Category Archives: sensory activities

Kid Food: Salty Pretzel Dogs & Sweet Coconut Soup

IMG_5144[2]What’s more kid friendly than a cooking project that doubles as dinner?  In my book, nothing.  Tonight we had pretzel dogs with coconut squash soup.  The mix of the sweet soup with the salty dog was divine enough to keep my taste buds happy while also providing that added mix of comfort.  Comfort food – yay!

Creating this perfectly simple dinner is even more fun when you hit rewind.  It all started with making the pretzel dough.  (Sorry friends, yes, I am still obsessing about pretzels).  B and CJ were involved from this point on.  The ingredients are few and simple.  The process provides short bursts at a time that are perfect for the attention span of my active brutes.

There is activating the yeast. Pouring, stirring and waiting for bubbles.  Each part captivating for young chefs.  Next there is creating the dough.  Followed by kneading.  Then, letting the dough rise.  Followed by shaping.  If your lil ones are playdough junkies, then they’ll love this. Why not make a pretzel in the shape of their favorite animal or superhero?

Frankly B’s favorite part was shaping the pretzels; whereas CJ’s was tasting everything.  Ahh yes, I’m proud to say he gets it from me.

While you are letting the dough rise, throw a pumpkin, preferably kabocha or a butternut squash in the oven and let it cook.  You can later use the baked pumpkin or squash to create a yummy soup.

Want to try it out? Here’s my adaptation of the Pretzel bite recipe.  Thank you Epicurious for getting me started on this!

Pretzel Dough

  • 1 cup warm water (100° to 110°F)
  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter melted
  • oil for bowl

Hot dogs

  • Will make 6 bun length hot dogs or 8 shorter ones

Baking Pretzels

  • 8 cups water
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • kosher salt

Squash Soup

  • 1 kobacha pumpkin or butternut squash
  • 1 can of light coconut milk

Making the Dough

Add yeast to water.  Make sure the water is the right temperature.  Mix.  Add the sugar.  Let sit until yeast is activated.  You’ll know when it is frothy and bubbly.  If it doesn’t bubble, then toss it out and start over.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix.  Then, four a work surface.  Knead dough until elastic.  This takes a few minutes.  It’s great for little hands.  But be forewarned that this is fun, yet messy process.
Frankly I loved the impromptu visitor while I was in the middle of this.  Coated in flour and sticky hands – yes, my kitchen and I (not to mention the boys) were in quite a state.
I digress.  After the dough is elastic, get out a bowl or a larger tubberware – lightly coat in in oil.  I use Canola or Olive Oil.  place dough in it, turn it over so it’s coated.  Then cover with a kitchen towel.  Let it rise until it is at least doubled in volume.
Starting the Soup
While the dough is rising, bake your squash.  You can bake it whole if you like, or cut it in half and take out the seeds.  Either way works.  It takes about an hour in an oven at 375 degrees.  You’ll know it is done when the squash is soft.  Once soft, then let sit and cool.
Baking the Dogs
Once it has risen, then (1) preheat the oven to 375 and (2) boil a pot of water with 1/2 cup of baking soda.  If you are making just pretzels, no dogs, then go on to shaping the pretzels.  If you are making pretzel dogs, then roll out the dough, and cut in pieces to cover the hot dogs.  Wrap the hot dogs completely in the dough.
Once all of your dogs are wrapped.  Place them three at a time in the pot of boiling water.  Let them cook there until they rise.  Once they rise, gently remove them and place on a baking sheet coated with nonstick spray or parchment paper.  Dust with salt if ya like.  Repeat for the rest of your dogs.
Once all of your dogs are on the baking sheet, then bake for 30 minutes or until the hot dogs reach at least 160 and the pretzel dough is golden brown.  The dough browns towards the end of the baking process.
Finishing the Soup
While the dogs are baking, then make your soup.  Scoop out the baked squash or pumpkin and put in a pot at a medium temp.  Then add a can of light coconut milk.  Mix with a whisk or an immersion blender.  Cover and let it warm.  Voila – soup!  If it’s too thick for your taste then dilute with a bit of water, cream or milk.  If you want to add more flavor, then consider curry as an fabulous option.
Dish it out and enjoy!
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Creating Crayons

It was one of those mornings.  You know the type, where the boys were up way before the sun.  So, after pulling out all the tricks in the box by 9, it was time for some sort of project to keep those little hands busy and minds occupied.

Looking at the box of broken crayons, an idea came to me.  Eureka, I found it!  Why not let them play with crayons in a way they hadn’t before.  So, like casting out bait to catch a fish, I asked them if they wanted to make crayons.  C grunted and B while bouncing up and down, shouted yes.  The bait worked.IMG_4217

I let them start to try to peel the wrappers off of them.  This task caused more frustration than fun, so I started thinking of other ways to do it.  I thought about soaking them.  A blog post by TimeForPlay assured me that it would work.IMG_4218

After a few minutes of soaking fun – the wrappers magically came off of the crayons.  So, it was onto the next step.  Taking them out of the water.  Both C & B loved this bit of sensory fun.  You should have seen their faces when they discovered that little bits of crayon had decorated their hands.  Pure amusement! It was like Crayon magic.IMG_4220

Then, B lined a mini-muffin tin.  Thank you OurBestBites for the idea.   The boys placed the crayons in the muffin-tins. And, we were well on our way.IMG_4229

After sitting in an oven warmed to 200 degrees, the crayon bits melted.  They cooled.  Such neat little —–crayon masterpieces!  Now, these artistic are B&Cs favorites for making masterpieces of their own.IMG_4239

Jars Jars Jars

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Need a morning activity for the tot(s)?  Well, this has been the biggest hit yet.  Just grab a handful of spice jars and let your little one have fun taking the tops on and off.   You can even use full jars with spices and let them use their sense of smell to match the lids.

Both of my boys can’t seem to get enough of these jars.  They try it individually, and then even do it together.  It’s so telling to watch B teach CJ how to do it.  His patience and sweet nature just shine through.  In addition to learning the Montessori termed practical life skills and developing sensory skills, he’s learning to gently use his communication skills to help out his younger bro.