Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Real Life Practical Life for Olders (Muffin Mania Part 2)

When I first started implementing Montessori in our home school years ago I faithfully prepped all of these wonderful age-appropriate tasks for youngest dd (2 or 3 at the time).  She used a few but mostly they sat there... and sat there... and sat there; no matter my encouragement, taking them out, doing them myself, etc.  The exception that I remember was the scissor cutting basket.  She used that non-stop for about a week and then was done with it.  It was great and was the right moment for her.
She sometimes liked a few things but she just wasn't drawn to isolated practical life.  When she finally had enough verbal skills (and pantomime skills) she was able to express to me that, basically, she liked doing those things as part of a meaningful task but not just for the sake of doing it.  Okay, the impressive part is that *I* finally got it!  We then did more things that incorporated those isolated skills like washing apples for making applesauce, bathing her baby dolls in water at the play table with all of the materials like talc (cornstarch), shampoo, etc.

Fast forward 7 years...

Oldest dd (15) helped me prep 8 batches of muffin mixes Friday night in preparation for Saturday baking (otherwise known as choosing to ignore what I should really be doing and hyperfocusing on mundane tasks to preserve my sanity and feel some sense of accomplishment).  She did all the dry ingredients (except any leavening agents) while I fiddled and figured out what to do for soaking in kefir and got the liquids ready (except for any egg).  Many isolated skills are incorporated into cooking no matter how old they are.  It was nice to know I didn't need to look over her shoulder and just left her to her part while I did my part (which took enough of my attention!).  It was pleasant, fun, and I enjoyed her company.

What were dd-14 and dd-9 doing during this?  They were trimming and painting their bedrooms!  Yes, start to finish the 3 dds painted their rooms working as a team, listening to music, and chatting.  It was wonderful seeing them undertake this big task, problem solve, stick with it, and finish the job(s).  Hopefully when they look back they'll realize that it involved trust on our part and a variety of skills on their part.  They felt pride through an accomplishment rather than just praise from me.

Both of those were real life practical life activities that benefit the entire family.  There also happened to be a finished product in each of these examples so there is eventual closure to the task.  As a "project person" that is really important to me when I do an intense task.

"Practical Life" may look very different in a home setting than a school setting.  Allow yourself the freedom to adjust to your child and family instead of ONLY trying to make your shelves look like the Montessori school down the street (like I did at first!).  Those isolated practical life skills are great and practical life shelf work is important - just don't feel like you have to fit the mold or it's not "Montessori."  Montessori is about following the child more than the materials.

Here are a few Montessori resources for littles:  Montessori Play and Learn; Montessori from the Start; Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Pre-School Years;
Basic Montessori: Learning Activities for Under-Fives.

What's Cookin'?

This is what 35 pounds of cheddar cheese looks like!  I sure hope we like it!  1 is a friend's but the other 6 are mine.  I literally saved for MONTHS to buy cheese.  Why?  I spend at least $20/mo on cheddar cheese - the plain ol' grocery store brand of cheddar on sale.  This way I spent just barely over that for grass fed cheddar (or rather cheese from grass-fed cows!) from Minerva Cheese Factory.

Also in the picture you can see our elegant homemade mac and cheese leftovers, some fresh cream, and some whey sitting on top (that I had drained making cream cheese for one of the muffin recipes).  There is also a jar of blueberry jam we made last season recently opened and a bag of the ubiquitous muffins (I love that word - now that I know what it means!).  Humbling photo.... but the cheese is impressive, eh?  One day I may even open them, cut them into 1/2 pound sections, shred (or slice more) and freeze.  I was a little busy with muffins :).

Here are a few pictures of the muffin mania prep session and a few of the finished muffins.  Then I ran out of steam!  In fact, today is Tuesday and I baked 2 more of the batches prepped that day... today.  I still have one batter left to finish baking.  The amazing thing is that the batter is still good because I soaked with kefir (and no egg yet, remember).  When I saw that I couldn't get to all of them Saturday I put 3 batters in the fridge.  Then I took them out as I was able to finish them.  By that phase I only needed to add baking powder/soda and egg to them (plus blueberries for the blueberry muffins).  I ran out of bowls and had to resort to a stainless steel saucepan.

Every single adjusted/soaked recipe worked (well... the blueberry muffins that I sort of, kind of burned a little didn't work so well but that was my fault).  The trick is to add everything except the leavening for the dry ingredients and the liquids except for the egg [someone correct me if I'm wrong with this because it's really been working for me this way].  For the liquids I mainly used straight kefir.  Then leave out overnight to soak.  The next morning I actually kneaded in the baking powder or whatever leavening the recipes says.  This helps incorporate it better into the batter - making it a better batter :).  Then I added the egg and worked it in really well before folding any add-ins such as strawberries or blueberries.

Plain Oatmeal Muffins

Pumpkin Muffins
Strawberry Cream Cheese Muffins
This post about adjusted muffin recipes is part of Kelly's Real Food Wednesday:

 Quote of the Day:

"One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.” A. A. Milne [Boy, I must lead one exciting life!!]

Friday, April 22, 2011

Muffin Mania Gottatries ~ Easter Goodies

Here are some muffin-specific recipes for my Gottatries list.  I thought it would be fun to have a muffin spread either Easter Sunday or right after Easter.  Probably that week since they'll have some candy and sweets Easter Sunday - or maybe a different type of muffin for snack that whole week.  These will all be adjusted (if I have time/energy/focus to prep ahead!) to white whole wheat soaked muffins.

Applesauce Muffins (make a small pot of applesauce ahead of time and needs 1 C milk)

The Ultimate Popover.  This isn't even sweet but I want, want, want one right now!  I wonder how it would do in a regular cupcake tin or even with paper liners.  This may have to be a compromise white flour unsoaked recipe; I don't see how it could work soaked because egg is tricky to incorporate the next day.

Muffin Poppers.  Do cinn/sugar on top only?

Doughnut Muffins:

Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins.  Try all but eggs and apple soaked night before and then add them the next morning. (Pull pureed pumpkin out of freezer)

Whipping Cream Biscuits.  Not a muffin but they look easy and good.  Use kefir instead of cream or whatever is on hand:

Cinnamon Rolls:  I have GOT to try this right away (another not-a-muffin-recipe hidden in this muffin post; but if I don't put it here I'll lose it!).  This would be great for Easter Sunday:

Orange Banana Muffins.  I actually have all of these ingredients on hand right now:

Zucchini Coconut Muffins.  I just ran out of shredded coconut but I can make it without the coco.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Muffins.  Needs 2 C fresh cut strawberries.  I don't think our strawberry patch will give us that many at a time so I may need to buy some if they're on sale.  I can't wait to check the garden tomorrow for strawberries, though!  Also needs 2/3 C cream cheese so I need to have that ready

Pumpkin Muffins.  Take 2 C pumpkin out of the freezer ahead of time.

Oatmeal Date Muffins.  I've never bought dates because they seem so expensive to me.  I usually use raisins instead of dates in recipes.  However, I think I may splurge for this recipe.  It calls for 2/3 C chopped dates.  They have them in bulk now at Kroger so I'll check prices.

Cranberry Orange Muffins. Needs 3/4 C orange juice.

Bread Pudding Muffins.  Oh, wow, these look good.  This will have to be a compromise food with unsoaked regular unbleached white flour.  I can't see how it could be soaked since you need the liquid to soak the bread... Unless you soaked the bread with the flour overnight.  I'll at least use sourdough bread since we don't have any bread to spare right now.

Blueberry Muffins.  I need to pull out my blueberry muffin recipe that already has soaking notes on it... UPDATE:  I just found a recipe online that's already adjusted for oatmeal blueberry muffins!

Sour Cream Coffee Cake.  I really, really shouldn't look at recipes before breakfast!  This looks fantastic.  Soak 2 C flour and 1 C kefir night before with all other ingredients except egg and leavening agents.

Oatmeal muffins.  These are simple enough that I don't need to wait until Easter or after Easter - Yeah, I can make them today! (soak all but eggs and baking powder)

Pumpkin Muffins.  This recipe is already a soaked recipe.

I could go on and on but I'll make myself stop!

Easter Goodies:

I went to a local store and got some Sundrops, Yummy Earth (dye-free) lollipops, and some dye-free Annie's gummy bunnies for Easter treats. I was also thinking about making some peanut butter cups (okay, so that one's for me!). If I'm really feeling productive (and my adrenals/firbro hold out) I'll see if I can find some appropriate candy molds to melt some Enjoy Life chocolate chips (they changed the packaging so it looks weird but same ingredients as far as I can tell).  Unfortunately they'll be getting plenty of goodies full of synthetic dyes, fake sugars, trans fats, brain killers (excitotoxins), etc.  My sweet mom doesn't get the dye thing and I don't want to hurt her feelings.  It's a very fine tightrope we walk between love and charity and safeguarding their health.  I love going to her house for Easter Supper but dread the whole candy thing.  She has a Sprouts and organics right in her grocery store, but...

Easter Egg Hunt Cookies:  Couldn't I just bake a roll sugar cookie recipe smooshed around the bottom/sides of a cupcake tin?  Then fill with the sundrops I got after filling with green whipped cream using all natural food dyes?
Rice Krispie Treat Eggs:  I still have some homemade marshmallows in the freezer so this may be a possibility (with maybe some adjustments):

I've been so overwhelmed with things on the homefront that I haven't had the courage to check out Catholic Cuisine for Easter ideas.  I'll humbly admit it, it's been a pathetic Lent for me.  I've been very unfocused and self-absorbed.  I truly appreciate all of the many traditions that help us stay focused on Jesus during this time.  I slacked off due to other goings-on and really noticed a difference and difficulty keeping myself 'reined in' spiritually.  In fact today we're planning on just spending about an hour going through all of the Holy Heroes Lenten Adventures that we missed (read:  all of them!).  Youngest dd reminded me last night that we haven't done it yet this Lent.  Sad when your child has to give you the nudge!  We have a note on the fridge to prioritize it (sigh).  We WILL make sure to go to the Stations of the Cross at 3:00 today.  I think it would be a very powerful experience even if you are not Catholic to attend one of these services at your local Catholic Church.  It takes you through the Passion of Christ (and there is usually a booklet to follow along so you will know what's going on!).  If you can't go, there is a MP3 download from Holy Heroes of The Stations (it won't let me link it right now nor put the image below - I'll have to update the link later).

Divine Mercy Novena starts today as well (Good Friday). "For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."  Matthew 18:20.

Friday, April 15, 2011

It's that time of year... and Pizza Rolls

What's Schoolin'?

This is SO NOT Montessori...  Our dc are taking the SAT test Monday and Tuesday so I *finally* went to Mardel and got them the following Spectrum Test Prep books:  Grade 3 and Grade 8.  I got the 8th grader and the 9th grader the Grade 8 one simply because the store only carries up to grade 8 for these types of books :( and I wanted her to have some kind of warm-up before test day.  Your regard for me could go to either way:  Yes, I could've/should've gotten them weeks ago to have less stress; Yes, I could've/should've not given them any test or practice whatsoever.  Well, being eclectic, and hoping to keep their options open for college and not hinder them, we test but don't dwell/focus on it [as may be obvious by my getting their practice books 4 days before the test!].

Several years ago I spent HOURS going through all of the different publishers' test prep booklets.  I chose this series and have stuck with it ever since for the years that we test.  I still like it best of the available options.

Next year I'll have to order something online for the olders (Egad! 2 highschoolers??? When did THAT happen??).  Just so I don't have to re-research the one for my soon-to-be-fourth-grader this is for next year:  Grade 4.  Any recommendations for SAT test prep for 9th and 10th graders for next year are welcome!

What's Cookin'?

Pizza Rolls/Pockets:  I made pizza rolls using the yogurt dough in Nourishing Traditions.  I love this recipe because it can sit for days in the fridge (how long it usually takes for me to complete a task!) and not go bad.  Since I use kefir I don't have to worry about the dairy going bad right away.  Anyway... I mixed some pre-cooked ground beef and a bunch of squirts of ketchup ;) and some grated mozzarella that I managed to swipe and hide in the refrigerator.  My dc prefer ketchup but you can use pizza sauce if you'd like.

Simply roll out, use a pizza cutter to cut out rectangles, put a heaping teaspoon of the mixture onto half of the rectangle, fold over, and crimp edges together with a fork.  Bake at 350F for about 30 minutes until lightly golden.

I was going to save them for lunches but dc begged me (literally) to have them right away for dinner that night.  Being a big ol' softy...

This recipe is part of Kelly's Real Food Wednesday.  Find more recipes at:

And Dining with Debbie's What's on the Menu Wednesday at:
What's Green?

I have been looking at these products:  Bon Ami dish soap and powder cleanser.  They look promising.  The main website is:  http://www.bonami.com/

Monday, April 11, 2011

100 Board

The Hundred Board:

Ages ago they didn't have nifty numbered tiles to go along with the Hundred Boards and I made my own.  They have survived, literally, almost 2 decades with only a few replacement tiles.  I had a bucket of 1 inch plastic tiles and sorted out sets by color.  I wrote the numbers on the tiles with a permanent marker in the following manner up to 100:

Yellows:  each tile has a number on it from 1-100 by ones
Blues: each tile has a number counting by 2's
Greens:  each tile has a number counting by 5's
Red:  each tile has a number counting by 10's

Here are pictures of the tackle box where I keep them with the blank side of a Hundred Board.  I had the ones in sets of ten so the child could just do one group at a time instead of digging through 100 tiles to find a number!  This is done on the printed side first until the child is ready to do the blank side and check their work with a printed one (I had 2 boards, one to work and one for control):

This shows how we use translucent tiles (or even round chips) for skip counting (which leads to multiplication memorization also).  In the photo the child was counting by 3's.

Now there are some really nice sets on the market.  You can see one here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.  Here is a Montessori Style Hundred Board. [Continued below]

If you need some free printables try these links:

Click on Numbers and Operations:

This is a cool way to use it to count money:

My youngest has outgrown the numbered tiles so I'm actually getting rid of them (sniff, sniff!) but she's still using the translucent tiles to skip count since she's at the point in multiplication of memorization.

What's Cookin'? 

Chicken:  I was flustered at the store today about the high cost of organic chicken [Seriously? $9/pound??].  I ended up buying a 1/2 chicken for $2.49/lb - It totalled just under $6 for the store organic chicken.  I got 2 meals out of it (chicken burritos tonight and 10 taquitos with chicken and rice inside for either lunches or another dinner).  After all was said and done and I totalled the cost for the chicken, 2 packs of organic/sprouted tortillas (one corn, one wheat), some sour cream, bit of organic store-brand salsa, a tad of shredded cheddar (that I found in the freezer), and lettuce from our garden... dinner only cost $6 for a family of five.  Not bad!!  Especially considering that it was organic chicken and organic/sprouted tortillas.  Oops, add in an extra $2.50 for the organic tortilla chips they gobbled up before/during/after dinner.

Dehydrator:  We did a 2 day drying marathon.  I dehydrated apple slices, bananas, soaked/cooked oatmeal for cold breakfast cereal, and soaked grape nuts for cold breakfast cereal.

A MUST-SEE video:  This is a great 18 minute video about health and our food supply.  Please take time to watch even a little bit of it:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I'm in this constant quandry:  either organic peanut butter or raw peanuts - but I never have both organic and raw peanuts or organic and soaked peanut butter.  Why either? Well... nuts should be soaked before eating to reduce the antinutrients; and peanuts are really good at absorbing pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.  Oh, and they can also have mold/toxins like aflatoxin and the mycotoxins produced by those toxins.  But finding both organic and raw has been out of reach for me (read:  too expensive).  On the other hand, we eat a lot of peanut butter and/or peanuts.  In fact, that was the very first thing that we switched to organic, my very first baby step, or rather half-step.  Sometimes we make almond butter from soaked almonds (from a clean source) but we really like peanuts also.

I was pleasantly surprised when I found these on amazon:  Raw Organic Peanuts from Superior Nut Company for $3.95/1 pound bagThey also have a 10 pound box.  I'm saving up for the 10 pounder.

Directions for preparing raw nuts for consumption:

- Soak the nuts overnight in filtered water and Real Salt.[The NT recipe calls for 1 Tablespoon salt per 4 Cups peanuts and soaking at least 7 hours]
- Drain, rinse, drain the next morning. [NT does not have you rinse and drain, just drain and dry but I like to rinse mine off with fresh filtered water.]
- Dehydrate for 'crispy nuts' for 24 hours in a dehydrator, or less time in the lowest setting of your oven.  Check them now and then for doneness - my dehydrator takes 24 hours but yours may take less.
- Eat; make peanut butter; or go on to the next step.
- You can make the nuts salted/flavored by coating them with oil and salt or spices.  I put them in a bowl and drizzle a little bit of oil on them.  Then I stir in the oil well.  I add salt/spices and stir some more.  Then I spread out and roast at the lowest oven temperature for about 10 minutes (if I remember right!) until I can begin smelling the aroma.

If your raw peanuts have the skins on they are easiest to take off after soaking, while still wet.  If you gently squish the peanut at one end it usually pops out of the skin.  This is a good step to involve the children!

Storage:  According to Nourishing Traditions, once soaked and dehydrated, peanuts can be stored for many months at room temperature if airtight.  I plan on vacuum sealing in bags of about 2 Cups each.

Update:  I just got my 10 pound box of peanuts yesterday!  I put some in bags for the freezer and have 1/4 of the order soaking.  Today we'll take off the skins and dehydrate.  I'll do a follow-up post later with photos all the way to peanut butter and flavored peanuts.  Yes, I had to save up for the box but at about $4/pound for raw AND organic peanuts it'll be worth it and should last for months and months and months.

This post is part of Kelly's Real Food Wednesday at:

Monday, April 4, 2011

Binomial Cube

Here are some resources I have gathered for the Binomial Cube.  Below you can see my homemade one which I made using wooden centimeter cubes.  I was also given a homemade painted one (thanks, I!) and chose not to paint mine so we have both kinds.  I've noticed that the dc take both out and do them at the same sitting when they pull out the binomial cubes.

In random order:

Commercially available binomial and trinomial cubes:
Montessori Binomial Cube

Montessori Trinomial Cube

Donna Marie's instructions are invaluable:

Analysis of the Binomial Square:

Square Root Guide Squares:

Start on page 225 (whole album is excellent but that is the binomial cube section):

Easy to follow presentation:

Photos of binomial and trinomial cubes:

Wonderful training video:

My homemade binomial:

What's Cookin'?

Simple, unfancy foods.  I have red kidney beans soaking to start cooking tonight.  I've found that my crockpot takes a day and a half to finish cooking beans so if I start them late tonight they'll be ready for dinner tomorrow.

I just finished putting together some yogurt dough to soak.  I'm not sure yet how I'll use it but it's nice to have handy.  I also put 2 C flour and 1 C kefir to soak for some blueberry muffins.

I took some eggs out of the freezer [yes, you read correctly... you can freeze eggs!] for a breakfast casserole from Heavenly Homemakers tomorrow.  The frozen jar label says 6 eggs so I'll just need to add 2 more for the recipe.