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A blog that combines two of my greatest loves: children's literature and cooking with my kids. Join us as we pair good books with complementary recipes (and other creative pursuits, as the mood strikes).
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1. Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Theodore Geisel's Dr Seuss Magnet


Today is the anniversary of Dr. Seuss' birthday--and Read Across America Day. How are you celebrating? Last year we made green eggs benedict. Tonight I think I'll made this green egg and ham frittata, from Eating Well magazine. My kids have been asking me to take them to the bookstore or library. I have been putting it off as I've been in the midst of a couple of freelance jobs but . . . given that today is Read Across America Day it would be a shame not to go, don't you think?

I'll be back later in the week to with some more Seussian goodness. Until then, please enjoy my other Dr. Seuss-related posts:


How the Grinch Stole Christmas - Roast Beast
The Lorax - Truffula Trees with Dipping Sauce

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2. Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly - Raspberry-peanut butter-marshmallow waffles

Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly


One of the activities my two boys (ages 5 and 7) and their 2 year old cousin all love to do together is play with the play kitchen at my parents' house. There's just something about pretending to cook that appeals to kids. For a long time, before we had our own play kitchen set up in our home, it was one of the things my kids were most drawn to at children's museums and friends' houses. Come to think of it, my sister and I are four years apart and rarely played together growing up but my sister's Little Tikes kitchen was one thing that we both enjoyed.

Me and my sister, circa 1986.

Carolyn Parkhurst's Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly (illustrated by Dan Yaccarino) perfectly captures young childrens' fascination with cooking and creating. We are introduced to siblings Henry and Elliebelly via their cooking "show". Henry, the older sibling, has his own vision of how their show should proceed. As Henry tries to instruct his "viewers" in the finer points of making raspberry-peanut butter-marshmallow waffles, the toddler Elliebelly wreaks havoc and frustrates Henry with her very toddlerlike demands. First she insists she be allowed to help. Then she orders Henry to wear a pirate hat. Frustrated but undeterred, Henry gamely works around his dervish of a sister until their play is interrupted by their (offstage) mother's offer of real waffles.

One of the things I love most about this book is that the author clearly gets how kids play, and how easily older siblings become frustrated with their younger siblings. Reading the interactions between Henry and Elliebelly is a lot like listening in on my own kids as they play in one room while I'm in another. It was a nice touch to have their mother's offstage responses to their bickering presented in quote bubbles. Henry and his little sister are a bit younger than my own kids but their personalities are remarkably similar. It's not a stretch to accept that Elliebelly insists Henry wear a pirate hat while they do their "show" because I have a son who likes to wear a Batman cape while doing just about anything.

We decided to make Henry's raspberry-peanut butter-marshmallow waffles, with one caveat: we didn't follow Henry's recipe. His recipe calls for "Seventeen cups of imported flour from Kansas," and duck eggs. And that is before Elliebelly decides to add pizza and "Baby Anne" to the mix. Yeah. I think we'll stick with a more traditional approach. If you can even call raspberry-peanut butter-marshmallow waffles traditional. We whipped these up for an after school snack.

Raspberry-peanut butter-marshmallow waffles

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3. George and Martha - Split Pea Soup

"Martha was very fond of making split pea soup Sometimes she made it all day long. Pots and pots of split pea soup." - James Marshall, George and Martha

George and Martha


I love soup. During the winter months I make soup a minimum of once a week. I'd make soup every night if I thought I could get away with it but I suspect that would result in my family surreptitiously trying to dispose of their leftovers in their shoes. Like George does in George and Martha, James Marshall's sweet and funny book (the first in a series) about two best friends.

In Marshall's very short chapters (or vignettes, if you will) we are introduced to George and Martha, two best friends who occasionally get on each other's nerves and aren't afraid to put each other in their proper places. They are a bit like Frog and Toad, or Bert and Ernie. Despite misunderstandings, their friendship is what holds them together.

It doesn't hurt that the stories have a lot of kid appeal. In one story, Martha chews George out for being a peeping tom (this comes off as hilarious, not creepy). In another, George breaks his "favorite" tooth and must have it replaced with a gold tooth (I was fascinated by this when I was a kid). And then there is the infamous split pea soup story. In it, Martha repeatedly serves George her homemade split pea soup. George, too polite to tell Martha he hates split pea soup, quietly puts up with it until one day he can stand it no longer and dumps his bowl (his tenth of the day!) in his shoe. Unfortunately Martha has seen the whole thing. Instead of being offended, she gently suggests he tell her the truth next time . . . and confesses that she, too, hates split pea soup. She just likes making it.

I have to thank my friend Jess for reminding me about the split pea soup chapter in this book. I thought George and Martha were hilarious when I was growing up so I'm not sure why it took me so long to introduce them to my boys. At five and seven, my boys are just the right ages to find the stories absolutely hilarious. We have George and Martha: The Complete Storie

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4. Cookbook Review - Babycakes

BabyCakes: Vegan, (Mostly) Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York's Most Talked-About Bakery


You would think that after the holiday season--which included baking 50 snowman-shaped sugar cookies for the second grade classes at my son's school (that's 3 batches) and a batch for my own family--I would be all baked out. I admit, it did take me a little while to recover from my Christmas bakeapalooza and now we've got Valentine's Day class parties on the horizon. This past weekend, though, I felt like making bread. Not the sandwich bread I make every week in my bread maker but a nice, sweet quick bread. I pulled out a Christmas gift, Erin McKenna's Babycakes to look for inspiration.


Here's the thing about Babycakes, which features recipes used in McKenna's hugely popular New York City bakery: all of the recipes are vegan and mostly gluten- and (refined) sugar-free. I say 'mostly' because that's what the book's subtitle says. But really, if you have celiac disease or a gluten allergy you will want to read the recipes carefully because some of them do call for spelt flour. Anyway, because the recipes are vegan/gluten-free/sugar-free (and kosher) they call for ingredients like Bob's Red Mill gluten-free all-purpose baking flour, coconut oil, dairy-free milks and agave nectar. Most people don't happen to have these sitting around in their kitchens and they can be hard to come by (though they are becoming more mainstream--I've seen them at Target!). However, once you have McKenna's favored ingredients on hand you can use them for almost any recipe in the book.

Back in October, when I had this book from the library, McKenna's pumpkin spice muffins were my first attempt at baking the Babycakes way and I can't say it was my most successful baking attempt. It had nothing to do with the recipe itself and everything to do with the user: I had gotten it into my head that I wanted pumpkin bread, and nothing else would do. The thing never cooked through, even after leaving it in the oven well over the cook time. This time I knew better and the only modification I made to the recipe for banana chocolate chip bread was to use non-fat cow's milk in place of rice milk. All told, I could have baked it a little longer because the very middle was a little undercooked but the top was nicely browned and the toothpick I inserted came out clean. Maybe I have been eating gluten-free for too long, but I wouldn't have known the bread doesn't contain gluten. My kids ate it up and asked me to put slices in their lunch boxes for their snack today.

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5. Cookbook Review- Tiana's Cookbook

The Princess and the Frog: Tiana's Cookbook: Recipes for Kids (Disney Princess: the Princess and the Frog)


Sometimes I am left scratching my head at movie tie-in books. Sometimes publishers get it right. I love the way Disney/Pixar and Little Golden Books have collaborated to produce faithful and cooly illustrated adaptations of popular Disney/Pixar films. Other times I just wonder, what was the point? I've seen a few cookbooks based on random licensed properties but the recent ones based on Disney and Disney/Pixar films The Princess and the Frog (Tiana's Cookbook: Recipes for Kidsand Ratatouille (What's Cooking?: A Cookbook for Kids--which appears to be out of print but was available at my local library) get it right. Primarily because the central characters in these films have culinary aspirations. What better way to get kids involved in the kitchen than with a cookbook that features favorite characters and meals they might eat? Even better is when the recipes are for things you'd actually want to eat.

I wasn't particularly impressed with the Ratatouille cookbook. The recipes looked good and I think my older son would have enjoyed preparing some of them. However, most of the recipes relied on gluten-containing ingredients and just were not practical for the unique dietary needs of two of the four members of our household. It's not much of a kid-friendly cookbook if I have to take the additional step of adapting the recipes. However, the New Orleans-inspired recipes in Tiana's Cookbook were more celiac-friendly so it gets my wholehearted approval.

Full of New Orleans-inspired fare, Tiana's Cookbook is divided into sections for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, breads/sides/drinks and--most kids' favorite--desserts. I love that the New Orleans/cajun theme is carried throughout. How many kids' cookbooks have recipes for beignets or po' boy sandwiches? Obviously, the beignets don't work for us (without significant tweaking) but the sandwiches are doable if we use our gluten-free bread. The most useful section is the dinner section. Recipes for jambalaya and red beans and rice are easy for my seven year old to follow. Some steps (sauteing veggies in oil, chopping veggies) require my supervision but it's a step beyond assembling sandwiches. Each recipe includes a brief description (in the form of a "note" from Tiana) and photo. Illustrations of characters from the movie appear every few pages. I particularly like that there is a lot of healthier fare here: fruit salad, oven-baked fish, green beans, smoothies, oven-baled potato wedges . . . the healthier recipes provide a nice counter balance for things like mud pie and macaroni and cheese.<

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6. Arthur's Christmas Cookies - Salt Dough Ornaments

"'Maybe I could still use my cookies,' said Arthur. 'Maybe I could paint them all different colors.'" - Arthur's Christmas Cookies, Lillian Hoban


Arthur's Christmas Cookies (I Can Read Book 2)


There are a lot of seasonal treats I enjoy (Gingerbread latte, anyone?) this time of year but if I could choose only one Christmas treat to indulge in it would have to be, without a doubt, the frosted sugar cookie. Oh, you can keep your peanut butter kisses and candy cane twists. When I think Christmas cookies, I think sugar cookies (thanks, Aunt Sue). There is just no other acceptable choice.

Arthur's Christmas Cookies is not a book about sugar cookies though, not really. While it starts out that way it actually ends up being a book about a recipe gone wrong and the surprising result. Arthur is frustrated because he's trying to make Christmas presents for his parents but nothing is turning out. Finally, he decides to make Christmas cookies in his sister Violet's Bake-E-Z oven. What initially begins as a solo effort turns into mass chaos as his friends and sister get involved. Once the cookies have been baked and they are about to snack on a few, they realize that Arthur hasn't made sugar cookies. Due to a mixup, he's used salt instead of sugar and he's actually made clay cookies. At first Arthur is upset that yet another present has been ruined . . . until he realizes he can paint his clay cookies and give them to his parents as ornaments.

One of the things I like about this book is that it acknowledges that mistakes in the kitchen do happen, and that it's okay. We might not always be able to salvage our mistakes the way Arthur does, but it's nice to know that we aren't alone when we put too much salt in the cookie dough (or baking soda, as the case may be--not that my 14-year old self would know anything about that).

Arthur's Christmas Cookies is written and illustrated by Lillian Hoban, half of the duo responsible for the popular Frances books. There are a lot of similarities here, not just in the illustrations but in the storyline and even the writing style. I remember reading the Arthur books as a child and though my kids are big fans of Frances I had kind of forgotten about Arthur. Picking this book up was like being reunited with an old friend. My kids enjoyed it too; even though it was published in 1972 it still feels fresh and relevant. Salt dough ornaments are still a great Christmas craft.

Salt Dough Ornaments


Ingredients:

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 3 cups flour*
*Because we

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7. How the Grinch Stole Christmas - Roast Beast


"They would feat on Who-pudding, and rare Who-roast-beast
Which was something the Grinch couldn't stand in the least!" - How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss


How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

That's right. I'm made a roast. I really had to ask myself: does the novelty of making something called "roast beast" make up for the fact that making it is an elaborate and time consuming affair? And the answer is yes. I make a roast like twice a year so I might as well make it now.

I hope everyone is familiar with Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas. If you aren't familiar with the book then surely you are familiar with the animated cartoon version that airs on television every year around this time. It's a holiday classic. But if you need a refresher...

The Grinch is a surly kind of guy who hates Christmas and all of the happy citizens in Who-ville who love it. (Clearly, he is just lonely and misunderstood and only acts out to mask his pain.) While grousing about how much he hates the season he is struck with inspiration: he will prevent Christmas from coming! He puts his plan into action and soon is sneaking into each home on Christmas Eve to make off with all of the Christmas trappings. But something goes wrong. As the Grinch is congratulating himself on Christmas morning, he realizes he can hear singing coming from Who-ville. Despite his best efforts, he hasn't ruined Christmas at all. The Whos may not have presents or decorations but they have each other and the Grinch is stunned to realize spirit of Christmas comes from within. He begins to have second thoughts about what he has done. Filled with the Christmas spirit, his heart grows "three sizes" and he returns to town to return all of the things he has stolen. He even presides over Christmas dinner, where he carves the roast beast. Awwww.

Obviously, we had to make roast beast in honor of the Grinch. Knowing Dr. Seuss the roast beast is probably some sort of moose or mammoth or something (the picture leaves it open to interpretation) but for our purposes I decided it was beef.

Roast Beast (really Ina Garten's Company Pot Roast)
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8. The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming - Sweet Potato Latkes

"'I'm not part of Christmas!' cried the latke. 'It's a totally different thing!'" - The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming, Lemony Snicket

The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story


I like the holidays. They may be my favorite time of year. I love holiday treats, holiday music and favorite holiday specials. I love the smell of California mornings on cold (but not too cold) days in December and all the ways my husband and I plot to surprise our kids on Christmas morning. As we head into December I plan to feature many of my favorite holiday books here on the blog. At this time of year "holidays" are usually synonymous with "Christmas" so yes, I will be writing about Christmas (as well as general winter) books. But tonight is the first night of Hanukah, so I find it only appropriate to acknowledge the holiday with one of the funniest books I have ever read: The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming.

The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming is written by Lemony Snicket (illustrated by Lisa Brown). If you are at all familiar with his Series of Unfortunate Events books, you know that this isn't going to be your typical heartwarming holiday yarn. If you were totally turned off by Pierre and Monsters Eat Whiny Children in my last post, this may not be the book for you. If you dig slightly deranged holiday tales, read on.

A latke is a potato pancake made from shredded potatoes and cooked in oil. It is commonly served as a part of Hanukah celebrations. As a holiday symbol, it is not as flashy as Christmas lights or as sweet as candy canes. And our titular latke, who has jumped out of a pan of boiling oil and run away, is frustrated--because none of the other holiday symbols he meets really understand what he is or how he fits into Christmas. He explains to each one, as he meets them, that he is not "hash browns" and not a part of Christmas. And that what he is a part of--Hanukah--is not Christmas. He relates the story of Hanukah to the Christmas lights, a candy cane and a pine tree as he encounters them (all the while growing increasingly--and hilariously--angry that they don't really get it). Finally, after he has slumped under a pine tree in frustration, he is found by a family. A Jewish family who recognize him immediately and want to make him a part of their Hanukah dinner.

This book is great because it works on two levels. I have Jewish friends who really do feel the way the latke does during the Christmas season: frustrated with the constant barrage of Christmas and the ignorance of some people who really don't understand

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9. Cautionary Tales for Disobedient Children

Oh, subervsive cautionary tales in the guise of children's books--how I love you. Really, I do.  Maybe it's because when I was a child my cousin and I would spend the night at my Poppa's house; if we didn't go to sleep right away he would sneak outside and bang on the window with a stick and yell that he was the Boogeyman, there to "get" us. (You have to understand, my grandfather was not a traditional grandparent in any sense of the word.) So maybe my love for books like Pierre and Monsters Eat Whiny Children is just in my genes. To be sure, these books aren't for everyone--some may claim they're too scary or dark or inappropriate for young children. To those naysayers I say: I don't care.

Pierre: A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a PrologueFirst up, Maurice Sendak's classic Pierre. Pierre isn't a bad child, exactly. It's more that he's disengaged and refuses to show any emotion or react to his parents' proclamations, suggestions and threats with anything other than a bored, "I don't care." Pierre just doesn't care. About anything, apparently, not even the fact that he is pouring syrup on his hair. Finally, fed up, Pierre's parents leave the house without him. Soon a lion comes to the door. Predictably, Pierre is unmoved so the lion announces he will eat him. "I don't care," says Pierre, which is all the invitation the lion needs. When Pierre's parents return, horrified to find their son has become somebody's meal, they take him to a doctor who makes quick work of rescuing Pierre. Who finally cares.



Monsters Eat Whiny ChildrenBecause I love Pierre so very much, I was very interested in checking out the Monsters Eat Whiny Children, which has received a lot of positive buzz this fall. Written and illustrated by New Yorker cartoonist Bruce Eric Kaplan, it is another book in which disobedient children finally get their comeuppance. Henry and Eve whine. A lot. Their father tells them that monsters eat whiny children b

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10. Three Scoops and a Fig - Fig Tree Sundae

"Sofia dumped the little pear-shaped figs into a bowl on the table. She dished out more helpings of gelato, each with three scoops and a fig. " - Three Scoops and a Fig, Sara Laux Akin


Three Scoops and a Fig

I grew up in a town that was once covered in fig orchards (now many of those orchards have become housing developments and shopping malls), but I have to be honest, I don't think I'd actually eaten a fresh fig until sometime last year. I feel embarrassed to even admit this but its true. I wasn't sure what to do with them so I sliced them and put them in yogurt for the kids. That seemed about right.

Sara Laux Akin's Three Scoops and a Fig presents a similar but tastier option for those looking to use up a fig surplus. Sofia, Akins' young protagonist, comes from a family of cooks. Her family owns an Italian restaurant and her older siblings contribute their own specialties to the family dinner table. On the occasion of her grandparents' anniversary, Sofia just wants to help her family as their prepare a special dinner but she keeps getting in the way. Unnoticed by her busy family, Sofia decides to slip away with a bowl of gelato for breakfast. When an errant fig from the fig tree drops into Sofia's bowl she discovers a new treat--and a way to contribute to the family dinner. Illustrator Susan Kathleen Hartung's muted colors and depiction of a close knit, multi-generational family infuse the story with warmth.

Three Scoops and a Fig includes extras--a recipe for an "Italian Flag Sundae" and a glossary of Italian words and phrases used in the story. Although the Italian Flag Sundae sounded delicious, I decided to stick with Sofia's original recipe.

Sofia's Fig Tree Sundae








Ingredients:
  • vanilla ice cream
  • figs (fresh if you can find them)
1. Scoop ice cream into bowls. In order to stay true to the book I used three (small) scoops in each child's bowl.

2. Slice your figs. I must confess, I used dried figs for this particular recipe. I had been sitting on this review until after Halloween and by the time I was ready to post it I couldn't find fresh figs anywhere. Fig season, apparently, is very short (I feel this is something I should have known, having grown up in Fresno). Dried figs, however, were easy to find at the grocery store.

Serve and eat qu

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11. When a book is more than just a story - Part II

A few months ago I shared some of our favorite "non-story" picture books that we enjoy reading on long trips or rainy days. Since that post we have come across a couple of standout titles that I can't help but rave about.

Meanwhile by Jason Shiga


Meanwhile: Pick Any Path. 3,856 Story Possibilities.












Jason Shiga's Meanwhile is like nothing I've ever seen. We saw it on display in our local bookstore last spring and I immediately knew that it would become a birthday present for my older son. It's a narrative in the style of the classic Choose Your Own Adventure books but in graphic novel form. At key points in the story the reader is asked to choose a path (represented by maze-like pipes) to take. This determines the outcome of the story. There are many paths and many stories but only one "happy" ending. Did I mention there's a time machine? If there's one thing that is guaranteed to pique my interest, it's a time machine. The recommended age is for upper elementary school aged kids but my 7 year old and I read it together first so he could get the hang of the mechanics (and the graphic novel style) and he is now able to read it on his own. The first time we read this we spent at least an hour together on the couch, never once achieving the "correct" ending.






Around the World with Mouk by Marc Boutavant


Around the World with Mouk












Another birthday gift (this time for my 5 year old), Around the World with Mouk reminds me of the classic Richard Scarry books. Mouk, a small bear, is going on an around the world journey. In "letters" he sends to his friends back home we are able t

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12. Book Mail!


I love getting mail. I'm not kidding when I say one of the highlights of my day is checking the mail, even when it's Tuesday and I know it will only be the grocery store circulars. It's already been established that I love books (by the mere fact that I have a blog . . . about books . . . ). So when Zoe announced her international book swap over on Playing by the Book, I knew we would take part. Books in the mail? Sign me up! 

Kidding aside, I knew it would be fun to take part in a book exchange and perhaps learn a little about another family's favorite books, or even--in the event that we were matched with an international family--their culture. When I was younger, beginning around the fifth grade, I had a penpal. We were actually matched up through an ad in the back of a book. A lot of times those youthful "virtual" (I guess that's what you'd call it now) friendships fizzle out but my penpal and I stayed in touch for many years, until sometime in high school when, sadly, we lost contact with each other (on the off chance that Kathlynn is reading this--drop me an email!). One of the things I most enjoyed about having a penpal was the anticipation that something might be waiting for me every time I opened the mail box. And so it was with the book exchange: every day I opened my mailbox I thought, This could be the day.

I was matched with Arthi, who blogs at About Time Now and is a contributor to Saffron Tree. Although I had specified when I signed up that I was open to a book exchange with anybody, I was thrilled that we were matched with a family in a different country. Arthi and her family live in India. We decided to send her and her children a copy of The Monster Who Ate Darkness (the subject of my first post on this blog, and an all-time favorite in this house). My kids were upset about this until I told them we were sending them their own copy, not the one that belongs to us, and that we would also be receiving a new book in the mail.

Little VinayakArthi sent us Little Vinayak, by Shobha Viswanath and illustrated by Shilpa Ranade. As a special bonus, t

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13. Halloween Treats

With Halloween around the corner, you may have stocked up on canned pumpkin to make pumpkin fudge...or pumpkin pies...or pumpkin scones (you get the idea). What to do when you have half a can of pumpkin left? You can do what we do and whip up a quick and easy snack: pumpkin yogurt.

I started making pumpkin yogurt when my kids were very young. Back then, I could easily trick them into thinking pumpkin was a delicious snack. I don't know why, but one day I mixed some pumpkin with some plain yogurt and a new treat was born. My kids still enjoy it but it's not something I make all the time. I tend to save it for the fall, when canned pumpkin is easy to find in the grocery stores.

Pumpkin Yogurt



Ingredients:
  • canned pumpkin
  • plain or vanilla yogurt
  • cinnamon (optional)
This is so easy I don't know why I am bothering with directions, but here we go...

1. Combine equal parts pumpkin and yogurt. Stir together.

2. Sprinkle with cinnamon.


It's that easy. I like that it's both a taste of fall and a way to serve a fruit that we don't often eat.

With Halloween in just a few days, we've been making pumpkin yogurt and enjoying our stash of Halloween books. I am really not sure how we ended up with so many Halloween books, but over the years we've acquired quite the collection. Some of the ones my kids particularly enjoy:

Goodnight Goon by Michael Rex

Goodnight Goon (A Petrifying Parody)



As evidenced by the title, Goodnight Goon is a parody of the classic Goodnight Moon. One of my sons received this as a birthday gift last year. We get a kick out of it, especially the various monsters that wreak havoc in the little goon's room.

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14. Ghosts in the House! - Marshmallow Ghost Pops

"Then she went to the kitchen . . . and put them all in the washing machine." - Ghosts in the House!, Kazuno Kohara


Halloween is just around the corner. There's a chill in the air, Halloween costumes are being planned and seasonal decorations are beginning to adorn everything from my kids' classrooms to Disneyland (we were there last week). Okay, so here in the Bay Area the first part of that statement doesn't hold true (it was 94 degrees today!) but that hasn't stopped my thoughts from turning to Halloween. And so, naturally, it's time to feature some seasonally appropriate books and recipes on this blog.

Last week when we were in Disneyland we ran across some very cute chocolate covered marshmallows in the candy shops. My younger son and I are fans of their marshmallows anyway (they're gluten-free!) but he was especially taken with these, as they were covered in white chocolate and decorated to look like ghosts:




We really liked them (he chose it for his treat two days in a row) and I thought it would be fun to recreate them at home.

Marshmallow Ghost Pops






Ingredients:

  • 1 bag large marshmallows
  • 1 bag of caramel candies (11 oz.)
  • 1box of white Baker's chocolate (this covered about 3 marshmallow pops)
  • Black cake decorating gel (if gluten is an issue, be sure to read labels carefully!)
  • lollypop sticks (available at craft stores like Michael's)

1. Place three or four marshmallows on the end of a stick. Make sure you don't poke the stick all the way through the top marshmallow.

2. Melt your caramels--along with 2 tablespoons of milk--in a double boiler. (The milk will prevent the caramel from taking on the consistency of cement once it cools.) Stir together until melted.



3. Working quickly, dip our marshmallows in the caramel. I found I was able to get the best coverage by using  the spatula to drizzle the caramel over the marshmallows.



4. Place caramel covered marshmallow pops on a baking sheet lined with NON-STICK foil. Put in the fridge to cool.

5. (I took my caramel covered marshmallows out of the fridge after about an hour.) Melt the white chocolate. The instructions on my box of Baker's Chocolate said to use the microwave but I found that the double boiler worked fine. Be very careful not

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15. The Lorax - Truffula Trees with Dipping Sauces

"UNLESS someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It's not," - The Lorax, Dr. Seuss

So. It's Banned Books Week and we're talking banned and challenged books. I thought long and hard about which book I wanted to feature this week. At first I had another title chosen but it was a book that my kids don't particularly enjoy. They really, really like Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, though, and guess what--this book was once banned. Really? Dr. Seuss? What about this book, with its peaceful message of environmentalism and sustainability (perhaps more relevant now than when it was published in 1971) could be cause for concern?

Uh, apparently that very message. Way back in 1989 some parents in the Laytonville (CA) Unified School District decided the book "criminalized the forestry industry" and had an "anti-logging message"; they attempted to get it removed from the elementary school's reading list. While their attempt to ban the book was unsuccessful, it goes to show that people can and will get upset about anything. We're used to hearing about books that are challenged due to profanity or their depictions of violence, sexuality, race or class relations. . . you get the idea. But attempting to ban a gentle children's story about the importance of respecting our environment? Now, Laytonville does happen to be a logging town (I'm highly amused by the idea of a bunch of burly loggers getting all up in arms over a Dr. Seuss book) so I can understand the concern but does that warrant restricting access to a book? Shouldn't kids--especially kids growing up in this industry--be exposed to the very real consequences of deforestation? Even if you didn't know that I send my son to the hippy dippiest kindergarten you can imagine (you do now!), the fact that I am writing a post speaking out against the censorship of books should tell you my thoughts on the subject.

As far as the story itself goes, The Lorax is a cautionary tale told by the Once-ler, a character who once found fame and fortune by chopping down Truffula Trees and making Thneeds from their tufts. There is such a demand for Thneeds that he brings in more workers, and machines, and builds factories. All the while he must deal with The Lorax, a nuisance of a guy who "speak[s] for the trees," keeps popping up to tell him that cutting down the trees is wrong and that he's slowly poisoning the area. There is no more Truffula Fruit to feed the Bar-ba-loots and the polluted waters can't sustain the Humming-Fish population. Eventually, the Once-ler relates, there is no life left where the Truffula Trees once grew abundant. The last tree has been felled and the native wildlife has been driven away. As has The Lorax. The pictures, once vibrant oranges, purples, greens and pinks take on a grayish, nightmarish tone. The only hope, the Once-ler cautions, is for you (the reader) to care "a whole awful lot." Then, when the trees are replanted and life returns, The Lorax might come back.

As I type this I can't help but wonder if Wall-E was at least partially inspired by The Lorax.

The Lorax is a subtly powerful book and a wonderful way to introduce kids to the concepts of environmentalism and green living. Even though, admittedly, my kids weren't interested in pursuing that line of conversation right after we finished reading. Maybe it's enough that they're slowly absorbing the message each time we read it, and they don't even know it.

When I am choosing books and recipes to feature here I don't always have a plan.

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16. Happy Banned Books Week!


Since 1982, the last week of September has been designated as Banned Books Week. According to the American Library Association, it is a time to draw attention to "the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States." Books in our local libraries, schools and bookstores are challenged all the time, usually by people who object to the book's content or message and want to prevent others from having access to the materials they find so offensive. As an avid reader, a writer and a mother, I have a problem with the few who attempt to take something away from everybody just because it does not gel with their moral code.


This is just a partial list of books I love, books that have been challenged at one time or another:


-Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret - Judy Blume
-A Wrinkle in Time - Madeline  L'Engle
-The Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
-To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
-Catcher in the Rye
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17. Cookbook Review: Bean Appetit

Bean Appetit: Hip and Healthy Ways to Have Fun with Food



I picked Bean Appetit: Hip and Healthy Ways to Have Fun with Food off the New Arrivals shelf at our (new, state of the art!) library and boy, am I glad I did. As a kids' cookbook, this one does pretty much everything right. From the creative recipes to the full color, glossy pages to the games and activities (I would actually call it a cookbook/activity book), it's designed to appeal to kid chefs and it does. It appeals to my kid chefs, anyway.

The premise behind this book by Shannon Payette Seip and Kelly Parthen (who co-founded Bean Sprouts, a kids' cafe/cooking school in Wisconsin) is that cooking should be fun and creative. Thus we get recipes with names like Pear Penguins, Starry Night Bites and Bug Bites. The book gives equal time to games and activities families can play together in the kitchen or at the dinner table. One activity suggests playing Jenga using carrot sticks. Another has instructions for making a homemade memory game out of repurposed metal lids. "Table Talk" questions and food facts throughout the book are designed to get families talking. My husband and kids spent an evening going through the Table Talk questions while I was at a PTA meeting.

One of the things I look for in a cookbook--especially a cookbook aimed at kids--is recipes that are gluten-free or that can easily be converted to gluten-free. One of my children has to adhere to a gluten-free diet; a cookbook that he can't enjoy would not be practical at all. Fortunately, many of the recipes in this book call for gluten-free ingredients like fresh fruits and veggies, beans, rice and chocolate. There are also a number of recipes that call for a special flour blend. This flour blend (instructions are provided in the introduction) is not gluten-free. While we skipped those recipes, I do think my older son would enjoy them. (Or, I could do a little work and come up with a proper substitute flour blend.)

Most of the recipes in the book are snacks, side dishes and desserts--perfect for kids who are just delving into cooking. The recipes are geared toward children who are able to read and follow directions but even younger children will find these recipes easy to follow with the help of an adult. The instructions clearly indicate when an older caregiver's assistance is required (like when using appliances or slicing fruit).

While my kids were at school today I purchased the ingredients to make one of the recipes in the book: Pear Penguins. (If you remember my post about penguin books, you know we are big penguin fans in this house) After homework we went to town:

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18. Harold and the Purple Crayon - Chocolate Pie

"But there were all nine kinds of pie that Harold liked best" - Harold and the Purple Crayon, Crockett Johnson

Well hi there. Long time no blog, right? I have no excuse, other than a combination of laziness/busyness. In the weeks between my older son beginning school and my younger son finally starting (he's doing kindergarten at a private school) things were kind of chaotic. It was a combination of wanting to spend some one on one time with my youngest before he headed off to full-day kindergarten, dealing with some health issues, helping my second grader adjust to the new school year, school meetings and general blogging apathy.  I needed a break. My youngest started school last week, just in time for a weekend of house guests. I am finally getting it together again and dipping my toe back into the Kidlitosphere.

This doesn't mean that we weren't spending a lot of time reading and visiting our library and the bookstore. One of the things that we enjoyed during my blogging hiatus was the Crockett Johnson classic Harold and the Purple Crayon. My younger son picked it out on a recent trip to the bookstore and he is now hooked on the Harold series. My older son enjoys them too but it's the little one who carries his books around with him and asks to read them multiple times a day. He had the book mostly memorized on the second evening it was in our home.

I remember checking Harold and the Purple Crayon out from the library as a child and I find it just as enchanting now as I did then. Harold is an imaginative little boy who uses his purple crayon to create entire worlds for himself. One night, Harold decides to take a walk in the moonlight, so he draws a moon . . . and a sidewalk . . . and eventually a forest, the ocean, a city . . . until he finds his way back home to his own bed. It's all very cleverly done, with a subtle sense of humor and a lot of whimsy. Other than the brown outline of Harold, the only colors in the book are the white background and the purple outline of Harold's drawings. I love the purple and the brown, I love Harold's pointy turned up nose, I love that Johnson uses turns of phrase like "a hungry moose and a deserving porcupine."

The moose and porcupine in question are the recipients of the pie feast Harold has to abandon as he travels on his way. Nine kinds of pie. Maybe someday we'll make all nine kinds of pie; that would make an interesting ongoing feature on this blog, wouldn't it? But today we only made one kind of pie. Since the book did not specify "all nine kinds of pie that Harold liked best" I had to take some liberties and assume that one of those kinds of pie would be chocolate. Who doesn't like chocolate pie, right?

Chocolate Pie




Ingredients:
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19. The Beatles in Popular Culture

Before we conclude this week--and because I have no other place to put this so it may as well go on my blog--I have two examples of the Beatles in popular culture that I ran across this week. If you pay close enough attention (and know what you're looking for) you will start to find their influence everywhere. In these two particular examples, they're used in advertising.

Exhibit A:


"All you need is loaf" button from Tillamook Cheese. (Sorry for the blurry quality.) A play, obviously, on the Beatles lyric "All You Need is Love." We received these from Tillamook reps who were promoting their products at a local grocery store earlier this week.

Exhibit B:


Bag from Lucky Brand Jeans store. Upon receiving it I thought, That looks like it was inspired by the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover.


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Then I turned the bag on its side and saw that it was designed by Sir Peter Blake. Who is most famous for designing the Sgt. Pepper cover. So there you go.

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20. The Very Hungry Caterpillar - Hungry Caterpillar Fruit Salad

"On Monday he ate through one apple. But he was still hungry." - The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle




Is there a parent or teacher on the planet who isn't familiar with Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar? We've had our well-loved (board book) copy since my older son's first birthday and it's still a book my four and seven year olds occasionally enjoy. The great thing about it is that it can enjoyed on various levels. For babies and toddlers it's a good introduction to colors, counting, and the names of fruits. With older children it can be used to spark conversation about the caterpillar/butterfly lifecycle. Its unique design also appeals to kids. I remember being absolutely fascinated by this book as a child--there was always a long waitlist for Eric Carle books at my elementary school's library.

Do I even need to bother with a summary for this book? In short, the newborn caterpillar hatches from his egg and spends a week eating various foods before spinning his cocoon and eventually emerging as a "beautiful butterfly." It's illustrated in Carle's trademark style and the pages with the fruits he eats are staggered in size with die cut holes in the fruits to represent the caterpillar's bites.




The board book version we have is especially sturdy and has held up to years of use.

Our recipe for this week is simple and comes straight from the book: Hungry Caterpillar Fruit Salad. It uses as its ingredients the very foods the titular caterpillar ate during the week before building his cocoon. My kids and I enjoy making fruit salad in the summer; there is such an abundance of great, fresh, summery fruit. This was a perfect "cooking" project and snack for a summer day.

Hungry Caterpillar Fruit Salad

In addition to the fruits mentioned in the book, I like my fruit salad to include bananas, blueberries, cherries and whatever else happens to be in season (never any melon though). However, I wanted to stick as close to the amounts in the story as possible. I made an exception for the orange. Five oranges? That's a lot of oranges. Might have been doable if clementines were in season but they're not. Thus, one really large orange as a stand in for the five mini oranges. Were I making this in the winter (but then, strawberries and plums would be out of season) I would use five clementines.




Ingredients:

  • One apple
  • Two pears
  • 3 plums
  • 4 strawberries
  • 5 oranges (5 clementines, or 1 large orange)

1. Wash fruit. 

2. Peel, slice and/or cut fruit as necessary. I cut everything into bitesized chunks. My seven year old helped with the strawberries.

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21. Maisy Makes Lemonade - Lemonade

"It's hot today. Maisy is having a nice cold drink. Mmmm. Lemonade."  - Maisy Makes Lemonade, Lucy Cousins


You may have noticed that lately the recipes on my blog have tied into the season--summer is the time for sweet, refreshing delights like fruit salad and strawberry shortcake. Another quintessential summer treat? Lemonade. What's more, it's easy to prepare. Even very young children can get involved.

Maisy Makes Lemonade was a library find. My four year old is in a stage where he still enjoys simple and comforting books like Cousins' Maisy books just as much as he enjoys more mature fare such as Batman versus the Joker. He was quite taken with both on a recent library trip and while neither would have necessarily been what I'd have chosen for him, I do think it's important to give my kids the ability to choose their own books at the library.

So I was going through the stack of library books to read one more time before our beach vacation and as I picked up Maisy Makes Lemonade I thought, Well, there's a good topic for the blog.

For those not familiar with Maisy (though if you have a toddler/preschooler, you should be), she's a mouse who--along with her various animal friends--experiences things that most kids are familiar with. In addition to making lemonade there are Maisy books about going to bed, going shopping, and going to places like the dentist or on vacation. They're told simply with a minimal amount of text on each page and cute, colorful illustrations. The storyline in Maisy Makes Lemonade is simple and predictable (to adults): Maisy shares her lemonade with her friend Eddie (an elephant) and they run out. They decide to make another pitcher. They pick lemons from Maisy's tree and make their lemonade, step by step. Then they enjoy their refreshing beverage. My kids wanted to make their own lemonade after reading it. If you have a small child, it's a good opportunity to suggest making lemonade "just like Maisy."

Lemonade



Ingredients:
  • 6 lemons (or, enough to yield 1 cup of lemon juice)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used a combination of regular and raw sugar)
  • 5 cups water

1. Slice lemons in half and juice them. We don't have a citrus juicer so I let the boys do it by hand. You need one cup of juice for this recipe.






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22. Saturdays and Teacakes - Teacakes

"She opened the over door and the kitchen filled with a smell sweeter than summer gardenias--the smell of teacakes."  - Saturdays and Teacakes, Lester L. Laminack


When I was growing up I had a very close relationship with my grandfather. Due to the early deaths of my other three grandparents he was the only one I was really knew and he was, in a way, like a third parent to me and my sister. Some of my favorite memories are of going on walks together, eating cheese and crackers in front of The Young and the Restless and--when I was in upper elementary school--getting involved in stamp collecting together. My grandpa adored all of his grandchildren and bonded with all of us in different ways. For those of us who lived near him, he never missed a dance recital, concert, big sporting event or graduation. He also made it a priority to visit his other grandchildren who lived across the country. I miss him every day and think about him often--especially when I see my boys enjoying things he would have enjoyed, like getting excited about planting flowers in our garden or playing an instrument.



(Me and Poppa, circa 1981)

Saturdays and Teacakes by Lester Laminack is the story of a boy and his grandmother (Mammaw) and the special relationship between a child and a grandparent. Their standing Saturday date is a ritual that begins with the main character setting off on his bike and riding through town until he reaches her home. Their day includes sharing breakfast, doing yardwork, eating lunch (with fresh tomatoes from the garden) and--finally--making and eating Mammaw's special teacakes. Chris Soentpiet's lovely, Rockwell-inspired watercolor illustrations firmly place the story in a not-so-distant past and evoke feelings of nostalgia for a bygone era--a time when little kids really did ride their bikes through town (without helmets!) and gas station attendants wore spiffy uniforms. Despite the setting, the story is one all who have a special bond with a grandparent can relate to.

Laminack's publisher, Peachtree Publishers, has a recipe for "Mammaw Thompson's Teacakes" on their website. I adapted it to be gluten-free.

Teacakes (adapted from "Mammaw Thompson's Teacakes", Lester L. Laminack)




Ingredients:
  • 2 sticks butter (I used Smart Balance Butter Blend)
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23. Blueberries for Sal - Blueberry Frozen Yogurt

Blueberries for Sal (Live Oak Readalong)(Book + CD)


It's August and friends of mine in other areas of the country have been enjoying blueberry picking. I know this because I see their status updates and pictures on Facebook. While my family did recently enjoy picking strawberries and blackberries, we unfortunately don't live in an area that is very conducive to blueberry growth. We have to buy ours at the store. Even so, with blueberry season in full swing we're able to find inexpensive fresh berries in our local stores.

There's only one book I can think of to pair with  blueberry picking (or eating, as the case may be): Robert McCloskey's 1948 classic Caldecott Honor winner, Blueberries for Sal. It is the story of Sal and her mother and the day they spend picking berries to can for the winter (I had to explain canning to my kids). Like many small children, Sal is more interested in wandering and eating the berries rather than paying attention to her mother. This is how she inadvertently ends up following a mama bear--whose own distracted cub has been following Sal's mother. In the end everyone gets sorted out and Sal and her mother return home with their blueberries, nobody worse for the wear. (The lovely endpapers, which show Sal and her mother canning their harvest, are a nice touch.)

My kids laughed out loud when Sal took more interest in eating the berries than in following her mother, and again when the mother bear realized she was being followed by a human child rather than her own cub. My favorite part of the book? The pen and ink illustrations, which are blue and white rather than the traditional black and white. Love that blue! It's simple and effective and, well, just pretty.

If you are looking for ways to use up some blueberries this summer, I've got just the recipe for you! This is one of our family favorites and my husband shares equal credit for creating it. I may have made the first batch of frozen yogurt in our ice cream maker years ago but he is the one who perfected and embellished i

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24. Happy Belly, Happy Smile - Fried Rice

"On Fridays I have dinner with Grandpa Sam. He owns a restaurant in Chinatown." - Happy Belly, Happy Smile, Rachel Isadora



I have reviewed books about families cooking and eating together for this blog, but I don't believe I have ever reviewed a book about a family dining together in a restaurant. Enter Rachel Isadora's Happy Belly, Happy Smile, a sweet picture book told from the point of view of a little boy who is visiting his grandfather's Chinese restaurant.

Happy Belly, Happy Smile isn't just a book about food or a book about families, it's a book about the experience of visiting a restaurant and seeing how things work from a child's perspective. Every Friday Louie visits his grandfather's restaurant in Chinatown. A frequent visitor, he knows the waiters, chefs and other restaurant staff by name and he gets an insider's view of what goes down in a working restaurant. He watches the chefs roll egg rolls and chop vegetables and the waiters bustle from table to table. When it's finally time to eat Louie and Grandpa Sam enjoy an assortment of Chinese dishes: rice, dumplings, egg rolls, spare ribs, shrimp chow mein--even fish and crabs. And a fortune cookie, of course. The book's title comes from the message inside the cookie: "Happy food, happy belly, happy smile."

Isadora's collage and oil illustrations are a treat. Scraps of paper from what appear to be real Chinese restaurant menus and are incorporated into the collages, a nice touch.

Of course, this book makes me think of Chinese food. Since converting to a gluten-free diet over a year ago, I haven't had much occasion to eat Chinese takeout. Between the wheat-based sauces, noodle dishes (my favorite) and fried foods, it just isn't the best choice. If I really want plain steamed rice and vegetables I'll get them at home. That's not what most people go to Chinese restaurants for! Fortunately, we have been able to replicate some of our favorite Chinese takeout at home. It's not quite the same but I have received high praise for my fried rice. Some would say it's even better than Chinese takeout!

Fried Rice


  • 2 cups cooked rice (I prefer Calrose, or "sticky" rice, but anything will do)
  • cooked lean protein (chicken, beef strips, tofu, etc.)
  • 2 - 3 eggs
  • 3 - 4 strips of bacon (optional)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups diced fresh or frozen veggies (we use peas and carrots)
  • 1/3  - 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • white vinegar
  • brown sugar
  • sesame seeds
  • black pepper
  • red pepper flakes
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic
  • butter (optional)
Additional equipment: Large pan or wok.

1. Cook your rice. Ideally, the rice should be cold so you may want to cook it ahead of time. Or use leftover rice. I've never tried to make fried rice using the pre-cooked rice I have recently started to see in grocery stores but if you've tried it let me know!

2. If you are using bacon, cook it in the pan/wok. We started putting bacon in our fried rice because one of our favorite Japanese teppanyaki restaurants does this with their fried rice and it is unbelievably good. (I am of the opinion that bacon makes everything better.) When the bacon is cooked through, carefully remove from pan and set aside. Do not drain the pan of the bacon grease! You'll use this instead of cooking oil for the stir fry part. (Sounds gross, I know. Trust me though.)

3. Crack eggs into the pan. Stir fry the eggs with garlic and black pepper until they are no longer runny. Add

1 Comments on Happy Belly, Happy Smile - Fried Rice, last added: 8/10/2010
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25. Two weeks is a long time...

I didn't intentionally neglect this blog for two weeks. As the end of summer vacation approached my kids and I spent a lot of time seeing movies, scheduling playdates with friends, taking some day trips and preparing to go back to school. My older son started the second grade today so things should begin to slow down and I will soon return to my regular posting schedule.

In the meantime, a little of what we've been reading:

Me:

Mockingjay


Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)


My seven year old:

Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House, No. 1)


Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House, No. 1) (Book & CD)
(he's currently reading this aloud for his nightly homework)

My four year old:

Toy Story 2 Read-Along Storybook and CD


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