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Blog 2013

Kids Cooking – Small Batch Muffins



Join us for this episode of…Adventures in Muffin Making!

Kids Muffins - Chocolate Chip and BlueberryThe kids want to do more real cooking, so we have been in the kitchen learning a few times this week. On Saturday morning I thought we would dive into one of their favorite foods – the muffin. Since Cecily likes all kinds and flavors of muffins, and Max only likes chocolate chip, I cut my normal muffin recipe in half, and gave each kid two small bowls, one for making their batch of 6 muffins, and one for mixing the dry ingredients for a batch of muffins which could be easily made at a later date. A homemade muffin mix. This allows each of them to do more measuring, which they really enjoy. But in the chaos of four bowls, two whisks, two kinds of flour, two sets of measuring spoons, not being able to find my certain measuring cup I needed, etc, etc, somehow this happened.

Whoops! We forgot to add the baking powderWe forgot to add baking powder to Max’s dry ingredients. Whoops! 

In the photo above, on the right side is the chocolate chip muffin with no leavening agent. On the left is the correctly mixed chocolate chip muffin. All other ingredients and cooking times are identical.  Big difference! Big lesson in what baking powder does! Intentionally leaving out the baking powder for a whole pan of muffins is too much trouble to teach this lesson, but lucky us, it happened accidentally. I’ll bet they will never forget these muffins.

Ok, at this point in the story I will admit that we ate three of Max’s original unleavened muffins before we got suspicious that something was amiss. Hey, any hot bread with chocolate chips and crunchy sugar topping tastes good. It wasn’t until they started to cool down and take on the texture of a hockey puck that I started to wonder, but I kept quiet. “Mom, on second thought, I don’t really like these muffins.” Busted. Better get on with this teachable moment and make a second batch of muffins.

That was when I realized that we had made another mistake. I had cleverly, too cleverly as it turns out, had the kids mix up the muffin mixes for quick muffins in the future. And I had conscientiously packed the mixes up right away into identically labeled plastic zipper bags. One of which had no baking powder in it. Another teachable moment!!! What luck.

So I put the question to them: How can we tell which bag has the baking powder? I coaxed them toward the technique I thought would work, adding a bit of vinegar to a sample of the mix to see if it fizzed. We discovered a few days ago that baking powder does not fizz nearly as much as baking soda when introduced to vinegar, but it fizzed a little. The kids had another suggestion. They have always been skeptical of my claim that the leavening agent doesn’t affect the taste, and Max brought that up again. So we tasted the two mixes, and sure enough, one of them had a bit of a tangy bite. The other was blandly sweet and floury. We decided the tangy one was the complete mix, and we did the vinegar test to confirm our guess. Knowing what to look for, we did see some bubbles come up on our good sample.

So we mixed it up and baked it and voila! We were right. They rose beautifully and had a tender crumb. We added the baking powder to the remaining mix, and put it away for later. Whew. The chickens enjoyed the three remaining puck-like muffins, and all that was left was the washing up.

The Recipe –

Kids Cooking!

Mixing the dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately is a good idea for kids. It will allow them to have a consistently well mixed product without over beating the dry and wet ingredients in the end, which is a no-no for tender muffins. The final product should be mixed only until the wet and dry are just combined for best results. Then fold in whatever flavoring you are using – chocolate chip or blueberry in this recipe, and put the batter right into the muffin tins. A 1/4 cup measure worked perfectly to fill the 6 muffin papers exactly with no leftover batter! I love it when that happens.

If you want to make some dry mixes for later, set the kids (or yourself) up with a couple more small bowls and simply measure out the dry ingredients into them, assembly line style. Then tip the ready mixes into individual plastic zipper bags that have been labeled with a sharpie marker – I usually write the contents plus some notes about what needs to be added to complete the recipe. Store in a cool dry place until needed.

Kids Cooking - Small Batch Muffins
Recipe type: Baking
This recipe makes a half-dozen muffins which you can flavor how you choose. Mix up a couple of batches of dry ingredients with a little extra effort while you make your muffins, and you will have muffin mix for quick muffins on another day.
    Dry Ingredients
    • ½ c all purpose flour
    • ½ c whole wheat pastry flour
    • 2 tbsp flax meal
    • ¼ cup sugar
    • ¼ tsp salt
    • 1½ tsp baking powder
    Wet Ingredients
    • ½ c milk
    • 2 tbsp oil
    • 1 egg
    • up to ¾ c mix-in for flavoring - fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, whatever you like
    Topping (optional, but recommended)
    • 2 tbsp sugar
    • 2 tbsp softened butter
    • 2 tbsp flour
    1. First, preheat your oven to 500F and put 6 paper liners in your muffin tin.
    1. Get the topping ready first and set aside. Soften the butter and add sugar and flour. Mix with a spoon until all is combined and very crumbly.
    Dry Ingredients
    1. Add the dry ingredients to a mixing bowl. Mix the dry ingredients with a whisk until well combined.You can use whatever kind of wheat flour you like. You can increase the sugar up to ½ cup if you want a sweeter, more dessert-like muffin.
    Wet ingredients
    1. Put all the wet ingredients into a bowl and whisk until egg is well combined. You can add up to 2 tbsp more oil for a richer muffin or substitute melted butter if you like.
    1. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix quickly with a few strokes, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl so that no dry spots are hidden down there. Add your mix-ins and stir to distribute them evenly.
    Fill the tins
    1. Use a ¼ cup measuring cup to divide the batter between the six muffin papers in the tin. They should be at least ⅔ full. Add the topping by sprinkling it evenly among the muffins.
    1. The oven should be preheated to 500F. Reduce temperature to 400F when you put in the muffins, and bake 15-20 mins. Check for doneness after 15 mins - if you are adding frozen fruit like blueberries, you may need a couple of extra minutes.


       Add the crumbly topping to the filled muffin tins before baking.

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      Smoothie Madness Recipe: Spinach-Peach Layered Smoothie


      Return of Smoothie Madness!

      spinach peach layered smoothieWe ate so many Kid-Approved Blueberry Kale Smoothies that we used up ALL the blueberries in our freezer. And, worse yet, blueberries are coming into season late this year due to our cool spring.

      So we went freezer diving to find smoothie ingredients and found plenty of peaches, put up from last year’s farmer’s market purchases. We buy peaches by the box from Jamison Orchards. Their farm is in Nashville, Arkansas, and they sell at the Gateway Farmer’s Market in Texarkana, as well as to local restaurants. The famous peach pie that appears in the summer time at Bryce’s Cafeteria in Texarkana features Jamison peaches. Their peach orchard goes back generations, and so does Bryce’s Cafeteria, so that pie partnership is likely old and well established.

      Jamison Orchard booth at the Gateway Farmer's Market in Texarkana AR

      Jamison Orchard booth at the Gateway Farmer’s Market in Texarkana AR

      When we have peaches in our veggie delivery bag, they usually come from Jamison Orchard. Here’s your peach grower! I lifted this picture from the Jamison Orchard facebook page. I’m sure, like everyone that runs a facebook page, they would appreciate a few more ‘likes’ so go on over there and show them some love, please :)

      Alright – the recipe! Let the Smoothie Madness commence!

      Spinach-Peach Layered Smoothie


      1 1/2 cups partially thawed frozen peaches

      1 ripe banana – frozen is great but I didn’t have that handy and used a fresh one

      1/2 c greek yogurt

      1 tsp honey – if you need it. We did not add any to this smoothie because our peaches were so sweet! Taste of summer…

      1 big handful of washed fresh spinach

      Put all the ingredients EXCEPT the spinach into the blender or food processor and mix until smooth.

      Pour a bit over half of the peach mixture out into a container – I used a glass measuring cup with a spout for easy pouring.

      Add the spinach to the peach smoothie that is left in the blender and mix that all up until it is as smooth as possible.

      The layering: Take the glass you intend the serve the smoothie in and pour some peach smoothie into the bottom. Now pour some green smoothie in – this is the tricky part! If you tilt the glass and pour it over to the side, you will get a more visible line of green than if you just plunk it down into the middle. Go slow.

      Repeat the layers until your glass is full and enjoy!

      If you don’t want to take the trouble to do the layering – just throw it all in the blender and go completely green!

      Other recipes in the Smoothie Madness recipe series:

      Blueberry-Kale Smoothie

      Green Pina-Colada Smoothie

      Strawberry, Banana, and Beet Greens Smoothie

      Peach and Spinach Layered Smoothie

      Peach and Spinach Layered Smoothie

      Has all this peach talk got you craving peaches? It is not peach season yet, but it won’t be long! If I still have frozen peaches when the fresh peaches come around, I plan to make jam from the frozen peaches to make room in the freezer. Here is our jam recipe using Pomona’s Pectin – which lets us totally control the amount and type of sweetener we use in our jams and jellies.

      Peach Freezer Jam

      And here is

      Peach Salsa!

      Mmmm – peach salsa. I have frozen peaches and lots of cilantro in the garden – that is a fresh salsa recipe but maybe I will make a cooked peach salsa. Yum – now I want that! I will keep you posted 😉

       Shared with Humble Bumble Healthy Tuesday Blog Hop and what i am eating

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      Recipe: Homemade Granola Bars

      granola bars

      granola bars I started making granola bars a couple of years ago for homemade holiday treats – everyone I give these to loves them, and I do too. Really delicious, but a very sweet candy-like bar, not an “I’m on a diet so I only eat low fat, low sugar granola bars” kind of bar.  For an occasional sweet treat, though, these meet my approval. They are made of real food! Oatmeal, coconut, nuts, dried fruit, honey and butter. All good when eaten separately, GREAT when mixed together. And they smell wonderful!

      Now, granola bars are basically granola plus a binder.  And granola is whatever you want it to be.  Typically there are oats, and I have tried both the expensive brands of rolled oats like Arrowhead Mills and the cheap store brands, and in granola it really doesn’t make much difference, in my opinion.  However in oatmeal – as in the hot cereal -the pricey brands are worth it, so I save my fancy oats for oatmeal, and buy the cheap kind of old fashioned oats when I make granola.  My daughter loves oatmeal, which she called ‘oakmeal’ when she was younger. I remember once making instant brown sugar oatmeal, and her returning the bowl, saying that “These oaks aren’t very good.”  She is a bit of an oatmeal snob.

      So I think any granola recipe would work, just add the binder – with one note – don’t add sugar or oil when you make the granola.  There is plenty of sweet and fat in the binder.  You could also use store-bought granola and just not worry too much about the extra sweetness. If you go that route, based on adding up the quantities in the recipe below, you would need about 4 cups of granola. If you want to add your own mix-ins, just subtract their amount from the granola. Say you wanted to add pecans – add one cup pecans so use  3 cups granola. Theoretically. I have never done it this way but it should work. If anyone tries this, come back and leave a comment telling us how it worked out.

      These are a soft chewy bar, not a crunchy dry bar.

      Sticky Chewy Honey Butter Homemade Granola Bars

      Makes one 8″ square pan of granola bars – how many bars depends on how you cut them up :) In the pictures I am making a double batch for a bake sale, so I used a 9×13 pan and it worked out fine.


      Oat mixture:

      2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
      1 1/2 cup chopped nuts
      1/2 c shredded coconut 
      1 cup dried fruit
      optional: up to 1 cup seeds (sesame, flax, sunflower – any that strike your fancy, or all)


      1/2 c honey 
      1/2 c brown sugar 
      1/2 stick butter 
      1/2 t salt


      First start the granola – it will take a while to get really toasty.  Heat the oven to 350F. Toast the oats on their own for about 15 minutes, then add the nuts and coconut, and the seeds if you are using them, and toast for another 15 minutes or so.  Set the timer to remind you to stir/check the mixture every 5 minutes.  It tastes best if you get it really golden brown and toasty, but the coconut and nuts can burn if you forget and leave it for even a few minutes.  Add the fruit after you finish toasting the oat mixture.

      When the toasting is complete, put all into a large heatproof bowl.  Metal would be the safest, as we will be adding hot sugar syrup to the mixture.

      nice and toasty!

      nice and toasty!


      add the dried fruit after toasting the granola

      add the dried fruit after toasting the granola


      While the granola is toasting in the oven, you can start cooking the honey butter to bind the bars together – or if you are using store bought granola just go straight to this step.

      In a medium sauce pan, stir together the ingredients for the binder. Here they are again.

      1/2 c honey
      1/2 c brown sugar
      1/2 stick butter
      1/2 t salt

      Bring to a boil over low-medium heat, and allow to cook at a low boil, gently, for 5 minutes or so.  If it doesn’t boil long enough, the bars will still be delicious, but may fall apart a bit. We are caramelizing the sauce somewhat, I guess. I told you, these are candy-like 😉

      ingredients for the honey butter binding mixture

      ingredients for the honey butter binding mixture

      Take the honey mix off the heat and let it cool a little, 5 minutes or so.  PLEASE BE VERY CAREFUL WITH THIS STUFF – IT IS A 3RD DEGREE BURN WAITING TO HAPPEN – NO KIDS SHOULD BE UNDERFOOT WHEN YOU ARE COOKING THIS OR POURING THE SYRUP INTO THE BOWL.  OK, I’m serious, just be careful.

      Pour the syrup onto the granola and turn and stir until it is well covered.

      add the honey butter syrup CAREFULLY to the granola in a heat proof bowl

      add the honey butter syrup CAREFULLY to the granola in a heat proof bowl

      all mixed up!

      all mixed up!

      Pour mixture into an 8 inch square pan, lined with plastic wrap.  In this picture I have the pan lined with foil, because I ran out of plastic wrap – oops! I do NOT recommend the foil – it is very sticky and hard to remove. Definitely run to the store and get plastic wrap before you get started. Waxed paper will not work either.

      Put a sheet of plastic wrap over the top, then press down firmly until the stuff is flat and packed into the pan. Pay special attention to pressing around the edges – it will be crumbly there when you cut them up if it is not pressed down well.

      press the granola mixture down firmly into the pan

      press the granola mixture down firmly into the pan

      let the granola bar mixture cool and firm up for several hours or overnight

      let the granola bar mixture cool and firm up for several hours or overnight

      Let the mixture cool for several hours or overnight. Cool it in the fridge if you are in a hurry.

      Lift the whole slab out of the pan onto a cutting surface and remove the plastic wrap. Cut the bars with a big heavy knife in whatever shapes you like – I usually do bar shapes, but for the bake sale I did squares.

      cut up the bars with a heavy knife

      cut up the bars with a heavy knife


      It is worth the trouble to wrap each bar with plastic wrap, so you can grab one and slip it in your pocket.  Much better than fast food when you are caught away from home and longing for a snack.

      cooking for a cause - the annual Arkansas Food Blogger Bake Sale

      cooking for a cause – the annual Arkansas Food Blogger Bake Sale

      all packed up and ready for the bake sale!
      all packed up and ready for the bake sale!


      These bars went out to the Arkansas Food Blogger Bake Sale, which will be held on Saturday, May 4, 2013. Here is the official bake sale page.

      The sale will be held adjacent to the Argenta Certified Arkansas Farmers’ Market
      7th and Main, North Little Rock, on Saturday, May 4, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

      Proceeds benefit No Kid Hungry, so if you are in the central part of the state, please go there and buy generously.

      Thank you!

      Shared with Real Food Wednesday ,  Kelly the Kitchen Kop, what i am eating

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      On the menu this week: April 15, 2013

      Tomatoes growing! 'Spudakee' is similar to a Sunshine for Dinner favorite, 'Cherokee Purple'

      Tomatoes growing! ‘Spudakee’ is similar to a Sunshine for Dinner favorite, ‘Cherokee Purple’

      We are approaching our last week of early spring veggie deliveries. We have harvested a lot of the variety that has been growing, like broccoli, cauliflower, and our super-early container grown new potatoes. Nothing left but leafy greens and as the days (and nights) warm up, these plants are rapidly going to seed.

      So for this bag, our subscribers got double eggs and a big bunch of whatever leafy greens I could round up. In a few weeks, we will be starting the delivery schedule again. In the meantime, we will be pulling out old winter crops and putting in new summer crops, like tomatoes, squash, and peppers. And eggplant, and basil, and cucumbers, and beans, and…. so many possibilities!

      On the menu this week: April 15, 2013

      Green Onions

      Lettuce ‘Parris Island Cos’


      Chard ‘Sunshine Mix’

      Kale ‘Rainbow Lacinato’

      Farm fresh eggs – double


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      Recipe: Kale with Smoked Sausage

      kale with smoked sausage

      kale with smoked sausage

      Recipe: Kale with Smoked Sausage

      It’s a stretch to call this a “recipe” but nonetheless here it is.




      Smoked sausage

      Wash and coarsely chop the kale, set aside.  Slice the sausage and fry in a medium hot pan until it begins to brown. Take the sausage out of the pan and set aside. Add the kale to the pan and saute until it wilts down and gets tender. Put in a pinch of salt. Add a couple tablespoons of water if you need it, but not too much – this dish is not juicy. When kale is done to your taste then add the sausage back to the pan with the kale. Continue to stir and toss the kale and sausage around until everything is piping hot. Enjoy!

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      Strawberry, Banana, and Beet Greens Smoothie

      Smoothie Madness, DAY 3

      Strawberry, Banana, and Beet Green Smoothie

      Strawberry, Banana, and Beet Green Smoothie

      Strawberry, Banana, and Beet Greens Smoothie

      This would have been better if I had more strawberries.  And to be honest, although I dearly love beet greens, these were the least tasty in a smoothie of all the kinds of greens we tried during SMOOTHIE MADNESS. Yesterday’s St. Patrick’s Day Green Pina Colada Smoothie had spinach and the day before we had a Blueberry Kale Smoothie.


      1 1/2 c frozen strawberries

      2 bananas (can be frozen)

      1/2 c greek yogurt

      1 1/2 c baby beet greens with stems (or spinach would be a good substitution)

      2 t honey

      Whiz it up in the food processor or blender and enjoy. There are visible green bits in this smoothie.


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      Green Pina Colada Smoothie for St. Patrick’s Day

      Smoothie Madness!

      spinach makes this pina colada smoothie GREEN for St. Patrick's Day

      spinach makes this pina colada smoothie GREEN for St. Patrick’s Day

      Delicious! This is a very rich and yummy smoothie.

      Green Pina Colada Smoothie for St. Patrick’s Day

      1 cup frozen pinapple chunks (I had fresh pineapple that I put in the freezer, but you could freeze canned pineapple for this)

      1 frozen banana

      2 cups fresh spinach

      1/2 can coconut milk, stirred up

      1/2 c plain greek yogurt

      1 t honey, if needed (I would have been happy without it, but it was yummy once I added it)

      That’s it! Whiz it in the blender or food processor till smooth and eat it up.

      SMOOTHIE MADNESS? See yesterday’s blueberry kale smoothie here.  What smoothie will tomorrow bring? I am thinking something with beet greens…

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