Salt Dough for Simple Fun


With Christmas fast approaching and plenty to do this time of year, I am always on the lookout for super simple gift and craft ideas for my kids. That’s why I was so happy to rediscover Salt dough today!  There are dozens of recipes for salt dough online, but here is a simple, quick recipe that worked well for us.  I made a large batch that was enough to make two small handprints, two medium (7 year old) handprints, and a couple of medium hearts.  I had a blast making these with my seven-year-old and two-year-old today.

  • 2- 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 cups salt
  • About 1 1/2 cups water (start with 1/2 cup and add slowly)
  • Optional additions: sparkles, food coloring, etc
  1. Mix together salt, flour, and any dry addition such as sparkles.
  2. Slowly add water, starting with a 1/2 cup and slowly adding more until you get to a dough that is not too sticky to work with. 
  3. Mix well with your hands. Add more flour if it is too sticky, or more water if it is too stiff to work with or falling apart.
  4. Roll out to a little more than 1/4 inch thick for handprints, thinner for ornaments, or form shapes, bowls, etc out of the dough
  5. If you want to, use a toothpick to write into the dough (I like to label handprints with names and dates for example).  If you want to be able to hang up the things you make, you will need to use a pen or something to make a nice sized hole at this point.
  6. Bake at 200¬į F for 1-4 hours, until dry.
  7. To decorate further, you can color with crayons while the dough creations are still hot, paint, or just coat with a clear sealant or modpodge.


Happy creating!

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Delicious Vegan Chocolate Zucchini Bread Recipe


I can’t believe I haven’t shared our favorite recipe for chocolate zucchini bread yet! We have been using this recipe since we started cooking egg and milk free when Filip was a baby, and is still our family favorite.  Most people who try it without knowing what it is think it is just really moist chocolate cake, and many friends have requested the recipe over the years.

I love having my kids help with it and we usually make a quadruple batch every time we make it.  I highly suggest storing any leftovers in the fridge since the moist texture does tend to be a comfortable habitat for mold if it is left at room temperature. Plus, the fridge is a good place to hide it so your kids don’t eat all of it in one day! ūüėĄ

The original recipe can be found here, but this recipe has changed and been adjusted numerous times through the years to fit our eating preferences. I generally don’t bother adding chocolate chips because we enjoy the smooth texture of this cake and find it sweet enough without them. I also use less sugar most of the time, especially if we are making it to eat at home. Since we have been cutting back on sugar in general, adding the full amount of sugar called for this recipe makes this too sweet for our taste.  Any kind of milk can be used for the buttermilk, though I usually use coconut milk and add a little vinegar or lemon juice to make it into buttermilk.  This bread does not rise much, so you will want to fill your baking dish of muffin tins a little fuller than you would with regular cake batter. (like three quarters full rather than two thirds).

Delicious Vegan Chocolate Zucchini Bread

  • 1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup white wheat flour (you can also substitute numerous other kinds of flour with good results. I believe this could turn out well with gluten-free mixes as well. Please share your experiments below.)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (we use pink salt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I like Ceylon cinnamon best)
  • 1/4 Cup oil (coconut or olive oil are my favorites)
  • 1/4 Cup applesauce
  • 1/4 Cup brown or white sugar 
  • 6-8 Tablespoons  buttermilk (mix your milk of choice with about 1/2 Tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice. Allow to sit while you measure the other ingredients, then add to wet ingredients.)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350¬įF
  2. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Mix together wet ingredients (except zucchini) in a separate large bowl.
  4. Gently fold zucchini into wet ingredients.
  5. Carefully add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir just until combined.
  6. Grease well a glass loaf pan or muffin tins.
  7. Pour batter into pan or spoon into muffin tins. I like to use a cookie scoop to measure the batter into muffin tins.
  8. Bake muffins 15 to 20 minutes or a loaf about 55 minutes. You can tell it is done if you tap it with your finger and it bounces back.
  9. Allow to cool thoroughly.
  10. Enjoy! ūüėÄ
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Where do I live Geography Craft Tutorial (simplified version)

This year I’m helping a friend of mine teach a geography class for kindergarten and first graders at our homeschool co-op. ¬†Our plan is to give these kids such an interesting and exciting introduction to geography that they can’t help but want to learn all about our world! ¬†We have seven weeks to focus on the seven continents, so the first week we will start with North America, combined with a basic introduction to geography. ¬† We found a really cute craft called Where do I live?¬†on Pinterest, but the thought of cutting out seven circles each for sixteen kids was daunting, to say the least. ¬†So we decided to come up with our own design, based on rectangles- which are, as we all know, much easier to cut than circles, especially if you have a ¬†handy-dandy paper cutter like I do. ūüėä

Here is our simplified version of Where do I live:

Where Do I Live Craft

Where Do I Live Craft

First, decide how large you want your book to be. We settled on making the largest page a square 8 1/2″ by 8 1/2″. ¬† Each subsequent page is 3/4″¬†shorter than the page under it so that the page titles can be seen clearly. ¬† But don’t cut the pages until you have them printed with their titles! ¬†I designed a word document with a title for each page so that I could just print each page and then cut it to size, rather than trying to mess with the copier or write the titles in my unimpressive handwriting. If you choose to make your book the same size as ours, you can benefit from my free printables!

Let’s take this one page at a time.

Page 1 ‚Äď My Home.

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This is the simplest page to prepare. Simply use this free title page–¬†print on white card stock, then cut your page to 4 3/4 inches, just below the words, “My Home”. Your students can either draw a picture of their home or glue a photo of their home to this page.

Page 2 – My City.

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Print the “My City” title page on ¬†your choice of white or colored card stock and cut the page to 5 1/2 inches. I chose photos of things and places that make our town unique, copied and pasted from google images (do a google search for your town, then click on “images” at the very top of the search page. ¬†You can then right click on an image to copy and paste it to a word document. I found that it work well for me to choose 3 photos, resize to about 1″ by 2″, ¬†then copy and paste them to make three columns, one for each photo on a word document. ¬†Here is what I did. ¬†Cut these out and have your students glue them to the my city page. ¬† If your students are older, you could have them write about special things in your city or draw pictures or bring in their own photos. Since we are teaching 4-6 year olds from 3 different cities, I printed a photo from each of the cities and let all the students glue on of each photo on their page.

Page 3 – My State.

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Print the title page on your choice of white or colored card stock and cut to 6 1/4 inches. Print a map of your state and either something your State is known for or your state flag or flower or bird onto regular paper.  Have your students glue these pictures onto page 3.   If you live in South Carolina, you can use this state map and this state bird and flower printable featuring our Carolina Wren and Jessamine.

Page 4 – My Country.

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Print the title page on your choice of white or colored card stock and cut to 7 inches. ¬†If you live in the United States, you can use this free printable.¬†I chose a map with SC highlighted, but you can use any outline map of your country- just adjust the size to be less than half a page so you can fit it on your title page. ¬†Have your students glue this map onto their “My Country” title page.

Page 5 – My Continent.

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If you live in North America, you can use this printable. If you live somewhere else, simply paste your continent in place of North America on the page. Print on white or colored card stock and cut the page to 7 3/4 inches.  Students can color each country in the continent a different color to reinforce the concept.

Page 6 – My Planet.

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Print this page on white card stock and cut the page to be 8 1/2 inches long. ¬†This way you have a square as your last page of your “Where do I live” book. ¬†You can have your students color the land green or brown and the oceans blue.

You can staple all the pages together at the top, or punch holes and tie them with string, or punch holes and use brads to hold them together.  If you use them as part of a notebook or folder project, you can punch holes and use two of the folder brads to hold your book in the folder.

Tips and Ideas:

If you have a paper cutter, you can use the built-in ruler on it to measure for your page lengths.  If you do not have a paper cutter and need to cut several of each page, you may want to make a cardboard template to use as a cutting guide for each page and use a pizza or fabric cutter on a cutting mat or cardboard if you have one.  Otherwise, simply use a ruler or straight edge to draw a line to keep your cuts straight. *I highly recommend getting a good paper cutter if you will be making more than a few copies of this craft. There is a LOT of cutting involved, and it can all be done with a paper cutter in a fraction of the time it would take to cut by hand.

If you edit any of the pages, I highly suggest test printing 1 copy on regular paper before printing onto card stock.

Make sure you glue the maps and pictures at least 1/4 inch down from the top of each page so you have room to staple or punch holes at the top of the page.

If you are working with very young children, remember to give them one page at a time and explain the instructions for each page before handing out the pages. ¬†Otherwise you may end up with lots of pretty coloring and gluing, but not necessarily on the correct pages and not much understanding of the concepts you are trying to teach.ūüėČ

 

Happy Learning!

 

 

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Homemade Pizza Sauce

Now that all my kids can eat cheese, we’ve started making pizza together at least every other week. ¬†My kids love patting out the dough and adding the toppings themselves. ¬†I love how excited they are to help in the kitchen and to eat their dinner!

I try to make it easy by making a double batch of pizza dough and freezing half, making a big batch of pizza sauce and freezing it in quart bags, and buying large bags of shredded cheese and freezing in quart bags so that most pizza nights, I just have to remember to get everything out of the freezer, and we can put the pizza together in 30 minutes or less.

Here is my recipe for homemade pizza sauce. ¬†Feel free to adjust herbs and spices to taste- it’s not an exact science. =)

 

Homemade Pizza Sauce

Makes at least 1 quart

Ingredients

  • 2- 15 oz cans tomato puree or diced tomatoes, pureed
  • 1- 10 oz can tomato paste
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped, or 6 teaspoons dried basil
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped, or 3 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin, squash, or sweet potato (optional- it helps cut the acidity)

Directions

  1. Blend all ingredients thoroughly using a blender or immersion blender.
  2. Use immediately or freeze in small containers or quart bags.

Enjoy!

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Lovely Lasagna

My sister, Rachel, has this amazing recipe for lasagna, which is very similar to the lasagna we grew up with our mom making, but with the addition of herbs and different cheeses to make it even more tasty! ¬†I haven’t made lasagna in years due to my kids’ food allergies, but I decided that I absolutely need to have some lasagna on hand for while I’m breastfeeding so that I can do a better job of keeping up my milk supply with this little one.

Rachel’s Lovely Lasagna (with a gluten free option)

Makes approximately 1 13×9 inch pan

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground meat (beef, pork, lamb, etc.)
  • Lasagna noodles (or you could substitute spaghetti squash for a gluten free option)
  • 2 quart jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce (I like either homemade or 4 cheese)
  • 1 32 oz container ricotta cheese
  • About 2 lbs. assorted cheese (Usually 1/2 Mozzarella and 1/2 Cheddar, Monterey, or Colby jack)
  • 4 oz fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4-6 eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning
  • 1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Oregano
  • Basil (optional)
  • Salt (optional)
  • Pepper (optional)

 

Directions

  1. Brown ground meat.  Mix with spaghetti sauce in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Mix together cheeses (save some cheese for topping), ricotta, eggs, herbs, and spices.  Mixture should be slightly goopy but thick.  Add more eggs if needed to make it somewhat spreadable.
  3. Layer ingredients in pan, starting with sauce mixture, then noodles, then cheese mixture. ¬†This usually makes 3 layers in a 13×9 pan. ¬†Top with the cheese you saved.
  4. Bake @ 350 degrees for about 1 hour, or until noodles are done.

 

Notes

  • This makes a great freezer meal. ¬†Simply use an oven and freezer safe pan and cover tightly with foil or lid. ¬†Allow to thaw before baking, or allow more time to bake. ¬†You may want to lower the baking temperature to 325 if frozen to prevent burning around the edges.

Enjoy!

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Extra Healthy Chili

This chili recipe has evolved quite a bit over the last 8 years.  The original recipe was given to me by my sister at my bridal shower, and I stuck to it for years, but as I tried to find ways to slip more veggies and organ meat into our diet, I gradually changed the recipe to be my own creation.  I always use what I have on hand, so each batch is a little different, but here is the basic recipe.  I like to make large batches (basically two dutch oven size pots or one huge pot) and share with friends or freeze for an easy meal later.

Extra Healthy Chili 

By: Becca                     Yield: Two dutch oven size pots of chili

Ingredients

  • Healthy oil such as coconut (we like the refined coconut oil for foods like this), olive, or palm
  • 1-2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1-2 lbs ground beef, lamb, or pork (or mixture)
  • 1 pint jar of puddin’, head cheese, other ground up organ meat (if using liver, only use a little bit- it’s pretty strong tasting)
  • 4 cups shredded veggies (squash, zucchini, and carrots have worked well for me. ¬†Besides adding nutrition, these add a little bulk so it feels like you have more meat in your chili without actually having to use lots of meat. ¬†You can probably do a veggie version by adding more veggies and cutting out the meat completely!)
  • 4 Tablespoons Chili powder
  • 4 Tablespoons ground Cumin
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 #10 can crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce (I like the crushed tomatoes because they generally don’t have anything added- check labels to avoid preservatives and allergens that are often hidden in tomato sauce)
  • 4 cups cooked pureed pumpkin or sweet potato (this is nice because it helps to cut the acidity of the tomatoes, plus adds so much nutrition! ¬†My husband says he hates pumpkin and sweet potato, yet if I make chili without it, he asks what is wrong with the chili =)
  • 3 teaspoons real salt
  • 1-2 cups bone broth
  • About 8 cups canned or cooked beans (we like a mixture of black, red, pinto, and kidney beans)

Directions

  1. Cook first 8 ingredients in a large pot or cast iron dutch oven over medium heat.  You want your meat browned, and your veggies pretty soft.
  2. Divide between two dutch ovens if necessary.
  3. Add tomato, pureed veggies, and salt. ¬†Bring to a boil and simmer for a bit (I like to partially cover pots so it doesn’t splatter too much.) ¬†If you are using one large pot, be sure to stir frequently so your chili doesn’t stick to the bottom.
  4. Add as much bone broth as you want, plus the beans, and stir well.  Simmer for at least 30 minutes, while the flavors meld and excess water evaporates, stirring occasionally.

Enjoy!

 

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New Birth on the Farm

We have been blessed with some new little ones on our farm! ¬†One of our hens showed up two days ago with 4 tiny chicks at her side! ¬†These are the first baby animals to be born on our farm, and they were born with absolutely no help from us. ¬†In fact, we hadn’t been able to find the mama hen since we got back from our Christmas trip, and I assumed she was gone for good, so this is a double blessing- to have a good hen back, and to have 4 new chicks for our flock!

I still don’t know where she hid to hatch her babies, but we’ve done our best to set up a safe place with food and water that she can use if she chooses. ¬†I’m afraid to intervene much since she’s doing such a great job mothering, but I do have concerns, both with the cold nights we’ve been having, and the predators in the area. ¬†During the day, we (my kids and I) play or work near our sweet hen (her name is Black Beauty by the way, and she is a Black Australorp I believe), and make sure none of our other animals bother her- especially the cats. ¬†She has a pasture and a chicken tractor all to herself, but the ducks, geese, and cats have been very curious, and the cats easily climb over or slip through all of our fences. ¬†We are hoping and praying she and her little ones make it!

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