When we go back to our big family get togethers in the States, I still feel as if I’m sitting at the kiddie table, no matter how old I get. I think it has to do with the fact that my parents’ extended families are large in number whereas I’m “only” one of two children, with “only” two children of my own. The older I get, though, the more I want to celebrate this feeling.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posted a link to a photo from Country Living entitled “Embrace the Idea of a Kid’s Table.” By this, the editors of the magazine meant that you should make your holiday kiddie table fun and exciting for the little ones. They dressed up a kid-sized art-table for Thanksgiving by covering it in brown craft paper, setting out cups of crayons, and drawing “frames” beneath each place setting in black pen. Pretty plates, a little fruit, and large print place cards set the tone for a fun space for the kids to eat their Turkey and to draw some turkeys, too.
Taking the idea of “Embracing the Idea of a Kid’s Table” to the next level, I decided to set the table for our entire family’s [Canadian] Thanksgiving Feast in a similar manner. [We do our dinner on the holiday Saturday as opposed to the Sunday, so as to enjoy our left-overs all weekend long.] My daughter and I picked up a roll of brown craft/packaging paper and a thick black marker at the dollar store. We used the box top from one of her holiday barbies, of all things, to trace out a rectangle at each place setting. Then, we gave each person a customized “place mat” by adding different edges to each rectangle. Some were simple swirls or triangles. For our special guests, the grandparents, we drew a 3D-ish book of award winning poems and a fancy crackle-edged photograph “held down” by photo corners. Instead of making separate place cards [too fussy for us], we wrote each guest’s name beside their drawn-in placemat/frame. And we set a couple of markers and coloured pencils in a cup in the centre of the table. Et voila! This year, everyone sat at the kiddie table. And we all had a marvelous time!
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Summer of Funner : The Lunchbox Season : In Defense of Burning
Since we had such a great time picking apples last year, we went back to Applewood Farm Winery in Stouffeville, Ontario last weekend. This time, we brought the dog!! It was a totally different vibe this year, too. First and foremost, there were different apples available at the farm. Last year, we went on the first wekeend in October, and it was all Honey Crisp all the time! This year, although we went on the same weekend in October, the Spartans and Spencers were in season. [We also managed to pick up some of the last of the Cortlands for our pies.] The weather was absolutely balmy, too. We were coatless by lunch. This made for a pleasant lunch out among the apple boughs – with hotdogs and fries from the new-and-improved food truck there at the farm. The pick-your-own raspberries were an added bonus!
The Cortland apples we picked made for fantastic Thanksgiving Day pies!
Here’s our recipe….with pictures of our apple-picking adventures below.
2.5 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
4 tbs sugar
2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1.5 sticks/12 tbs cold unsalted butter, cubed
.5 c cold vegetable shortening, cubed
.25 c vodka
.25 c ice-cold water
In a food processor, pulse 1.5 c flour, salt and sugar until combined.
Add the butter and shortening and process until the dough becomes clumpy.
Add the other 1 c flour and pulse until mixture is combined but still clumpy.
Add the vodka 1 tbs at a time, pulsing sparingly.
Add the ice-cold water 1 tbs at a time, pulsing sparingly, until the dough just sticks together.
Divide the dough in half.
Flatten each half into a disk.
Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour before rolling and baking.
Apple Pickin’ Pie Filling
4-5 c peeled, cored, thick sliced apples – we used about 5-6 very large cortlands
brown and/or white sugar
We don’t use flour or starch or other thickeners – but, then, it’s your pie! Feel free to add what you like.
As you slice your apples, add sugar by the tablespoon and cinnamon by the 1/4 teaspoon to taste.
Stir this mixture as you go so that the apples are coated in a lovely sweet syrup.
Heat your oven to 400 degrees.
Roll each crust into a flat round circle.
[I find that rolling the dough between two pieces of gently floured waxed paper works most effectively.]
Place one crust in the pie plate, leaving the edges of the disc hanging about 1 inch over the edges.
[Optional] Place a ceramic pie vent (bird) in the center of the pie.
Fill the pie with the apple mixture as high as you like. [Just don't cover the top of your pie vent]
Scatter the cubes of butter over the top of the apple mixture.
[Optional] Slice an “x” or a small circle in the center of the top crust if you are using a pie vent.
Place the crust over the top of your pile of apples [accomodating the tip of your pie vent if you are using one].
Pinch the edges of the crust together, trim them, and crimp them to your taste [i.e. fork, fingers freestyle].
[Optional] Brush the crust with a beaten egg yolk.
[Optional] Cover the edges of the pie with a metal pie rim or with tin foil if you so choose.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Reduce heat to 350 F.
Bake for an additional 20-40 minutes, until the apples look baked/you can slice through them fairly easily.
It’s pie, people. Eat it as soon as you can bite into it without burning your tongue. And then eat the rest for breakfast.
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Summer of Funner : The Lunchbox Season : In Defense of Burning
The kids wanted an Easter-Bunny friendly treat to leave out on a plate on Holy Saturday to attract the Easter Bunny.
After we made these special treats, they told me they’d be more than happy to gobble up the extras themselves at our Easter Sunday Brunch.
Carrot Orange Poppyseed Mini-Muffins with Cardamom Cream Cheese Glaze
1 c milk, room temperature
1/3 c butter, melted
2/3 c brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbs orange juice
1-2 tsp orange zest
1/2 c finely grated carrot, packed
2 cups flour
1 tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbs poppy seeds
1 tbs ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 c icing sugar
1/4 c cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 tsp orange zest (optional)
1-2 tbs orange juice or milk
Heat oven to 400.
Spray mini-muffin tin with baking spray (or grease and flour pan).
In a medium bowl, mix milk, melted butter, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla.
In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, spices, and poppy seeds.
Add carrots, juice and zest to the wet mixture and stir quickly to incorporate.
Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir to incorporate.
Let batter sit for 1 minute.
Use a tablespoon to fill the mini-muffin tin.
Bake 9-11 minutes.
Cool muffins completely on a wire rack.
While the mini-muffins are cooling, prepare the glaze.
Stir together the sugar, cream cheese and cardamom.
Add juice or milk by the teaspon until you have a rather thick glaze (or thin icing).
Use an icing spreader or butter knife to coat the mini-muffin tops with the glaze.
Let the glazed mini-muffins sit for a minute or two to set glaze before serving.
This year, we decided to try a whole bunch of new decorating and dyeing techniques with our Easter Eggs. In addition to our usual sharpies, crayons, and basic dyes (1 c boiling water, 1 tsp vinegar, food colouring drops), we used Koolaid Dyes, Marbled Dyes, and, eventually, Marbled Koolaid Dyes. We also experimented, for better or worse, with wrapping our eggs in twine (subtle) or coating them in patterns of hot glue (cute, but they crack easily when removed). The dye instructions are below, followed by our gallery of eggs. You’ll notice that a dozen of our eggs are hard boiled, and a scant dozen are blown out of their shells so that we can save them. Our blown-empty egg and our hard boiling techniques are also below.
SUPER-VIBRANT KOOLAID EGGS
Empty 1 package of your favourite fruit-flavoured Koolaid into a cup.
(Packages may be mixed to obtain variations in colour.)
Add 1 cup of water.
Stir to combine.
Immerse egg in dye until it reaches the desired depth or vibrancy.
SPECKLED & MARBLED EGGS
Prepare Basic Dye (1 cup boiling water, 1 tsp vinegar, food colouring drops) OR Koolaid Dye (above).
For marbled eggs, add 1-2 tbs vegetable oil to prepared dye.
For speckled eggs, add 1-2 tsp vegetable oil to prepared dye.
Swirl the oil in the cup with a spoon or stirrer stick just before submerging each egg in dye.
Pat egg dry and repeat with another colour if so desired.
You may wish to remove the yolks from your eggs before decorating so that you may save the decorated shells.
To do so, gently poke holes in both ends of each egg with the tip of a sharp knife or skewer.
The larger the bottom hole, the easier it will be to blow the egg out of the shell.
From the top hole, blow eggs out of the bottom hole into a bowl.
Save eggs in groups of 2-4 for freezing, baking, or savoury fare.
Rinse blown eggshells with a thin stream of water or with a mixture of vinegar and water.
Blow rinsing liquid out of eggs and pat dry.
If so desired, use a dropper to place a tsp of glue or modpodge inside of the egg, swirl, and let dry before decorating.
Spray varnish, mod-podge, or white glue may be used to coat fully decorated eggs if so desired.
(Test your glue to make sure it doesn’t make your colours run).
Store blown eggs in clear glass or plastic containers and enjoy for years to come.
Blown-Empty Egg Notes:
Be prepared for casualities, as these are delicate eggs. Prepare extras!
Blown-empty eggs will not submerge on their own.
Spoon dyes over floating eggs or use a spoon to gently submerge the eggshells while dying.
Be sure to blow dying liquid out of eggs and back into the cup of dye before removing egg from cup.
Marbling technique works best when eggs are submerged.
HARD BOILED EGGS
Place eggs in a saucepan and cover eggs with water to 1 inch above tops of eggs.
Add 1 tbs vinegar and 1 tsp salt to water.
Bring cold eggs and water to a boil.
Boil for 1 minute.
Remove saucepan from stove momentarily.
Reduce heat to low/simmer.
Place pan back on stove and simmer for 1 minute.
Cover, remove from stove, and let rest for 15-20 minutes.
Run cold water over eggs if desired to cool.
Black, Coloured, and Metallic Permanent Markers, Crayons (the new thin-format Crayola Twistables are a great addition!), Twine, Hot Glue (Hmm…We might try Rubber Cement next time), Old Bent Spoons, Coffee Stirrer Sticks, Glass Vases or Other Clear Vessels for Display.