Archive for the ‘52 Weeks of Baking’ Category

Over at Creating My Way to Success, Jill interviewed me about what I create and my definition of success.  I’ve included my interview below if you’d like to read it.

After you’re done at Harvest Moon by Hand’s blog, I’d like to encourage you to visit Creating My Way to Success.  I originally found out about Jill’s blog through her weekly “Round Tuit” post.  She features inspiring work made by several people each week, and then anyone can link a project they’ve completed (craft, cooking, or anything creative).

As Jill says, “…maybe it’s a project you’ve completed that you’re proud of – something you have wanted to get done for a while and need some extra motivation to get going on it – or you’d just like some of that fabulous encouragement, praise, and motivation that bloggers are so good at spreading around.”

She also has a section on her blog for clothes upcyling projects which over 100 people submitted projects to – including photos and tutorials.  It’s an excellent resource if you want to find a new purpose for old clothes…and make a positive difference on the environment.

After my interview, there’s a link for you to include your blog.  By visiting and following one another’s blogs, we spread the word about all the creativity out there…and countless inspiring ideas!

Here’s my interview with Jill (Jill’s questions are in bold type; my answers are in regular type):

What do you create?

When I think of what I create, I divide the items into three different groups:  things that I sell, share, or support. 


My main way of selling some of the things that I create is through my shop on Etsy, Harvest Moon by Hand.  My goal is to help people enhance their homes by offering natural products which are calming and uplifting; and inspire creative and imaginative play in children.

Two Rainbow Window Stars
Window stars that are available at

I do this by:

– Creating handcrafted items made of natural, quality materials.

Beeswax Heart
Hand-poured beeswax impression
available at Harvest Moon by Hand.

– Creating imagination-inspired, eco-conscious items from materials that would normally be recycled thereby lessening the impact on the environment.

Wool Felt Bears & Bunting
Handmade bears with miniature bunting
made from a felted wool sweater.
Available at Harvest Moon by Hand.


Another way that I create is sharing ideas through writing.  My blog, also named Harvest Moon by Hand, focuses on a variety of subjects, and gives readers a “behind-the-scenes” of what life is like at Harvest Moon and what provides the inspiration for its products. 

Mosaic of Needlefelted Alphabet ATCs and ACEOs - Tactile Art and Learning for Children
Set of needlefelted alphabet cards that I made
to help my daughters learn their letters
and corresponding sounds. 
The wool cards also can be used for spelling words.

Some of the topics I tend to write more about on my blog include: art, education, embroidery, family traditions, food/recipes, holidays, homeschooling, nature, reading, and sewing. 

August Journal Quilt without Border
Hand-embroidered journal quilt I made during 2010. 
This quilt is one of twelve that were made monthly for a year.
More information about the journal quilts and
what they symbolize are at Harvest Moon by Hand’s blog.


A third way that I create is by supporting my family by making or doing things for personal or family use. Some of the ways that I create on a day-to-day basis for my family are by:

– Making healthy meals and trying new recipes;
– Creating family traditions; and making good memories that the girls can look back on when they are older;
– Developing a personalized curriculum for each of my daughters based on their educational needs;
– Sewing clothes or quilts;
– Making sensory items and a memory quilt for my dad who has Alzheimer’s Disease;
– Making hand-embroidered toys; and
– Crocheting blankets.

Addy Unit Study - Sugar Cookies Round 2
I helped Sophia make sugar cookies one afternoon
after reading a book about a girl who made cookies.
She formed the dough into letters,
spelling the words “Family” and “Love.”

Why do you create?

That’s a good question.  In some ways, I think that asking me why I create is like asking me “Why do you breathe?” or “Why do you eat?”  Both breathing and eating are necessary to sustain life. 

I consider creating and creative expression – whether it’s a product, a memory, something to eat, a lesson plan, or playing a song on the piano – ways to sustain and enhance others’ lives as well as my own.  

Do you sell your creations? If so, how? Where?

I sell some of the items that I create through my shop (Harvest Moon by Hand) on Etsy.  What I enjoy about having a presence on the internet is that my work has been purchased by individuals and businesses throughout the world – including many states in the United States, Canada, Brazil, several countries in Europe, Australia, and Japan.

Rainy Day Activity Book - Button Flowers and Insects/Birds in the Garden
Pattern for a hand-embroidered activity book
available at Harvest Moon by Hand.

An equally important part of running a business is giving back to the community.  A couple of years ago, a local church asked me to make window stars for their fellowship hall/welcoming area.  I donated about 20 stars that they displayed in the windows around their Christmas tree.

Origami Window Stars at Church
One of the windows at a local church
where I donated some stars for
their Christmas display.
I also have made window stars, hand-embroidered ornaments, and other handmade items as “thank you” gifts for those who have made an impact on my life and who have indicated that they like the work that I do.  Sharing an item that I made by hand with someone who will appreciate it is something I enjoy doing.

What mistakes have you made or lessons you have learned?

I’ve made plenty of mistakes in trying to run a business. I do not have a business degree (my undergraduate degrees are in Psychology and in Communications, Telecommunications, and Theater; and I did some graduate work in Arts Administration), so I’m not as skilled as others who have a strong business background.  I’m learning as I go; and having Harvest Moon by Hand has taught me a lot about different aspects of operating a business from home.

Children learning taiko drumming from
a Theater Mu performer. 
This picture was taken during one of the
Create & Cultivate Art Camps
that I founded and directed right at the farm for many years.

One of the most important lessons, for me, is not to give up.  I’ve tried lots of different ways to be self-sufficient by running my own business or non-profit organization.  Some things were very successful (not neccessarily monetarily, but in terms of positive impact on others)…and others failed miserably on all levels. 

Campers petting one of the sheep at Harvest Moon.
The camp program drew children from a 50-mile radius;
and featured hands-on opportunities to learn
the connection between agriculture, the arts, and nature.

When faced with failure (or multiple, repeated failures as was the case many years ago when several things failed all within a few years of one another) life can get pretty discouraging.  I’ve had to step back at these times and objectively look at what was successful and what didn’t work, and come up with another idea, hoping that the new one would be the one that works well. 

What, to you is success? Have you achieved it yet, or are you on your way towards success?

To me, success isn’t related exclusively to money….it’s related to giving.  There are some core questions that are always in the back of my mind that guide how I view and work towards success:

– What are you doing to make a difference in the world? In your community? In your family?

– How are you making the lives of others who are having difficulty (or who have less than you do) easier?

– How are you enhancing the lives of the next generation? (These children are the ones who will be in charge when you are older…in business, government, and healthcare. Helping children now benefits everyone in the long-term.)

I know this is a very different view than some other people have regarding success.  Traditionally, success is equated with how much money you make and accumulate; how big a house you have; or how many “toys” you own.  Simply having lots of money and not using it to help others, to me, is not success.

My dream would be to have an even more profitable business – so that I could give more.  When I look at the opportunities to help…to make a difference…it would be nice to be able to have the financial resources to make gifts to others or travel to places to volunteer (beyond just donating items or time which my daughters and I do now on a weekly basis to various organizations). 

So what’s next?

I enjoy developing patterns, and would like to create more PDF patterns for natural, hand-embroidered children’s toys.

Felt Zebra on Green Wool
PDF pattern for a hand-embroidered zebra
available at Harvest Moon by Hand.
I also did a 52 Weeks of Baking challenge in which I tried new recipes each week for a year.  I modified the recipes so that they were dairy-free (so my oldest daughter could eat the food).  I typed each of the recipes along with modifications made, a photo of the recipe, and lessons learned during the week. 
My next step is to format the recipes into a book and print two copies – one for each of my daughters.  I’ve considered making some extra copies and trying to sell them since appetizing, dairy-free recipes for children aren’t always easy to find.
Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls
Sourdough cinnamon rolls that I made during
the 52 Weeks of Baking challenge.
They were incredibly good…and dairy-free!

Many years ago, I wrote a multi-disciplinary curriculum for families who homeschool that was based on creative reuse (it was called “Waste Not” and “Second Impressions”).  My daughters at the time were not old enough to do many of the activities over the ten-month period that I piloted the curriculum and activities to a local homeschool co-op. 

Handmade Pillowcase
Handmade pillowcase made from
a used (and cleaned) bedsheet and extra fabric.

So, I would like to revisit the curriculum, do the activities with the girls, and re-format the curriculum with pictures of the activities that my daughters enjoyed the most.  The photos of the projects, tutorials, and information would be available in PDF format through my shop. 

Wool Felt Cat Toys
Felted sweaters that were cut and
made into cat toys.

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For this week’s 52 Weeks of Giving, the girls sang at church (at both services) as well as for seniors at Croixdale (assisted living, memory care, and apartments). 

The children’s choir carpooled, so I was able to stay at home and catch up with some things around the home which was nice.  So, I don’t have a picture of the girls singing at Croixdale.  However, this is where they sang:

They said they enjoyed singing for the seniors, and also liked seeing the resident parrot, Skipper.

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I made a few more recipes this past week as part of my 52 Weeks of Baking challenge.  I’ve now completed the challenge by baking one or more recipes each week for the past 52 weeks.  It’s been a great way to try new recipes – main dishes, side dishes, and desserts. 

This past week, I made a coffeecake for breakfast and a cake for dessert.  Both recipes were well received, so I thought I’d share the recipes for both.

Poppyseed Coffeecake
This is the recipe for poppyseed coffeecake.  It’s a family recipe that’s been around for awhile now.
1/4 cup poppyseed
1 cup buttermilk (I used dairy-free rice milk)
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter, soft (I used dairy-free butter)
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix poppyseed and milk.  Let stand two hours.  Combine 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon.  Set aside.  Grease and flour bundt pan (I used a 9″x 13″ pan instead).  Cream shortening, butter, and 1 1/2 cup sugar.  Add eggs.  Mix poppyseed mixture and vanilla.  Combine flour, soda, and salt.  Add and mix well. 
Pour 1/3 of batter into pan; sprinkle 1/3 of reserved cinnamon-sugar mixture over batter without touching sides of pan.  Repeat layers twice.  Bake 45-50 minutes or until toothpick is clean. Cool 15 minutes and remove from pan.  Cool completely.
Pistachio Bundt
This is a recipe from the book Bundt Cake Bliss.  I’ve had it for some time now, and thought I’d give it a try.  It’s a very moist cake, and has a slight green tint to it.  It’s a good cake to serve for St. Patrick’s Day or for a spring dessert.
1 box (18 ounces) yellow cake mix
1 small box instant pistachio pudding mix
4 eggs
3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup drained crushed pineapple
1/2 cup coconut
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 12-cup Bundt pan using dairy-free butter and flour.  Set aside.
Combine the cake and pudding mixes in a large bowl.  Add eggs, orange juice, and oil.  Beat at medium speed for 4 minutes.  Add the pineapple and coconut and stir until blended.  Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake for 55-60 minutes or until toothpick comes out of the cake clean.   Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes and invert to a rack or serving plate to finish cooling. (Optional:  Dust with powdered sugar.)
This is a great cake for St. Patrick’s Day since it is very pale green in color.

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For almost a year now, I have been trying new recipes as part of 52 Weeks of Baking. Originally, I started because there was a swap on Swap-Bot.  For about a few months, the swap hostess held the weekly swaps in which we showed other partners what we baked.  It was a great way to get new recipes as well as try ones that we had on hand.

Eventually, the swap hostess stopped doing the swaps.  Rather than stop baking, I wanted to challenge myself to continue for 52 weeks and to eventually create a cookbook for my daughters that would include all the good recipes I tried as well as pictures of the items; the girls’ reactions to the recipes; and a lesson or two that I learned that week as it related to the recipe(s). 

I’m now on Week 52 of this project; and finishing up with a two recipes:

Easy Praline Biscuits

Easy Praline Biscuits


1/2 cup butter (I used dairy-free rice milk)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
36 pegcan or walnut halves (I used walnut pieces)
Ground cinnamon
2 cups Bisquick baking mix (I used the reduced-fat version)
1/3 cup applesauce (I used unsweetened applesauce)
1/3 cup milk (I used dairy-free rice milk)


Place 2 teaspoons of butter, 2 teaspoons of brown sugar, and 3 pecan halves in each of 12 muffin cups.  (I sprayed the tray before using it.)  Sprinkle cinnamon in each cup; heat in oven until melted.

Mix baking mix, applesauce, and milk until dough forms; beat 20 strokes.  Spoon onto mixture in cups. 

Bake 10 minutes.  Invert on heatproof serving plate.  Makes 12 biscuits.

Whoops…forgot to melt that butter/brown sugar/nut/cinnamon mixture before putting the dough on top.  Wondered why the biscuit dough was sitting so high in each muffin cup.  If I had followed the recipe and read it a bit more carefully the caramel would have melted a bit more.  However, the biscuits were very good and everyone wants them again.  Olivia wants her without the walnuts, though.

Cheese-Onion Bread (dairy version on top; dairy-free version on bottom)

Onion-Cheese Supper Bread


1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon butter (I used dairy-free butter)
1 egg
1/2 cup milk (I used dairy-free rice milk)
1 1/2 cups Bisquick mix (I used the reduced-fat version)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I used half the amount in half the dough; for the other half of the dough which I separated and baked in its own pie pan, I used 1 square of dairy-free cheese)
1 tablespoon poppy seeds (optional)


Cook onion in butter until tender and light brown.  Combine egg and milk.  Add to Bisquick and stir until dry ingredients are moistened.  Add onion and half of cheese.  Spread dough in greased 8″ round baking dish. (I used two different pie pans since I was making a dairy and dairy-free version.)  Sprinkle the top wit hthe remaining cheese and poppy seed.  Drizzle melted butter over all.  (I didn’t do this.)  Bake in 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.


The next step:  editing and printing the cookbook.  I’ll be happy to see the final version completed and able to be passed along to each of the girls for them to use when they are on their own.

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This month is Black History Month, and I’ve been reading some books to the girls about different African-Americans who have made a positive impact in the world.  As I was looking at my bookshelf with curriculum and teaching resources, I came across a book I purchased a long time ago.  It’s called Kids Explore America’s African-American Heritage by the Westridge Young Writers Workshop. 

There is a section in the book about George Washington Carver.  I shared with the girls what it said about Dr. Carver:  “On a cold winter night in the Ozark mountains, George Washington Carver, then a tiny baby, was traded for a race horse worth $300.”  He is “king of the peanut …. He used the peanut to make face powder, printer’s ink, and soap, to name just a few.” 

We talked about how and where peanuts grow.  Many years ago, I tried to grow peanuts.  I was curious to see how they grew and if it was difficult to do.  Minnesota doesn’t have a terribly long growing season compared to the Southern states.  However, that particular summer there were enough warm days so the peanuts could grow. 

The peanut harvest was an interesting process.  As the roots were exposed, so were all the peanuts.  It was pretty neat to be holding peanuts that I grew.  However, the amount of peanuts for the space and time required, in my opinion, wasn’t worth it so I haven’t grown them since.  The peanuts taste rather bland when they are harvested since they aren’t roasted or salted.     

Back to Dr. Carver now.  Carver discovered more than 300 uses for peanuts and hundreds more uses for soybeans, pecans, and sweet potatoes. While he may have made peanut butter during his time studying the peanut, peanut butter has existed since the time of the Aztecs who made it from ground peanuts.

In memory of him Dr. Carver, the girls learned how to make homemade peanut butter.  In the Kids Explore, there was a recipe for peanut butter:


2 cups peanuts
1 1/2 tablespoons sunflower or peanut oil (we used vegetable oil)


Use a blender or food processor to grind the peanuts.  Use a smaller blade if you want finer-ground peanuts . Use bowls to catch the peanuts as they are ground. 

Sophia and Olivia grinding peanuts with oil and honey
to make homemade peanut butter

Pleace 1/4 cup peanuts and 1 tablespoon oil in blender or grinder.  Blend at high speed for 10-15 seconds.  Slow motor and continue to grindfor about 45 seconds.  Use a spatula to remove from blender.  If peanuts butter is too dry, add more oil. 

Spread on crackers and serve immediately.  Store leftover peanut butter in an airtight jar in the refrigerator. 

Homemade peanut butter on crackers

Note:  We made some changes to the recipe.  We used a Vita-Mix mixer so we could add the peanuts and oil together and grind it at various speeds.  Since we like honey-roasted peanut butter, we decided to add some honey from our beehives.  We didn’t measure it; we just poured a some in – probably the equivalent to a tablespoon or two.  Then we put the Vita-Mix mixer on again to make the peanut butter smooth (but it still had peanut chunks in it).

We all thought the peanut butter tasted great.  It was easy to make; and didn’t have any preservatives which is even better.  It would be more expensive to make-your-own peanut butter since the recipe doesn’t yield much.  So, we’re using it like it is a special treat.

The other recipe we made was bread pudding.  According to Kids Explore America’s African-American Heritage, “In the olden days, people could not afford to throw anything away.  If they had a lot of leftover old bread (the bread that was made with flour, not cornmeal), they would crumble it and save it. 

“The whole message behind bread pudding is people could not afford to waste or throw away food, so they recycled it.  People back then used everything.  With bread pudding, they used the stale bread to make a delicious dessert.”

Bread pudding

This is the recipe for bread pudding:


4 cups dried bread crumbs (we used whole wheat and wheat berry bread most often so the bread pudding – perhaps – is a bit darker than normal and more “hearty” than if we used white bread)
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk (we used dairy-free milk)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (we doubled this)
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (we used mace instead since we were out of nutmeg; and doubled it)
2 tablespoons butter (we used dairy-free butter)
1 1/2 cup raisins


Mix all the above ingredients.  Place in 350 degree oven.  Bake for 45 minutes or until the center is firm to the touch.  Can be served hot or cold.

Sophia mixing the ingredients for bread pudding

Again, we made some modifications to the recipe (they are noted above next to the ingredients).  Also, we made only a half a batch since we weren’t sure what it would taste like.  (As a side note, this was a great math lesson on division and fractions.) 

Olivia doesn’t like raisins so I knew she wouldn’t try to eat the bread pudding.  Sophia and I tasted it shortly after it came out of the oven.  It has a different texture than what we thought it would have.  It’s not like pudding that one normally thinks of when pudding is mentioned (e.g., vanilla or chocolate pudding that’s creamy or soft).  This pudding is more solid and substantial. 

The girls enjoyed making food as it related to Black History Month.  Doing hands-on activities will (hopefully) help them remember the information more since they are actively doing something rather than just listening.


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This year, the girls and I tried two new cookie recipes for Valentine’s Day.  The Heart Sandwich Cookies are the ones that Sophia made; and the Thumbprint Heart Cookies are the ones that Olivia made. 

Heart Sandwich Cookies that Sophia made

Heart Sandwich Cookies


2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 can of your favorite canned frosting (we made the frosting from scratch rather than using canned frosting using a recipe for creamy frosting from the Betty Crockers cookbook)


Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.  Beat butter and sugars in a bowl until creamy.  Beat in eggs, one at at time.  Add vanilla.  On low, beat in flour mixture.

On floured surface, roll out half of dough to 1/8 inch thickness.  Cut with 1 3/4 inch heart-shaped or small round cookie cutter.  Transfer to ungreased baking sheet. (Note: I did use cooking spray and the cookies came right off the baking sheet.)

Bake in 375 degrees oven 8-10 minutes.  Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.  Roll, cut, and bake remaining dough. 

For filling the cookies, spread 1 tablespoon of frosting on half the cookies.  Sandwich with a second cookie.  Let set for 30 minutes.

The cookies are firm and lend themselves well to decorating.  The flavor is good on its own, but tastes even better with frosting. 

Sophia made some of cookie sandwiches and then came up with this combination of cookies (the letters she form with leftover cookie dough and baked it):

Olivia saw the picture for double thumbprint cookies in my file of ideas for Valentine’s Day.  She said she wanted to make them.  The recipe called for jam in the center of the cookies.  However, they reminded me of the thumbprint cookies my mom used to make at Christmas. 

My mom would roll the balls of cookie dough in chopped walnuts and then put her thumbprint on each one.  After the cookies cooled, she put peppermint frosting in the center of each one – some were green and others were red. 

The cookies were never made at any other time except Christmas.  So, I was happy that Olivia picked this double thumbprint cookie recipe to try.

Cookies that Olivia made and frosted

Double Thumbprint Cookies
(Family Fun – for the dough recipe; Better Homes and Gardens for the cookie design)


1 cup unsalted butter, softened (I used dairy-free butter)
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups flour
Jam or frosting (for frosting I used powdered sugar with water and a bit of peppermint extract)

Using an electric mixer at medium-high speed, cream the butter, gradually adding the sugar.  Beat in the egg until evenly mixed, then blend in vanilla extract and salt.

With a wooden spoon, stir the flour into the creamed ingredients, about one third at a time, until evenly blended.  The dough may seem soft, but it will firm up when refrigerated. 

Divide the dough in half.  Flatten each portion into a disk and seal in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate overnight.

The next day, divide and roll the dough into 3/4″ balls.  Put two balls of dough next to one another and then press your finger into each ball of dough.  This will form the top of the heart.  Move the dough at the bottom into a heart shape. Make sure there’s a depression in the middle of the cookie so it can be filled with jam or frosting.

Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes.  Transfer cookies to a cookie rack.  When the cookies are cool, fill the middle of each one with jam or frosting.


I found the recipe for the cookie dough from Better Homes and Gardens.  I didn’t have the recipe when we were making the cookies (apparently I just clipped the photo of the cookies rather than the recipe).  So, it might be good to try this recipe to see if the result might be different in terms of the cookies holding their shape a bit more (the ones we made spread out a bit, but that could be because of using dairy-free butter).

Double Thumbprint Cookies
(Better Homes and Gardens; February 2005)


1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 to 1/3 cup cherry jam or preserves, or seedless raspberry preserves


1. Preheat oven to 375 degree F. In a large bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat until mixture is combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg, milk, and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour.

2. Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls. For each cookie on an ungreased or parchment paper-lined cookie sheet place 2 dough balls side by side with one side touching. Press thumbs into each ball to form an indentation in each. Press in center of each with thumb and taper bottom of cookie with fingers to form a heart shape. Repeat with remaining dough balls, leaving about 2 inches between cookies.

3. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and transfer cookies to a wire rack. While warm, fill each indentation with jam or preserves (if necessary, snip any large pieces of fruit). Cool completely. Makes about 30 cookies.

To Store: Place filled cookies in a single layer in covered storage containers and store at room temperature up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months.


For breakfast, I made pumpkin spice muffins:

For fruit, the girls could pick from pears, frozen strawberries (which they enjoy eating frozen rather than thawed), and cherries:

Even though we didn’t eat the cookies for breakfast, they were on the table along with peanuts (which the girls did eat for breakfast):

I also made a French coffee cake, but don’t have a picture of it.  It was a new recipe that was made in an angel food cake pan.  It took longer to bake than the recipe noted.  So, when it came out of the oven I immediately flipped it onto a plate.  Needless to say, it didn’t hold the shape.  However, the taste was very good and I’d definitely make it again.  Next time…I’ll wait to flip the cake or make it in a Bundt pan for a different shape. 

Quilling on Ann's Hand
Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Today marks the start of the Chinese New Year – the Year of the Rabbit.  ´╗┐Part of today’s homeschooling focused on the Chinese New Year.  I read the girls a book about Chinese New Year as well as a book that I’ve read to them in the past that they’ve enjoyed:  The Runaway Rice Cake by Ying Chang Compestine. 
In the back of the book, there’s a recipe for Baked Nian-Gao (or New Year’s cake).  According to the book, the most improtant dish in a New Year’s Day meal is Nian-Gao.  It states, “Eating Nian-Gao during the New Year’s celebration birng safety and fortune to the entire family for the year.”
So, I let the girls read the recipe in the book, measure the ingredients, and bake the cake.  Here’s the recipe:
Dry Ingredients
1 pound glutinous rice flour (also called sweet rice flour) [I didn’t have this type of flour on hand so we just used all-purpose flour instead)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup nuts [we didn’t use these because we don’t care for nuts in cakes]
Wet Ingredients
3 eggs
3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups water
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine all the dry ingredients ina large mixing bowl.  Mix thoroughly.  In a separate bowl, beat the eggs.  Add the other wet ingredients to the eggs and stir.
Olivia is adding water to the vegetable oil and eggs.

The girls are stirring the dry and wet ingredients one last time before combining them:

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Mix well.  Coat a 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Pour in the batter.  Bake for 40 minutes.  The Nian-Gao will rise when done.  A knife poked into the center will come out clean.

Note:  The dough comes almost to the top of the pan, so I put a cookie sheet underneath it just in case it rose a bit too much and overflowed.  It didn’t, but it was worth doing.  It took much longer than 40 minutes to bake.  Either my oven isn’t hot enough, or it just takes longer than the recipe suggests.  It took almost 55 minutes to bake. The Nian-Gao has a nice flavor to it.  Everyone liked it.  It’s especially good warm…right out of the oven.

In addition to the Nian-Gao, we made sushi.  Even though it isn’t a Chinese dish, it reminded me of when the girls were adopted from China.  Many times – and at multiple restaurants throughout China – sushi was served.  There was always a vegetarian sushi option which Sophia and I prefer.  Olivia just likes the rice.  As she says, “I don’t like to eat seaweed” (the green wrapping).

Sophia placed sushi rice, carrot slices, and
a green onion on top of the sushi paper.

Even though Olivia doesn’t eat sushi, she still wanted to peel and cut a carrot into slices.  She passed on slicing the green onions.

Olivia is working with the carrots while Sophia is rolling the sushi.

Sophia is almost done rolling one of sushi roll. 
The rice is rather sticky.

Once the girls were done with the nian-gao and sushi, they took a break while I put everything together in a muffin tin.  Some of the items had a Chinese connection…others didn’t.

Top row: orange (good luck/fortune), grapes, rice, long noodles (long life)
Middle row: sushi, coleslaw, nian-gao (see above for meaning), nian-gao (see above for meaning)
Bottom row: oranges (good luck/fortune), grapes, rice, long noodles (long life)

The girls brought out placemats and chopsticks that are from China.  They were purchased when Sophia was adopted in 2001.

The girls starting to eat their Chinese New Year lunch.

Shibley Smiles

Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth

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