Sunday, December 22, 2013

Graham Cracker House, Train, Castle, and Boat Patterns

I learned to do gingerbread houses this way from the kindergarten teachers.  I asked how two teachers could supervise so many houses at once with such small children.  They said the trick was to pre-cut the houses and "hot sugar" (see directions below) them together in advance, assembly line fashion, with two adults, no kids in sight!  The hot sugar has no dry time and is very stable, so it goes FAST.  Then at the party, each student gets their own bag of royal icing, a pre-made house, and a bowl of candy.  The original pattern is the first one listed here, it is the easiest to mass produce and a great size and shape.  Here is a post with lots of pictures of how they turn out.mother daughter "gingerbread" house party.

Now, about the other patterns, we used Keebler brand graham crackers which are scored this direction, some brands are scored a different direction, but it shouldn't matter at all.  I cut them very, very carefully with a steak knife (serrated).  If a piece breaks and you are short on crackers, you can glue it back together with burnt sugar (or perhaps royal icing.)  My castle door broke about six times, but it was fine in the end and can be covered with candy if it bothers you.  You can click on the photos to see full size photos.  Also remember when gluing/hot sugaring pieces together to put the right side of the graham crackers facing out, it looks better than having the back of the graham cracker showing.  (double click on images to see larger versions)

 This is the castle

Fishing boat

Train, note how candy inbetween the curved engine graham pieces fills out the train engine shape.

This was the "Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe"

Directions for houses: 

To assemble houses, use hot sugar.  Melt about 1 cup of white sugar in a frying pan on medium heat stirring constantly.  Then adjust heat to medium low.

Hot sugaring is dangerous, like hot glue, its very, very, very easy to get burned!

The points on the sloped cracker can be cut using scissors if you start cutting at the point, they aren't perfect, but it is fast.  A stake knife cuts the points really well too, but is slower.
Its nice to have two people when hot sugaring the houses together.  Then you can come up with a good system for assembling.  
(We dipped both ends of both side walls at the same time.  Then, we set them on the front wall while the second person attached the back wall.  Once the four side walls were connected, we dipped the top of the house in the sugar and then added the roof pieces.  

Royal Icing ( you can have several people each bring a batch of icing instead of making it all yourself)
3 egg whites
1 pkg powdered sugar (4 cups)
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy in small bowl.  Slowly beat in confectioners' sugar until frosting stands in firm peaks and is stiff enough to hold a sharp line when cut through with knife. Keep bowl covered with damp paper towel while working to keep frosting from drying out.  Store leftover frosting in tightly covered container or ziploc in refrigerator up to three days.  
freezer bags work best for icing, regular bags tend to tear.

Plan about 3-4 houses per batch of icing.

Foil covered cardboard squares we used 7x11 my daughter's school asked them to bring 12x12 squares, whatever you like.  Cut cardboard with an exacto knife or ask each family to bring their own boards.

Suggested Candy:
mini m&m's
red hots
santas and snowmen candies
gum drops
tiny tarts
hat tamales
Mike and Ikes
chocolate chips
cold cereal
anything that makes good repeating patterns

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The White Stocking

Most of you have heard about a white stocking christmas tradition in one form or the other.   I recieved a story about it one year and liked the idea, but the poem was badly written and confusing (my friend didn't write it, so no offense intended there, it was a great thought.)  I sat down and thought it should go another way, in a few minutes I had written this poem.  I think it was inspired to help my family with a goal-setting tradition.  It has been ten years since I wrote this and we have nine years of wonderful gifts all still stuffed in the original white stocking (we took one crazy year off, because no one is perfect!)

The White Stocking
by Regina Slaugh

There were packages wrapped for the young and the old
Each stocking was filled and the Christmas story told.
Every child would be happy, no grown-ups were slighted,
Each soul was remembered and we were delighted.

But when the first rays of Christmas were dawning
The littlest child discovered the stocking.
Oh we were surprised, now where had in come from?
And where had it been when the others were hung?

While we were remembered with presents aplenty,
The little white stocking was hanging there empty.
In all of our efforts to love and remember,
Who had we missed for a gift this December?

Remember on Christmas we honor the birth
Of our Savior divine and his life on this earth?
Well this stocking so white with simple gold trim,
Started each of us thinking of giving to Him.

So then all at once we began to explain,
That surely this stocking had a meaning quite plain
We should include in our holiday giving
A gift to the Savior, the King of all Living.

Now each Christmas Eve we all gather together
And write down our gifts to Him on some paper
Next into the stocking our papers will go
Goals to help faith and obedience grow.

We try to remember the gift that we’ve given
And make it a part of our everyday living.
Then our gift to the Savior will last all year through,
Until next Christmas Eve, when we write something new.

“In conclusion, the submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we “give,” brothers and sisters, are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!”

Neal A. Maxwell, “Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father,” Ensign, Nov. 1995
P.S. we have learned about making age appropriate "gifts" the adults usually choose a year long goal and the kids choose a goal that lasts as many weeks as they are old...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving Turkey Cornbread

Colored cornbread just like Dad used to make.  We covered it with foil after it baked awhile so the colors would stay bright instead of turning golden brown.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Scripture Power

He likes singing time no matter what we sing, but "Scripture Power" seems to be one of his favorites.  We noticed last time we sang it that he tried to do the actions.  So cute!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Halloween 2013

Making a train out of the diaper box, it was just the right size for a four year old.  The face is the lid off a take out container.  The hat was $2.50 at the party store.  I used two sheets of blue poster board and 1 sheet of red.  Thank goodness it didn't rain like last year since I never got around to waterproofing it in any way.  I tried to make this costume as lightweight as possible, but it was still a bit heavy by the end of the day.
Ths is an enderman from mine craft, an odd costume I thought, but predictable from my minecraft loving son.

We grew huge pumpkins this year!  Three were too big to carry.

Flower princess

Pippi Longstocking
My enderman kid is in the back of this picture.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Girl Scout Jeweler: Name pendant from Egypt

For girl scouts my daughter was supposed to create jewelry inspired by another culture.  She decided to make a cartouche necklace.  We used the lid from a salad at Costa Vida (yum!).  The plastic should be have the #6 recycle symbol.  She printed out a picture of her name online at (5 1/2 inches tall) and then traced it onto the plastic lid with permanent markers.  She cut it out and punched a hole in it.  Then we put it the oven at 350 for 2-3 minutes.  Until it was done curling and flat again.  Then voila, a cool egyptian name pendant!

Note: I used a screen shot to get a printable copy from this cartouche maker website.  Or you could just free hand a traceable alphabet.  You can have one name cartouche ready for each girl making a pendant to make things easier.  My daughter embellished the edges of the cartouche with curly cues and dots which was fun and cute.    The rings and tools to attach the pendants to a chain or rope are in the beading section of any craft store.

Update:  #6 plastic is hard to find.  You can order shrinky dink refills and use the melting instructions supplied or try the dollar store jiffy foil baking pans with plastic lids, for each pan you will get a 7"x11" sheet allowing you to make four 3.5"x5.5" sheets.  This isn't a perfect solution, because the plastic melts differently than shrinky dink film.  After a lot of experimentation we found that 300 degrees for about 5+ minutes got the pendants past the horribly wrinkly, curled state and back to flat.  At hotter temperatures they melted too quickly and curled too much to eventually flatten out.  I would definitely practice this once before the girls do it.

Here is another blog about cartouche pendants

Monday, September 30, 2013

High Altitude Gluten Free Bread Recipe

A really good gluten free loaf tested at high altitude!  Uses whatever kind of flour you have on hand.

I've tested this about ten times with a lot of different flour combinations.  It makes a nice, light, soft bread that keeps well and is good for sandwiches or toast.  It doesn't cave in much after baking like most of the other recipes I've tried, or the Cosco gluten free bread.  I use the flour ratio from this recipe as my all-purpose gluten free flour mix.   I get ideas for flour combinations by either looking at recipes online for gluten free bread or by what I have in my pantry that needs to be used up.  I've considered just trying to make the most cost efficient loaf my staple, but experimenting is just too much fun.  The inspiration for this recipe comes from here.  Notice from the pictures below that you can make a "white bread" by using rice, oats, amaranth, and millet.  You get a more "whole grain" flavor by using sorghum and brown teff.

In a small bowl mix:
1 cup really warm water
2 1/4 tsp SAF instant yeast
1 tsp sugar

In a large bowl mix:
*240g of whole grain flour, a combination of 3-4 flours (rice, brown rice, millet, brown or gold teff, quinoa, toasted quinoa, sorghum, sweet sorghum, amaranth, oat, etc.  If using a bean or garbanzo flour use 30-40g or less.  Bean flour is always a good idea for the protein and fiber, but you sacrifice a bit on texture.)
*125g of starch (tapioca, cornstarch, potato starch (15g or less), sweet rice flour, arrowroot starch, etc)
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbs sweetener (brown sugar, white sugar)
1 Tbs Bob's Redmill xanthan gum

*I highly recommend using a scale to measure flour, without a scale the flour/liquid ratio will vary.  However if you must use cups, fill your cup a spoonful at a time and gently level with a knife.  Assume 1 cup of the whole grain flour is 120g.  1/2 cup of starch is about 62g.

In stand mixer mix:
3 eggs lightly beaten (bring to room temperature by soaking in warm water)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup oil (light olive oil, coconut oil, butter, etc.  I usually use coconut oil)
1 Tbs sweetener (honey, agave, sugar, brown sugar)

add the yeast and flour mixture to mixer and mix for 4 minutes (I use a bosch mixer).

Scoop batter into a well greased pan with a spatula.  Then with wet fingers smooth and shape the loaf.  I like mine kind of rounded on top.  I tried it with an indentation down the middle once, but the finished loaf looked like it had caved in.  Put the loaf in the oven with the light on to rise until the loaf is about even with the top of the pan or "double" as most recipes say.  The bread sometimes does nothing for 30 minutes and then starts rising like crazy.  Sometimes it starts rising right away.  I haven't figured out exactly how it works yet.  Just watch close.  If it over rises and the air pockets get too big it can fall after baking.

Bake at 375 for 10 minutes.  Cover the bread loosely with foil and then cook 45 more minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  The bread is better if you wait an hour to slice, but my kids usually talk me into slicing before that.  When the bread is cool I slice the whole loaf at once so I can have convenient sliced bread the rest of the week.

I took some pictures of a batch I made of 12-grain bread.  My oven isn't level, so you'll notice all my loaves lean a bit:(
Below: 12-grain bread with sunflower seeds, flax seeds, millet, and pumpkin seed add-ins,

after about 40 minutes, ready to bake.

after 10 minutes of baking, the additional rise during baking is very good, time to add foil.

All done, house smells heavenly!

First slice, yum!

Below: Multi-grain with quinoa-sprout add-ins

Left below: amaranth, brown rice, millet, oat loaf 
Right below: quinoa, millet, brown rice, teff loaf

Below:  the loaf I shaped with an indentation down the middle.
Left: amaranth          Right:brown rice, teff

Sweet Sorghum Bread
(quantitities to use in template)
60g Bobs Redmill sweet sorghum flour
60g millet flour
80g brown rice flour
40g teff flour
60g tapioca flour
65g sweet rice flour
1/4 C sunflower seeds
3Tbs white sugar

Golden Amaranth Bread:
60g amaranth flour
60 g millet flour
80g brown rice flour
40g gf oat flour (make flour in blender or coffee bean grinder)
62g tapioca flour
64g cornstarch
3Tbs brown sugar

Multi-Grain Bread:
inspired by King Arthur's multi-grain flour blend
40g each of the following: sorghum flour, quinoa flour, millet flour, brown rice flour, teff flour, amaranth flour, tapioca flour, cornstarch, and sweet rice flour.
white sugar

Quinoa-Millet Bread:
60 g quinoa flour
80 g millet flour
70g brown rice flour
30g teff flour
60g tapioca flour
66g cornstarch
brown sugar

I use a K-tec Kitchen Mill for my quinoa flour, millet flour, teff flour, and rice flours.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Daisy Tula Petal: Women of Courage Gallery

A Daisy Scout earns a daisy petal and learns about what it means to be courageous by making her own gallery of women of courage, here is ours, the first page is from The Friend "women of faith"!  We are going to color and cut them out and make a museum!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Gluten Free Flour-Weight Conversions and Measuring 101

I adore recipes written in grams, its so much easier to duplicate results time after time!  I've been using and loving this volume-weight chart for awhile and it recently occurred to me to test its accuracy.  I scooped the flours out of the bags with my measuring scoop and then leveled it off.  I was stunned by how much variation there was from the chart. 

Amaranth: 140g instead of 120g
Brown Rice: 148g instead of 158g
Cornmeal:150g instead of 128g
Millet: 172g instead of 120g
Oat flour: 88g instead of 120g
Pea protein powder: 144g (split pea flour is 160g)
Sorghum: 156g instead 127g
Sweet rice: 180g instead of 204g
Tapioca: 140g instead of 125g
Brown teff: 152g instead of 120g

(an average difference of about 30g per cup of flour from the standard!) 

1) Measuring 101:  When a recipe calls for 1 cup of brown rice flour, it is asking for 158g.  The proper way to measure flour is to sift first or spoon it out of the bag into the cup. (Don't scoop it out of the bag with your cup or tap the cup after you fill it like me.)  Then level the flour with a straight edge.  Even if you do this, you probably won't get exactly 158 grams, just something close.  Volumetric measurement is really imprecise.  It works for general cooking, but for baking mass is better.
2) Your flour may my be too fine or too coarse making it more or less dense than typical.  I grind my own flour and it is superfine.
4) You don’t know the accuracy of the cups or flour texture the author of your recipe used, you can only guess based on their level of expertise as a baker.  A less expert baker probably scooped their flour with the cup and will have higher flour weights per cup, around 25g.  If you convert to mass you may be off by as much as 50g!  If you're not sure about the recipe author's measuring technique, use cups and do not convert to grams using a chart.
5) If you add 1/4 cup of four types of flour like we often do in gluten free baking, you have four chances to add slightly too much or slightly too little flour, you won’t notice like you would with 1 cup of one type of flour.  You could be off by as much as 1/4 cup of flour per cup in the end even if your flour was nicely sifted!

What to do:
1) Look for recipes written in grams!
2) Use measuring cups if the recipe is written in cups and developed by a regular person at home it is probably closer than the weight conversion.  Also, they most likely scooped their flour out of the container rather than spoon filling or sifting their flour, so do it that way.
3) Ask the recipe author about how they measure their flour and if their flour is a standard storebought flour (Bob's, King Arthur, etc), home ground, superfine, gritty, etc.  If they have superfine home ground flour instead of storebought flour, their flour might be denser per cup by 10-20g.
3) Expect that recipes from professionals will be the most likely to convert well from volume to weight because they measure more accurately and often use store bought flours.
4) If adding small amounts of lots of different flours, be extra careful to make sure each flour addition is measured accurately.  Look for recipes that have you blend the flour separately and then add one measurement of the blend, there is much less room for error.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Easy Gluten Free S'mores

Easiest gluten free s'more ever, plus it's yummier than the original.
Ingredients: raw almonds, butter, marshmallow, chocolate.
Chop up a handful of almonds as fine as you can get them.  For kids you might want to use a blender or food processor to get almond meal (see below), Adults probably won't mind a coarser, texture.  Melt a bit of butter (1/2 tsp to 1 tsp) in a custard cup, then stir in about 1oz of almond meal and press it flat to make a crust.  Add chocolate squares and marshmallow.  It looks and tastes like an open-face S'more.  Bake at 350 4-8 minutes.  Eat with a spoon.

S'more face

 Half an almond crusted s'more, (4-8 minutes at 350 in oven.)
 eating gluteny s'mores

more s'more eating

 Two kids didn't like their graham crackers
 I loved the almond crust
Could I do this in foil on a camping trip?  I'm totally gonna try!  I'll just bring my baggy of almond meal

 Almond Meal:  Put 2 cups of frozen/cold raw almonds in blendtec on  speed 9 until the meal sticks to the edges and isn't getting blended anymore, about 30 seconds.  Put it in a jar and refrigerate, try to use within a week.  Use it on hot cereal, pancakes, waffles, to make granola, cookies, brownies, as a salad topper, in yogurt, with rice, on a sandwich instead of peanut butter, as a crumb crust or topping, or plain with honey/agave and milk.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Birthday!

Minecraft cake: water, sand, dirt, grass
Making her brother a cake
Birthday boy playing computer games

Lime sherbet for creeper floats (creepers are bad guys in the Minecraft game)

 In Minecraft, you collect "resources",  J had his friends collect resources: TNT (twizzlers), sticks (pretzels), lava (cherry sours), dirt (rootbeer barrels), and gold (rolls) and then make "Steve" bags.  Then some minecraft food for snacks.  He had boxes to build forts with, but I think they built mostly with LEGO.  Eitherway, building is what minecraft is all about.