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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Coconut Pineapple Rice Pudding

Coconut Pineapple Rice Pudding

If your baby doesn’t like oatmeal for breakfast (which always seems to be the go-to for little ones), try rice instead! This sweet treat also makes a great sugar-free dessert. Look for organic canned pineapple like Native Forest.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 1 (14-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
  1. Spoon the rice into the bottom of a casserole dish with lid; set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the pineapple and coconut milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Pour the pineapple mixture over the rice and place the lid on the casserole dish. Bake at 325 degrees F for 1 hour.

Old-Fashioned Apple Slump

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It’s apple picking season and we recently returned home with a bounty of ginger golds from a local orchard! It was the perfect opportunity to test out a recipe near and dear to my heart.

The recipe comes from Louisa May Alcott, known to many as the author of Little Women. Alcott lived in my hometown, and her story and life have always been an inspiration. So when we recently attended a local apple festival and brought home the recipe, Travis and I couldn’t wait to find out what an 1800’s apple dessert tasted like! We updated it slightly for a modern kitchen and vegan lifestyle.

Ingredients:

  • 6 tart apples
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  •  1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 6 tablespoons melted Earth Balance butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  1. To prepare the apple base, peel, core, and slice the apples. Place in a bowl and stir in the lemon juice and vanilla. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt, stirring until the apples are coated.
  2. Spoon into a 9×13-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the topping: In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, Ener-G eggs, milk, and butter, stirring gently until combined.
  4. Pour the flour mixture over the apples, spreading slightly, and sprinkle evenly with the walnuts. Bake an additional 25 minutes.

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Gummy Ocean Vacation

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This snack idea from Highlights magazine is pure summertime fun! We adapted it slightly for our vegan family, and Travis loved the results.

Prepare 1 package of orange-flavored vegan jel dessert (such as Simply Delish) according to package directions. Pour a layer into clear glasses and chill for at least 1 hour, until firm. This will be your beach “sand”.

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Prepare 1 package of clear vegan jel dessert according to package directions. Add drops of blue food coloring a few at a time until desired color is reached.

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Cool slightly, then pour a layer over the orange dessert. Let chill and set for at least 1 hour.

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Now for the real fun! Top your “ocean” with a little swimmer. We used peach gummy rings from Smart Sweets as life preservers and vegan gummy bears from Whole Foods.

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Travis absolutely adored watching his bear go for a swim.

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These were arguably more fun to play with than to eat… but good for eating, too!

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Apple Nachos

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This sweet twist on classic tortilla nachos is sure to delight, and a great way to use up the last of your fall apple bounty!

Ingredients:

  • 1 large apple
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons rice cereal
  • 1 tablespoon shredded coconut
  • 1 tablespoon Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips
  1. Slice the apple and arrange on a platter
  2. Heat the peanut butter in the microwave for 30 seconds, and drizzle over the apples.
  3. Sprinkle with the cereal, the coconut, and the mini chips.

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