Saturday, January 21, 2012

Creative in the Kitchen: Literary Lunches
Crunchy Cinnamon Snowflakes

My four-year-old has been waiting for the first snow storm of the season and today it finally arrived!  What better way to warm up after frolicking in the new fallen snow than to put these crunchy cinnamon snowflakes into the oven and snuggle up to read “The Snowy Day”by Ezra Jack Keats.  Our young chefs will of course need help from an adult when it comes to cutting and using the oven.
flour tortillas
canola oil for brushing
cinnamon and sugar to sprinkle

1.       Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
2.       Line a baking sheet with parchment paper for quick and easy clean up later.
3.       Place your tortillas under a damp paper towel and microwave for 15 seconds to soften them up and make them more flexible.
4.       Fold the tortilla, one at a time, in half and then into thirds.
5.       Using clean scissors cut out triangles to make a snowflake shape (be careful not to cut along the entire fold or your snowflake will fall apart.)
6.       Place tortilla on prepared cookie sheet, brush with canola oil, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and pop them into the oven for 5 minutes.
7.       Flip them over and bake an additional 5 minutes until it starts to brown and becomes crunchy.  Watch closely so you don’t burn them!
8.       Let them cool a bit and then enjoy!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Creative in the Kitchen: Literary Lunches
Goodnight Moon Brinner

My guys love breakfast for dinner.  This recipe, inspired by a favorite bedtime story, “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown, is the perfect dish!  It’s a new take on a traditional breakfast: “egg in a nest”. 

1 piece of whole wheat bread
1 egg
1 sausage link
1 slice of American cheese
Cooking Directions:
1.       Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  While skillet is heating up, butter both sides of the bread and use a glass or biscuit cutter to cut a circle in the bread. 
2.       Cook sausage according to package instructions.
3.       Place the bread and cut out circle into the skillet.  Crack egg and put it in the center of the circle cut out of the bread. 
4.       Once the toast begins to brown, flip.  Cook until the egg reaches your desired doneness.  Place toast and egg on a plate. 
5.       Cut cheese slice in half.  Cut one piece in half again.  Place these strips along the short side of the bread.  Cut triangles from the rest of the cheese slice and place in the top corners to make the curtains.
6.       Cut the cooked sausage into quarters lengthwise and place on top of the egg creating the window pane. 


Friday, January 13, 2012

Creative in the Kitchen: Literary Lunches
Open Lion-Faced Sandwiches

I get really bored with the same old lunch routine and so do my boys.  So when I read an article, "Read, Cook, Love", in November’s issue of Parent Magazine I was totally inspired!  The writer took inspiration from her children’s favorite storybooks and whipped up some tasty treats.  Here is one creative recipe idea that I created from one of our favorites: Dandelion by Don Freeman.  Read Dandelion and then let your kids decorate their own Open Lion-Faced Sandwiches and remember that each one will come out uniquely their own and that’s okay!  Encourage your kids to take from Dandelion’s example and just be yourself!
hummus (see recipe below)
half of a mini whole wheat bagel
shredded carrot
shredded cheddar cheese*
black olives, sliced
grape tomato, chopped
1 slice of carrot cut in half to create 2 semicircles

1. Spread hummus on one half of a mini bagel.
2. Decorate to make a lion face using the hummus to adhere the facial features and mane.  Use ends of the sliced olives for eyes, cut sliced olives in half to form the mouth, use carrot semicircles for ears and pieces of tomato for a nose and tongue. 
3. Sprinkle shredded carrot and cheese* around the outside edge of the bagel to make the mane.
Recipe for Homemade Red Pepper Hummus:
1 can of chick peas drained and rinsed (or approximately 2 cups cooked chick peas)
½ a lemon, juiced
jarred roasted red pepper** (about ½ a pepper or more depending on your taste)
2 Tbs tahini
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbs Olive Oil
¼ tsp granulated garlic
dash of cumin (optional)
dash of ginger (optional)

Process in a food processer until smooth.
*this recipe idea can easily be made vegan by omitting the shredded cheese and using only shredded carrot for the lion’s mane.
** if roasted red peppers are not a favorite in your house you can omit it and add a little more olive oil to keep the hummus from getting to dry.  You can also try swapping out the peppers for some cooked spinach and or some marinated artichoke hearts.  You may find that hummus is a great way to get kids to eat veggies that they normally won’t try!
What children’s books inspire you to get creative in the kitchen?  Please share your ideas, I’d love to try some more literary inspired lunches (or snacks) at my house!

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Art of the Hand-written Thank You Note

In a world where texting, tweeting and status updates make up much of our communication I decided to teach my son the art of the hand- written thank you note.  None of our family members need or even expect a thank you note, but after emerging from the sea of wrapping paper it’s nice to sit and reflect on what my son received this holiday season and remember who gave it to him.  The process of expressing gratitude through a written note is something that is good for him on multiple levels.  He gets to feel gratitude towards his family and translate that into words.  We talked about how to write a thank you note, starting with stating what the gift was and then including a nice detail about how he will use it or his favorite thing about the gift.  Since he is only four years old, I will have him dictate what he wants to say and write it for him.  He’ll have a chance to practice his writing skills too, he can write the person’s name at the top of the card and his own at the end.  
To keep his interest I like to set out some art supplies to choose from and let him be creative with how he puts the cards together.  If we are going to make a dozen cards he will get bored if each one is exactly the same.  We also work on these a little at a time over several days or a week.  I want him to have fun and not be overwhelmed with the project.  He is really interested in cutting, gluing and stamping these days so we took a trip to the craft store and picked out his favorite “Thank You” stamp from the store’s scrapbooking supply section.  I collected some supplies from around the house including:
·         card stock (8 ½” x 11” sheets cut in half and folded so you make two cards from each sheet)
·         envelopes (invitation sized 4 ¾” x 6 ½” (#6)
·         colored construction paper or scraps
·         markers & crayons
·         glue stick
·         stamps & stamp pads
·         glitter
·         white craft glue
·         qtips or glue brush
·         shoe box or Chinese takeout boxes
·         stickers (we decide on a limit for each card, maybe 3 or 5 stickers –without a limit he will stick stickers until they are gone and every inch on the card is plastered.  This is a good time to practice counting!)
A Tip For Using Glitter:
If your child is into glitter (and what preschooler isn’t?!) try using a lidded box for applying glitter.  Glitter has a way of getting everywhere, but I have found this process to be helpful in keeping it mostly contained.  Have the child put glue where he or she wants the glitter, using a q-tip or a cheap brush dedicated to gluing projects.  Once the glue is in place, put the card in a lidded box.  The child can sprinkle glitter on it and then put the lid on and shake the box back and forth.  If it’s a small project you can also use a Chinese food take out container with a clear lid and watch the glitter shake around.  When you remove the paper shake the extra off into that same box. 
Have fun making each card unique!  Your family members will especially love getting a card with their name scrawled across the top in precious preschool handwriting!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Time out for Tea & Truffles

“…rest leads to peace, peace leads to clarity, and clarity leads to creativity.” –Kirk Byron Jones
This year, my husband took my son to a local chocolate shop, and picked up a sample of artisanal chocolates for me for Christmas.  They were pretty pricey so when I opened them he suggested that I take my time and be sure to really enjoy them.  “Make a cup of tea and have one truffle after putting the boys to bed.”  Unfortunately just sitting and enjoying a cup of tea is more of a novelty than the norm for most parents.  We live with a never ending to-do list hanging over our heads.  At the end of each long day I put the boys to bed and have just enough energy to finish doing the dishes, check off a few tasks that are nearly impossible to do when the boys are awake and fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.  We also live in a society where busy-ness is something bragged about and used to prove your worth. 
“It's not easy to rest in a world that sometimes seems to despise it.” - Kirk Byron Jones in a Baccalaureate address that was delivered at the University of Pennsylvania in May 2009.
I just finished reading a book called “In Praise of Slowness” where author Carl Honre explores the ways in which our society’s obsession with speed is affecting every aspect of our lives.  It takes its toll on our ability to be creative too.  When my son was three he would hum songs that he’d made up.  He informed his grandfather that he made up the songs while he slept and then during the day he sang them to see if they were any good.  I see insight into the creative process through how my then three-year-old described how his mind worked.  Our creative process suffers when we are hurried and tired. 
As we enter a new year most of us reflect on our lives and resolve to make changes.  This year I want to continue to be more mindful of making space and time to find rest in my days, in order to be ready to let more creative energy in.  Whether it be a cup of tea and a truffle, or putting aside a half hour to read, taking a bubble bath or lighting a candle and just sitting down to be still.  I wish you a refreshed Happy New Year and a heart filled with creativity!