Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Gluten Free Banana Chocolate Chip Coffee Muffins

Not too sweet, not too chocolate-y, just the right amount of banana flavor with just a hint of coffee all in a "no one could tell" gluten free dairy free muffin!

Gluten Free
Chocolate Chip Coffee Banana Muffins

1 c shortening or Butter (I use spectrum organic shortening or Earth Balance to make these dairy free)
1 cup sugar (organic cane sugar)
2 eggs
3 ripe bananas
1/4 cup brewed coffee
1 TBSP vanilla
2 1/4 cup gluten free flour blend with xanthan gum (King Arthur makes a good one if you don't have your own blend)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda 
1 TBSP baking powder
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (dairy free)

Preheat oven to 350

Grease muffin tin or use cupcake liners.  I like to grease it because the muffins fall apart more when you peel the liners off and you get a better crust without paper liners.

Blend shortening and sugar.  Then add eggs, bananas, coffee and vanilla and mix on low until smooth and combined.

In seperate bowl combine dry ingredients and then add to the banana mixture, stir til combined.

Scoop batter into prepared muffin tins.  I fill almost to top of muffin cup.

For regular size muffins bake 15-17 minutes or until golden-brown on top.

For mini muffins bake for 12-15 minutes until golden-brown on top.

Remove from oven and let set for a minute or 2 then transfer to wire cooling rack.  


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Gluten Free Dairy Free Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with "Cream Cheese" Frosting

OK, so after some trial and error, I finally was able to convert my favorite pumpkin spice cupcakes with cream cheese frosting recipe to a point that I'm happy to share it!  I have no idea the source of my original recipe, I got it from a company event with Ehow when I was writing a lot of articles with them back in the day and they brought some of the writers out to California and when we went to San Fransisco we went to a fun cooking place and happened to make these cupcakes as part of the event.  They were so delicious!!! I had a printed out copy on paper but no source on it.  I made them once more When I got home and soon after that we went Gluten Free and Dairy Free.  I had tried making these a couple times since but I didn't know how to replace the cream cheese so that was a bummer and whenever I made them gluten free they turned out very flat dense and overly oily and moist.  I tweaked little things here and there and my family always liked them but they still weren't right....til now!

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with "Cream Cheese" Frosting
Gluten and Dairy Free!

2 cups sugar
3/4 cup oil *
1 can pumpkin purée (14.5 oz)
6 eggs
2 cups gluten free flour blend with xanthan gum**
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 TBSP baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 pumpkin spice
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350
Prepare 24 regular size or do some regular size and some mini cupcake size.  I often don't have cupcake liners on hand and forget to buy them so I just quickly grease the muffin tins and don't have any problem getting them out.

Mix the sugar, oil, pumpkin purée and eggs and whip it well.  I find my gluten free baked hoods cone out much fluffier if I best the eggs really good.  

Combine the dry ingredients in a medium size bowl and then slowly add to the wet ingredients on low speed.  Turn the mixer up a to medium until it is all combined.

Divide into prepared muffin tins.  For regular size cupcakes bake from 15-20 minutes til golden on top and a toothpick cones out ckean.  For the mini cupcakes it is around 12-15 minutes.  

Meanwhile, prepare the dairy free cream cheese frosting 

Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup earth balance butter alternative or shortening
8 oz of cream cheese alternative such as Tofutti or Go Veggie Cream Cheese Alternative
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla
Pinch of sea salt 

Beat the butter alternative and cream cheese alternative until well blended.  Add the vanilla and salt. Add the powdered sugar.  You could pipe it on the cupcakes but I just spread a thin layer on the tops of the cupcakes, they don't need a lot.  I actually cut the recipe in half because we don't need this much and we leave a few without frosting too.

*i use coconut, avocado or peanut oil in baking
**I make a blend of rice flour, tapioca flour and rice starch that has xanthan gum already in the mix.  (Silvania Nardone's blend) but King Arthur is another good gf flour mix.  If you have a mix without the xanthan gum in it just add 2 tsp.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Classical Conversations Cycle 1 Week 10

I've gotten behind in posting our CC weeks and now I'm playing catch up.

Classical Conversations Cycle 1 Week 10 and other highlights

we learned this weeks acts and facts but it's really review as this is our third year learning timeline.  We listen to the music in the car as well.

History & Geography
We came up with some actions and for both as well as had fun studying and exploring the page about Japan in our MAPS book.

We also have these activity pages that associate with Japan from our MAPS activity book 

In those landscape of Tokoyo, they are prompted to draw aliens attacking and risky robots defending the city.

This week we skip count the squares, my daughter remembers this all from last year but we try and help B (5) get it. He was in foundations last year too but at age four he got done things but or he might recognize parts of things he learned but they are do little at that age and being a class with other four year wasn't like they were exactly CC Scholars.

Other math fun this week has included more fun with Tangrams, figuring out how to make other geometric shapes with their Tangrams pieces and recording the number of pieces used etc.  We also did some activities that introduced measurement and finding the perimeter.  In their individual math J continues to work on finding missing addends and multiplication.  B practicing basic addition and subtraction, sorting, puzzles etc.

English & Latin
We went through it and memorized it but I didn't do anything fun or's been one if those blah weeks where mommy is doing what she has to do but lacking some energy and excitement (dreary weather, time change, recovering from a cold and PMS will do that to ya).

Kinds of leaf parts... We looked up what they were and the kids participated with me in creating this nature journal page

Fine Arts - Music 
So have supposed to have been doing fun whistle starting in week 7 but I didn't.  
In our CC community the 2 years prior, all moms dreaded tin whistle time it seemed and except for the poor tutor, most moms quickly found an excuse to leave the room during tin whistle time.  I didn't intentionally not to tin whistle, but maybe subconsciously I just didn't go there.  However I do want them getting the music theory and all and then I remberer the Jon Schmidt (aka the guy from the Piano Guys) music program I had.  My dad had gotten it a few years ago (before the Piano Guys YouTube videos but we already listened to his piano arrangements on Pandora) to teach my niece but then they didn't end up doing it so he sent it to me.  I had attempted it but J just wasn't ready for any formal music lessons and I think I wasn't either.  It was just too much to try and sit down at the piano and focus when we were still new to homeschool and everything else already felt so hands on and intensive it was like, trying to add piano to the mix seemed impossible and I didn't want to kill myself over it.  So I pulled out the program and we got started on that this week.  It went so much better with her being 8 and B is 5 but he was doing very well too but I didn't put pressure on him as he was ready to be done and J was excited to keep going.  I'm fine with him going at a different pace.  
It's a totally different method of learning the piano.  Rather than starting with middle C and playing it over and over again for the first lesson, Jon Schmidt introduces them to 2 anchor lines and memorizing where those lines are on the piano, then from there most notes they can find by determining if it's a step or skip up or down from the anchor line note.  Other piano skills and technique are supposed to be easier assimilated more naturally as they quickly get the hang of finding their way around the piano.

By the end of the first lesson my daughter was to try playing the top hand of Lullaby (not worrying about timing or anything like that...but just finding the notes and typing them in on the keyboard).  I made this sheet to cover the song so she would be distracted or visually overwhelmed by all the music at one and had her start with just the first bar, then sliding the black strip out more as she could confidently find those notes.  I told her only the first 3 bars for the first day and to just take it easy do she wouldn't get frustrated... Woah unintentional reverse psychology on that one...she determined to play the whole first line and start on the second.  I told her to just limit to 10-15 minutes and take a break, she pretty much did it all day.  It was funny AND I'm so glad I waited with her, couldn't have had a better start!

We shall see how it goes but this one line she can play is already much more exciting than my first piano lesson, which I still have the book here it is 

She will be learning to play with the left hand simultaneously in week 2 already.  So anyways we started that as well as J continuing to practice ukulele and B sometimes joins in and wants to try playing certain notes or practice a strumming pattern, but I just let him have fun with it at his age, I don't want to force music too soon and then have them hate it.  So I gently encourage them so they can develop an interest and excitement from within so that when they put the effort into playing, it will be more satisfying, enjoyable and motivating.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

CC Week 9 cycle 1

This week we enjoyed week 9 of our CC studies!  And of you haven't seen my other posts, we use CC as a launching pad for other studies as well as incorporating the recommended things to cover for each year from Ambleside Online in our own arts based hands on eclectic style keep that in kind if things seem random or not part of Classical Conversations. I just like to document and share some of the things we do each week.


While studying East Asia Geography we opened up to those countries in our MAPS book and took done time to study all the images and facts about each.  When we came across Mongolian Throat singing, we had to YouTube it and found a great little video of a Mongol Man Throat Singing while playing the  Morin Khuur....(here's a small corner of the Mongolia page in the MAPS book).  The video had a beautiful landscape in the background and the sound was strangely enchanting.  The kids loved it.  

Here's the link to the YouTube video, I can't seem to embed videos when blogging from my phone.

We also watched this video we picked up at the library 

Which was great because after reading the book The Warlord's Puzzle this week my kids kept wanting to know what a munk is and it just added a little more info to the peg they set in their little minds about Buddhism from week 7's history sentence.  


We had a lot of fun with this book this week playing with Tangrams and just enjoying the story and the artwork.  I kept finding the kids studying the pages of this book at some point everyday this week.  And they didn't tire of playing with their Tangrams either. The book is good for math, history and geography which is why I saved it for this week as we head across Eastern Asia as it takes place in China, where Tangrams supposedly originated.  

We also continued to have fun with the game Animal Crossing from the book Family Math. 

We also did some worksheets from Math Mammoth on line symmetry and some other geometry activities to go along with our work with Tangrams.  

Other math we did included the big Brain Quest Grade 3 book, math war, math facts app, starfall etc.

this weeks science was some parts of a plant: root, stem, leaf, which was easy enough to remember we didn't expound in it that much as we have spent plenty of time pulling up weeds and examine them from the roots up.  We could have drawn a diagram in our nature notebooks, we probably still will but we just didn't yet.

We cover this in out memory work but other than being silly with our frog puppet, we just do the memorization and act silly usually and try to make up some actions that help remember the English Granmer words. 

Because Confucius was the topic of week 9s History Sentance and that Toaism emphasizes harmony with nature, we turned to the section on Confusianism in my Art History Text and saw images of beautiful landscapes so we did watercolor paintings of Imaginary   landscapes.

We read a book about Ancient China and learned about archeology and artifacts.  This also led into some science discussion on Ozygen and Carbon Dioxide and plants which tied in nicely to our current study of plants for science.

We watched a narrated version of a The Emperors New Clothes on YouTube.

We also started listening to Story of The World this week.  I ordered the CDs and the kids listen with drawing paper so they can take notes and it draw what they find interesting or important.  We listened to the first couple chapters taking us from the Nomads snd The Fertile Cresent up to Egypt.  It was a good review of things they have already touched on but with the addition of Egypt because CC didn't cover ancient Egypt, it went from the fertile Cresent to Greece and Rome and then onto Asia.  I REALLY wanted to read Tirzah to my daughter after a friend who is doing Heart of Dakota mentioned how much they loved that book several times.  Ambleside Online year 3 says to cover Exodus and we started CC this year with the Ten Commandments so I was so happy how I could tie it all in together and I really enjoyed the details given in Story of The World.  Its so enjoyable to listen to and so easy to just pop in and get cozy and relax together with some notebooking supplies!  My daughter liked hearing the perspective of a Nomad girl and drew a picture depicting part of her story with a couple notes.  I also had my Art History text handy because it is a beautiful resource to have on hand for history!  Just flip open to that time period and it has the best google needed!  My son immediately wanted to draw this gold Pharroah mask as we listened to the part about mummification and Pharoahs while looking at the images in that section of my book. I gave him some tracing paper and let him trace it while listening. I'm just excited about this addition because when I actually looked into SOTW I thought it would complement CC cycle 1 and our other studies reall well and just nicely round things out.  I mean, from a Charlotte Mason perspective I think this is the perfect thing to listen to during afternoon quiet time/tea time once a week or so.  I originally thought we would use it in the car but I'm dependent on the DVD player at this phase with my toddler so I don't go deaf from his screaming!!!

At night I started reading Tirzah with my daughter and we couldn't put it down!  My husband got home from the airport late and we had been snuggled up reading longer than we was past 11 pm!


We chose our main devotion to be from the Big Book of 5 Minute a Devotions which is animal themed and we learned about sloths and being patient.  Later in the week I had woken up early with a migraine and the baby was up.  After I got him back to sleep I just decided to stay up and try to get rid of the headache before it got to the unbearable point.  Since I was up so early, once my head was feeling better I started reading in proverbs and came across this verse 

Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. Prov 17:14

I told my kids about it later over breakfast for a devotion, first remembering the Wild Kratts Episode where the dam gets broken and it was so hard to build the dam back up once all that water had gushed out and it took so much work to rebuild it and not have new leaks keep springing, spewing out more water...they are big Wild Kratt fans so they knew this episode well.  Then I told them that proverb I had come across and we talked about it and how when we start a fight, it's like breaking the dam and then instead of water rushing out, yucky feelings and ugliness rushes out and it's hard to fix things once we let all our anger out, and then it just keep getting harder not to have little fights all the time because there are leaks in our "dam" that make us more quick to anger and then we just get stuck in all that continual cycle of patching the dam and springing new leaks.  It was good because the kids are wonderful playmates but it is a needed skill to learn about choosing your battles and they have been bickering more and more over what seems to me like nothing.  (Cabin fever probably with the weather!) They got it quickly and after that, when little petty disputes started to break out I would remind them "is this worth breaking the dam over?" And before I knew it they were talking about it on their own and my 5 year old even later said he was going to say something to his sister but then stopped because it wasn't something to break the dam over.  Thank you Lord for your simple wisdom!!!

We also read The Hundred Dresses this week which was great as we've been talking a lot about kindness in our devotion/character development.  

Charlotte Mason/Unschool

Moving away from the Classical/Charlotte Mason side of things here is the more Charlotte Mason/Unschool parts of our week 

The kids often enjoy working and tinkering on their clubhouse.  It is a framed out bathroom in the unfinishee basement.  They have laid tile they found in the surplus from when the house was built.  We told the previous owner not to worry about cleaning out the basement...made things easier for her and it was like little treasures for us.  This week they started decorating it for the upcoming holidays.  They were bailing the Christmas ornaments to the wood frame using a wooden branch piece I cut when making a set of blocks out if different size tree slices.

They made a coat hook

Anyways it's just a fun space where they spend a lot if time planning, tinkering, rearranging and imagining.
My daughter has an old school desk on the next area over with all kinds if old printed business paperwork and she has a stack and goes through with a pen and calculator acting like a stressed out contractor.  Lol.  

The yucky Gray skies and rain parted for a little bit this week allowing us to enjoy NATURE!!!! good!  

My kids pointed out how fresh the air was in the woods and were reminded of our conversation about Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide, and how trees take in the CO2 and give us back fresh air!!! (aka oxygen).  See you really do learn by living and learning can happen anytime anywhere!  It doesn't stop when you leave the classroom/schoolroom.  It doesn't always have to be done within the pages of a workbook. :)

And we are still getting a few tomatoes but the season is pretty much done the kids check on them for us.

My daughter is taking a ukulele class but my son I'm just going with a gentle approach with him and let him take the lead with how much or how fast he wants to learn.  He was a little intimidated by trying to play at first but now he remembers how to play a c note and is getting more comfortable just experimenting with it.  Here they are learning how to tune their ukuleles with a SNARK.  

And my daughter put on my old prom dress on while she sang along with The Celtic Women....yes mostly inside these week due to weather and having colds!

They've become a good team at making gluten free muffin mixes, refilling the cat food, making beds, unloading the dishwasher, sweeping up their crumbs, packing their lunch before their enrichment class day, etc.

And other things that kept them busy this week are Lincoln Logs, poetry, making their own story books, writing cards to grandparents, reading Pollyanna together ( my daughter reading it to her brother), helping me sand down a headboard with a power sander, playing checkers together everyday, sidewalk chalk, trampoline, gymnastics, soccer and of course Halloween excitement.