Saturday, May 31, 2014

Smore Bars

My mom used to make these smore bars for us all the time. It s a perfect treat if you can't get to a fire to make traditional smores, or if you just want a cleaner alternative. 

5 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
5 cups, plus 1 cup mini marshmallows
1 tsp vanilla
1 box Golden Graham cereal (I use the off-brand 10-12 oz box)

In a medium saucepan, melt butter, corn syrup, chocolate chips, and 5 cups of marshmallows over low heat. 
When melted, remove from heat and add vanilla. Pour chocolate mixture over golden graham cereal in a large mixing bowl. Stir until evenly coated. Add one cup of mini marshmallow and stir. 

Pour into a greased 9x13 inch pan. 

Cut into squares and serve. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Red, White, & Blue Cupcakes

Start with a white cake mix. (I didn't have a white cake mix, so I used cherry chip instead. It worked pretty well.)  Scoop out about 1 cup of batter and place it in a separate bowl. Add red food gel to the batter and mix. Take another cup of batter and place in another bowl. Add blue food gel to that batter.

Using a mini ice cream scoop, add a drop of each of the colored batters into a cupcake liner.

Bake according to the package directions.

I frosted the cupcakes with a large star tip. Then added red and blue sprinkles. 
For another frosting method, check out my Fourth of July cupcakes:

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Strawberry Pie

This homemade strawberry pie is a replica of the famous Big Boy strawberry pie. Nothing says summer like this pie. (The following recipe will make 2 pies.)

2 cup sugar
2 cup water
6 Tbsp cornstarch plus 1 cup water
2 small packages of strawberry jello
2 quarts of strawberries

Pie Crust:
3/4 cup Crisco
2 1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup water

Heat 2 cups water with 2 cups sugar until boiling. 
Meanwhile, whisk 6 Tablespoons cornstarch with 1 cup of water in a measure cup. 
When the sugar and water boils, add the cornstarch water. Continue boiling until mixture become thick. (A couple of minutes.)

Add the two packages of strawberry Jello. Stir until the Jello is dissolved. Place in the refrigerator to cool a little bit. 

While that is cooling, make your pie crust. 

In a large bowl, use a fork to mix the 3/4 cup Crisco and 2 1/4 cup flour. 

Add the 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 cup water. Use your hands to mix together. (Don't over-mix)

This amount of dough will make two bottom pie crusts. Divide in half and roll out the dough to fit in your pie plate. 

Prick the sides and the bottom with a fork. Bake at 475 degrees for 8-10 minutes. 

Set pie crusts aside until ready to fill. 

When the filling is cool, but not completely set, add the strawberries to the filling.

Divide the filling into the two pie crusts. 

Slice and serve with whipped cream. 

Teaching Math Through Sports

As an educator, I see how important numbers and mathematical concepts are for our students. I also see many students struggling daily to understand all of the processes. So, naturally, when my son David was getting ready for preschool, I tried to encourage the study of numbers. 
Easier said than done…For about 6 months, his counting sounded like this, “ 10, 11, 12, 14..” He could never remember 13, regardless of how many times we reminded him, and he could not count past 20. Instead of becoming frustrated and pushing him harder, I chose to step back. I told myself I would work with him more this summer before he went to kindergarten.
             And, just like that… the saying, “It will happen when you least expect it”, became my reality:
As we all prepared to jump on the March Madness Bracket Challenge bandwagon, I saw a new-found excitement in my 5-year-old’s eyes. He took his bracket to heart, started asking countless questions about the teams and players, and glued himself to every game he could. He even asked Siri scores of games as soon as he woke up.
To be honest, I was a little worried about him becoming obsessed with sports.  But, little did I know, he was starting to develop a skill that still continues to amaze me. As he listened to the announcers, watched the scoreboard change at the bottom of the tv, asked us questions about the scores, and continued to quiz Siri about other games, he was really developing a sense of numbers I never thought possible for a young mind.
By mid-April, he could recognize three digit-numbers, counted to 100 with ease, and could complete story problems (as long as they dealt with basketball and were in increments of 1, 2, and 3 pointers!). And in that month, not once did we “work on learning numbers”.
Now that baseball has started, he has carried on this love for “figuring out the score and determining how many points the other team needs”. Between basketball play-offs and baseball games, we never go a night without some sort of “number” discussion.  We scrimmage each other with a Nerf behind-the-door hoop and he counts by two’s and three’s with ease.
Sometimes I think sports get a bad reputation. I have been guilty of criticism when it comes their paycheck. But, I too, have a new-found respect for some of these players and the positive impact this genre can have on the people in the world. My son has especially developed respect for Peyton Manning, Kevin Durant, Andre Drummand, and Max Scherzer, to name a few. Not only does he respect them for what they do on the court/field, but he also investigates how they got where they are today. He can name the colleges that over 20 of these athletes attended. Besides having these new positive role models, I have seen his memory and recall skills improve, he has developed a new level of curiosity and investigation, and continues to blow us away with the problems he creates and solves in his head involving numbers.
I will be the first to admit that I was skeptical of allowing my son to watch so many games on television. However, little did I know, sports would become the best resource I could use to teach my son basic skills he will use for the rest of his life. Children are much smarter than we sometimes give them credit. If we would only allow their minds to work at their own pace and allow them to concentrate on the things they find interesting, we would find that they have a way of learning the things they need to know. Sometimes we need to let them be kids and let their curiosity and imaginations drive their own learning.  Our support comes when we do things as a family, create situations that will allow their creativity to shine, and simply put, let them be a kid, and share that excitement with them. Before they attend school and feel the pressure to learn so many things each day, step back and let them amaze you. You just never know when something as simple as a sports competition can become the building blocks for your child’s education.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt Cake

My aunt used to make this cake/bread for us all the time. So, when I saw a lemon cake mix the other day at the store, I knew I had to get the recipe and give it a try. 

1 lemon cake mix
1 box of instant pudding. (the original recipe calls for lemon pudding, but I only had French Vanilla, so I used that instead) 
4 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil (or unsweetened applesauce could be substituted for the oil) 
1 cup water
1/8 cup poppy seeds

Mix the cake mix, pudding, eggs, oil, and water with a hand mixer. 
Stir in the poppy seeds

Grease and flour a bundt pan (or this recipe will also fit two loaf pans).

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool for about 5 minutes on a wire rack. 

Invert cake on the cooling rack.

Optional: Drizzle glaze over the top. (I mixed 1 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 1/2 tablespoons milk to make my glaze. For an added lemon flavor, a little lemon juice could be added to this glaze as well.) 

Sensory Balloons

This is a quick activity to do with the kids. We took turns picking things to put in the balloons. They had a blast playing catch with them after as well. We put cornstarch (that was the favorite one), popcorn kernels, rice, corn meal, and oatmeal in the balloons. We used a funnel to put the food inside the balloons. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sweet and Sour Chicken

One of my students brought this recipe in for me to try. It is a great recipe. Everyone (even the kids!) raved about this dinner. We will be making it again very soon. 

2 large chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup plus 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 eggs
1 can (20 oz) pineapple 
1/3 cup water
3 Tablespoons vinegar
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 pepper (any color), cut in bit-size pieces. 

Start by cutting your chicken into bite-size pieces. Toss chicken pieces with 1/2 cup cornstarch. 
Scramble the two eggs in a bowl. Dip cornstarch-coated chicken in the egg mixture.  Place chicken in 1-2 Tablespoons of hot oil. Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side. 

Place cooked chicken on a paper towel. (I used a Wok to cook the chicken, so I had to do 4 batches of the chicken before it was all cooked.)
Meanwhile, mix the sauce ingredients... In a measuring cup, add the pineapple juice from the can of pineapple. Add water until you reach 1 1/3 cup total liquid. Stir in 3 Tablespoons cornstarch, 3 Tablespoons vinegar, 1 Tablespoon soy sauce, and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Place the liquid in a large saucepan. Whisk on medium-high heat until sauce is thickened. 

Add the peppers and chicken. (I did leave some of the chicken pieces out of the sauce for the kids. They wanted to dip their chicken in the sauce. ) I also added about 1/4 cup of the pineapple pieces, but you could add as much or as little as you want. (My kids preferred to eat the pineapple separately. ) Let simmer for about 10 minutes. 

Serve with rice. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Homemade White Bread

2 cups warm water
1/3 cup honey
1 1/2 Tablespoons yeast
2 teaspoons salt
6  plus 3/4 cups white flour

In a large bowl, add the honey to the warm water. Stir in the yeast. Let it proof until it becomes foamy on the top. 

Add the salt and 1 cup of flour at a time, stirring after each addition. This is what it looks like after 3 cups of flour are added. 

After you add a total of 6 cups of flour, knead on a floured surface for about 7 minutes. I added 3/4 cups of additional flour while kneading. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a towel,  and let rise in a warm place for about 40 minutes, or until doubled. 

Punch the dough down. 

Divide dough in half and place in two greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise for another 20-30 minutes, or until doubled. 

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. 
Cool on a wire rack. 

Homemade Wheat Bread

This has become one of my favorite wheat bread recipes. I originally found it on Pinterest (  It goes together easily and always comes out very well. 

1 cup warm water
1 Tablespoon milk
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons oil
2 Tablespoons honey
1 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (or one small package of yeast)
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 1/2 cups wheat flour

Mix the water, milk, brown sugar, oil, honey, and salt. Add the yeast to the top of the mixture. Stir in the white and wheat flour. 

Mix for about 10 minutes with the hook attachment on the mixer, or knead with your hands if you don't have a mixer. (You will need more flour if you use your hands.) 

Place in a greased bowl. Spread the top of the dough with oil. Cover the bowl with a towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled. (About 40 minutes)

Punch the dough down. Place the dough in a greased loaf pan. 

Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes, or until doubled. 

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool. (This bread is best warm.)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Frozen Dolls Made from Clothespins

I added Sven, a sled, and some cardboard trees. I found templates for these things on this website:

The kids love that the clothespins actually stay on the sled and Sven. 
For Anna, I colored her design with Sharpie marker. I added a piece of maroon felt for the cape and blue felt for an extra skirt piece. Her hair is 8 pieces of gold yarn hot glued to the top. I braided the yarn. 
For Elsa, I colored her body with Sharpie. I added blue glitter glue to the top of her dress. I hot glued a piece of blue satin material for the skirt and a piece of light blue tulle for a cape that covered her entire body. Her hair is white yarn hot glued and braided down one side. 

The rest of the crew: 
For Kristoff, I  colored the bottom of the clothespin brown for his boots. The rest of him is colored gray with Sharpie marker. I added a gray coat made from felt. I tied a piece of maroon fleece around his coat for the tie. Then I cut little slits in the bottom of his coat to resemble the frayed edge. I added yarn for the hair and drew on a face. 

Hans actually is my first attempt at Kristoff. He looked more like Hans than Kristoff, so we just left him the way he was. If I had to do it again, I would add brown yarn for the hair instead. 

Olaf is made from styrofoam balls. I cut the top ball so it resembled the shape of Olaf's head. I drew on the eyes and mouth with a fine-point Sharpie. The nose is an orange pipe cleaner. The sticks are brown pipe cleaners. I hot glued on small black puff balls for the buttons. The styrofoam balls are stuck together with a toothpick. 
Here are some more pictures of the set.