Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Clock Project

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Can I just say I hate school projects? I love crafting, when there's no pressure.  I even like doing projects that are built into homeschool curriculum, where we have the luxury of working on them at a leisurely pace.  But there's nothing like a kid saying "I have a school project that's due this week, and I haven't started it! I don't know what to do!" Lucky for Celia that I usually happen to have random craft items around the house.  One time, it was construction paper and pom poms, another time it was a shoebox and glitter glue.   Thanks to the blog, I've even had internet memberships like Graphic Stock and Picmonkey that have saved a project or two.  Last Monday, she said, "Don't forget I have that Spanish clock project due Thursday."

Don't forget?? Did you even tell me in the first place?  I vaguely remember her saying this year's big project was the "Clock Project," but I don't remember anything about it actually being assigned.  I mean, I'm big on kids doing their own project with as little help as possible (mine always need some sort of guidance/focusing - stupid ADHD), but since she has neither a car nor an Amazon account, there needs to be at least some degree of parental involvement -- at least in the supply procurement phase.   Luke did the "Clock Project" a few years ago, and it was a two-weekend process.

He figured a clock has 12 hours, and a year has 12 months. He looked up 12 holidays - one for each month - held in various Spanish-speaking countries around the world. It was a great project, but a lot of planning and work. It involved planning, a trip to both a hardware store and the craft store, and lots of hours cutting and gluing and waiting for things to dry.  And suddenly, she needed something in three days?

I sent her back to the internet to come up with an idea...any idea.  I wasn't taking her to the craft store without a plan.  At first, she wanted to take her project from last year, learning to play Malagueña by Sarasate, and run with that.  She couldn't come up with anything that interested her, so I started googling.  I found that one of Sarasate's piece was called Zapateado, which was meant to emulate the rhythms of flamenco dancing.  I suggested something with that, and she was off to the races.  She decided to dress one of her dolls as a flamenco dancer, and discuss different styles of Spanish dancing.  Now we just needed to come up with a costume.

I think I've mentioned a few times how much I love Pinterest.  We started looking for patterns for doll dresses -- something that could be made easily but still had the flavor of the flamenco.  We actually found a pattern, and I dug through my box of fabrics to find material to make both a dress and a mantilla.  We found some coordinating fabric, but it wasn't really doing it for us.  Celia kept searching, and found a doll skirt made out of a sock.  EUREKA!!  If we pulled the sock up higher, it could be a dress bodice.

Another search, and we found a perfect dress to emulate.


I dug back through the fabric bin, and found a remnant of bright red material -- if memory serves, it's cast off from a pirate costume from when one of the big boys were preschoolers. (Ok, so I may have a slight tendency toward pack-rat-ism, but it totally paid off, so it's all good, right?) Celia ran off in search of a black sock and a doll.  At this point, I was willing to sacrifice a pair to avoid a trip out, but she managed to find one in the "Can't Find My Mate" bin, so it was all good.

We cut off the toe of the sock and shimmied American Girl of the Year Saige into it.  (Saige was the chosen one because she had the longest hair of all of Celia's dolls.) It was a little short, but we only needed a bodice, so worked. We started wrapping the red fabric around the doll, pinning and tucking. The first plan was to figure out how long the layers needed to be, unwrap the doll, and sew a skirt. However, once we were done, we decided not to mess with it -- it looked good the way it was.  We added a few more pins for security, and moved on to the most important part of any dress - accessories!

To complete the project, it needed to include a clock with moveable hands, and the words ¿Qué hora es?  We headed back to search for inspiration.  Celia discovered that the Sevillanas, another Spanish folk dance style, used castanets. Aha!  While a doll-sized castanet wouldn't hold a clock that could be seen more than twelve inches away, a construction paper-sized one could be.  She took some poetic (choreographic?) license, and made a set of large castanets, and attached the clock to them.

A ladies' fan also appeared to be a common accessory.  While we couldn't find any reference to it being traditional to a specific dance, it became necessary for our bailarina, if only to hold the required labeling.  Dad got in on the action here. Not trusting Mom with power tools (probably wise considering the damage I can do with a hand-held screwdriver),  he patiently drilled holes in craft sticks while Celia printed and colored this template onto card stock.  (No, it's not traditionally Spanish, but it had the right spirit and size.)  Some tape and some clear hair elastics, and Celia's dancer was nearly ready.

You can see in the picture above that Saige is a hot mess.  Celia combed her hair out, and braided and rolled it into a side chignon.  We secured it with a pair of Lilla Rose U-Pins.  To keep some of the gypsy flavor of the flamenco, Saige's earrings were swapped for a pair of gold hoops.  Finally, the pictures of dancers we found showed the ladies wearing either matching or black heels. Despite a wardrobe that I thought could rival a Kardashian, black shoes apparently weren't among the racks of her dolls' armoire.  At the last minute, Celia found some gold sandals that actually coordinated nicely with the fan, earrings, and hair pins. Perfect!

¿Qué hora es?  It's time for a nap!  (And to tidy up the fabric bin for the next ransacking!)

©2012- 2016 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Home School in the Woods: Ancient Greece (A Homeschool Review Crew Review)

Jude's favorite subject has been American history.  Before he could read well, he used to love watching a particular animated history video series, and it was wonderful to see him develop a love of learning history.   Damien has had a lot of exposure to American history over the past few summers. I have always enjoyed history, and have come to see it from a new perspective since I began homeschooling.  The roots of the American story can be found all the way back in the lives of the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, and when we were given the opportunity to work with HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Greece from Home School in the Woods, I thought it would be a great opportunity to delve into the past and study this ancient civilization.

Home School in the Woods combines hands-on activities with narrative text and therefore suits multiple learning styles.  The program is both Mac and PC compatible, and available in both CD and digital download formats (we received the digital version).  The program's core combines text reading, and notebooking/lapbooking elements, creative writing, dramatized audio recordings, and recipes based on traditional foods to create a unique program.   The base program contains 25 lessons, called "stops," that can be completed in as little as one day (I'd recommend this only for older students) or over the course of three to five days (we averaged about 30 minutes, three times a week).  It also includes an extensive list of supplemental resources (related books, videos, etc.) that can be added to the program. The Ancient Greece program is intended for students in grades 3 through 8, but it could easily be a quarter or semester program for a high schooler (see below). that you know about the program, I'll answer the question of "How did it work for your family?"

The short answer: It didn't, because the things that make it sound so great actually made it really, really overwhelming for Jude and Damien.

The long answer:

First, the printing.  We have used programs from Home School in the Woods in the past, and I admit that we didn't follow printing directions precisely.  There is a lot of single page printing, paper switching, etc. involved, and it's tedious.  When Luke worked on their Time Travelers series, I handed him the CDs and said "Go to town!" and he did.  He tended to print things out all at once, and then just adjust along the way.  I decided I was going to follow the printing directions exactly.

Unless you happen to have reams of cardstock on hand (we ultimately used one ream of brightly colored and one of a natural/cream color), binders, file folders, etc. this project can get pricey fast.  The program itself retails for $33.95 (download), but supplies can quickly double the cost.  It's also nearly 300 pages of printing, per student.  I initially planned to have Jude (grade 4) work on this, but of course, Damien (grade 2) decided he wanted to be in on the action as well.  That's a lot of paper and ink.  (For two students, we would have used even more if we had printed everything at once, rather than a few lessons at a time.  If we had completed the entire project, it would have taken us into a second ream of each, so don't count on two students sharing a single package).  It's also a lot of "print one page, switch papers, print the next, switch again."  Setting up the boys' binders took an afternoon of focused effort on printing, cutting/hole punching, laminating, assembling...

I'm not opposed to investing time in a program, but after two hours of just printing and sorting, I was going cross-eyed.  This is definitely not a grab-and-go curriculum.  There is incredible attention to organization and detail (a pro for the program) that consumed more time than was practical for our family.  Even I was saying, "Are we done yet?"

Second, the text was really hard for the boys.  I decided that I didn't mind Damien hanging out/following along with us -- I figured he'd learn what he could absorb, but it wasn't a big deal if he only got half of what he was presented with. I expected it to be too much for him.  Jude is reading close to grade level, so I felt being the "low middle" of the grade level, Jude would be challenged but not overpowered.  However, as much as he was excited to learn about the Ancient Greeks, he really struggled when it was time to learn.  The program is designed for students as young as 3rd grade, but he'd have to be an extremely advanced 3rd grader for this to be successful.   Using an online text leveler, I found the text averaged above an 8th-grade reading level -- well beyond his 4th to 5th-grade reading level.

 The lessons became more of a cut-and-paste "busy project" than learning about who and where you were adding to the maps and timeline.   I spent so much time saying, "Slow down, read that first!" and re-reading passages when it was clear what I had said sailed right over their heads.  I think it had so much information that it was too much to retain.  The strength of the text is a reason why I think this program could be used with older students.  This passage is written beyond a grammar school level.  (At a lesson a day, the 25 stops would take about five weeks, or just shy of a single quarter term.  With the addition of a literature component (biographies, Greek myths, etc.),  it would easily fill a semester with an in-depth study.  Home School in the Woods is also planning an Ancient Rome program, with an anticipated release date in 2018.  These, combined with their Middle Ages/Renaissance programs, could create a credit worthy World History program.)

Finally, this was a really difficult program for me to wrap my head around.  While the files for each section were well organized -- one folder for the binder/lapbook PDFs, one for the text, one with the audio stories, etc. -- it didn't have a whole lot of "flow" to it.

There was a Master Itinerary, but each day, I felt like I was always searching for the right page, the right file.  While the directions have you print out the entire timeline and pages to fill it in at the beginning, every day was a hunt for "What page? What pocket is it in?"  There were a few pages that were half cut apart and inadvertently got swept into the recycle bin with all of the cutaway scraps.  Completing that lesson meant stopping, finding the correct page, and then printing yet again.

Each day had a notebook activity and a lapbook activity.  It seemed like we spent ten minutes learning and forty cutting and gluing.  We've enjoyed lapbooking in the past, but they were very simple books - a bit of paper folding, fill it in, and glue it down.  We had no choice but to cut/paste pre-printed information - there simply wasn't enough space to copy.

I felt like a broken record, repeating, "Slow down, read that first!"  Not copying also kept them from making that read-and-written connection.

Although it did not work for us, I do feel this there is good quality in the content of this program. It just was "too much program" for our family.  This was a lot more intricate and fussy than our past lap books, and the reading content too packed.  I've learned that the KISS principle -- Keep It Simple, Silly -- definitely applies when you're working with short attention spans, limited fine motor skills, and trying to juggle multiple students simultaneously.   HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Greece is a program that I think would be better suited to older students who have more patience.

To learn more about the programs that the Crew reviewed (Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt, The Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation), check out Home School in the Woods on social media, or click the banner below:


HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study Reviews

©2012- 2016 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Monday, February 13, 2017

It's finally the first day of spring (training)!

Our family will mark the year with four seasons, but we follow a slightly different calendar.  We celebrate Spring Training, Baseball, World Series, and Waiting for Spring Training.  Last spring, when I told Luke had to write a research paper on any American pop culture topic.  After touring the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and Graceland, I thought he'd choose music styles.  Nope -- he chose Baseball.

And what is a Coast-to-Coast tour of America without a ball game?  It took us a few batters to remember that while we were still rooting for the team in red and white, they were the Cardinals.  (Celia let out a few "Let's go, Phillies!!" out of habit.)

We couldn't wait for "Waiting for Spring Training" to be over to celebrate baseball.  We toured Yankee Stadium over Thanksgiving Weekend to get our baseball fix.

It was cold, but we were content. We could wait a little longer for the Phillies.

Today is the first day of Spring Training -- it's Pitchers and Catchers Day! It's not quite the traditional  "Charge Theme," but Jude chose a pretty good piano piece to practice today: Baseball Days.

Damien's ready to root for the home team, too.  Even if I'm being a meanie and making him do his math first.  Math is important -- how else are you going to be able to figure out a pitcher's ERA, or how many more home runs until your favorite player is the all-time leader?

 Happy Spring (Training) to our friends!  Go Phillies!

©2012- 2016 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

If you give a kid a math problem...

Food allergies take over your life. We're currently working on a new review -- a unit on Money from Math Mammoth.  As we started, I felt Damien was far enough in his usual curriculum (Math U See Beta) to tackle it, but today I discovered he was a little short on subtraction skills when he realized he couldn't subtract five from one, but knew that 55 was less than 71.  Today's crash course: borrowing.

This problem needed only "single" borrowing.  When Jude was learning to borrow, I tried to explain it sixteen ways to Sunday until I finally hit on something concrete that was important to him -- food.  I went with that example first this time and explained borrowing by saying "I asked you to give me five cookies, but you only have one.  You need to borrow some from somebody else so you can give me five.  You can go to Jude and say, 'Hey, do you have any extra cookies I can borrow?'  Here, the five borrows from the seven..."  Damien got it right away.

A page later, he was trying to subtract 78 cents from a dollar - or 100 cents.  He couldn't borrow from the tens place, because that had a zero.  Back to the cookie analogy: Damien needed to give me cookies, but had none. He tries to borrow from Jude, but HE has none. Jude has to borrow from Matthew, then give Damien some of what was borrowed.  I could only laugh at Damien's response: "I kinda get it, but you can't eat his kind, you're allergic. Shouldn't Jude to borrow from Dad since you have the same allergies? "

Point, Damien.

He then pointed out he didn't have any cookies to lend me to start with -- could we make his kind of cookies?  Well played, kid.   We searched and found a recipe from Blissful Basil that looked re-workable.  The lesson of the day?  If you give a kid a math problem, he's probably going to want a cookie to go with it.

Oatmeal Sunbutter Cookies

1 cup Sunbutter (sunflower seed butter)
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract*
1 cup oat flour**
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup coconut milk + 1 tsp vinegar or lemon juice***

Ingredient notes:

*Since vanilla extract isn't on our safe list, we used 2 tsp. of 896 Aged Gold Rum.  It's aged in oak barrels, so it gives it a vanilla undertone, extracts alcohol-soluble flavors, and adds moisture.

**If you don't have oat flour in your pantry, pulse 1 cup quick-cook oats in a blender or food processor until flour-y.

***Either option tastes fine, but do not omit unless you are planning to eat them all immediately.  The dough needs to be slightly acidic so that the sunflower seed butter doesn't react with any unused backing soda, or else the cookies may turn green if kept overnight.  They're perfectly safe to eat, but it can be a little disconcerting.


Preheat oven to 350*F.

Cream together the sunflower seed butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy - about 3-4 minutes with a stand or hand mixer.

Add in vanilla extract and stir to combine.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the oat flour, baking soda, and salt.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the sugar mix. Mix on low until combined, then add milk.  Continue mixing until the liquid has been absorbed.

Portion dough onto cookie sheets in about 1 tablespoon drops.  (We used a small (#40) ice cream disher.) If you use a spoon, roll the dough into balls.

Slightly flatten the tops with a fork, if desired, to get the traditional "criss-cross" pattern like on a peanut butter cookie.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are slightly browned.

Somebody wanted to make sure none of the cookies got "borrowed" before he had a chance to eat them.

Cool on cookie sheet for 5-10 minutes so the structure can set.  (If you move them too quickly, they will fall apart.) Transfer to a cooling rack until completely cool.

Store lightly covered (if you have any that aren't eaten!).

©2012- 2016 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Strawberry Marshmallow Poppers

Before Jude started adventuring, I had a "family" blog.  It was back when Facebook was for just college students, and a blog was a good way to simultaneously update lots of family members about the kids, without worrying who I forgot to tell a story to and who I was boring with the ninth rendition of the same story.   As I read back over some old postings, I saw these treats.  Of course, Celia was reading over my shoulder, so now she wants me to make them again.  I'm so grateful for how far we've come -- when I first shared this post, she only had two safe foods, and now she's up to ten! This is one of her latest creations -- bacon sandwiched between oatmeal banana pancakes slathered with sunflower seed butter.  We've been calling it the "Allergic Elvis."

I think one of most wearing parts of being the parent of a food-allergic kid (POFAK, for short), is constantly feeling like I'm in the kitchen.  There are a lot of great ready-to-eat options out there if you're only dealing with one or two allergens.  For example, Luke can't have peanuts, Neal can't eat anything with gluten,  and I can't have shellfish or wheat.  They're common allergies, and while they may cross things off the list to eat, trust me, the padding on my rear end isn't suffering any!! As we go through the family, the product list gets smaller; avoiding milk AND soy AND nuts knocks a lot of things out for Jude and Matthew.  And then we get to Celia and Damien, whose "can have" list fits on the back of a business card.  We've slowly added a few pre-packaged foods, but for the most part, if we want to eat, somebody has to be in the kitchen.  Needing to work around food allergies is a major reason why I am insisting that the kids take cooking courses as they get older.  Not just "learn to cook a recipe," but learn the science of cooking so they can take apart and rebuild recipes, and technique to skillfully change up a dish's presentation.  Sometimes the difference between "This again???" and "Wow, that looks interesting!" is cutting a sweet potato into matchstick julienne instead of cubes.

With food allergies, sometimes the hard part is making feeling "normal," and having food that doesn't LOOK like it's "allergy food."  Many of us joke that it's like spinning gold out of straw...or sometimes, spinning gold out of thin air!  Parties can be hard for food-allergic kids.  They want treats, too!  For Celia's birthdays, we've had cakes made out of cotton candy, and even a marshmallow molded into an Olaf. Back when we only had two foods to work with, I was making a fruit tray with dip for a Christmas party, and she wanted to know if I could make strawberries with "her kind" of dip.


So me and my buddy Google got down to business. Most marshmallow fluff recipes call for eggs. They are something she has "normal" allergies to -- they can trigger anaphylaxis and kill her.  Not gonna work.  Searching for "Vegan Marshmallow Fluff" (inherently egg free) got lots of ideas, but all containing foods she can't have, especially soy.  That "only" triggers GI bleeding...yeah, I think we'll skip that too.  I was starting to give up hope.  One last search and I was going to have to tell her that she might have to choose one or the other.   I entered "Egg Free Marshmallow Fluff recipe" and found this.  It wasn't "fluff" -- it was a whoopie pie filling.  But it was a workable recipe.  Cue the choir of Christmas angels!

I started subbing foods in my head as I read the ingredient list.  Gelatin -- Pork-based gelatin (Knox brand) is safe for us.  Water, check.  Maple syrup...not safe, but we can use Lyle's Golden Syrup instead.  Vanilla isn't a safe flavoring, but plain rum is, as is Crystal Diamond Kosher salt.  We could make this work.  (Or destroy the kitchen trying.)

Faux Fluff:

1 envelope gelatin
1/4 cup water

Mix together and microwave for 30 seconds.  Pour to mixer bowl.  Add:

1/2 c. golden syrup
1/2 tsp rum
1/4 tsp salt

Start mixing.  Mix on high speed for 10-12 minutes to create the marshmallow.

After 2-3 minutes, you can see the sugar turning fluffy.

By golly...after 12 minutes, we have a soft marshmallow-type thing going.  This may work after all!  (The difference between this and "regular" marshmallows is stopping while the marshmallow is still warm and soft -- think the difference between soft and firm peaks with either whipping cream or egg whites.)

Celia came wandering in at this point.  She decided it needed inspection by a "Quality Control" officer.  She deemed it "perfect."

Ok, now for the real test. Everybody's seen the whipped cream-and-strawberry Santas making the rounds on Pinterest.  Could I make THOSE happen??  I scooped some of our wannabe fluff into a zip-top bag, snipped the corner, and started filling cored strawberries.  (Cut the green/tops off a strawberry, slice of a little bottom so they stand up, and core out a little of the berry to stuff with fluff.  If you're making Santas, use the lopped-off point for your hat.  If you're not, put them in a bowl and snack.)

Verdict: they sort of are possible.  I think if I was filling them and serving immediately, yes the Santa-hat-option would work.  But the few test ones I made started to have the tops slip-siding after an hour in the fridge -- I think between from the marshmallow setting in the cold and the sugar in the fluff, it was almost macerating the berries from the inside,  I didn't think they'd hold overnight.  In the end, I made filled strawberries, they just didn't have caps on them.  Celia was good with that, and they held up fine as "Strawberry Poppers".

She decided she wanted to fill a couple.

 And decorate the sides. The more marshmallow, the merrier!

And eat them on the spot, of course.

See that face stuffed full of a special treat?  Yeah, it's worth the work.  Rumpelstiltskin ain't got NOTHING on a POFAK.

©2012- 2016 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Five Years of Homeschooling

"Long days, short years," is an axiom that is often used to describe child-raising. I think it applies to homeschooling as well.  There are days when I think "Aren't we done YET??" and yet it's hard to believe that we've been at this for five years!

When we started five years ago, the original plan was for Jude to be homeschooled for a year, maybe two, and go back to a traditional setting by second grade.  I think we could also apply "Man plans, God laughs!" to our lives, too.  Not only did it take Jude until 3rd grade to figure out how to read (and he's still playing catch-up in some areas), but a year later, the little homeschool jokingly dubbed "Adventure Academy" doubled in both size and school levels -- high schooler Luke became our second student.  I remember thinking "I don't need to worry about upper grades, Jude will be back in school soon, and anyway, he's only in Kindergarten, what" and suddenly I was eyeball deep in Algebra.  Yikes!  Now, Luke has graduated (but hasn't wanted to give up field tripping), Matthew and Damien are part of our group, and it's possible that Celia will be joining us in a year.  I'm guessing we're going to be at this for a while.  

After five years, I can't say I'm sure I know what I'm doing, but I'm more confident in what I'm doing.  My friend Cristi still gets frantic texts asking her input, but at least now they're narrowed down to "Help! Do I want Program A or B?" instead of "I need to teach that, too???" We've begun our fourth year with the Homeschool Review Crew (formerly called Schoolhouse Crew Review), so we've kick-tested a few hundred programs between reviews and our own trial and error.  I've definitely learned that what works for one family doesn't work for everyone.  (Ask me about the traumatic disaster that was Five in a Row.)  We've even come back to repeat some programs that we used in the past, like Apologia's Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day -- we've moved on from the Junior notebook to the big kid version.

I've also learned that no matter how much space you have, you will grow into it.  We started with the dining room table and a sideboard to pile books on, but by now we've taken over most of a wall of shelves and the playroom in the basement has been repurposed into a school room.

But we're not relegated to the basement for learning. We've done lots of field trips. We've driven to 45 out of 48 continental states -- we ran out of time to visit Washington and Oregon on our trip last summer, and somehow we missed Rhode Island on our New England tour.  Luke may have graduated, but he hasn't wanted to give up field tripping.  He joined us on our last trip, traveling from Wildwood Crest, NJ to Coronado, CA, and has requested to be included if we ever make it to Rhode Island.  Some trips we've done just the kids and me, while others we've been able to go as a family.  When I was wavering on a vacation to Key West, Neal bribed me: "There's a National Park accessible only from there."  Pack the car!

I've always loved learning about American History and discovered I loved teaching it just as much. Homeschooling has allowed us to plan our curriculum around field trips.  It's one thing to read about NASA's history, but I have to admit, it's kind of cool to sit in the same room as the people who launched rockets into space.

Speaking of "other planets," we even got to visit Crater of the Moon National Monument.  That was worth the drive!  Leaving Mom (with a broken toe) and excess gear at a hastily created "base camp" (they parked me with my foot up on the bench!), Neal herded an expedition to the top of the remnants of one of the crater-creating volcanoes.  Idaho is definitely somewhere we wouldn't have even thought about visiting without having homeschooled!

Homeschooling wasn't something we really planned on.  I am the first to admit it hasn't been the "everyday is wonderful and you'll never regret it!" experience some sell it as.  Some days...well, let's just say that most days are good days, but not all -- and my kids don't seem to do things by halves.  Some days, it's hard. REALLY hard.  In addition to learning how to homeschool, we've had to let go of many preconceived notions and even more resentful feelings.  However, I'm glad we had the opportunity.  Five years seemed impossible -- at the start, five months to the end of the current school year was daunting!   I've learned so much in the past five years -- I can't begin to imagine what the next five will teach us, but I'm sure there will be plenty to learn!

©2012- 2016 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Chocolate Chip Cookies as easy as 1-2-3!

I admit it. I love baking, but I dread getting out all the measuring spoons, all the little containers...  Sometimes, I give up (my hips thank me), but that doesn't make me want them any less.

One day, when I was making pancakes, I looked at the back of the Bisquick box and thought, "You know, if I can make all these with this, and I know I can use it for baking a cake, why not cookies?" So I tried it, and these came out of my oven.

They were so easy, and FAST!  Don't they look great?  They were in the oven in under 5 minutes (and out in 10)! No measuring out a little bit of everything, or making a huge powdered mess on the counter.  Then, I realized that the ratio of ingredients made it really easy to remember the recipe:

1 cup margarine (or butter)
2 cups sugar
3 cups baking mix

Yes, there are a few other things, but "two eggs" is easy to remember.  (It's not like you have to actually measure the egg.) Sure, you can measure the chocolate chips, but I usually just rip open the bag and dump it all in.  I mean, you can't have too much chocolate. Ever.  And I never measure vanilla. I guess if you felt compelled to, you could measure a teaspoon or two, but I just slosh a little in and call it good.  (I also made these on vacation recently - using baking mix is perfect because then you don't need to pack all the "just a teaspoon" things.  I did skip the vanilla as I didn't have that, either, but I don't think anybody noticed - they still disappeared awfully fast.)

A few hints:

 -If you're making them with gluten free Bisquick, 3 cups is one box.  Since I only bake gluten free (so it doesn't matter who grabs a cookie), it's even faster -- the only thing to measure is the sugar! (1 cup margarine is two sticks.)

-Make sure you're using an "all purpose" baking mix, and not "just add water" pancake mix.  That has leavening and other extras in it.  If you're feeling brave, you could try it, but I'm not guaranteeing anything.  I'd just make chocolate chip pancakes instead.

-If you want to make these without eggs, that's not a problem.  Substitute 1/4 cup of applesauce or other fruit puree. If you want "don't bother measuring" cookies, use a single-serve applesauce cup.

1-2-3 Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
splash of vanilla (optional)
3 cups all-purpose baking mix (ie, Bisquick)
1 bag (about 10 oz) chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Line baking sheets with no-stick foil or parchment paper, if desired.

Cream the butter and the sugar together until pale and fluffy.  Add the egg (or applesauce) and mix thoroughly.

Add the baking mix and stir until combined.

Fold in the chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto the baking sheet.  You can fit between 9 and 12 cookies on a sheet, depending on how large you make them.   I usually use a #40 disher scoop, which is about a tablespoon and a half's worth of dough, and put 9 to a sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are slightly browned.

Remove from oven, and allow to cool on the tray for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to finish.

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