TASTE TEST APPLES AND MAKE A REFRESHING WALDORF SALAD

Minnesotans think of themselves as not being particularly boastful. But fall is in the air, and one exception is when it comes to the humorous question, “How do you like them apples?”

We love them, and we take pride in the fact that the popular Honeycrisp was developed in our state years ago. Now, the latest addition to this romance with new apple varieties is First Kiss. A child of the Honeycrisp family, and developed by the University of Minnesota, it was promoted as the “first kiss of autumn” at the Minnesota State Fair this summer. Eager to grab a taste, I stood in a long line at the apple booth to buy one. It was worth the wait. I took a bite and thought, “Whoa … this IS an exceptional apple!”
Would friends and family agree? A First Kiss taste test with other favorite varieties would answer that question. So I put together this entertaining apple-tasting game.

First, I purchased six varieties of apples, both to compare with First Kiss and to match apple names with tastes. Cut into bite-size chunks, I set the apples on separate plates numbered 1-7. (I kept track on my hidden “answer key.”) For reference, I listed the names of the seven apples in alphabetical order on a sheet for all to see.

To play, the “testers” wrote numbers 1-7 on an index card. They tasted samples on each plate and wrote what they thought was its correct name next to the corresponding number on the card.
For extra fun, I asked them to star their favorite.

This was a tough assignment! Even though the participants have been chomping on apples for years, comparing apples to apples revealed subtle differences — a challenge indeed! Not surprisingly, First Kiss was a hit.
You might want to do a similar “apple taste test” game using your family favorites and regional varieties to discover the apple of your eye. Then, get inspired and cut up additional apples for this refreshing Waldorf salad, a tasty side to a fall meal. Mix crisp apple chunks with crunchy, healthy ingredients, and toss with a homemade dressing featuring a sweet hint of honey.

WALDORF SALAD
Serves 4-6
2 cups crisp apples in chunks, unpeeled
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup halved red grapes
1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces
1/4 cup raisins

Dressing:
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1. Lightly toss apples, celery, grapes, walnuts and raisins in a bowl.
2. Whisk together dressing ingredients until smooth. Toss with salad ingredients. Serve chilled.

GIVING IS REWARDING FOR PEOPLE AND PETS


It was midafternoon and time to grab a quick, brisk walk with granddog Cali around our city lake. Approaching the concession stand by the boat dock, I was about to make an abrupt move to avoid the area knowing Cali would go bananas and pull me by her leash in a tug of war in her pursuit of popcorn that people had dropped on the ground from overfilled bags.
Just as I was making a move to veer from the crowd, a young boy came up to us and said in a kind voice, “Would your dog like a treat?”
“Perfect timing — she would love a treat!” I said.
He introduced himself as Anders, then continued, “They are made with peanut butter, and so far, the dogs around here have loved them!” He explained that his sister, Hanna, and their friends Lucy, Charlotte, Rosie and Holiday baked and brought them to the lakeside park to share.
“Hey, Cali, forget the popcorn and hot dog bun crumbs!” I said as Anders gently offered her the homemade biscuit. “You’re in for something special!”
Curious, I talked to Holiday’s mom, 45-year-old Anne-Marie Fischer, an early-childhood family educator, who was on the sidelines as the kids offered their treats. “Providing school-age kids opportunities to share and help others in a selfie-obsessed world is worth the time and effort as a parent and teacher,” she said.
“They also made homemade dog toys for the Humane Society using recycled T-shirts,” she added. “We gathered the simple supplies, had fun crafting the toys and delivering them together. It was such a meaningful group activity. There were benefits for the kids in the creating and socializing, as well as the giving.”
Are you inspired to make playful toys for your own dog, or for the Humane Society in your community? Get started on a fall weekend day with your kids and friends. It’s easy, fun and rewarding for both people and pets.
MAKE A ROPE TOY
1. Cut nine lengths of 1-inch-by-25-inch-long strips from an old large T-shirt. Tie the ends together at one end, leaving about 1 1/2 inches free.
2. Separate lengths into three sections (3 strips per section) and braid the sections tightly together. Tie at the end in a secure knot, leaving about 1 1/2 inches free.

MAKE COLORFUL CRAYON LEAF RUBBINGS

Fall outdoor rituals are many during these lush months of color and cooler temps. Maybe your family already has established an annual tradition of taking a mini day vacation, like heading to a favorite orchard for a Saturday of apple picking and cider tasting, touring pumpkin farms, walking through a corn maze or hiking in the woods to get exercise, explore and observe wildlife and brilliant foliage.

You can celebrate the season well and create new traditions right at your closest park or in your neighborhood, too. If the fall air beckons your family to get outside for a bike ride or a weekend walk, go for it. Observe the changing images around you, including the colorful leaves drifting and swirling in the breeze. Like the neighborhood boy I overheard saying to his dad as they collected different specimens on their walking route home from the library: “It’s a leaf-y time of year!”

I agree. I can’t resist collecting, preserving, pressing, decorating and crafting with leaves from day trips away from home and walks in my neighborhood. There are so many possibilities — including one of the simplest of crafts for any age: making crayon leaf rubbings on paper.
Once you collect leaves, grab your supplies, get to rubbing and uncover “X-ray” type designs you’ve never noticed before, both graceful and playful.

LEAF RUBBINGS
Here’s the stuff you’ll need:
— fresh leaves collected from the ground
— sturdy paper
— a variety of crayons in different colors
— colored pencils (optional)
Here’s the fun:
1. Lay a leaf on a smooth, clean work surface. Place paper over it and hold it down firmly so that it won’t move.
2. Take a crayon and rub it over the paper until the shape of the entire leaf is revealed. Discover the outline and skeleton of the leaf as the veins of the leaf protrude.
3. If you use a colored pencil, hold it at a slight angle, being careful not to press too hard so that it doesn’t go through the paper.
4. Make several different rubbings on one sheet. Vary with contrasting colors, if you wish. You might want to identify leaves by writing the name of their tree by each one.
5. Frame the rubbings, or use for book covers, gift wrap, gift tags and notecards.
Extra idea: Rub leaves from your flower and vegetable garden, too. When the design of a small begonia leaf is revealed, your young child might say in amazement: “It looks like a seashell!” Parsley can look dainty and romantic, but what about arugula and kale?

POTATOE JEWELRY

 

I have a favorite, snazzy bracelet I wear often made with beads in bright primary colors. People are always asking where I got it, so I happily reply, “My kids made it! Out of old potatoes!”

Surely you have a potato or two in your house that never made it to the dinner table. Is it soft, wrinkled, and maybe it’s even sprouted a bit? Well, don’t throw it out! It’s a gem.

Get your kids going now to make the most unusual jewelry actually made from potatoes. The creations make terrific gifts for their friends and relatives.

Here’s how:

Your child should peel one large potato which will be enough for one necklace. Cut it into 1-2-inch chunks and poke them onto a couple wooden skewers. You’ll want to help your younger kids so that they don’t poke themselves.   Also, do make sure the chunks are well spaced so that there’s room to paint them eventually on all sides while still skewered. Poke skewers standing in a florist foam brick.

After about 24 hours, these little spud chunks are going to turn a funny gray-black color, which is fine. Twist them on the skewer once in a while as they dry and become beads with holes through the center. They’ll be rock-hard in about a week if you keep them in a cool, dry place.

During this time, check online or take a book out of the library on the subject of stones and gem. Suggest to your children that they pick a stone they’d most like to create. I like turquoise, so that’s what I’ll describe here.

Spread out newspaper. Hold the bottom of each skewer like a handle, dip a foam brush into turquoise acrylic paint and paint the beads. There are so many little nooks and crannies on the chunk that it actually will resemble a stone. Let dry.

Remove from the skewer and string the beads on ribbon or elastic. To fashion an interesting pattern, alternate with smaller silver beads from a craft store or even another old necklace. When you’re done, you’ll have a beautiful faux turquoise necklace that can fool anyone!

 

Creative Tip: Instead of making potato beads, slice potatoes in chips the size of a quarter. Let them dry and harden flat. It’s ok if they curve a bit as they dry. Paint them in your favorite colors with acrylic paints, dry and glue onto a frame for an eye-catching look.

 

MAKE A TOY WITH ZIP

If your school-age kids are moping around with nothing to do, show them how to make their own fun with this action-packed “Zip Toy.”
Not only does it make a great “zip” sound going down the line, but its name could just as likely refer to how quickly you and your kids can put it together.
Here’s what you’ll need:
–2 16-foot lengths of vinyl-coated clothesline wire
–2 clean 2-liter plastic soda bottles with labels
–4  6″ Cardboard disks
–Plastic electrical tape or strong packing tape
–Pointed scissors
–Paint or stickers for decorating (optional).
CUT off the spout ends of each bottle 1 inch below the top of the label. For a cutting guide, you might wish to draw a line first. You will now have two funnel shapes for the toy. (You will not use the lower portions of bottles.)
MAKE six 1/2-inch slits equidistant around the cut edge of one of the funnel shapes. Slip the cut edge of the other funnel shape over the 1/2-inch slits. Hold the attached funnel shapes in front of you so that the spouts are exactly opposite each other. Wrap tape around the middle to hold the two pieces together securely.
SLIDE both lengths of clothesline through the toy. Make a handle for each of the four ends of clothesline as follows:
From one end, fold over 18 inches of clothesline and double-knot to create a large loop. To protect hands, thread a cardboard disk through its hole sliding it up against the double knot. Make another knot on the opposite side of the disk. You’ll now have a loop to put your hand through. Repeat with three additional ends.
TO PLAY: Two players stand opposite each other and slip their hands in the small loops, holding on to the single knot by the disk as if water-skiing. Make sure the two lengths of clothesline are together, straight and taut. Slide the plastic toy in front of one player. He quickly opens his arms wide to send the toy zipping to the other player. Immediately, he should bring the two clothesline wires back together to receive the toy again. Remember: Always keep your hands behind the cardboard disks.

STIR UP “PLAY CLAY” FROM SAND

 

I enjoy taking long walks on the beach. I love the feel of sand under my feet and the way it stretches for miles before me. And then, with kids tagging along with me, I suddenly feel inspired, thinking of the pounds and pounds of sand clay that could be made!

That’s when I know it’s time to go home and have some more fun making this unusual and simple concoction. This zany recipe for making play clay out of sand will provide unforgettable summertime fun. Let your kids be the first on the block to say, “We cook sand!”

SAND CLAY RECIPE

Put 1-cup clean sand, 1/2 cup cornstarch, 1 1/2 teaspoons powdered alum (in the spice section of your market) and 1/2 cup water in an old cooking pot. Stir with hands or a spoon. An adult should then place the pot on the stove, turn heat to medium and continue stirring with a spoon.
As it becomes warm, it will begin to liquefy. Continue to stir for 2-3 minutes until clay thickens. Remove from heat and spoon mixture out onto an old cutting board. Let cool.
Enjoy playing with the clay as you would any regular play clay. Roll it into balls and make snakes, bowls or cars. There are probably as many doable ideas as there are grains of sand between you and your kids’ hands. Or try these two projects:

Make a sand picture frame:

Remove glass from a wooden frame with a 1-inch or larger edge. Dip a paintbrush in undiluted household glue and spread it on the frame, one section at a time. Stick a small clump of sand clay on the frame, pressing firmly.
If you have shells from a summer vacation, brush more glue on the frame and add them. Then, brushing more glue on the surrounding area, apply a little more sand clay. Let dry for a day or two. Brush off any loose sand. Place a picture of your kids in the frame behind clean glass for a special souvenir.

Make an archeological surprise:

Form a ball of sand goop (the size of a tennis ball) around a small rubber toy or whimsical plastic trinket such as a baby dinosaur. Let dry for a few days until the ball is hard. At a party, tap the ball with a hammer. It will crack open to reveal the surprise
Note: For best results, store unused sand goop in an airtight container. Use within two days.

SUNNY FUN FOR A WINTRY DAY

  My friend Eva Holmlund, 5, adds details to a sunshine greeting featuring her “sunray” handprints for her grandmother.

 

 The length of daylight is starting to feel a wee bit longer, kites are flying here and there, but cloudy and cold, stormy day weather forecasts are a reminder that spring isn’t quite in our grasp.

  Here are some sunshine-themed ideas to boost your mood during remaining wintry, and sometimes gloomy days.

  Breakfast Sunny-side Up

  On a large sheet of white paper, draw suns and happy faces all over the surface with a yellow marker or rayon. Use it for a place mat at breakfast. Fry eggs sunny-side up and serve in the middle of slices of toast. On a separate plate, enjoy the sunny taste of cut-out sections of a juicy grapefruit. Or, make tasty tropical smoothies in seconds with a combination of frozen mango and pineapple chunks, and fresh banana.

  Make a Sunshine Greeting

  Your preschooler’s handprints are the rays of the sun in this poster greeting to share with a grandparent, aunt or uncle.

  In the center of a large sheet of heavy white construction paper, glue a round, six-inch diameter piece of yellow paper for the sun (a small salad plate makes a handy pattern).

  Squeeze some bright yellow acrylic paint on a paper plate and dilute with a few drops of water. Stir.

  Place your child’s hand (palm down) in the paint, and guide the painted hand to the white paper. With the palm near the center circle and fingers and thumb going outward to represent the rays of the sun, press lightly to create a handprint. Continue making six more handprints equidistant from each other around the “sun.” Let dry.

  Add details for a face on the sun with a dark marker, if you wish.

  For a kind greeting, print “You Are My Sunshine!” or “I hope you have a Sunny Day!” on the bottom, along with your child’s name.

  Happy Flowers

  Use acrylic paints or paint pens to draw a sun on the outside of an empty, clear jar with the label removed. Let dry. Fill it with fresh, yellow daffodils, daisies or tulips from your market and tie a ribbon around the rim. Give it to your neighbors to make their day sunny, too.

  Follow the Sun

  At bedtime, check the weather online or in the newspaper to find out what time the sun will rise tomorrow.

 

  

 

 

LEMON COOKIE CUPS FOR A TASTY DESSERT

 

              

Dessert is extra-special for kids when it comes in an edible container.

Here’s a cute little lemony crisp cookie cup, ideal for filling with pudding, fresh fruit or ice cream. Top the filling with candles if there is a birthday party in the house.

You also might want to make a batch for a brunch dessert to mimic mini baskets. They’ll be perfect … and memorable with a scoop of icy sorbet nestled in toasted shredded coconut “grass.”

Kids can be involved from the start with this thin cookie recipe that is easy to combine, using just flour, powdered sugar, eggs and lemons. No need for a mixer. So, grab a big spoon, whisk, grater and mixing bowls to get started.

LEMON COOKIE CUPS

Makes 20 cookie cups

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup powdered sugar

3 egg whites

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 or 3 whole washed lemons for shaping cookie cups

Position rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

  1. Let your child measure and sift flour and sugar in a mixing bowl.
  2. Use a whisk to lightly beat egg whites in one small bowl. In another bowl, lightly beat yolks.
  3. Add egg whites, yolks, lemon zest, juice and vanilla to the flour and sugar mixture. Mix well until smooth with a large spoon. Let set 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, let your child draw five 5-inch circles on the back of the parchment paper with a pencil, using a saucer as a guide. Turn paper over, with circles showing through. Repeat for second cookie sheet.
  5. Drop a heaping tablespoon of batter in the middle of each of the circles. An adult should carefully spread the batter to fill the shape. It will be very thin. (I use an angled icing spatula.)
  6. Bake for 5-6 minutes or until edges brown. Remove cookies quickly, and with the assistance of your child, form cupped shapes with the bottom sides of the cookies up, using the lemons as molds. Hold them for a few seconds until the shape is set, then place on a cooling rack. (Use a clean towel between your hands and the hot cookie to form the fluted shape, if you wish.)
  7. Repeat with remaining dough.

Serve as individual desserts filled with fruit, pudding, flavored yogurt, ice cream or sorbet.

 

PUFF PANCAKE

puffpan#1

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.