Monday, January 7, 2013

Cooking with Toddlers- Applesauce Bread

I have fond memories of making bread with my mom, way back in the day. She has a great picture of me in an enormous apron with my hands in a giant bowl, covered in flour, with the most serious look on my face. I think I was about three.

Kai will be three on his next birthday, and he loves to cook with me. And Saturday morning Guy decided to clean the entire kitchen before I woke up (husband of the year award? I think so!) so I decided to do some baking with Kai. Because nothing says "cook something" like a clean kitchen.

I first decided to make pear muffins.

Mmm, pears.

After all the pears were eaten, I decided to make butternut squash and applesauce muffins. Butternut squash is yummy too... and all of the muffin tins were in the dishwasher...

So, we ended up making applesauce bread with raisins.

More cinnamon!

Kai's favorite jobs are stirring, pouring, and shaking in the spices. I like my muffins and such on the flavorful side, so I'm pretty happy just handing him the spices and letting him shake away.

Stir, me hearties!
I wish that picture had turned out less blurry, but I love his expression so much that I'm posting it anyway. Note how the kitchen is getting progressively less clean in each picture...

Cooking with Kai is very frustrating and rewarding. Today he was naming all the ingredients as I got them out- he knows the spices, baking soda, baking powder, and he says "Egg! To crack-crack-crack!" But he wants to do more than he's completely capable of just yet, and I have to sneak behind his back to give the ingredients a good mix because he wants to do it All By Himself. He's developing a real sense of care and precision- I had to encourage him to really go for it with the spices. And of course...

Nom, nom, nom

The eating part is so much fun!

Applesauce Muffins/Bread (Adapted from Deceptively Delicious)

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup ground flaxseed (or just add more oats)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
Cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves to taste

1 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp vanilla
1/4 cup raisins, soaked in hot water (reserve 1/4 cup of the water)

Preheat the oven to 400 (for muffins) or  350 (for bread).

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix the wet ingredients in a smaller bowl, including the 1/4 cup of raisin water. Mix them together with a minimum of strokes. Pour into a greased 8x8 pan, or 12 muffin tins. Bake until a knife comes out relatively ungoopy- 18-20 minutes for muffins, 40 or so for the bread.

You could add nuts if you were a nut person, but I am not. Nuts in baked goods- Sacrilege!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

What I've Been Reading

So, our whole family has been battling this stupid cold for weeks. It seems like we're just re-infecting each other, over and over again. So I've been reading a lot between the sniffles and hacking cough. (And yes, I did call my doctor today, and I'm waiting for them to call back.)

A while ago, Guy and I bought a huge pile of graphic novels from a friend who was moving. I'm not usually much of a comic book reader- you just don't get enough reading time for what you spend on them. Although I do have fond memories of reading every scrap of Elfquest available in our local library back in high school. (It's online now! You can read it for free!)

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. One of the titles our friend was selling off was Fables, and I picked up all eleven volumes that he was selling on a whim. And then they sat on a shelf for a few months. And then I ran out of books to read.

I think I read all eleven of these in less than a week.

Fables is a fractured fairy tale type of story- the characters from the old fairy tales and nursery rhymes have had to flee their homelands and have set up an enclave in New York City called Fabletown. Somehow this is pulled off without excessive silliness and the reader is drawn into the world that the authors have created.

Luckily for me, volume eleven finishes off a major story arc. So I can wait for a while before I track down the next seven volumes that have come out. But I will definitely be reading them at some point! And so should you.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Toddlers and Technology

This is what happens when you ask my son to smile for the camera.

Here you see the Little Man posing with his Christmas present from one set of grandparents. It's a Leapster GS, one of those little game systems for kiddos that are intended to be educational. He loves this toy, of course- It's just like the ones mom and dad and the big kids have, with all the right buttons and sounds. And it's a well designed device, simple enough for him to use on his own with very little help, but offering a wide variety of different activities.

Up until now, Guy and I have had a pretty straightforward view on Kai's exposure to screen time- less is better, none is best. We've limited his TV to when he's sick and lethargic; limited his iPad use to special circumstances such as long car rides and airplanes; limited computer use to Skypeing his grandparents for the most part. Of course we haven't been perfect, but those were our ideals and we've stuck to them pretty well, because we both believe that exposure to TV and such at an early age is a big contributor to AD/HD and a host of other learning difficulties.

This gift has been the perfect catalyst to re-examine our policies now that Kai is no longer a baby, but a little boy. It's pretty clear that we won't be able to keep his world screen-free- we're both too hooked to our own devices to model it well, so the screens would become the forbidden fruit that he'd overindulge in at the first chance. But we want to encourage a balance, where he spends more time in active, imaginative play and recognizes that screen time is a treat, like sweets, that we indulge in sparingly.

Luckily, Guy and I had already done a lot of talking about what we wanted to do about screen time as Kai got older, so it was pretty easy to decide on a policy to put into place. And here it is-

1. We don't mention it unless he asks for it. If he's happy playing with toys, we let that keep going.
2. If he asks to watch TV or "do game", we assign him a clean-up job to do first- something like "Pick up all of your Legos" or "Put your books in your book basket."
3. There is an absolute upper time limit per day. He can watch one episode of a show or play his game for 25 minutes (the length of an episode.)

The idea we are working with is that screen time needs to be balanced with productive work. Guy and I are also examining the example we are showing, and we've both decided that we're coming up short. So we're bringing this idea into our own routines as well- before we sit down and do something passive, we need to spend time doing something creative, productive, or active. So yesterday I sewed for a while, and Guy worked on some spaceship models. We're going to work on doing more writing and playing music as well. It seems like a good way to start off the year.