Tower of Blocks

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Today was time for Veronika’s first engineering lesson!

Ok, not really, but soft blocks are a great toy for babies, and the first step towards all the stacking and building to come. For now, the fun is simply in the bright colors, and of course, the knocking down!

Use any soft foam or fabric blocks for this game; save the wooden ones with sharp corners for later.

I built a small tower of four blocks next to Veronika, and first let her just enjoy looking at it.

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Then I knocked it down, whee!

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The next time, I built it up and encouraged her to knock it down. Boom!

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She loved the back and forth of this, and we built quite a few little towers. You can talk about the colors, shapes, and more as you build.

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She seemed so intrigued by the blocks that I then set them up as visual stimulation for tummy time – a nice variation that kept things fresh.

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How do you and your little one play with blocks? Please share in the comments!

Chocolate-Dipped Vegan Cupcakes

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It was a shame that the French pastry lesson was a bit lost on Travis for this final recipe from Le French Cafe. It’s the same frustration I used to encounter in my vegan blogging days; I’ve cooked almost every cuisine under the sun, and French egg recipes are the hardest to veganize.

However, I deeply appreciate that Raddish Kids always takes the time to offer vegan alternatives to every kit’s recipes; in this case, they honestly recommended making cupcakes instead, because vegan cream puffs just weren’t going to work. So we nixed the lesson on making a pate a choux, and just enjoyed whipping up this dessert!

First, Travis whisked 1 cup soy milk with 1 teaspoon cider vinegar. He remembered that this was because our baking soda would need an acid to react in the oven!

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In a large bowl, we combined 1 and 1/4 cups flour, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 3/4 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Next we mixed together the soy milk mixture, 1/3 cup canola oil, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until combined.

We divided the batter evenly among 12 muffin cups lined with liners, making them about 2/3 full. If I made the recipe again, I would coat the liners with cooking spray so they don’t stick to the cupcakes come serving time.

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Bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes – a wooden pick inserted in the cupcakes should come out clean.

To assemble the cupcakes, cut in half with a serrated knife.

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Combine 1/4 cup non-dairy chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons Earth Balance butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for about 30 seconds, until melted.

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Spoon about 2 tablespoons non-dairy vanilla ice cream onto the bottom of each cupcake. Dip the tips in the melted chocolate mixture, letting any excess dip off, and place atop the ice cream. Travis was so proud of the way our little sundaes looked!

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The extra tidbits on our recipe card included information about various classic French pastries, and facts about the Eiffel Tower. My chef has earned the second patch on his apron!

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Croque Monsieur Sandwich

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Our second French Cafe-themed recipe from Raddish Kids was the iconic French sandwich, Le Croque Monsieur. It features bechamel sauce, one of the five French “mother sauces,” and the recipe card included neat information on the other four sauces as well. We veganized this one easily with a block of Daiya’s Monterey Jack cheese in place of gruyere, and Yves Veggie Canadian bacon in place of ham (or use any meatless ham of your choice).

But first up was the bechamel! Travis loved watching 3 tablespoons Earth Balance butter melt in our saucepan over medium heat.

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We whisked in 3 tablespoons flour to make a roux, but Travis was a bit fearful of touching the whisk. Mommy step!

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Next we gradually poured in 1 and 1/4 cups non-dairy milk (we used unsweetened almond milk). Once the mixture began to bubble and thickened slightly, we removed from the heat and stirred in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg.

Next up was grating the block of cheese! Using a grater was the recipe’s featured culinary skill. I showed Travis how to hold the cheese so no fingers or knuckles would get caught in the grater’s holes, and he was so proud.

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I asked Travis to arrange 4 slices of country white bread on our baking sheet, which he proudly did, rearranging until they were in a single layer just so.

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Spoon 2 tablespoons bechamel sauce onto each slice. Add 1 slice of vegan ham, then sprinkle each slice with 2 tablespoons of the grated cheese.

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Top each sandwich with a second slice of bread, followed by an additional 2 tablespoons bechamel, and the remaining cheese.

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Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes.

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Travis was so proud, and cleared his plate!

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We thought the sandwiches were delicious with a bowl of tomato soup.

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While we dined, I quizzed Travis on French culinary terms like “bisque” and “ganache,” to round out the lesson. His favorite was learning that “a la mode” means served with ice cream.