Roasted Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

My co-teacher, Hannah, scooping and sharing the insides of a pumpkin.
Image soure: Joy Food Sunshine

I like roasted seeds and nuts (do I sound like a squirrel?), but have never tried sweet roasted pumpkin seeds. When we were scooping pumpkins and saving the seeds for our two preschool classes, my co-teacher Hannah said she loved the seeds with cinnamon. Mind blown! What planet am I living on? How did I not know about these? Hon, here’s a healthy, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo-friendly, kosher recipe from Joy Food Sunshine that I must try!

Happy carving, scooping and baking!

Roasted Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

Tips Before Roasting Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds must dry completely before roasting. Remove the seeds from pumpkins and rinse thoroughly, discarding any stringy orange pieces. Drain seeds by lining a large baking pan with paper towels, spreading seeds evenly in a layer, and letting sit for 24 hours. At the 12 hour mark, change damp paper towels for dry ones, stir to air out pumpkin seeds.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups pumpkin seeds dried for at least 24 hours
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut oil or butter (or vegan butter)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pur vanilla extract
  • 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar (or coconut sugar to make paleo)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Very lightly grease a large baking pan, set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Melt coconut oil or butter in a large microwave safe bowl or on the stovetop in a 4-quart pot.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  5. Mix in pumpkin seeds until they are all evenly coated.
  6. Add dry ingredients to the pumpkin seeds and mix until all they are evenly coated.
  7. Spread pumpkin seeds on your prepared baking pan in single layer.
  8. Bake for 25-35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. They are done when they start to brown.
  9. To test for doneness: remove a few seeds from the pan and let sit on the counter to cool. If they harden up the seeds are done. If they remain soft, return to the oven, checking them after 5 minutes. Continue baking in 5 minute intervals until done.
  10. Once seeds are done, transfer them from the warm pan to another pan lined with parchment paper to let cool.

Yield: 3 cups

Store pumpkin seeds in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Wedding Week: DIY Chocolate Favors

Chocolate wedding favors.

My niece got married in our backyard this past Saturday, so this week is Wedding Week–pics of the beautiful event!

You know what happens when I get an idea in my head? It swirls around, taking up space and not letting go, until I write, do, or make the thing! This goes for story ideas, preschool crafts, store displays, party favors and so much more. Maybe this is why I feel compelled to take on multiple projects–the only way to stop the swirling and get a good night’s sleep is to act on the ideas. Call is creativity overload!

My niece didn’t ask, but chocolate wedding favors got in my head, so I bought molds, melties and favor bags and got to work. And how nice was this? I called my favorite source for molds, cookie cutters, melties and sprinkles and the like, Sweet n Fancy Emporium in Cranford, NJ, to check that they had the molds I wanted in stock. I was running late but the new owner, Amanda, had a hunch I was still on my way and waited for me before she closed! So-umm-sweet!

DIY chocolate favors are so easy. Here are the steps:

  1. Melt chocolate melties or chips in the microwave, first on 50% power for 30 seconds and then full power for 15 second intervals, stirring in between. Chocolate is ready when it’s shiny and liquidy.
  2. Spoon into molds.
  3. Place in freezer for 5 minutes (no more!)
  4. Pop chocolates out of molds.
  5. Clean edges of chocolates if needed.
  6. Bag and hand out.

Source: Check out Sweet n Fancy Emporium where you can find endless choice of mold, cookie cutter, melties, sprinkles and frostings.

Easy DIY Kids Crafts: Father’s Day Footprint Art

Credit for this “foot-tastic,” Easy DIY kid’s craft goes to Etsy’s “Mama Don’t Blink.” My pre-school class was used to hand crafts, but taking off shoes and socks was new. Painting feet elicited a bunch of, “That tickles!” Fun!

Step 1. Gather supplies: paint, white paper and either construction paper or cardstock, hard surface such as a clipboard, newspaper to catch drips, paintbrush (a foam paintbrush worked well), chair, washcloth or wipes to clean feet, glue or double-stick tape, marker.

Step 2. Sit child down. Paint bottom of feet. Clip paper to clipboard to create hard surface. Press feet against paper, angling feet to create a heart. Let dry.

Step 3. Glue or tape dried feet-heart to construction paper or cardstock.

Step 4. Write, “I” above feet-heart and “you DADDY from the tip of my nose to the tip of my toes!” under feet-heart. Date.

Step 5. Add fun messages to the back of the picture.

Easy DIY Play Dough

This week at preschool, the theme is Senses. What better way for young children to engage with touch than playing with Play Dough? I’d never actually made Play Dough before, but it was easy! I added cinnamon to the recipe on The Best Ideas for Kids. We’re going to smell “spicy.” Fun!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • food coloring

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and cream of tartar. Mix well.
  2. In a separate bowl, add food coloring to the water. Then add the colored water and vegetable oil to a large pot. Mix together.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to your pot and mix.
  4. Cook over low to medium heat until the dough starts to form and becomes drier, stirring often.
  5. Once the mixture starts to form a body and looks fully cooked, take it off the heat. (Tip: Spoon it onto a plate or surface to cool.) Let the dough cool first before touching. 
  6. Once cool, knead the dough for 5 minutes to make the dough soft. If your dough is not soft, continue kneading for another 5 minutes. If you find it is still too dry add a little bit more oil and knead in.

Tips from The Best Ideas for Kids:

How to Keep Playdough Soft

First wrap your playdough in saran wrap then store in an air-tight container. You’ll notice that playdough will go hard if left out – so the less air that can get to the playdough when storing, the longer it will last!

How Do I Make Playdough Soft Again?

If your playdough dries out and turns out to be a little dry after making it, try adding in a little more oil first. You can knead the oil in with your hands. You can also knead in a little bit of water.

Hamantashen–Easy Recipe

Raspberry, apricot and chocolate Hamantaschen

The Jewish holiday of Purim may have ended, but I’ve only just started baking Hamantaschen! It may seem surprising, but I am a Hamantaschen newbie and there are many more flavors I’d like to try. How do apple, lemon and Nutella filling sound? For the holiday, Oheb Shalom Congregation hosted an online baking class for the Hebrew School kids. I took the opportunity to clean off my counter, dust it with flour, and get rolling!

What’s your favorite filling?

Easy Hamantaschen

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick of butter, room temperature (Margarine may be substituted to make cookies parve.)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons Orange juice (iIf you don’t have OJ, lemon juice will work.)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • any flavor of filling such as jelly or chocolate chips (Tip: pie filling may have a bit more body, but I haven’t tried it yet.)

Directions:

  1. With hand or stand mixer, mix together butter (or margarine), egg, sugar, vanilla, and orange juice (or lemon juice).
  2. Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well.
  3. Roll out dough on a floured board to about ¼-inch thickness. Cut into circles. Fill the circle with approximately 1 teaspoon filling and pinch dough into triangles around the filling. Place on cooking sheet. (Tip: Collect extra dough and combine for more cookies.)
  4. Bake at 375-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes until lightly browned. 

Yield: Depends on size of circles. I used a juice glass as a cookie cutter and made 30 cookies.

Cool Craft for Kids & Teens, Shrinky Dinks Animal Key Chains

Animal Lovers Kids and Teen Craft

Here’s another take on Shrinky Dinks crafts. Supplies and steps for these horse key chains are the same as the fashion key chains. I taught After School Enrichment classes for several years, and often had repeat students so, though projects may have used similar mediums and supplies, I varied content. Some kids traced patterns from scrapbooking paper while others made up their own designs. They used jump rings to attach pieces and Wikki Stix to create manes. Horses are just the start; templates for any animal can be created.

Shrinky Dinks Animal Key Chains

Supplies:

Steps:

  1. Draw an animal and parts on a piece of paper and add small circles where the pieces will join. Add a small circle to the place where the key ring will later be attached. (On the horse, the key ring hangs from the middle of the back.) Trace outline of body and body parts on Shrinky Dinks sheets. All tracing and coloring should be on “rough” side of SD sheets.
  2. Using colored pencils, color patterns and designs and add animal’s facial features.
  3. Punch holes where small circles are drawn. Be careful to leave space between holes and edges so edges don’t split.
  4. Cut out animal parts.
  5. Follow Shrinky Dinks instructions to bake cut-outs.
  6. After baking, gently flatten pieces that curl up.
  7. Join pieces using jump rings.
  8. Create manes or fur with yarn or Wikki Stix. Feed Wikki Stix through holes and twist to secure. OR feed yarn through holes and knot and trim.
  9. Find the opening where the key ring is to be attached and feed a jump ring through that hole. Attach the key ring to that jump ring.

Tip: Shrinky Dinks shrink A LOT! Keep this in mind and trace a template large enough that when parts are baked and shrink, the key chain isn’t the size of a peanut! Please keep this in mind when drawing circles that will be punched out. You don’t want the holes to be so small, a jump ring won’t fit.

Cool Kids & Teen Craft, Shrinky Dinks Fashion Key Chains

Another Snow Day Kids and Teen Craft

Did you create key chains, jewelry and keepsakes with Shrinky Dinks when you were a kid? I did and my kids did, too. So, when discussing ideas for After School Enrichment classes with a camp art director, she suggested this cool craft. The 2nd – 5th graders in my ASE class loved tracing patterns from wrapping paper, scrapbooking paper, and fashion magazines onto their own templates. They colored patterns, added facial features, cut out body parts, and punched holes so the baked pieces could be assembled with jump rings. They added Wikki Stix hair and a key ring and–voila–they had their own Shrinky Dinks Fashion key chains. More template ideas: kids playing sports, dancers, and superheroes. Be creative!

Shrinky Dinks Fashion Key Chains

Supplies:

Steps:

  1. Draw a body and parts on a piece of paper and add small circles where the pieces will join. Trace outline of body and body parts on Shrinky Dinks sheets. All tracing and coloring should be on “rough” side of SD sheets.
  2. Using colored pencils, color clothing patterns and add facial features.
  3. Punch holes where circles are indicated, being careful to leave space between holes and edges so edges don’t split.
  4. Cut out body parts.
  5. Follow Shrinky Dinks instructions to bake cut-outs.
  6. After baking, gently flatten pieces that curl up.
  7. Join pieces using jump rings.
  8. Create hair with yarn or Wikki Stix. Feed Wikki Stix through holes on top of head and twist to secure. OR feed yarn through holes and knot and trim.
  9. Feed a jump ring into middle hole on top of head and then feed key chain ring into that jump ring.

Tip: Shrinky Dinks shrink A LOT! Keep this in mind and trace a template large enough that when parts are baked and shrink, the key chain isn’t the size of a peanut! Please keep this in mind when drawing circles that will be punched out. You don’t want the holes to be so small, a jump ring won’t fit.

Easy Kids Craft: Shaving Cream Snowmen

Shaving cream/glue snowmen made by a Three’s class.

SNOW FUN!

Creating snowmen or other snowy scenes using a shaving cream/glue combo is snow fun because it engages several senses. The kids smell the shaving cream, listen to the can, feel the texture, and see the color. What ratio of shaving cream to glue to use? According to KiwiCo Corner, “Mix one part shaving cream with one part glue. The mixture ends up thick and goopy–and dries up puffy, like snow!” The “snow paint” can be applied with paintbrushes, sponges, spoons or hands. (Two year-olds like to use their hands. LOL!)

As recommended by a Three’s teacher, I outlined snowmen, glopped “snow paint” onto the snowmen sections, and handed out spoons. Each child picked buttons and a construction paper hat, scarf, eyes, and carrot nose. Fun!

Next multi-media and textured project: Winter scenes of green, felt trees on black construction paper, snow made with both silver glitter and Q-tips dotted white paint. Winter spirit!

Mini Pumpkin Pies

Bite-Size Pumpkin Pies!

Thanksgiving tradition in our home calls for Apple and Pumpkin Pies so, in addition to baking Mini Apple Pies, I baked bite-size Pumpkin Pies. Referencing Sally’s Baking Addiction, the recipe below combines hers and mine. Shhh–don’t tell. I couldn’t wait until Thanksgiving to try one. Hon, it was delicious!

Warm holiday wishes to you and your family.

Before baking and after.

Tips:

  • Grease or line mini muffin cups in two 24-count mini muffin pans.
  • Use a 2.5 inch cookie cutter or a 1/3 cup measuring cup to cut dough into small circles.
  • Sally’s Baking Addiction says, “These mini pumpkin pies are dough heavy– lots of crust in each bite. The filling really has to stand out, so we’ll use flavorful brown sugar and extra pumpkin pie spice.”
  • SBA also suggests using a touch of black pepper. “No one will know it’s there– all they’ll taste is a delightfully spiced flavor.”

Ingredients:

  • 2 unbaked pie crusts (homemade or store bought)
  • 1 (16oz) can cooked pumpkin
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy creamer
  • small pinch black pepper (optional – see note)

Directions:

  1. Prepare pumpkin pie filling by beating 2 eggs, then adding remaining ingredients and mixing thoroughly.
  2. Preheat oven to 375°.
  3. Roll pie crusts to 1/8″ thickness on a lightly floured surface. Using a 2.5-inch cookie cutter (or 1/3 cup measuring cup), shape mini crusts. Re-roll any scrap pieces of pie dough as needed to cut out the circles.
  4. Place the small circles of dough into greased or lined 24-count mini muffin pan(s). Press the dough flat into the bottom of the crevice and up the sides.
  5. Evenly spoon cold filling into each unbaked crust, filling to the top.
  6. Bake mini pies until the center is just about set and edges are lightly browned, about 21-25 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan. If greased well, the mini pies pop right out using a spoon to scoop them up. Cool, then serve at room temperature or refrigerate until chilled and serve cold. Filling deflates a bit as they cool.
  7. Cover leftover pies tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes:

Store any leftover Mini Pumpkin Pies in the refrigerator for up to 5 days OR wrap, freeze, and defrost at a later date.

Yield: 48-50 mini pies

Pumpkin Patch Memories

Hubby’s headless horseman.

Posting about pumpkin carving with pre-schoolers led me down a crunchy leaves lane of nostalgia. Decorating our house and preparing costumes weren’t our only Autumn traditions. Cherished were our drives to Ort Farms in Long Valley, NJ where we’d take a hay ride to the pumpkin patch, pick as many pumpkins as we could carry, and load up on apple cider, doughnuts, and honey sticks. After saying hi to the farm animals, we’d head home. Every year, Hubby got increasingly skilled at carving pumpkins. (Check out his haunted house below.)  

Hon, what Fall traditions does your family share?