Every year I look at the various gingerbread kits available in the stores and think ‘That is a cute project but it is just way too much sugar’. Once, probably a dozen years ago, I did buy a gingerbread house decorating kit for the school-age children to work on during the afternoons of Christmas break when there was no school and the little ones were sleeping. Combining the little ones with that much sugar was something I was not prepared to do.
This year we did make whole wheat sugar cookies;
Sorry, I didn’t manage to take any other pictures of the cookies – too busy assisting toddlers with dough stuck in cookie cutters. They were very good cookies though – here is the recipe:
Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Mix sugar and butter in large bowl until fluffy.
Add milk, vanilla and egg; mix well.
Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg; mix well.
Cover and chill for 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 375°.
Mix the 2 Tbsp sugar with the cinnamon.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls.
Place 2-inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake for 7-10 minutes, or until light brown.
We didn’t decorate the sugar cookies but I still liked the idea of a decorating project so I thought about what would be a healthier option for gingerbread decoration.
I’ve never made gingerbread dough before and the store bought kind is so prevalent that it just seemed to be a better choice for the decorating base – besides, it was the decorating that I planned to be the main project. As for my concerns about the excess sugar – I chose dried fruits, pretzels, and flaked coconut for decorations and some Wow Butter for glue.
We started with each child working independently on their own gingerbread man. We began after morning snack – I hoped that having just finished eating snack they would be less inclined to nibble on decorations.
Of course many decorations were still eaten – in some cases devoured leaving few to use for decorating;
Even the Wow Butter got consumed by the handful – I’m really glad it wasn’t candy and icing. Phase one complete;
Phase two was more of a group project with many smaller steps over several days. Five little houses were decorated and grouped to create a centerpiece for our table. Often there were only one or two children working on the decorations and sometimes only for a minute or two. It took nearly three weeks to complete and there was very little ‘snacking’ – maybe because this belonged to the whole group or maybe because the decorations were becoming less appealing over time.
Today I want to highlight one of our lunch menu items. A long time ago I used to have chili buns on the menu – they were popular but any meal items that need to be assembled on the individual plates I find are too time consuming. I much prefer to prepare ‘all-in-one’ meals like Layered French Toast that can be prepared in advance and are easier to serve to a group.
Taco Pie is like that – essentially a chili bun casserole type meal – perfect. In the morning I start by making chili;
1 796 ml can diced tomatoes
1 540 ml can of black beans
1 284 ml can of tomato soup
1 lb ground beef, scramble fried
1/4 cup taco seasoning (approximately – maybe more – I don’t measure it, I just dump some in until it looks/smells right).
salt, pepper, chili flakes, paprika, (to taste)
Salsa (optional – sometimes I add some, sometimes I don’t, never measure)
These all simmer for an hour or so while I grate cheese, prepare the crust and do any other necessary tasks before the children arrive. This is the biscuit crust recipe – this I measure;
4 cups whole wheat flour
8 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 cups milk
Stir dry ingredients together in a bowl. Make a well in center and pour in milk and mayonnaise. Mix to moisten and then press into bottom of a greased 9×13 baking pan. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle crust with grated cheese, pour chili over top, cover with crushed corn chips and some more grated cheese.
At this point I suppose you could just bake it a little longer to melt the cheese and then serve it but because I prepare it very early in the morning I cover it with foil and put it in a 175 degree oven until lunch – it is ready for us whenever we are done playing.
Of all the recipes currently on our lunch menu this is one of my personal favorites. Most of the children really enjoy it and of course there is one doesn’t. That one refuses to eat anything except the ham depending on what type of ham I use — sometimes it is deli meat ham other times I use pieces of baked ham depending on what I have available.
It is on the menu for lunch today — I can hardly wait. Here is the recipe;
Ham & Mozza Biscuit Bake
3 cups Whole Wheat Flour
3 cups All Purpose Flour
3 Tbsp Baking Powder
2 Tbsp sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
2 cups milk
1 cup cooking oil
2 cups Mozzarella Cheese, grated
500 g sliced ham
Combine first 5 ingredients in large bowl, mix and make well in centre. Add milk and oil to well. Stir. Press half of biscuit mix onto bottom of 9 x 13 baking pan. Cover with thin layer of mustard and half of the grated cheese. Arrange ham slices over cheese and cover with second half of cheese. Flatten out remaining biscuit mix to approximately the pan size. Lay biscuit mix on top of other layers and press – try not to disturb other layers. Bake in 350F oven for about one hour. Remove and spread top crust with margarine to soften slightly. Cut into 24 squares.
When making changes to our menu I usually try a new recipe once or twice before deciding whether or not to add it as a regular menu item. There are several factors that I use to determine which recipes to add. They include;
Can it be made ahead so it does not interfere with our pre-lunch program?
Is it something that at least a majority of the children will eat?
Does it use ingredients that are readily available?
Can the recipe be adjusted depending on the ages and number of children in attendance that particular day?
Cheeseburger bites is one of those recipes that almost didn’t make the cut due to item #2. There were several children who were very slow to warm up to this new menu item. I was persistent though. I didn’t believe that they didn’t like the taste since at first many of them refused to actually take a bite of one. They made their judgement based on the fact that they did not recognise the food.
We’ve had it several times now and most of the children have grown to love it so, here is the recipe.
1½ cups flour
2 tsp seasoning*
1½ cup water
¾ cup hard margarine
6 large eggs
1 lb scramble-fried ground beef
1½ cup grated cheddar cheese
4 diced green onions
Combine flour and seasoning in a small cup. Heat and stir water and margarine in a heavy saucepan on high until boiling and the margarine is melted. Reduce heat to medium. Add flour mixture all at once. Stir vigorously for about one minute until mixture pulls away from side of saucepan to form soft dough. Remove from heat. Let stand for a few minutes.
Add eggs one at a time to dough, beating after each addition until well combined. Dough will be thick and glossy. Add beef, cheese and onions. Mix well. Drop by spoonfuls onto greased baking sheets. Bake in 425* F oven for 15–17 minutes until golden. Let stand 5 minutes before moving to wire rack to cool. Makes about 60 pieces.
Note: For seasoning I use a mix of dried, ground onions, peppers etc – you could use garlic powder, seasoning salt or whatever seasoning you like.
I serve them with salad and some sort of dipping sauce (the children usually choose ketchup).
I will admit that this is one of the few recipes that I make the evening before instead of in the morning before the children arrive because it is a little more time consuming than some of the other recipes that I make. It warms up easily in either the oven or microwave.
I want to write a post but I’m a little short on time so it will have to be an ‘easy to write’ post. I’ve got five loads of laundry in various stages of completion and I need to get paperwork organized for my re-licensing tomorrow. I probably should have done some of this work yesterday but Mother Nature begged me to go outside and play so I did.
So what should I write about? Yesterday’s yard work project is not yet complete and it will probably not be a short post so I won’t write about it now. I considered writing about our Mother’s Day crystal flowers activity but I’m still undecided if it was a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ activity so I’ll have to do some more reflecting before I can write about that.
Wait, I just remembered that there was a request for a recipe and I haven’t emailed it yet. A post about recipes would be easy and since it has been five months since I revamped the menu it is probably time for an update.
Some of the early favourites – like the Turkey Tetrazzini – from our new menu have begun to loose their appeal. It is not that the children don’t like them any more but rather, they don’t get excited and cheer anymore. Many of the menu items receive mixed reviews – loved by some, hated by others. This can be difficult since I cannot replace the menu item nor leave it on the menu without upsetting someone.
So, the requested recipe falls into this category since not all the children will eat it and others have been begging their mothers to make it at home too. Some of the children don’t like ‘spicy’ food so this may be part of the problem but I actually consider the recipe to be quite mild.
1lb ground beef (cooked and drained)
1 can mixed beans
1 can cheddar cheese soup
1 can tomato soup
1 ½ cups salsa (I use extra chunky extra mild)
4 cups water
2 tbsp taco seasoning
1 cup sour cream
Chopped tortilla wraps
Mix first 7 ingredients together and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer to blend flavours. Stir occasionally. Add sour cream shortly before serving. Use chopped tortilla wraps instead of crackers or croutons.
I have to admit that this is probably my favourite soup recipe and it is so quick and easy.
As part of the process to revamp our menu I have been trying out some new menu items. Some items, such as the Tomato Beef Stew we tried yesterday, have been completely rejected by many of the children and will not be included in the new menu. My family however loved it and was pleased that there were leftovers.
Last week I was more successful. While searching for new ideas for new menu items I found a recipe for Corn Dogs and thought that might be interesting to try. However, after reading through the recipe I thought it sounded like it would be an awful lot of work and there has to be an easier way to make corn dogs for my group.
So, I found a corn bread recipe for my bread maker…
1 ¼ cup of water
1 ½ tsp salt
3 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp shortening
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 tsp yeast
Measure ingredients into baking pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Place pan in oven chamber and select sweet cycle – I chose the dough cycle because I didn’t want to make a loaf of corn bread.
Then, I split the corn bread dough into two parts – the dough was a very moist so I had to add a fair amount of extra flour to handle it. I spread one part of the dough into the bottom of a greased 9 x 13 pan and then covered it with wieners – split in half lengthwise. I added a few dollops of ketchup and mustard and then spread the remaining corn bread dough on top. I baked it in a 400 degree F oven for 25 minutes and everyone ate it. I called it ‘Corn Dog Bake’ for lack of any creative inspiration when it comes to naming things and served it with coleslaw and milk.
Next time I will do some things differently;
Add a little more flour to the bread machine recipe
Put the condiments under the wieners instead of on top – placing wieners on the slippery sauce isn’t difficult but spreading cornbread dough on condiments is.
I might try experimenting with some other meat instead of wieners – maybe cooked ground beef mixed with creamed corn. Bacon might be good too – everything tastes better with bacon 😉
I’ve been going through all my recipes and trying some new ones. I’m still working on having a new menu by January. When I introduce a new menu item to the children I have to also make sure I don’t do it on a day when we would normally have one of their favourite meals. The disappointment in missing a much anticipated meal could affect the response the new menu option.
One menu item I know I cannot replace is the Layered French Toast. Many times parents have asked me for the recipe and I’ve always said it was on the recipe page of my website but I just checked and realized that it isn’t. Well, it should be because it has been a favourite lunch for at least six years now. In fact, the reason I developed this particular recipe/method is to save time because I had to make so much of it and even though my griddle holds eight pieces of bread I cannot prepare French toast as fast as the children eat it.
So, for anyone who’s interested, here is how I make it (please note – amounts are approximate since I never really measure anything).
Layered French Toast
10 large eggs
¼ cup of sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup of milk
½ tsp of salt
Thick sliced bread like Texas Toast
Applesauce or other fruit
Whisk together first five ingredients. Dip slices of bread in egg mixture and place on heated griddle to brown both sides. Continue until all egg mixture is used up – I usually get about 20 slices of French Toast but will need only 18 to fill the pan. Place six slices of French Toast on bottom of greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Spread with applesauce or other fruit – I have used grated apples, fresh berries, canned peaches or pie fillings but applesauce is the favourite. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Add another layer of six pieces of French toast followed by applesauce and sprinkled with sugar. Top with third layer of French toast. Drizzle with a small amount of syrup if desired. Cover with tin foil and refrigerate and reheat in oven when needed.
I make this in the morning before the children arrive and then pop it in a 275 degree F oven before we go outside to play and then it is ready for lunch when we come in since we’re usually out for about two hours. I suppose a higher temperature would reheat it quicker. I serve it with salad and milk.