whatever toppings you prefer!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Canada Day

We have lived in Canada for nearly two years now, and the time has gone by so fast. We have learned to cook Canadian specialties like tourtiere and poutine, and eaten countless others (Nanaimo bars, butter tarts, pea soup, ice wine and more). I've even learned to understand and enjoy watching hockey and curling. I've been very excited about Canada Day finally being here and having the chance to celebrate all things Canadian. Of course, summer plans rarely turn out how we've planned them with a (nearly) three-year-old in the house. 

Last year we spent the whole of Canada Day in the emergency room. Mina had a dislocated elbow, the day was less than fun, and it was definitely not the festive day I had hoped. This year we thought we'd cook some special foods, attend a family fun festival of sorts, and watch the fireworks. I had high hopes of eating a beaver tail, a Canadian fried pastry often topped with sweet toppings like maple butter or chocolate-hazelnut spread . Mina, on the other hand, woke up on the grouchy/whiny/difficult side of the bed this morning, and has made all plans futile. But as Brian said, "It's definitely not our worst Canada Day ever." Yes, that was last year. Hopefully it will live on as the worst ever.

We filled up Mina's pool, put up her beach cabana in the backyard, and took long naps. We might not get our special foods made (especially since our trip to the grocery store did not happen as planned last night) and we might not go to any Canada Day events, but we can still listen to Rush and eat some Kraft Dinner. We're all healthy and the weather is gorgeous. Not the worst day Canada Day after all :)

Please share your plans for American Independence Day! We'll be celebrating that too, from just north of the border.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Key Lime Caterpillars

We made some outlandish cookies this week, and they were seriously delicious! When Mina requested a caterpillar cookie cutter as a gift, I thought I would never be able to find one for her. I had never seen one, or eaten a caterpillar cookie for that matter. Apparently they do exist, and are a popular choice at the cookie cutter shop we visited in Wisconsin (Downtown Dough in Cedarburg)!

I wanted a roll-out cookie that would be different than our usual sugar cookie, and also would be appropriate in a caterpillar shape, so lime fit the bill. We made a key lime cookie with key lime glaze, so these cookies have a lovely lime zing. The dough is very delicate and buttery and makes a beautiful cutout. They can, of course, be made in any shape. They also need not be green, but it is a visual cue of their lime flavor.  So here's some photos of us making them and the recipe for Key Lime Caterpillars. Enjoy!
Key Lime Caterpillars 
1 Cup Butter
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 Cup bottled Key Lime Juice
1 tsp. Vanilla
2 1/4 Cup Flour

Beat the butter and sugar together.  Beat in the key lime juice and vanilla.  Beat in half of the flour.  Add the other half of the flour and mix in with a wooden spoon.  Refrigerate dough for at least 20 minutes.  Roll out and cut with cookie cutters.  Bake 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees or until golden around the edges.  Cool and glaze with Key Lime Glaze.

Key Lime Glaze
2 Cups Powdered Sugar
2 Tbsp. bottled Key Lime Juice
2 tsp. Vanilla
green food coloring (optional, could also use yellow and green for key lime)
milk (as needed)

Mix the sugar in a bowl with lime juice and vanilla and green coloring.  Add milk to thin if needed.  Drizzle and spread over Key Lime Cookies.

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