In the Kitchen: Kids Choice… Popsicles

If there is ever a chance for my kids to choose something to make in the kitchen… like this week… they will choose something with berries! They loooove berries. So, despite the unseasonably cold weather, they chose to make popsicles this week for our kids choice activity. They love them because like i said, they love berries. And I love them because our popsicles are pretty much just blended berries, water, and a teensy bit of honey. Super healthy and delicious!

Once I gathered all the equipment I called in my helpers. They took turns dropping the strawberries into the blender and then they each got to squeeze in a little honey.

Now you can blend it. It’s up to you and your little one how chunky or not chunky you want it. It seems like kids as a rule tend to like less chunky. Once you’ve got it to the desired consistency take a taste to make sure you’ve got it just how you want it. When it is good pour it into the molds (or paper cups), put the tops on (or popsicle sticks in), and set into the freezer. Let freeze for 1-2 hours or until frozen through and enjoy!

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IMG_0324The sky is the limit with these popsicles. You could do more kinds of fruit or a different fruit all together. You could puree the fruit and then fold into yogurt and freeze and have fruit and yogurt pops. I once heard of a dad who basically made a super healthy smoothie with fruit and kale and froze that as a popsicle! I think that’s a great idea too! So, if you want to keep it simple like us, you can. Or you can get creative and throw in all kinds of stuff!

Cooking activities are just the best to do with kids. I’ve never met a kid who didn’t get super excited to help in the kitchen! So it’s fun, that’s the most important part when doing things with toddlers and preschoolers! Then, there are almost always opportunities for fine muscle movement. In this case they are picking up strawberries, squeezing in honey, and think of the control it takes to hold onto a measuring cup to pour into the popsicle mold. I helped my son, but he still used a lot of his own control to pour in the mixture.

IMG_0326Making popsicles is also a chemistry experience. Isn’t that crazy!? Anytime you take a substance and change it’s properties, like baking or freezing you are doing science. Of course, we never expect toddlers to walk away from an activity stating to us scientific properties! It is more just a conversation about their popsicle. It could sound something like this, “Remember we mixed up the strawberries. Now look what happened! They are different now. They frozen and so cold! They are going to be a tasty treat to help us cool off after we play outside.”

Remember no matter what you are doing, the best addition you can make to an activity is talking, describing, and asking questions. Ideas are: point out the texture of the strawberry or the stickiness of the honey. Talk about what is happening while you blend it. Taste it and talk about what it tastes like. Pour it into the molds and explain why. Then when you set them into the freezer, give a simple explanation of what is going to happen. It doesn’t need to be formal, or teacher-y, just a simple conversation while you work together. Most of all, just have fun together!

Happy Playing!

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In the Kitchen: Resurrection Rolls

Resurrection rolls are such a fun easy way to round out this week leading up to Easter. I always save them to be closest to Easter Sunday so that we can share them at our Easter gathering or eat them for breakfast before church. Easter for us is about Jesus’ death and resurrection… but even if that is not what you celebrate on Easter these are a fun, simple, and tasty treat to make with your little one. You can’t go wrong with bread, butter. cinnamon and sugar… the final product is gooey, caramel-y, cinnamon-y deliciousness!

The ingredients are super simple: A can of biscuits or crescents, (we used biscuits this time and they cracked open, our marshmallow didn’t just disappear it burst out of our biscuits!), 8-10 marshmallows depending on the number of your crescents/biscuits, cinnamon sugar (about 1/4c sugar combined with 1-2 teaspoons cinnamon- this is up to your flavor preference), and a half stick of melted butter.

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To get started have your child first dunk the marshmallow- representing Jesus’ body-first into the butter and then into the cinnamon sugar. These represent the oil and spices used to prepare his body.

Then, wrap the marshmallow inside of the dough- this is the tomb. Be sure to pinch all of the openings closed, or you’ll end up with a big puddle of buttered marshmallow on your sheet pan. Yes, I’ve learned from experience on that one. On that note, I recommend covering your pan with foil or parchment! Just in case of a major explosion you have less to clean up!

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We had a little butter and cinnamon sugar left over, so we brushed the tops with butter and sprinkled them with the remaining cinnamon sugar. Yum!

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Now bake according to your package instructions- ours was 400 degrees for 10-13 minutes and 10 minutes was all we needed. Like I said, for some reason our biscuits exploded this year! Our marshmallows were very, very gone!

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If your rolls don’t explode like ours did, go ahead and cut them open when it’s snack time and talk about how the marshmallow disappeared. This represents Jesus having risen again on Easter Sunday. It’s fun no matter what Easter is for you, it’s a chance to work together with your child in the kitchen!

In this activity there are a lot of great chances for fine motor movements (picking up, dipping, coating the marshmallow, wrapping up the marshmallow…), sensory experiences (feeling, tasting, and smelling), and early science… that disappearing marshmallow!

Hopefully you enjoy this activity as much as we did!
Happy Baking!

 

 

 

In the Kitchen: Bunny Cupcakes

These fun cupcakes are from last week’s plan, but I didn’t want to miss the chance to make them with my kids! There’s still time to have some fun in the kitchen and make these little cuties. They are perfect to take to an Easter celebration or share with people around you. And you will love doing this together!

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Since we were playing catch up and I know we will be making another yummy treat later this week, I decided to go ahead and make the cupcakes and frosting ahead of time. Putting together the bunny face is the fun part anyway!

Here is how we prepared all of the parts:

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For the Ears:

Cut large marshmallows in half, on the diagonal. This will give you a nice ear shape with a little base to set onto the frosting. Let your child dip the sticky inside part of the marshmallow into the colored sugar (we used pink) to make the inside of the ear.

For the Cheeks:

Cut large marshmallows in half widthwise. This will leave you with two round halves.

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Eyes and Nose:

We used 2 chocolate chips for the eyes and a jelly bean for the nose.

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I just love this activity. It’s fun, you end up with super cute and delicious Easter treats, and there is so much learning happening!

Let’s talk about the main things happening in this activity:

Art: Even though this is a cooking activity, it offers a lot of opportunity for testing out creativity and imagination. Remember, just like with other activities, it’s the process that we are going for, not the end product. If this is a treat you’d like to pass out or take to an event, have your child make 5 or 6 the way they want to, and you can put together the rest the way you want to. Your child will be overwhelmed if they have to make all of the bunnies anyway.

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Fine Motor: Picking up the little parts of the bunny face and placing them carefully on the cupcake takes so much control and use of those teeny muscles in their hands and forearms. Activities like this take a lot of control, and are fun ways to build those important muscles they will use later when holding a pencil and using scissors.

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Sensory: Smelling, tasting, feeling… there’s a lot of sensory in this activity. The smoothness of the jelly beans, the stickiness of the marshmallow… the sweet deliciousness of the frosting… because let’s face it those fingers are probably going to sneak some tastes. These are all sensory experiences, and they are going to be even more influential when we help point them out to our child.

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Most important of all is the time together! There is something about baking and creating in the kitchen that is extra special. So, I hope that you enjoy putting these treats together, put away the stress of the messiness of the kitchen, and focus on having fun and experiencing this together!

Happy Baking!

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In the Kitchen: Ooey Gooey Lovey Poptarts

My kids love making and eating this Valentines treat. These are super easy, and they end up pretty healthy too. I feel good about giving these to my kids! For the quick recipe go here.

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I don’t really know how jelly is made, or even filling for fruit pies. I came up with this filling for our pop tarts on my own, and my little food critics never once complained. In fact, they asked for more! So, you jelly and pie filling masters, don’t laugh at my pop tart filling!

We used about a 1/2 cup of frozen berries- you can use just strawberries, just blueberries or a mix, whatever you choose (or in my case whatever you happen to have!).

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And I always use frozen berries. I always have them on hand, I’d rather save fresh berries for eating right away and frozen berries work perfect for this!

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We tossed that into a saucepan with 1 tablespoon of water and 2 tablespoons of honey and let it warm up over medium heat.

We let the berries simmer for about 10 minutes. Keep and eye on it, give it an occasional stir, and I sometimes help break down the bigger berries with my spoon. For the most part they break down on their own.

Then, we prepped our pie crust dough. My kids picked both heart cut outs and circle cut outs with little hearts in the middle. We cut out tops and bottoms and set them aside for the filling.

Once your filling is a jelly consistency, set it aside to cool down a little bit.

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When it is ready spoon about a teaspoon onto the crust bottoms. Now, I have learned many times from experience- read almost exploding pop tarts- that it takes less filling than you might expect to fill these little guys.

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Now, it’s time to put the tops on. I use a little water on my finger and run it along the edges of the bottom crust. This just makes the top stick a little better. Then, we used a fork to crimp the edges together. If you’re feeling really fancy, you could put an egg wash on the top. I never do, but it makes them bake up nice and golden. An egg wash would be a great job for your child by the way… now that I think of it I might have to start adding that step!

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Your little Ooey Gooey Lovey pop tarts are ready to bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes! You can keep them for your family, or share with special Valentines! Next time we need to double the batch, because they don’t last much longer than a day here.

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Let’s talk about what’s happening here:

Fine motor: It’s probably pretty obvious that your child is using a lot of little muscles in their hands and forearms, and that’s great! Think about the control their body is learning as they pour the berries into the pan or cut out the pie crust. Not only are their little muscles working, but their brain is working too figuring out how to control their limbs.

Sensory: Cooking and baking activities are a great sensory activity. I like to remind parents that sensory isn’t just what we do in the sand table! Sensory is all of our senses… sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. Yes, there are always lots of touch sensory experiences in cooking, in this case getting out the strawberries, feeling the pie crust dough… But also consider other opportunities, maybe with this activity try the filling when it is cool enough. What does it taste like? How is it different from a strawberry? Or point out the smell of the filling as it simmers, or the smell of the pop tarts as they near being done.

Early Science: At this age just getting the experience of using a measuring spoon and watching the changes that happen while the strawberries and pop tarts change while cooking, is science.  We don’t need to point out these things in scientific ways, it’s more just about your child getting to experience them.

Happy Playing!

In the Kitchen: Candy Cane Cookies

We had so much fun with these cookies! They are kind of tricky, I have to admit even my cookies didn’t end up that great. So, it was so sweet to see my kids experiment and figure out how to make these candy canes. A food blogger or someone looking for a food blog about candy cane cookies is going to be sorely disappointed in the quality of our outcome. But I think they are precious! For the full recipe go to this week’s activity plan, here. And if you need a little pick me up before you start, go here to read about my take on cooking and baking with young children. Mainly, remember this activity is for them and let them have at it!

These are the pictures you get when your six year old gets a hold of the camera! More 6-year old photos to come.

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We used packaged sugar cookie dough. It’s the season of baking, don’t try to do too much or you’ll go crazy. Take some shortcuts when you can.

Split your dough in half. One half will be left the way it is for the white part of the candy cane, and the other you will mix in red food color and peppermint (if you want). I didn’t feel up to having the kids blend in their red food coloring and peppermint flavor. I figure this activity has enough for them to take part in, I’m going to go ahead and mix it up. I tried it in the mixer, but it ended up just working better to fold it in by hand. Just pour a little on, and literally fold over the sides over and over until its well blended.

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Caught red handed!

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

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I decided once it was done to portion out each color of dough so that each child had an equal amount. Then they could just jump right into rolling out the dough and making the candy canes.
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Last thing I did was demonstrate what on earth we were trying to do. I showed them how to roll it out and twist them together, and then they took over.

Just like playing with dough or clay, this cooking activity offers some great fine motor opportunities. Rolling into a ball and then into a rope shape does not come naturally. It takes time to develop a feel and control over those muscles to make it work.

Then, add the twisting of the two, while keeping the dough from breaking is a real challenge. Knowing which way to twist each color is a bit of a problem solving activity. Trust me when I say they will benefit the most and have the most fun if you just let them do it, try, and maybe fail. Just like everything else, let’s devote this one to them getting to experiment.

 

These are what we ended up with! I was really impressed! That little guy in the corner of the picture on the left is my three year old’s rendition of the candy cane. Now, a quick note here… as you know the 1-4 year old attention span is very short. So, he probably did 5 or 6 cookies completely on his own, and they all looked like this which is totally adorable in my opinion. I probably helped with an additional 5 or 6 to keep him interested and to keep him from getting frustrated. So, I say “give your child freedom”, but you know your child best. Read their needs and adapt to make it more interesting for them, insert yourself when it is getting to be too much, too frustrating, or boring.

My 6 year old also joined us, and she is to the age that she did finish all of her cookies by herself. The pan on the right is her, completely independent, “no-help-from-mom-at-all” cookies!

Have I mentioned lately that getting to experience and watch something change from one state to another is a science activity? Turn the light on and your child will have a blast watching the cookies transform!
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And here they are! My kids had so much fun and were so proud of their accomplishment when they came out of the oven! Yours will be too!

Come find us on facebook https://www.facebook.com/realmeaningfulfamily/ and share your Christmas cookie baking experiences with us!

Happy Baking!

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In the Kitchen: Pilgrim Hats

Here’s part 3 of Catch-up day! Sorry about the over posting, but there were fun Thanksgiving activities this week and I didn’t want to miss out on posting them! Next Monday I’ll post the ‘411’ on the rest of the Fall activity plan, Thanksgiving, and Week 13!

But for now I’ll keep this post quick. It’s pretty self explanatory. These are a fun and super easy In the Kitchen activity to get in the Thanksgiving spirit!

I like activities like this because we can make just a few for my kids to have a snack time, and then we aren’t left with a huge amount of treats. So I had each of my kids make 2, so that requires 2 chocolate striped cookies, 2 peanut butter cups, and peanut butter. You decide how many you need for your family and let that determine your amounts.

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Like I said, it’s pretty easy, but great scooping and smearing opportunities for your child’s fine motor development! Smear the peanut butter on the chocolate side of the cookie.

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Then, stick the peanut butter cup on the peanut butter.

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And there you go, a cute, tasty little Pilgrim hat!

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I said I’d keep it short, so I’ll stop there and I’ll check in on Monday with more info about fall activities and the transition to Winter!

Happy Playing!

In the Kitchen: Pumpkin Pie Muffins

I think I’ve said before that I’m no baker or chef… my training is definitely in families and child development. I do enjoy cooking and baking though, so I’m always excited when I accidentally come across something that we all end up really liking! I guess what I’m saying here is I’m no food blogger… but I think you all might like this!

A couple of weeks ago I had some leftover pumpkin, and an unexpected itch to bake by myself for once. So I went looking for a recipe to use up my pumpkin as well as a package of pumpkin pie pudding that I had, had in my pantry since last fall (don’t worry it was still good I checked!). I was so impressed with myself thinking of killing two birds with one stone! So, I came across a recipe that I thought I would try. I got going mixing together my dry ingredients, and then my wet ingredients.

I’ve got the pudding mix used finally, and as I’m halfway through mixing together the wet and dry ingredients I realized I hadn’t used the leftover pumpkin! That was my whole reason for making these in the first place! This pumpkin recipe had no actual pumpkin in it, just the pumpkin spice pudding! I had to get that pumpkin used, so I thought what the hey I’m doing it, I’m putting it in too. They’ll just be extra pumpkin-y, the kids won’t mind! So, I plopped the rest of that pumpkin in and called it good. I decided at that point I was going to call these muffins instead of cookies, and once they were baked off I was blown away. They weren’t too pumpkin-y, they were moist and delicious, and had a cross over consistency between pumpkin pie and a muffin… so, they are my pumpkin pie muffins!

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We got the pumpkin added at the right time the second time around!

I had pumpkin muffins in the plan for this week, so how perfect to use my newly found accidental pumpkin pie muffins. And they are a great fun way to get your child involved dumping, scooping, mixing, and then at the end tasting of course! I’m sorry though, we went through the process so quickly this time I didn’t get any of my usual pictures at the end. I guess we ate them too fast! But you know what a muffin looks like, right?

I started with great intentions on the picture taking, and I got off to a great start showing what it looks like when I start cooking with my kids. I like to have everything ready. If I don’t I end up running all over the kitchen leaving kids unattended with irresistible ingredients. It just makes it so much easier and more efficient.

img_1385Ingredients

2 1/4 c. flour (we used whole wheat)

1 pkg. (3.4 oz) pumpkin spice pudding

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1/2 tsp. salt

1 c. butter, softened

1/2 c. packed brown sugar

1 c. pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling!)

1 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs

1 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375. Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Cream together butter and brown sugar and then add pumpkin puree and vanilla. Once well combined add eggs to wet mixture and mix well.

Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Combine well, but don’t over mix. Finally, fold in chocolate chips.

Drop batter into muffin tins and bake for 10 minutes for mini muffins and 12-15 minutes for larger muffins.

Enjoy and Happy Baking!

 

In the Kitchen: Mummy Pizzas

These pizzas are about a spooky as we get in our house! I’m just not a huge fan of Halloween. I don’t love being scared or thinking about all of the things that come about with Halloween. I don’t like clowns, not knowing whose behind a mask, spiders, axes, ghosts, or things jumping out at me…

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Aaaaand I’m literally writing this as my husband pretends to be a monster behind me! How did he know what I was writing?!

I can count the scary movies I’ve watched on my fingers, and their scariness has come back to haunt me well after I saw them! I know, I’m a wuss. I can handle it if I can make things cute, have fun, and connect with my kids. So, that’s what we make Halloween to be in our house. We have fun with cute crafts, cute food, cute costumes, and fun visiting neighbors trick or treating! This year it is looking like we will have a fairy, an airplane, and a panda bear.

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When cooking and baking with young children it is so easy to get stuck in a rut of sweet treats, and lots of dumping, pouring, and stirring. Of course there’s not a problem with that! We do a ton of that here for sure, and I don’t think any of our kids are complaining. I like this cooking activity because it changes things up a little bit! You’ve got spreading the sauce on the english muffin, testing out the independence of choosing their own toppings, the fine motor action of tearing their string cheese, and then getting to watch the transformation as it bakes in the oven. Not to mention once you’ve got this done throw in a veggie and a fruit and you’ve got lunch ready to go!

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We went super simple on our ingredients because I know that is what my kids will eat. So, pick toppings you know they will want to put on their pizzas. I think other variations of this I’ve maybe seen two slices of black olives as eyes peeking through the cheese “wrapping.” You decide how mummy-ish you want these to be, and if your kids would enjoy those.

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I find it easiest to set out all of the toppings for them to see and choose from. They can start by spooning and spreading their sauce onto each half of their english muffin. Then, add toppings of their choice. Now comes the fun part. They need peel off strings of string cheese and lay them every which way across their english muffin. I split the string cheese in half first. It makes it a little easier for little fingers to get the strings started, and it makes them a little stringier for the mummy effect on the pizza. There’s no right way to do this! Now, bake the pizzas at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Turn the light on so your child can watch, and have a yummy lunch when they are all done!

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This activity has a lot to offer a young child. For one, they are able to be in command for most of this activity. Being able to take charge of their food, plan what they want, and execute it themselves brings a great sense of pride. Not the, “pride cometh before fall”  kind of pride, but the kind of pride in themselves that they learned they can do something on their own. They started with a blank slate and made their own creation. The “I did it!” feeling.

This activity has the other more obvious benefits of a cooking activity, and like I mentioned before brings some new functions to the table… no pun intended! Be sure to not forget the keys to doing activities with your child and making this a relational experience… Keep talking about what your child is doing, ask questions about what you see, describe the cooking process, and make this multi sensory by letting them taste, feel, and smell things as they go!

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Happy baking!

 

 

 

 

In the Kitchen: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Carving our pumpkin has given us so many fun things to do! One of them for today is roasting those pumpkin seeds that we worked so hard to scoop out. These little guys are some of the slipperiest things I have ever handled! They definitely tried my baking patience… But the prospect of a fall treat helps get through those difficult times

I’m by no means a pumpkin seed roasting expert… but here’s how we do our seeds. I like to start by getting them nice and rinsed off. I soaked them for a few seconds in warm water to get the extra strings off.

Dry them well in a clean kitchen towel…

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Now it’s time to add the flavor. We chose to make ours sweet with cinnamon sugar, so we tossed our seeds with about 1 Tablespoon of butter, and then sprinkled on the cinnamon sugar. If I was doing a savory flavor I would probably choose to use olive or coconut oil.

Then we popped them in the oven and waited impatiently for them to be done!

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Actually, we tried out a NEW fine motor activity, Pumpkin Seed Transport, coming soon next week! Save out 10-15 pumpkin seeds to do this activity next week!

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I baked the seeds at 350 degrees for 20 minutes and stirred them every 5 minutes. I wish I had baked them at 325 degrees for 20 minutes. They got a little more done than I would have preferred. So, keep that in mind, especially if you use butter & sugar (Butter burns… that’s my mother’s wisdom, not my own).

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Despite the fact that they got a little more done than I wanted them to, the aroma of cinnamon wafting throughout the house was wonderful, and we had so much fun together working on this and trying our new creation!

Happy Baking!

In the Kitchen: Pumpkin Pie Poptarts

I don’t know what it is, but there is something about fall that just calls for warm fruit wrapped in a flaky buttery crust! In September we did apples, so now we’ve got to give pumpkins a fair chance at deliciousness! These pumpkin pie poptarts are so fun and easy to make. You will love them and they are so easy to get your child involved!

Start by prepping your crust. We used store-bought and it worked out perfectly fine. I rolled it out with my rolling pin a bit to get it to go a little further. You can cut your crust into a traditional rectangle shape if you want. I recommend trimming your pie crust circle into a square or rectangle and then cutting smaller 2×3 rectangles from that.

I was itching to use my new pumpkin cookie cutter so we used that this time around. If you cut into rectangles let your child try using a butter knife or a plastic knife, and with your help they can cut out the rectangles. Go ahead a guide them to make them close to the appropriate size. Of course they don’t need to be perfect, but you want the pairs of crust to somewhat fit to keep in the filling! If you use a cookie cutter it’s even easier for your child to cut the crust. Put half of your cut crusts on parchment or baking mat on a cookie sheet, set the other half aside, these will be the tops. Now you are ready to make the filling!

Your child can get really busy doing all the dumping and stirring! Dump in 1/2 cup pumpkin, 2T brown sugar, and 1/2t pumpkin pie spice. Then let your child mix it all together. Of course, they are getting a great fine motor workout with dumping and stirring, but don’t forget other things like talking about the color of the ingredients, feeling the texture, and smelling things as you dump them in! These are especially great for smelling with those great spices in the mix.

Once the pumpkin, sugar, and spice is well mixed have your child spoon about 1-2 teaspoons of the mixture onto each of the pie crust bottoms (we used 1 level teaspoon). I had them smooth it over so it didn’t stay in a lump in the middle. I speak from the experience of a chronic “over-filler,” make sure you put less filling inside the crust than you think you need. I would start with 1 teaspoon and probably leave it at that. It’s surprising how little surface area of crust there really is and if you get too much you will have pumpkin bursting out of the edges when they bake!

Next, dip a fingertip in some water and run it around the edges of the bottom crusts. Then, place the top on and crimp the edges with a fork to close the edges up securely. I cut lines into the poptarts, you could also just use a fork to poke some holes in the top to let the steam out and keep the edges from bursting open. Then, I brushed the poptarts with an egg wash. Sometimes I do this and sometimes I don’t, I guess I was feeling extra ambitious this time! Brushing it with the egg wash will give it better color and maybe a little better texture on the outside.

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Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes and turn the oven light on so your child can watch them change (remember this is a scientific property too!).  Once they are slightly golden brown take them out, let them cool a bit, and watch your child’s face turn to prideful delight when they finally get to try their delicious creation!

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Happy baking!

Ingredients

1/2 c pumpkin

2 T brown sugar

½ t pumpkin pie spice

1 package refrigerated pie crust

Instructions

Roll out one half of the pie crust. Trim edges to make a rectangle then cut out smaller rectangles that are about 2″ by 3.” Repeat with second half of dough to make the tops. Set aside the dough, and combine pumpkin, brown sugar, and pumpkin pie spice. Spoon about 1-2 teaspoons of filling into each of the bottom halves of your pop-tarts. Brush edges with water and place the pop-tart “tops” on. Press the edges all the way around with a fork to seal shut. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.