Thanksgiving Vegetable Trio

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We were feeling especially thankful (pun intended!) to Raddish Kids for including this trio of vegetables recipes in Travis’s Gourmet Gobble kit. And yes, you can make all three in the amount of time that a vegan roast cooks in the oven!

Spinach Gratin

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Ingredients:

  • 20 ounces frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 and 1/4 cups plain non-dairy creamer
  • 1/4 cup vegan Parmesan shreds
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup shredded vegan mozzarella.
  1. Place the spinach in a colander and thaw under hot running water. Squeeze out excess water and transfer to a bowl.
  2. Add the creamer, Parmesan, garlic powder, and salt.
  3. Spoon the spinach mixture into a baking dish and sprinkle with the mozzarella. Bake at 400 degrees F for 25 minutes, until bubbly.

Orange-Glazed Carrots

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Ingredients:

  • 1 pound carrots
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon Earth Balance butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  1. Peel the carrots and cut into 1/2-inch rounds. Transfer to small saucepan and add the orange juice, butter, and salt.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook for 7 minutes.
  3. Uncover and continue to cook for 20 minutes, or until the juice is a thick glaze. Sprinkle with the thyme before serving.

Maple Bacon Brussels Sprouts

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Ingredients:

  • 1 and 1/2 pounds small Brussels sprouts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 slices cooked and chopped vegan bacon (such as Lightlife)
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  1. Trim the Brussels sprouts and slice in half. Transfer to a bowl and add the olive oil and salt.
  2. Spoon onto a baking sheet lined with foil and bake at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the chopped bacon and maple syrup.

The verdict was yum to all three of these! The recipe card had fun facts we could check out over our meal, including food differences between the first Thanksgiving and the modern era, and tips on getting kids to try new foods.

Turkey Cheeseball Appetizer

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This appetizer is not only adorable, but delicious, too!

Ingredients:

  • 5 multigrain crackers
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 8 ounces vegan cream cheese, softened
  • 4 tablespoon Earth Balance butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  •  1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Crackers (for serving)
  • Pretzel sticks (for serving)
  • Red bell pepper strips (for serving)
  • Raisins (for serving)
  1. Place the crackers in a zip-top plastic bag and seal, then crush with a rolling pin. Mince the thyme and rosemary, and add to the cracker crumbs.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the cream cheese, butter, salt, garlic powder, and 1 tablespoon crumb mixture; beat until blended. Spoon the mixture onto plastic wrap, wrap up, and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  3. To serve, spoon the cream cheese mixture into a bowl and shape into a ball with a smaller ball on top as the turkey’s head. Use additional crackers and pretzels as tail feathers, two raisins for eyes, and two bell pepper pieces for the wattle.
  4. Serve with more crackers, pretzels, bell pepper sticks, and raisins. Gobble gobble!

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Bacon-Wrapped Dates

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This two-ingredient appetizer makes quick work of the first course for a holiday meal. Travis loved prepping the dates… and then loved the taste so much he nearly ate it all himself!

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Ingredients:

  • 9 slices vegan bacon (such as Lightlife)
  • 9 pitted dates
  1. Working with 1 bacon slice at a time, place on a cutting board and place a date on one edge. Roll up tightly, then secure with a toothpick. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with foil.
  2. Repeat with the remaining dates and bacon slices; bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes.

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Six Thanksgiving Games

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We’re celebrating Thanksgiving without extended family this year, and no doubt your family is, too. But don’t think little… Think big! To make the holiday special for the kids, I still wanted a big feast, special recipes, the parade on TV, and lots of silly or thought-provoking games. While recipes simmer in the kitchen, treat your kids to the following:

Turkey Feather Float:

For this first game, we took turns blowing a craft feather up in the air. The player than shouts out a Thanksgiving food (Sweet potatoes! Cornbread!) and then gives another huff to keep the feather afloat.

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It’s a lot trickier than it sounds!

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Kernel Counting:

Candy corn isn’t vegan, but we had some in the house for non-vegan family and it was the perfect seasonal candy for this activity. Give each player a bowl or plate filled with candy corn as well as an empty plate and a plastic spoon.

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Set the timer and see who can transfer the most kernels in one minute. Bonus parent move: you’re sneaking in some math, too! If you have big kids and want to make it trickier, have players hold the spoon in their mouth, instead.

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Potato Roll:

You’ll earn super-silly points for this one: Take a few extra potatoes from your mashed potato pile (round red potatoes worked best), and have kids move them across a room using only their nose. First one across is the hot potato!

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The kids not only got a kick out of this, but then wanted to play potato toss and potato soccer. On a rainy Thanksgiving day, why not?

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Thanksgiving Menu:

Print out a colorful menu template and and then talk your kids through the meal, everything from apps to dessert. It was fun for Travis to see it all written up, and older kids might want to write out the recipes themselves!

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Thanksgiving Poll:

While chatting with relatives (whether in person or over Zoom!) poll them on their favorite Thanksgiving foods, whether during the main course or at pie-time. Travis then tallied up the results in two ways.

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We used a bar chart for the main course answers and a pie chart (ha) for the dessert answers. More sneaky holiday math!

Thanksgiving Chatterbox:

This classic origami game is easy to adapt for Thanksgiving. We used a template from Raddish Kids with funny suggestions hiding behind the numbers like “Pretend it’s windy for the next 5 minutes” or “Make up a song about pumpkins and sing it”.

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Your kids can easily come up with their own actions, too. Needless to say, the chatterbox had us giggling around our dessert table. The above link has a reminder on the rules of the game, as well as a how-to for folding the chatterbox paper.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Popcorn Pictures

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I love toddler crafts that turn everyday items into art supplies. To wit, we had a bag of plain popcorn in our pantry which I knew could double as snack and craft time all at once!

I set out pieces of paper and a shallow plate filled with white glue, then showed Veronika how to brush the glue all over the paper. With a little guidance from mommy, we began covering the glue with popcorn pieces so it looked like a blanket of snow with a little snowman on top.

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It was fun to dip individual pieces of popcorn into the glue and add these like snowflakes in the sky.

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For variation, Veronika then helped me fill a zip-top bag with some of the popcorn and we added pink paint; seal and shake to distribute over the popcorn.

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We let the paint dry, then smeared a glue stick all over a piece of construction paper and taped down the pink pieces. In circles, they looked like little spring flowers, so we drew on stems for a final touch.

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Truth be told, Veronika needed a lot of adult guidance for this one because she was way more into snacking on the popcorn than crafting with it. Either way, she had fun! Which of the two does your toddler prefer? Please share in the comments!

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Thanksgiving Turkey Play Dough

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After having fun with a construction paper turkey craft, I wanted a version Veronika could more readily create all by herself. The solution? Play dough turkeys!

To start, I needed a batch of brown play dough and turned to an old favorite recipe for pumpkin pie-scented play dough that fit both color and season. It does require cooking, but is remarkably easy. In saucepan, combine:

2 and 3/4 cups flour

1 cup salt

4 teaspoons cream of tartar

2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 cups water

Cook over low heat, stirring with a spatula, until the mixture pulls from the sides of the pan. Let cool on wax paper, then knead a few times and it’s ready to go!

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I set out balls of the play dough on a tray along with: wiggle eyes, pipe cleaners (cut in half, which is an easier length for my toddler), bright feathers, and triangles cut from orange craft foam for beaks.

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Veronika loved it when I showed her how to make balls for heads and bodies, then decorate like a little turkey.  She very soon started her own version. “It’s Mr.Turkey!” she said, proudly.

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From there, she was off and running with her own creations. She loved poking pipe cleaners and feathers into the soft dough.

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The biggest hit, though, was adding wiggle eyes, which were “cheeks” and more, according to her narration.

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It turned out the craft foam “beaks: could be used more like little turkey feathers, too!

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Every once in a while she would lift the dough to her nose to inhale deeply. “It smells really good!” she said of the pumpkin pie spice.

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For fun, I also made a flatter turkey body and head for her to decorate, and we added looped pipe cleaners and smaller feathers to this one.

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After that, she kept playing with all the materials for a while… So long in fact that it kept her up past her normal nap time!

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Simple Block Learning: Shapes and Colors

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This idea was an extension on recent block puzzle play with Veronika. But this time, she had to puzzle out two variables at once: color and shape.

To start, I laid down a sheet of butcher paper and began to trace some of her soft foam blocks, making sure to use a corresponding crayon color for every block color.

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She immediately was naming shapes and colors as I worked and wanted to trace (i.e. scribble) alongside me! In retrospect, I would set this up while she was napping for a cleaner piece of paper.

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But eventually, I had enough shapes traced for the real puzzling to begin. It was neat to see her mind work through this activity. She immediately put a red triangle in place when I pointed out the red outline.

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Rectangles threw her off since we had both short ones and long ones, and she tended to either mix up the two or orient her rectangles in the wrong direction.

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Often, she proudly laid down a shape in the right outline (e.g. square in square), without any regard for the color.

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And all of that was perfectly fine! I loved that this was a challenge for her, and how gamely she rose to it.

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The activity also lends itself perfectly to extended play. Once all those shapes were in place, we could start connecting them like bridges into ever-bigger structures and towers.

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Without any prompting, she trotted away and then brought back a toy car. Now we had tunnels for cars to go through or garages to park them in!

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We eventually re-positioned the blocks into one long road for her to drive cars down, which she loved.

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She played solo so happily and I caught her driving cars up one side of a triangle block and down the other, almost like it was a mini mountain.

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And through all of this, she kept up the narrative of shapes and colors to herself. This activity was a true joy.

Gratitude Pumpkin

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We’re gearing up for a cozy Thanksgiving just as our family of four, but that only has us thinking all the more about what we’re thankful for or missing this year. One neat idea is to write down all the ideas your family can brainstorm… on a pumpkin!

As the kids came up with ideas (and mommy, too!), I wrote down all their words in permanent marker. Travis named favorites like Star Wars, friends and play dates. Don’t discount a toddler’s ability to name the things they love; that counts as the first step toward feeling grateful.

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Veronika also wanted to scribble with markers as I wrote, which meant our final pumpkin wasn’t “perfect”. But I loved this touch of reality on it.

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The resulting gratitude list was so simple but beautiful, and will make the perfect centerpiece for a Thanksgiving table!

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Thankful Tree for Thanksgiving Gratitude

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This collaborative family project works either as a countdown to Thanksgiving day, or simply as a craft to put together all in one go as the holiday approaches. Ours was sort of a mix of the two!

To start, cut open a brown paper grocery bag and cut into the shape of a tree with a trunk at the bottom and a few branches near the top. Attach to a wall with masking tape.

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I next cut leaf shapes from red, brown, and orange construction paper, making enough so there would be one for each day of the month until Thanksgiving.

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If you’re using the tree like a countdown, ask your kids each morning to name something they’re thankful for as soon as November starts. The response might be prompted by the day itself; for example on the day we had bright sunshine, we were thankful for the sun (and another day, rain!).

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We didn’t start on the first of the month, so we also had a day with a big brainstorm session to catch up. There are no wrong answers when it comes to this tree, and it’s fun to include big sibling ideas (Root beer! Star Wars!) with little sibling favorites (Bicycles! Puppies!).

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Even the littlest siblings can help attach a leaf to a branch.

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By the end you’ll have a beautiful tree full of family thanks.

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Create-a-Turkey Tray

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This art project works well as a solo activity to keep preschoolers or elementary school kids busy while you prep a Thanksgiving day feast. And with a toddler, it becomes a fun craft to do side-by-side!

To set up the tray, I cut large circles from brown construction paper for turkey bodies and smaller brown circles for heads. I then added “feathers” cut from construction paper in multiple hues, and orange triangles for beaks. Finally, add piles of wiggle eyes, glue sticks, and additional sheets of paper to be the background.

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From here, big kids can assemble their own turkey!

I showed Veronika first how to choose a large brown circle (“What shape is it?” I asked her), and to rub the glue stick on the back so we could press it to one of our large squares of paper.

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Next we added a small circle for the head. As she glued this one down, I pointed out the size difference between the small and large!

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We then named the colors as we glued down each feather. She also proudly pointed out that the orange beak was a triangle shape!

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She loved the wiggle eyes on the tray, so I gave her a small cup that she could dump out and refill a few times. Don’t forget to glue two onto the turkey!

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You can let your toddler make a more free-form “turkey”, too, which is a great part of the art process. I love crafts like this where we end up with one that looks like its “supposed” to and another that is authentically Veronika’s.

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