Valentine Cookie Play

Valentine Cookies (10)

Sugar cookie recipes are a perfect way to involve a toddler in the kitchen. There’s rolling, frosting, and decorating, not to mention tasting! Because sugar cookies involve multiple steps, a recipe can easily fill a snowed-in morning together, as Veronika and I made it do today!

For the cookies, we used this recipe except (whoops!) accidentally added 1 cup Earth Balance butter instead of 3/4 cup. Luckily, the dough still worked great. If your toddler wants to help with some of the easier steps of making the dough, be sure to let him or her! Veronika wasn’t interested though until I pulled the chilled dough from the fridge and set it down, along with a rolling pin and cookie cutters.

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She loved helping roll out the dough with the purple rolling pin!

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I helped her press our heart cookie cutters in hard enough to push all the way through the dough, and showed her how to arrange our hearts on cookie sheets. She was so proud and delighted with all these steps! When there were only a few dough scraps left, I let her continue the play solo while I baked the cookie batches.

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Once the cookies cooled, it was time to decorate! We nixed homemade icing and instead just tinted a can of store-bought vanilla frosting pink with a little food coloring. Veronika was so proud standing at the counter, just like big brother Travis can! She helped frost the cookies…

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…and loved using a spoon to add little white sprinkles.

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Of course all of this was combined with lots of nibbling and taste-testing, making for a happy sugar-fueled morning.

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Oatmeal Cookies

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These sugar-free oatmeal cookies are soft and chewy and a huge hit with the whole family. If you want to add a little variation, try stirring in 1 cup chopped apple or 1 cup chocolate chips in the final step before baking.

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  1. In a bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the applesauce and baking powder.
  3. Add the apple juice, maple syrup, and canola oil to the applesauce mixture, then add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring just until combined. Let stand for about 5 minutes.
  4. Drop the dough by spoonfuls onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees F for 12 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

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Holiday Cookie Magic

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There’s a lot to be said for beautiful and complicated holiday cookies (and we’ve baked some of those this holiday season!), but there’s also a lot to be said for slice-and-bake cookies. To wit, Travis and I had fun baking some today (thanks to the vegan sugar cookie dough from Sweet Loren’s). We then talked about the symbolism behind some of December’s holiday cookies before adding the following decorations.

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Christmas:

Chewy Chunks: Who knew? Dried fruits and nuts (traditionally numbering up to 13 ingredients) originally represented Jesus and the Apostles, hence the ubiquitous holiday fruit cake. We didn’t use quite that many different dried fruits, but we did chop up raisins, prunes, dried apricots, and dried cranberries, then pressed into the top of the dough before baking.

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Festive Fruit Strips: Fruit leather cut into strips makes candy cane stripes on a round cookie. Here was another “who knew” moment: the shape of a traditional candy cane is meant to represent a shepherd’s crook!

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Hanukkah:

Jelly Doughnuts: Fried treats like jelly doughnuts represent the oil that lasted for 8 days during the miracle of Hanukkah. To turn them into cookie form, we pressed our thumbs into the center, filled each with about 1/4 teaspoon jelly, and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

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Latke Cookies: Likewise representing the oil, here was a way to turn potato latkes into cookie form! Travis helped smash potato chips with mallet, then we dipped the top of the sugar cookie dough into the crushed cookies before baking.

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These were all so easy and yet so delicious!

Gingerbread People

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Gingerbread cookies are the perfect baking project with a toddler. There’s messy dough to mix up, wonderful spices to smell, adorably-shaped cookie cutters, and little people to decorate. In sum, Veronika had lots of floury, sticky, sensory fun with this one!

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To start, we needed to make the dough. She loved smelling each spice before we added it into the dry ingredients!

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon flaxseed
  • 3 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup agave nectar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 5 cups flour
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flaxseed and water; let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the shortening, agave, molasses, and flaxseed mixture; beat until combined.
  3. Combine the baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and flour in a large bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.

Veronika loved watching the dough mix up in our stand mixer!

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And as you can see, she also loved taste-testing right from the bowl!

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She marveled at how sticky the dough was as we wrapped it in plastic to chill in the fridge.

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Once the dough had chilled, we rolled it out on a generously floured surface, then used gingerbread man cookie cutters to cut out our little people. I gave Veronika a plate filled with decorating goodies: raisins, almonds, licorice strips, and small jelly bean candies. It was up to her to decorate!

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She thought this was delightful! She loved giving the people eyes and a “skirt”.

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Since I knew her cookies risked getting broken or mashed, I worked alongside her to ensure we had enough people for a few real batches of cookies.

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Big brother Travis thought it looked so fun that he needed to join in the action!

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He was so proud of this very ornately-decorated fellow, with almond shoes and licorice shirt sleeves.

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Once the people have been fully adorned, bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes. And then comes the best part of all; it was time for a taste test!

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You might consider ending the day with a read of the classic Gingerbread Man tale.

Cookie Dough Log

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Cookie dough is one of the easiest and earliest ways to get toddlers in the kitchen. I loved this variation on simply making cookies together, allotting Veronika her own portion of dough to play with in a log.

I kept this activity as simple as could be, whipping up a batch of chocolate chip cookies from a mix instead of from scratch. Because this only required three ingredients (the bag of mix, a stick of Earth Balance butter, and a flaxseed egg) it meant Veronika could stir it all together. She was so proud to help!

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Once the dough came together, I divided it in half. Half was for real cookies (of course) and the other half I rolled into a log. I handed across a craft stick and she used this as a knife to “slice” the cookies.

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And of course the stick was also useful for tasting. Then we divided the log into separate portions, and I showed her how to roll it into balls.

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I thought she might want to play pretend bakery for a little while, but she was more interested in the real cookies that were now baking in the oven, asking when they would be done.

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So then it was snack time!

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Thumbprint Cookies

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Even toddlers can help prepare these easy cookies; your little one will love making the thumb indents that get filled with jelly.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup apple juice
  • 2/3 cup melted Earth Balance butter
  • 2 tablespoons plain almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Jam for filling
  1. Combine the flour and salt in a bowl; set aside.
  2. Whisk together the applesauce and baking powder in a large bowl. Add the apple juice, melted butter, almond milk, and vanilla.
  3. Slowly stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. The dough will be sticky but workable.
  4. Using your hands, shape into 1 inch balls and arrange on baking sheets.
  5. Press your thumb or a small measuring spoon into the center of each cookie to form an indent. Fill with your jam of choice.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F for 11 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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Sunflower Seed Butter Cookies

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With a leftover jar of sunflower seed butter in the pantry, I threw together these protein-packed cookies.

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup sunflower seed butter
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  1. In a bowl, combine the flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the applesauce and remaining 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. Add the sunflower seed butter, canola oil, brown sugar, and maple syrup.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until combined.
  4. Drop the dough by spoonfuls onto baking sheets, 12 cookies per sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for 12 minutes.

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Handprint Cookies

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Part baking project and part bonding activity, these sibling handprint cookies are absolutely adorable. I can think of no better way to spend these cozy days of social distancing than creating strong memories for the kids, despite the scary news in the outside world.

So first things first, we needed cookie dough! I knew the dough needed to chill for a while, so whipped up a batch first thing in the morning.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance butter
  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla almond milk
  • 2 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Cream together the sugar, butter, Ener-G eggs, and almond milk in a stand mixer. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, mixing at low speed just until combined.
  2. Gather the dough into a ball and chill for at least 3 hours.

When it was time to make the cookies, I sat Veronika in her high chair with one portion of dough, and Travis stood at the counter to help me roll out the rest.

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Press a child’s hand to the dough and trace with a butter knife.

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Travis was able to hold his hand still for a realistic approximation on his cookie. I had to use a little more creative license with wiggly toddler Veronika, as expected! Then we gathered the scraps and re-rolled the dough for heart and star cookie cutter shapes.

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As a sweet touch, they pressed their thumbprints into a few cookies.

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Let the kids decorate them however they want!

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I stepped back and let them choose, which meant our cookies had a cinnamon-sugar sprinkle and Dandies marshmallows in the center.

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Bake at 375 degrees F for 8 minutes, until lightly browned.

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Then half the fun is eating them of course!

Continent Cookies and Pen Pals

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Travis has a new subscription to the World Edition of Little Passports, having graduated from Early Explorers. With this big kid subscription, he’ll now get to explore a specific country each month instead of a worldwide theme.

The starter kit contained everything he’ll need moving forward, including: a suitcase; a letter from our guides “Sam and Sofia”; a first luggage tag; a passport; a world map; and a coin chart that he’ll fill in each month.

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The activities in his first booklet are great for early elementary school age, including simple addition, mazes, and word scrambles.

As an activity to kick start things, we made the suggested Continent Cookies. Prepare sugar cookies according to your favorite recipe (full disclosure: we used a mix!).

Divide the dough into thirds. Tint one third with about 10 drops of green food coloring; this will be your land. Tint the remaining two-thirds dough with about 10 drops of blue food coloring; this will be your ocean.

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Pull off about 2 tablespoons of the blue dough and press into a disk. We followed along with Little Passport’s handy instruction sheet and tried to shape pinches of the green dough into the shapes of the continents. Travis enjoyed this challenge, and also made up his own pretend continents.

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Our full world didn’t turn out too badly!

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Bake according to recipe instructions, then enjoy a taste of the world – literally!

For some final fun, we checked out extras online like how to say hello in multiple languages.

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We also printed out a pen pal template and decided to start a correspondence with his cousin, who lives a few states away.

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Your kids might even have friends or relatives in another country to write to! We’re excited to see what arrives in the first country kit next month.

Lemon-Glazed Sugar Cookies

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It’s not Christmas until you’ve made cut-out sugar cookies! This recipe was more of a mommy project, not a kid recipe like some others in our kitchen this holiday season, but kids will love helping to decorate the cookies in the final step.

Ingredients:

For the cookies:

  • 2 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup Earth Balance butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the glaze:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

To decorate:

  • Chopped pistachios
  • Sprinkles
  1. To prepare the dough, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Whisk the flaxseed into the water to make 1 flax egg. Add to the stand mixer, along with the vanilla, and beat until combined.
  3. Beat in the flour mixture at low speed until a dough forms.
  4. Shape the dough into a disk and roll between two sheets of parchment paper to 1/4-inch thick. Use holiday cookie cutters to cut out shapes of your choice. Transfer to 2 parchment-paper lined baking sheets.Lemon Sugar Cookies (1)
  5. Chill the cookies for 15 to 20 minutes, then bake at 350 degrees F for 11 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets.
  6. To prepare the glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and zest. Spread over the cookies and return to the baking sheet. Immediately sprinkle with desired toppings.

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Let dry completely, and then it’s time for pretty packaging! To gift the cookies, transfer them to wax paper bags and fold over the top. Add a holiday cupcake liner. Use a hole punch to punch through all the layers, then secure with a brad.

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Of course don’t forget to save some for your family… And a few for Santa!

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