Cheesy Hash-Brown Cups

Veronika has officially moved up from Hello magazine (the Highlights edition for tots aged 0 to 2) to the company’s High 5 magazine, aimed at 2 to 5 year olds. And that meant she was ready for her first recipe side-by-side with me!

To start, I did a little grown-up prep and chopped 1/4 cup green onions and 1/4 cup red bell pepper. Set aside.

Meanwhile, thaw 1 (16-ounce) package shredded hash browns. Drain in a colander and transfer to a large bowl.

Time for Veronika to join in! She helped stir in the green onions and bell pepper, 3/4 cup shredded non-dairy cheddar, 3/4 cup shredded non-dairy Parmesan, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Next, she lined muffin cups with cupcake liners, proudly depositing each one!

I helped her spoon some of the hash brown mixture into each cup, tamping each one down as needed (You can use your fingers or the back of a spoon for this step).

Finally, together we drizzled each portion with 1 tablespoon non-dairy creamer; the slightly nutty flavor of almond-based creamer was nice with the rest of the flavors.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour, then let cool slightly before serving. These were fantastic as part of a breakfast-for-dinner night, including vegan bacon and breakfast burritos!

Playing with Tees, Three Ways

Brightly-colored golf tees are a fantastic item to repurpose as toys for toddlers. To wit, here are three ways Veronika has played with them lately!

First, we used a batch of homemade play dough and I set out a tray of various items that could all poke into the dough: tees, pipe cleaners, and cut pieces of straws. This activity was great for honing fine motor skills, and it was interesting to see her discover how much easier it was to poke in the sturdy tees than the bendy pipe cleaners. “It got curly!” she said with a bit of disappointment, of the latter.

She marveled at the way a tee, on the other hand, could pass straight through a ball of play dough, from one side to the other.

After decorating some blobs of playdough, the upright tees looked like birthday candles. Thinking quickly, I pulled out a muffin tin and we made little cupcakes, dotted with candles for a stuffed animal’s party.

The next day, we pulled out the play dough again, but this time I flattened it into a base and challenged her to hammer in the tees with her toy hammer. She wasn’t as into it as I hoped, but she did like poking the tees into the second alternative I offered for a base: a few blocks of Styrofoam (the kind you can purchase for floral arrangements).

Now, the tees were standing at attention and I had a final challenge for her: To balance a marble on the cup of each one!

This took delicate fingerwork, but not only did Veronika excel at it, she absolutely loved it!

Even more fun was lining up a few marbles, and then flicking them off. She quite enjoyed the noise as the marbles plinked down.

From here, I was thrilled to see her come up with her own ways to play. She could squish a marble into the playdough, and then “hammer” it in further with a tee.

Needless to say, tees are a great way to keep a toddler busy!