Little Passports: Israel

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Travis latest package from Little Passports was all about Israel; the activities for this particular country were less hands-on than previous packages he’s received. Still, Travis is always excited for the latest from “Sam and Sofia”!

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Through the booklet, he learned about ancient artifacts that have been found in Israel, sea creatures of the Red Sea, shuk shopping markets, and more. Most were age-appropriate for a 1st grader except a tough mystery to solve using Hebrew letter characters.

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Souvenir:

I wish Travis had received this particular kit back in December, because the souvenir was a game of dreidel, complete with a spinning top and a set of felt gold coins. Even though it wasn’t Hanukkah, Travis loved playing a few rounds!

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Further Activities:

Of course next we needed to color in the flag of Israel, and there was also a coloring page to teach about the holiday of Tu B’Shvat (new years for the trees), which Travis colored quite carefully.

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Next up was a science experiment to see what salt does to objects in water, as with the salty Dead Sea. The original instructions were to do this activity with an egg, but we used carrots to make it vegan. Fill each of 2 glass cups with 3/4 cup warm water. Add 1 baby carrot to the first cup. Ker-plop, it sinks!

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Next, add 1/4 cup salt to the second cup, stirring until it dissolves. We added a second baby carrot… and it floats!

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From here, we turned to Little Passport’s blog for a DIY Hanukkah Menorah. To start, cut a large paper plate in half, then mark 8 notches at the top with blue marker. Use the marker to connect these, so you have a series of increasingly smaller U shapes.

Next, we colored 9 clothespins with blue marker and decorated with silver glitter glue; let dry, then twist a small piece of yellow or gold pipe cleaner and use hot glue to attach to the open end of each clothespin. Cut a small paper plate in half; make slits in each half, as well as two slits in the bottom of the larger plate so they notch together to form a stand. Finally, attach the clothespins as the candles!

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Recipe:

It was time to end the exploration with dessert. We prepared a recipe for traditional Hamantaschen, a triangle-shaped pastry eaten during the holiday of Purim. Pinching the cookies into triangles took a bit of practice, but soon we had a knack for it!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons Earth Balance butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
  • 3 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 cup jam, any flavor
  1. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and orange juice.
  3. Whisk the flaxseed into the warm water to make 1 flax egg. Add to the butter mixture and beat until combined.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, then wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  5. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough and use a 3-inch round cookie cutter to make circles. Spoon a scant tablespoon of jam into the center of each, then pinch the dough into a triangle, forming three corners with your fingers.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees F for 18 minutes. Let stand at least 5 minutes before serving.

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Apple Pear Crisp

Apple Pear Crisp (1)This easy dessert lets the natural sweetness of the fruit shine. Serve with your favorite vegan vanilla ice cream if your kids like their dessert served a la mode!

Ingredients:

  • 3 pears
  • 3 apples
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup melted Earth Balance butter
  • Cooking spray
  1. Peel, core, and thinly slice the pears and apples; set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, vanilla, flour, oats, and butter.
  3. Spoon the fruit into a 13×9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray, then top evenly with the brown sugar mixture. Bake at 400 degrees F for 40 minutes and let cool slightly before serving.

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Chocolate Pomegranate Dip

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Sneak a little pomegranate into your family’s repertoire with this yummy snack dip!

Ingredients:

  • 1 package dairy-free chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 and 1/2 cups oat milk
  • 1 cup non-dairy sour cream
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
  1. Combine the pudding mix and oat milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until blended.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and beat to combine. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and chill for 1 hour.

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We love this served with fresh fruit like orange segments for dipping! You can also dunk in slices of pound cake. Or just eat it up with a spoon!

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Cherry Apple Coconut Rice Pudding

Cherry Coconut Rice Pudding (1)This dessert pudding couldn’t be easier to put together or bake, making it easy enough for even a weeknight.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 (15-ounce) can coconut milk
  • 1 cup frozen cherries, thawed
  • 1 cup applesauce
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a 2-quart casserole dish.
  2. Cover and bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.

Little Passports: England

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Travis enjoyed learning about England in this month’s kit from Little Passports, not least of all because it involved lots of puzzles (and I mean lots!). As with the India package, he had a personal interest, too, because he has some English heritage.

After familiar finds in his package like a world coin and stickers for his map, passport, and suitcase, we turned to the booklet.

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This month’s booklet allowed him to tackle a crossword puzzle, spot four-of-a-kind images, and do a mapping activity.

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That last is the only one I would say was beyond his grade level.

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Souvenir:

The souvenir was a 3-D puzzle of Big Ben, a huge hit because Travis once had an obsession with this clock tower (yes, we used to watch videos of it chiming). Now we could build it!

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The puzzle slots together easily, but a parental note of caution: it didn’t last long because Travis wanted to play with it more like an action figure.

Further Activities:

I was happy to see a wide variety of activities this month, both in the booklet and continued online. For science, we printed out a template for Newton’s color wheel. After learning briefly who Newton was, Travis colored in the provided circle in a rainbow.

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Glue onto cardboard for sturdiness and then thread onto a string that is 30 inches long. Wind the string up and then let it spin until unwound; it rotates fast enough that the colors blur back to white.

The website also had a printout of a British afternoon tea spread to color, which you can then cut apart and re-do as a puzzle.

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Travis wasn’t terribly interested, but it was nice to color side by side.

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There were two available add-ons from the company with the England kit, and we opted for both. To extrapolate on the theme of Shakespeare and the theater, Travis made shadow puppets. He loved slotting together and decorating the cardboard theater first.

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Turn on the battery-operated lights, and then it’s time for felt puppets to take center stage! This is sure to be a great toy to play with even completely separate from this Little Passport’s package.

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The second add-on circled back to themes of mapping and puzzles: a 3-D puzzle of London.

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The puzzle was far beyond my 6 year old’s ability, but he loved slotting the landmarks into their spaces, and we read about each one in the provided insert.

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And after all that, the neatest project by far was to make Stonehenge from homemade play dough! We mixed 2 cups flour and 1 cup salt in a large bowl. We wanted to make it black, so added red, blue, and green food coloring to 1/2 cup water. It turned our mixture more gray than black, but that’s probably closer to Stonehenge’s hue anyway. Stir until the color is incorporated, then add an additional 1/4 cup water. Knead until you have a workable play dough.

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We arranged the plinths and monoliths on a piece of cardboard and left it to dry for about 1 day. Not only did this look awesome, but it was a great background for his Lego figures to play in, too!

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Recipe:

We always end these country kits in the kitchen. This month’s recipe was for Awesome Apple Crumble, which lived up to its name!

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Ingredients:

For the topping:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup Earth Balance butter, cubed

For the filling:

  • 1 pound Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  1. To prepare the topping, combine 1 and 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup brown sugar, and the salt in a bowl. Add the Earth Balance butter and use your fingers to mix until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs; set aside.
  2. To prepare the apples, place the slices in a large bowl. Add the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, and the cinnamon, stirring to coat.
  3. Spoon the apples into a 9×9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the topping over the apples and bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes.
  4. Serve warm and drizzle with a little non-dairy creamer, which is closer to how the Brits would serve it than serving American-style with ice cream.

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Mango Honeydew Sorbet

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Mango and honeydew might not make an obvious fruit combo, but a dish of this sorbet is so refreshing on a hot day. And contains no added sugar, to boot!

Ingredients:

  • 2 and 1/2 cups chopped fresh honeydew
  • 1 and 1/2 cups chopped fresh mango
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.
  2. Transfer to a freezer-safe dish and freeze. Every 2 hours or so, scrape the mixture with a fork to fluff. Repeat until ready to serve.

Note: If you forget an interval of fluffing or two, don’t fret. We certainly did on a busy summer afternoon, and it still turned out just fine!

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Chocolate Beet Bundt Cake

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You’ll sneak a full two cups of vegetables into this cake but your kids will never notice – unless they help bake it of course! This cake is a dream: it requires only two mixing bowls, bakes up perfectly light and airy, and comes out in a fun circle shape that kids will love. (“How did you make a hole in the center?” my son asked).

For ease of preparation, I recommend making your beet puree the night before. Place 6 beets in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then continue to cook for 30 minutes, until very tender. Drain and let cool until cool enough to handle. Rub off the skins and transfer to a blender; process until very smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

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Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups beet puree
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 3/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a second bowl, whisk together the beet puree, water, applesauce, canola oil, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring just until combined.
  3. Spoon the batter into a 10-inch Bundt pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees F for 50 minutes. Let cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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Frozen Candy Cups

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My family thinks these homemade peanut butter cups are better than the store-bought kind, and I’m pretty sure your family will agree!

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup non-dairy chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons coconut oil, divided
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 4 teaspoons strawberry jam
  1. Combine the chocolate chips and 2 teaspoons coconut oil in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute; stir, then return to the microwave for 30 seconds, or until melted. Spoon about 1 tablespoon chocolate mixture into the bottom of 8 muffin liners. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  2. Combine the peanut butter and remaining 2 tablespoons coconut oil in a separate bowl. Spoon over the frozen chocolate, about 2 tablespoons per muffin liner.
  3. Dollop 1/2 teaspoon jam on each serving, and swirl with a toothpick. Freeze at least an additional 30 minutes before serving.Peanut Butter Cups (7)
  4. Serve frozen or the peanut butter will lose its shape.

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Vegan Pumpkin Pie

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Thanksgiving is two days away, and today was baking day. This pumpkin pie is a crowd-pleaser, whether your guests are vegan or not. Kinnikinnick graham crackers are vegan and gluten-free, which helps if you’re juggling a variety of dietary needs over the holidays. If you use another brand, you may need a different number of crackers.

Ingredients:

  • 10 graham crackers
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons melted Earth Balance butter
  • 8 ounces silken tofu
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  1. To prepare the crust, combine the graham crackers and brown sugar in a blender; process until you have fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and pulse to combine.
  2. Use your fingers to press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 8 minutes. Let cool at least 10 minutes.Pumpkin Pie (1)
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the filling: In a blender, combine the silken tofu, pumpkin, maple syrup, cornstarch, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla. Process until smooth. Spoon into the prepared crust and bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes, until set.
  4. Let cool on a wire rack for 2 hours, then transfer to the fridge and chill at least 4 hours.
  5. Serve plain, or topped with your favorite non-dairy whipped cream!

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Travis loved the idea that this pie was made from pumpkins, even though we used canned puree and not a cute little sugar pie pumpkin.  But it led us on a fun harvest vegetable hunt at the grocery store, including all kinds of knobby squashes and root veggies like potatoes and parsnips.

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What’s on your harvest table for Thanksgiving this year? Please share in the comments!

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Sticky-Treat Sushi

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There is an international festival coming up at Travis’s school, which has us talking about food from around the world. Here’s a sweet spin on the classic Japanese dish! This candy sushi was so fun for Travis to put together.

To start, make the “rice”: melt 2 tablespoons Earth Balance butter in a microwave-safe bowl, heating at 10 second intervals for a total for 30 seconds, or until melted.

Add 2 and 1/2 cups mini Dandies marshmallows. Microwave at 15 second intervals until melted (we needed about a minute total), stirring after each interval.

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Stir in 3 cups rice cereal. If you need to use your hands, I recommend having a grown-up do so, as the sticky marshmallows will still be hot.

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Spoon the mixture onto parchment paper. Cover with additional parchment paper and use a rolling pin to flatten about 1/4-inch thick.

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The rolling pin ended up being a little tricky, so we found it easier to pat with our hands.

Use a pizza cutter to cut into rectangles. Travis was so proud I let him use this tool!

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Now you can make sashimi or sushi rolls!

For “sashimi”, place a Swedish fish candy (Wholesome DelishFish are vegan) on top of a rice rectangle. Cut a strip of fruit leather with a pizza cutter and wrap around the fish.

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For a rolled version, cut a strip of fruit leather and cover with a rice rectangle. Top with pieces of candy (Travis chose organic Red Vines) and roll up.

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If you really want to get creative, tint a little vanilla frosting with green food coloring for “wasabi”!

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