Dandelion Playdough Invitation-to-Play

lizzie homemaker spring dandelion playdough invitation to play
The dandelions are in full bloom here (thanks to Toronto’s ban of toxic lawn chemicals) and my 4-year-olds absolutely love them. I set out this playdough invitation-to-play and it kept them busy for over an hour!

Dandelions are a perfect flower for kids to explore.  These sunny looking wildflowers grow abundantly in the spring – and kids are allowed to pick them!

They also serve as food for birds (namely goldfinches and house sparrows) and bees, they’re good for soil health, and they’re a nutritious edible plant with promising medicinal uses.

lizzie homemaker spring dandelion playdough invitation to play
This dandelion themed playdough invitation-to-play was a hit with my 4-year-olds. They loved ripping apart the flowers and kneading them into the dough.

Dandelion Playdough

Lately my littles have had a bit of a tough time at school. I thought it would be nice to set out a welcoming playdough invitation-to-play inspired by their favourite spring wildflower. It's a fun activity that helps them relax and work out their stress at the end of the week. To further uplift their mood I added a few drops of essential oils in refreshing citrus scents (a blend of bergamot, orange, lime, grapefruit and lemon).

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 tbsp cream of tartar
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil, such as canola oil
  • yellow food colouring

Directions

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pot or saucepan.
  2. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly for about 4-5 minutes.  The dough will start to pull away from the sides of the pan and should no longer be sticky to the touch.  (If it’s still sticky cook a little longer until it’s not.)
  3. Remove the dough from the pot and allow to cool slightly.  Knead until it’s uniform.
  4. Set out dough with a bunch of fresh dandelions and a variety of textures and tools that invites the children to manipulate and explore the theme in any way they choose.

Store dough in an air-tight container.

DIY Mason Bee House

Lizzie Homemaker diy bee house
This DIY mason bee house is made with inexpensive and recycled materials.

Many people are terrified of bees – and I think it’s a problem.  We need bees!  Pollinators are responsible for 1 in 3 bites of food we eat – and in case you haven’t heard many of them are now endangered.

Want to help save the bees?  Here’s a start:  Raise mason bees in your backyard this spring.

Unlike honeybees, mason bees are native to Canada – and they are better pollinators.  A single mason bee does the pollination work of 60 honey bees.

Mason bees are also a great choice of bee to raise with young children or to introduce in a school environment.  They are passive, gentle bees, with no hive to protect.

They’re only active for about six weeks in the spring so the time frame is ideal for those wanting a limited commitment or the ability to wrap up a project at the beginning of June.

Here’s my how-to build a bee house with kids using inexpensive and recycled items.

Materials

  • a recycled juice/milk carton
  • an empty paper towel roll
  • parchment paper (cut into 6 inch strips)
  • a pencil
  • non-toxic school glue
  • a couple of sticks (about pencil size, cut to 6 inch lengths)
  • string or nylon cable ties
  • acrylic paint (optional)

Instructions

Step #1

Lizzie Homemaker DIY Bee House recycled milk cartonCut end off carton at an angle to create a roof.  This will help protect the nesting tubes from sun and rain.  Paint exterior of carton, if desired, and allow to dry.

Step #2

Lizzie Homemaker DIY Bee House parchment paper nesting tubesLizzie Homemaker DIY Bee House parchment paper nesting tubeTo create nesting tubes, roll piece of parchment paper around a pencil, glue at the end to secure, remove the pencil and allow to dry.  Seal end of parchment nesting tubes by folding, blocking with clay, or you will need to ensure tubes are against the back of the house.

Step #3

Lizzie Homemaker DIY Bee House parchment paper nesting tubesCut paper towel roll to 6 inch length.  Randomly place nesting tubes and cardboard sticks into paper towel roll so they are tight and don’t move around.  (The random sticks will help the bees identify which nesting tube they are currently using.)

Step #4

Lizzie Homemaker diy bee house recycled juice containerPlace paper towel roll in top corner of carton.  Poke a couple holes beside the roll, then thread string or nylon cable ties around tube to secure in place.

You can add multiple rolls and other natural elements such as pine cones and dried flowers.

We also added an empty toilet paper roll covered in parchment paper with a hole cut into it.  We placed our cocoons in there to hatch.

Step #5

Hang your mason bee house at eye level, 4-6 feet from the ground, on a solid surface, like a fence or the side of a building.  One that will receive morning sunlight and not blazing afternoon heat.

Hang the house when temperatures are consistently above 10 degrees Celsius/50 Fahrenheit.

Do not put the home near a birdhouse.  Birds eat bees.  If birds are active in the area you might like to put chicken wire or florist wire over the front of the house for protection.

The bees will need access to spring flowering plants, water and mud or exposed dirt.  If there are no pollinator friendly plants in the area, I suggest you plant some.

Do not use pesticides!

Easy Cherry Scones

Lizzie Homemaker Cherry Scones
These tasty cherry scones are very easy to put together and can be prepped in advance.

Freshly baked scones and a cup of tea are a perfect combination – especially on a cold rainy day.

Easy Cherry Scones

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

I love these cherry and lime scones; a touch of sweet, tart and tangy.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/4 sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 tbsp (3/4 stick) of cold butter, diced
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk or kefir
  • grated zest of one lime
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a food processor, combine flours, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  3. Add butter and pulse until butter forms pea-sized pieces.
  4. Add buttermilk or kefir and lime zest.  Process until just moistened.
  5. Mix in dried cherries.
  6. Flatten dough into an 8 inch disc.  Sprinkle with sugar, if desired.
  7. Cut into 8 wedges, keeping the disc intact.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.  Allow to cool.

Scones are best eaten on the day they are baked.  To make-ahead, simply prep the scones a day in advance, pop them in the fridge (covered in plastic wrap), and bake the day of.

If you don’t have a food processor simply cut the butter into the dry ingredients using a pastry blender, or forks and/or knives.

 

Roasted Cauliflower

lizzie homemaker roasted cauliflower
Roasted cauliflower is infinitely better than boiled cauliflower.  It’s the only way my kids will eat it.

I love roasted cauliflower – and I hate boiled cauliflower.  I think most people are with me on this.

A friend recently told me that she has always wanted to try it but wasn’t sure how to make it.  It’s dead easy.

Roasted Cauliflower

Roasting vegetables on the lower rack of the oven keeps the middle free for bulky main dishes.

Ingredients

  • one head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • half a lemon (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  3. Add cauliflower to pan, drizzle with olive oil, add salt and pepper, toss to coat.
  4. Bake on lower rack for 30-45 minutes, tossing every 15 minutes, until golden brown and tender.
  5. Remove from oven and squeeze lemon on top if desired.

 

Homemade Chocolate Chip Granola

healthy chocolate chip granola recipe homemade lizzie homemaker
This is my family’s go-to granola. I try to ensure that we always have a batch in the cupboard. We love it on Greek yogurt and chia pudding.  It’s also a satisfying snack when you’re standing there in the kitchen and you need a delicious handful of something immediately.

My family is full of chocoholics – including me.  We eat chocolate several times a week and I don’t feel guilty about it.  To me – it’s all about moderation.  We’re a foodie family and I believe enjoying a meal is one of those simple pleasures that should be a part of one’s daily routine.

We rarely eat processed food and, excluding chocolate, we don’t eat a lot of refined sugar and white flour.  This granola is whole-grain, packed with fibre, and much healthier than most of the granolas on the grocery store shelves.  If you have never tried raw buckwheat groats – you should.  They are lovely nutty crunchy little things that are full of protein, fibre and iron.

Homemade Chocolate Chip Granola

This granola is absolutely delicious, easy to make, and keeps for weeks.

Ingredients

DRY

  • 2 cups large rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup raw buckwheat groats
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup raw cacao nibs (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  •  generous pinch of salt

WET

  • 1/4 cup avocado oil (or another neutral flavoured oil)
  • 1/4 cup liquid honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2.  In a medium bowl combine dry ingredients.
  3.  In a small bowl combine wet ingredients, then add to dry ingredients.
  4. Spread the mixture out on the prepared baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through.
  6. Allow to completely cool.

The chocolate chips can easily be swapped out with dried fruit.

Cherry Scented Playdough

Lizzie Homemaker's Cherry Scented Playdough Play Dough
This insanely delicious smelling playdough is so uplifting and inviting. My kids absolutely adore it.

I love you cherry much!

…And so for Valentine’s Day I made you this delicious smelling playdough that is taste-safe (because I know you like to lick playdough behind my back.)

Cherry Scented Playdough

I have one kid that can't resist licking playdough. This recipe is made with kitchen ingredients so I can relax knowing it's safe for her if she sneaks a taste. (That said I am still trying to break her of the habit...)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 tbsp cream of tartar
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil, such as canola oil
  • red food colouring
  • 1/2 tsp cherry flavoring (also known as candy oil)

Directions

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pot or saucepan.
  2. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly for about 3-5 minutes.  The dough will start to pull away from the sides of the pan and should no longer be sticky to the touch.  (If it’s still sticky cook a little longer until it’s not.)
  3. Remove the dough from the pot and allow to cool slightly.  Knead until it’s uniform.

Store dough in an air-tight container.

Candy flavoring (candy flavouring oil, candy oil) can be found at baking supply stores near the extracts.  I have found LorAnn candy oil at both Bulk Barn and Micheals.

 

 

Apple Cinnamon Sweet Potato Muffins

Lizzie Homemaker's Healthy Apple Cinnamon Sweet Potato Muffins
These muffins work well for breakfast, lunch, or snack time. Healthy comfort food that you can grab and go.

Apples and cinnamon are both kid favourites in my house.  Lately my 6-year-old hasn’t been eating her veggies at lunch – and it drives me crazy.  So, I decided I needed to load some veg into her after-school snack.

These muffins are packed with sweet potato, chunks of apple and fragrant cinnamon – and they’re whole grain, too.  An ideal treat to devour on a cold winter’s afternoon.

Healthy Apple Cinnamon Sweet Potato Muffins

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

These whole-grain muffins are delicious - and they're loaded with veg and fibre. Perfect for the lunch box or after-school snack.

Ingredients

DRY

  • 3/4 cup oat bran
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt

ADD-IN

  • one small apple, peeled, diced small (1/2 cup)

WET

  • 1 cup of mashed sweet potato (*see note below for preparing sweet potato)
  • 1/2 cup of yogurt or kefir
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease a muffin tin, or line with baking cups.
  2. In a large bowl combine dry ingredients.
  3. Mix in diced apple.
  4. In medium bowl combine wet ingredients, then add to dry ingredients and mix until just moistened.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool.

*Sweet Potato

Prick a sweet potato several times with a fork or pairing knife.  Bake in 350F oven for about an hour.  Allow to cool, peel, then mash.  I usually do this step in advance.  I throw a sweet potato into the oven while I’m baking something else, so the mash ready to go.  A large sweet potato yields about 2 cups when mashed.

Store muffins in an air-tight container for up to two days.

 

Cozy Clove Playdough

Lizzie Homemaker's all natural cozy clove playdough
This all-natural clove playdough is made with kitchen ingredients and it smells like a hug in the middle of winter.

The warm and spicy scent of clove perfumes this playdough – which makes it an incredibly soothing and relaxing after-school activity to come home to.

Playdough is a lovely sensory activity which promotes self-regulation, attention, focus, and calmness.  Combining scents can heighten that experience.  It’s also a good way for kids to release stress.

Natural Clove Playdough Recipe

The warm and spicy scent of clove is incredibly soothing on a gloomy winter's day.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 tbsp cream of tartar
  • 2 tbsp of ground clove
  • 2 tbsp oil

Directions

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pot or saucepan.
  2. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly for about 3-5 minutes.  The dough will start to pull away from the sides of the pan and should no longer be sticky to the touch.  (If it’s still sticky cook a little longer until it’s not.)
  3. Remove the dough from the pot.  Allow to cool slightly and knead.
  4. OPTIONAL  Pair dough with whole cloves (they’re great for pincer grasp practise)

Store dough in an air-tight container.

Blueberry Coconut Milk Scones

lizzie homemaker recipe for lactose intolerant friendly blueberry coconut milk scones
These easy blueberry coconut milk scones are delicious and can be prepped ahead of time.

These delicious scones are kid-approved.  I recently made them as an after-school snack and one of my kids said she would trade her LOL doll for another batch.  I need to take her up on that…

My eldest daughter is lactose-intolerant.  Initially we avoided all dairy but we’ve recently found that there are a couple of dairy foods that she can handle.  Butter is one of them.  I’ve tried making scones without butter but the alternatives have never been as good.  This recipe swaps out the traditional milk or cream (which are no-gos for her) with coconut milk.  They are absolutely delicious and it means my lactose-intolerant kid can happily devour these goodies with her sisters.

Coconut Milk Blueberry Scones

Scones are best eaten on the day they are baked. To make-ahead, prep the dough in advance and shape it into a disk, then pop it in the fridge overnight and bake the day of.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/4 sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 6 tbsp (3/4 stick) of cold butter, diced
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • grated zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup dried blueberries

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a food processor, combine flours, sugar and baking powder.
  3. Add butter and pulse until butter forms pea-sized pieces.
  4. Add coconut milk and lemon zest.  Process until just moistened.
  5. Mix in dried blueberries and roll out into an 8 inch disc. Sprinkle with sugar, if desired.
  6. Cut into 8 wedges, keeping the disc intact.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.  Allow to cool.

 

If you don’t have a food processor simply cut the butter into the dry ingredients using a pastry blender, or forks and/or knives.

 

The Best Dog Biscuits We’ve Ever Made

Lizzie Homemaker Barefoot Contessa Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits
If you love puppy dogs as much as my littles ones then consider baking these treats for your furry friends and neighbours.  One taste and they’ll be rolling over, playing fetch, and begging for more.

My young ones are OBSESSED with dogs.  I love dogs, too, but am not planning on adopting one anytime soon.  Truthfully – it would push me over the edge.

Every Christmas the kids ask for dog.  And in the summer when they blow on dandelion flowers and make a wish – they always wish that they could have a dog.  Somedays I think I should buck up and make their dreams come true, but in the mean time, I try to support their relationships with our four-legged friends in every way I can.  We’ve spent countless hours at the local make-shift dog park hanging out with local pups.  We always stop to say hello, shake a paw, give a pat, even when it makes us late.  And every Christmas our holiday baking includes gingerbread and dog biscuits.

This year we tried Ina Garten’s (aka Barefoot Contessa’s) Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits.  This recipe is a winner, the best we’ve made to date – and it was really easy to make.

Barefoot Contessa's Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits

This adapted recipe comes from Ina Garten's <em>Make It Ahead</em> cookbook. She uses stone-ground whole wheat flour, quick cooking oats, and wheat germ. We used regular whole-wheat flour, large flake oats, and omitted the wheat germ because that's what we had on hand. The biscuits still turned out beautifully and they smelled so good that my kids wanted to eat them.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered milk
  • 1/2 cup large flake oats, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup natural smooth peanut butter
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water, for egg wash

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine all ingredients except water and egg.
  3. With mixer on low speed add the water and the egg and mix until it forms a slightly sticky ball.
  4. Dump dough on well-floured board, knead into ball, and roll out 1/2 inch thick.  (We were inconsistent with the thickness and the biscuits turned out just fine.)
  5. Dip cookie cutters into flour and cut out shapes.  Collect scraps, roll out again, and cut out more biscuits.
  6. Place biscuits on baking sheet lined with parchment paper, then brush with egg wash and sprinkle with oats.
  7. Bake for 1 hour.

This recipe is adapted from Ina Garten’s Make It Ahead cookbook.  The biscuits can be made up to a week in advance.  Store in airtight container.