Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Black Bean Burgers with Mango Salsa

During our vegan journey I tried several different burger recipes, several of which were good, but none of which blew me away. I decided to give a vegetarian version a try to see if I'd have more success, and with the addition of cheese, really how could it not be an improvement. I found this recipe in an old Cooking Light magazine from 2010 and decided to pair it with a green salad with summer fruit. Not that you really need a recipe to make a salad, but I like to search for new inspiration sometimes so I found this salad recipe in the book, Raising The Salad Bar. Both dishes were delicious. You may have noticed that I have shared a lot of recipes involving avocado, mango, and cilantro. We've been loving these flavors lately at our house so I've been repeating them in a lot of different ways. I planted an herb garden a few weeks ago and loaded up on the cilantro so hopefully I'll have a constant supply all summer long.

Black Bean Burgers with Mango Salsa
from Cooking Light Magazine

Baby Green Salad with Blueberries, Melon, and Strawberries
from Raising the Salad Bar by Catherine Walthers

Friday, May 25, 2012

Activities Based on Books and Songs

If You Give a Pig a Pancake
by Laura Joffe Numeroff
If You Give a Kid a Pancake, he'll ask you to make them for 
breakfast everyday!
I think one day before I had children I declared that I wasnot going to make my kids big elaborate breakfasts, they can eat cereal every morning! Oh silly, naive, pre-children Kristin. It's not that they beg me for pancakes every morning, but more that I want to make them a special treat some days. Mind you, I don't make pancakes everyday. I make them about once a week, and make extras so that they can be reheated for breakfast for the next day or two. And sometimes when I'm feeling extra motivated I'll make a double or triple batch so I can freeze them. I just separate them between wax paper and put them in a freezer, zip-top bag. The other days, when the kids are not eating pancakes, they eat french toast, egg sandwiches, oatmeal, or yes, even cereal!

But on those days that we are eating pancakes, I do try to healthy them up a bit. I have tried numerous recipes from buttermilk and oatmeal pancakes to whole wheat pancakes, but this latest one we made was a different and quite delicious spin. Not to mention the fact that it tied in nicely to our little author study, as we just read Laura Numeroff'sIf You Give a Pig a Pancake

Peanut Butter and Banana Pancakes
(adapted from Todd English's PB&B recipe)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
1 T butter, melted
1/4 cup peanut butter, microwaved until thin
2 small bananas, mashed

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together (3 year olds are great at helping with this step). Add buttermilk, eggs, melted butter, and peanut butter and gently mix together. Fold in mashed banana. Cook on greased griddle or pan for about 2-3 min. per side. Top, of course, with maple syrup!

After reading the story, we talked about other things that begin with the letter "P". I asked Jack to stamp a "P" as many times as he wanted on a piece of paper. Then for every "P" he stamped, we thought of a word to write that begins with the letter "P".

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie 
by Laura Joffe Numeroff
If you give a kid some cookies, he's going to want to eat them! Well, these cookies were not edible, but they did make for a fun activity after we reread, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Numeroff. 

I cut cookies out of stiff felt, then on some I wrote numbers and on others I drew the corresponding number of chocolate chips. Jack, wearing his apron, chef's hat, and oven mitt of course, had to count the chocolate chips and use a spatula to pick the cookie up off the cookie sheet and put it on a plate. Then on the same plate he had to place the cookie with the corresponding number. 

Chef Jack loved this activity. We then did it a second time, using letters instead. He had to find the upper case cookie that matched the lower case cookie and place it on a plate. We did not use the entire alphabet, just the letters in his first and last name. 

In the last activity, he had to find food pictures that began with the letter "c". I printed pictures, half of which began with "c" and the other half did not. He had to say the name of the food aloud and if it began with a "c" he placed it in the letter "c". If it did not, he just left it on the table. All of the food items I chose began with a hard "c" sound. He's not quite ready for the confusion of soft "c" like in "celery", or a digraph like in "cheese". 

I think the next activity we do will be the most obvious one....baking cookies!

If You Give a Cat a Cookie 
by Laura Joffe Numeroff

My sister-in-law recently shared this activity with me that she did with her 4 year olds and it inspired me to do some more activities based on books (my favorite types of activities!). Laura Joffe Numeroff writes a series of books that each follow the same pattern. You give a certain animal a treat and then they want a whole lot more from you!

We've read the story, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie many, many times in our house. Often when we read it we add our own little dialogue between the mouse and the boy and always get a good laugh. So when my sister told me about this activity we decided to check all of the books out of the library to do a mini-author study. When reading the books we started by making some predictions. Because Jack is already familiar with the story patterns, it was a little easier to make some guesses about what might happen in the story. This first activity was based on the book, If You Give a Cat a Cupcake. We made shaving cream paint in order to paint our own cupcakes.
We mixed together equal parts shaving cream and glue, then added some drops of food coloring to make the desired color "frosting". I drew a cupcake shape and Jack painted the frosting.
This shaving cream paint is great because it creates a puffy, 3-D effect! After painting the cupcake we talked about what other things we might find that are fluffy or puffy, or just any other sweet treats we might like to paint.

Jack painted an ice cream cone and then a snow cone. 

 My painting was a snowman eating an ice cream cone and another one eating a s'more.
This activity was a lot of fun. Thanks for the inspiration SIL. More Laura Numeroff activities coming soon!

Butterfly Themed Book Bag

Our local library has "book bags" that we can borrow that contain several books on a single topic. I noticed there was a butterfly themed book bag that included The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which is a favorite in our house, so we checked it out and my creative juices started flowing thinking of butterfly activities we could do.

The bag included:
The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle
From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Deborah Heiligman
Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert
The video, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other stories.
A stuffed animal caterpillar/butterfly that contained a tummy full of the foods that the caterpillar eats in the story,The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

First we read, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and used the stuffed animal to act out the story. Jack LOVED this little butterfly toy! As I read the story aloud he was able to stuff the apple, the orange, the cake, and all the other foods into the caterpillar's tummy.

After reading this story, we watched the video which included, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Papa, Please Get the Moon For Me, The Very Quiet Cricket, The Mixed-Up Chameleon, and I See A Song. Eric Carle's illustrations come to life in the video adaptation of these stories. They are just beautiful! If you are not familiar with his work, Eric Carle uses collage to create his amazing picture books. Here are some other Eric Carle activities we've done in the past. 

Next, we read the book, From Caterpillar to Butterfly, which explains the life cycle of a butterfly, and we discussed the meanings of the terms used in the book, such as metamorphosis, molting, and chrysalis. Then we readWaiting for Wings. Author/illustrator Lois Ehlert also uses collage to create her beautiful children's books. This story illustrates the change of caterpillar into butterfly, and then it gives examples of different types of butterflies and where you might find them.

After reading our stories and watching the movie, we started on some projects. Our first was a simple paper plate butterfly. I had Jack color a plate with crayons, then I cut the plate to form the butterfly's wings. Then Jack glued on the body and the antennae that I had cut from black construction paper.

The second butterfly project started with making a caterpillar. We glued small puff balls onto a popsicle stick. Then, while that was drying we decorated the wings. We used heart shaped doilies and colored them with dot paint sticks. Finally, we glued the wings onto the back of the popsicle stick. Voila!  A beautiful butterfly!

We've been having fun with our hungry caterpillar theme all week. I created a picture shopping list and we went to the grocer store to buy the items the caterpillar ate in the story. Jack had to search through the produce department to find one apple, two pears, three plums, four (a pint) of strawberries, and five oranges. Then I let him choose one item from the foods the caterpillar ate on Saturday. Jack chose the ice cream boy...he is definitely my son! He loved having the responsibility of holding the list, finding the items in the store, putting them on the checkout belt, and paying for the groceries. 

When we got home we made a hungry caterpillar fruit salad with all of the items. I let him practice cutting the strawberries with the butter knife. Then we also used some grapes to make a little caterpillar. We used a grape tomato for the head and a dollop of yogurt and some raisins to make the caterpillar's face. 

Next, we decided to try to make some artwork like Eric Carle's. We drew a shape, the letter J and the letter S on paper. Then painted on watered down glue and attached some tissue paper. Once it dried we cut it out and glued it onto construction paper. I also make a little caterpillar in the same way to show Jack how Eric Carle might have done it when he was writing his books.  

Finally, I asked Jack to tell a story about what the butterfly in the story does next after his big change from a caterpillar. We did it orally, but an older child could create a picture or small book that tells their story.

Our butterfly activity week  is over! We loved the book bag inspiration and we are looking forward to the next bit theme! 

The Gingerbread Man

When I was teaching I started to notice that a lot of children today are not familiar with classic stories, fairy tales, or nursery rhymes. These stories are classics for a reason! Kids love them and often they teach a valuable lesson. A favorite in our house lately has been The Gingerbread Man. This story has been retold in many different ways, but most versions tell of the Gingerbread Man who escapes from the oven and then runs away from the farm workers and various animals. He repeats the line, "Run run as fast as you can. You can't catch me I'm the Gingerbread Man." Ultimately the little man runs into a wolf who tricks him into slowing his run and letting down his guard. The result is the end of the Gingerbread Man and a tasty treat for the wolf.

When reading this story, I try to have my son chant along with the repetitive phrase, "Run, run as fast as you can. You can't catch me I'm the Gingerbread Man." We also try to remember all of the people and animals that the Gingerbread Man ran away from as we read. Try some of the following activities we did after reading the story.

Make a paper gingerbread man
For this activity I drew a Gingerbread Man shape on white paper and had my son color it. You could also just cut it out of brown construction paper to save time if you wish. After cutting him out, I gave my son dots to glue on for eyes and buttons. Then I put a couple dabs of glue on the gingerbreads hands and feet and we sprinkled on a little cinnamon to give the man a fresh out of the oven aroma. Jack said he wanted to put the gingerbread man in the oven. I wasn't crazy about the idea of sticking paper in the oven, so that led to the next activity.

Make a cardboard box oven
There always seems to be large cardboard boxes in our house from diapers or something else I ordered on Amazon. So the latest Pampers box became our oven. I cut all of the flaps off one side of the box. Then I taped the two larger flaps together and then taped it to the bottom of the oven. Next I used some of the cardboard from the leftover flaps to make a handle for the oven. I covered the entire thing in brown paper and added some oven knob details. Now that we have an oven we can retell the story as we act it out. We put the gingerbread man on a cookie sheet and put him in the oven then we pretended he escaped. We tried to remember all of the characters from the story that he ran away from and we chanted the famous line, "Run run as fast as you can. You can't catch me I'm the Gingerbread Man."

Make cookies
Every story gets better when there is baking involved! We looked up a recipe to make our own gingerbread men and made these delicious cookies. Click here for the recipe we used.
I am not normally in love with gingerbread cookies but these were delicious! They were also much easier to roll and cut out than sugar cookies normally are so that was a positive for me.

Of course, we had to make a Lightning McQueen and Mater cookie too!

Run, run, as fast as you can. You can't catch me I'm the Gingerbread Man!

Online activity
Here's a quick online activity you can try too. Click here.

For the complete list of activities based on books and songs, click here. 

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, 
What Do You See? by Eric Carle

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle is such an amazing book with so many possibilities for activities for all ages. Eric Carle's work is easy to spot! His illustrations are done using hand painted paper that is collaged to form beautiful, bright images. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? is a very simple story with repetitive language that asks a variety of animals, "What do you see?" Babies will be attracted to bright illustrations, toddlers will love the repetitive phrases and the opportunity to practice animal sounds, and older children will also love learning about Carle's unique form of creating his picture book artwork. Here are some activities based on this beloved classic, and many of the activities can be transferred to other Eric Carle books as well, such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Lonely Firefly, The Grouchy Ladybug, and The Very Busy Spider.

Activity #1: Brown Bear Game
My two year old is getting a little big for walks in the stroller, but Mama needs her exercise and we both need the fresh air so I try to make the walks as entertaining as possible, which means we do a lot of talking about what we observe as we walk. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to play a little game based on the book that we've read 5 million or so times. I start by saying, "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see? I see a _____looking at me." I fill in the blank with something that I see as we are walking, such as a green mailbox, yellow leaves, or a red fire hydrant. Then, after a little modeling from me, he repeats what I said and adds his own observation. Such as, "Green Mailbox, Green Mailbox, what do you see? I see a Blue Car looking at me." And so on. You can entertain a toddler for at least 30 minutes with this game. It's enough time to get in a little bit of a workout!

Activity #2: Animal Sounds
As you read the story, model for your child the different sounds that the animals make. Have your child repeat the sounds. Eventually, after many times reading the story, your child will be able to "read" the book along with you by making all the animal sounds.

Activity #3: Animal/Color Recognition
Read the story together with your child. Pause when you get to the line, "I see a (let your child fill in the blank) looking at me". Have your child look at the pictures to identify the "green frog" or the "blue horse".

Activity #4: Collage
Make your own collage artwork in the fashion of Eric Carle. Cut or tear tissue paper and glue the pieces together to create an image. For a young child you might draw a simple outline, such as a sun or a flower and have him/her  fill in the outline by gluing in the tissue paper. An older child can create his/her own images. You might also try to have your child paint his/her own paper and cut it, rather than using tissue paper.

Activity #5: Visit The Eric Carle Museum
If you are fortunate to live nearby, take a visit to the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts.  There is a little something there for everyone including a gallery of artwork from Carle and other illustrators as well as a workshop where children can create their own artwork.

To see the entire list of activities based on books click here.

Crepes by Suzette by Monica 

I've never made crepes. In fact I think I've only eaten them once
or twice on a trip to France ten years ago. When J, W, and I were
at the library recently I came across a book called, Crepes by Suzette,
by Monica Wellington and was inspired.

The activity here was pretty obvious; we read the book and then made
crepes! Lucky for me, there was a recipe right in the book. The book
 itself is great. It's about a girl who has a crepe cart in Paris and we see
all of the people who buy her crepes. The illustrations are what is really
interesting about this book. Each person she sells crepes to corresponds 
to a famous painting, such as Van Gogh's The Mailman. There is a brief 
explanation of each painting at the end of the book.

So, on to the crepes! Here is the recipe we used:
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. In a bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk.
2. Beat in the milk.
3. Add the flour and mix until very smooth.
4. Add melted butter, sugar, and salt and blend well. It should be the
consistency of heavy cream. Add more milk if you need to.
5. Cover batter and chill 1 hour or over night.
6. Heat the pan and brush lightly with melted butter.
7. Pour in about 3 tablespoons of batter. Swirl in the pan so the batter
spreads out thin. Heat over medium-high heat until the batter sets up and
the edges brown, about 2 minutes.
8. Flip it and then fill with your favorite filling. Cook another minute. Then
fold crepe in half and then in half again creating a triangle. Enjoy!

We tried a few different fillings including fresh raspberries, peanut butter,
and Nutella. I highly recommend a mix of peanut butter and Nutella. YUM!

Blueberries For Sal by Robert McCloskey

It's blueberry season! So I decided to read the classic children's book, Blueberries For Sal, by Robert McCloskey, with my son. I was not sure how he would do with it because the pictures, while beautiful, are done all in monochromatic pen and ink. So the illustrations are not the bright, bold pictures he sees in many of his storybooks. But he loved it! He has been totally engrossed in the story (all 15 or so times we've read it in the past few days) and he especially loves the onomatopoeia. The blueberries make a "kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk" sound as Sal drops them in her tin pail and Mama Bear makes a "gulp" sound when she munches and swallows her blueberries. Both sounds cause my son to chuckle every time we read the story. 

Activity #1: Kuplink, Kuplank, Kuplunk

We've done several activities over the past few days based on this story. First, we reenacted the "kuplink-ing" of the blueberries. But rather than using blueberries and a tin pail, we used a plastic pail and some marbles. **Note: Marbles are a definite choking hazard so be sure your child is old enough to understand not to put them in his/her mouth and even if you think they understand, it's a good idea to monitor this activity closely.** If you are concerned about the marbles, then by all means use real blueberries! 

We read the story together and when we got to the parts where the character, Sal, put her blueberries in her pail, we practiced doing it ourselves. After the story was complete, he LOVED putting all the "blueberries" in a pail and pouring them into another pail. He didn't want to stop this activity, but I finally got him to move on by telling him about our next activity...making blueberry smoothies! 

The focus of this activity was on the action of putting the blueberries in the bucket and the sounds that they made; great for a young toddler. If you wanted to adapt this for older children you can focus more on the mathematics of Sal's actions. Your child can practice addition and subtraction by adding blueberries to the pail and then taking away the one's that Sal eats. It'd be more fun to use real blueberries for this because then your child can subtract in the same way that Sal did, by eating the blueberries!

"kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk"

Activity #2: Smoothies

The next activity we did was making blueberry smoothies. We make a lot of smoothies and usually I just throw together some yogurt and frozen berries, but this time I decided to try a recipe I came across in Health magazine that involved the addition of tofu! I had all of the ingredients measured ahead of time so that my son could do the pouring into the cup and become an active participant in making the smoothie.  I don't love tofu, so I was a little skeptical about this recipe, but it was pretty good and my 2 year old devoured it!

Blueberry-Tofu Smoothie

1 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup (4 ounces) silken tofu*
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup crushed ice
1 tablespoon agave nectar or honey

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Enjoy!

*Be sure to first remove the extra moisture from the tofu by laying it on a clean towel and putting another clean towel on top.

Blueberry-tofu smoothie. Yum!

Activity #3: "Blueberry Pie"

The third activity was a "blueberry pie" art project. When doing an art project with a child, always have all of your materials prepped ahead of time. This will save your sanity immensely

You will need: 
a paper plate
blue finger paint
brown construction paper cut into strips using shape scissors (prepare these ahead of time)

Have your child make "blueberries" on the plate by using one finger to make small dots of blue paint. When the paint is dry, your child (probably with some assistance from you) can glue the "crust" on top of the blueberries in a lattice pattern. 

I'm not actually sure that my son knows what pie is yet, but he still enjoyed making this one!

Blueberry Pie!
Activity #4: Blueberry Muffins

Our final activity was making blueberry muffins. There are a million different blueberry muffin recipes out there. I decided to try a new one, a lemony blueberry muffin. They were not my most favorite, but I personally like muffins to be very sweet, and these just didn't have enough sweetness for me. I'll post the recipe in case these lemon blueberry muffins are up your alley.  

Like any activity you do with toddlers, it is a very good idea to have everything prepped ahead of time. If you are cooking with older children you can get them more involved in the measuring.  I had everything measured and ready to go except for the flour. This was a mistake. Take the time to measure the flour too! I turned for a second and toddler hands were covered in flour! Baking with kids is bound to get a little messy, but having everything ready ahead of time will help keep things a bit cleaner. 

Lemony Blueberry Muffins

1/2 cup superfine sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 lightly beaten eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sweet butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups fresh or thawed frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place 12 paper baking cups in a muffin pan. 

In a medium bowl, stir the sugar, lemon zest, flour, and baking powder with a spoon. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, milk, butter, and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the dry ingredients until combined. Stir in the blueberries. Spoon the batter into the cups. 

Bake for 20 minutes. Remove pan and cool for at least 5 minutes. 

Activity #5 Blueberry Picking

One more activity idea is to take your child blueberry picking. I am due to have baby #2 any day now so I just don't have it in me to chase my 2 year old around a blueberry farm in the 95 degree weather we've been having lately. But this will certainly be an activity we will be doing next summer! Enjoy your blueberries!

Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak

We are very fortunate to have a large children's book collection. I keep the bulk of the books in my son's closet and take out 10 or so books at a time to keep in a basket in his room to peak his interest in particular books. Recently I searched for a new title and decided to read, Where the Wild Things Are to my son. He loved the story and asked me to read the story again and again. Strangely, I found out the next day that the author, Maurice Sendak, had just passed away. It seemed fitting to do a small project based on this story, so I decided to make masks based on a couple characters in the book. 

During nap time I prepped the materials by cutting face holes in the paper bags and cutting small strips of paper for the eyes, nose, whiskers, hair, and teeth. I figured this project would be a good introduction to glue for my 2 year old. I had my son color one bag white, for when the character Max wears his wolf suit. The I had him color a yellow piece of paper in all different colors, that I later cut out in a crown shape for Max. For the Wild Thing mask I drew on the bag where the different pieces should go so he would have a guide for where to put the eyes, nose, teeth, etc. As this was his first introduction to glue and this was a fairly advanced project, things got a little messy and there was a lot of me replacing the glued on items, but it was a fun project that we completed together. He was not such a fan of actually wearing the mask, so the actual dressing up part was very short lived, but I can definitely see us doing this project again in the future as this is a story that I know he will enjoy for years to come! Thank you Maurice Sendak for creating such a beautiful picture book!

Chicka Chicka ABC, by Bill Martin Jr. 
and John Archambault

Oh how I love a good cross-curriculuar activity, especially one where art is involved! While my son is still too young to really grasp the concept of the alphabet and the sound-symbol connection, he's really been enjoying "singing" the song lately. I put singing in quotes because he sings, "a, b, c, d, a, b, c, a, b, c, d, a, b, c, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z, a, b, c, d, a, b, c, a, b, c, a, b, me...YAY!" So he hasn't quite mastered the song, but I don't expect him to at this age anyway.

Since he's been interested in the song, I thought we'd do an ABC's activity based on the book, Chicka Chicka ABC. One afternoon we did some finger painting. The next day, I cut the papers we painted into the shape of a tree and taped it to the refrigerator. Then we read the book together, using magnetic alphabet letters to act out the story. He loved it. He especially loved saying, "Chicka Boom" when the letters came tumbling off the tree. This is definitely an activity we will be able to repeat over and over, as his understanding of alphabetic principle increases.