Beginning in the middle of February and stretching into mid March, the Sugar Maple trees begin to prepare for spring by sending sap up to their branches to fuel the spring growth. This is one of the first signs of spring in the forest and marks maple syrup season. On days where the nights are freezing and the days are in the 40s the sap will flow up the tree. Once it is still above freezing overnight, the sap will turn cloudy and can no longer be used for syrup. At this point the tree will begin spring growth.
Maple syrup is made by collecting the sap from a maple tree, usually a sugar maple, and boiling it to allow the water to evaporate and concentrate the sugar. Once enough water has evaporated, the sap becomes syrup.
Sugar Maple trees are tapped because their sap has the highest concentration of sugar, but even so it takes 40 to 50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. Straight from the tree, the sap looks like water and has a barely noticeable sweet taste.
Winter is a great time to bake bread. While it takes time to rise, the hands-on time of baking bread is minimal. Helping in the kitchen is useful for reinforcing following directions, practice with numbers, and is way to spend time with kids while bring productive.
This recipe is from Kid Chef Bakes, the kids cookbook for aspiring bakers, by Lisa Huff. It makes two loaves of white sandwich bread.
Stand mixer or large bowl
2 loaf pans (8 ½ by 4 ½, by 2 ½)
Pastry brush (optional)
2 cups warm milk (2% or whole is best, 105-115° f)
2 T sugar
1 (1/4-ounce) envelope active dry yeast
2 T butter at room temperature
1 T vegetable oil
Butter for greasing pans
Prepare the Yeast:
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the hook attachment, or a large bowl using a spoon, mix the yeast, milk, and sugar. Let stand for 5 min.
Combine the Ingredients:
Add the 2 T butter, 4 c flour, and salt to the yeast mixture. Mix on low with the hook attachment until well blended. Add more flour as needed, a little at a time, until the dough forms. Raise the speed to medium and continue to knead for 4-6 minutes or until the dough is elastic. Alternatively, mix the flour in by hand and knead by hand for about 8 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Let it Rise:
Grease a large bowl with oil. Add the dough and turn to coat, then cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm place to double in size, about 1 hour (or more if your house is cool). Tip the dough out, split it, and form two loaves. Please each loaf in a greased loaf pan. Allow to rise again for about 30 min.
Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Bake for 30-40 minutes or until brown and hollow sounding (bread should be about 200° F in the center when baked.) Cool slightly and then tip out onto a cooling rack. Cut when cool.
If you are looking for something to do while your bread is rising, try making butter in a jar. All you need is heavy cream and a jar. Try this recipe: How to Make Homemade Butter
This easy recipe creates a wonderfully spicy smelling playdough that will last weeks if kept in a sealed container.
Playing with playdough helps with fine motor skills, hand strength, and creativity. You can also use it to make letters and build letter recognition. You can add toothpicks, beads, dried pasta, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, and even feathers to allow for more creative play.
Diwali (dih VAH lee) is a Hindu festival and a national holiday in India. The word Diwali means “row of lights.” This year the holiday begins on November 14. The celebration usually lasts for five days, during which people decorate with small lamps made from baked clay, exchange gifts, and eat delicious food, especially sweets. Try this recipe with your kids at home, and find out more about this holiday with books about Diwali from the library or one of these websites:
3 TBSP powdered sugar + 2 more TBSP to sprinkle on top
3 TBSP boiled milk (cooled to room temp)
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
a pinch of baking soda
a pinch of salt
water as needed
oil for deep frying
Combine melted butter, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. Mix with your hands until creamy.
Add the flour, cardamom, and milk. Mix to make a crumbly mixture.
Add water gradually to make a soft, stiff dough.
Knead for a few minutes and then set aside and cover for 15 minutes.
Separate into 5 balls of dough and dust each with flour.
Roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thick and cut into small squares.
Heat oil in a pan.
Allow the dough to dry before frying. Deep fry the biscuits in batches over low to medium flame so they cook evenly and don’t brown too quickly on the outside. Be careful when turning the biscuits in the oil so they do not break.
Drain them on a paper towel and sprinkle powdered sugar on top if desired.