EASY BAKED PANCAKE

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Long holiday weekends call for special family breakfasts. It’s a time to relax, read the paper and stir up a new family recipe together. If pancakes have been your Saturday standby, keep up the tradition with a new twist. This Oven Pancake is simple to prepare and dramatic to serve piping hot, right out of the oven. It’s more dense than the common “Dutch Baby,” puff pancake recipe, so it serves more people.

OVEN PANCAKE
Serves 6

4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups milk
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
1. Let one of your kids count and crack the eggs into a mixing bowl. Inspect it to be sure there are no remaining shells. Beat eggs with a whisk. Stir in salt.

2. Add milk and flour gradually. Mix well with spoon.

3. Meanwhile, place utter in a 9 x 13 pan. Place the pan in the oven until butter is melted, not brown.

4. Add egg batter and bake for 45 minutes until puffy and golden-brown on the edges.

Serve with good maple syrup, fresh fruit or jam.

I cooked up this recipe in my kitchen for Fox News with host Todd Walker-click below

Donna-Pancake Bake-Fox News 11/27/16

COUNTDOWN TO CHRISTMAS WITH RECYCLED HOLIDAY CARDS

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It’s fun to figure out what the next few festive weeks of family life will look like with this countdown-to-Christmas activity. Get started right now to give meaning, structure and surprise to the busy month.

First, find your bundle of stashed-away holiday cards or other cards you have saved through the years. Choose enough for each day counting down to Christmas. Aim for cards that are fairly similar in size, and that are blank on the reverse side of the front of the card. You also can use printed photos from years past, depicting special times like cutting down or decorating a Christmas tree or going caroling or sledding.

Let school-age kids cut off the front of each card and set them aside for the project. If there is writing on the back, they can measure and cut out plain paper the size of the card, and affix it to the backside with glue. Stack the fronts of the cards and photos, face-side up, in a pile. Measure and punch one hole at the top center of each card/photo. Punch two holes, 2 inches apart, at the bottom of each card/photo.
Loop a stationery ring through each of the bottom holes, creating a mini-book. Flip the stack over and, with the rings at the top, number the backs of the cards with the dates counting to the 25th.

Using your calendar as a reference, write a family activity or reminder by the number for each day. Include favorite family traditions and have fun making up new ones. For example, “Bake cookies,” “Craft ornaments,” “Pick up Aunt Jane at the airport.” Include a birthday if there is one, or add an inspirational thought or conversation starter, like “Share with the family the best Christmas gift you ever gave.” Decorate with stickers or cutouts, if you wish.

Once you have done the first activity, lift up that card and hang the countdown cards on the wall or a bulletin board in your kitchen or family room from the single hole at the top. The next activity in December will be revealed with a colorful card or photo above.
Your kids will look forward to flipping a card each day until Christmas. No peeking ahead!

SNOWBALL CANDLES

snowball

Bring extra holiday light into your home during the December holidays with candles. Instant mood creators, the flickering light not only brightens a dark winter evening, but also quiets us down after a busy day and becomes a subtle conversation pacer.
Here’s a fun way to create festive wintry candles by whipping up melted paraffin wax and frosting it over and around a round candle or votive, so that it resembles a pretty white snowball Or, add some whipped wax to pillar candles to look as if covered with freshly fallen snow. Make extras for gifts, too.

Here’s the stuff you’ll need for snowball candles:
–ball-shaped candles or 2-inch or larger votive candles
–coffee can, or other sturdy tin can such as a clean 28-ounce stewed tomato can
–paraffin wax (available in the canning section of most grocery stores)
–saucepan
–medium-size heat-resistant bowl used for crafts.
–small metal whisk or fork used for crafts
–dull craft knife or brush (optional)

Here’s the fun:
1. Bend one side of the rim of the can to create a spout, then place a brick or two of paraffin wax in the can. An adult should set the can in 2 inches of water in a saucepan to create a water bath. Heat the water until the paraffin melts, keeping an eye on it at all times. Never place the can on the burner or over an open flame, because the wax is flammable.
2. Carefully pour the melted wax in the bowl and let cool, about 20-25 minutes. It will develop a firm crust, but it should not be hard. Gently beat the wax and thick liquid with the whisk or fork until it becomes a fluffy white consistency. It’s amazing to watch the transformation!
3. Kids can spread the warm whipped wax around a candle, keeping wick exposed. If your candle isn’t round, add more wax as it hardens and mold a ball shape with hands. Let wax harden before use. If you have extra wax, re-melt in tin can and add to pillar candles. (See below.)
To create snow on pillar candles, “frost” the wax onto the sides and top of a candle, keeping wick exposed with the knife or a craft paintbrush. Sprinkle with glitter for extra sparkle.

Safety note: Before burning candles, always set them on a plate or tray intended for candles. An adult should always be present when candles are burning.

BEST FUDGE SAUCE

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What’s in your refrigerator right now? Mine is in a bit of disarray with the basics — milk, eggs, yogurt, condiments, a few nondescript leftovers, and wilting arugula. Now, if you open Nancy Nyberg’s fridge door in Naperville, Illinois, you eye her delectable homemade fudge sauce in neatly stacked jars in the back corner. Any day, month or year.

No wonder her four grandkids think she is the sweetest grandmother ever. Her signature “Heavenly Hot Fudge Sauce,” which she has been making for 20 years, is now affectionately renamed “Mormor’s Hot Fudge” (“mormor” is Swedish for “grandmother”).

Granddaughter Paige, 9, makes it with Nancy to sell annually at a country fair by their summer place in Bethany Beach, Michigan. “She learns how to measure, pour and stir until the sauce is ‘just right,'” says Nancy. There’s a bit of finance that goes into the mix, too. “We shop together and figure out how much each jar should sell for to cover costs with enough left over to give to a nonprofit project. We have fun learning and cooking together. It’s really more about the relationship-building with my granddaughter than the fudge sauce,” she says.

Here’s the recipe with steps to involve school-age kids.

HOT FUDGE SAUCE

Makes 1 quart

4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate bar (in the baking section of your market)

1/2 cup unsalted butter

3 cups sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 12-fluid-ounce can evaporated milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Let kids break up chocolate and place in the top of a double boiler with the butter. Stir until melted together. Add salt.

Stir in sugar gradually, making sure it is completely blended before making another addition. Mixture will become very thick and dry.

Stir in evaporated milk, a little at a time. (Shake the can well before adding.)

Continue to cook about 10 minutes to blend the flavors and dissolve the sugar.

An adult should remove from the heat and set on a trivet. Add vanilla and stir. Serve warm over ice cream.

To store in containers: Pour into a quart-size measuring cup with spout and pour into storage containers such as Mason jars. Keep refrigerated

MAKE A SUCCULENT PUMPKIN CENTERPIECE

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Pumpkins aren’t just for Halloween. Available in green, white, blue-gray and various shades of orange, like the deeply ribbed Cinderella pumpkin, they make an eye-catching Thanksgiving Day center- piece when you glue moss and living succulents on top.

Keep the succulents misted as they root into the moss, and enjoy an attrac- tive creation in your home into the December holidays and beyond. When the pumpkin eventually begins to soften and age, toss it in the compost bin and pot the succulents indoors in soil in a flowerpot or outdoors in a frost-free gar- den bed.

Kids will enjoy making the centerpiece with you this week. Swirling the non- toxic sticky glue, handling the wiry moss and arranging the succulents and add-ins make for artful fun.

Here’s what you’ll need for one succulent pumpkin centerpiece:

—One clean pumpkin with a flat top surface and center indentation works best.

—Water-soluble white glue that dries clear, such as Mod Podge Matte finish

—Sphagnum moss available in garden centers or craft stores

—Several succulents. Use cuttings from your garden or purchase at garden centers

—Natural add-ons such as seedpods, acorns, tiny pinecones, eucalyptus

Here’s the fun:

  1. Set pumpkin on a newspaper covered work surface. Remove stem with clippers, being careful not to cut into the pumpkin.
  2. 
 Drizzle glue around the top area of the pumpkin in swirls. Cover with the moss about 1/2-inch thick, pressing firmly in place. Let dry.
  1. Remove roots and soil from the succulents from containers. Dip 1/4-inch stems into glue and poke into the moss. For balance, place a tall succulent for a focal point near the center and add remaining succulents and add-ons around it over the moss. (An adult may use a glue gun to affix the add-ons, if you prefer)

Care: Set the centerpiece on a trivet or tray. Mist succulents and moss weekly, making sure the pumpkin remains fresh and dry. The succulents will begin to root through the glue into the moss. Keep away from excessive heat, freezing temperatures and rain.

Extra idea: Make succulent pumpkin place cards for each place setting at the Thanksgiving table using single minis, such as the Munchkin pumpkin. Tuck a name card in each one and set at each plate. Guests may take it home to enjoy.

succulents

8 TIPS FOR READING PICTURE BOOKS WITH KIDS

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My friend David LaRochelle is an accomplished, award-winning creator of books for young people as well as an illustrator, and in my book, he’s also an inspiring educator who knows kids and knows what kids like.

When he took center stage at a “meet the author” event at our neighborhood bookstore, he not only read his newly published “Monster & Son” — illustrated by Joey Choll and published by Chronicle books (2016) — but he paused after these monster’s words to his son, “Your fearsome yawns won’t frighten me, I’ll hug you strong and tight, then gently tuck you into bed while whispering … good night,” and invited the eager children to participate in creating a big drawing of a monster. Hands went up, ideas bounced off the walls; giggles, “oohs” and “aahs” resounded as David quickly sketched their ideas. The book’s theme expanded into a playful time as vocabulary was enriched and children grew in their love of storytime — and maybe even a monster.

Judge a picture book by its potential for reading enjoyment, and for social and mental growth. Evidence is clear that reading to kids is one of the best ways to ensure success in school. It also strengthens the bond between you and kids!

Here are eight spinoff ideas David shares to enrich picture-book reading time at bedtime or anytime:
1. Look at the book’s cover and predict what it might be about. Funny? Scary? Make-believe? Factual?
2. Use lots of expression. Practice making different silly voices for the characters.
3. After reading it once, let your child retell it in his or her own words. Or, take turns using the illustrations to make up your own stories.
4. Ask what your child thinks will happen after the last page. Maybe the two of you will be inspired to write a sequel together.
5. Turn to a page at random and play “I Spy.” Choose a detail from the illustration and give clues to see if your child can spot the item. (“I spy something small and furry with a long tail”). Then let your child be the clue giver.
6. With older children, explore the copyright and dedication pages, as well as the author and illustrator bios. Ask if the book is older or younger than your child based on the copyright year. Who might your child like to dedicate a book to?
7. Many books list the medium the artist used to create the illustrations, such as collage, watercolors or digital art. Perhaps you and your child will want to try creating your own pictures using the same medium.
8. Have fun!
Resource: www.davidlarochelle.com

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PUFF PANCAKE

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puffpan#2

Bake a Dramatic Puff Pancake With Lemon for Breakfast

Make weekend breakfasts extra special when you put this delicious puff pancake on your menu. Also called a Dutch baby, this version of the recipe is simple to prepare with kids, and dramatic to serve piping hot, right out of the oven. Believe me, mouths will be watering when it arrives at the table. Take a bow, and then serve with fresh fruit or other favorite toppings.

DRAMATIC PUFF PANCAKE
4 eggs
1 cup skim or whole milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Topping: 1 tablespoon powdered sugar and a squeeze of fresh lemon
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
1. Let one of your kids count and crack the eggs into a mixing bowl. Inspect it to be sure there are no remaining shells. Beat eggs with a beater until light and pale.

2. Another child may measure and gradually beat in the milk, flour, sugar and salt.

3. Meanwhile, place butter in a 10 or 12-inch cast-iron or ovenproof skillet, or a 9-inch-by-13-inch oven-safe glass baking dish. An adult should place it in the oven until it is hot and the butter sizzles. Remove from oven and pour batter into the hot butter. Return to oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until puffy and golden-brown on the edges. (Keep oven door closed until done.)

4. Squeeze lemon juice on top, dust with powdered sugar and serve tableside immediately.
Serves 4. Serve with fresh fruit, such as berries, grapes and kiwi slices.

Alternate blender method for steps 1-2:

Put eggs in a blender and whirl for one minute. With motor running, add milk and slowly add flour, sugar and salt.
Whirl for an additional 30 seconds. Proceed with step 3.

“I MADE IT” GIFT FOR MOM ON MOTHERS DAY

mothersday
For Mother’s Day on May 8, nothing is more original or more cherished than a child-made gift. These two crafts are easy for a child to assemble with the help of dad, a caregiver or a teacher.
The paper basket is a stylish container a preschooler will have fun crafting and filling with a mini-bouquet of flowers, chocolate or a small present. School-age kids can show off their artistic talents when they paint a windowsill flowerpot and plant a hardy succulent or Mom’s favorite herbs. Here’s how:
Mother’s Day Gift Basket
(Preschooler craft)
What you’ll need:
–Round plate with even edges, approximately 7 inches in diameter (for a pattern)
–Two sheets of 8.5-by-11-inch heavy construction paper in contrasting colors
–Pencil
–Scissors
–Stapler
–Stickers or lightweight decorations
–Small bouquet of fresh or silk flowers or small gifts
1. An adult should help the child put the plate on a piece of construction paper and draw a circle around it. Cut out the circle. Repeat with the second sheet.
2. Fold both circles in half. Slide rounded edges together. Without folding, slide the bottom creases together to form the shape of a heart. Staple circles together to make a heart-shaped basket.
3. To make a handle, cut an 11-inch long strip of paper that’s 1 inch wide, and staple to basket.
4. Decorate with stickers or objects such as a paper butterfly, and arrange flowers or gifts inside.
Paint a Flowerpot
(Schoolage craft)
–One 4-inch clay pot and saucer
–Newspaper
–Acrylic paints
–Paper plates
–Paintbrush
–Potting soil and a succulent or herb plant
1. Place the pot and the saucer on a newspaper-covered work surface. Squeeze paint onto the plates.
2. Paint over the entire outside surface of the pot and saucer. Let dry. (For a natural look for the background, skip this step.)
3. Use a variety of contrasting colors to make designs around the plain or painted pot. Experiment with a splashy design of swirls, zigzags, stripes, dots and spots. (Dip an eraser of an old pencil in the paint to dab on spots). Let dry.
4. Fill with potting soil and plant a succulent or herb.
5. Add a card for Mom.

CONNECT KIDS WITH ANIMALS THIS SPRING

Josh and goat
When my friend Brittany Hagan shot me a text asking if I wanted to tag along to 9-year-old Isabel’s first rehearsal at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. You see, “Izzie” is a black lab and also a cast member — along with other therapy dogs, baby goats, a rabbit, hen, tortoise and a goldfish — in the theater’s innovative and zany spring production, “Animal Dance.”
Designed with the preschool set in mind, world-renowned choreographer and performance artist Ann Carlson creatively dances and interacts onstage with the critters. “Animals are dancers,” says Ann. “A goat wags its tail, a dog rolls over.”
And when they’re onstage together, the unexpected is the rule. Captivating moves and antics provide an improvisational production that entertains and lets young kids gain respect for animals while they discover the similarities they share.
Patty Born Selly, assistant professor of education at Hamline University and consultant for “Animal Dance,” says children are naturally drawn to animals. Observing and interacting with them gives children an opportunity to demonstrate compassion and responsibility.
Why not open up new possibilities for your kids to connect with animal friends? Here are some of Patty’s practical ideas:
–Provide opportunities to care for household pets through brushing and feeding, putting out bird feeders or tending a garden that feeds butterflies and other insects. Clean the fish tank together, or get creative and arrange the “furniture” in a guinea pig cage. Kids will develop a sense of confidence in themselves when they participate. It feels good to help others! Taking care of pets also lets kids practice gentleness and self-regulation. You have to move slowly to feed a bunny without startling it.
–Talk about animals wherever you go. Invite your kids to tell you what the animals are doing and other details they find interesting. For preschoolers, a simple line of ants on a sidewalk can be an exciting discovery. Crouch down and observe together. What do they look like? Where are they going? Even if you don’t have answers, it’s the sharing that communicates to your child that you value his excitement.
–Put on a play or your own family version of “Animal Dance” with a pet. Through dramatic play, children can “test out” the perspective of others. It’s also a playful way to learn about animals while they try on new ways of thinking and being in the world.
Resources: www.childrenstheatre.org; “Connecting Animals and Children in Early Childhood” by Patty Born Selly: Redleaf Press.

ZESTY LEMON BARS

lemon
Sloshing through snow at Minnesota’s Twin Cities airport, I eagerly anticipated a spring break from a Midwest winter super chill — a real R and R at our cabin in the coastal California redwoods.
Upon arrival, I discovered a mini crop of bright, ready-to-pick Meyer lemons growing on our deck, a reminder of why I love a West Coast spring. I picked the “California gold” and put a few lemons with leaves in a pretty bowl for a table centerpiece, squeezed one in hot water with grated ginger for a morning wake-up, and by evening, doused another on fresh fish I picked up at the wharf for supper.
What was next? Lemonade? It wasn’t summer yet. How about keeping it simple and making a favorite dessert from my childhood, I thought: Lemon bars. To update the taste of the traditional recipe, I added lots of lemon zest to the batter for extra kick.
Lemon bars are a classic and a perfect little “sweet” to serve for a snack or dessert to remind us of sunny springtime. It’s an ideal recipe for involving kids in the prep, too. When you let one child use his nimble fingers to spread out the easy-to-mix crust layer on the baking dish while another zests and squeezes the lemons, you’ll be on the home stretch to pop it in the oven.
Bake, cool and bring in the kids to sift the powdered sugar on top before you slice it into squares. Or, any shape — why not triangles?
LEMON BARS
Makes 32 bars
For the crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
For the filling:
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups granulated sugar
4 tablespoons flour
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
To make the crust, mix together the flour, butter, sugar and salt. Pat the mixture down evenly into the baking pan with your hands. Bake for 20 minutes, until lightly browned.
To make the filling, while the crust layer is baking, beat together the eggs, sugar, flour, lemon juice and lemon zest. Pour over baked crust.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the filling is set. Let cool on a rack to room temperature.
With a sieve, dust with the powdered sugar. Cut into bars.
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