Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Favorite Books for Two/Three Year Olds

Last year around this time I posted "My Favorite Baby/Toddler Books" post summarizing those books both me and my toddler loved to read everyday and hoping it helps other new moms in their quest of good books to start their little ones with. And here is a sequel to that a year later!

My daughter is now three years old and she still loves to read many books from "My Favorite Baby/Toddler Books" post however her focus has now changed from me reading to her to she "reading" to me or she reading to her various toys at their respective bedtimes :)

Now a days she loves three types of books: 1) baby/toddler books which she can "read" by herself (knows the story by heart or can follow from pictures) 2) interactive books, exercise books or craft books 3) books I read to her at night-time with a more advanced plot, preferably animal family based plots.

So here are our latest Two/Three year old favorite books:

Blue Hat, Green Hat still remains our favorite book. It's a very simple and cute story and also the first book my daughter attempted to read on her own. The story is really simple, there is a silly turkey who can not seem to put his clothes in right order, so the line goes something like "blue hat, green hat, red hat, oops". First three are three animal friends who have put their hats correctly, oops refers to this turkey who puts his hat on feet! and so it goes... We love all Boynton books, but this is our favorite!

Image source: Goodreads.com
Mary Englebreit's Nursery Tales: A collection of classics. This is our go-to for bedtime reading.. it has all the classic nursery stories such as three little pigs, Goldilocks and three bears, city mouse and country mouse, Hansel and Gretel, The Little Red Girl and many more! What sets this book apart is the simple language, no difficult words or long sentences and large pictures on each page together makes us turn to this book night after night for over six months now!

Image source: Goodreads.com
Curious George Discovery Day is a great activity book covering basic colors (mixing colors), shapes, alphabets, numbers, sounds, senses etc in a very interactive manner. Every time my daughter opens this book she is lost in it for atleast half an hour! A great discovery book for younger ones!
Image credit: Goodreads.com

Hooray For Fish is a very cute book about a baby fish which introduces us to all her fishy friends. Besides being an eye treat with bold colors and pictures, kids also learn the use of adjectives in an easy and fun setting!
In this age of Amazon, individual family owned booksellers are quite a rarety; this book was a personal recommendation from one such family owned store's owner.

Honey Rabbit is another keeper! I have been reading it to her since she was a few months old and we still love this book all the same. It's about a baby rabbit who asks his Dad what spring is. His Dad suggests he take a walk outside and see it for himself. The book is about the discoveries honey rabbit while asking all his friends what spring is. It's a hard to find book but an absolute treasure..

We love to do crafts together. Not only it occupies kids for hours at a time but they also learn to be creative and develop an aptitude for arts and design. I'll be honest we haven't found many good kids craft books here in US, though internet is a great resource full of good ideas. We went to India recently and my parents bought some Vikas craft books for her. I found this craft series the best I have seen so far - we brought the whole set back with us. It includes drawing and painting, paper cutting and making paper designs and origami. I don't really know if these are available in US but this craft series is really good and our running favorite!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Happy Pumpkin Cookies

We made these happy pumpkin cookies for a Halloween party we hosted for our daughter and her friends and the kids and adults alike loved it! 

You need a cookie cutter shaped like pumpkin which are readily available in supermarkets or craft stores during Halloween time or you can always order online. Just be sure to buy a large size cutter so it's easier to decorate pumpkin face and eyes, particularly for cookie novices like me :)

I started off with making a simple sugar cookie dough using this Allrecipes recipe. Then roll the cookie dough to 1/4inch thick and cut pumpkin shaped cookies. Bake them as per the directions and when ready take out of oven.

You need to decorate the cookies while they are still warm. So while the cookies are baking, you can arrange your decorating supplies. I used:
  1. Orange decorating icing from a tube (was red actually which is what I had on hand from previous baking but orange would be ideal)
  2. Green sparkle gel in a tube which has a small opening which is ideal for decoration or writing (as in the picture).
  3. Sugar eyes (available at supermarkets or craft stores in baking aisle)
  4. A small non serrated knife for spreading the icing.

Then take a small amount of red icing from tube onto the knife. Spread carefully on the cookie covering every portion evenly (just like you would spread cream cheese on a bagel)

Then using the green icing carefully draw the pumpkin veil and leaves. Attach two eyes on red icing and draw a smiley using green icing.

Set aside to dry for a few hours. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Gingerbread Cookies without Molasses

What is a Christmas without house smelling like cinnamon, sugar and spices! Every year on Christmas day morning my daughter and I bake cookies at home. Nothing extravagant, just simple cookies. I make the dough and roll it and my daughter cuts various shapes using cookie cutters and then we together bake them and feast!

Last year we made sugar cookies and decorated with lots of icing and colored sugar sprinkles. But I was always so guilty letting my daughter eat those cookies because they were so sugar laden! So this year I decided to keep it simple and as much healthy as possible, so skipped the icing and decoration and settled on a basic gingerbread cookies recipe.

But then came the next hurdle; every gingerbread cookies recipe I came across called for Molasses. We did not have any on hand and of-course stores are all closed on Christmas day. I have made the gingerbread cookies many years ago and I remembered from then that they were quite versatile. So taking a leap of faith we decided to modify the recipe on the spot hoping the results, even if won't pass a critic's true gingerbread taste, would be delicious enough all the same for our friends and family to enjoy through holidays :)

The cookies came out delicious and two days after making them we are already halfway through the cookie jar so that speaks for itself!

1.5C all purpose flour
1/2C sugar (our cookies were not very sweet, which is how we like them, but if you desire sweet cookies, up the sugar to 3/4C)
6Tbsp butter - softened at room temp
1Tbsp vegetable oil
1.5tsp dry ginger powder (I did not have dry ginger at hand, so used fresh ginger instead, grated 2.5tsp)
1tsp cinnamon powder
1/4tsp nutmeg
1/4tsp crushed cloves (~3)
6 cardamoms - crushed
1/4tsp salt
1 small egg
2tsp vanilla extract
1tsp baking powder
1/2tsp baking soda
flour to dust and roll

Prepare the dough:

  1. Mix the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices (including ginger if using dry ginger), salt.
  2. In a large pot or a standing mixer, add softened butter cut into cubes, oil and sugar. Using hand mixer or standing mixer, beat the butter and sugar until well mixed
  3. Then add egg, vanilla powder and ginger (if using fresh ginger) and beat together.
  4. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet and keep mixing until a dough forms.
  5. Remove from mixer and make a dough ball together using hand
  6. Cover in a plastic wrap and let it sit in fridge for upto few hours (4-6) to overnight.
On the day of baking:
  1. Preheat oven to 375F
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Remove dough from fridge and let sit for a couple of mins.
  4. Divide dough into two.
  5. Liberally flour a rolling surface and roll each dough ball into 1/4inch thick sheet
  6. Using cookie cutters of your choice, cut small cookies and transfer them on cookie sheet.
  7. Bake for 10-12 mins, remove sooner for soft cookies, later for crunchy.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Healthy Veggie Pizza (?!)

Generally speaking pizza and healthy are not the two words found complementing each other often. Pizza is decidedly an indulge for many of us - something to cave in on a Friday night along-with a movie and a coke/beer. But it really does not need to be so - you can make your pizza every week and eat it too (yes even weekday nights) without the guilt!

The trick is to make it at home so you can control the ingredients without compromising the flavors. Using whole wheat pizza dough, moderate amount of skimmed milk cheese and loading it with lots and lots of veggies will all help with the brownie points..

I have been making this veggie pizza for quite a long time now. What I like most about this recipe is that it is filled with short cuts, all will save time here and there without compromising the taste. Also it's very versatile, the choices of toppings are endless so don't let what's not in your pantry deter you from putting together what would be certainly a delightful home-made meal.

I love many things Trader Joe's but their pizza dough ranks my top 10! They come in three varieties, plain, whole wheat and whole wheat with herbs. The herb dough is my favorite - the dough itself is so tasty and I like the rosemary-thyme herb combo they flavor it with.

You don't need any special tools other than your oven but if you become a pizza regular, I strongly recommend investing in a pizza stone.I own this from Amazon which was a gift from a friend though there are quite a few inexpensive options here. All you need to do is keep pizza stone in oven while you preheat the oven so it gets nice and toasty and can crust the pizza nicely. Then place pizza to cook on the heated stone - the stone will give it an amazing crust!

1 Trade Joe's pizza dough (I like the whole wheat or herb)
(1 dough makes 2 medium size pizza, below recipe will make enough for 2 medium pizza)
2 large juicy tomato -cubed
1 clove of garlic - grated
mozzarella cheese (grated or sliced)
(I buy skimmed milk cheese slices, and use 1 slice per medium pizza, but you can use more per taste)
whole wheat flour for rolling the dough
1Tbsp cornmeal (optional)
1/2tsp sugar
olive oil

Topping (some or all of below):
1/2 red or yellow paper - sliced
1 tomato - sliced in circular slices
handful of onion slices
mushrooms - sliced
thinly sliced ribbons of spinach
small Japanese eggplants - sliced thin
thinly sliced basil leaves

Remove the dough from fridge and keep on counter nearly 30 mins before you want to cook.

Make a quick marinana sauce - heat olive oil in a small pan. Add garlic, when fragrant add chopped tomatoes. Then add salt to taste and sugar. Let cook on low heat for 10-15 mins until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and let the sauce cool on counter while you prep pizza.

Pre-heat oven to 500F with pizza stone on topmost rack. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Divide the dough into two balls. Add liberal amount of floor to the ball so it's pliable. Sprinkle some cornmeal on the parchment paper which helps with sliding pizza and also adds a nice crunch (optional)

Drizzle some olive oil and sprinkle flour on parchment paper. Add the dough and gently start rolling the dough with your fingers in circular motion. If this is your first time rolling your own dough, check out these helpful videos on youtube covering basic techniques.

Add some olive oil or more flour as needed while rolling. Make sure to leave a little crust towards the edges. Roll as thin as you can without ripping it for a thin crust.

Then brush olive oil on the crust and insides. Add thin layer of marinana sauce on top (about half the sauce you made). Add cheese then top with all the veggies.

Bake for 20mins +/-2mins depending on oven/how crunchy you like the pizza to be. Remove and let sit for 5 mins. Cut into slices and serve!

Copyright and Disclaimer

This page and all of its contents is copyright of Prajakta Gudadhe. All rights reserved.

This is a web catalog of the recipes that I have tried and tasted in my kitchen. While these recipes and instructions have worked well for me, please use all the information and the recipes from Ginger and Garlic at your own risk.