Archive for December, 2011

perfect playdate: baking brownies, chasing bubbles, digging in dirt

December 30th, 2011
Apron on and ready to bake

Apron on and ready to bake

Carter's turn to crack an egg

Carter's turn to crack an egg

Beyond excited, delirious with anticipation, and somewhat crazy describe Carter when it comes to getting together with other kids. He was at a small home daycare until he went to kindergarten, he’s a very social only child, and we work full time, so a playdate is a rare and cherished event. Yesterday, his friend Jade came over, and they tore up a patch of dirt in the backyard, ran after copious amounts of bubbles (not to name drop, but Gymboree bubbles really do last longer), baked brownies, and while the brownies were baking mopped up the dirt they had tracked in. Funny, how cleaning up can be fun when it’s part of playtime!

Obviously, from the Baking with Carter theme, I believe strongly that baking with kids is a great way to have fun together, to develop skills ranging from dexterity to tactile awareness, to learn everything from math to chemistry, etc., etc. It’s great to meet another parent, like Jade’s mom, Jennifer, who understands why kids should play with raw eggs. Needless to say, it was good that my favorite brownie recipe has two eggs to crack, since both kids are pros.

Because this brownie recipe uses cocoa powder, rather than melted chocolate, it’s ideal to make with kids. Here’s the recipe again, for easy reference:

Favorite Brownies

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (one stick, room temperature)
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons oil
6 tablespoons cocoa
3/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or line an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper or foil coated with cooking spray. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla and oil, beating until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Add the cocoa powder in three parts, mixing well after each addition. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and salt together. Add the flour mixture to the the cocoa mixture in two or three parts, mixing well after each addition. Pour batter into pan and spread evenly. Bake for about 20 minutes; do not overbake.

Adapted from Cooking with Amy

Christmas wheels now and then: on a big-boy bike and on a little-boy airplane

December 28th, 2011
Carter on a bigger big-boy bike (Christmas 2012)

Carter on a bigger big-boy bike (Christmas 2011)

Carter's first Christmas wheels (2005)Carter’s first Christmas ride (2005). What a difference six years make!

Easy, healthy orange cranberry sauce that kids (and grown-ups) will eat

December 26th, 2011

Even with a sweet tooth that rival’s mine, Carter likes tart cranberry sauce, or at least the lower-sugar orange cranberry sauce that’s become a tradition for holiday meals at our house. It’s hard to believe I blogged about the original orange cranberry sauce recipe two years ago—hard to believe I’ve been blogging that long! I’ve made a few tweaks—including all the zest from an orange, which is my favorite part, and using all orange juice and no water. All this orangey-ness freshens the taste, I think. Let me know what you think.

Orange Cranberry Sauce

12.5-ounce bag of cranberries
1 cup orange juice, preferably fresh-squeezed
3/4 cup sugar
zest of one large orange, peeled in strips
5 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries pop and mixture thickens to desired consistency, approximately 30–60 minutes (I like to simmer it a long time, but you don’t need to). Remove the cinnamon stick and cloves (if you can find them!). Cool in a bowl (the sauce will set).

Super yummy, gluten-free, low-carb chocolate chip cookies recipe

December 23rd, 2011

Jeff has been the parent baking with Carter lately. He discovered this gluten-free, low-carb, higher-protein recipe for chocolate chip cookies from Healthy Fellow. I’ve happily (and quickly) consumed the results. Last night, Jeff and I baked the cookies together. By this afternoon, they were all gone—not even one left for a photo.

A vanilla note: The original recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of vanilla, to mask the almond taste and increase the antioxidants. With this batch I used 2 teaspoons—I like the almond taste—so if you’re running short on vanilla, rest assured, it’s a forgiving recipe.

A sweet note: It’s likely that you don’t have the natural sweeteners erythritol and stevia in your pantry. If your grocery store doesn’t carry them, try a health food store. It’s worthwhile to seek them out and experiment with them as a sugar substitute in other contexts; for example, Jeff replaced sugar with stevia for his coffee quite a while ago.

Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies

3 cups almond flour, sifted

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup butter, preferably grass-fed, melted

½ cup erythritol

1 teaspoon powdered stevia

2 eggs, preferably organic omega-3 room temperature (place in bowl of warm water to bring to room temperature more quickly)

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

½ cup dark-chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or silicone baking liners). In a mixing bowl, whisk together the almond flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the butter, erthritaol, and stevia; add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until combined (do not overmix). Fold in the chocolate chips evenly. Drop 12­–14 rounded tablespoons of dough (I love my cookie scoop) on each prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Remove from the oven and cool on the sheet for 10–15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Adapted from Healthy Fellow

A+ easy gift ideas for teachers, daycare, other moms, etc.

December 21st, 2011

xmas giftTaking the stress, obligation, and anxiety out of teacher gifts. That’s the topic The Happiest Mom*, Meagan Francis, tackled today. As I was commenting, I figured why not weigh in on my own (albeit much-neglected) blog.

At our school, the head classroom parents take up a collection (give what you want) for the teacher and aide’s gifts. This works for me, but I’m not off the hook because Carter goes to two different after-school daycares. On-campus Kids’ Club (Monday through Thursday) has a staff of four. On Friday, Carter goes back to Lucy’s house, the home daycare where he’s gone since he was 20 weeks old, so I needed gifts for Lucy and for his Russian teacher (why Russian is a story for another blog).

I firmly believe you don’t need to spend a lot of money to show appreciation. My goal: something practical (nothing to dust) with a personal but easy-to-do presentation. For example, last year, I wrapped up a jar of deli mustard with a fresh store-bought baguette in bright tissue paper, which I tied closed with colorful ribbon. But quizzing the mustard buyer at Draegers’ at the very last minute caused much anxiety and didn’t leave time for Carter to take part.

xmas detailThis year, I bought handmade, but inexpensive felt appliquéd cup cozies (eco cardboard sleeve substitutes) at a fair in October. I paired each with a Starbucks gift card in a large square blank holiday card, inside which Carter drew pictures. He also addressed and decorated the envelopes. A gold star for one job well done. Now if I could just check something else off my list…

I edited Meagan’s book with Parenting magazine: The Happiest Mom—makes a great gift, too!* Half off until the end of the year or from Amazon