MAKE DELICIOUS CREPES FOR MEALS AND SNACKTIME

 

A quick trip to the grocery store has taken on new meaning these days. You never know what will be in stock. Hopefully you can get the basics of milk, flour, eggs and butter for this recipe, so you and your kids can enjoy cooking up this easy, fancy-looking recipe of French crepes.

Crepes are so versatile — they are tasty and nutritious for breakfast or a snack, or roll them up and heat briefly with leftovers or other items in your refrigerator and pantry such as goat cheese and honey, or salsa and grated Cheddar cheese.

You might want to double the batch of 12 crepes and refrigerate or freeze with wax paper between them for additional snacking and meals. Or, think dessert, and coax a tantalizing stack into a divine “crepe cake” to brighten spirits. Stack a dozen or more with whipped cream and sliced strawberries in between the layers. Top with candles and sing if there is a birthday in the house.

 

FRENCH CREPES

Makes 12 eight-inch crepes.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups milk

3 eggs

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted plus more for cookin

1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional)

To make batter: In medium bowl, combine flour, salt, milk, eggs and melted butter. Add vanilla, if using. Whisk until smooth. Or, place in a blender and blend until smooth, about 30 seconds. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

To cook crepes: Remove batter from refrigerator. Stir. Lightly butter flat large skillet or crepe pan. Heat over medium-high heat. Pour a scant 1/4 cup batter in center of skillet and swirl batter around to form an 8-inch round crepe. Cook until underside is golden brown. (Note: Lift up corner to check color.) Using a narrow spatula, flip crepe. Cook until other side is lightly brown, about 30 seconds.

To serve: Set on a plate. Roll up with fruit or applesauce inside. Or, fold in half or quarters. Add favorite toppings or simply squeeze some fresh lemon juice and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

MAKE A BEDTIME NIGHTLIGHT

 

Just when it seems your young child has drifted off to sleep for the night, a plaintive voice echoes through the hallway. “Mom! I can’t sleep. I think there’s a monster in my closet!” So you check the closet carefully.“Nope, honey. No monsters.” But it doesn’t help much. More drama kicks in.“I want a glass of water … I can’t find my teddy bear … Will you leave the light on, Mom, pleeeze?”

Whether it’s anxiety about school, monsters in the closet or navigating the change to daylight saving time, sometimes children need extra comfort to put closure on the day. Well, here’s instructions for a very special nightlight that your child can make and use. He can even switch it on and off without leaving his bed.

Before your child begins making the bedtime friend, have him think about what he wants it to be. An angel? Ladybug? Goofy alien? Leprechaun? Or, maybe a puppy or bunny with felt ears that stick out in funny angles.

Here’s what you’ll need:
— Standard-size brown or plain colored lunch bag

— Craft supplies to create your character’s face, such as construction or tissue paper, yarn, pipe cleaners, charms, ribbon, glitter,beads, etc.
— Scissors

— Household glue
— Hole punch (optional)
— An inexpensive standard-size, plastic, lightweight flashlight with batteries — Rubber band

First, cut out craft foam sheets or poster board in eye, nose and mouth shapes. Cut holes in the middle of the eyes and mouth pieces to eventually allow light to shine through. Glue the features to the front of the bag. When dry, an adult may use small, sharp scissors to cut out the center of the eyes and mouth on the bag.

Then add details for personality. Glue on rickrack eyebrows, attach lightweight junk jewelry earrings or pipe-cleaner antennae, depending on what you are creating. Outline lips with shiny beads or glitter. And don’t forget the hair — add braided yarn and fashion a style. It’s also fun to use a hole punch to make additional features or patterns on the bag that will be revealed when the flashlight is turned on.

When complete, carefully slip it over the top of the flashlight and secure with a rubber band, just above the switch. The nightlight will be on and off bedtime duty when you say so!

For older kids, it can be a simple whimsical glow to have on their bedstand in the evening. Or how about using it to light up a tent when camping this summer?

POPOVERS MAKE SPRING MEALS SPECIAL

  

 

  The first signs of spring include yard and garage sales sprouting up in our communities. Maybe you and your kids are tempted, like me, to scout these out for our neighbors’ castoffs and enticing bargains. 

  I’m not advocating for accumulating more stuff to add to already full cupboards and storage closets, but I’m aware that the decluttering craze has opened up opportunities for bargain shoppers like me. I’m always on the hunt for an unexpected surprise. 

  This season is a good time to snag a buy on a gently used product you can enjoy together with your kids and grandkids. Be on the lookout for an item you might not purchase in a store, like an electric Panini pan for yummy lunch-making this summer, a waffle iron for extended Saturday morning breakfasts, or my latest find, a never-been-used nonstick popover pan. 

  Popovers are easy to prepare, and they’ll make any springtime brunch or supper extra special. When it’s time for popovers at our house, my granddaughter helps me push the button on the blender, and then I “pop” the batter filled cups in the oven. When baking (no peeking), they puff up so high that when they are done there is always a collective “wow” or “whoa” when we open the oven door and see the spectacle. 

  POPOVERS

  Makes 6.

  Preheat the oven to 400 F. 

  1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, plus softened butter for greasing the popover or muffin pan

  3 eggs at room temperature

  1 cup milk at room temperature

  1 cup all-purpose flour

  1/2 teaspoon salt

  Grease aluminum popover pan (or 6 compartments of a muffin pan) with butter. Place the pan in the preheated oven while you prepare the batter. 

  Whisk or whirl butter, eggs, milk, flour and salt in a blender for a minute on medium speed until smooth. 

  An adult should fill the hot popover cups with batter until half full. If using a muffin pan, fill cups 2/3 full. 

  Place in oven for 20 minutes, then reduce to 325 degrees and bake 20 minutes longer (no peeking while they bake).

  Remove from oven and immediately poke the side of each popover with the tip of a knife or wooden skewer to release steam trapped inside. This keeps them from collapsing. Remove from pan and arrange in a serving basket. Serve hot. 

  Extra tasty ideas:

  — Add 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest to the batter to add a refreshing spring taste. 

  — Popovers make tasty edible containers for crab, shrimp or tuna salad for a main course. Cut the top 1/3 off of the popover. Scoop out a space in lower portion. Fill with salad and top with popover piece. Serve.

FAKE SPILLS


“A mess is the sign of a good time” is one of my mantras in life. That is, as in disorder after a party or craft project. But spills? Not that kind of mess. Grape juice on white carpet, chocolate milk on a child’s party dress, coffee spilled on my lap during a flight. No one likes to accidentally spill or be spilled on. Except on April Fool’s Day! This fun caper of placing “fake” spills around the house, office or school, fools, surprises and, above all, creates spontaneous laughter. We all know, you can’t have too much of that in your life!
Fool friends and family into thinking that ketchup really spilled on the kitchen floor, or that fingernail polish is dripping down the side of an upholstered chair. The ingredients are basic for this clean “messy” prank: household glue, acrylic paint and props appropriate to enhance the spill.
Here’s how:
1. Choose an empty container, cup or jar as the prop for your spill. For example, an empty juice box, a coffee mug or a mustard jar works well. Wash it thoroughly.
2. In a small paper cup, stir food coloring (for translucent spills) or acrylic paint (for opaque spills) into 1/2 cup of white household glue. Or, if you have a wide-mouth prop, combine directly in it. When adding the paint or food coloring, try to imitate the color of the product that was previously in the container. Mix colors to get an authentic effect.
3. Place plastic wrap or parchment paper on a flat surface. Set the prop you have chosen on its side on plastic wrap or parchment paper. Carefully pour the glue mixture onto the plastic wrap or paper next to the spout or edge of the prop in such a way that it simulates a real spill. If you stirred the glue mixture in the prop, slowly pour it out and set the prop on its side next to the spill. Add realistic touches as part of the spill, such as mini marshmallows for a spilled mug of hot chocolate, or a wooden stick for an ice-cream bar.
Keep out of reach until completely dry, up to 24-36 hours. Remove the “spill” from the plastic wrap or paper. Check to make sure it is dry underneath. You don’t want a real spill on your hands!
Finally, place your fake spill in the perfect spot to surprise your friends, family, or even a teacher on April 1.

UPSIDE DOWN AND BACKWARD- APRIL FOOLS’ FUN

  Have you ever had a crazy, mixed-up day where life feels upside down, backward and inside out? With April Fools’ Day around the corner, start planning some capers and silly surprises to create such an off-kilter day for your family. You’ll be making memories the kids will never forget.

  Here are some ideas to get the wacky side of your brain stimulated for April 1st:

  –Come to the breakfast table wearing clothes inside out and backward.

  –Say common phrases backward, such as “Fools April Happy.”

  –Make school sandwiches inside out, with bread on the inside and cold cuts and mustard on the outside.

  –Write a lunchbox note with letters reversed in each word.

  –Walk to the bus stop backward, or if you carpool, sing a round, such as “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” backward.

  –Serve dinner with dessert first and make it an ice-cream sundae. Upside down of course. Here’s how: 

  Set a maraschino cherry, which would normally be at the top of the sundae, at the bottom of a parfait glass. Wedge a round cookie to fit snuggly near the bottom just above the cherry. Carefully break off the outer edge to fit if necessary. 

  Add big dollops of whipped cream on the cookie. Finally, add ice-cream scoops. Set spoon upside down in the ice cream and serve the upside-down sundae.

  –At bedtime, read a backward fairy tale to your kids. 

  Have you ever cheated and read the last page of a book first, just to see how it all comes out? Maybe that is why “The End” by David LaRochelle (Scholastic 2007) is so delightful, because he does it for you — no guilt. The book starts at the end of the story and cleverly explains why the book ends — or begins — the way it does.

  Confused? Your child will find it great fun, but please don’t read the last page first. Start from the beginning, which is the end — I think. For more information about the book and the author, check out www.davidlarochelle.net.

APRIL FOOL’S MARZIPAN POTATO SURPRISE

 

April Fool’s Marzipan Potato Surprise

  The French are famous for their trompe l’oeil or “trick of the eye” cuisine. One food is made to look like another. A famous example is the candy truffle, made of chocolate, in the shape of a mushroom-like root.

  This marzipan potato is another trompe l’oeil you can make easily with your kids for an April Fool’s Day caper. The “skin” of this potato is marzipan almond candy dough, made with ground almonds. The body of the potato is a scrumptious chocolate cake mixture.

  Once made, serve the small trick potatoes with verve! Place them in a small basket or bowl and present them as a surprise dessert. After confusing everyone, slice them into 1/2-inch-thick servings and place on dishes accompanied by a triumphant “Ta-da!” Or should we say, “Fooled ya.”

  April Fool’s Marzipan Potato Surprise

  Ingredients for 6 “potatoes”

  –2 1/2 cups crumbled chocolate cake (no frosting)

  –1/2 cup chopped walnuts

  –1/4 cup apricot preserves

  –1 roll (7 ounces) almond marzipan candy dough or marzipan paste, which is stickier (in the baking section of the grocery store)

  –1/4 cup cocoa powder

  –1/4 cup slivered almonds

  Here’s the fun:

  In a large bowl, lightly combine the cake crumbs, walnuts and preserves with a fork. 

  Shape approximately a quarter-cup of the mixture into irregular, stubby, oval “logs” with your hands. Wash your hands to remove all the crumbs when you’re done with the shaping.

  Cut the roll of almond paste into six equal, medallion-type pieces. Place one piece at a time between two sheets of waxed paper and roll out into a 5-inch disk with a rolling pin.

  Remove the waxed paper and wrap each disk around the oval-shaped cake logs. Fold in all edges and press together to seal the cake mixture inside. Trim away any extra “skin” to use on another “potato.” The finished shape should resemble a small russet potato, which typically has an imperfect skin. Little bumps and dents make it look more realistic.

  Roll lightly in the cocoa powder or brush it on with a pastry brush. Insert a few slivered almonds to resemble slightly sprouted potatoes.

 

   

CREATIVE PRESCHOOL PRETEND TIME

 

  

  “Mr. Bear, you said you wanted ice cream ON your spaghetti?” says a 5-year old scribbling on a piece of paper at his Little Italy Restaurant. “Maybe some carrots, too?” 

  Pay close attention when children say “Let’s pretend!” and you’ll discover their joy in practicing life skills that will carry them into adulthood. Imaginative play rules the day in children’s lives. They love their kid-size props, from old hats and clothes to funny items in the junk drawer.

  Here’s how you can transform glue, string, paint and other craft items into a menu of play food to satisfy your child’s love of creativity — and Mr. Bear’s appetite! And why not test that creativity on the family too, on April Fools’ Day?

  SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS

  Cut several 16-inch lengths of white string for the “spaghetti.” Squeeze white glue into a sandwich bag, drop the string into the glue, then pull out each length one by one, clearing off most of the glue with your fingers. Swirl the string round and round to form a mound on a sturdy, plastic or paper plate. Set aside to dry.

  Use a melon baller to scoop medium-size spheres from a hunk of Styrofoam. Toss them into another plastic bag containing a couple of tablespoons of brown acrylic paint and shake. Poke toothpicks into the painted “meatballs,” remove from the bag and let dry. Or, poke toothpicks into the Styrofoam balls and paint with a paintbrush. 

  Remove toothpicks, then glue meatballs on “spaghetti” and drizzle a sauce of 50-50 mixture of glue and red paint on top. Let dry. 

  The spaghetti and meatballs should now be permanently glued to the plate for pretend play.

  SALAD

  Cut green construction paper or foam sheets into leaf shapes. Toss “lettuce” in a plastic bowl with green pompoms for cucumber chunks, an elastic ponytail holder for an onion and a tan sponge cut into squares for croutons, and top with a small red rubber ball “cherry tomato.”

  DESSERT

  Use an ice-cream scoop to scoop soft play clay from its container for a bowl of “spumoni.” 

  Tip: It’s fun to make up menus with prices for children learning how to read, count money and make change.

  NOTE: Due to small parts, this activity is for children ages 4 and up.

 

MAKE EASY CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

 

  

  “Camera two, action!” There is always extra energy in the air at the Minneapolis/St. Paul KSTP-TV/ABC studio when weekday “Twin Cities Live” begins. The hosts chat about the current day’s events and promote what’s coming up on the show in front of an enthusiastic audience while I scurry around on the sidelines of the set to finalize prep for the recipe and activities from this column I’ll be demoing. There’s no time for distractions until, well, I admit, I spot an array of chocolate truffles on the demo table behind me. “Go ahead and taste one,” says award-winning baker and candy-making instructor Nancy Burgeson, another regular on the show. A quick bite and I was smitten. “And, they’re simple to make,” she adds. 

  Truffles are often made with high-quality baking chocolate and heavy cream, but Nancy’s basic recipe, ideally suited for first timers, uses unsalted butter with the chocolate instead of cream.

  Once the chocolate and melted butter are combined and the mixture is chilled, kids can form the round truffle shapes with a melon baller tool, drop and roll in cocoa powder and arrange the impressive sweets in cute tins or small boxes for gifts.

  Here’s the basic recipe: 

  EASY CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES 

  Makes 25-30 truffles. 

  — 8 ounces good-quality baking chocolate, such as Ghirardelli or Guittard brands (aim for 60% cacao content or more) 

  — 8 ounces unsalted butter, preferably a European-style butter such as Kerrygold brand 

  — cocoa powder for rolling, or other dry toppings such as crushed toasted nuts, cookies or cereal

  Break chocolate in small pieces and melt in a microwave at half power. Or, using a double boiler, heat water to very warm. Remove from the burner and set the chocolate on top only long enough to melt it. 

  Melt butter in a saucepan or microwave until just melted. 

  Add chocolate to butter and gently stir until well combined and glossy. Pour mixture into a baking dish, about 8 inches by 8 inches, or use a loaf pan. Refrigerate 1-3 hours uncovered. 

  With a melon baller, scoop the chocolate in a ball. If chocolate mixture is too hard, let it stand at room temperature for a few minutes. If too soft, return to the refrigerator until firm. Remove it from the melon baller with a tiny spoon, such as a baby spoon, and drop it into a small bowl of cocoa powder or other chosen dry topping. Roll lightly in topping, remove and roll in your hands slightly. Drop back in the bowl until covered. Set on a parchment-lined pan. 

  Chill the truffles until firm. 

  Resource: classesbytoptiermn.com. 

BAKING FUN WITH KIDS

 

 

Jeannie Klint bakes traditional family yeast bread with her granddaughters when they visit.

  “Rules for Little Cooks

  Wash your hands.

  Put on your apron.

  Read your recipe carefully.

  Place everything you need on the kitchen table.

  Have Mother teach you how to heat the oven.

  Measure everything very carefully.

  Wash your baking dishes.

  Sweep the kitchen and leave it in order.”

  So begins the inside cover page of “KITCHEN FUN: A Cook Book for Children” (copyright 1932), a 28-page collection my mom used as a child. From Bran Muffins and Fairy Gingerbread to Cinderella Cake, the baking section caught my eye. Both the “rules” and recipes haven’t changed significantly over the past 88 years and are easy to replicate in any kitchen. 

  The book got me thinking about how baking something delicious is a wonderful way to entice kids to learn cooking basics as they assist and learn from you. The benefits go beyond the mixing bowl. The memories of being shoulder to shoulder, talking, laughing and preparing something amazing out of basic and sometimes exotic ingredients is what it’s really all about. 

  I recall the magic of dough rising in a large bowl in front of my eyes in my grandma Ruth’s kitchen as she intuitively made traditional Swedish cardamom bread. The connection between just the two of us lives on in my memory, and the effort we put into the making was justly rewarded when we opened the oven and took it out.

  Baking with kids this month is a great way to spend time together when weather keeps you indoors. Thumb through family recipe cards and cookbooks. Or go online for a how-to video that captures your and your child’s imagination, then bake it your own way. Here are more ideas:

  Cookies

  Make sugar cookies in heart shapes for Valentine’s Day. Purchasing heart cookie cutters can be the start of a collection of holiday designs you pull from throughout the year.

  If you have preschoolers, make a “Jam Thumbprint” recipe, another ideal “first.” Toddlers can stick their thumbs in the dough balls, then fill the indentation with a bit of jam. 

  Quick breads 

  Baking powder and baking soda don’t require kneading or the time to let dough rise. Let seasons of the year inspire you and the recipes you choose. Start with lemon bread with poppy seeds this spring, and by fall you’ll be a pro at making pumpkin and cranberry breads. 

  Yeast breads

  Watch it rise, punch it down and enjoy the bonus of the taste of aromatic homemade breads. Once your kids get their hands on the “living” dough, they’ll be motivated to bake again and again. 

PLAY, LEARN AND EXPLORE IN THE OUTDOORS

Volunteer angler Don Blasy of Waterdogs Fishing Club teaches and encourages 8-year-old Rusty as he enjoys ice fishing for the first time.

  

 

Whatever it takes to get kids outside and engage with nature, I’m all for it. 

  Sure, gloomy, shorter days can be a challenge this time of year, but it’s worth it to nudge the family out the door for lots of fresh air, new experiences and exercise. 

  That’s what 8-year-old Rusty and his dad, Chris, decided to do recently when they heard about the opportunity to try ice fishing with other families on a frozen metro lake in Minneapolis. Once volunteer angler Don Blasy of Waterdogs Fishing Club helped Rusty sink his line 30 feet down, the boy sat attentively in front of the 10-inch hole in the 18-inch thick ice. Patiently holding his pole with an eye on the bobber, he hoped a little bluegill (sunfish) swimming in the weeds on the lake floor below might take a nibble off the waxworm bait. 

  “It’s good to get kids outdoors, and any kind of fishing, wherever you live, is something kids can enjoy for the rest of their lives,” said Don, a lifelong fisherman who learned fishing as a kid from his dad. “Ice fishing is something kids can do during long winters in cold climates. The sport also teaches them perseverance and patience, especially when the fish aren’t biting.” 

  If sitting on a bucket on a frozen lake in subfreezing temps doesn’t inspire you, there are many other things to do and places to explore outside the four walls of your home. Hibernation isn’t an option. 

  In the wild

  Check in this paper or online for free or reasonably priced events at your local park, regional nature center or arboretum. It’s important for kids to experience the changes of seasons in different venues, and wintertime provides fun new discoveries of plant and wildlife.

  Take a walk 

  Enjoy walking any time of day. Increase your pace to a jog with older kids for an extra challenge. Or take a long hike. Inhale the aromas of the natural world around you and tell stories of your adventure when you get home.

  Share what you love

  Teach your child something that you enjoyed doing as a kid, and rediscover that joy when you are together. Build a snow fort, snowshoe, ice skate, hike or check out a beach and the sea life in tide pools when the tide is low. Take photos of outdoor scenes and people, or build a campfire and toast marshmallows. Yum, s’mores in winter!