Bake Me A Memory…

To me, Christmas just isn’t complete without doing my traditional baking and candy making. It started way back when I was a little girl. Our small kitchen would be full of melted chocolate, laughter, and my sister belting out Christmas tunes. It was glorious! (Ok, maybe not the incessant singing…but for nostalgia’s sake we’ll go with it :) )

Now as a mother, I still continue the tradition. The key to baking with a 3-year-old is to have something they can do independently. Whether it is spraying non-stick cooking spray on a cookie sheet or handing you ingredients—they NEED a job.

Is is stressful? At times.

Does it take longer? Yes.

Do they love to help? Absolutely!

After finishing all of my Christmas orders and taking them to the post office, I was ready to get down to making memories with Jonah. We made some of our favorites and a few new things based on the ingredients stockpiled in my cabinets from my coupon adventures.

What? Doesn't everyone bake in their Mickey Mouse Ears?

Jonah helped me spread peanut butter on Saltine crackers. I gave him a small spreader from one of my entertaining pieces and a small bowl with a scoop of peanut butter. I also gave him a separate plate for his finished crackers….because he’s not the most sanitary chef. He kept licking his fingers, the bowl, and even the spreader.

After we finished spreading the peanut butter on our Saltine crackers, I dipped them in melted White Chocolate. I placed them on some wax paper and a cookie sheet to cool in the refrigerator. Once the chocolate is hardened and “set”, we packaged some of the goodies up and took them to our neighbors.

Now I know what your thinking…….Peanut Butter crackers dipped in chocolate? Oh, it is sooooo good! Trust me.

**I wish I had a picture of the final project for you, but the lighting has been terrible in my kitchen the past few gloomy days. Luckily, I think you’re pretty smart and can figure it out—just picture a white square :)

Homemade Playdough Recipe & Printable

playdough pile

 This is my favorite Homemade Playdough Recipe to go with the Preschool Playdough Mats & Activities shared earlier this week. Unlike some store-bought brands, it is smooth and stays moist for a long time if stored properly! Plus, you probably already have most of the ingredients in your kitchen cabinets. Enjoy!

Homemade Playdough

  • 2 cups Flour
  • 2 cups Water
  • 1 Cup Salt
  • 2 tablespoons Oil
  • 2 tablespoons Cream of Tartar (found in the spices section)
  • 1/4 teaspoons Food Coloring

Heat about 3 minutes on High. Stir continuously. After it gets thick and forms into a ball, pour onto some wax paper. Let the dough cool slightly. Knead until smooth. Store in a plastic bag, inside an air-tight container.

*If you want to add a little sparkle to playdough time, add a little glitter during the cooking process–Instant “Princess Playdough”

And because I love you…

Download the Printable Recipe Card: Homemade Playdough

Preschool Playdough Mats & Activities

playdough pile

(photo credit: jimmiehomeschoolmom)

Playdough is so much more than just squishy-gooey fun for little fingers. Playing with playdough is beneficial to developing and strengthening fine motor skills. Essentially, playing with playdough can directly impact your little one’s writing skills! (I know, I know, it can be messy. With a few guidelines, you can let your little one squish playdough to their heart’s content.)

Playdough Guidelines At Our House:

  1. Always at the table!
  2. Use a placemat
  3. If you purposefully throw it on the floor, we put your playdough away.

I have found that little ones don’t really have the dexterity to sculpt playdough into complex shapes and can get frustrated. One of the things they can do really well though is make “snakes” and roll a “ball”. Using these two things, we can harness the educational power of playdough through playdough mats!

ABC Playdough Mats

Playdough Mat Ideas:

  • Letter Outlines (Here’s a great printable from Homeschool Creations!)
  • Number Outlines (Another printable from Homeschool Creations)
  • Shape Outlines
  • Child’s Name
  • Counting Sets
  • Simple addition or subtraction facts (also known as “Number Sentences” in Kindergarten)
  • Spelling Words

Cutting Playdough with a Plastic Knife

Other Playdough Activities We Like:

  • Cookie Cutters of all kinds
  • Practicing cutting with a plastic knife
  • Practicing cutting with child-safe scissors (with lots of supervision!)

Here is a little trick to help extend the life of  your Playdough Mats: Slide the playdough mat into a plastic page protector. This will prevent the playdough from sticking to your playdough mat paper and will make it easy to wipe clean. Also, did you know that you can write on page protectors with a dry-erase marker and wipe it clean? Aha! Now our playdough mats are multi-purpose!

Playdough Mat Resources:

That should be a great starting point for you with making playdough time a powerful learning tool!

Butterfinger Cake Recipe & Tutorial

Butterfinger Cake is one of my favorite cakes. It’s one of those cakes that people will swoon over everywhere you go. I keep all the ingredients on hand so that I can whip one up when needed. It’s really easy! If you don’t like Butterfingers you can substitute your favorite candy bar for the topping. (I’ve heard a Heath Bar is really good, too.)
Butterfinger Cake
You will need:
-Devil’s Food Cake Mix
-Sweetened Condensed Milk (NOT Evaporated Milk–THERE IS A DIFFERENCE!)
-Caramel Ice Cream Topping
-Cool Whip/Whipped Topping
-Butterfinger Candy Bars (or your favorite substitution)
1.  Bake the Devil’s Food Cake Mix as directed.
2.  As soon as you take the cake out of the oven, poke holes in the cake with the handle of your spatula, spoon, or anything else you can get your hands on. Make lots of holes!

3.  Immediately pour the Sweetened Condensed Milk over the cake. Spread it with your spatula, making sure to direct it into the holes you poked in the cake.

4.  Pour the Caramel Ice Cream Topping on next. Spread the topping into the holes of the cake and around the edge.
5.  Let the cake cool. I usually make the cake the night before and place the cake in the refrigerator overnight.
6. Spread Cool Whip over the cake.
7.  Crumble the Butterfinger candy bar and spread over the top of the cake. I usually take a meat tenderizing mallet and gently pound the candy bar to break it into pieces, but not break the packaging and make a mess.
8.  Enjoy! Mmmmmmm!
(This cake should be refrigerated and is best when chilled.)

Poor Man’s Turtles Tutorial

I have a few goodies I like to make every Christmas. One of these is “Poor Man’s Turtles” My friend Dee taught me how to make these and since she doesn’t blog, I’m sharing it with you. These are super quick to make and are always a hit at gatherings! This recipe is perfect for kids to help with!
You will need:
Pretzel minis or snaps (the pretzel squares pictured)
Caramel Hershey’s Kisses
Pecan Halves
Spread your pretzels on a cookie pan in a single layer.
Unwrap Caramel Hershey’s Kisses and place on top of the pretzels. (This is by far the most tedious part. You could let your kids help with this part if they are able to unwrap the candy.)
Place the pan in a preheated oven for less than a minute. (Mine was preheated to 400 degrees from dinner, so I only had to place my pan in for around 30 seconds.) Watch the chocolate closely. If it looks like it is starting to get soft take the pan out and test it.
Place the pecans onto the Hershey’s Kisses. Don’t push too hard–you don’t want the caramel to squeeze out and make a mess.
Let the turtles cool. Enjoy!

Homemade Applesauce

On our way back from the Pumpkin Patch, we stopped at the Apple Barn. We had no idea this local treasure was so close to us! It smelled heavenly inside! They had a little cafe where you could get special apple treats made from their fresh-picked apples. I have been wanting to learn how to can from Ray’s Granny for quite some time, especially before she isn’t able to for one reason or another. In the past I had made applesauce when I was teaching kindergarten, so I figured we could make some at our house…why not make applesauce and can it to have for Jonah?!? We got 2 cases of apples. A little ambitious, but I had faith and we were excited!

Here’s a photo journal/tutorial of our Homemade Applesauce Canning Adventure:
1) Wash the apples. We used Mutsu apples (suggested to us by the Apple Barn worker). They were really juicy and tasted great!

Ray’s Granny’s hands (I love this picture! Lori, I hope you see this…)
2) Peel, Core, and Slice the apples…Thank goodness for Pampered Chef’s all-in-one contraption! It made things so much easier and faster!
3) Cover & Cook the apples on medium-high for 25 minutes or so…they should be soft. Stir occasionally so they don’t stick! (You could also do this in a crockpot)
4) Since we wanted smooth, creamy applesauce for Jonah (he doesn’t like chunky textures), we put the apples in the food processor. If you want chunky applesauce you can skip this step.
5)For the first batch, we added some cinnamon and sugar, but we decided we liked it plain after that. We added sugar to taste, but really it was very little sugar since our apples were naturally sweet!
6) We placed the applesauce in our heated jars following canning instructions provided by Granny.
7) Sealed them, put them in the water bath for 20 minutes, took them out and let them cool overnight.
You can see the difference between the batches with & without cinnamon here…
We also made apple pie filling and canned it. We had 2 jars that didn’t seal properly, so we’ve already made apple crisp with them. YUMMY!
We ended up doing 2 canning days. The second day went much faster, since Ray and I had the basics down. I really felt super-domestic after we were done! We ended up with several boxes of quart jars full of applesauce. We will use this instead of buying applesauce for a while. Jonah loved it…and he’s the critic that counted the most! He even says, “Mommy made this” when I put it on his plate….Here’s to teaching him that a little hard work can reap wonderful rewards!

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

I’ve already told you in my Welcome Fall post that I love the Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks, but I just found a recipe that would help me make my favorite treat at home any time of the year that I desire! Go here to find out how you can too! Yum!