Homemade Lemonade

As part of our Natural Health and Wellness course, Kyri and I have been reading and discussing healthy drinks. While we usually only have water and almond milk in our fridge, on occasion we have some juice or a sweetened drink like lemonade. Kyri prepared (with a little help from Mom) a pitcher of lemonade that we all enjoyed!

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Baklava

We love baklava around here – its such a decadent dessert. I have been slacking a bit lately however and haven’t made any in quite some time. For our co-op, we have been reading about the ancient Greeks and Persians in Story of the World, and I thought it would be a fitting time to make some baklava. My husband thought that was a fantastic idea! The first time I made baklava I admit I was intimidated – it really does seem like a complicated dessert. But after that first time, I realized while it does take a little time to put together, it really is not so complicated.

Baklava is really just layers of phyllo dough, melted butter, and a nut mixture that is baked until golden brown. A simple syrup is then poured over the baklava after it comes out of the oven. The hardest part, I think, is waiting for it to cool completely – a couple of hours seems like forever, but is really important for allowing the syrup to soak into the phyllo sheets.

Each package of phyllo dough typically has two packs of rolled up dough. For a 9″ x 13″ baking dish, one roll will suffice. Butter the baking dish (I use Earth Balance) and set to the side. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place two sheets of dough in the baking dish (the dough will need to be trimmed a little to fit) and brush on melted Earth Balance (1/2 cup melted should be plenty), making sure to completely cover the sheets. Sprinkle on nut mixture evenly. Two more sheets go on, followed by melted Earth Balance and nut mixture. After the final layer of nuts is spread, a final layer of phyllo dough goes on. Place these individually and butter each sheet. The baking dish goes into the oven for 45 minutes, and immediated after removing, the syrup is poured over the baklava. It should cool for a few hours at room temperature before serving. This allows the syrup to really soak into the layers.

Syrup

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1/2 cup agave syrup

1 tsp vanilla

 

Sugar and water are heated on stovetop until sugar is completely dissolved. Agave syrup and vanilla are then added and mixture is allowed to simmer for 10-15 minutes. Syrup should be cooled completely before pouring over the baklava.

 

Nut mixture

 

3 cups nuts (I like a 1:1:1 mixture of almonds, walnuts and pistachios – I pulse them in the food processor so they are ground coarsely but NOT into powder)

1 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

 

Nut mixture is combined thoroughly and then sprinkled over each layer of phyllo after its been brushed with melted Earth Balance. Try for even coverage, and don’t forget your corners! As you can see in the picture, the bottom layers ended up with more nuts – my daughter helped with spreading the nut mixture and was a little heavy handed for the bottom layers. Just make sure you have enough for all the layers. If you love baklava, you really should try making it. Its a lot easier than you think and totally worth the effort!

Grandmother’s Famous Vegan Cranberry Bread

We just finished reading Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin for our Five in a Row curriculum. Kyri LOVED this book! This book was about a woman who is well known for her Cranberry Bread, and has turned down multiple offers to sell it to local bakeries. She guards the recipe carefully and suspects Mr. Whiskers of trying to steal the recipe for himself. The book has a lesson in judging others based on outward appearances. This book includes a recipe for Grandmother’s Famous Cranberry Bread, which I modified slightly to be vegan. Since we finished rowing this book last week, yesterday we prepared our own version, which I have called Grandmother’s Famous VEGAN Cranberry Bread. The recipe has a bake time of 1 hour 10 minutes, but honestly I ended up giving the bread almost a full additional hour – I used 3 cups frozen cranberries, and I baked in a stoneware bread pan so this may have contributed to the longer bake time. It was also a VERY moist cake – it almost looked as though it wasn’t cooked all the way through after two hours, but it was just SO moist. Its a sweet bread with a tanginess from the cranberries – YUM! Next time I prepare the bread (and I will soon, because it was just so delicious!) I will thaw my cranberries first (I just forgot this time around) and I may also try the half raisin/half cranberry variation.

Making Playdough

I recently taught at my daughter’s co-op, and one of the activities I had planned for the children involved making a maze using playdough – we were learning about the Minotaur’s Labrynth that particular week. I had never made playdough before – my daughter has received Playdoh on occasion as a gift and does enjoy it but I had not ever attempted to make it homemade. I went in search of a recipe to use, and found this site which contains a large collection of recipes to choose from. I chose the Stay Fresh Playdough recipe, and the results were great! I made four double batches and prepared four colors for the children to choose from. While I do not typically use food coloring, our science kit had a pack for one particular experiment week, and so to use it up, I used the food coloring for the Playdough. THe next batch I prepare I will experiment with natural dyes.

For a single batch you would need:

1 cup of flour
1/2 cup of salt
1 tablespoon of alum
1 tablespoon of oil
1 cup of boiling water

I used my Kitchenaid mixer for this. I combined all the ingredients except the boiling water. While mixing, I slowly added the boiling water. I allowed it to mix until the right consistency was obtained and then I dropped in the food coloring. Continued mixing resulted in the color being mixed throughout. Finally I turned the playdough out onto some waxed paper and kneaded it several times to finish mixing the color. I allowed to cool and dry out just a little, and then stored in the fridge in a ziploc bag. I can honestly say that I will never buy commercially made playdoh again after seeing how easy it is to prepare my own – easier, less expensive and with minimal ingredients!

The final product – the colors and texture really came out great.

Packed up and ready for co-op!