Guest Post

Hey!  You!  Do you like food?  Fashion?  Cute kids?  Laughing?

You need to head over to Fairy Wings & Dinosaurs.  My friend Ruthie is adorable, her five kids are adorable, their clothes are adorable… And beyond that she is nice.  Did you know those people still existed?  Like really, really nice people?   And clever, funny, witty… and did I mention adorable?  I think I did…

Anyway, she asked if I would do a post on one of our meals from our month of no-eating out so if you’d like to see how we make our chimichangas you can head over to her rockin’ blog and cruise around for fun craft ideas, recipes and to drool over kids fashion you wish you had come up with.  🙂

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While you’re over there, like her facebook page!  She has some great giveaways!

Polar Bears

The third week in January we continued our Antarctic/Artic animal studies  with Polar Bears.  We followed a very similar plan to Penguins.

First Molly read books and worked with a CAN/HAVE/ARE graphic organizer.  I had a really hard time finding books about Polar Bears on the iPad, and actually didn’t end up buying any at all.  We used NatGeoKids and this website.  If I had had time to go to the library I would have looked for:

Polar Bears, by Gail Gibbons

MTH Polar Bear Fact Tracker

Big Fuzzy, by Caroline Castle

Tundra Animals, by Dayton

polar bears

We chose our facts and wrote them on post-its.  (I have been using JotNotPro to make copies of these for their portfolios, since we are doing them on a jumbo notepad.)  Lucy (K4) really gets into this part.  She loves contributing facts and really retains a lot of what she hears while we do this.

Then Molly picked 4 facts and wrote her report.  This week we talked a lot about the importance of a clever title to draw your reader in. 😉

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For art we did this project from that artist woman.  Hers are definitely better than ours. 😉  We also don’t have the same tempra paints that she does, so I just watered our tempra down a bit.

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Last but not least, we did the blubber glove experiment.

You need:

2 gallon baggies

shortening (I used a block)

a bowl of ice water

Put the shortening in the first bag and squish it around.  Then put the second bag inside that and try to get some of the shortening on all sides.  Let the kids put one hand in the “blubber glove” and one hand in the ice water by itself.  They will quickly discover the bennefits of blubber!  Polar bears can have up to 10 centemeters of blubber.  of course we got out the ruler and measured on our arms how far out that would go. 😉

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Here is another experiement about how Polar Bears stay warm that we didn’t do this week (I couldn’t find it!) but we will, probably this weekend.

Zucchini, Carrot and Cranberry Cupcake Muffins

Mmmmmmm.  Mmmmmmm.   Mmmmmmmm.

These are super.  duper.  super.  yummy.  Pretty much if you do nothing else this week in the kitchen, make these.

I came across this recipe on by beloved, Pinterest, and thought they sounded divine.  Our girls love zucchini bread, so I knew it would be a home run with them.  I couldn’t just leave well enough alone, of course, and had to play with it a little bit.  I did use some raw sugar in these… why?  Because I felt like it.  Because I really wanted these to be shove-them-in-your-mouth-delish, and, well, sometimes I need sugar for that to happen.  So sue me.  The berry muffins from last week, were yummy, but Molly requested some time off from “oatmeal” muffins, despite dutifully eating hers last week.  So, this is what she’s getting and I’m almost giddy for morning because I know these will be a five star breakfast to her.  I don’t think these have enough sugar and fat in them to be truly Cupcake Muffins (like a bakery “muffin” studded with chocolate, loaded with sugar and then glazed), but I am going to let the girls use whipped cream cheese to “frost” them, so they will look like little breakfast cupcakes.  Who can say no to that?!

2 cups white whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup raw or granulated sugar

1/2 cup organic honey

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 eggs

3/4 cup finely grated carrot

3/4 cup finely grated zucchini

2 tsp pure vanilla

handful of Craisins (we used regular, but pomegranate would be good too!)

You know the drill:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tray with paper cups or silicone liners.

In a small bowl mix dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda.

In a larger bowl, or bowl of electric mixer, mix together sugar, oil, eggs, grated carrot & zucchini, and vanilla.

Fold dry ingredients into wet, and mix gently until flour is absorbed, careful not to over mix.  Then gently fold in the Craisins (don’t overmix).

Use an ice cream scoop to divide the batter into 12 muffin cups. (I got two muffin tops, too!)

Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes – until an inserted cake tester comes out clean.

Cool in the muffin tins on a wire rack.

“Frost” with whipped cream cheese if desired.

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Zucchini, Carrot and Cranberry Cupcake Muffins

We are off to St. Louis tomorrow morning to visit the Magic House!  Am I the only one suffering greatly from daylight savings?  It has been a constant battle to stay in motion all day!  I need to finish rounding things up so I can get a good night’s sleep for our adventure tomorrow.  Molly has been watching the Louis and Clark episode on Brain Pop Jr. in preperation for her trip.  I’m off to finish my own preperation!  I am really hoping we get around to making a model of the Nile River this week, as well as do some kind of art project (that is yet to be planned).  Ta-tah for now!

Berrylicious Breakfast Muffins

These are my favorite “not-cupcake-muffins” muffins, yet.  My favorite recipe for berry muffins is from Ina Garten and is definitely a cupcake-muffin.  These don’t resemeble them at all, but they also don’t induce a sugar coma or a guilt ridden start to the day.  🙂

Berrylicious Breakfast Muffins

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1 1/4 c old fashioned oats

1/2 c vanilla greek yogurt

1/2 c milk

1/2 lb frozen mixed berries, thawed and chopped

1 t balsamic vinegar

2 t granulated sugar

Wet:

1 egg

1/2 c applesauce

1/2 c organic honey

1 t vanilla

Dry:

1 c white whole wheat flour (or regular whole wheat)

1T baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1/4 t salt

Mix the berries, sugar and balsamic vinegar and set aside to macerate.

Mix the oats, yogurt and milk and set aside for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400*F.  Prepare your muffin tin with muffin cups.

Whisk dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

Add wet ingredients to oat/yogurt/milk mixture.

Mix together wet and dry, being careful not to over mix.

Stir macerated berries in.

Use ice cream scoop to fill muffin cups.  Bake 15-20 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.

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Berrilicious Breakfast Muffins

Super Banana Muffins

Its Sunday so you know what that means at our house!  Muffin baking day!  My hubby scored some super ripe bananas that someone was about to pitch at work this week… ummmm, excuse me?  We can totally use those!  (Don’t have ripe bananas?  No problem.)  This recipe is *almost* original.  I took a couple that are faves or looked good and meshed them together, specifically one I’ve been making forever from a Cooking Light cookbook (that uses cream of tartar (I used all mine up in snickerdoodles over the holidays…), and this one from Ina, and made them a teensy bit healthier.  This recipe does have sugar in it.  I ran out of honey while making the granola… So if you have the honey to substitute, that is definitely the healthier choice.  Both of these recipes are stellar as is, but we’re always trying to make things a little healthier, right?  That is where the idea of granola on top seemed appealing.  Last week someone commented on the healthy nature of the pumpkin muffins, and we agreed that a muffin just doesn’t seem much like a muffin without crumble.  You know the kind.  The butter/sugar/four mix that makes the muffin purely the vehichle for its crunchy sweet goodness?  Since I truly can’t give those to the girls on a regular basis without massive amounts of mommy guilt, when I saw the Ina recipe with granola on top my first thought was “problem solved”!  I liked her additon of chopped bananas, too.

Super Banana Muffins

2 ripe bananas

1/3 c sugar

1/3 c brown sugar

(sub 2/3 cup honey for all the sugar if you have it!)

1/4 c unsweetened applesauce

1 large egg

1 large egg white

1/2 c white whole wheat flour

1/3 c oat flour (you can make it yourself)

2 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

1 banana, chopped

1/4 -1/2 c granola (store bought, or make your own – double the recipe for snacks for the week!)

We all know how to make muffins from here, right?

Preheat your oven to 350*

Combine the wet ingredients and sugar and mix with a mixer (stand or hand) until smooth.

If you are making your own oat flour, simply add some oats (a little more than 1/2 c) to a mini food processor (I have this one) and pulse until ground.  Should look like this:

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Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl.

Mix together dry and wet ingredients.  Do not over mix.

Gently stir in chopped banana.

Scoop muffin batter into 12 regular sized muffin tins, lined with paper liners or silicone muffin cups.  Top  each muffin with a bit of granola.

Bake for 15-17 minutes until toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean or with moist crumbs.

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The girls and I already gobbled a couple of these up as taste testers, and I know Adam promised the banana donor a couple as a thank you.  So its a good thing I made extra granola!

As always, I’ll freeze whatever is left in ziplocks and we’ll just pull a couple out for breakfast each morning and nuke them for about 30 seconds.

**as a disclaimer, these muffins are fairly healthy, and therefore do not taste like cupcakes.  They are moist and fluffy, but the sweetness is subtle!**

Now its time to get ready for our week at school!  What are you and your kiddos up to this week?  I think we’ll be making a model of blood and starting our Van Gogh lessons!

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super banana muffins

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

Yes, my third post on this blog is about muffins.  Seems random, for a homeschool blog, no?  Well, first of all, I’m pretty sure not everyone that is visiting (which is way more than I ever would have guessed!!) is a homeschooler- probably mostly moms who are busy.  So, I figure a few recipes here and there only add to the sharing.  🙂

A few months ago, our days were incredibly stressed.  Molly was melting down multiple times a day, and not just little ones.  Door slamming, screaming, stomping teenager-sized meltdowns.  You may remember that a main reason we started homeschooling was because of some “issues” we noticed with Molly.   In December, before Christmas, most days were ending with both of us stressed out and worried about how we would finish this year, let alone another.  My heart was torn because our relationship was so clearly strained over this thing that Adam *and I* now both believed in so fully.  But, if it meant Molly thinking I thought she wasn’t good none of it was worth it.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am an information hoarder.  Which lends itself nicely to being a book hoarder.  So, one night after many tears from both Molly and I, Adam sent me off to the book store to lick my wounds.  He knows me so well.  Unfortunately for our bank account, this is what happened:

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If you follow me on GoodReads you can follow up on how I liked these books (though I’m not quite through them all).  I will say that I *highly* recommend Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids.  Highly.  Its not rocket science, but its basically our parenting philosophy in writing, and I really needed to get back to my roots.  Its a great book.

I had heard in passing about kids being allergic to Red Dye 40.  We don’t tend to let our kids have tons of processed food, but we aren’t nutritional saints, either.  And I honestly had no idea how many foods red dye was in.  But the symptoms of being allergic, or sensitive, to it were all there.  So, we decided to try ditching it (which isn’t always easy, especially at Valentine’s Day!).  While researching that, we also found several articles stating that protien in the morning was helpful in de-railing some other behaviors we were struggling with.   I will be totally transparent and say that my kids usually ate cereal for breakfast every.single.morning.  I am not a morning person and most days I feel like they are lucky to get cereal before I’ve had some time to wake up myself.  But I was willing to  try anything to see if we could improve things during our school day.  I started with making eggs, whole wheat toast and some fruit.  They both love eggs but they aren’t their favorite so we adjusted as the weeks went on.  At this point they are both really happy with a healthy muffin and a vanilla greek yogurt w/honey for their protein.  Some days they get a cheese stick.  Some days they get peanut butter toast.  But since we’ve been doing this (and watching out for red dye) Molly’s behavior has improved so much.  So, so much.  She isn’t begging for a snack an hour after breakfast and she is much better able to tackle challenges in school vs. slamming doors and screaming.  I’ll take that, anyday.

Looooooong way around to why I bake muffins each week and why I feel they can fill an important role in having good school days (at school or otherwise).  🙂  Its also far more budget friendly to bake a batch of muffins than it is to buy a $4.00 box of sugar cereal and only takes about 30 minutes.  Make them on Sunday afternoon and freeze them.  Microwave them or pull them out the night before and they taste like fresh baked all week long.  These look good, too!

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

(adapted from Magnolia Bakery Cookbook– which is my favorite baking cookbook ever and if you love cookbooks and don’t have it put it on your wish list.)

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2 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking)

1.5 cups milk (great chance to use up left over butter milk, whole milk, cream or whatever.  Or use skim (or whatever you drink).  That is what I use 99% of the time.)  Sub almond milk if you are vegan/DF)

1 cup all purpose flour

.5 cup white whole wheat flour

1 T baking powder

1/2 t salt

1/2 t cinnamon

1/4 t pumpkin pie spice (just use more cinnamon if you don’t have this on hand)

2 large eggs (for vegan you’ll need an egg substitute.  I’ve read this one is good, though I haven’t used it yet.)

1 c pumpkin

1/2 c honey

1 t vanilla extract

You can add chocolate chips, walnuts, raisins, craisins etc.  We eat ours plain to avoid adding sugar, but in theory you could add stuff in!

Preheat oven to 400*

Grease well a 12-cup muffin tin (or use wrappers or silicone baking cups)

In a medium bowl mix oats and milk and let sit for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine dry ingredients, making a well in the center.  Stir in the liquid ingredients and the oatmeal mixture until just combined, being careful not to over mix. Batter may be lumpy.

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Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full.  Bake for 16-18 min (I find 15 to be enough to be sure they aren’t over baked) until a tooth pick (or whatever you have handy… I usually grab a knife)  inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs.  Do not over bake.

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I find this recipe makes 12 muffins plus three muffin tops (which only need 5-7 min to bake).  My sweet friend Kristine bought me one of these a few years ago and the girls and I just love them.  🙂

Happy Baking!

Printable recipe:

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins