Meteor Meatballs

Meteor Meatballs (5)

These meatballs were the second recipe in Travis’s cosmic cuisine-themed Raddish Kids, meant to mimic meteors from space (and get it meat-ier meatballs?). We made ours with Raddish’s excellent vegan suggestion for chickpeas in place of chicken.

To start, Travis helped peel 3 cloves of garlic. I minced them and we put in a large bowl. Finely chop 1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves and add to the garlic.

Meteor Meatballs (1)

Next I showed him how to grate zucchini against a box grater; he loved it! Add 1 cup to the garlic mixture, along with 2/3 cup canned or frozen corn.

Meteor Meatballs (2)

Next we made a flax egg: whisk 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed into 3 tablespoons water and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir into the zucchini mixture, along with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.

Meteor Meatballs (3)

Add 1/4 cup vegan Parmesan sprinkles and 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs. Finally, drain 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas and pulse in a food processor until crumbly. Add to the mixture. Time to get messy! I was so proud of Travis, getting his hands right in there to mush it up, and I showed him how to roll a meatball.

Meteor Meatballs (4)

Arrange the meatballs on a baking sheet covered with foil and greased with cooking spray. Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes.

Travis ate – I kid you not! – half of the recipe in one sitting. This either means he’s having a growth spurt or speaks directly to how awesome the meatballs are. Or both! We served with onion ring “Saturn rings” for a fun veggie side dish.

Meteor Meatballs (6)

As he dined, we read the recipe card facts about various space rocks (meteoroids versus comets etc.), and learned a bit more about meals in space for astronauts.

Meteor Meatballs (7)

For a little dessert fun, we repeated an old favorite: marshmallow constellations!

Marshmallow Constellations (1)

All you need are marshmallows (try Dandie’s for a vegan brand) and toothpicks. This time, I really challenged Travis to follow along with a provided diagram and piece together one of the simpler star formations.

Marshmallow Constellations (3)

After some puzzling, he was able to put together Libra!

Marshmallow Constellations (4)

Meanwhile, mommy worked on some intricate ones, like Ursa Major and Scorpius.

Marshmallow Constellations (6)

Travis then decided he preferred to make his own, and soon had this stick person constellation.

Marshmallow Constellations (7)

Don’t forget to clean up – by eating them, of course.

Marshmallow Constellations (5)

Marshmallow Launcher Redux

Marshmallow Launcher (3).JPG

Every once in a while, it’s fun to repeat an activity at one- or two-year intervals, and see the differences in the way your children play at different ages. Travis and I first made a marshmallow launcher nearly two years ago, but with some extra Dandie’s marshmallows in the pantry, today we decided to do a repeat!

First, cut the bottom from a few paper cups, one for each launcher you want. At nearly 5 years old, Travis can handle the scissors himself, unlike at age 3!

Marshmallow Launcher (2)

I tied the end of a balloon into a knot, then had Travis help snip off the top of the balloon.

Marshmallow Launcher (7)

Stretch this balloon over the cut end of the cup, and secure with an elastic.

Marshmallow Launcher (4)

Place 1 marshmallow in the cup; pull down on the knot of the balloon and release. Boom!

Needless to say, we soon had marshmallow bombs all over the apartment, and an eager little boy who had to run and grab all the ammo.

Marshmallow Launcher (5)

For some experimentation, we tested what happened when we put multiple marshmallows inside, but unsurprisingly, they didn’t launch as far. Then we tried to hone our aim, using some unwitting Ninja Turtles as target practice. Here’s a quick clip:

All in all, what fun!

Marshmallow Launcher (1)

Homemade “Marshmallows”

Homemade Marshmallow (7)

Okay, so the following recipe won’t really make marshmallows… To achieve that, we probably need to get trendy and try using aquafaba. But really we just had a leftover box of vegan jel dessert in the kitchen and wanted to play with it – Travis has loved the wobbly dessert ever since I amused him with fake juice cups. The result was a goopy sugary mess that he adored eating by the spoonful!

To start, dissolve 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of your favorite vegan “gelatin” dessert in 1/3 cup cold water; let stand for about 10 minutes. We used peach flavor, which meant our “marshmallows” had a peachy tinge.

Homemade Marshmallow (1)

Meanwhile, combine 1 and 1/2 cups sugar and 3/4 cup water in a saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Add the gel mixture to the sugar, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Let boil for 15 minutes, without stirring.

Homemade Marshmallow (2)

Remove from heat and cool slightly, then beat with an electric mixer on high speed until frothy. We were under no illusions that our mixture was going to get as thick as a real gelatin mixture would have, but we do love the mixer!

Homemade Marshmallow (3)

Pour into a 9×9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray and let stand overnight.

Homemade Marshmallow (4)

The dessert won’t set, but it will be wobbly and thick. We dusted the top with 1/4 cup cornstarch and 1/4 cup powdered sugar before eating it right from a spoon!

Homemade Marshmallow (6)

In sum, you’re going to stop eating after a couple of spoonfuls because this is pure sugar, but really the point is to savor moments together in the kitchen. I loved watching Travis whisk, stir, sift, and more. My favorite sous-chef!

Engineering a Dinosaur

Engineer Dino (2)

This adorable suggestion from Little Passports allows kids to plan and construct – the basics of engineering! For my three-year-old, the activity was equally about the fun of squishing straws into marshmallows (and eating a couple along the way), as it was about building a dinosaur… But nothing wrong with that! It was a neat exercise in getting him to think more deliberately about how to build a structure.

We started by setting up two of our dinosaur toys as models (if you don’t have dino toys at home, consider looking at a picture online), and gathered our materials – Dandies marshmallows and straws.

Engineer Dino (1)

I asked Travis if he thought T-rex’s head should be a marshmallow or straw, to which he replied the former, and we went from there. As we added each piece, Travis loved helping decide what should come next, and was also fascinated by how we could shape the dinosaur by trimming the straws into smaller pieces (a grown-up or big kid job).

Engineer Dino (3)

He especially loved figuring out how tails, arms, and legs attached.

Engineer Dino (5)

The fun didn’t end when our dinosaurs were complete – we had lots of leftover marshmallows which he wanted to play with. This one became a “snowman” with a firefighter’s hose.

Engineer Dino (7)

It also turned into a neat lesson on fractions, since as I cut the straws into halves, thirds, or quarters, he helped me count the pieces. Overall, great STEM-based fun!

Engineer Dino (4)

Marshmallow Launcher

Marshmallow Launcher (5)

After a full day in the car, I wanted to do something for Travis that was pure joy. This project is sure to earn you cool parent points!

Cut the bottom from a disposable cup – kids can help with this step if you have paper cups on hand, but since ours were plastic, I did the scissor work myself.

Marshmallow Launcher (1)

Next, knot the ends of several uninflated balloons and snip off the tops.

Marshmallow Launcher (2)

Fit a balloon snugly over the cut end of each cup (you can add an elastic band for extra security). Now it’s time to load up your marshmallow ammo!

Marshmallow Launcher (7)

One to two marshmallows at a time will work best (more than that and it’s really too heavy). Travis couldn’t get enough of seeing the marshmallows fly toward the ceiling!

Or of the slightly-verboten ability to eat the marshmallows off the floor after they landed.

Marshmallow Launcher (4)

He wanted to see if his launcher would work with pennies as well. (Hint: Yes, it will – just not as yummy an experiment!) Needless to say, the project involved lots of hearty giggles and tons of fun.

Marshmallow Launcher (8)

 

Marshmallow Sculptures

Marshmallow Sculpt (3)

Travis and I had some gooey fun attempting to make sculptures from marshmallows last November, but I confess our attempts were foiled by using large marshmallows and unsteady straws as construction materials.

This time we used toothpicks and the small marshmallows from Dandies, and were able to create much sturdier constructions! Note: I recommend playing this game soon after your child has had a meal or a snack – that way the marshmallows will be viewed more as building material, and less as a treat to eat… Although we did sneak a few bites along the way!

Already compared to November, Travis was much better at construction. He loved adding a marshmallow to either end of a toothpick, and loved that they looked like Q-tips!

Marshmallow Sculpt (2)

I then helped arrange these into more complex structures, whether two-dimensional shapes…

Marshmallow Sculpt (1)

Or three-dimensional creations.

Marshmallow Sculpt (6)

The project was a great way to discuss shapes and dimensions! We even tried a double-decker hexagon.

Marshmallow Sculpt (7)

In sum, sticky fun for everyone.

Marshmallow Sculpt (4)

Marshmallow Straw Buildings

marshmallow-2

What better way to introduce engineering and building design than with marshmallows? We use the large marshmallows from vegan brand Dandies, for great gooey fun.

Simply provide your toddler with marshmallows and straws cut in half, and let the building begin! I didn’t even need to show Travis what to do before he speared the first straw into a marshmallow base.

marshmallow-1

Young toddlers will likely need to connect flat constructions, but older kids can aim for 3-D structures, making their straws and marshmallow several layers tall.

marshmallow-3

I demonstrated a tall version for Travis which he loved…

marshmallow-5

…especially when our marshmallows sagged over and crashed!

marshmallow-4

Don’t be surprised if the game ends with a request for an ooey gooey marshmallow snack.

marshmallow-6

Thanks for the idea, Parents magazine!