Homeschool: The Letter C {crafts, preschool, toddler activities, color wheel, corn, bubble wrap printing}

Another letter on the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom tree! We had a lot of fun this week, though we didn't spend as much time working as we have previously. I have finally come down with Camden's month-long head cold, and then daddy unexpectedly took Friday away from work, so we did some crafting that day as a family. More on that later, though, when the Friday project is finally complete. Anyway, we still thoroughly enjoyed the projects we worked on!

As a side note, my little guy is almost done with his Kumon uppercase letters workbook. When it is complete, we'll move to the lowercase letters workbook. I love to see how accomplished he feels after completing the pages, and his improvement is already so obvious.

C is for Colors: Color Wheel Activity

This was a really fun way to spend an afternoon. There were several steps involved, but my three-year-old didn't lose interest because we were up and moving around part of the time. We also spent a great deal of time talking about colors, primary colors, mixing colors, and so on. He really took to the conversation. To make a color wheel like ours:

1. Cut out a large poster board/tag board circle. I used my largest mixing bowl as a template.
2. Divide the circle into six equal sections, marking them with a pencil.
3. Fill in each section with the colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. We used the torn paper mosaic approach, but you could paint the sections or attach pieces of construction paper pre-cut to fit the sections.
4. While the glue dries, it's time for a scavenger hunt. Dig around to see what you can find to fill each section with the corresponding color. {the bulk of our goodies came from the craft closet downstairs... can you tell??}
5. Attach the items you found. We used a glue gun. {My little guy is very well-versed in glue gun safety, so I feel comfortable working WITH him to use a glue gun safely. If you don't feel comfortable with this idea for your little one, consider another glue, such as craft glue.}

C is for Cat Paper Plate Craft

With Halloween rapidly approaching, I wanted to include another fitting craft. I love the way this black cat turned out! There are many options for this craft, including making a "scary" cat face, etc., so use your imagination.

We painted TWO paper plates using washable black paint, and set them aside to dry. While my son was busy with another task, I cut the center out of one plate to make the body, and then used the center portion to make his head by cutting off the ridged edge to form a circle. Next, I cut apart the second plate to make the tail and ears.

We glued everything together using craft glue, then embellished our black cat with wiggly eyes, a pink puff ball for the nose, and a pipe cleaner cut into four pieces for the whiskers.

C is for Corn: Bubble Wrap Printing

Corn is a big hit in our house, especially when it is served on the cob, fresh off the grill. I knew my little guy would also love to make his own ear of corn. He was also excited over the new technique... bubble wrap printing! In this case, the print from the bubbles gives the appearance of corn kernels.

We started with a piece of blank construction paper {ours was a light tan color}. I showed Camden that he could use his paint brush and yellow paint to put a light coat of paint on the bumpy side of a piece of bubble wrap, and then we quickly flipped the wrap onto the paper. While I held it in place, he gently patted the bubble wrap {he was oh, SO tempted to pop those bubbles!} to transfer the paint to the construction paper.

After plenty of time for the paint to dry, I cut out an "ear" {of corn} shape, plus two green shapes to form the husk. With a glue stick, my son put everything together. He wasn't feeling very well that afternoon, so he asked me to write "corn" on, rather than trace the word himself or use stamps to spell the word.

C is for Castle {coming soon!}

We're making a castle! Check back soon for details.

Where to Shop for Allergy-Friendly Ingredients and Products {a state-by-state, and international listing!}

One of the things I hear most often is how difficult it can be to change your shopping habits, or to discover which local-to-you places will best meet your needs after giving up gluten, dairy, or something else. It's true that we can all be successful by "shopping the perimeter" of our mainstream grocery stores for produce and what-not, but sometimes there is no getting around it. We need to know where to find dairy free chocolate chips and gluten free flour!

With that in mind, I'm hoping you'll help me to develop this list. Imagine if we could get at least one listing for every state. Add some international resources to that list, and my heart goes pitter-patter! If you've got something to add to this list, will you let me know with a comment or a message? I would be thrilled to add your favorite shopping spot to the list.

For future reference, you'll be able to find a link to this page  on the right-hand side bar at all times. {over there ----> }

US Locations:
San Diego: Sprouts, Jimbo's

Coeur d'Alene: Pilgrim's, Fred Meyer, Super 1
Hayden: The Flour Mill
Moscow: The Co-Op {such a wonderful, happy place!}

Bloomington: Naturally Yours
Mortin: Colby's Natural Health
Peoria: Hyvee, Naturally Yours

Lawrence: Natural Foods

Olney: Roots Organic Market
Rockville: Whole Foods, Trader Joes, My Organic Market

Grand Rapids: Saffron's: A Gluten Free Market Place

Duluth: Whole Foods Co-Op

Missoula: The Good Food Store
Whitefish: Super 1 Foods, 3rd Street Market

New Jersey
Butler: Green Life Market
Northfield: Bonterra Market
Pompton Plains: Nature's Pavillion
Vernon: Healthy Thymes

New York
Huntington: Value Drugs

North Carolina
Matthews: Earth Fare, Trader Joes, BiLo
Monroe: Sprue-Licious
Winston-Salem: Whole Foods, A&S Natural Health

Portland: Bob's Red Mill Company Store, New Seasons Market, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's

Dallas/Fort Worth: Sunflower Shoppe, Sprouts

Washington State
Kirkland: PCC Natural Market, Whole Foods, Fred Meyer
Mead: Yoke's
Olympia {and Tumwater area}: Fred Meyer, the Co-Op, GF Joes
Pullman: Head over to the Moscow Food Co-Op!
Spokane: Huckleberry's, Rosaeur's "at the Y" in North Spokane, Fresh Abundance, Yokes, Fred Meyer, WinCo

Janesville: Basics Co-Op
Pewaukee: Good Harvest

International Locations:
British Columbia
Vancouver Island:

Dominican Republic
Santo Domingo: Nacional, Jumbo, Gluten free shop in the Agora Mall

Norwich: Rainbow Wholefoods {check for city centre shop AND warehouse wholesaling!}
Penzance Cornwall: Archie Brown's
Surrey: Ocado {local, online delivery}

Yokosuka: AVE

Lisbon: Miosotis, Celerio, Brio

Disclaimer: I have not personally visited all of these places. Use your best judgement when it comes to selecting foods and products that are safe for your family and your dietary restrictions. 

Gluten, Dairy, and Soy Free Chicken Fried Rice

I love to throw together a big pan of fried rice. It just seems so... perfect! It comes together quickly, fills my family up with healthy veggies and things, and it makes a perfect leftover lunch the next day. My steps vary a bit some days, but the basics are listed below. If your diet dictates that you must avoid eggs, or if you'd like to add a different veggie, or something else simply doesn't appeal, go with it. I really don't think you can mess up when it comes to fried rice.

You'll also notice that my measurements aren't precise. I don't measure when I make fried rice. Instead, I base my ingredient quantities on how much rice I've got, and how many people I want to feed. I filled my rice cooker with two cups uncooked rice and the appropriate amount of water, and went from there.

Chicken {or shrimp, or cubed ham, or tofu, or...}
Carrots {grated with the large holes on your cheese grater}
Peas {ours were frozen}
Rice {this was made using sticky rice, fresh out of the rice cooker, but leftovers are great too}
Coconut Aminos
Garlic Powder

To Make:
If you've got a large, electric skillet, it is perfect for your fried rice. Pull it out and plug it in! If you do not, a large skillet or wok are both great choices. My instructions are based on the use of my non-stick electric skillet.
Scramble several eggs {I used four}, cook them however you'd like, then break or chop the cooked eggs into small pieces, and set aside.
Cut some chicken into bite-sized pieces {I cut up two thin-sliced chicken breast pieces}. Heat a bit of olive oil in your skillet, and cook the chicken, seasoning it with a bit of salt and pepper, and garlic powder.
To the cooked chicken, add shredded carrot {I used two large carrots}, a healthy dose of green peas, your cooked eggs, and the rice.
Stir the ingredients in your skillet to combine, then pour in a bit of coconut aminos. If you aren't avoiding soy sauce, you can use it in this recipe. Be careful not to over-season with additional salt, though!
Add a bit more salt and pepper, and a bit more garlic powder, and stir your rice while it cooks and the flavors combine.
Pour in a bit of water {about 1/4 cup}, put the lid on quickly, and let the rice sit for a few minutes to steam your peas and carrots.
When you come back to check on your rice, it's time for a taste test. Does it have enough flavor? No? Add some more coconut aminos. Not salty enough? You know what to do.
Finally, enjoy!

The Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Tree {preschool, homeschool}

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. Have you read it? No? You really should. It's really quite cute, and has a catchy ring to it that sucks everyone right in.

We read this story several times a week. It has helped my son in learning the alphabet, and it is a fun way to introduce the letters of the alphabet.

But the best part? We've got our own Chicka Chicka Tree! Our tree hangs on the wall in our homeschool room. Every week, we'll finish up by hanging our newly-learned letter in the tree. The tree serves as a visual reminder of the letters we have already focused on, and is a fun way to 'celebrate' completing another letter.

There are many ways to create your own tree, including making your own. We found a jointed palm tree cut-out at Hobby Lobby for $2.99 and stapled it directly onto our wood-paneled walls. The letters are from the dollar store. Each package included the entire alphabet in one color, so I purchased the four available colors to make things more interesting.

If you're inspired to create your own Chicka Chicka Tree, I'd love to see it.

Pumpkin Pie Bread {gluten free, dairy free, soy free}

I'm so thrilled with the way this bread turned out. The texture is perfect, the pumpkin flavor is present but not completely overwhelming, and the "spiciness" is just right.

You'll Need:
3 1/2 C. Gluten Free Flour
2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Xanthan Gum
1 tsp. Salt
2 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Freshly Ground Nutmeg
1 C. Sugar
1 C. Brown Sugar
1 C. Applesauce
3 Eggs {my three eggs were quite small, so if you use extra-large eggs, two should be sufficient}
1 Can Pumpkin
1 tsp. Freshly Grated Ginger

To Make:
Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, xanthan gum, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a mixing bowl, and set aside.
In another bowl, combine sugar and brown sugar {I was lazy and didn't want to head down to the basement for a fresh bag of sugar, so I wound up using 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar, and one cup brown sugar.}, applesauce, eggs, pumpkin, and ginger.
Beat the pumpkin mixture with your hand mixer to thoroughly combine, and then slowly incorporate the flour mixture.
Divide the batter evenly between two greased {I used coconut oil} bread pans, and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center of the bread comes out clean.

If you're really feeling bold, use your pumpkin pie bread to make french toast. I did--and it was quite amazing.

Vegan Curried Lentil Stew {gluten and soy free}

I've really wanted to like lentils for a long time, but every recipe I've experimented with left me feeling... unsure. Until now. This lentil stew came together so easily and packs a ton of flavor! It has definitely been added to our "make again" list.

2 Stalks Celery {diced}
2 Carrots {diced}
1 Onion {diced}
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Curry Powder
1 Tbsp. Cumin
2 tsp. Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
3-4 Tomatoes {diced, or a can of diced tomatoes}
1 C. Dry Lentils
2 Red Potatoes {diced}
4-5 C. Vegetable Broth {or a mixture of broth and water}

Optional: freshly cooked rice

In a large pot, saute celery, carrots, and onion for several minutes in olive oil.
Add curry powder, cumin, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes and stir to coat the vegetables.
Add tomatoes, lentils, potatoes, and broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for at least 30 minutes, or until lentils are soft.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve over rice, if desired.

Woodland-Inspired Monarch Butterfly Christmas Ornament

I'm in the mood for a 'new' Christmas tree this year. For the last few years, we've decorated our tree in a bright, almost over-the-top, playful, toy theme. I love my collection of ornaments, and plan to keep them in our rotation, but a change is in order this year. Enter the woodland-inspired tree.

My goal is to fill the tree with as many handmade ornaments as possible... and my plan is to share each of them with you as a tutorial.  I really love clear, glass ornaments because of their endless possibilities, so I've already scooped up several shapes and sizes for the coming season. If you think you might like to make some of these ornaments along with me, I'd encourage you to watch for sales and begin stocking up now.

This ornament is the first of many. Not only is it ridiculously simple, it would also be very easy to customize!

To make your own, you'll need:
Clear glass ornaments with a removable top
Craft moss in whatever variety you like most
Small butterflies, birds, toadstools, etc. {usually found near the floral department}
Something to "poke" with, like a chopstick or pencil
String or a ribbon for hanging

A tutorial is hardly necessary, but the steps go something like this:
Remove the top from your ornament.
Partially fill the ornament with moss. Break the moss into chunks and use your 'tool' to compact it a bit in the lower half of the ornament.
Add something cute. This monarch butterfly was a bit larger than the opening at the top of the ornament, so I gently curled the wings in on themselves to guide them through the opening, working first with one side, and then the other.
Using your 'tool' again, turn the butterfly so that it looks like it's resting on the moss.
Replace the top of the ornament.
Add a loop of string, thread, twine, etc. to the top for hanging, and you're done!

Homeschool: The Letter B {crafts, preschool, toddler activities, bumble bee, Blueberries for Sal, boat}

Moving right along to the letter B! Last week, I felt a bit... stiff. My crafting plans felt a bit generic to me, even though my little guy thoroughly enjoyed each project. This week, I am feeling a bit more confident and capable, and I love it!

B is for Boat Paper Craft

What little person doesn't love boats?? The was a very simple craft that went together a bit like a puzzle. I cut the pieces ahead of time, and then we talked about what the different pieces are called and what their purpose is. Camden required a bit of help mapping out the pieces, but he handled the rest on his own.

When I asked him if he wanted to stamp the word "boat" on the page, he said, "no mama, I want to WRITE it!" I wanted him to feel successful, so I very lightly outlined the letters in pencil. Using a red marker, he traced the letters. The look on his face afterward was absolutely priceless!

B is for Bumblebee Fingerprint Craft

We really had fun with this project. You can make it as simple or as elaborate as you'd like. To begin, use a yellow stamp pad and your thumb to place bumblebee bodies on the page. Using a crayon or marker, add stripes, wings, stingers, and so on. Camden asked me to draw the wings and things on this day, but you could also leave that part up to your child.

B is for Bats!

We're approaching Halloween! What perfect timing for this activity. See the tutorial here.

B is for Blueberries! Reading and Paper Craft

When I went off in search of our copy of Blueberries for Sal, I couldn't find it. I was on a mission, though, and didn't want to let the little guy down. A quick YouTube search resulted in a homemade video of a mama reading Blueberries for Sal to her children. We listened along, and then got to work on a blueberry pie.

First, I cut a circle from construction paper. Second, I provided Camden with some blue paint and some simple instructions to make "blueberries" using the tip of his finger. Third, we made woven "pie crust" top for our pie by cutting strips of paper, then weaving them together and gluing in place. Fourth, after the paint had dried, we glued the crust to the top of the pie, and then trimmed around the edges so that the square, woven mat fit our round pie. Fifth, we glued our pie to another piece of paper. Finally, we finished off the pie project by stamping "blueberry pie" over our work.

During the entire process, we talked about the parts of a pie, and what I would do if I were making a real pie.

B is for Bird Paper Plate Craft

I think this might be my most favorite project yet! This little guy is just so happy... round! To make your own bird, start by having your child paint two paper plates.

After the plates have dried, grab your scissors. Cut one plate in half. Cut one half of the plate in half again, so you're left with two 1/4's of the plate. One piece will make his wing. Cut the second 1/4 piece into three smaller pieces to create his tail feathers. Cut a beak from orange construction paper, and two stick legs from brown paper.

Attach the wing to the front of the second plate. Attach the beak to the front of the plate. Attach the tail feathers to the back of the plate. Attach the legs to the back of the plate. Attach a large wiggly eye, or fashion an eye from construction paper or markers.


Remember that learning opportunities are everywhere. While we're driving or shopping, we try to spot objects that begin with the letter we're learning. Imagine Camden's surprise when his sandwich became a boat!

Homeschool: The Letter A {crafts, preschool, toddler activities, apple, alligator, acorn}

Our first week! I was blown away by so many things this week. The sense of pride I saw in my little man's face was priceless. He was thrilled with each new accomplishment and project, and wanted more, more, more! He has grown by leaps and bounds in just one week of more structured learning time, and I find myself constantly amazed at what he is capable of.

I struggled a bit here and there. It is challenging to keep my "teacher hat" on, and to keep my "mom hat" tucked away. Of course I want to keep Camden on task, but I also want him to enjoy his time "at school." I try to be conscious of the subtle differences because, well, it's important.

Because he's not quite four, my goal for this year has been to keep things light. If he isn't "on" for a couple of days, we step back and do a couple of extra crafts instead. I encourage him to finish what he has started {no throwing in the towel half way through that worksheet!}, but if he isn't taking to an activity, we find a stopping point and save it for another day.

Anyway--those activities I'm sure you're eager to see.

Each week, we will repeat some activities. For example, these letter templates. Camden begins each week by filling in the circles with circular color-coding labels. Dot markers, or bingo markers, would also work. While he's filling in the stickers, we talk about the letter. We practice making the sound(s) the letter makes, and we list a few words that begin with the letter. I found that keeping the chatter light and simple was the best way to keep his attention.

We also tear the appropriate letter page from another workbook I bought at Target, made by Mead. This week, he was really eager to do a few additional worksheets, so I used Pinterest and google to find things I thought he would enjoy.

Letter-specific activities we enjoyed...

A is for Apple Paper Plate Craft

Paint a paper plate red, then glue apple seeds near the center or draw seeds with a marker or crayon. Cut a leaf shape from green construction paper, and a stem from brown paper, and attach with a glue stick.

A is for Apple Mosaic

Draw or print an apple shape. Cut or tear small pieces of paper from red construction paper, and attach with a glue stick. Repeat with green paper. Fill in the stem by repeating the paper process, or use a marker like my little guy did. Cut out the entire shape {renewing the apple shape, if your child's torn paper went over the edges}, and glue to another piece of paper, if desired. Use letter stamps to stamp the word "apple" above the image.

A is for Alligator Letter Craft

Cut a large letter A from green paper. Cut small triangles for the teeth, and small circles for the eyes. Attach the pieces to turn the letter A into an alligator. Stamp the word "alligator" on the picture, if desired.

A is for Acorn Mosaic

Draw or print an acorn shape, and then tear or cut brown paper into small pieces. Attach the pieces using a glue stick. At this point, Camden chose to fill in the white spaces with brown marker. Cut out the entire shape, then glue to another piece of paper.

Homeschool: Preserving Little Bits of Autumn

We've been collecting little bits and pieces lately. When you're three, everything that falls from a tree is to be considered a treasure. And you know... I agree with him!

Some of these things are pretty sturdy, or will stand up to play and creativity. Others... not so much. So I went on a mission to preserve these little treasures, in a sense.

Here is what we came up with. Camden is thrilled! He has enjoyed stacking and sorting the discs, and likes to discuss what made the different imprints, and how those imprints feel. Making them was very simple:

Using an 8 oz. brick of polymer clay, we first broke the large brick into chunks, and then softened the clay a bit by playing with it. Next, we rolled the clay into different sized balls, and used a rolling pin to create smooth disks about 1/4-inch thick. We placed different bits and pieces over the disks, and then carefully pressed the objects into the clay.

To harden the disks, we transferred our creations to a foil-lined baking sheet, and followed the package instructions to bake at 275 degrees for 15 minutes.

These would also make great gifts tags or tree ornaments. Just poke a hole {perhaps with a drinking straw} somewhere in the disk prior to baking, then thread with ribbon or twine.

Homeschool: Halloween Craft; B is for Bats!

How CUTE are these bats?! When I spotted them on Pinterest, via Craftgawker, I knew we would need to make some. The steps are very simple, and the craft was just right for my almost-four-year-old. We painted each bat together, as he did grow a bit impatient with making sure the entire surface was covered.

You'll Need:
An egg carton
Black paint
Wiggly eyes
Thread or ribbon for hanging


A little behind-the-scenes work was necessary to get the egg carton ready to be painted. Egg cartons can be a bit tricky to cut, with all of their ridges and things, so I pulled out the mommy scissors and formed four bats while Camden was busy elsewhere.

A one-dozen egg carton will produce four bats, each using three section from the carton. Cut the lid and closure flaps off of the carton, and then cut down the length of the carton so you're left with two six-section strips. Cut the strips in half, and you've got four pieces.

Round the edges a bit and pretty them up, then cut some notches in the outer sections of each bat. These will be the wings.

Paint! We used black tempera paint because of the easy clean-up factor. Cover the inside and outside of each bat.

After the paint has dried, use a bit of glue to attach wiggly eyes to each bat.

There are several options for hanging your bats. I used a toothpick to poke a small hole in the top of each bat, then threaded them all on to one length of string so they would hang vertically. Stop each bat where you want it on the length of string by tying a knot or attaching a small piece of tape to the thread. {It'll be hidden by the bat.} I love how these bats swirl and twirl a bit because they're hanging on a single piece of string.

You could also glue a piece of Halloween-themed ribbon to the top of each bat, tying the ribbon into a lop for hanging.

Homeschool: P is for Pumpkin Paper Plate Craft for Autumn

This was a simple little craft for Autumn. You could take it a step further and add a jack-o-lantern face for Halloween.

The process hardly needs explaining, but it goes something like this:

1. Paint a paper plate orange and set it aside to dry.
2. Cut a stem {my three-year-old cut his own stem} from construction paper.
3. Twist a brown pipe cleaner around a pencil or marker to create a spring-shape and attach.
4. Add a jack-o-lantern face, if desired, with paint or construction paper.

Homschool: Supplies We Use

Something new has arrived at Dandelion's on the Wall! Homeschooling! This is a new adventure for us, and we're taking a very play-based approach to a year of preschool. I've discovered a major love of crafting and creating in my three-year-old, and we're taking advantage of every minute. I couldn't let all of these creations and ideas go without sharing them somewhere, and this seems like the logical place.

My {very loose, incomplete}  plan for the blog is to begin with a few introductory posts, and then move to once-a-week, letter-themed posts. Occasionally, you'll see some extra crafting projects that I hope you can enjoy with the little people in your lives. If you're only here for the recipes, have no fear! Those recipes aren't going anywhere, and I'll continue to experiment in the kitchen so that I can share my recipes with you.

To access a running list of ALL homeschool posts at any time, click on the "Homeschool" tab in the top right corner.

We're still very new to the world of homeschooling, but I'm proud to say that we're quickly finding our happy place. There is a rhythm to our day, and with that rhythm comes a list of preferred tools and supplies.

Preschool, in my mind, is a time for fun. My primary goal is to see my son develop his love for learning through playful, creative interaction, which is why you'll see so many craft supplies and craft projects in my posts. Of course, there are other goals: developing motor skills, learning the alphabet, and so on. Through this creative learning time, we're accomplishing all of those goals--plus a whole host of other amazing things.

I'm sure this list will change and evolve, so feel free to check back from time to time to see what tools we're most enjoying.

Our Favorite Supplies:
A printer and plenty of ink
Colored paper suitable for printing
A large three-ring binder
Clear page protectors
Construction paper
Round, "color coding" labels
Toddler-friendly scissors
A writing instrument {pencil, etc.}
Glue sticks
White school glue
Crayons and Markers
An alphabet puzzle
Kumon books {We're working on uppercase letters and will move on to lowercase letters.}
Other learning books or printables, found online via google, Pinterest, etc.
Letter and number templates
Stickers {for projects, for rewards, etc.}
Alphabet stamps {we've got one set now, but hope to purchase a couple more in different "fonts" soon}
Stamp pads in a variety of colors
Temperah paint and brushes
Contact paper
Paper plates {the inexpensive kind with ridges around the outside edge are great, and come in bulk}
Coffee filters
Wiggly eyes, pipe cleaners, and pom-pom balls
Counting Bears
Pattern Blocks {we have been using this awesome, free printable set for letter recognition practice!}
Alphabet-based stories {Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Dr. Seuss's ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book!}
A large palm tree cut-out and letter cut-outs. {Read about this--coming soon!}
Play Dough

Like I said before, this is an evolving list. I'll add items as we discover them. I would also love to read about things YOU would add to the list. Leave a comment letting me know what your must-haves are.

Pumpkin Spice {Gluten-Free!} Play Dough

My little guy really loves play dough. A new batch was in order after a summer of outdoor play, so I added a few extra ingredients to my regular recipe to come up with this autumn-inspired Pumpkin Spice play dough.

1 C. Rice Flour
1/2 C. Corn Starch
1/2 C. Salt
1 Tbsp. Cream of Tartar
1 Tbsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 C. Hot Water
1 1/2 Tbsp. Oil {I use grapeseed}
Red and Yellow Food Coloring
Vanilla and Almond Extract

Combine dry ingredients in a sauce pan.
Add water and oil, stirring to mix.
Add a dash of both almond and vanilla extract.
Add a couple of drops each of red and yellow food coloring. {the color is, of course, completely optional}
Over medium heat, begin cooking the mixture.
Stir constantly, adding more food coloring if desired. I was trying to achieve a color similar to pumpkin pie filling.
Cook for several minutes until the dough has formed a solid mass in the pan, then turn it out onto the counter to cool a bit.
Knead the cooled dough.
If it seems too sticky, add more cornstarch one tablespoon at a time. If it seems too dry, add a bit more oil.
Store in an air-tight container to use over and over again.

Cranberry-Orange Scones {gluten free, soy free, and vegan}

I've never really considered myself much of a "scone person," but lately, they have been on my mind. So have two distinct flavors: cranberry and orange. So why not combine the three things to come up with some cranberry-orange scones?!

The texture of these scones is perfect. Slightly flaky and crumbly, but still moist and soft on the inside. Top them off with a bit of orange glaze, and you're set. I have a feeling these will make their way onto our weekend breakfast table very soon.

Scone Ingredients:
2 C. Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour
1/3 C. Coconut Palm Sugar*
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Orange Zest {or more, if you'd like}
1 tsp. Xanthan Gum
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/2 C. Earth Balance Spread {keep cold}**
1/2 C. Almond Milk
1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries
1 tsp. Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice

*use regular granulated sugar in this recipe if you'd like, but consider reducing the amount to 1/4 cup so your scones aren't overly sweet.
**shortening, margarine, etc. would work in place of Earth Balance

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, orange zest, xanthan gum, and salt. Mix thoroughly.
Measure Earth Balance, then scoop bit by bit into the flour mixture. Spread the chunks around to make the next step a bit easier.
Using a pastry cutter, potato masher, or even your hands, incorporate the Earth Balance into the flour mixture.
Stir in almond milk, cranberries, and orange juice.
At this point, the mixture may seem a bit dry and flaky. Feel free to dig in with your hands to knead the mixture a bit, forming a single ball of dough.
Place the ball of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, and then spread the ball into a flat disc, an inch or so thick.
Using a sharp knife, cut the disc into eight wedges, and then separate the pieces a bit so that they don't stick together as they bake.
Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 15 minutes, until the scones appear dry and begin to brown.
Allow the scones to cool on a wire rack, and then glaze, if you'd like:

Glaze Ingredients:
1 C. Powdered Sugar {perhaps a bit more}
2 Tbsp. Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice
1 Tbsp. Melted Earth Balance Spread

Measure powdered sugar into a small mixing bowl.
Add orange juice and melted Earth Balance, then whisk thoroughly to combine.
If you'd like a thicker glaze, add a bit more powdered sugar. To thin your glaze, add more orange juice.

I transferred my glaze to a zip-top sandwich bag, clipped the bottom corner of the bag, and then "piped" the glaze over the top of the scones.

Pumpkin Cookies with Chai Tea Glaze {gluten, dairy, and soy free}

Autumn has arrived, and so have my cravings for pumpkin-y, spice-filled baked goodies. I found a way to incorporate both of those things with this recipe. The cookies are ridiculously moist and soft, and the chai tea glaze adds just enough sweetness for my liking.

Cookie Ingredients:

2 1/2 C. Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Xanthan Gum

1/2 C. Earth Balance Spread
1 1/4 C. Sugar
1 C. Pumpkin {canned or fresh puree}
1 egg
1 tsp. Vanilla

To Make the Cookies:
Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Cream Earth Balance and Sugar in the bowl of your mixer {or with a hand mixer}.
Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla to the sugar mixture. Mix thoroughly.
With your mixer running on the lowest setting, add the flour mixture a bit at a time.
Scoop rounded spoonfuls of dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake for 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees.
Place on a wire rack to cool.

Glaze Ingredients:
2 C. Powdered Sugar {or perhaps a bit more, depending on desired thickness}
3-4 Tbsp. Chai Tea Concentrate*
1 Tbsp. Melted Earth Balance Spread
1 tsp. Vanilla*

*If you have chai tea concentrate on hand, you can use it in this recipe, though I would omit the additional vanilla. If you do not, boil 1/3-1/2 cup of water, and then add one black tea bag, a cinnamon stick, a star anise pod, 2-3 cardamom pods, 2-3 cloves, and a bit of ground nutmeg. Allow the mixture to steep for several minutes, strain, and use in your glaze.

To Make the Glaze:
Measure powdered sugar into a medium bowl, and then add chai concentrate, Earth Balance, and vanilla.
Mix thoroughly with a whisk or your hand mixer.
If your glaze seems too thick, add a bit more chai concentrate. If your glaze seems a bit too thin, add additional powdered sugar.
Spoon over cooled cookies, leaving them on a wire cooling rack so that excess glaze drips through the rack rather than pooling around the cookies. {For easy clean-up, place some parchment paper under your wire rack.}

Chai Tea Oatmeal {free of gluten and soy, and vegan}

When Mary from Sweet Roots invited me to participate in Chai Week, I couldn't resist. I'm quite enamored with chai tea, {see my recipe for chai concentrate} and love to incorporate classic chai spices in my baking from time to time. {scones, anyone??}

Yesterday, Mary posted a recipe for a beautiful Pumpkin Chai Latte. Wouldn't it be yummy on a crisp, fall morning? For an extra chai kick, pair it with my oatmeal recipe.

2 Cups Water, Divided
1 Black Tea Bag
1 Cinnamon Stick, 3-4 Cloves, 2-3 Cardamom Pods
1 Cup Old-Fashioned Oats {choose gluten free oats if need be}
Small Pinch of Salt
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg
3 Tbsp. Almond Milk {or another milk of your choosing}

Optional: Earth Balance Spread and Brown Sugar, Agave Nectar, or another sweetener.

To Make:
Heat one cup of water to boiling, then add the tea bag {use two black tea bags for a stronger hint of tea}, cinnamon stick, cloves, and cardamom pods. Allow the mixture to steep for 5 minutes or so.
Remove the tea bag and spices, and then add enough water to bring your measurement up to two cups.
In a pot, boil the two cups of liquid.
Add oats and salt, then reduce heat to medium to cook for several minutes. Stir occasionally.
When the oats are soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed, add cinnamon and nutmeg, and about 3 Tbsp. milk, then continue cooking until the oats have reached the consistency you prefer.
Finally, stir in your 'toppings,' as desired and enjoy! I like a scoop of Earth Balance and a bit of brown sugar in my oatmeal.