Corn Pancakes with Black Bean Salsa

This savory pancake batter sneaks in not one but two vegetables. They make a great breakfast-for-dinner meal, especially when served alongside your favorite meatless sausage.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup butternut squash soup (such as Imagine)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened soy milk
  • 2 teaspoons Earth Balance butter
  • 1 cup mild salsa
  • 1/4 cup black beans
  1. To prepare the pancakes, combine the cornmeal and flour in a bowl; set aside.
  2. Whisk together the flaxseed and water in a large bowl. Add the soup and soy milk, whisking to combine. Stir in the cornmeal mixture just until combined.
  3. Melt the butter on a griddle over medium-high heat. Add the pancake batter to form 4 to 5 pancakes. Cook for about 3 minutes, then flip and cook an additional 2 minutes or so on the other side. (Note: These won’t form bubbles on the top when ready to flip, as standard pancakes do).
  4. Meanwhile, stir together the salsa and black beans in a small bowl. Serve the pancakes with the salsa on the side, or dolloped right on top!

Making Faces, Five Ways

It can sometimes feel uncomfortable to talk with toddlers about emotions. In particular, I always worry that showing angry or sad faces will make my children mirror those “negative” feelings. But it’s also incredibly important to give toddlers the emotional vocabulary to understand their own feelings, and those of others.

Here are five fun ways to play around with faces and expressions – including those sad ones – to help demystify all those big toddler emotions.

Felt Faces:

For the first game, I relied on a felt set that we own to make round faces and pieces to mix and match as facial features. If you don’t own such a set, glue felt onto cardboard circles for each face, and cut additional pieces of felt into various shapes for eyes, noses, and mouths.

Ovals and circles were great for eyes or open-mouthed surprise. A crescent moon was a perfect smile, and then immediately became a frown once turned upside down!

After showing Veronika a few examples, I encouraged her to design her own faces. Of course hers weren’t always recognizable, but she had the idea. She said this one was wearing a hat:

Funny Faces:

For the next version, I cut eyes, noses, and mouths from a magazine until I had a varied collection. Ideally the images would have been larger, but even with small pieces, Veronika enjoyed starting to mix and match them.

I showed her how to combine the features into faces that sometimes showed multiple emotions, often with silly results. This one looked quite surprised!

She also enjoyed turning the game into sensory play, helping glue them down and then lifting them up again for lots of sticky mixing and matching.

Nature Masks:

For the next version, we first needed to head outside to gather some nature treasures. Once home, I cut two eye holes into a paper plate and then invited Veronika to arrange her treasures any which way.

We ended up with something vaguely human (and perhaps on the spectrum between happy and creepy!). Your child might also enjoy making an animal face for this craft, instead of a human one, thanks to all those fluffy furry nature bits.

Nature Mirror:

Mirrors are a fantastic way to let kids explore their emotions, so for the next round of face play we headed to the bathroom with our nature treasures. First, I invited Veronika to try out her expressions. Could she be happy and silly? Yes!

How about “slumpy” (her word for a mix of grumpy and sleepy)? Yup.

Now we made faces right over our reflections with shaving cream (you could also use washable paint). Now she could either play around with the shaving cream by hand or add a few more nature treasures to it, to alter the expressions.

Faces for the Trees:

Our final emotion game used nature, too, and this time we needed to make “forest putty” a.k.a. dirt mixed with water. We shoveled some dirt into a bucket and then Veronika watered it. Stir with a shovel or stick until your mixture looks a bit like brownie batter.

Now I asked Veronika if the trees had feelings, too! She decided yes, this tree was happy. We smeared on some of our forest putty, then gathered up treasures like dandelions and pine branches to give it a face. Our putty was a bit runny, so we had to make the face down low on the trunk, but if your mixture is more like clay, it might stick higher up on the trunk.

What expression will your favorite tree have? Please share in the comments!

Shopping List

Here’s a cute game to play with your kids if, like mine, they get antsy while at the supermarket. Incidentally, my kids both crack up for it while on the swing set, too, making it a pleasant way to pass some time.

To start, I name two or three items that are on my shopping list. “I’m going to buy… bananas and bread,” I might say. The kids have to guess what else belongs on the list, based on the starting letter of the foods.

Travis, as a big kid, gets the real idea and adds an item starting with the proper letter. You can definitely have fun with digraphs for this game, like ch-eese, ch-iles, and ch-ips.

Veronika absolutely loves to chime in, even though she fully knows her answers are “wrong” or silly. That seems to be precisely what’s fun about it!

She inevitably adds “loo loos” or “doo doos” to the list, and then bursts out laughing. Meanwhile, even though she’s not getting the answer right, she is hearing the alliteration and beginning to connect sounds and patterns.

You can keep up the game while you unpack groceries back home, too, keeping up the smiles and laughter instead of having kids poke into bags for an immediate snack. Meanwhile, all the shopping and unpacking gets done!

Strawberry Swimmy Fish

We adapted this recipe from Travis’s latest Kiwi Crate, all about pond life. The original recipe called for Greek yogurt, but you can use non-dairy yogurt in a pinch to make these little fishies vegan!

To start, place graham crackers in a zip-top plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. Pour the crumbs into a bowl.

Working with 1 strawberry at a time, dip in a little vanilla non-dairy yogurt, then roll in the graham cracker crumbs. Transfer to a plate and add a mini chocolate chip (such as Enjoy Life) as an eye.

Chances are this snack will go down swimmingly!

Make a Gift Basket

This sweet flower basket makes a beautiful gift to any springtime recipient (hint: Mother’s Day is coming up), and helps elementary school kids hone important fine motor skills, like weaving.

To start, you’ll need a cardboard berry basket, which meant this activity began with a trip to the farm stand to pick out fresh tomatoes and strawberries! After a little snack, the crafting began. Travis chose green and purple paint, which didn’t actually show up that well, but he gave it a proud coating and we left it to dry overnight.

In the morning, he added decorations with marker. Next up was weaving! We used yellow and pink ribbon, and he worked diligently at poking the ribbon through each hole and pulling through.

I helped him tie the end of each ribbon into a bow.

As the final touch, punch holes in the top and loop pipe cleaners through to be the handles.

Fill with a spring bouquet, and give to your lucky recipient!